Robert Devereux, the Second Earl of Essex, lived a short but eventful life as the final favorite of Elizabeth I—ultimately executed in February 1601 for treason.   In contrast, his afterlife has been long—although equally eventful and fascinating.   In a letter written to the Queen during his house arrest in May 1600, Essex anticipates his painful legacy:

“The prating tavern haunter speaks of me as he lists; the frantic libeller writes of me what he lists; already they print me and make me speak to the world, and shortly they will play me in what forms they list upon the stage. The least of these is a thousand times worse than death.”

Indeed, Essex has been printed, painted, and performed thousands of times since his death—with varying degrees of censure and sympathy. This timeline captures, in a dynamic, interactive fashion, the myriad ways in which Essex—and, inevitably, Elizabeth also since their stories are so entangled—have been represented in the more than four centuries since their deaths.


A Washington and Lee University sophomore from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, I intend to follow the pre-med track with a Chemistry major and Creative Writing minor. As a Mellon Digital Humanities research partner during the summer of 2016, I had the opportunity to work with Professor Hank Dobin on The Essex Timeline: A Thousand Times Worse Than Death, a digital thanatography of Robert Devereaux, 2 nd Earl of Essex. A lover of British history and literature, I enjoyed developing a highly nuanced opinion of Essex by analyzing and technologically organizing various representations of the controversial historical figure.