The Essex Rebellion |Breaking Bard Episode 14


“The swooning lover crashed into Elizabeth’s chamber in his filthy travelling clothes ‘so full of dirt and mire that his very face was full of it’ to confront his fair mistress, barely out of bed, her wrinkles brutally exposed in the morning light and her wig off.”

  • Lisa Hilton, The Renaissance Prince


The swooning lover here is Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex and that wrinkled old woman is Queen Elizabeth I. Unsurprisingly, this incident marked the start of Essex’s downfall. Prior to this time, he was the Queen’s favorite. He benefited greatly from her favor and seemed to know how to keep it. She gave him money and power. He was a tireless flirt.

Success did not become him, however. He became arrogant and just generally unpleasant to be around. Elizabeth was fond of him though, so the other courtiers had to stay silent and wait. Fortunately for them, they didn’t have to wait long because he quickly wasted an opportunity. He should have kept in mind that Elizabeth regularly banished favorites from court for getting married without her permission. He didn’t though and his fall was spectacular. Spoiler alert, he gets executed.


Today, we’ll be discussing the Essex Rebellion and the role Shakespeare played.


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