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The Uncrowned Kings of England: The Black History of the Dudleys and the…

par Derek Wilson

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In the political ferment of 16th-century England, one family above all others was at the troubled center of court and council. Throughout the Tudor Age the Dudley family was never far from controversy. They were universally condemned as scheming, ruthless, overly ambitious charmers, with three family members even executed for treason. Yet at the opposite extreme of the spectrum, Edmund Dudley was instrumental in establishing the financial basis of the Tudor dynasty, while John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, led victorious armies, laid the foundations of the Royal Navy, ruled as uncrowned king, and almost landed on the throne. Written by award-winning historian, Derek Wilson, The Uncrowned Kings of England charts the scandals and triumphs of this legendary clan. Foremost among the family, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, was Queen Elizabeth's favorite for 30 years (and came the closest to marrying her), and governed the Netherlands in her name. His successor, Sir Robert Dudley, scholar, adventurer, and courtier, was one of the Queen's most audacious seadogs in the closing years of her reign, but fell foul of James I. The fortunes of this astonishing family rose and fell with those of the royal line they served faithfully through a tumultuous century.… (plus d'informations)
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A good look at the Tudor dynasty through the eyes of their loyal servants - the Dudley family. Derek Wilson examines both the well-known and lesser-known members of this remarkable 16th-century family and emphasizes the loyalty they displayed towards the Tudors, rather than the self-interest they have been reviled for. A fresh view that brings in lesser-known figures. Good reading for those interested in the period. ( )
  wagner.sarah35 | Nov 4, 2013 |
I loved the book. It puts forward a different view than the accepted one of black-hearted power hungry amorals. Certainally gives the new scholarship that says that Edward himself drew up his will, and that John Dudley had everything to lose from the King's death.
It portrayed Robert in particular as more than a paper cut out with nothing but a lust for power driving him. He eventually lost everything with Elizabeth's love and affection. He certainly wanted her for both reasons, power and herself. She wanted him, but not the responsibilities that would come with him, and at last she just wanted him because she needed an old friend. It cost him his lifetime. His service cost him a home and family life with their comforts. ( )
  reginaromsey | Jan 28, 2009 |
This book was an interesting read and it is good to get a long term perspective on the influence of an important but non-royal dynasty on the politics of the time. However, the author is very pro-Dudley and in many places bends over backwards to make allowances for individual actions by members of the family. For example, he considers that Edward VI was fully responsible for the written device for the succession (composed a few short months before his death) that skipped Mary and Elizabeth and willed the throne to Jane Grey and her male heirs (unlawfully trying to override the Act of Succession 1544). We are told that John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland and de facto head of the Regency Council supposedly knew nothing of this device and that it was just a coincidence that he had just had his son Guilford married to Jane and so therefore became father-in-law of the new queen. The administering of arsenic to the dying Edward VI, recounted by other historians, is not even mentioned, even in order to dismiss it; we are simply told that “he had dismissed the royal doctors and installed his own physicians at the royal bedside”.

The earlier section of the book on Edmund Dudley, John's father, executed in 1510 by the new king Henry VIII as a scapegoat for the public anger at Henry VII's financial policies that were trying to increase tax revenues to reverse the bankrupt state of the national finances following the Wars of the Roses, is interesting, as he is surely the least well known of the three big 16th century family members. That, and the later section on Robert Dudley are probably less controversial, though even with Robert, the author often seems to assume that any conflict between Dudley and anyone else is largely down to the latter’s jealousy at his success and closeness to Queen Elizabeth. And the author’s defensiveness is perhaps underlined by his elevation of the admittedly scurrilous and propagandistic Leicester’s Commonwealth into “what may be the vilest libel ever printed”, which seems a sweeping assertion.

These criticisms notwithstanding, this is an interesting book and worth reading if you are already fairly knowledgeable about Tudor history from a wider range of sources. ( )
  john257hopper | Nov 8, 2006 |
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In the political ferment of 16th-century England, one family above all others was at the troubled center of court and council. Throughout the Tudor Age the Dudley family was never far from controversy. They were universally condemned as scheming, ruthless, overly ambitious charmers, with three family members even executed for treason. Yet at the opposite extreme of the spectrum, Edmund Dudley was instrumental in establishing the financial basis of the Tudor dynasty, while John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, led victorious armies, laid the foundations of the Royal Navy, ruled as uncrowned king, and almost landed on the throne. Written by award-winning historian, Derek Wilson, The Uncrowned Kings of England charts the scandals and triumphs of this legendary clan. Foremost among the family, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, was Queen Elizabeth's favorite for 30 years (and came the closest to marrying her), and governed the Netherlands in her name. His successor, Sir Robert Dudley, scholar, adventurer, and courtier, was one of the Queen's most audacious seadogs in the closing years of her reign, but fell foul of James I. The fortunes of this astonishing family rose and fell with those of the royal line they served faithfully through a tumultuous century.

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