Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester, was Queen Elizabeth’s particular favourite. For a long period he was a suitor for her hand, and many thought that they would be wed. However, when his wife died after falling down stairs, rumours circulated that he had had her killed. This suggestion, and the shadow of his father – who had tried to install Lady Jane Grey on the throne after King Edward VI’s death – made him an unsuitable match for the queen.
Robert was a Privy Councillor, appointed Lord Steward of the Royal Household. He became Earl of Leicester and a very wealthy landowner through royal grants. He was involved in shaping policy at home and abroad, alongside Francis Walsingham. Elizabeth trusted Robert so much that she considered him “another ourself.” He was Elizabeth’s regular dancing partner and spent most of his time at court with her. Rumours that she had children by Dudley persisted in England and abroad for the rest of her life.