Genre: History, nonfiction
Publisher: Chronos Books
Pub date: 26 March 2021
Despite widespread interest in Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, little has been written about him in decades past. In Elizabeth I’s Last Favourite, Sarah-Beth Watkins brings the story of his life, and death, back into the public eye. In the later years of Elizabeth I’s reign, Robert Devereux became the ageing queen’s last favourite. The young upstart courtier was the stepson of her most famous love, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. Although he tried, throughout his life, to live up to his stepfather’s memory, Essex would never be the man he was. His love for the queen ran in tandem with undercurrents of selfishness and greed. Yet, Elizabeth showered him with affection, gifts and the tolerance only a mother could have for an errant son. In return, for a time, Essex flattered her and pandered to her every whim. But, one disastrous commission after another befell the earl, from his military campaigns, to voyages seeking treasure, to his stint as spymaster. Ultimately, his relationship with the queen would suffer and his final act of rebellion would force Elizabeth I to ensure her last favourite troubled her no more.
Having read numerous books by Sarah-Beth I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to read this intriguing one.
I was of course aware of who Robert Devereux was but knew little about his childhood or how he spent his life other than he was a favourite of Elizabeth that was eventually executed.
Robert Devereux was the stepson of Robert Dudley and son of Lettice Knollys. He became an earl at a young age and grew up educated and privileged but appears to have always wanted more for himself and did not like to be challenged in his position as a favourite of Elizabeth.
His relationship with Elizabeth I was not the only interesting one, I was unaware of the difficult relationship he had with Sir Walter Raleigh which having reading this I can see may have been in part to his own ambition and jealousy. Robert Devereux made many mistakes trying to further his own ambition but eventually pushed too far in Elizabeth’s estimations and paid the ultimate price.
Sarah-Beth has managed to not only tell his story but also shed a light on his personality which comes through in extracts of his letters mentioned throughout.
He is a fascinating person and I’d love to read more about him and thanks to the select bibliography I know exactly where to start!
As with her previous books Sarah-Beth remains focused on the topic so although it is a slim book it’s full of information about Robert Devereux including extracts of his letters which are truly fascinating as well as his poetry.
If you’d like to know more about Robert Devereux I would certainly recommend this.
Elizabeth I’s Last Favourite is available now