Spotlight – Robert Devereux Earl of Essex

Name: Robert Devereux

Title/s: Earl of Essex / Lord Lieutenant of Ireland / Earl Marshal / Master of the Horse

Birth / Death: 10 November 1565 – 25 February 1601

Spouse: Frances Walsingham 1567-1633

Children: Frances Seymour Duchess of Somerset 1590-1674 / Dorothy Shirley / Robert Devereux 3rd Earl of Essex 1591-1646 (by Frances Walsingham) / Walter Devereux (by Elizabeth Southwell)

Parents: Walter Devereux 1st Earl of Essex 1541-1576 &LetticeKnollys 1543-1634

Siblings: Penelope Blount Countess of Devonshire 1563-1607 / Dorothy Percy Countess of Northumberland 1564-1619 / Walter Devereux / Francis Devereux / Robert Dudley Lord Denbigh

Noble Connections: Essex’s great-aunt was Henry VIII’s second queen, Anne Boleyn, through her sister, Mary. He married the daughter of Sir Francis Walsingham the queen’s spy master. His step-father was Robert Dudley Earl of Leicester, the favourite of Queen Elizabeth I.

Events of their Lifetime: Dutch revolt 1566, St Bartholomew’s Massacre 1572, Execution of Mary Queen of Scots 1587, Spanish Armada 1588.

Controversy: What did Essex intend by his rebellion in 1601? Was he angry at the queen for freezing him out after his return from Ireland, did he think he should have more power than those around the queen, or did he really think that people like Cecil wanted him out of the way and were plotting against him?

Works of Fiction:

  • Dowers, Laura, The Rebel Earl (2015)

Portrayals on Screen:

  • Hugh Dancy, Elizabeth I, 2005, 2 episodes
  • Robin Ellis, Elizabeth R, 1971, 2 episodes
  • Errol Flynn, The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex, 1939, directed by Michael Curtiz
  • Charlton Heston, Elizabeth the Queen, 1968, directed by George Schaefer
  • Hans Matheson, The Virgin Queen, 2005, 2 episodes
  • Sam Reid, Anonymous, 2011, directed by Roland Emmerich

Further Reading:

  • Falls, Cyril, Elizabeth’s Irish Wars (1950)
  • Gajada, Alexandra, The Earl of Essex and Late Elizabethan Political Culture (2012)
  • Hammer, J.P.G., The Polarisation of Elizabethan Politics: the Political Career of Robert Devereux 2nd Earl of Essex 1585-1597 (1999)
  • Lacey, Robert, Robert Earl of Essex: an Elizabeth Icarus (1971)
  • Baldwin Smith, Lacey, Treason in Tudor England: Politics and Paranoia (2006)
  • Weir, Alison, Elizabeth the Queen (2011)
  • Weir, Alison, Traitors of the Tower (2010)


Robert Devereux Earl of Essex
The arms of Robert Devereux as Earl of Essex.


Robert Devereux by Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger.
Robert Devereux by Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger.
Robert Devereux by Isaac Oliver c.1597
Robert Devereux by Isaac Oliver c.1597

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