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 to favour.
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.154 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.155
154 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.
155 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.156
156 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.157 The other is to a woman’s tailor, and, though merely concerned with gowns and collars, is written in a style of courteous friendliness.158 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.
157 Pettigrew, 14, note 1.
158 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.159 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.160 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.161
159 Jackson, ut supra.
160 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.
161 Cal. Dom. Eliz. p. 157, August 13, 1560; also Hatfield Calendar.
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 always satisfactory.
Next, from 1886 onwards, the Spanish Government published five volumes of the correspondence of Philip with his ambassadors at the English Court.162 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.’163 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.164
162 Documentos Ineditos para la Historia de Espana. Ginesta, Madrid, 1886.
163 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.
164 Relations Politiques des 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 children’165
165 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 him.’166
166 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.’167 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.’168 Thus between November 1559 and January 1560, the talk is that Amy shall be poisoned, and this tale runs round the Courts of Europe.
167 Sp. Cal. i. pp. 112–114.
168 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.’169 ‘She will marry none but the favoured Robert.’170 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.’171 ‘Is ruining the country AND THE QUEEN,’ is in the original Spanish.
169 Froude, vi. p. 311.
170 Relations Politiques, ii. 87, 183, 184.
171 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.’172 So the Calendar. Mr. Froude condenses his Spanish author THUS:173 ‘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.
172 Sp. Cal. i, p. 141.
173 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.174 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.
174 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.175 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.’
175 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.’176 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, 1575.
176 Rye, p. 55.
Of Appleyard we shall hear plenty: Leicester had favoured him (he was Leicester’s brother-inlaw), 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.177 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.’
177 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.178
178 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.179 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.
179 Elizabeth and Leicester, Giesener Studien auf dem Gebiet der Geschichte, v p.48. Giesen, 1890.
In the ‘English Historical Review,’180 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, 1560.181 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.’
180 No. 2, April 1886, pp. 235–259.
181 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 comments.182
182 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.183
183 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.
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 12.184 So the date is given by Bartlett, in his ‘History of Cumnor Place,’ and by Adlard (1870), following Bartlett, and Craik (1848).
184 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 to me.’185
185 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.186
186 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 1567.187 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.’
187 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.’188 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.189
188 Froude, vi. p. 430.
189 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.190
190 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.191 Appleyard’s statement among his intimates, that no verdict had yet been given, seems to point to an open verdict.
191 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, 1560.192 We shall return to Throgmorton.
192 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.193 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.
193 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 11.194 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.’195 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!196
194 Relations Politiques des Pays–Bas, etc., xlii., note 4.
195 Span. Cal. i. p. 178.
196 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.197
197 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.’198 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 others.’
198 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!’199 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.’200 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).
199 For. Cal. Eliz., 1560, pp. 347–349.
200 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.’201 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.’
201 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.’202
202 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 satisfaction.
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.’203
203 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-inlaw, 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.204 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.’205 People were not so easily satisfied with the evidence as was the imprisoned and starving Appleyard.
204 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.
205 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.206
206 For a wild Italian legend of Amy’s murder, written in 1577, see the Hatfield Calendar, ii. 165–170.
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