English explorer, engineer and author
Born 1573 Died 1649
Sir Robert Dudley, titular Duke of Northumberland and Earl of Warwick, was the son of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, the favourite of Queen Elizabeth. His mother was Lady Douglas Sheffield, daughter of Thomas, first Baron Howard of Effingham. Leicester, who deserted Lady Douglas Sheffield for Lettice Knollys, widow of the first Earl of Essex, denied that they were married. She asserted that they were, at Esher in Surrey, but her marriage with Sir Edward Stafford of Grafton, after her desertion by Leicester, would seem to be a tacit confession that her claim had no foundation.
Her son Robert was born in May 1573, was recognized by Leicester, and sent to Christ Church, Oxford, in 1587. He inherited all Leicester's property under the earl's will at his death in 1588, and in the following year the property of Ambrose Dudley, Earl of Warwick. In 1594 he made a voyage to the West Indies, and in 1596 he took part in the expedition to Cadiz and was knighted. In 1592 he had married a sister of Thomas Cavendish the circumnavigator. On her death he married Alicia Leigh in 1596, by whom he had four daughters. After the death of Elizabeth he endeavoured to secure recognition of his legitimacy, and of his right to inherit the titles of his father and uncle. The proceedings were quashed by the Star Chamber.
In 1605 he obtained leave to travel abroad, and went to Italy accompanied by the beautiful Miss Elizabeth Southwell, daughter of Sir Robert Southwell of Woodrising, in the dress of a page. When ordered to return home and to provide for his deserted wife and family, he refused, was outlawed, and his property was confiscated. On the continent he avowed himself a Roman Catholic, married Elizabeth Southwell at Lyons, and entered the service of Cosimo II, grand-duke of Tuscany. In the service of the grand-duke he is said to have done some fighting against the Barbary pirates, and he was undoubtedly employed in draining the marshes behind Leghorn, and in the construction of the port.
In 1620 the emperor Ferdinand II gave him a patent recognizing his claim not only to the earldom of Warwick but to the duchy of Northumberland, which had been held by his grandfather, who was executed by Queen Mary Tudor. In Italy Dudley was known as 'Duca di Nortombria' and 'Conte di Warwick'. He died near Florence on the 6th of September 1649, leaving a large family of sons and daughters. His deserted wife, Alicia, was created Duchess of Dudley by Charles I in 1644, and died in 1670, when the title became extinct. Through a daughter who married the Marquis Paleotti, Dudley was the ancestor of the wife of the first Duke of Shrewsbury (of the revolution of 1688), and of her brother who was executed at Tyburn for murder on the 17th of March 1718.
Dudley was the author of a pamphlet addressed to King James I, showing how the impertinences of parliament could be bridled by military force. But his chief claim to memory is the magnificent Arcano deli mare, published in Italian at Florence in 1645-1646 in three volumes folio. It is a collection of all the naval knowledge of the age, and is particularly remarkable for a scheme for the construction of a navy in five rates which Dudley designed and described. It was reprinted in Florence in two volumes folio in 1661 without the charts of the first edition.
Authorities. G. L. Craik, Romance of the Peerage (London, 1848- 1850), vol. iii.; Sir N. H. Nicolas, Report of Proceedings on the Claim to the Barony of Lisle (London, 1829); and The Italian Biography of Sir R. Dudley, published anonymously, privately and without date or name of place, but known to have been written by Doctor Vaughan Thomas, vicar of Stoneleigh, who died in 1858. (D. H.)
Being the entry for DUDLEY, SIR ROBERT in the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, the text of which lies within the public domain.