Elizabeth knew Essex very well, at the peak of their friendship she had lavished gifts and lands on him for he appealed to
her flirtatious nature. He could be charming, he was handsome and intelligent and in 1586 he had been the queens constant companion, so much so that one of his servants is said to have remarked
"my lord is at cardes or one game or another with her, that he commeth not to his owne lodginge tyll the birdes
singe in the morninge"
But there was another side to Essex, he could be argumentative, moody, difficult and very impulsive. It was this last fault that lead, eventually, to his death. Being the queens favourite had caused divisions, some courtiers gathered under Robert Cecil and others under Devereux. Elizabeth tried hard to calm the tension within her court but Essex was all prestige and glory, charging around the court full of self importance. He had returned from Ireland without permission and later bust into the queens bedchamber whilst she was dressing and at one time, during an argument, drawn his sword on her. His arrogance caused him to take no advice from his friends, he overstepped the mark once to often.
Devereux was interrogated in the Tower of London and then confined elsewhere. It was during this confinement that his
ideas of a 'military coup' were probably planned. He later put his plans into action leading over two hundred soldiers through London. He was captured and interrogated again but this time his crimes brought him into the courtroom at Westminster Hall on the 19th February. He was accused of high treason, found guilty and sentenced to death, his death warrant signed the next day. Four days later, on the 25th February 1601, the Earl of Essex, climbed the scaffold and famously said:
“My sins are more in number than the hairs on my head. I have bestowed my youth in wantonness, lust and uncleanness; I have been puffed up with pride, vanity and love of this wicked world’s pleasures. For all which, I humbly beseech my Saviour Christ to be a mediator to the eternal Majesty for my pardon, especially for this my last sin, this great, this bloody, this crying, this infectious sin, whereby so many for love of me have been drawn to offend God, to offend their sovereign, to offend the world. I beseech God to forgive it us, and to forgive it me – most wretched of all.”
In the courtyard of Tower Green, only a small gathering watched as Essex's head was separated from his body.
He was later buried at the chapel of St Peter ad Vincula.