Sir Robert Dudley: Expatriate in Tuscan Service

Neil Ritchie describes the long and busy career of the son of the famous Earl of Leicester: Robert Dudley sought employment with an Italian Grand Duke and distinguished himself as navigator, map-maker, naval architect and builder of maritime fortifications.

No guidebook will lead you to the palazzo of the Duke of Northumberland in Florence: few Florentines, and even fewer tourists, ever visit it unless they have business at the American Express Bank which now occupies the ground floor or wish to offer a prayer at the First Church of Christ, Scientist, on the second.

But even among the magnificent Renaissance palaces of Florence this handsome sixteenth-century town-house attracts attention for its curious wedge-shaped construction, and closer inspection of the main façade will reveal a simple plaque recording the achievements of its most illustrious owner - Sir Robert Dudley, man of science, reorganiser of the Tuscan Navy and developer of the port of Livorno.

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