Death of the Earl of Essex

Margaret Anne Cusack
start of chapter | Chapter XXVI

Essex visited England in 1575, and tried to induce the Queen to give him further assistance in his enterprise. On her refusal, he retired to Ireland, and died in Dublin, on the 22nd September, 1576. It was rumoured he had died of poison, and that the poison was administered at the desire of the Earl of Leicester, who soon after divorced his own wife, and married the widow of his late rival Essex complained bitterly, in his letter to Sir Henry Sidney, of the way in which he had been treated in his projected plantation of Clannaboy, and protested against the injustice which had been done through him on O'Donnell, MacMahon, and others, who were always peaceable and loyal, but "whom he had, on the pledged word of the Queen, undone with fair promises." Probably, only for his own "undoing," he would have had but scant pity for others.

Yet Essex could be generous and knightly with his friends, kind and courtly, at least to his English dependents. There are some curious accounts of his expenses while he was "Lord-General of Ulster, " in a State Paper, from which it will appear that he could be liberal, either from natural benevolence or from policy. The entries of expenditure indicate a love of music, which he could easily gratify in Ireland, still famous for the skill of its bards. He gave ten shillings to the singing men of Mellifont, then inhabited by Edward Moore, to whom it had been granted at the suppression of monasteries. A harper at Sir John Bellew's received three shillings; "Crues, my Lord of Ormonde's harper," received the large sum of forty shillings, but whether in compliment to the bard or the bard's master is doubtful. The Earl of Ormonde's "musicians" also got twenty shillings. But there are other disbursements, indicating that presents were gratefully received and vails expected. "A boy that brought your lordship a pair of greyhounds" had a small donation; but "M'Genis, that brought your lordship two stags," had 13s. 4d., a sum equivalent to £7 of our money. Nor were the fair sex forgotten, for Mrs. Fagan, wife of the Lord Mayor of Dublin, was presented with a piece of taffeta "for good entertainment."