The Mystery of Amy Robsart
by Andrew Lang
1. HISTORICAL CONFUSIONS AS TO EVENTS BEFORE AMY'S DEATH
Let him who would weep over the tribulations of the historical inquirer
attend to the tale of the Mystery of Amy Robsart!
The student must dismiss from his memory all that he recollects of Scott's
'Kenilworth.' Sir Walter's chivalrous motto was 'No scandal about Queen
Elizabeth,' 'tis blazoned on his title-page. To avoid scandal, he calmly
cast his narrative at a date some fifteen years after Amy Robsart's death,
brought Amy alive, and represented Queen Elizabeth as ignorant of her very
existence. He might, had he chosen, have proved to his readers that, as
regards Amy Robsart and her death, Elizabeth was in a position almost as
equivocal as was Mary Stuart in regard to the murder of Darnley. Before
the murder of Darnley we do not hear one word to suggest that Mary was in
love with Bothwell. For many months before the death of Amy (Lady Robert
Dudley), we hear constant reports that Elizabeth has a love affair with
Lord Robert, and that Amy is to be divorced or murdered. When Darnley is
killed, a mock investigation acquits Bothwell, and Mary loads him with
honours and rewards. When Amy dies mysteriously, a coroner's inquest, deep
in the country, is held, and no records of its proceedings can be found.
Its verdict is unknown. After a brief tiff, Elizabeth restores Lord Robert
After Darnley's murder, Mary's ambassador in France implores her to
investigate the matter with all diligence. After Amy's death, Elizabeth's
ambassador in France implores her to investigate the matter with all
diligence. Neither lady listens to her loyal servant, indeed Mary could
not have pursued the inquiry, however innocent she might have been.
Elizabeth could! In three months after Darnley's murder, Mary married
Bothwell. In two months after Amy's death Cecil told (apparently) the
Spanish ambassador that Elizabeth had married Lord Robert Dudley. But this
point, we shall see, is dubious.
There the parallel ceases, for, in all probability, Lord Robert was not
art and part in Amy's death, and, whatever Elizabeth may have done in
private, she certainly did not publicly espouse Lord Robert. A Scot as
patriotic as, but less chivalrous than, Sir Walter might, however, have
given us a romance of Cumnor Place in which Mary would have been avenged
on 'her sister and her foe.' He abstained, but wove a tale so full of
conscious anachronisms that we must dismiss it from our minds.
Amy Robsart was the only daughter of Sir John Robsart and his wife
Elizabeth, nee Scot, and widow of Roger Appleyard, a man of good old
Norfolk family. This Roger Appleyard, dying on June 8, 1528, left a son
and heir, John, aged less than two years. His widow, Elizabeth, had the
life interest in his four manors, and, as we saw, she married Sir John
Robsart, and by him became the mother of Amy, who had also a brother on
the paternal side, Arthur Robsart, whether legitimately born or not.* Both
these brothers play a part in the sequel of the mystery. Lord Robert
Dudley, son of John, Duke of Northumberland, and grandson of the Dudley
who, with Empson, was so unpopular under Henry VII., was about seventeen
or eighteen when he married Amy Robsart—herself perhaps a year older—on
June 4, 1550. At that time his father was Earl of Warwick; the wedding is
chronicled in the diary of the child king, Edward VI.**
*Mr. Walter Rye in The Murder of Amy Robsart, Norwich and London,
1885, makes Arthur a bastard. Mr. Pettigrew, in An Inquiry into the
Particulars connected with the Death of Amy Robsart (London, 1859),
represents Arthur as legitimate.
**Mr. Rye dates the marriage in 1550.
Rye, pp. 5, 36, cf. Edward VI.'s Diary, Clarendon Society. Mr. Froude
cites the date, June 4, 1549, from Burnet's Collectanea, Froude, vi.
p. 422, note 2 (1898), being misled by Old Style; Edward VI. notes the
close of 1549 on March 24.
Amy, as the daughter of a rich knight, was (at least if we regard her
brother Arthur as a bastard) a considerable heiress. Robert Dudley was a
younger son. Probably the match was a family arrangement, but Mr. Froude
says 'it was a love match.' His reason for this assertion seems to rest on
a misunderstanding. In 1566-67, six years after Amy's death, Cecil drew up
a list of the merits and demerits of Dudley (by that time Earl of
Leicester) and of the Archduke Charles, as possible husbands of Elizabeth.
Among other points is noted by Cecil, 'Likelihood to Love his Wife.' As to
the Archduke, Cecil takes a line through his father, who 'hath been
blessed with multitude of children.' As to Leicester, Cecil writes
'Nuptiae carnales a laetitia incipiunt, et in luctu terminantur'—'Weddings
of passion begin in joy and end in grief.' This is not a reference, as Mr.
Froude thought, to the marriage of Amy and Dudley, it is merely a general
maxim, applicable to a marriage between Elizabeth and Leicester. The
Queen, according to accounts from all quarters, had a physical passion or
caprice for Leicester. The marriage, if it occurred, would be nuptiae
carnales, and as such, in Cecil's view, likely to end badly, while the
Queen and the Archduke (the alternative suitor) had never seen each other
and could not be 'carnally' affectionate.*
*Froude, ut supra, note 3.
We do not know, in short, whether Dudley and Amy were in love with each
other or not. Their marriage, Cecil says, was childless.
Concerning the married life of Dudley and Amy very little is known. When
he was a prisoner in the Tower under Mary Tudor, Amy was allowed to visit
him. She lost her father, Sir John, in 1553. Two undated letters of Amy's
exist: one shows that she was trusted by her husband in the management of
his affairs (1556-57) and that both he and she were anxious to act
honourably by some poor persons to whom money was due.* The other is to a
woman's tailor, and, though merely concerned with gowns and collars, is
written in a style of courteous friendliness.** Both letters, in
orthography and sentiment, do credit to Amy's education and character.
There is certainly nothing vague or morbid or indicative of an unbalanced
mind in these poor epistles.
*Pettigrew, 14, note 1.
**Jackson, Nineteenth Century, March 1882, A Longleat MS.
When Elizabeth came to the throne (1558) she at once made Dudley Master of
the Horse, a Privy Councillor, and a Knight of the Garter. His office
necessarily caused him to be in constant attendance on the royal person,
and the Knighthood of the Garter proves that he stood in the highest
degree of favour.
For whatever reason, whether from distaste for Court life, or because of
the confessed jealousy with which the Queen regarded the wives of her
favourites—of all men, indeed—Amy did not come to Court. About
1558-59 she lived mainly at the country house of the Hydes of Detchworth,
not far from Abingdon. Dudley seems to have paid several visits to the
Hydes, his connections; this is proved by entries in his household books
of sums of money for card-playing there.* It is also certain that Amy at
that date, down to the end of 1559, travelled about freely, to London and
many other places; that she had twelve horses at her service; and that, as
late as March 1560 (when resident with Dudley's comptroller, Forster, at
Cumnor Place) she was buying a velvet hat and shoes. In brief, though she
can have seen but little of her husband, she was obviously at liberty,
lived till 1560 among honourable people, her connections, and, in things
material, wanted for nothing.** Yet Amy cannot but have been miserable by
1560. The extraordinary favour in which Elizabeth held her lord caused the
lewdest stories to spread among all classes, from the circle of the Court
to the tattle of country folk in Essex and Devonshire.***
*Jackson, ut supra.
**For details see Canon Jackson's 'Amy Robsart,' Nineteenth Century,
vol. xi. Canon Jackson used documents in the possession of the Marquis
of Bath, at Longleat.
***Cal. Dom. Eliz. p. 157, August 13, 1560; also
News of this kind is certain to reach the persons concerned.
Our chief authority for the gossip about Elizabeth and Dudley is to be
found in the despatches of the Spanish ambassadors to their master, Philip
of Spain. The fortunes of Western Europe, perhaps of the Church herself,
hung on Elizabeth's marriage and on the succession to the English throne.
The ambassadors, whatever their other failings, were undoubtedly loyal to
Philip and to the Church, and they were not men to be deceived by the
gossip of every gobemouche. The command of money gave them good
intelligence, they were fair judges of evidence, and what they told Philip
was what they regarded as well worthy of his attention. They certainly
were not deceiving Philip.
The evidence of the Spanish ambassadors, as men concerned to find out the
truth and to tell it, is therefore of the highest importance. They are not
writing mere amusing chroniques scandaleuses of the court to which they
are accredited, as ambassadors have often done, and what they hear is
sometimes so bad that they decline to put it on paper. They are serious
and wary men of the world. Unhappily their valuable despatches, now in
'the Castilian village of Simancas,' reach English inquirers in the most
mangled and garbled condition. Major Martin Hume, editor of the Spanish
Calendar (1892), tells us in the Introduction to the first volume of this
official publication how the land lies. Not to speak of the partial
English translation (1865) of Gonzales's partial summary of the despatches
(Madrid, 1832) we have the fruits of the labours of Mr. Froude. He visited
Simancas, consulted the original documents, and 'had a large number of
copies and extracts made.' These extracts and transcripts Mr. Froude
deposited in the British Museum. These transcripts, compared with the
portions translated in Mr. Froude's great book, enable us to understand
the causes of certain confusions in Amy Robsart's mystery. Mr. Froude
practically aimed at giving the gist, as he conceived it, of the original
papers of the period, which he rendered with freedom, and in his
captivating style—foreign to the perplexed prolixity of the actual
writers. But, in this process, points of importance might be omitted; and,
in certain cases, words from letters of other dates appear to have been
inserted by Mr. Froude, to clear up the situation. The result is not
Next, from 1886 onwards, the Spanish Government published five volumes of
the correspondence of Philip with his ambassadors at the English Court.*
These papers Major Hume was to condense and edit for our official
publication, the Spanish State Papers, in the series of the Master of the
Rolls. But Major Hume found the papers in the Spanish official publication
in a deplorably unedited state. Copyists and compositors 'seem to have had
a free hand.' Major Hume therefore compared the printed Spanish texts,
where he could, with Mr. Froude's transcripts of the same documents in the
Museum, and the most important letter in this dark affair, in our Spanish
Calendar, follows incorrectly Mr. Froude's transcript, NOT the original
document, which is not printed in 'Documentos Ineditos.'** Thus, Major
Hume's translation differs from Mr. Froude's translation, which, again,
differs from Mr. Gairdner's translation of the original text as published
by the Baron Kervyn de Lettenhove.***
*Documentos Ineditos para la Historia de Espana. Ginesta, Madrid,
**Spanish Calendar, vol. i. p. iv. Mr. Gairdner says, 'Major Hume
in preparing his first volume, he informs me, took transcripts from
Simancas of all the direct English correspondence,' but for letters
between England and Flanders used Mr. Froude's transcripts. Gairdner,
English Historical Review, January 1898, note 1.
***Relations Politiquesdes Pays-Bas et de l'Anqleterre sous le Regne
de Philippe II. vol. ii. pp. 529-533. Brussels, 1883.
The amateur of truth, being now fully apprised of the 'hazards' which add
variety to the links of history, turns to the Spanish Calendar for the
reports of the ambassadors. He reaches April 18, 1559, when de Feria says:
'Lord Robert has come so much into favour that he does whatever he likes
with affairs, and it is even said that her Majesty visits him in his
chamber day and night. People talk of this so freely that they go so far
as to say that his wife has a malady in one of her breasts and the Queen
is only waiting for her to die to marry Lord Robert.'
De Feria therefore suggests that Philip might come to terms with Lord
Robert. Again, on April 29, 1559, de Feria writes (according to the
Calendar): 'Sometimes she' (Elizabeth) 'appears to want to marry him'
(Archduke Ferdinand) 'and speaks like a woman who will only accept a great
prince, and then they say she is in love with Lord Robert, and never lets
him leave her.' De Feria has reason to believe that 'she will never bear
Sp. Cal. i. pp. 57, 58, 63; Doc. Ineditos, 87, 171, 180.
Mr. Froude combines these two passages in one quotation, putting the
second part (of April 29) first, thus: 'They tell me that she is enamoured
of my Lord Robert Dudley, and will never let him leave her side. HE OFFERS
ME HIS SERVICES IN BEHALF OF THE ARCH DUKE, BUT I DOUBT WHETHER IT WILL BE
WELL TO USE THEM. He is in such favour that people say she visits him in
his chamber day and night. Nay, it is even reported that his wife has a
cancer on her breast, and that the Queen waits only till she die to marry
*Froude, vi. p. 199. De Feria to Philip, April 28 and April 29.
MS. Simancas, cf. Documentos Ineditos, pp. 87, 171, 180, ut supra.
The sentence printed in capitals cannot be found by me in either of de
Feria's letters quoted by Mr. Froude, but the sense of it occurs in a
letter written at another date. Mr. Froude has placed, in his quotation,
first a sentence of the letter of April 29, then a sentence not in either
letter (as far as the Calendar and printed Spanish documents show), then
sentences from the letter of April 18. He goes on to remark that the
marriage of Amy and Dudley 'was a love match of a doubtful kind,' about
which we have, as has been shown, no information whatever. Such are the
pitfalls which strew the path of inquiry.
One thing is plain, a year and a half before her death Amy was regarded as
a person who would be 'better dead,' and Elizabeth was said to love
Dudley, on whom she showered honours and gifts.
De Feria, in the summer of 1559, was succeeded as ambassador by de Quadra,
bishop of Aquila. Dudley and his sister, Lady Sidney (mother of Sir Philip
Sidney), now seemed to favour Spanish projects, but (November 13) de
Quadra writes: 'I heard from a certain person who is accustomed to give
veracious news that Lord Robert has sent to poison his wife. Certainly all
the Queen has done with us and with the Swede, and will do with the rest
in the matter of her marriage, is only keeping Lord Robert's enemies and
the country engaged with words until this wicked deed of killing his wife
is consummated.' The enemies of Dudley included the Duke of Norfolk, and
most of the nation. There was talk of a plot to destroy both Dudley and
the Queen. 'The Duke and the rest of them cannot put up with Lord Robert's
being king.'* Further, and later, on January 16, 1560 (Amy being now
probably at Cumnor), de Quadra writes to de Feria that Baron Preyner, a
German diplomatist, will tell him what he knows of the poison for the wife
of Milort Robert (Dudley), 'an important story and necessary to be
known.'** Thus between November 1559 and January 1560, the talk is that
Amy shall be poisoned, and this tale runs round the Courts of Europe.
*Sp. Cal. i. pp. 112-114.
**Relations Politiques, Lettenhove, ii. p. 187.
Mr. Froude gives, what the Calendar does not, a letter of de Quadra to de
Feria and the Bishop of Arras (January 15, 1560). 'In Lord Robert it is
easy to recognise the king that is to be... There is not a man who does
not cry out on him and her with indignation.'* 'She will marry none but
the favoured Robert.'** On March 7, 1560, de Quadra tells de Feria: 'Not a
man in this country but cries out that this fellow' (Dudley) 'is ruining
the country with his vanity.'*** 'Is ruining the country AND THE QUEEN,'
is in the original Spanish.
*Froude, vi. p. 311.
**Relations Politiques, ii. 87, 183, 184.
***Sp. Cal. i. p. 133. Major Hume translates the text of Mr. Froude's
transcript in the British Museum. It is a mere fragment; in 1883 the
whole despatch was printed by Baron Kervyn de Lettenhove.
On March 28 (Calendar), on March 27 (Froude) de Quadra wrote to Philip—(Calendar)—,'I
have understood Lord Robert told somebody, who has not kept silence, that
if he live another year he will be in a very different position from now.
He is laying in a good stock of arms, and is assuming every day a more
masterful part in affairs. They say that he thinks of divorcing his
wife.'* So the Calendar. Mr. Froude condenses his Spanish author THUS:**
'Lord Robert says that if he lives a year he will be in another position
from that which he at present holds. Every day he presumes more and more,
and it is now said that he means to divorce his wife.' From the evidence
of the Spanish ambassadors, it is clear that an insurance office would
only have accepted Amy Robsart's life, however excellent her health, at a
very high premium. Her situation was much like that of Darnley in the
winter of 1566-67, when 'every one in Scotland who had the smallest
judgment' knew that 'he could not long continue,' that his doom was dight.
*Sp. Cal. i, p. 141.
**Froude, vi. p. 340.
Meanwhile, through the winter, spring, and early summer of 1560,
diplomatists and politicians were more concerned about the war of the
Congregation against Mary of Guise in Scotland, with the English alliance
with the Scottish Protestant rebels, with the siege of Leith, and with
Cecil's negotiations resulting in the treaty of Edinburgh, than even with
Elizabeth's marriage, and her dalliance with Dudley.
All this time, Amy was living at Cumnor Place, about three miles from
Oxford. Precisely at what date she took up her abode there is not certain,
probably about the time when de Quadra heard that Lord Robert had sent to
poison his wife, the November of 1559. Others say in March 1560. The house
was rented from a Dr. Owen by Anthony Forster. This gentleman was of an
old and good family, well known since the time of Edward I.; his wife
also, Ann Williams, daughter of Reginald Williams of Burghfield, Berks,
was a lady of excellent social position. Forster himself had estates in
several counties, and obtained many grants of land after Amy's death. He
died in 1572, leaving a very equitable distribution of his properties;
Cumnor he bought from Dr. Owen soon after the death of Amy. In his
bequests he did not forget the Master, Fellows, and Scholars of Balliol.*
There is nothing suspicious about Forster, who was treasurer or
comptroller of Leicester's household expenses: in writing, Leicester signs
himself 'your loving Master.' At Cumnor Place also lived Mrs. Owen, wife
of Dr. Owen, the owner of the house, and physician to the Queen. There
was, too, a Mrs. Oddingsell, of respectable family, one of the Hydes of
Denchworth. That any or all of these persons should be concerned in
abetting or shielding a murder seems in the highest degree improbable.
Cumnor Place was in no respect like Kirk o' Field, as regards the
character of its inhabitants. It was, however, a lonely house, and, on the
day of Amy's death, her own servants (apparently by her own desire) were
absent. And Amy, like Darnley, was found dead on a Sunday night, no man to
this day knowing the actual cause of death in either case.
*Pettigrew, pp. 19-22.
Here it may be well to consider the version of the tragedy as printed,
twenty-four years after the event, by the deadly enemies of Lord Robert,
now Earl of Leicester. This is the version which, many years later, aided
by local tradition, was used in Ashmole's account in his 'History and
Antiquities of Berkshire,' while Sir Walter employed Ashmole's account as
the basis of his romance. We find the PRINTED copy of the book usually
known as 'Leicester's Commonwealth' dated 1584, but probably it had been
earlier circulated in manuscript copies, of which several exist.* It
purports to be a letter written by a M.A. of Cambridge to a friend in
London, containing 'some talk passed of late' about Leicester. Doubtless
it DOES represent the talk against Leicester that had been passing, at
home and abroad, ever since 1560. Such talk, after twenty years, could not
be accurate. The point of the writer is that Leicester is lucky in the
deaths of inconvenient people. Thus, when he was 'in full hope to marry'
the Queen 'he did but send his wife aside, to the house of his servant,
Forster of Cumnor, by Oxford, where shortly after she had the chance to
fall from a pair of stairs, and so to break her neck, but yet without
hurting of her hood, that stood upon her head.' Except for the hood, of
which we know nothing, all this is correct. In the next sentence we read:
'But Sir Richard Verney, who, by commandment, remained with her that day
alone, with one man only, and had sent away perforce all her servants from
her, to a market two miles off, he, I say, with his man, can tell how she
died.' The man was privily killed in prison, where he lay for another
offence, because he 'offered to publish' the fact; and Verney, about the
same time, died in London, after raving about devils 'to a gentleman of
worship of mine acquaintance.' 'The wife also of Bald Buttler, kinsman to
my Lord, gave out the whole fact a little before her death.'
*Pettigrew, pp. 9, 10.
Verney, and the man, are never mentioned in contemporary papers: two Mrs.
Buttelars were mourners at Amy's funeral. Verney is obscure: Canon Jackson
argues that he was of the Warwickshire Verneys; Mr. Rye holds that he was
of the Bucks and Herts Verneys, connections of the Dudleys. But, finding a
Richard Verney made sheriff of Warwick and Leicester in 1562, Mr. Rye
absurdly says: 'The former county being that in which the murder was
committed,' he 'was placed in the position to suppress any unpleasant
rumours.'* Amy died, of course, in Berkshire, not in Warwickshire. A
Richard Verney, not the Warwickshire Sir Richard, according to Mr. Rye, on
July 30, 1572, became Marshal of the Marshalsea, 'when John Appleyard,
Amy's half-brother, was turned out.' This Verney died before November 15,
*Rye, p. 55.
Of Appleyard we shall hear plenty: Leicester had favoured him (he was
Leicester's brother-in-law), and he turned against his patron on the
matter of Amy's death. Probably the Richard Verney who died in 1575 was
the Verney aimed at in 'Leicester's Commonwealth.' He was a kind of
retainer of Dudley, otherwise he would not have been selected by the
author of the libel. But we know nothing to prove that he was at Cumnor on
September 8, 1560.
The most remarkable point in the libel avers that Leicester's first idea
was to poison Amy. This had been asserted by de Quadra as early as
November 1559. The libel avers that the conspirators, 'seeing the good
lady sad and heavy,' asked Dr. Bayly, of Oxford, for a potion, which they
'would fetch from Oxford upon his prescription, meaning to have added also
somewhat of their own for her comfort.' Bayly was a Fellow of New College;
in 1558 was one of the proctors; in 1561 was Queen's Professor of Physic,
and was a highly reputable man.* He died in 1592. Thus Bayly, if he chose,
could have contradicted the printed libel of 1584, which avers that he
refused to prescribe for Amy, 'misdoubting (as he after reported) lest if
they poisoned her under the name of his potion, he might after have been
hanged for a cover of their sin.'
*Pettigrew, p. 17, citing Wood's Ath. Ox. i. P. 586 (Bliss).
Nothing was more natural and innocent than that Bayly should be asked to
prescribe, if Amy was ill. Nothing could be more audacious than to print
this tale about him, while he lived to contradict it. But it seems far
from improbable that Bayly did, for the reasons given, refuse to prescribe
for Amy, seeing (as the libel says) 'the small need which the good lady
had of physic.'
FOR THIS VERY REFUSAL BY BAYLY WOULD ACCOUNT FOR THE INFORMATION GIVEN BY
CECIL TO DE QUADRA ON THE DAY OF AMY'S DEATH. AND IT IS NOT EASY TO
EXPLAIN THE SOURCE OF CECIL'S INFORMATION IN ANY OTHER WAY.
We now reach the crucial point at which historical blunders and confusions
have been most maddeningly prevalent. Mr. Pettigrew, writing in 1859, had
no knowledge of Cecil's corroboration of the story of the libel—Amy
in no need of physic, and the intention to poison her. Mr. Froude,
however, published in his History a somewhat erroneous version of de
Quadra's letter about Cecil's revelations, and Mr. Rye (1885) accused
Dudley on the basis of Mr. Froude's version.*
*Froude, vi. pp. 417-421.
Mr. Froude, then, presents a letter from de Quadra of September 11, 1560,
to the Duchess of Parma, governing the Netherlands from Brussels, 'this
being the nearest point from which he could receive instructions. The
despatches were then forwarded to Philip.' He dates de Quadra's letter at
the top, 'London, September 1l.' The real date is, at the foot of the last
page, 'Windsor, September 11.' Omitting the first portion of the letter,
except the first sentence (which says that fresh and important events have
occurred since the writer's last letter), Mr. Froude makes de Quadra
write: 'On the third of THIS month' (September 1560) 'the Queen spoke to
me about her marriage with the Arch Duke. She said she had made up her
mind to marry and that the Arch Duke was to be the man. She has just now
told me drily that she does not intend to marry, and that it cannot be.'
When, we ask, is 'just now'?
Mr. Froude goes on: 'After my conversation with the Queen, I met the
Secretary, Cecil, whom I knew to be in disgrace. Lord Robert, I was aware,
was endeavouring to deprive him of his place.' Briefly, Cecil said to de
Quadra that he thought of retiring, that ruin was coming on the Queen
'through her intimacy with Lord Robert. The Lord Robert had made himself
master of the business of the State and of the person of the Queen, to the
extreme injury of the realm, with the intention of marrying her, and she
herself was shutting herself up in the palace to the peril of her health
and life.' Cecil begged de Quadra to remonstrate with the Queen. After
speaking of her finances, Cecil went on, in Mr. Froude's version: 'Last of
all he said they were thinking of destroying Lord Robert's wife. THEY HAD
GIVEN OUT THAT SHE WAS ILL; BUT SHE WAS NOT ILL AT ALL; SHE WAS VERY WELL,
AND WAS TAKING CARE NOT TO BE POISONED....' [The capitals are mine.]
This is the very state of things reported in 'Leicester's Commonwealth.'
Cecil may easily have known the circumstances, if, as stated in that
libel, Bayly had been consulted, had found Amy 'in no need of physic,' and
had refused to prescribe. Bayly would blab, and Cecil had spies everywhere
to carry the report: the extent and precision of his secret service are
well known. Cecil added some pious remarks. God would not permit the
crime. Mr. Froude goes on: 'The day after this conversation, the Queen on
her return from hunting told me that Lord Robert's wife was dead or nearly
so, and begged me to say nothing about it.' After some political
speculations, the letter, in Froude, ends, 'Since this was written the
death of Lord Robert's wife has been given out publicly. The Queen said in
Italian "Que si ha rotto il collo" ["that she has broken her neck"]. It
appears that she fell down a staircase.'
Mr. Froude, after disposing of the ideas that de Quadra lied, or that
Cecil spoke 'in mere practice or diplomatic trickery,' remarks: 'Certain
it is that on September 8, at the time, or within a day of the time, when
Cecil told the Spanish ambassador that there was a plot to kill her, Anne
Dudley [Anne or Amy] was found dead at the foot of a staircase.' This must
be true, for the Queen told de Quadra, PRIVATELY, 'on the day after' Cecil
unbosomed himself. The fatal news, we know, reached Windsor on September
9, we do not know at what hour. The Queen told de Quadra probably on
September 9. If the news arrived late (and Dudley's first letter on the
subject is 'IN THE EVENING' of September 9), Elizabeth may have told de
Quadra on the morning of September 10.
The inferences were drawn (by myself and others) that Elizabeth had told
de Quadra, on September 3, 'the third of THIS month' (as Mr. Froude, by a
slip of the pen, translates 'a tres del passado'), that she would marry
the Arch Duke; that Cecil spoke to de Quadra on the same day, and that
'the day after this conversation' (September 4) the Queen told de Quadra
that Amy 'was dead or nearly so.' The presumption would be that the Queen
spoke of Amy's death FOUR DAYS BEFORE IT OCCURRED, and a very awkward
position, in that case, would be the Queen's. Guilty foreknowledge would
be attributed to her. This is like the real situation if Dr. Ernst Bekker
is right.* Dr. Bekker, knowing from the portion of de Quadra's letter
omitted by Mr. Froude, that he reached the Court at Windsor on September
6, 1560, supposes that he had interviews with Elizabeth and Cecil on that
day, and that Elizabeth, prematurely, announced to him Amy's death, next
day, on September 7. But Mr. Gairdner has proved that this scheme of dates
is highly improbable.
*Elizabeth and Leicester, Giesener Studien auf dem Gebiet der
Geschichte, v p.48. Giesen, 1890.
In the 'English Historical Review,'* Mr. Gairdner, examining the question,
used Mr. Froude's transcripts in the British Museum, and made some slight
corrections in his translation, but omitted to note the crucial error of
the 'third of THIS month' for 'the third of LAST month.' This was in 1886.
Mr. Gairdner's arguments as to dates were unconvincing, in this his first
article. But in 1892 the letter of de Quadra was retranslated from Mr.
Froude's transcript, in the Spanish Calendar (i. pp. 174-176). The
translation was again erroneous, 'THE QUEEN HAD PROMISED ME AN ANSWER
ABOUT THE SPANISH MARRIAGE BY THE THIRD INSTANT' (September 3), 'but now
she coolly tells me she cannot make up her mind, and will not marry.' This
is all unlike Mr. Froude's 'On the third of this month the Queen spoke to
me about her marriage WITH THE ARCH DUKE. SHE SAID THAT SHE HAD MADE UP
HER MIND TO MARRY AND THAT THE ARCH DUKE WAS TO BE THE MAN.' There is, in
fact, in Mr. Froude's copy of the original Spanish, not a word about the
Arch Duke, nor is there in Baron Lettenhove's text. The remark has crept
in from an earlier letter of de Quadra, of August 4, 1560.** But neither
is there anything about 'promising an answer by the third instant,' as in
the Calendar; and there is nothing at all about 'the third instant,' or
(as in Mr. Froude) 'the third of this month.'
*No. 2, April 1886, pp. 235-259.
**Spanish Calendar, i. pp. 171-174.
The Queen's character has thus suffered, and the whole controversy has
been embroiled. In 1883, three years before the appearance of Mr.
Gairdner's article of 1886, nine years before the Calendar appeared, the
correct version of de Quadra's letter of September 11, 1560, had been
published by Baron Kervyn de Lettenhove in his 'Relations Politiques des
Pays-Bas et de l'Angleterre sous le Regne de Philippe II' (vol. ii. pp.
529, 533). In 1897, Mr. Gairdner's attention was called to the state of
affairs by the article, already cited, of Dr. Ernst Bekker. Mr. Gairdner
then translated the Belgian printed copy of de Quadra's letter, with
*English Historical Review, January 1898, pp. 83-90.
Matters now became clear. Mr. Froude's transcript and translation had
omitted all the first long paragraph of the letter, which proved that de
Quadra went to Windsor, to the Court, on September 6. Next, the passage
about 'the third of THIS month' really runs 'I showed her much
dissatisfaction about her marriage, in [on?] which on the third of LAST
month [August] she had told me she was already resolved and that she
assuredly meant to marry. Now she has coolly told me that she cannot make
up her mind, and that she does not intend to marry.' (Mr. Gairdner's
translation, 1898.) So the blot on the Queen's scutcheon as to her
foreknowledge and too previous announcement of Amy's death disappears. But
how did Mr. Gairdner, in 1886, using Mr. Froude's transcript of the
original Spanish, fail to see that it contained no Arch Duke, and no
'third of the month'? Mr. Froude's transcript of the original Spanish, but
not his translation thereof, was correct.*
*As to Verney, Appleyard, and Foster (see pages commencing:—'Here
it may be well to consider'), Cecil, in April 1566, names Foster
and Appleyard, but not Verney, among the 'particular friends' whom
Leicester, if he marries the Queen, 'will study to enhanss to welth, to
Offices, and Lands.' Bartlett, Cumnor Place, p. 73, London 1850.
2. AMY'S DEATH AND WHAT FOLLOWED
So far the case against Dudley, or servants of Dudley, has looked very
black. There are the scandals, too dark for ambassadors to write, but
mouthed aloud among the common people, about Dudley and the Queen. There
is de Quadra's talk of a purpose to poison Amy, in November-January,
1559-1560. There is the explicit statement of Cecil, as to the intended
poisoning (probably derived from Dr. Bayly), and as to Dudley's
'possession of the Queen's person,' the result of his own observation.
There is the coincidence of Amy's violent death with Cecil's words to de
Quadra (September 8 or 9, 1560).
But here the case takes a new turn. Documents appear, letters from and to
Dudley at the time of the event, which are totally inconsistent with guilt
on his part. These documents (in the Pepys MSS. at Cambridge) are COPIES
of letters between Dudley and Thomas Blount, a gentleman of good family,
whom he addresses as 'Cousin.' Blount, long after, in May 1567, was
examined on the affair before the Privy Council, and Mr. Froude very
plausibly suggests that Blount produced the copies in the course of the
inquiry. But why COPIES? We can only say that the originals may also have
been shown, and the copies made for the convenience of the members of the
Council. It is really incredible that the letters were forged, after date,
to prove Dudley's innocence.
In the usual blundering way, Mr. Pettigrew dates one letter of Dudley's
'September 27.' If that date were right, it would suggest that TWO
coroner's inquests were held, one after Amy's burial (on September 22),
but Mr. Gairdner says that the real date of the letter is September 12.*
So the date is given by Bartlett, in his 'History of Cumnor Place,' and by
Adlard (1870), following Bartlett, and Craik (1848).
*English Historical Review, No. 2, p. 243, note.
The first letter, from Dudley, at Windsor 'this 9th day of September in
the evening,' proves that Blount, early on September 9, the day after
Amy's death, went from Leicester, at Windsor, towards Berkshire. He had
not long gone when Bowes (a retainer of Leicester, of Forster, or of Amy)
brought to Dudley the fatal news. 'By him I do understand that my wife is
dead and, as he saith, by a fall from a pair of stairs. Little other
understanding can I have from him.' Throughout the correspondence
Leicester does not utter one word of sorrow for Amy, as, had the letters
been written for exhibition, he would almost certainly have done. The fear
of his own danger and disgrace alone inspires him, and he takes every
measure to secure a full, free, and minute examination. 'Have no respect
to any living person.' A coroner's jury is to be called, the body is to be
examined; Appleyard and others of Amy's kin have already been sent for to
go to Cumnor.
From Cumnor, Blount replied on September 11. He only knew that 'my lady is
dead, and, as it seemeth, with a fall, but yet how, or which way, I cannot
learn.' Not even at Cumnor could Blount discover the manner of the
accident. On the night of the ninth he had lain at Abingdon, the landlord
of the inn could tell him no more than Dudley already knew. Amy's servants
had been at 'the fair' at Abingdon: she herself was said to have insisted
on their going thither very early in the day; among them Bowes went, as he
told Blount, who met him on the road, as he rode to see Dudley. He said
that Amy 'was very angry' with any who stayed, and with Mrs. Oddingsell,
who refused to go. Pinto (probably Amy's maid), 'who doth love her
dearly,' confirmed Bowes. She believed the death to be 'a very accident.'
She had heard Amy 'divers times pray to God to deliver her from
desperation,' but entirely disbelieved in suicide, which no one would
attempt, perhaps, by falling down two flights of stairs.
Before Blount arrived at Cumnor on September 10, the coroner's jury had
been chosen, sensible men, but some of them hostile to Forster. By
September 12 (NOT 27) Dudley had retired from Court and was at Kew, but
had received Blount's letter. He bade Blount tell the jury to inquire
faithfully and find an honest verdict. On the thirteenth Blount again
wrote from Cumnor, meaning to join Dudley next day: 'I I have ALMOST
NOTHING that can make me so much [as?] to think that any man can be the
doer of it... the circumstances and the many things which I can learn doth
persuade me that only misfortune hath done it and nothing else.' There is
another letter by Dudley from Windsor, without date. He has had a
reassuring letter from Smythe, foreman of the jury. He wishes them to
examine 'as long as they lawfully may,' and that a fresh jury should try
the case again. He wishes Sir Richard Blount to help. Appleyard and Arthur
Robsart have been present. He means to have no more dealings with the
jury; his only 'dealings' seem to have been his repeated requests that
they would be diligent and honest. 'I am right glad they be all strangers
*Pettigrew, pp. 28-32.
These letters are wholly inconsistent with guilt, in the faintest degree,
on the side of Dudley. But people were not satisfied. There is a letter to
Cecil, of September 17, from Lever, a minister at Coventry, saying that
the country was full of mutterings and dangerous suspicions, and that
there must be earnest searching and trying of the truth.*
*Burghley Papers, Haynes, 362.
Suspicion was inevitable, but what could a jury do, more than, according
to Blount, the jury had done? Yet there is dense obscurity as to the
finding of the jury. We have seen that Appleyard, Amy's half-brother, was
at Cumnor during the inquest. Yet, in 1567, he did not know, or pretended
not to know, what the verdict had been. 'Leicester's Commonwealth' says
'she was found murdered (as all men said) by the crowner's inquest,' as if
the verdict was not published, but was a mere matter of rumour—'as
all men said.' Appleyard's behaviour need not detain us long, as he was
such a shuffling knave that his statements, on either side, were just what
he found expedient in varying circumstances. Dudley, after Amy's death,
obtained for him various profitable billets; in 1564 he was made keeper of
the Marshalsea, had a commission under the Great Seal to seize concealed
prizes at sea without legal proceedings, had the Portership of Berwick,
and the Sheriffship of Norfolk and Suffolk, while Leicester stood
guarantor of a debt of his for 400 pounds. These facts he admitted before
the Privy Council in 1567.* But Leicester might naturally do what he could
for his dead wife's brother: we cannot argue that the jobs done for
Appleyard were hush-money, enormous as these jobs were. Yet in this light
Appleyard chose to consider them. He seems to have thought that Leicester
did not treat him well enough, and wanted to get rid of him in Ireland or
France, and he began, about 1566-67, to blab of what he could say an' he
would. He 'let fall words of anger, and said that for Dudley's sake he had
covered the murder of his sister.'
*Rye, pp. 60-62. Hatfield MSS., Calendar, i. 345-352, May 1567.
Mr. Froude has here misconceived the situation, as Mr. Gairdner shows. Mr.
Froude's words are 'being examined by Cecil, he admitted the investigation
at Cumnor had after all been inadequately conducted.'* In fact, Appleyard
admitted that he had SAID this, and much more, in private talk among his
associates. Before the Council he subsequently withdrew what he admitted
having said in private talk. It does not signify what he said, or what he
withdrew, but Mr. Froude unluckily did not observe a document which proved
that Appleyard finally ate his words, and he concludes that 'although
Dudley was innocent of a direct association with the crime, the unhappy
lady was sacrificed to his ambition. Dudley himself... used private means,
notwithstanding his affectation of sincerity, to prevent the search from
being pressed inconveniently far'—that is, 'if Appleyard spoke the
truth.' But Appleyard denied that he had spoken the truth, a fact
overlooked by Mr. Froude.**
*Froude, vi. p. 430.
**Ibid. vi. pp 430, 431.
The truth stood thus: in 1566-67 there was, or had been, some idea that
Leicester might, after all, marry the Queen. Appleyard told Thomas Blount
that he was being offered large sums by great persons to reopen the Cumnor
affair. Blount was examined by the Council, and gave to Leicester a
written account of what he told them. One Huggon, Appleyard's 'brother,'
had informed Leicester that courtiers were practising on Appleyard, 'to
search the manner of his sister's death.' Leicester sent Blount to examine
Appleyard as to who the courtiers were. Appleyard was evasive, but at last
told Blount a long tale of mysterious attempts to seduce him into stirring
up the old story. He promised to meet Leicester, but did not: his brother,
Huggon, named Norfolk, Sussex, and others as the 'practisers.' Later, by
Leicester's command, Blount brought Appleyard to him at Greenwich. What
speeches passed Blount did not know, but Leicester was very angry, and
bade Appleyard begone, 'with great words of defiance.' It is clear that,
with or without grounds, Appleyard was trying to blackmail Leicester.
Before the Council (May 1567) Appleyard confessed that he had said to
people that he had often moved the Earl to let him pursue the murderers of
Amy, 'showing certain circumstances which led him to think surely that she
was murdered.' He had said that Leicester, on the other hand, cited the
verdict of the jury, but he himself declared that the jury, in fact, 'had
not as yet given up their verdict.' After these confessions Appleyard lay
in the Fleet prison, destitute, and scarce able to buy a meal. On May 30,
1567, he wrote an abject letter to the Council. He had been offered every
opportunity of accusing those whom he suspected, and he asked for 'a copy
of the verdict presented by the jury, whereby I may see what the jury have
found,' after which he would take counsel's advice. He got a copy of the
verdict (?) (would that we had the copy!) and, naturally, as he was
starving, professed himself amply satisfied by 'proofs testified under the
oaths of fifteen persons,' that Amy's death was accidental. 'I have not
money left to find me two meals.' In such a posture, Appleyard would, of
course, say anything to get himself out of prison. Two days later he
confessed that for three years he had been, in fact, trying to blackmail
Leicester on several counts, Amy's murder and two political charges.*
*See the full reports, Gairdner, English Historical Review, April
1886, 249-259, and Hatfield Calendar for the date May 1567.
The man was a rogue, however we take him, and the sole tangible fact is
that a report of the evidence given at the inquest did exist, and that the
verdict may have been 'Accidental Death.' We do not know but that an open
verdict was given. Appleyard professes to have been convinced by the
evidence, not by the verdict.
When 'Leicester's Apology' appeared (1584-85) Sir Philip Sidney,
Leicester's nephew, wrote a reply. It was easy for him to answer the
libeller's 'she was found murdered (as all men suppose) by the crowner's
inquest'—by producing the actual verdict of the jury. He did not; he
merely vapoured, and challenged the libeller to the duel.* Appleyard's
statement among his intimates, that no verdict had yet been given, seems
to point to an open verdict.
*Sidney's reply is given in Adlard's Amye Robsart and the Earl of
Leicester. London, 1870.
The subject is alluded to by Elizabeth herself, who puts the final touch
of darkness on the mystery. Just as Archbishop Beaton, Mary's ambassador
in Paris, vainly adjured her to pursue the inquiry into Darnley's murder,
being urged by the talk in France, so Throgmorton, Elizabeth's ambassador
to the French Court, was heartbroken by what he heard. Clearly no
satisfactory verdict ever reached him. He finally sent Jones, his
secretary, with a verbal message to Elizabeth. Jones boldly put the
question of the Cumnor affair. She said that 'the matter had been tried in
the country, AND FOUND TO THE CONTRARY OF THAT WAS REPORTED.'
What 'was reported'? Clearly that Leicester and retainers of his had been
the murderers of Amy. For the Queen went on, 'Lord Robert was in the
Court, AND NONE OF HIS AT THE ATTEMPT AT HIS WIFE'S HOUSE.' So Verney was
not there. So Jones wrote to Throgmorton on November 30, 1560.* We shall
return to Throgmorton.
*Hardwicke Papers, i. 165.
If Jones correctly reported Elizabeth's words, there had been an 'attempt
at' Cumnor Place, of which we hear nothing from any other source. How
black is the obscurity through which Blount, at Cumnor, two days after
Amy's death, could discern—nothing! 'A fall, yet how, or which way,
I cannot learn.' By September 17, nine days after the death, Lever, at
Coventry, an easy day's ride from Cumnor, knew nothing (as we saw) of a
verdict, or, at least, of a satisfactory verdict. It is true that the Earl
of Huntingdon, at Leicester, only heard of Amy's death on September 17,
nine days after date.* Given 'an attempt,' Amy might perhaps break her
neck down a spiral staircase, when running away in terror. A cord
stretched across the top step would have done all that was needed.
*Nineteenth Century, vol. ii. p. 431. Huntingdon to Leicester,
Longleat MSS. I repose on Canon Jackson's date of the manuscript letter.
We next find confusion worse confounded, by our previous deliverer from
error, Baron Kervyn Lettenhove! What happened at Court immediately after
Amy's death? The Baron says: 'A fragment of a despatch of de la Quadra, of
the same period, reports Dudley to have said that his marriage had been
celebrated in presence of his brother, and of two of the Queen's ladies.'
For this, according to the Baron, Mr. Froude cites a letter of the Bishop
of Aquila (de Quadra) of September 11.* Mr. Froude does nothing of the
sort! He does cite 'an abstract of de Quadra's letters, MS. Simancas,'
without any date at all. 'The design of Cecil and of those heretics to
convey the kingdom to the Earl of Huntingdon is most certain, for at last
Cecil has yielded to Lord Robert, who, he says, has married the Queen in
presence of his brother and two ladies of her bedchamber.' So Mr. Gairdner
translates from Mr. Froude's transcript, and he gives the date (November
20) which Mr. Froude does not give. Major Hume translates, 'who, THEY say,
was married.'** O History! According to Baron Kervyn de Lettenhove, DUDLEY
says he has married the Queen; according to Mr. Gairdner, CECIL says so;
according to Major Hume, 'they' say so!***
*Relations Politiques des Pays-Bas, etc., xlii., note 4.
**Span. Cal. i. p. 178.
***The Spanish of this perplexing sentence is given by Froude, vi. p.
433, note 1. 'Cecil se ha rendido a Milord Roberto el qual dice que se
hay casado con la Reyna....'
The point is of crucial importance to Mrs. Gallup and the believers in the
cipher wherein Bacon maintains that he is the legal son of a wedding
between Dudley and the Queen. Was there such a marriage or even betrothal?
Froude cautiously says that this was averted 'SEEMINGLY on Lord Robert's
authority;' the Baron says that Lord Robert makes the assertion; Mr.
Gairdner says that Cecil is the authority, and Major Hume declares that it
is a mere on-dit—'who, they say.' It is heart-breaking.*
*For Mr. Gairdner, English Historical Review, No. 2, p. 246.
To deepen the darkness and distress, the official, printed, Spanish
Documentos Ineditos do not give this abstract of November 20 at all. Major
Hume translates it in full, from Mr. Froude's transcript.
Again, Mr. Froude inserts his undated quotation, really of November 20,
before he comes to tell of Amy Robsart's funeral (September 22, 1560), and
the Baron, as we saw, implies that Mr. Froude dates it September 11, the
day on which the Queen publicly announced Amy's death.
We now have an undated letter, endorsed by Cecil 'Sept. 1560,' wherein
Dudley, not at Court, and in tribulation, implores Cecil's advice and aid.
'I am sorry so sudden a chance should breed me so great a change.' He may
have written from Kew, where Elizabeth had given him a house, and where he
was on September 12 (not 27). On October 13 (Froude), or 14 ('Documentos
Ineditos,' 88, p. 310), or 15 (Spanish Calendar, i. p. 176)—for
dates are strange things—de Quadra wrote a letter of which there is
only an abstract at Simancas. This abstract we quote: 'The contents of the
letter of Bishop Quadra to his Majesty written on the 15th' (though headed
the 14th) 'of October, and received on the 16th of November, 1560. It
relates the way in which the wife of Lord Robert came to her death, the
respect (reverencia) paid him immediately by the members of the Council
and others, and the dissimulation of the Queen. That he had heard that
they were engaged in an affair of great importance for the confirmation of
their heresies, and wished to make the Earl of Huntingdon king, should the
Queen die without children, and that Cecil had told him that the heritage
was his as a descendant of the House of York.... That Cecil had told him
that the Queen was resolved not to marry Lord Robert, as he had learned
from herself; it seemed that the Arch Duke might be proposed.' In
mid-October, then, Elizabeth was apparently disinclined to wed the so
recently widowed Lord Robert, though, shortly after Amy's death, the Privy
Council began to court Dudley as future king.
Mr. Froude writes—still before he comes to September 22—'the
Bishop of Aquila reported that there were anxious meetings of the Council,
the courtiers paid a partial homage to Dudley.'* This appears to be a
refraction from the abstract of the letter of October 13 or 14: 'he
relates the manner in which the wife of Lord Robert came to her death, the
respect (reverencia) paid to him immediately by members of the Council and
*Froude, vi. p. 432.
Next we come, in Mr. Froude, to Amy's funeral (September 22), and to
Elizabeth's resolve not to marry Leicester (October 13, 14, 15?), and to
Throgmorton's interference in October-November. Throgmorton's wails over
the Queen's danger and dishonour were addressed to Cecil and the Marquis
of Northampton, from Poissy, on October 10, when he also condoled with
Dudley on the death of his wife! 'Thanks him for his present of a nag!'*
On the same date, October 10, Harry Killigrew, from London, wrote to
answer Throgmorton's inquiries about Amy's death. Certainly Throgmorton
had heard of Amy's death before October 10: he might have heard by
September 16. What he heard comforted him not. By October 10 he should
have had news of a satisfactory verdict. But Killigrew merely said 'she
brake her neck... only by the hand of God, to my knowledge.'** On October
17, Killigrew writes to Throgmorton 'rumours... have been very rife, BUT
THE QUEEN SAYS SHE WILL MAKE THEM FALSE.... Leaves to his judgment what he
will not write. Has therefore sent by Jones and Summers' (verbally) 'what
account he wished him to make of my Lord R.' (Dudley).
*For. Cal. Eliz., 1560, pp. 347-349.
**Ibid., 1560, p. 350.
Then (October 28) Throgmorton tells Cecil plainly that, till he knows what
Cecil thinks, he sees no reason to advise the Queen in the matter 'of
marrying Dudley.' Begs him 'TO SIGNIFY PLAINLY WHAT HAS BEEN DONE,' and
implores him, 'in the bowels of Christ '... 'to hinder that matter.'* He
writes 'with tears and sighs,' and—he declines to return Cecil's
letters on the subject. 'They be as safe in my hands as in your own, and
more safe in mine than in any messenger's.'
*For. Cal. Eliz., 1560, p. 376.
On October 29, Throgmorton sets forth his troubles to Chamberlain.
'Chamberlain as a wise man can conceive how much it imports the Queen's
honour and her realm to have the same' (reports as to Amy's death)
'ceased.' 'He is withal brought to be weary of his life.'*
*For. Cal. Eliz., 1560, p. 376.
On November 7, Throgmorton writes to the Marquis of Northampton and to
Lord Pembroke about 'the bruits lately risen from England... set so full
with great horror,' and never disproved, despite Throgmorton's prayers for
Finally Throgmorton, as we saw, had the boldness to send his secretary,
Jones, direct to Elizabeth. All the comfort he got from her was her
statement that neither Dudley nor his retainers were at the attempt at
Cumnor Place. Francis I. died in France, people had something fresh to
talk about, and the Cumnor scandal dropped out of notice. Throgmorton,
however, persevered till, in January 1561, Cecil plainly told him to cease
to meddle. Throgmorton endorsed the letter 'A warning not to be too busy
about the matters between the Queen and Lord Robert.'*
*For. Cal. Eliz., 1560, p. 498.
It is not necessary, perhaps, to pursue further the attempts of Dudley to
marry the Queen. On January 22 he sent to de Quadra his brother-in-law,
Sir Henry, father of Sir Philip Sidney, offering to help to restore the
Church if Philip II. would back the marriage. Sidney professed to believe,
after full inquiry, that Amy died by accident. But he admitted 'that no
one believed it;' that 'the preachers harped on it in a manner prejudicial
to the honour and service of the Queen, which had caused her to move for
the remedy of the disorders of this kingdom in religion,' and so on.* De
Quadra and the preachers had no belief in Amy's death by accident. Nobody
had, except Dudley's relations. A year after Amy's death, on September 13,
1561, de Quadra wrote: 'The Earl of Arundel and others are drawing up
copies of the testimony given in the inquiry respecting the death of Lord
Robert's wife. Robert is now doing his best to repair matters' (as to a
quarrel with Arundel, it seems), 'as it appears that more is being
discovered in that matter than he wished.'** People were not so easily
satisfied with the evidence as was the imprisoned and starving Appleyard.
*Documentos Ineditos, 88, p. 314; Span. Cal., i. p. 179; Froude, vi.
p. 453. The translations vary: I give my own. The Spanish has misprints.
**Span. Cal., i. p. 213; Documentos Ineditos, 88, p. 367.
So the mystery stands. The letters of Blount and Dudley (September 9-12,
1560) entirely clear Dudley's character, and can only be got rid of on the
wild theory that they were composed, later, to that very end. But the
precise nature of the Cumnor jury's verdict is unknown, and Elizabeth's
words about 'the attempt at her house' prove that something concealed from
us did occur. It might be a mere half-sportive attempt by rustics to enter
a house known to be, at the moment, untenanted by the servants, and may
have caused to Amy an alarm, so that, rushing downstairs in terror, she
fell and broke her neck. The coincidence of her death with the words of
Cecil would thus be purely fortuitous, and coincidences as extraordinary
have occurred. Or a partisan of Dudley's, finding poison difficult or
impossible, may have, in his zeal, murdered Amy, under the disguise of an
accident. The theory of suicide would be plausible, if it were conceivable
that a person would commit suicide by throwing herself downstairs.
We can have no certainty, but, at least, we show how Elizabeth came to be
erroneously accused of reporting Amy's death before it occurred.*
*For a wild Italian legend of Amy's murder, written in 1577, see the
Hatfield Calendar, ii. 165-170.