Behind the bike sheds: Well, after over 5 minutes of tedious waiting – and getting some very strange looks from the resident cyclists – I was about to give up my quest when Bishop Stillington FINALLY appeared.
He seemed nervous, scared even. He kept looking behind him as he walked towards me. Did he think he was being followed? Was he being followed? I blinked, looked around and thought about it. No, he was definitely weird and not a little paranoid, but there was no one following him.
He walked straight up to me, slammed something into my hand – and left. Just like that. He was gone, swallowed up by the crowds of cyclists.
I looked at my hand nervously (the paranoia was obviously contagious). What had I got myself into?
The paper looked old, frail. It was brown at the edges, and curled up a bit?
But then I remembered one of my old art lessons. Wasn’t it possible to make paper look old and frail, by wiping a teabag over it? It was a pretty good effect, I recall. So how could I know? The handwriting looked old – all squirly and fancy, not like kids learn to write these days. There were no obvious signs of forgery in the text: no OMGs, LOLs or xoxo’s. But I still couldn’t be certain.
I called in at the nearest Costa Coffee, grabbed a cappuccino and settled down to read the text:
“My dearest, darling Elizabeth,
It was lovely to see you the other day, and spend those wonderful few hours together.
My heart yearns for you still.
I often hark back to our wedding day, thinking of you in that wonderfully coloured dress. I am reminded of it every time I see a rainbow overhead. How adorable you looked – and you had eyes only for me.
I love you so much, you are queen of my heart and my world (and the country, of course). How are we ever going to be together forever, have we only stolen moments in dark corners to look forward to?
I know all has changed. You said that I must forget about us, that I must move on, but do you mean it? How can you? How can I? No woman is as wonderful and majestic as you – I am yours to command, always.
Sweet Elizabeth, you are my wife, you swore we would be together forever. Elizabeth, is the crown worth our parting?
Your ever-loving husband
Bob? Bob? Who on earth was BOB?
It was a nice, sweet, sad letter, but undated. Was it real?
I resolved to find out and took a trip to my old alma mater. Leicester Uni has recently had some success in dating 500-year-old ‘things’, so I thought I’d see if they would check out the letter for me.
Unfortunately, all the really clever professors were busy or out to lunch, but one of the lab rats took a look at it. He had a sniff and a nibble and declared it could be carbon dated to the 1550/60s, give or take a hundred years – or so. That was good enough for me. The letter must be genuine, as it was written at the right time.
I now turned my attention to the writer. Who could this ‘Bob’ be? I turned to Wikipedia – such a fabulous, accurate and complete research tool. It has been my saviour many times, during arguments on Facebook. No one can argue with Wikipedia and win.
To the candidates:
Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, was a favourite of Elizabeth’s later in her life. But did she marry him? It is possible. Given the example of her father – and she like to think she was a king of England, like him, it is entirely possible. Her father liked to chop the heads of his spouses when he tired of them. And Elizabeth did chop Devereux’s head off when she tired of him. Maybe it was cheaper than a divorce, certainly it was quicker.
Next there’s Robert Cecil, son of Elizabeth’s greatest adviser William Cecil, Lord Burleigh. Raised from childhood to serve the queen loyally. But to marry her? If he did, he got over the grief of her death very quickly – he was arranging for James VI of Scotland to take the throne before the poor woman was cold in her grave – actually, I don’t think she was even dead. So, no, not him. Surely?
The penultimate candidate is Bob, page to the Lord Edmund Blackadder. A lively, adventurous, thigh-slapping chap, as I remember. He must have been great fun to be with – and Queenie did like Bob, as I recall. But….and it’s a pretty big but…. didn’t he turn out to be a girl? And run off with Lord Flashheart?
The most likely candidate, of course, is Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. He was Elizabeth’s own age and a close confidant until his death. But he was married – for some of the time anyway. He married Amy Robsart in 1550. According to Wikipedia, this was a love-match. But something went wrong. Amy took a nasty fall down some conveniently well-placed stairs and managed to break her neck. There were constant rumours about the two of them – stories abounded that they wanted to marry. But Elizabeth called him Robin, not Bob, didn’t she?
Of course, that may have been in public, to throw people off the scent, maybe. There’s nothing to say Elizabeth didn’t call him ‘Bob’ in private.
Jeff R Sun, alumni of the University of Leicester, fan of lab rats and growing quite fond of cyclists, too
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Photos taken from Wikipedia, except Bob which is thanks to Google Images
Sources: Wikipedia; Tony Robinson’s Kings and Queens, by Tony Robinson; Wikipedia; Cows in Action 1, the Ter-moo-nators, by Steve Cole; A Rough Guide to Egypt, by Dan Richardson; Blackadder II episode 1 ‘Bells’ (1st broadcast on BBC One 9th January 1986)