Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton

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Henry Wriothesley

Birthplace: Cowdry,,Sussex,England
Death: Died in Bergen-Op-Zoom,,,Holland
Immediate Family:

Son of Henry Wriothesley, 2nd Earl of Southampton and Mary Browne, countess of Southampton
Husband of Elizabeth Wriothesley
Father of Penelope Spencer; Anne Wallop; James Wriothesley and Sir Thomas Wriothesley, 4th Earl of Southampton
Brother of Mary Arundell (Wriothesley)

Occupation: 3rd Earl of Southampton, Literary aesthete
Managed by: stanley w. duke, jr.
Last Updated:

About Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton


Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton (6 October 1573 – 10 November 1624), was the second son of Henry Wriothesley, 2nd Earl of Southampton, and his wife Mary Browne, Countess of Southampton, daughter of the 1st Viscount Montagu. Shakespeare's first two narrative poems, Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece, were dedicated to Southampton, who is one of the major candidates to be the "Fair Youth" in Shakespeare's Sonnets.

He was a patron of William Shakespeare

Henry Wriothesley was born in Cowdray House, Sussex, England.

When his father died he moved to the nearby town of Midhurst, England, and inherited the Earldom in 1581 when he became a royal ward under the immediate care of Lord Burghley. He entered St John's College, Cambridge, in 1585, graduating M.A. in 1589, and his name was entered at Gray's Inn before he left the university. At the age of 17 he was presented at court where he was soon counted among the friends of the Earl of Essex, and was distinguished by extraordinary marks of the Queen's favour. He became a munificent patron of poets: Nashe dedicated his romance of Jack Willon to him and Gervase Markham his poem on Sir Richard Grenville's last fight. His name is also associated with Barnabe Barnes's Parthenophil and Parthenope, and with the Worlde of Wordes of John Florio, who was for some years in his personal service as teacher of Italian.

In 1624 Southampton was one of four Englishmen appointed to command English troops fighting in the Low Countries against the Spanish. Shortly after their arrival, James, the earl's eldest son, succumbed to a fever at Rosendael; five days later on 10 November 1624, Southampton died of the same cause at Bergen-op-Zoom. Both were buried in the parish church of Titchfield, Hampshire.


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Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton's Timeline

October 6, 1573
April 18, 1593
Age 19

Southampton became Shakespeare's patron, and on April 18, 1593, Venus and Adonis was entered for publication. Shakespeare had made his formal debut as a poet. The dedication Shakespeare wrote to Southampton at the beginning of the poem is impassioned and telling, "phrased with courtly deference" (Rowse 74):

I KNOW not how I shall offend in dedicating my
unpolished lines to your lordship, nor how the world will
censure me for choosing so strong a prop to support so weak a
burden only, if your honour seem but pleased, I account
myself highly praised, and vow to take advantage of all idle
hours, till I have honoured you with some graver labour. But if
the first heir of my invention prove deformed, I shall be
sorry it had so noble a god-father, and never after ear so
barren a land, for fear it yield me still so bad a harvest.
I leave it to your honourable survey, and your honour to your
heart's content; which I wish may always answer your own wish
and the world's hopeful expectation.

Your honour's in all duty,

Age 20

The dedication to the "Tarquin and Lucrece" evinces a fuller affection, confidence of his patron's regard for him and his offering —
"To the
"Right Honourable Henry Wriothesly,
"Earl of Southampton and Baron of Tichfield.

"The love I dedicate to your lordship is without end; whereof this pamphlet, without beginning, is but a superfluous moiety. The warrant I have of your honourable disposition, not the worth of my untutored lines, makes it assured of acceptance. What I have done is yours; what I have to do is yours; being part in all I have, devoted yours. Were my worth greater, my duty would show greater; meantime, as it is, it is bound to your lordship, to whom I wish long life, still lengthened with all happiness,
"Your lordship's in all duty,
"William Shakespeare."

August 30, 1598
Age 24
Essex House,London,,England
November 8, 1598
Age 25
Age 26
Age 31
March 10, 1607
Age 33
Titchfield, Hampshire, U.K.
November 10, 1624
Age 51