The death of a fine noble 28 year old woman, in 1560 it made history of a case. The wife of Robert Dudley first Duke of Northumberland was found dead in her house at base of a stair.We have no idea where this stair was located or how many steps it had as nothing of Cumnor Place near Oxford now remains of it today. It has been passed around so many times as to her real fate and we have a clear view to see if we but open our minds to logic not maybe that leads to fairy tales. Dudley was Queen Elizabeths lover, if we read between the lines. His bedroom moved ever closer and now next door to hers. Lots of proof and little doubt he loved her and she loved him. The Virgin Queen she was not. That is not our case today but to set the scene only.
On the day Amy was found dead, her errant husband was in Windsor Castle with the Queen, as he had been now for nearly a year in her arms. Marriage was whispered by all in court but Cecil was madly against this as he was trying to find a good European alliance with the right Prince for a husband more fit to bed a Queen of England than that wolf called Dudley, already a married man.
Dudley was not the sweet and innocent as played by many an actor on stage and film. He was hated as a traitors son who wanted England. The Wolf he was called behind his strong back. Elizabeth had showered titles and jobs on him that paid well and upset many that had hope for promotion and had deserved it more. Dudley was master of Horse and alone at at least one time the Queen rode with Dudley in the park lands around Windsor. The Queens absence at council debates always contention and noticed had Dudley blamed for that lose of time on serious matters of State that only the Queen could sign.
Meanwhile my readers one will in some haste fly back to poor Amy in rural Oxfordshire.
She is upset her face showing her haste.The day is 8th September 1560 that day of the great fair at Abingdon called the Ladys day fair and a servants day off for such. Amy is telling her maid ,insisting that she went the way to enjoy the events. Maid is concerned something is wrong but obeys her good mistress.
Amy Dudley has not seen hide nor hair of Sir Robert her legal husband for almost a year. He has sent presents when he remembered he had a wife but Amy had her fathers inheritance and some 20,000 pounds to her name.in 1560 that was millions. She was therefore able to live well alone. Yet she traveled around her friends and lodged with many on the move all the time.Was she lonely we ask? She had married at 18. Or was she scared of being the pawn in her husbands work of wooing a Queen. Did she feel danger was never far away.?
To cut to the chase we can dismiss most of what is written as God alone and the veritable fly on the wall saw what went on no human eye that would recount so we are in the dark from this . Any words read in books of what went on is fabrication romance and lies.
What we do know together is that she was alone and some time when the servants returned that evening she was found dead.
Was she murdered, did she slip, or was it really as many believe suicide?
Looking out of that box again we must examine each factor in time. The Coroners report tells alarming facts that seem to be overshadowed by what they then said cause of death by her neck breaking and ruled accidental death. Amys family did not believe that. The fact that they go into detail to examine deep holes in her head and fly over it is beyond credence to me. One such hole in Amys skull is two thumbs deep. Now then, my thumb from tip to second joint is nearly 3 inches (8 centimeters) taking both thumbs into account that is almost a hole in human skull that is 6 inches deep. There is a lesser hole too.Then we look at the former mentioned and they say that a broken neck killed her.I am not a medic trained but something tells me that if a hole so deep to go into my brain did not stop me breathing a broken neck would not worry me. I would already be dog meat. The Coroners measurement is the thing.What was a thumb.Is it like a hand to measure to the withers your horse? Yes I do think it was so .Either short thumbs then or we are bigger now. What ever we can all agree I think, that a hole even half that depth would point to death.
My thoughts are Amy cleared the house to be alone for she expected a very important guest. A clandestine meeting. Someone so important had warned her to be there alone.
Now bear with me people I can only give you my thoughts. Cecil could have sent that message. If he killed her to place the blame of Robert Dudley he played a dangerous game that may have backfired to leave Dudley free to marry the Throne as all believed.
If not therefore Cecil then who? Dudley was housed In Windsor Castle in front of some sixty witnesses and household staff plus the best alibi in the world for he was sat next to the most powerful Queen in Europe.
Robert Dudley may have wanted his wife out of his way but to do that would have ruined Elizabeths view of him. He knew she was relaxed in his company but Queens are women with power and at any moment she could be herself and State and Country only.
The wounds in Amys head again trouble my thoughts. Deep holes made by a heavy hand and a sharp point.It had to be powerful enough to break through the skull without smashing it to bits like the spoon to the breakfast egg.
Every home those days had sugar in hard cones delivered.Salt came in blocks like concrete. The man in the house or kitchens then had the horrid job of using a pick hammer about hand size with sharp point of 6 inches each side on top of a shout handle. He then attacked the salt block to bring off small chips which the cook then crushed in pestle and mortar into salt crystals..Sugar to was chipped that way. They had two designed implements made by the Blacksmith. I used this method to as a boy with rock salt in the milk dairy of our farm when we all made the butter for markets on Saturday.
I know that is the very tool that hit her and killed the lady outright. The broken neck , well! was it broken or just flopped about as a dead Budgies head will when it dies of heart attack.
We can not take much from the Coroners report as what did they know then?
Very little it seems unlike today in our times.
I think no smoke without fire. A conversation was over heard in part in a tavern later that same week, near Oxford. it went like this.
” Howbeit it was thought she was slain, Varney was there that day and whylest the deed was doing was going over the fair and tarried there for his man who at length came and he said ,thou knave ,why tarriest thou done? ,qouth Varney . Yeah, qouth the man, I have made it sure.
This was taken from a book called Leycesters Commonwealth published in 1584 as a journal but written in 1562 by so called witnesses.
Sir Richard Varney was the servant to Robert Dudley himself. All routes seem to come right back to Dudley. If he organized this murder he may have thought being with the Queen would shield him and so could proceed with marriage as he must have worked hard for. Done correctly to plan nothing could return to prove he had anything to do with murder. we presume it all went to plan.
But the wolf miscalculated his woman. Now she must have suspected Dudley as she cleared him for her court. Love him yes she did as she mentioned his name on her death bed but she loved power far more. She said no more, other than make sure he had safety outside of her web. Sir William Cecil did what he did best protect his Queen. Finally even he went too far and she pensioned him off with title and income as Lord Burleigh . It broke the old Statesmans heart but it had to be done. Elizabeth was changed, she needed no one and she proved it.She married England and became our greatest ruler.
As for dear sad Amy Robstart Dudley her funeral was a costly affair of 2000 pounds .She was entered into Saint Marys Church in the city of Oxford with great pomp and some circumstance as wife of an Earl.
Dudley retired to his house at Kew and in mourning for six months they record. Elizabeth and her Royal court mourned for one month. Robert Dudley never was in the Queens private company ever again. He was a shadow on her walls and she ignored him from that day until death.
So if Sir Richard Varney is our man did he do this to help his master, or did his master direct the job.? That is my case dear friends.For you to study and find an answer that is not available as it is but letters keep coming too .Paxton wrote to his wife and told of London news .He told her of King Richards claim to the throne and how London rose up screaming at him. Those letters hidden for 500 years suddenly came to the surface along with Letters from his wife to their daughter. One must wait as one day we may know more.
In the many centuries that have past us since her death all may just have faded away but Sir Walter Scott wrote a book called Kenilworth and it sold so well it made him rich. It tells the tale of Amy and Dudley within its pages and it in the age of Victoria open the case up again as one of Englands great mysteries. Again it is motive Body and location.
There are some that point to Amy as one suffering breast cancer? They would not know what it was then. I see that she was ill and made recovery later as records tell. besides it is besides matters as even if she was at wits end she could not herself inflict two big holes on her head and so not suicide for sure. Too painful when Hemlock found in Elizabethan gardens could kill in seconds without pain. She was a clever girl knew that was the death cause of Socreates . So my verdict is Murdered was she without doubt.
So my friends yet another adventure we have been together on. Thank you for your support along the way. I hope you enjoyed being judge and jury.
Yours Sir Kevin.
Copyright Kevin Parr Bt 2018