Mastodon The Writing Desk: Inspiration to Write Essex – Tudor Rebel

14 February 2022

Inspiration to Write Essex – Tudor Rebel


Available from Amazon US and Amazon UK

Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, is one of the most intriguing men of the Elizabethan period. Tall and handsome, he soon becomes a ‘favourite’ at court, so close to the queen many wonder if they are lovers.

The truth is, of course, far more complex, as each has what the other yearns for. Robert Devereux longs for recognition, wealth and influence. His flamboyant naïveté amuses the ageing Queen Elizabeth, like the son she never had, and his vitality makes her feel young.

I decided to explore his story when writing the first book of my Elizabethan series, Drake – Tudor Corsair. Drake is appalled when the Earl of Essex steals one of his ships to sail in the ‘English Armada’ to Portugal and Spain.

Drake resented young nobles, having earned his place the hard way, yet despite his bluster, was secretly impressed by the earl’s daring in defying the queen – who’d specifically forbidden him to sail.     

I wanted to understand why Robert Devereux was driven to take such risks, when he knew his vengeful queen would be furious. I had access to all his surviving letters, which reveal an intriguing, deeply flawed character, always at the heart of events, the perfect subject for an historical novel.

I was lucky to have access to Robert Devereux’s personal letters, which offer a real insight into his character and state of mind throughout his life.

Letter from Robert Devereux to Queen Elizabeth


Hast [hasten], paper, to thatt happy presence whence only unhappy I am banished. Kiss thatt fayre correcting hand which layes new plasters to my lighter hurtes, butt to my greatest woond applyeth nothing. Say thou cummest from shaming, languishing, despayring, S.X.

Signed with the unimaginative Essex cipher, he should have known the queen well enough to realise this approach was unlikely to change her mind.

I also visited the Devereux Tower and Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula at the Tower of London, (where he lies close to Lady jane Grey and Anne Boleyn).

I particularly wanted to keep Robert’s story as factually accurate and authentic as possible, so immersed myself in the dangerous world of Elizabethan London. 

During my research I was amazed to find Robert Devereux lived at Lamphey Palace, twenty minutes from my home in Pembrokeshire. I also visited the Devereux Tower and Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula at the Tower of London, (where he lies close to Lady Jane Grey and Anne Boleyn).

I hope readers will be able to tell that this book is one I’ve really enjoyed researching and writing, and that I’ve been able to find some of Robert Devereux’s redeeming qualities.

Tony Riches

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