Robert Dudley, the Earl
of Leicester (circa 1532-1588), was Elizabeth
I’s only serious English suitor after she
became queen and remained her favourite throughout
his life. He was also described by a contemporary
as ‘a light and greedy man’! Many
portraits of him survive, reflecting his political
importance and preoccupation with his own image.
The piece of fine silk revealed in his purse
might be a handkerchief, perhaps a token of affection
from the Queen.