Essex's marriage to Frances Howard in 1606, was not successful, and their subsequent divorce made him a laughing-stock, as she alleged that he was incapable of having sexual relations. Essex himself was obliged to give in gracefully in order to obtain his freedom with the minimum of fuss. His former wife proceeded to marry Robert Carr, Earl of Somerset, and was tried for the murder of Sir Thomas Overbury, who had interfered with her ambitions as well as her love life.
Following the accession of King Charles I, Essex became a member of the Parliamentary faction, and led Parliament's army at the beginning of the English Civil War in 1642, though he was ill-equipped for command. His conduct in pursuing Royalist forces in Cornwall, which led to the defeat at the Battle of Lostwithiel, infuriated Cromwell. He eventually resigned his position in 1646 follwing the passing of the Self-denying Ordinance and died the same year, without an heir. The earldom died with him, until revived in 1661 for Arthur Capel.
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