The Uncrowned Kings of England : The Black Legend of the Dudleys, Paperback

The Uncrowned Kings of England : The Black Legend of the Dudleys Paperback

4.5 out of 5 (1 rating)


In the political ferment of the Tudor century one family above all others was always at the troubled centre of court and council.

During those years the Dudleys were never far from controversy.

Three of them were executed for treason. They were universally condemned as scheming, ruthless, over-ambitious charmers, and one was defamed as a wife murderer.

Yet Edmund Dudley was instrumental in establishing the financial basis of the Tudor dynasty, and John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, led victorious armies, laid the foundations of the Royal Navy, ruled as uncrowned king and almost succeeded in placing Lady Jane Grey on the throne.

The most famous of them all, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, came the closest to marrying Elizabeth I, was her foremost favourite for 30 years and governed the Netherlands in her name, while his successor, Sir Robert Dudley, was one of the Queen's most audacious seadogs in the closing years of her reign, but fell foul of James I.

Thus the fortunes of this astonishing family rose and fell with those of the royal line they served faithfully through a tumultuous century. see


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 400 pages, Illustrations, ports.
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: British & Irish history
  • ISBN: 9781845292300



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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.