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Elizabeth I’s Love Rival

Lettice Knollys was a darling of the Elizabethan court – until she snatched her Queen’s sweetheart for herself. As Nicola Tallis reveals, hell hath no fury like a monarch scorned...
STRIKING BEAUTY Lettice was described as one of the bestlooking ladies in Elizabeth’s circle
© MARQUESS OF BATH/LONGLEATHOUSE

You may not know the name Lettice Knollys, but at one time she was one of the most important members of Elizabeth I’s court. Grandniece of Anne Boleyn – and thus kin to the Queen herself – she was a woman of extraordinary beauty, passion and wit. Yet in 1579, she was cast out of Elizabeth’s good graces and banished from the palace. Her crime? She had secretly married the one man in England who was closest to the Queen’s heart, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. Lettice had risked her liege’s enmity for love, and she paid the price. Later in her tumultuous life she would discover the taint of treason, and watch those closest to her succumb to the headsman’s axe – all the while remaining subject to Elizabeth’s bitter hatred.

HIDDEN ROYAL Lettice’s parents Sir Francis Knollys and Katherine Carey; Carey was born of Mary Boleyn, but who was her father? Some say it was Henry VIII, placing Lettice closer to the throne than she knew
COUNTRY IDYLL Elizabeth’s future love rival grew up in this suitably regal manor in Oxfordshire

“She may have been Henry VIII's illegitimate granddaughter”

BOUND BY BLOOD

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About History Revealed

In this month’s issue… Who killed JFK? We know Lee Harvey Oswald pulled a trigger, but was he a lone gunman or part of a larger conspiracy? Plus: Elizabeth’s I love rival; the Irish Potato Famine; Picasso’s most prolific year; the medieval knight who’s travels made him more famous than Marco Polo; the Top 10 art controversies and the legend of the Bermuda Triangle.