Devereux Lane, SW13

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Robert Devereux (November 10, 1565 – February 25, 1601) was a courtier, soldier, statesman and poet, who became a favourite of Elizabeth I, until a spectacular falling out led to his downfall and execution. He succeeded as 2nd Earl of Essex in 1576 and in 1590 married Frances, daughter of Sir Francis Walsingham, following the death of her first husband, Sir Philip Sidney. During their marriage he lived, when not campaigning or overseeing his duties in Ireland, at Barn Elms. Sometime around 1592, the queen leased him Essex Court in Barnes. (The name itself preceding Devereux’s possession but taken from a William Essex who owned it in the 15thCentury. The property having been seized by the Crown in 1554 from the estate of Thomas Wyatt following his execution as a traitor). Devereux himself is unlikely to have stayed there, as not long after taking ownership he leased the property to Robert Beale, Sir Francis’s secretary. Devereux had enjoyed a meteoric career as a solider he led flamboyant military expeditions to Cadiz and the Azores, and gained political power as Earl Marshal of England and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. But an on-going feud with the powerful Cecil family, frequent absences from court, and even, for a time his marriage (he had not sought permission from the queen) led to him falling out of favour, it was said: “this excited the queen’s anger, and Essex agreed that his wife should live ‘very retired at her mother’s house.'”. However, it was his actions in Ireland that led to his ultimate downfall. Having left with a large military force to crush the rebels, he made a series of tactical errors leading to major defeats. He compounded the problem by securing the loyalty of his officers by conferring knighthoods, an honour the Queen herself dispensed sparingly, and by the end of his time in Ireland more than half the knights in England owed their rank to him. Little realising his disfavour at court, he ignored the queen’s express orders not to return to England. In punishment she did not renew his monopoly to sell sweet wines in Essex. At a stroke this removed his major source of income and he plotted against the Crown. This short lived rebellion ended in ignominy when the Crown’s forces besieged his property Essex House, not far from the Strand. He was beheaded on Tower Green, becoming the last person to be beheaded in the Tower of London.  

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