Robert Dudley was a man who figured very largely in the life of Elizabeth and came from a family who experienced the many up and downs in fortune likely to occur during this time. His grandfather, Edmund, a minister of Henry VII's, Elizabeth's grandfather, was executed by Henry VIII for treason. Edmund's son, John Dudley then worked tirelessly to restore the family's standing until be became one of the Privy Council of Edward VI. Not only one member, but one of its most powerful, he successfully overcame the influence of Somerset until, after the Protector's fall, Dudley was instrumental in the arrival at court of Elizabeth for the Christmas festivities in 1549, signalling his allegiance with both Elizabeth and the Protestant faith in preference to Mary. However, after the death of Edward, rather than obey Henry's Act of Succession, he attempted to carry out Edward's dying wish that Elizabeth and Mary be overlooked in favour of Lady Jane Grey. For his, major, part in this, he was condemned as a traitor by Mary when she ascended the throne and executed in 1553. Although Robert Dudley was himself also condemned as a traitor and imprisoned, he escaped execution.
Robert Dudley, because of the close family relationships, thus knew Elizabeth from an early age and was to become her favourite courtier and a suitor for her hand in marriage. Much has been written and speculated upon over the relationship between the queen and her favourite but although he tried for many years, and became one of the most powerful and influential of courtiers, he never secured the marriage with the queen that seems to have been his ultimate goal.