Dudley, the name of an English historical family, descended from John de Somerie, who acquired the castle and lordship of Dudley in the reign of Henry II. The barony passed by marriage from the house of Somerie to that of Sutton in the reign of Edward II. John Sutton (Lord Dudley, died in 1487) was distinguished in the wars of the roses, and left two sons, Edward and John. A grandson of the latter was Edmund Dudley, the extortionary minister of Henry VII., who was executed for high treason under Henry VIII. (Aug. 18,1510). His son John Dudley (1502-1553) was created Viscount L'Isle by Henry VIII. (1542), earl of Warwick by Edward VI. (1547), and after effecting the ruin of the duke of Somerset was made duke of Northumberland (1551). He persuaded the young king Edward to set aside his sisters Mary and Elizabeth from the succession, and bequeath the crown to Lady Jane Grey, who belonged to a branch of the royal family, and had married Lord Guilford Dudley, a son of Northumberland. The attempt proved a failure, and Northumberland perished with his son and daughter-in-law on the scaffold.
His son Ambrose (1530-1589), usually called the good earl of Warwick, to which dignity he was restored by Elizabeth (1561), served in youth in the Netherlands, and was a distinguished ornament of the English court. He died childless. - Robert, earl of Leicester, younger brother of the preceding, the favorite of Queen Elizabeth, born about 1531, died in Cornbury, Oxfordshire, Sept. 4, 1588. He came early into the service of Edward VI, by whom he was knighted. In 1550 he married Amy, daughter and heiress of Sir John Robsart, the nuptials being solemnized in presence of the young king. In the first year of Mary he was imprisoned and condemned with his father for the attempt to transfer the succession to Lady Jane Grey; but the sentence of death was soon remitted, and he was afterward restored in blood. On the accession of Elizabeth he met with rapid preferment, his elegant and courtly address winning for him the chief place in the affections of the queen. He was made master of the horse, knight of the garter, and privy councillor, and was enabled to maintain the splendor of his station by grants of manors and castles. His intimacy with the queen was the occasion of scandal, and of a belief that he was encouraged to aspire to the hand of his sovereign.
In 1560 his countess died, not without suspicion of violence, in the lonely mansion of Cumnor, in Berkshire, where she was living in retirement. In 1564 he was created baron of Denbigh and earl of Leicester, and other important offices were conferred upon him. Lady Douglas Howard, widow of Lord Sheffield, bore him a son, and claimed to have been privately married to him. In 1575 he was at the height of his power, and entertained the queen for 17 days at his castle of Kenilworth in Warwickshire, on the decoration of which he is said by Dugdale to have expended £60,000, and the pageants and festivities were hardly surpassed in magnificence even in that splendid reign. In 1576 he secretly married the countess of Essex, immediately after she had become a widow. When this marriage was revealed to Elizabeth, she was with difficulty dissuaded from committing him to the tower. A virulent and skilfully written book against him, entitled "Leicester's Commonwealth," was published in 1584, and was many times reprinted under different titles. In 1585 he commanded the English forces in the Netherlands, and received from the United Provinces the office of captain general, and the whole control of their army and finances.
This offended Elizabeth, and his ill success in the field disappointed the Hollanders. In 1586 he was called back to England to advise in the case of the queen of Scots, and recommended that she should be secretly despatched by poison; and in 1587 he returned to Holland, where his administration was so unpopular that he was soon recalled. In 1588, when the Spanish armada menaced the kingdom, he was nominated to the new office of lord lieutenant of England and Ireland; and he commanded the forces at Tilbury for the defence of the capital. He set out thence for his castle of Kenilworth, but was attacked with a violent malady, and died on the way. Notwithstanding his dissolute life, he maintained a show of respect for religion. He erected the hospital at Warwick, and gave its mastership to a Puritan divine. - Sir Robert, son of the preceding by Lady Sheffield, born in Sheen, Surrey, in 1573, died near Florence in 1639. He fitted out a maritime expedition at his own expense, with which he sailed to America in 1594, and captured some Spanish vessels.
In 1596 he distinguished himself at the taking of Cadiz. On his return to England he attempted to establish his legitimacy and secure his paternal estates, but was defeated by his father's widow, the countess of Essex. He fled with the daughter of Sir Robert Southwell to Florence, and, assuming the title of earl of Warwick, was made chamberlain to the grand duchess of Tuscany and duke of the holy Roman empire. Meanwhile his estates in England were confiscated, and he was outlawed, but at the Tuscan court his honors increased. By draining a vast morass between Pisa and the sea he made Leghorn a large and beautiful town. He improved its harbor, caused the grand duke to declare it a free port, drew many English merchants to settle there, and having received a liberal pension, built a noble palace in the capital, and beautified his country seat of Carbello, three miles from Florence. He was the author of several works, the best known of which is Dell' arcano del mare, a remarkable collection of tracts relating to commerce and navigation (Florence, 1630, 1646; there is a copy in the British museum dated 1661). - The castle of Dudley belonged to the family of Sutton till in 1697 it passed by marriage to that of Ward. John Ward (died in 1774) was created (1763) viscount of Dudley and Ward, and this viscounty continued till it became extinct at the death of John William Ward (1781-1833), who entered the house of commons in 1802, and became secretary of state under Canning.
Dudley, the name of several royal officers of Massachusetts. I. Thomas, governor of the province, born in Northampton, England, in 1576, died in Roxbury, Mass., July 31, 1652. In 1630 he came to Massachusetts with the commission of deputy governor, and he was governor from 1634 to 1640, and again from 1645 to 1650. He was a man of integrity and piety, though intolerant. II. Joseph, governor of the province, son of the preceding, born Sept. 23, 1647, died in Roxbury, April 2, 1720. He graduated at Harvard college in 1665, served in the Indian war in 1675, was sent to England as agent for the province in 1682, appointed president of New England in 1685, superseded by Andros a few months later, and made chief justice in 1687. He went to England again in 1689, was chief justice of New York from 1690 to 1693, then eight years lieutenant governor of the Isle of Wight, and finally governor of Massachusetts from 1702 to 1715. He was a man of high moral character, and a scholar. III. Paul, chief justice of the province, son of the preceding, born Sept. 3, 1675, died in Roxbury, Jan. 21, 1751. He graduated at Harvard college in 1690, studied law in London, and returned to Massachusetts in 1702 with the commission of attorney general. In 1718 he was appointed judge, and in 1745 became chief justice.
He bequeathed £100 to Harvard college for the support of an annual lecture. This lecture is called from its founder the Dudleian lecture, and, according to the direction of the founder, is delivered on one of four subjects which are treated of in succession. The first of these is natural religion; the second, the Christian religion; the third, the errors of the Roman Catholic church; and the fourth, to explain and maintain the validity of the ordination of ministers according to the ancient custom in New England. He was a fellow of the royal society, and besides 12 treatises, chiefly on natural history, in the "Philosophical Transactions," published a work against the church of Rome.