Robert Devereux, 3rd Earl of Essex

Robert Devereux, 3rd Earl of Essex is buried in St John the Baptist's chapel in Westminster Abbey. He was born 11th January 1591, the eldest son of Robert, 2nd Earl of Essex and his wife Frances Sidney (nee Walsingham). He had a brother Walter. His father was one of Elizabeth I's favourites but she executed him in 1601. His mother had been banned from Court by Elizabeth for marrying Robert without her consent. After the execution Frances married Richard, Earl of Clanricarde and went to Ireland.

Young Robert was educated at Eton and Oxford and when James I came to the throne he re-instated his titles - Viscount Hereford, Lord Ferrers and Lord Bourchier and the titles of Earl of Ewe, Viscount Bourchier and Lord Lovaine were attributed to him also. He took part in James' coronation. Before he was fifteen years old he was married to Frances Howard, daughter of the Earl of Suffolk. His wife attempted to poison him and the marriage was later annulled. He fought several duels and served in the army on the continent. As Vice Admiral against the Spanish he led an expedition to Cadiz but he failed to complete his mission. In 1630 he married Elizabeth, daughter of Sir William Paulet but had no children and they divorced. He was prominent in the Long Parliament and was Captain General of the forces. He died of a stroke and was given a great state funeral. But the effigy and splendid hearse, designed by Inigo Jones, set up for his funeral were damaged, possibly by Royalists who broke in the same night, and it was taken down.

The inscription on his gravestone in the chapel was taken from his coffin plate and inscribed in 1879. This reads:

The Right Honble. & Excellent Lord Robert Devereux Earll of Essex & Ewe, Viscount Hereford, Lord Ferrers of Chartley Bourchier and Lovayne, late Lord Generall of ye forces raised & imployed by ye Parliament of England. Died at Essex House London on Monday ye 14th of Septemb. A.D. 1646, aged 56

Further reading

"Life and death of the illustrious Robert, Earl of Essex" by R. Codrington, 1646

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2004

The British Library collection has the form of proceeding for the funeral and a woodcut of the hearse, the sermon and demolishing of the hearse on 26 November 1646.

The Essex ring, said to have been given by Elizabeth I to the 2nd Earl of Essex and later returned to his widow, is on display at the Abbey in the new Queen's Diamond Jubilee Galleries


11th January 1591


14th September 1646




Chapel of St John Baptist

Memorial Type


Robert Devereux, 3rd Earl of Essex
Robert Devereux, 3rd Earl of Essex by Renold or Reginold Elstrack (Elstracke)

© National Portrait Gallery, London [Creative Commons CC BY-NC-ND 3.0]

Robert Devereux, 3rd Earl of Essex
Robert, 3rd Earl of Essex grave

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

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