Sir Francis Walsingham
Robert Devereux 2nd Earl of Essex
Frances Walsingham

Robert Devereux 3rd Earl of Essex


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Frances Howard Countess of Somerset

Robert Devereux 3rd Earl of Essex

  • Born: 11 Jan 1591
  • Marriage: Frances Howard Countess of Somerset in 1606
  • Died: 14 Sep 1646 at age 55

  General Notes:

Robert Devereux, 3rd Earl of Essex, was the son and heir of the unfortunate Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, and succeeded to his father's title in 1604, three years after the previous earl had been executed for treason. His mother was Frances Walsingham (1569-1631), the only daughter of Sir Francis Walsingham, spymaster for Queen Elizabeth I.

In his youth, Essex was a close friend of Henry Stuart, Prince of Wales. Essex's marriage to Frances Howard in 1606 was not successful, and their subsequent divorce made him a laughing-stock, as she alleged that he was incapable of having sexual relations. Essex himself was obliged to give in gracefully in order to obtain his freedom with the minimum of fuss. His former wife proceeded to marry Robert Carr, Earl of Somerset, and was tried for the murder of Sir Thomas Overbury, who had interfered with her ambitions as well as her love life.

Following the accession of King Charles I, Essex became a member of the Parliamentary faction, and led Parliament's army at the beginning of the English Civil War in 1642, though he was ill-equipped for command. His conduct in pursuing Royalist forces in Cornwall, which led to the defeat at the Battle of Lostwithiel, infuriated Cromwell. He eventually resigned his position in 1646 following the passing of the Self-denying Ordinance and died the same year, without an heir. The earldom died with him, until revived in 1661 for Arthur Capel.

Robert married Frances Howard Countess of Somerset, daughter of Earl Thomas Howard and Katherine Knyvett, in 1606. (Frances Howard Countess of Somerset was born in 1591 and died in 1632.)

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