Thursday, August 28, 2008

Question from Mike - Fate of Frances Walsingham, Countess of Essex

Does any one know what happened to Lady Essex I believe her name was Frances daughter of Sir Waslingham after the death of Robert Devereau? I also think they had one or two children at the time of his death.




  1. Frances Walsingham, daughter of Sir Francis Walsingham married first Sir Philip Sidney on September 21 1583. He was killed in 1586 after receiving a mortal blow at the battle of Zutphen. Frances had one child by Sidney, Elizabeth, b.1585, d.1612. She was also pregnant at the time of Sidney's death but the child died shortly after birth. Some historians consider Sidney's funeral to have been the first English state funeral. Sidney had been Robert Dudley earl of Leicester's heir. After Sidney's death the baton was passed, along with his sword to Robert Devereux earl of Essex. He was Leicester's step-son, son of Lettice Knollys Devereux Dudley.

    Along with Sidney's sword, Essex became one of Leicester's heirs and married Sidney's widow - Frances - in February 1590. She was pregnant 6 or 7 times by Essex. Only Robert b. 1591, Frances, b.1599 and Dorothy b.1600 lived past childhood.

    Frances was active in trying alleviate Essex's house arrest and imprisonment and seems to have grown close to his sister Penelope during this time. After Essex's execution for treason in 1601, Frances married Richard De Burgh 4th earl of Clarincade who apparently looked a great deal like Essex. This was in 1603. King James sent her word that he wanted her son by Essex to be brought up with his sons - a great honour and perhaps a partial payback for her support for James's accession.

    Frances is a fascinating woman who married two of the most charismatic men of her times. Little is known about her and archival sources seem to be few and far between.

  2. Oh geez, I had completely forgotten that her first husband was Philip Sidney. Just being married to one of those men is interesting enough, but like you said kb, to be married to both of them... wow. Too bad there isn't more known about her.

  3. I forgot to add tat she lived to the age of 64. She was buried 17 Feb 1631 at Tunbridge Church.

  4. She also had a sister named Mary that some sites don't show.

  5. I thought that Mary died as a child?

  6. Does anyone know much about Rickard deBurgh who was supposedly involved with Sidney as well as Essex.

  7. There is a fine Jacobean house near Tonbridge built by Frances Walsingham, Lady Essex, on an estate given to her by Elizabeth 1st by Queen Elizabeth - as compensation for his loss. Of course, Queen Elizabeth had him beheaded for rebellion. Essex was the grandson of her dearest friend, cousin and possible half sister, Lady Knollys..

    It is south of Tonbridge, Kent, where she is buried (in Tonbridge Church). The house has views over the royal hunting valley of South Frith (Southborough Valley). It was later painted by Turner. It is now a private school called "Somerhill" (Google on "Somerhill, Tonbridge" to see photos of the house). Frances and her husband had it designed and built for them and no doubt it reflects their tastes.

    Somerhill was a dream house for a "dream couple", with its romantic, pastoral hunting valley. Sadly, it is difficult to see now and the valley can only be seen from the train - between Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells.

    It seems to me that Frances Walsingham was the most beautiful woman of her day. Early portraits clearly show a very pretty, refined face. I guess she inherited something of her father's intellect. I think she is a direct ancestor (with Essex) of Diana, Princess of Wales - and Prince William.

  8. I have written a book on Frances Walsingham "The Brilliant Stage. The Story of Frances Walsingham" which was published July 2014. It has taken a long time to research and is as historically accurate as possible. The comments posted on August 28th 2008 are right. She is a little known and fascinating woman and the search for her has been very rewarding. Angela McLeod..12.11.14

  9. Thank you Angela McLeod for your comment. I was unaware of your book and have since ordered it. I had previously read Jan Westcott's book "The Walsingham Woman" many years ago and it sparked my interest. Thanks again.

  10. I'm throughly enjoying Angela McCleod's book on Frances Walsingham "The Brilliant tage"which combines deatailed researched into historical events which would otherwise be difficult to piece together, with light touch informed imagaintion. I live near the grounds of Somerhill - Frances's dream house - and enjoy her hunting valley of South Frith, which was a royal reward down the centuries, so I have long wanted to understand her better. Angela's descriptions of the St Bartholomew's Day massacre are rivetting. HIghly recommended.


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