C16 makeups: Lettice Knollys

Lettice Knollys

Lettice Knollys (Sienna Guillory), the Countess of Essex, was a young noblewoman at the court of Queen Elizabeth I until she was banished from court for having the temerity to marry the Earl of Leicester, the queen’s favourite.

Lettice had married the Walter Devereux, Viscount Hereford and from 1572 the Earl of Essex, in 1560 when she was seventeen. While he was in Ireland in the early 1570s she began a love affair with Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, whom she married in 1578, two years after the death of Essex. When the Queen was told of the marriage she banished Lettice permanently from court. Lettice did not see the Queen again for twenty years – ten years after the death of Dudley – and then only briefly.

In 1589 Lettice married Sir Christopher Blount, a relatively poor Catholic soldier twelve years her junior, who had been the Earl of Leicester’s Gentleman of the Horse. Her husband was executed in 1601 some weeks after her son, Robert Devereux the second Earl of Essex.

In 1603 the new monarch, James I, restored her grandson, the third Earl of Essex, to his father’s title and estate and cancelled the rest of her debts to the Crown under the attainders against Essex and Blount. She lived on until the age of ninety-one, dying in December 1634.

The movies

The Virgin Queen (2005): In this mini-series Lettice (Sienna Guillory) encouraged her son’s rebellion out of bitterness at her treatment by the Queen. Neill Gorton was responsible for the prosthetic makeup for the aged Lettice. Karen Hartley-Thomas was the makeup designer; Laura [Loz] Schiavo was the makeup artist; Maureen McGill & Anna Morena were the hair stylist/makeup artists.

Elizabeth I (2005): In this mini-series about the life of the older Elizabeth I Diana Kent played Lady Essex. Fae Hammond was the makeup designer; Su Westwood, Gemma Richards & Jane Hope-Kavanagh were the hair & makeup artists.

Elizabeth (1998): This film covers the ascent to the throne and the early reign of Queen Elizabeth. Amanda Ryan played Lettice Howard, who seems to be an amalgam of two of Dudley’s mistresses: Lettice Knollys and Lady Douglas Howard. Confusingly there was also a character named Isabel Knollys. Jenny Shircore was hair and makeup designer; Anita Burger was makeup artist.

Elizabeth R (1971): This classic BBC mini-series starring Glenda Jackson featured Angela Thorne as Lettice. Coming soon …