29 January 2011

The strange death of Amy Dudley

The eighth of September, 1560, would see the death of a most inconvenient woman.  Amy Dudley had been found dead of a broken neck, at the bottom of a stone staircase. This would mark the end of the sad life of Robert Dudley's unwanted wife.  It also meant that Robbie was free to marry again. But the strange circumstances of Amy's death would prove to haunt both Robert and Queen Elizabeth.  The scandal that followed the young woman's lonely death would leave Robert almost as unable to marry his love, the queen, as when his wife still lived.

Elizabeth and Dudley were out hunting on the day that Amy died, as they had been doing for a number of days.  Elizabeth and her Robbie had been positively ebullient, invigorated and refreshed, thoroughly enjoying one another's company. Both their mood and activities were rather inappropriate, given that Amy was reportedly wasting from a terminable illness. It would have seemed that Robert's place should have been by his dying wife's side.

As the queen was returning from the hunt, she made a comment to the Spanish ambassador that was stunning. She remarked that Robert's wife was likely dead, or at least nearly dead. Elizabeth then asked him to keep silent on the matter.  De Quadra was nothing short of mortified. Did this mean that someone had deliberately murdered Amy Dudley? Had Amy been truly ill? Was it possible that Amy had committed suicide?

  Amy had been alone at home the day she died, every servant had been away.  That not a single person was in attendance of a dying woman was odd indeed.  More strangely, Cecil had previously told De Quadra that Amy was in very good health, and that the danger to her was that someone might attempt to poison her.

The whispering rumors were flourishing at court, and Elizabeth's attitude did nothing to help the situation.  She was reportedly reacting to Amy's death with remarkable callousness, even sarcasm.  Was this the reaction of a woman who might have been complicit somehow in a rival's death, or was this an understandable and defensive reaction of a woman who was being unfairly maligned?

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