Alice, Duchess Dudley

Alice Leigh, born in 1578, was the second daughter of Sir Thomas Leigh of Stoneleigh. She married Robert Dudley, son and heir of the Earl of Leicester (favourite of Queen Elizabeth I) and his disowned wife, Lady Douglas. After the Earl’s death, his widow, Lettice challenged Robert’s legitimacy to his father’s titles and won, after which he left the country, abandoning his wife, Lady Alice and their five daughters.

The deserted Lady Alice from then on devoted her life to good works and, amongst other acts of charity, gave generously to the poor in the parishes of Stoneleigh, Mancetter, Leek Wootton, Ashow, Kenilworth and Monks Kirby, and in 1638 she also gave a magnificent set of silver-gilt communion plate.

The Duchess Dudley Communion Plate

In 1644 King Charles I, by Act of Parliament, created Alice a Duchess of England in her own right. In his Letters Patent, King Charles admitted to the injuries done to Sir Robert and Lady Alice and their children. He stated that he was bound to honour her with the grant of the title of Duchess Dudley for her lifetime and to enable her to own her own property.

Duchess Dudley died in 1668, in her ninetieth year and is buried in a tomb on the north side of the chancel in The Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin, Stoneleigh.