In the political ferment of the Tudor century one family above all others was always at the troubled centre of court and council. During those years the Dudleys were never far from controversy. Three of them were executed for treason. They were universally condemned as scheming, ruthless, over-ambitious charmers, and one was defamed as a wife murderer. Yet Edmund Dudley was instrumental in establishing the financial basis of the Tudor dynasty, and John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, led victorious armies, laid ...
In the political ferment of the Tudor century one family above all others was always at the troubled centre of court and council. During those years the Dudleys were never far from controversy. Three of them were executed for treason. They were universally condemned as scheming, ruthless, over-ambitious charmers, and one was defamed as a wife murderer. Yet Edmund Dudley was instrumental in establishing the financial basis of the Tudor dynasty, and John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, led victorious armies, laid the foundations of the Royal Navy, ruled as uncrowned king and almost succeeded in placing Lady Jane Grey on the throne. The most famous of them all, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, came the closest to marrying Elizabeth I, was her foremost favourite for 30 years and governed the Netherlands in her name, while his successor, Sir Robert Dudley, was one of the Queen's most audacious seadogs in the closing years of her reign, but fell foul of James I. Thus the fortunes of this astonishing family rose and fell with those of the royal line they served faithfully through a tumultuous century.see derekwilson.com
Wilson's campaign against the "black history" of the subtitle focuses on three generations of Dudleys, who had the misfortune to have much of their history written by their political opponents. Edmund Dudley pledged his loyalty to the first Tudor, Henry VII (1456-1509), and after the king's death was himself executed for his zealous prosecution of the king's unpopular policies. His son, John, regained royal favor under Henry VIII and practically ruled the country for the boy king Edward VI, who ascended the throne in 1547. John's Protestantism encouraged his support of Jane Grey as Edward's successor, leading to his execution when Mary Tudor gained the throne. John's son Robert was able to gain even more spectacular favor as Elizabeth I's great love, but he left no legitimate heirs. All three were well rewarded for their service, yet their experience proved the fragility of fortune. Wilson makes a convincing case that the Dudleys were less ruthless than reputed; they strengthened the Tudor monarchs and helped to build their financial base, as well as the Royal Navy, Protestantism and art patronage. Readers new to Tudor history will feel themselves well grounded in the era, if perhaps occasionally bewildered by the author's switching between first and last names and various titles, while readers steeped in the subject will find fresh new perspectives on familiar characters and situations. Agent, Peters, Fraser and Dunlop. (Nov.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
For want of a Dudley, a kingdom was lost. Or at least was different. Plunging bravely into counterfactual history, royal watcher Wilson (Tripletree, 2004; In the Lion's Court, 2002; etc.) asserts that England almost-almost-had a native-born royal dynasty in the Dudley family, which hitched its wagon to the stars of the Welsh Tudors. When history ran out of Tudors, who ruled for only three generations, then came the Scottish Stuarts' turn, and then a passel of ill-equipped Germans. "Had sovereignty passed to the Dudleys," writes Wilson, "the history of Britain would have been vastly different," and though he never quite pinpoints how, he has a grand time recounting the many misdeeds of the Dudley men while venturing a defense for their collective bad behavior. There's much to defend: history remembers Edmund Dudley as a man who encouraged Henry VII to impose punishing taxes on his people, and who took a healthy cut of the proceeds; Henry VIII chopped Dudley's head off for his troubles. Edmund's son John waged a savage vendetta against the Duke of Somerset, Edward Seymour, and attempted to install his own daughter-in-law, Lady Jane Grey, on the throne. Robert Dudley was instrumental in convincing Queen Elizabeth I that she really ought to do something about Mary, Queen of Scots. When Elizabeth, who "was extremely niggardly when it came to handing out peerages," failed to reward the Dudleys sufficiently, in their view, for such counsel, they went over to the Stuarts and the Cromwells and various other claimants to power. And so forth, with the Dudley gens rising and falling in fortunes and royal favors, becoming rich and powerful (Wilson notes, not once but twice) and just as surelysquandering their money and influence. Dudley do right? No, Dudley usually do wrong. A pleasant excursion for fans of things Tudor, if a little on the dry side for the uninitiated. Agent: Charles Walker/PFD
Derek Wilson is a prolific author and is best known for his historical works such as the award-winning The Circumnavigators, In the Lion's Court, and most recently, All the King's Women. He is married with three adult children, and works from his homes in Devon and Normandy. To learn more about him and his current and forthcoming activities, visit his website: derekwilson.com.