The popular traitor: responses to Essex

Alexandra Gajda

in The Earl of Essex and Late Elizabethan Political Culture

Published in print March 2012 | ISBN: 9780199699681
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191739057 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Historical Monographs

The popular traitor: responses to Essex

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  • Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)


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Chapter 5 examines contemporary responses to the decline of Essex’s career, both positive and negative. It reconsiders the substance of his fabled popularity, and the growing divisions between those who were warily critical towards the earl’s behaviour and mentality, and those who adopted Essex’s own concept of his sufferings. Detractors, including his client and advisor Francis Bacon, were increasingly troubled by the earl’s public expression of unseemly attitudes towards political obedience, and the codes of virtue and honour to which he adhered. Meanwhile, surviving evidence of the attitudes of Essex’s more ardent partisans is surprisingly provocative in its defence of his rightful role in the polity, and even its description of the queen’s involvement in Essex’s plight. The vehement denunciation by queen and regime of Essex’s popular reputation prefigured the development of deeper suspicions of the earl’s instability and of his future ambitions.

Keywords: earl of Essex; popularity; Francis Bacon; virtue; honour; obedience

Chapter.  12337 words. 

Subjects: Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)

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