This was one of the greatest betrayals of Elizabeth’s life (and this was a woman who suffered a bunch of disappointments): Robert Dudley was the love of her life, and after years of chasing after her he married her cousin (Lettice was the granddaughter of Mary Boleyn, and some would argue that she was also the granddaughter of Henry VIII…).
You can’t really blame Dudley – you can even understand him in a twisted sort of way. It was clear that Elizabeth would never marry him. She seemed to want to when she first came to the throne, and it did absolutely look like it they were just waiting for Robert’s wife Amye to die from the breast cancer everyone knew she had. But after the mysterious circumstances of her death – even despite the formal inquest – any marriage between the two would have been suspect so Elizabeth was implacable. Meanwhile, Lettice was beautiful and charming and available – and she even looked a little like Elizabeth, thanks to their shared bloodline(s). As I said, you really can’t blame Robert Dudley….
Not that Elizabeth ever accepted that. She couldn’t – Robert Dudley was the love of her life and she expected that they would be tragic figures together/apart forever. She didn’t find out right away (no one was wanted to tell her, they were rightfully afraid of her reaction). Finally, the French ambassador told her as a way to push her towards marriage with the Duc of Alencon who had come to England to woo her. The revelation didn’t end up with a cementing of the French alliance (though for a time it looked like it would), but it did get Lettice banished from court forever (with one exception…but then her son ruined it for her a second time…).
Still, by all accounts it was a successful marriage. Successful enough that Lettice chose to be buried next to Dudley (she was married three times, once before and once after him, so she did have a choice!). There is some romance there…
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