The Other Sidney

Overshadowed by the reputation of his brilliant elder brother, Robert Sidney “was not one of the flamboyant Elizabethans,” but a capable soldier and an industrious administrator.

When Sir Philip Sidney died after an autumnal skirmish with the Spanish at Zutphen in 1586, a monument to his own incurable chivalry, Robert Sidney lost his respected elder brother. He was seven years younger than Sir Philip and, for all his twenty-four years, had followed in the footsteps of the paragon, treading the same path to Oxford, Europe and the Netherlands war.

But Robert Sidney, although he had literary interests, could not compete with his brother’s intellectual creativeness, nor with that perfection of character to which so many eminent men of the age readily testified and which even his own father modestly admitted was genuine. Such brilliance must inevitably cast shadows upon relations who can neither dispel the legend nor create one of their own. Robert Sidney did not attempt to do either.

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