Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Leicester, Cecil and those pesky Scots. Part one:

Linda Root

In 1573 the Earl of Leicester was still very much Elizabeth Tudor's favorite.  He was engaged in a romantic liaison with Lady Douglas Sheffield, one of the Howards, who bore his illegitimate son Robert Dudley the following year.  By that time, he had accepted that there was scant hope of ever becoming Elizabeth's consort, but he was unwilling to risk her affections by entering into an unsanctioned marriage.   He still cut a fine figure and was very much pursued by women at the Tudor court including Douglass and one of her sisters.  Elizabeth’s court historian Gilbert Talbot wrote:

There are two sisters now in the court that are very far in love with him, as they have long been; my Lady Sheffield and Frances Howard. They (of like striving who shall love him better) are at great wars together and the queen thinketh not well of them, and not the better of him.[1]

In spite of the treatment he often receives in the cinema and historical fiction, and to some degree, in serious histories, Dudley was not just a decoration at Elizabeth's court.  He was a politically astute statesman, an able negotiator, and a recognized champion of the Puritan cause--far more formidable than the toy of the queen as he is so often portrayed.  And while he did not dictate policy as Elizabeth's minister William Cecil tried to do, he clearly left her subtle hints. In essence, he had Elizabeth's ear as well as her heart-- a man to be reckoned with. Those who courted Elizabeth’s favor sought his friendship, and some became his lifelong friends.  Like his rival Cecil, he was a frequent host of Marie Stuart’s envoy William Maitland of Lethington and had contact with the Scottish knight and statesman Sir William Kirkcaldy of Grange.

Maitland of Lethington had been called ‘the flower of the wit of Scotland,’ by Elizabeth.  But he had other monikers.  Some among the protestant Lords of the Congregation considered him ‘a The Chameleon’ [2]because of the way his allegiances shifted.  He had first gone to London in the service of Marie of Guise when she was her absentee daughter’s regent, but later he turned his back on her.  As she neared death, she forgave all of the others who left her, but not Maitland. Later, he did the same to her daughter when she married her third husband James Hepburn, the notorious 4th Earl of Bothwell, staying with her after her marriage long enough to arrange with James Balfour who was then the keeper of Edinburgh Castle to lock the Portcullis gate when the queen and her consort came to claim its arsenal. Yet, no matter who he served, he remained Robert Dudley’s friend and confidante. 

After Maitland and his bride Marie Flemyng fled to Halyards, the home of Kirkcaldy of Grange,  Maitland took up his sword against the Queen at Carberry Hill, and in spite of failing health, he did so again the following year at Langside. 
After Marie Stuart fled to England, Maitland, the queen’s brother Moray and the venomously anti-Marian James Douglas, Earl of Morton ruled Scotland as a triumvirate, with the little king’s uncle Moray acting as Regent. However, between Marie Stuart’s flight to England and the strange hearings at York and London in 1568 when the Casket Letters surfaced, Maitland’s politics became suspect. 
Some blamed his warming toward the absentee queen on Maitland’s wife Marie Flemyng, the queen’s cousin and the first in rank of her legendary Four Maries. No doubt because his colleagues Moray and Morton did not trust Maitland enough to leave him behind, when the Scottish delegation traveled to York to present its case, he was one of the party.  They might have been wiser to leave him home, because Maitland had a second agenda, and in advancing it, he did not seek out his old friend Cecil, the man who had so often entertained him as a house guest. 
On this trip, his private dinner party host was Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, and the topic of their dinner table banter was the potential of a marriage between two of Elizabeth Tudor’s cousins, the captive Queen of Scots and England’s first ranking peer.  As discussed below, the last marriage between Marie and one of her cousins got all of the principals involved in trouble and some of them killed.  Dudley and Maitland should have known better.  
 Come back tomorrow for part two of Leicester, Cecil and those Pesky Scots   

About the Author

"In 2004, I was in Northern California with my husband, entered a hotel lobby to register, and saw myself on television. The desk clerk looked at the telly and then at me and said, Oh, My God! You're Linda Root." Before me appeared one of my life's greatest triumps in re-runs on late night Court TV (Arrest and Trial, Dick Wolf productions, Episode #28, Holtsinger the Gunslinger). The next Monday I went to work and quit my job. I had conquered all of my dragons. Time to put away my battle armour and settle in to read and eventually, to write. Four years later, after reading Alison Weir's The Murder of Lord Darnley and disputing her analysis, I set out to do a Murder Book in an effort to convict Marie Stuart, Queen of Scots of Darnley's murder on a conspiracy theory. The result was my 2011 debut novel The First Marie and the Queen of Scots, not about the queen but her cousin Marie Flemyng, the chief of her Four Maries, the girls who sailed with her to France when she was five to escape an English army. I am still captivated by 'Mally' Flemyng and her husband William Maitland, who keep reappearing in my novels. The second book, The Last Knight and the Queen of Scots fictionalizes the Channel-spanning adventures of William Kirkcaldy of Grange from the time he left the Sorbonne to return to Fifeshire to participate in Cardinal David Beaton's murder until his body rotated on the gallows until he faced into the setting Edinburgh sun, dying just as his estranged friend John Knox had predicted he would. The third book of the series is nearly finished, The Midwife's Secret: the Mystery of La Belle Ecoassaise, and there are two more in the planning stages."
Root is a retired prosecutor living in the Mohave Desert with her husband Chris and their two giant Alaskan Malamutes. In addition to her Marie Stuart series, she participates in the MarieStuartSociety group, the author's forum on Goodreads, and other historical and literary sites and entertains herself by toying with a contemporary humorous crime novel Hurricane Camile and the Morongo Blondes, hoping that her best friends will not recognize themselves and sue. An expatraiate son Michael Marsh is also a writer(the anthology Jinn and the novella The Totheroh Club). An educator daughter, a son who is a tatooist and studio artist, and a physical therapist stepson and their three spouses all live in Southern California. The malamutes are unemployed.

[1] Wilson, Derek (1981): Sweet Robin: A Biography of Robert Dudley Earl of Leicester 1533–1588 Hamish Hamilton ISBN 0-241-10149-2

[2] The Works of George Buchanan, in the Scottish Language: Containing the Chameleon, A Satire against the Laird of Lidingtone (1823) by George Buchanan (2010, Hardcover)

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