Robert Dudley, styled Earl of Warwick

Missing image
Robert Dudley, styled Earl of Warwick

Robert Dudley (7 August, 1574 Sheen Palace, Surrey6 September, 1649 Florence) was the son of Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester and the author of Dell'Arcano del Mare.


Life Account

Robert Dudley was Leicester's son by the earl's secret relationship with Lady Douglas Sheffield, a daughter of William Howard, 1st Baron Howard of Effingham. The Earl of Leicester is thought to have married her in 1573, but always denied it. He died in 1588. Sixteen years later, Robert brought the matter to the attention of the Star Chamber, seeking to establish his claim to the title of Earl of Leicester and the right to inherit his uncle Ambrose Dudley's estate of Warwick Castle, Ambrose having no recorded issue.

Under oath, Douglas swore that Leicester had solemnly contracted to marry her in Cannon Row, Westminster in 1571 and that the marriage was at Esher in Surrey in May 1573. The Star Chamber failed to pronounce against the validity of the marriage, rejecting the evidence, arresting several of the witnesses to the marriage, to fine them for perjury or subordination. The papers in the case were impounded in the interests of ‘Public policy’ to prevent the issue from being raised again.

Robert had entered Christ Church, Oxford, in 1587 with the status of an Earl's son. On his father's death in 1588 Robert, aged fourteen inherited substantial property under the earl's will, and in the following year the property of Ambrose Dudley, earl of Warwick. It was at the age of nineteen in 1592 that young Robert first married, to a sister of Sir Thomas Cavendish, and from his father-in-law Robert gained a couple of ships with which he intended to harass the Spaniards in the southern seas. Although he did not win government approval for his plans, ships being valuable and his youth at the age of twenty depriving him of any experience, he managed to slip away to the West Indies and enthusiastically set about raiding Spanish shipping off Trinidad and then adventuring up the hitherto unexplored Orinoco river where he put his name to an island he discovered, calling it proudly 'Dudleiana'.

In 1594-5 he commanded an expedition to the West Indies and the Guiana coast of South America. It was only after this bold venture that he returned to join his cousin Essex to serve as a commander on a vessel in the attack on Cadiz, (1596) for which he was knighted. Dudley fell from favour at the English court for his philandering and ill-considered support in the Essex rebellion.

In 1605, under the pressure of religious persecution, he left England to settle in Tuscany, Italy. He was accompasnied by his lover and cousin Elizabeth Southwell disguised as a page. Elizabeth was daughter of Sir Robert Southwell and Lady Elizabeth Howard, granddaughter of Charles Howard, 1st Earl of Nottingham and Catherine Carey. He ‘married’ her by a Papal dispensation and settled in Florence having declared himself a Roman Catholic. When ordered to return home to provide for his deserted wife and family, he refused, and was outlawed, with his property being confiscated.

From 1606 until his death in 1649 he lived in Florence and was an influential member of the Court under the patronage of the Grand Duke of Tuscany, a member of the Medici family. He continued his contact with the English Court by sending letters to King James I 'on the art of controlling refractory Parliaments', and he corresponded with the young Henry, Prince of Wales, on the subjects of navigation and shipbuilding.

Ferdinand II, Holy Roman Emperor created him 'Duca di Northumbria' in 1620. Dudley's third marriage, to Elizabeth Southwell, the daughter of Sir Robert Southwell and Lady Elizabeth Howard produced as many as at least 11 potential heirs but the European title fell into abeyance on the death of Ferdinando Dudley in 1757.

Dudley was a skilled mathematician and architect, master of navigation, a designer of warships, practiced in medicine, instrument making, and cartography. Brilliant and ambitious, he became a skilled navigator, engineer, and chart maker, to the extent of making a voyage of discovery undertaken in the spirit of Sir Francis Drake, however like his father before him he acquired a reputation as a bigamist and privateer. Whilst in the service of the grand-duke he is said to have done some fighting against the Barbary pirates.

Lady Alice (ne Leigh) Dudley, (daughter of Sir Thomas Leigh and Katherine, daughter of Sir John Spencer), whom he had married in 1596 and by whom he had four known daughters, and who was left behind some years later after his failed appeal to the Star Chamber, was created Duchess in 1645, the patent which recognises her husbands legitimacy conferring the precedence of a Duke’s daughters on her surviving children was confirmed by Charles II in 1660, legitimising its English status, having originally been granted to her by Ferdinand II.

The Lady Alice died in 1668/9, at the age of 90, her Peerage thereafter seems to have fallen ‘extinct’. Of the Duchess of Dudley’s children it is recorded Alicia was born at Kenilworth Castle in 1597, but died young in 1621. Frances married Sir Gilbert Knifeton of Bradley, Derbyshire, she lived until 1644, but also died without issue and was likewise buried at St. Giles.

Another daughter was Katherine who married Sir Richard Leverson of Trentham. She lived until 1673. The other recorded daughter of the duchess being Lady Anne Dudley who married the Lawyer Sir Robert Holborne.

Dell'Arcano del Mare (Secrets of the Sea)

Dudley wrote Dell'Arcano del Mare[[1] (], the first sea atlas to cover the whole world.

His major accomplishment and his masterwork Dell'Arcano del Mare (Secrets of the Sea), is a global atlas including a comprehensive treatise on navigation and shipwightry, and which has become renowned as the first atlas of sea charts of the world.

The Arader Gallery of Houston best describes the work of Dudley and features rare prints of his great work.

At least six known volumes comprise the Dell' Arcano del Mare and survive to illustrate Dudley's knowledge of navigation, shipbuilding and astronomy, and it includes one hundred and thirty original maps.

Dudley's maps are all of his own invention and were, unusually for the period, not copied from existing maps. Originally published in the local Italian, at Florence in 1645 the Dell' Arcano del Mare represents a collection of all the naval knowledge then extent, for the period. Also remarkable for its inclusion in the Atlas is the proposal for the construction of a fleet of five rates described as such and designed by Dudley.

Dell' Arcano del Mare was reprinted in Florence, 1661 without the charts of the first edition.

Sir Robert Dudley's Dell'Arcano del Mare is the earliest printed sea chart to illustrate the complete known world, including the east coast of North America. Made by the Englishman Sir Robert Dudley (then resident in Italy), it is generally considered to be the most distinguished of its time.

The distinctive character of Dudley's charts was influenced by the style of Italian baroque contributed by Antonio Francesco Lucini. Later map-makers chose not to copy Dudley's style and so it became a unique and rare relic in the history of cartography. Lucini recorded that he had spent 12 years, and 5000 pounds in copper to produce the plates.

Other significant maps

"Carta Particolare Che Mosta Il Capo Buona Speranza" was one of the 130 sea maps of Dudley's Dell'Arcano illustrating the coast from south-west Africa to Cape Fria and the Cape of Good Hope. Engraved by Lucini for 'Dell' Arcano del Mare', (Florence 1646), the map was said to be "the first English sea-atlas of the whole World".

"Carta Quarta Generale di Europa", (1646): shows the west coast of France, southward from la Rochelle, and the northern most coast of Spain.

"Carta Particolare della Costa Australe scoperta dalla Ollandesia", (1646):

According to Tooley, this map "is the first separately printed map of Australia" and is therefore of historical significance.

"Carta Particolare della Rio d' Amazone con la costa sin al fiume Maranhan" also of 1646 records the tributaries of the Amazon.

"Carta particolare che comincia con l' Isola di S. Tomaso o Tome" is a partial atlas showing the coast of Africa, including several islands and illustration.

"Carta particolare della Brasilia Australe che comincia dala Poro del Spirito Santo e finisce con il capo Bianco" reveals a section of the Brazilian south coast at Sao Paulo with the region after known as Rio de Janeiro.

Of all the pages in the Dudley atlas only two maps are untitled, these exclusively containing respective dedications to the Grand Duke and Duchess of Tuscany.

permission to quote source. Susan Melton Bruneni. Arader Gallery of Houston. Date: 01 June 2004


His first marriage to Alice Leigh resulted in the birth of two children:

His affair/marriage to Elizabeth Southwell resulted in the birth of nine children:


  • Art and Cultures
    • Art (
    • Architecture (
    • Cultures (
    • Music (
    • Musical Instruments (
  • Biographies (
  • Clipart (
  • Geography (
    • Countries of the World (
    • Maps (
    • Flags (
    • Continents (
  • History (
    • Ancient Civilizations (
    • Industrial Revolution (
    • Middle Ages (
    • Prehistory (
    • Renaissance (
    • Timelines (
    • United States (
    • Wars (
    • World History (
  • Human Body (
  • Mathematics (
  • Reference (
  • Science (
    • Animals (
    • Aviation (
    • Dinosaurs (
    • Earth (
    • Inventions (
    • Physical Science (
    • Plants (
    • Scientists (
  • Social Studies (
    • Anthropology (
    • Economics (
    • Government (
    • Religion (
    • Holidays (
  • Space and Astronomy
    • Solar System (
    • Planets (
  • Sports (
  • Timelines (
  • Weather (
  • US States (


  • Home Page (
  • Contact Us (

  • Clip Art (
Personal tools