These miniature portraits above are of Queen Elizabeth I and Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. Dudley has long been debated to have been the Queen’s lover and had aspirations of marrying her and being her consort, although those aspirations never materialized. Elizabeth never married and went down in history known as the “Virgin Queen.” If I’m remembering correctly, Virginia in the states (then just barely a discovery and settlement) was named in her honor.
It has never been thoroughly proven that Dudley was the Queen’s lover but these miniature portraits add credence to the extreme personal nature of their relationship. These portraits were done around 1575, which was seventeen years into her reign, and miniatures were just becoming fashionable. They are the size of a thumbnail and would have been worn as a piece of jewelry, perhaps as rings or brooches or necklaces tied with ribbon. Both men and women wore miniatures as tokens of deep affection for each other. The Queen kept Dudley around a lot and sparked rumors about their relationship but it was never acknowledged. Dudley’s first wife, Lady Amy Robsart, died mysteriously in 1560 and it was rumored that she was “eliminated” to free Dudley to marry the Queen. His hopes were never realized and he eventually married Laetitia Knollys, Countess of Essex, in 1578, three years after the above miniatures were painted.
The miniatures were sold at auction in the UK on November 25, 2009, for a princely sum of £72,000. That’s $118,235.68 according to my currency converter.