Little Lord Denbigh

All Things Robert Dudley

In the spring or early summer of 1584 a toddler strolled in the great gallery of Leicester House, his father’s palatial London residence. At some point the little boy climbed a stool before a painting and started embellishing it. Some five years later the child’s exercise in contemporary art was recorded in an inventory of the Earl of Leicester’s picture collection:

A counterfeit of a gentlewoman in a petticoat of yellow satin (all broken and quite defaced by my young lord, ut dicitur [as it is said]).1

That this incident was still talked of when both the little lord and his father – the lord of the house – were dead indicates the uproar it caused; we do not know whether the undutiful nanny was dismissed. That such a small boy, the eyeball of his loving parents, was able to play around unsupervised says a lot about 16th century…

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