25 February 1601 – Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex

Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of EssexRoyal favourite Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, kept pushing his luck and finally lost his head after he ran out of chances.


Queen Elizabeth I of England had a particular soft spot for Essex, but he proved pretty poor at defending her honour. Greed motivated him to ignore Elizabeth’s requests to stay home and chase after the Spanish, in the hope of getting bounty. Instead, he ended up wasting money in the ill-gotten attack.

He then embarked on a more positive period of his life, becoming privy councillor. And he did good where battles were concerned too. While Spain were trying to support the Roman Catholics in Ireland, the English led an impressive counter attack on Cadiz, co-headed up by Essex no less.


But his success was short lived (as was he). He attempted to hijack a treasure fleet bound from the Azores and failed due mainly to his ineptitude.

He then went on to balls up an attempt to help Henry of Navarre against the Catholics, as well as an attempt to suppress an Irish rebellion during the Nine Years War.

Essex was fast running out of lives. He was finally had up for treason after he stood accused of leading an uprising against his queen.

Three strikes

He was found guilty and sentenced to death. The 33-year-old was beheaded at the Tower of London on this day in 1601. The execution took place on the green and it apparently took three blows from the executioner’s axe to decapitate the former favourite.

Sworn enemy, Walter Raleigh was said to have smugly looked on nonchalantly smoking in full view of the condemned man. Little did he know that he himself was be executed a couple of years later.

Also on this day

25 February 1913 – George Cunliffe

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One Response to “25 February 1601 – Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex”

  1. Essex did at one point, in a privy council meeting “half ” draw his sword on the queen herself in temper ! after she had struck him , as Dr Starkey says that the Earl himself had got right to the problem in his statement after his uprising ,when he said ” the state was not big enough for the both them ” . The Queen agreed saying that he was so dangerous he would have to die ! so much for being a ” favorite of the Queen ! “

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