Earl of Leicester to Sir Francis Walsingham

Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, to Sir Francis Walsingham, 28 September 1585 (SP 12/182 f.41)

On 10 August 1585, Elizabeth had forged an alliance with the United Provinces of the Netherlands – a group of seven states that had broken away from Spanish rule. The Treaty of Nonsuch pledged financial and military support for the Dutch rebels against Philip II. Although the United Provinces shared Elizabeth’s Protestant faith, the alliance was motivated more by self-interest than ideology. The Netherlands provided an ideal base from which the King of Spain could launch an invasion of England. As part of the treaty, the Dutch rebels handed over the key strategic towns of Brill and Flushing to the English queen, and in December 1585 she dispatched Robert Dudley to the latter as commander of her forces in the Netherlands. But when it came to his departure, Elizabeth suddenly lost her nerve and proved very unwilling to let him go, as Dudley confides to Sir Francis Walsingham in this letter.

Transcript (extract)

Mr. Secretary, I find hir majesty very desirous to stey me, she makes the cause only the dowtfullnes of hir owen self, by reason of hir often decease taking hir of late & this last night worst of all. She used very pittyfull words to me of hir fear she shall not lyve & wold not have me from hir. You can consider what manner of perswasion this must be to me from hir.

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