The Correspondence of Anne Dudley

Primary Contributors:

James Daybell and Kim McLean-Fiander

Anne Russell, countess of Warwick, by the Master of the Countess of Warwick. c.1565–9. Oil on panel. (Woburn Abbey, Bedfordshire; source of image: Wikimedia Commons)

Anne Dudley, countess of Warwick (1548/9–1604)

Anne Dudley [née Russell], countess of Warwick (1548/9–1604) was the eldest daughter of Francis Russell, second earl of Bedford (1526/7–1585), and his first wife, Margaret (d.1562), daughter of Sir John St John of Bletsoe, Bedfordshire. Her younger sister was Margaret Clifford, countess of Cumberland. Very little is known of Anne’s early upbringing and education, although clearly she was taught to read and write; later in her life, she received dedications from puritan authors as well as more literary writers such as Edmund Spenser.

She was appointed maid of honour to Queen Elizabeth I in 1559, and at the age of 16 she married Ambrose Dudley, earl of Warwick (c.1530–1590), a nobleman almost twenty years her senior. This was a dynastic match, arranged by her father and Robert Dudley, earl of Leicester, with the express backing of Queen Elizabeth; no children issued from this marriage.

During Elizabeth I’s reign, the countess of Warwick served as an extraordinary gentlewoman of the privy chamber. Warwick’s niece, Anne Clifford, alleged that her aunt was ‘more beloved and in greater favour with the queen than any other woman in the kingdom’, and certainly she attended on the monarch at her death. Her letters — many of them penned by a secretary — reveal something of the influence that she achieved is the realm of patronage. Anne Clifford described her as a ‘helper to many petitioners’, and Dudley’s correspondence shows her intervening in military, ecclesiastical, and university appointments, as well as in matters such as legal cases, pensions, and land claims. Whatever position and influence she enjoyed under Elizabeth appears not to have continued under King James, and she retired to North Hall in Hertfordshire where she died in 1604.

Partners and Additional Contributors

The WEMLO project is led by co-directors Professor James Daybell (Plymouth University) and Dr Kim McLean-Fiander (University of Victoria). When WEMLO began, much of the metadata for a number of individual women’s correspondence catalogues had been collated independently by James Daybell after years of research in archives around the world. Subsequently, Kim McLean-Fiander oversaw the curation of this metadata.

The WEMLO project has benefitted from the research and editorial expertise of Dr Ian Cooper and Dr Bruna Gushurst-Moore and the design expertise of Dr J. Matthew Huculak. All WEMLO-related catalogues have relied upon the skill and expertise of EMLO Digital Editor, Miranda Lewis. WEMLO would like to thank the entire team at Cultures of Knowledge and EMLO for their assistance and ongoing support.


This catalogue contains metadata of twenty-seven letters written between 1578 and 1603. Twenty-six of these letters are in English from the countess of Warwick to a range of correspondents, including government officials such as William Cecil, lord Burghley; Robert Cecil, earl of Salisbury; Sir Julius Caesar; Sir Robert Sidney; Sir Francis Walsingham; and George and Gilbert Talbot, sixth and seventh earls of Shrewsbury. Three letters to her sister, Margaret Clifford, countess of Cumberland, also survive and appear in the Margaret Clifford catalogue. One letter survives from the Privy Council to the countess and is dated 1596.

Further resources


Adams, Simon, ‘Dudley, Anne, countess of Warwick (1548/9–1604)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).

Daybell, James, Women Letter Writers in Tudor England (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006).

Goldsmith, J.B. Greenbaum, ‘All the Queen’s Women: the Changing Place and Perception of Aristocratic Women in Elizabethan England, 1558–1620’ (Unpublished PhD thesis, Northwestern University, 1987).

Mears, Natalie, Queenship and political discourse in the Elizabethan realms (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005).

Merton, Charlotte, ‘The Women Who Served Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth: Ladies, Gentlewomen and Maids to the Privy Chamber, 1553–1603’ (Unpublished PhD thesis, University of Cambridge, 1993).

Read, Conyers, ‘A letter from Robert, earl of Leicester, to a lady’, Huntington Library Bulletin, 9 (1936), pp. 14–26.

Tighe, William, ‘Familia reginae: The Privy Court’, in Susan Doran and Norman Jones, ed., The Elizabethan world (London: Routledge, 2011), pp. 76–91.

Wright, Pam, ‘A Change in Direction: the Ramifications of a Female Household, 1558–1603’, in David Starkey, ed., The English Court From the Wars of the Roses to the Civil War (Harlow: Longman, 1987), pp. 147–72.


Additional resources

Women’s Early Modern Letters Online [WEMLO] project page

WEMLO network and resources hub



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