By the time Robert Dudley, favourite and reported paramour of Queen Elizabeth I, reached the height of his power, he was well known as the grandson, son, and brother of executed traitors. In an effort to expose his attempts at the throne, an anonymous author penned a vitriolic manuscript known as Leicester’s Commonwealth, which reported the “stain of the block” on Robert’s family, suggesting that the Dudley treachery had only grown with each ensuing generation. Robert, the author wrote, was “nuzzled in treason from his infancy, descended of a tribe of traitors”.


In the Shadow of the Block (published with Michael Joseph, 2020) is the first narrative history to detail the fascinating story of one of Tudor England’s most notorious families. Each Tudor monarch made their name with either a Dudley by their side or by publicly executing one. With every generation members of the Dudley family came tantalizingly close to the throne, but ended up on the executioner's block. What made them pursue the heights of power so doggedly? What was it about the Tudor court that led to such dramatic upheavals? In the Shadow of the Block will reveal the secret history of this family – their aims, desires, loves and losses.

John Dudley