Elizabeth I and Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, had a long, deep, and complicated relationship. They were childhood friends, and he was one of her favorites (if not her very favorite) when she came to the throne in November 1558. Truly he was the love of her life, though she never married him. They remained close until he died.
It was just after the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588. Leicester’s stomach had been bothering him for some time (it is believed he was suffering from stomach cancer) and he decided to travel to Buxton to take the healing waters there. He wrote this letter shortly before his planned departure, which never occurred (he died at his house in Oxfordshire on September 4, 1588). The letter was found after Elizabeth’s death in 1603, in a small casket by her bed. She had written “His Last Letter” on it and kept it close beside her for the rest of her life.
I most humbly beseech your Majesty to pardon your poor old servant to be thus bold in sending to know how my gracious lady doeth, and what ease of her late pains she finds, being the chiefest thing in this world I do pray for, for her to have good health and long life. For my own poor case, I continue still your medicine and find it amends much better than with any other thing that hath been given me. Thus hoping to find perfect cure at the bath, with the continuance of my wonted prayer for your Majesty’s most happy preservation, I humbly kiss your foot. From your old lodging at Rycote, this Thursday morning, ready to take on my journey, by your Majesty’s most faithful and obedient servant.
Even as I had writ thus much, I received Your Majesty’s token by Young Tracey.