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Dudley, Robert

Dudley, Robert

(b. Sheen House, Surrey, England, 7 August 1573; d. Villa di Castello, Florence, Italy, 6 September 1649)

navigation.

Dudley was the son of Robert Dudley, earl of Leicester, and Lady Douglas Sheffield. The legitimacy of Dudley’s birth was questioned in his lifetime, yet he was given every advantage commensurate with his father’s position in Elizabethan England. He was a student at Christ Church, Oxford, and at the age of twenty-one sailed in command of two ships to the West Indies. In 1596 he was in the battle of Cádiz with the earl of Essex and was knighted for his bravery. In 1605 Dudley left his wife and children in England and traveled to Italy, accompanied by one of the beauties of the day, Elizabeth Southwell. He established himself in Florence, became a Catholic, married Miss Southwell, and entered the service of the grand duke of Tuscany. He was put in charge of several major engineering projects, including the building of the port of Leghorn, and the beginnings of land reclamation near Pisa. He never returned to England; his assumed titles, earl of Warwick and duke of Northumberland, invalid in England, were confirmed by the Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand II in recognition of his services.

Dudley’s first work, an account of his voyage to the West Indies, was printed by Hakluyt in the second edition of his Voyages under the title “A Voyage... to the Isle of Trinidad and the Coast of Paria.” He had become interested in navigation while at Oxford, and the interest had been further stimulated by his close association with the great sea captain Thomas Cavendish, brother of his first wife. He continued to work on the pressing problems of navigation, including the determination of longitude; made a collection of the best and most advanced navigational instruments, now in the Florence Museum of Science; and at the age of seventy-three published his great work, Dell’arcano del mare (three volumes, Florence, 1646-1647). It is one of the great sea atlases of all time, magnificently engraved, and may justly be regarded as an encyclopedia of knowledge regarding the sea. It contains a treatise on naval strategy; a manual of shipbuilding; directions on building coastal fortifications; instructions to navigators, including the essential elements of nautical almanacs; and a set of maps of the entire world. It is these maps that give Dudley’s work special significance; Dell’arcano del mare is the first sea atlas with all maps drawn on Mercator’s projections, as modified by Edward Wright. The maps, virtually without ornamentation and restricted to the information essential to the seaman, are, in spite of errors and imperfections, among the milestones of naval cartography.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

See G. F. Warner’s biographical sketch and preface to the Hakluyt Society’s edition of Dudley’s Voyage (London, 1899); and Vaughan Thomas, The Italian Biography of Sir Robert Dudley(Oxford, 1861?).

George Kish

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Leicester, Robert Dudley, 1st earl of

Leicester, Robert Dudley, 1st earl of (c.1532–88). Son of John Dudley, duke of Northumberland, Dudley became one of Elizabeth I's most prominent courtiers. Until his death in 1588, he was master of the queen's horse and a privy counsellor (from or just before 1563); he was created earl in 1564 in part to make him a more acceptable match for Mary, queen of Scots. Following the example of his brother Ambrose, he was appointed general of the English forces in the Netherlands in 1585.

Leicester was a controversial figure. He was involved in his father's plan to crown Lady Jane Grey and was sentenced to death in January 1554, but pardoned in October of that year. His reputation as Elizabeth's favourite—an aristocratic and arrogant courtier—has been endorsed by historians but contemporaries were also gripped by rumours that the suspicious death of his first wife Amy Robsart was linked with his marriage designs on Elizabeth. In the ‘factional’ model of Elizabethan politics he has been seen as the rival of Burghley. Burghley certainly produced in 1566–7 a rather damning list of Leicester's qualities (or lack of them), questioning his knowledge (‘meet for a courtier’) and reputation (‘hated of many’). Leicester's career was probably less conspiratorial. He was certainly part of Elizabeth's new court in November 1558 and was appointed to organize the stables the day after her accession. But Burghley and he collaborated in Privy Council business and, judging from their correspondence, had a fairly easy relationship. Like many of the early Elizabethan councillors, courtiers, and diplomats, who made their names at Cambridge in the 1530s and under Edward VI, Leicester had his own Edwardian connections. As master of the horse he emulated his brother Ambrose, earl of Warwick, who had held the office in 1553. He seems also to have used his religious patronage to benefit Edwin Sandys, bishop of Worcester, and John Aylmer, later bishop of London. His parliamentary influence was considerable and he promoted men to the Commons, as a privy counsellor keen on having ‘discreet and wise men’ in the House.

Ged Martin

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Leicester, Robert Dudley, Earl of

Leicester, Robert Dudley, Earl of (1532–88) English courtier. He was a favourite of Queen Elizabeth I, who ennobled him and gave him a castle at Kenilworth, Warwickshire, England. Marriage to Elizabeth seemed possible, but instead Elizabeth proposed his marriage to Mary, who rejected him. Leicester unsuccessfully led (1585–87) an English force in the Revolt of the Netherlands against Spain.

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Dudley, Robert

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