Monday, September 14, 2015

Robert Devereux, Third Earl of Essex, RIP (With Notes about his Mother!)

After failing as a general for Parliament in the English Civil War, Robert Devereux, the son of the Earl of Essex referenced in the title Elizabeth and Essex, died on September 14, 1646. His first wife was Frances Howard, who left him for Robert Carr, one of James I's favorites. When Robert and Frances were charged and convicted in the Overbury Murder, Devereux urged the king to have Frances Howard executed, but James spared her for the sake of his favorite. Devereux second marriage was also a failure and he died without an heir. As this site describes his fall from leadership in Parliament's Army:

Essex opposed the formation of the Committee for Both Kingdoms in February 1644 because he realised that it threatened his authority. His political influence was further undermined by the failure of his military campaigning that year when, after arguing with Waller, he disobeyed orders from Parliament, split his forces and marched into the West. Although he relieved the siege of Lyme, his subsequent invasion of Cornwall resulted in a crushing defeat at Lostwithiel in September 1644 after which Essex left his troops to their fate and made an ignominious escape in a fishing boat.

Although he was not officialy censured by Parliament, the disaster of Lostwithiel ended Essex's military career. Returning to the House of Lords, he supported the Earl of Manchester against Oliver Cromwell's criticisms of Manchester's leadership of the Eastern Association, and in December 1644 he joined an unsuccessful attempt to have Cromwell impeached for sedition. Essex led the opposition in the House of Lords to the measures proposed in the Commons for the re-organisation of Parliament's army, but he was finally obliged to resign his commission, which he did with a dignified speech on 2 April 1645, the day before the Self-Denying Ordinance was passed.

Thereafter, Essex lived in semi-retirement, a revered and respected figure once he had laid down his military commissions. He suffered a stroke after stag hunting at Windsor and died on 14 September 1646. He was buried in Westminster Abbey with great pomp and ceremony, and an effigy was erected to his memory. A month after the funeral, however, his grave was vandalised and his effigy beheaded by a former Royalist soldier. The effigy was refurbished but was finally destroyed on the orders of Charles II after the Restoration, though Essex's body was left undisturbed.

His mother was Frances Walsingham, daughter of Sir Francis Walsingham, widow of the great poet and courtier, Philip Sidney. She married for the third time in 1603, to an Irish Catholic, Richard de Burgh, and became a Catholic herself. Their son and Richard's heir, Ulick Burke, fought for Charles I in Ireland during the same civil war. So she had two sons fighting in the war between King and Parliament--on opposite sides.

Her daughter Honora de Burgh married a Catholic, John Paulet, 5th Marquess of Winchester, who also fought for Charles I (in England) and they were held in the Tower of London after Cromwell broke through the besieged Basing House in 1645--he finally recovered his land and title after the Restoration and married a third time: Isabel Howard, the daughter of Blessed William Howard (the grandson of St. Philip Howard).

Frances Walsingham Spenser Devereux de Burgh died in 1633. According to this author's work, she is another fascinating figure of the Elizabethan/Jacobean era:

Much has been written on Sir Francis Walsingham, Elizabeth the First's Secretary of State and Spymaster, but very little on his daughter, Frances, who is comparatively unknown but closely connected with the greatest of that era.

As a child, she survived the massacre of St.Bartholomew's Eve, together with Sir Philip Sidney, in Walsingham's embassy in Paris. At thirteen, she contracted herself in marriage to one of her Father's employees and, when this was forbidden, she was married to Sidney. She followed him on campaign in the Netherlands and was with him when he died of wounds following the battle of Zutphen. She then married the Queen's favourite, the Earl of Essex. Sidney had died with chivalric perfection, Essex, after a treasonable uprising, died with his head on a block eleven years later.

Within two years, Frances married the Irish Earl of Clanricarde, who had been brought up in the Essex household, and had accompanied Essex on several campaigns. She converted to Catholicism and together they built and left to posterity two outstanding houses. The book covers the last half of the reign, including the defeat of the Armada, Dutch, Spanish and Irish campaigns.

Frances was a survivor, but must have had, besides intelligence, rare charm or beauty to have married, in succession, three of the most charismatic men of the age. Seven of her twelve children survived.

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