Sir Francis Walsingham, English Secretary of State 1532-1590

Sir Francis Walsingham was born into a well-connected family in 1532. When his father died two years later, his mother Joyce Denny, remarried Sir John Carey, brother-in-law of Mary Boleyn, who was Elizabeth I’s aunt. He studied at King’s College, Cambridge. After travelling in Europe, he decided to become a lawyer and, in 1552, enrolled […]

George Talbot, 6th Earl of Shrewsbury 1528–1590

As a young man George Talbot saw military service under Protector Somerset in the ‘Rough Wooings’ in Scotland and he married Gertrude Manners, daughter of the 1st Earl of Rutland, by whom he had six children, although she died in 1566. In March 1568, he married Bess of Hardwick, the wealthy widow of Sir William […]

Esmé Stuart, 1st Duke of Lennox

Esmé Stuart was born in France, the son of John Stuart, younger brother of Matthew Stuart, 4th Earl of Lennox. For several generations the junior branch of the Lennox Stuarts had lived in France, where they fulfilled illustrious careers as mercenaries and were the traditional captains of the Scottish Gens d’Armes. The title of Seigneur […]

Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk 1536-1572

Thomas Howard was born at Kenninghall, the family home in Norfolk, on 10 March 1536, but his father was executed in 1547, after a paranoiac Henry VIII believed that he was trying to usurp the succession from Edward VI to maintain Catholicism. Thomas was brought up as a Protestant under the care of his aunt […]

Lord Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester 1532-1588

Lord Robert Dudley was one of thirteen children of John Dudley, Earl of Warwick, later Duke of Northumberland. In 1550, at the age of eighteen, he married Amy Robsart, although they had no children. In 1553, his father, now acting as Protector for the consumptive Edward VI, attempted to avoid Mary Tudor, as a Catholic, […]

Mary Queen of Scots 1542-1587

Mary Queen of Scots was born at Linlithgow on 8 December 1542. Her father, James V survived her birth by only six days, dying of acute depression following the defeat of the Scots at the hands of the English at Solway Moss. The English were soon hoping to establish a Scottish alliance to prevent having […]

Catherine de Medici 1519- 1589

Catherine de Medici owed her position as consort of Henri II to the political manoeuvring of her father-in-law, Francis I of France and his alliances with Popes Leo X and Pope Clement VII, both members of the Florentine de Medici family, to combat Spain and the Holy Roman Empire. The Medicis were not longstanding French […]

The Bath of Diana - Francois Clouet (Musée de Beaux Arts, Tours)

The Bath of Diana

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On 30 June 1559, Henry II of France arranged a spectacular jousting tournament at the Palais de Tournelles, his residence in Paris, as part of the celebrations for two marriages. His daughter Elisabeth de Valois was marrying by proxy Philip II of Spain, now a widower after the death, nineteen months earlier, of ‘Bloody’ Mary […]