The Only Way Is (the Countess of) Essex

14 April 2011

Hah, made you look. No, you’re right, Lettice Knollys is a bit pale of skin and red of hair to ever be allowed inside the Sugar Hut in The Only Way Is Essex. Never mind, Lettice, me too…

I read an ever so delightful post* about Essex Girls at The Duchess of Devonshire’s Gossip Guide and thought I’d make a post about The Ultimate Essex Girl (okay, she wasn’t actually born in Essex, but she was the Countess of Essex so I think we can let her off and bestow an Honourary Essex Girl title upon her) – Lettice Knollys, auburn haired temptress, cousin and frenemy of Elizabeth I, great niece of Anne Boleyn, granddaughter of Mary Boleyn (another Honourary Essex Girl thanks to her taking up residence in Rochford of all places) and mother of the poor, stupid Earl of Essex who lost his head over Elizabeth I and the infamous beauty Penelope Devereux, who enchanted Elizabethan Hot Stuff Sir Philip Sydney with her winsome looks and flame red hair.

You really have to admire someone who was referred to by Elizabeth I as ‘a she wolf’ and probably worse. After an early marriage to the Earl of Essex, the comely Lettice, who, to her majestic cousin’s chagrin, was renowned as one of the best lookers at the Elizabethan court made off with the lovely if beardy Robert Dudley himself and had a possible shotgun wedding, infuriating Elizabeth and earning herself a permanent banning from court in the process.

Apparently unconcerned by this, the redoubtable Lettice got on with her life and outlived the Virgin Queen, her charming husband and all of her children before dying in her chair on Christmas morning 1634 at the age of ninety one, still in the habit of taking daily walks and apparently in excellent health.

*Wordpress and Safari seem to have had a falling out today so I can’t do links – will sort this out as soon as I can!

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