TO BE on the wrong side of the monarch during the days of William Shakespeare could have you publicly shamed or beheaded like the characters of his plays. And the life of the Lord of Denbigh at that time could have been scripted by the great playwright for its near tragic ending.

The Denbigh & District PROBUS Club, a group for retired and semi-retired businesspeople and professionals, hosted a talk about Robert Dudley (1532-1588) and how his lifelong friendship with no other than Queen Elizabeth I nearly got him killed.

The talk was given by Wendy Grey-Lloyd, from Llandyrnog, to 35 club members, after she had carried out thorough research about the historic Denbigh figure.

They heard that Dudley, who held the title of the Earl of Leicester until becoming Lord Denbigh in 1562, was not popular with the locals because he spent most of his time gallivanting far away from Denbigh. However he was responsible for the construction of the market building, which was remodelled in 1780 and is now occupied by the library.

Despite putting him at risk of punishment, the Earl also supported the Welsh translation of the New Testament, one of few written texts available to people at that time. The translations did not conform to the teachings of the Church of England, however Dudley supported efforts to have them published and would have approved of Sir Thomas Myddelton, owner of Chirk Castle from Denbigh, and Thomas Charles, nonconformist preacher from Bala, who made their own contributions in following centuries.

Dudley’s status and political manoeuvring during his excursions in England made him a target of the government of Queen Mary I and in 1554 he was sent to the Tower of London and sentenced to death. However the Earl’s life was spared after the Queen of Scots’ half-sister and rival, Elizabeth, took the throne in 1558 in a turn of fortune. The Earl would exact revenge decades later in true Shakespearean fashion.

Dudley’s release resulted in his appointment as Master of The Queen’s Horse in 1559 and he remained a close adviser, becoming Governor of the Netherlands, Captain of the Army and Lord Protector. It was in 1562 that he was granted land at Kenilworth Manor and appointed the Lordship of Denbigh, a prosperous market town. He was also made The Governor General of North Wales with his seat at Denbigh.

A year before his unexpected death in 1588 at the age of 56, the Lord of Denbigh pushed ahead with Mary’s death warrant issued by Elizabeth before her final approval, however their lifelong friendship kept him on side.

Dudley is buried with his second wife at Beauchamp Chapel in Warwick and when Queen Elizabeth died his last letter was found in her treasure box.

For more information about the Denbigh & District PROBUS Club, visit its Facebook page.