D is for


Elizabeth loved to dance and it was an essential part of any entertainment at court. She particularly loved the faster dances, the coranto, the galliard or particularly the lavolta, where the young men took off their cloaks and rapiers and danced in their doublets. Leaping, running and lifting their partners high into the air. Robert was a fine exponent of this dance and Elizabeth in the earlier days of her reign loved to dance with him. In the candlelight the dancers in their brilliantly coloured gem-studded costumes made a fascinating spectacle. It all seems very healthy, but one prominent reformer called it “the horrible vice of pestiferous dancing…what kissing and bussing (more kissing), what smooching and slobbering, what filthy groping and unclean handling is not practised everywhere in this dancing?” Sounds familiar!


Cannabis was listed as a garden plant that was good for earache. William Turner wrote “the hemp seed taken out of measure taketh men’s will from them.” He also noted that “the juice of the black poppy called opium dulls the aches and brings sleep, but if a man takes too much of it it is hurtful for it taketh away a man’s memory and kills him.” For an overdose make him vomit and administer a ‘sharp clyster’ (enema) and wake him up by putting ‘stinking things unto his nose’.


Lord Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester and Elizabeth were life-long friends and, it was rumoured also lovers. Robert’s father John, took part in the attempt to put Lady Jane Grey on the throne of England, but Mary Tudor won the day and Robert was imprisoned in the Tower and narrowly escaped death. Elizabeth was also committed to the Tower and they were both later released. Elizabeth needed financial help and Robert sold some of his lands to help her. Elizabeth never forgot this help and when she became Queen, she rewarded him with titles and wealth. He was a masterly horseman and Elizabeth made him her Master of Horse and often rode with him. She attended his wedding to Amy Roberts and over the course of several years, their relationship became ever closer. The death of Amy in suspicious circumstances prevented any wedding plans. Frustrated after years of waiting, Robert married Lettice Knollys, the widow of the Earl of Essex. He married without Elizabeth’s consent and she was furious and banned him from court for a long time. She eventually forgave him and he stayed close to Elizabeth until his death.

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