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But if Elizabeth was long past her springtime, so was her once dynamic country.

At 18, he accompanied his stepfather on a military campaign in the Netherlands, returning to London two years later to be the Queen’s bosom friend at court. He behaved with the conscious bullying of the toy-boy towards a pathetic older woman who was grateful for his love.

More than 400 years after it happened, the Essex rebellion still beggars belief — both that they thought they could get away with it and that so many powerful men, with so much to lose, were prepared to take part.

The actual uprising on February 8, 1601, lasted a mere 12 hours before it was snuffed out. If Essex and his friends had marched directly on the Queen in Whitehall, they stood a chance of apprehending her and seizing the Great Seal, symbol of sovereignty.

For a year, there was a stand-off between them, both perhaps hoping for reconciliation.

When he sank into illness, she sent him broth and doctors.

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