DUDLEY, Sir Robert (1532/33-88).

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Mar. 1553

Family and Education

b. 24 June 1532 or 1533, 5th s. of Sir John Dudley, Earl of Warwick and later Duke of Northumberland, by Jane, da. and h. of Sir Edward Guildford of Halden and Hemsted, Kent. m. (1) 4 June 1550, Amy (d.1560), da. and h. of Sir John Robsart of Siderstern, Norf., s.p.; ?(2) 1571 or 1573, Douglas, da. of William, 1st Baron Howard of Effingham, wid. of John, 2nd Baron Sheffield, 1s.; (2 or 3) 21 Sept. 1578, Lettice, da. of (Sir) Francis Knollys of Rotherfield Greys, Oxon., wid. of Walter Devereux, 1st Earl of Essex, 1s. d.v.p. Kntd. bef. June 1550; KG nom. 24 Apr. inst. 3 June 1559; cr. Baron of Denbigh 28 Sept. and Earl of Leicester 29 Sept. 1564.2

Offices Held

Jt. (with Sir John Robsart) steward and constable, Castle Rising 13 Dec. 1550; commr. relief, Norf. 1550, goods of churches and fraternities 1553; gent. privy chamber Aug. 1551; chief carver Sept. 1551; master of the buckhounds 11 Nov. 1552, of the horse Jan. 1559-Dec. 1587; jt. ld. lt. Norf. 1552, 1553, ld. lt. Warws. 1559, Berks. ?1560, Worcs. 1569-70, Essex, Herts. and Mdx. 1585, Oxon., Leics., Rutland 1587-d.; PC 23 Apr. 1559; j.p. Herefs., Warws., Worcs. 1561 and later of other counties, custos rot. Denb. and Warws. c.1573, Caern. and Merion. c.1579, Anglesey and Flints. c.1584, constable, Windsor castle 1562-d.; high steward, Camb. Univ. 1563-d.; chancellor, Oxf. Univ. 31 Dec. 1564-d.; chamberlain, Chester 2 July 1565-d.; steward, Bristol to Apr. 1570-d., Lynn and Yarmouth 1572-d., Norwich cathedral 1574-d.; trier of petitions in the Lords, Parlts. of 1571, 1572, 1584; ld. steward of Household 1584-8; c.j. in eyre, south of Trent Nov. 1585-d.; gov. United Provinces Feb. 1586.3


As an adolescent Robert Dudley was with his father, then Earl of Warwick, at the crushing of Ket’s rebellion in 1549, and Warwick’s assumption of power was followed by Dudley’s appointment to the King’s household. His marriage to Amy Robsart brought him lands in Norfolk, where he seems to have taken up residence and where he had his first experience of administration. It was his adopted county which also provided Dudley with a seat in the House of Commons. When, in the autumn of 1551, vacancies were filled in preparation for the fourth and final session of the Parliament first summoned in 1547 he was by-elected as a knight of the shire in place of Sir Edmund Knyvet, who had died in 1550. The return of one still under age hardly accorded with the professed purpose of the operation, to supply ‘grave and wise men’ to repair the disorder associated with ‘sundry young men and others of small judgment’, but in Dudley’s case the only thing that mattered was his parentage. On 12 Apr. 1552, with Sir Francis Russell and Sir John Cheke, he was required by the House to intercede with the Duke of Suffolk on behalf of the duke’s servant Ralph Ellerker, after Ellerker’s discharge for his assault on (Sir) Robert Brandling. It was to be the same story in March 1553, when the election of Dudley and Sir Thomas Radcliffe, Lord Fitzwalter, may have represented an agreed division of the Norfolk seats between Dudley’s father, now Duke of Northumberland, and Fitzwalter’s, the 2nd Earl of Sussex.4

Shortly before Edward VI died Dudley was granted lands in Northamptonshire and Leicestershire and licensed to retain 50 men in his livery. It was clearly his father’s intention that he should raise Norfolk for Jane Grey and within a few days of the King’s death the Spanish ambassador reported that he was attempting to seize Mary. This seems to have been only a rumour and Dudley’s main objective was the town of Lynn: there he was at least partially successful but the capture of Northumberland himself made the exploit useless. On 20 July 1553 the Privy Council ordered the town authorities to apprehend Dudley and his followers and three days later he was committed to the Tower. In September he was allowed a visit from his wife but early in January 1554 he was indicted before the commissioners of oyer and terminer at Norwich and on 22 Jan. at the London Guildhall he pleaded guilty to treason and was sentenced to death. The Queen had doubtless already decided to spare him, and not even Wyatt’s rebellion caused her to change her mind: after a further nine months in the Tower with his brothers he was released on 18 Oct. 1554 and pardoned on 22 Jan. 1555. Before the close of the reign he had been rehabilitated. In 1557 he and his brothers joined the English army in Picardy and took part in the battle of St. Quentin, and on 17 Mar. of that year he arrived in London with despatches from King Philip. For these services Dudley together with his brother and sisters was restored in blood by Act of Parliament (4 and 5 Phil. and Mary, c.15) on 7 Mar. 1558. The accession of Elizabeth six months later marked the opening of a new and brilliant career.5

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: Roger Virgoe


  • 1. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament; Hatfield 207.
  • 2. CP giving date of birth; DNB; G. Adlard, Amye Robsart, 16; Lit. Rems. Edw. VI, 275.
  • 3. CPR, 1549-51, p. 402; 1550-3, pp. 270, 395; 1553, pp. 49, 357, 415; Lit. Rems. Edw. VI, 338; APC, iv. 50, 278; SP12/93, 145; E163/14/8 ex inf. J. C. Sainty; Bristol AO, 04721, f. 299; LJ, i. 667, 703; ii. 63.
  • 4. Blomefield, Norf. iii. 245; APC, iii. 400; CJ, i. 23; B. L. Beer, Northumberland, 83, 104, 127, 146, 194.
  • 5. CSP Dom. 1547-80, p. 52; CPR, 1553, p. 79; 1554-5, pp. 158-9; CSP Span. 1553, pp. 79, 86, 88; APC, iv. 299, 302, 344, 416; Chron. Q. Jane and Q. Mary (Cam. Soc. xlviii), p. iii; HMC Foljambe, 6-7; Machyn’s Diary (Cam. Soc. xlii), 128.