Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford

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Edward de Vere

Also Known As: "Edward Vere", "17th Earl of Oxford"
Birthdate: (54)
Birthplace: Castle Hedingham, Essex, England
Death: June 24, 1604 (54)
Kings Place, Hackney, London, England
Place of Burial: St. Augustine's, Hackney, London, England
Immediate Family:

Son of John de Vere, III, 16th Earl of Oxford and Margery Towe Golding, Countess of Oxford
Husband of Anne de Vere, Countess of Oxford and Elizabeth de Vere, lady
Partner of Anne Finch
Father of Edward deVere-Vavasour; Elizabeth de Vere Stanley, Countess of Derby; Bridget Norris; Susan de Vere, Countess of Montgomery; Frances Cecil de Vere and 1 other
Brother of Mary Bertie, Baroness Willoughby of Eresby
Half brother of Katherine de Vere, Lady Windsor

Occupation: Poet
Managed by: Carole (Erickson) Pomeroy,Vol. C...
Last Updated:

About Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford

Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford

Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford (12 April 1550 – 24 June 1604), was an English peer and courtier of the Elizabethan era. Oxford was heir to the second oldest earldom in the kingdom, a court favourite for a time, a sought-after patron of the arts, and noted by his contemporaries as a lyric poet and court playwright, but his reckless and volatile temperament precluded him from attaining any courtly or governmental responsibility and contributed to the dissipation of his estate.[1] Since the 1920s he has been the most popular alternative candidate proposed for the authorship of Shakespeare's works.

Oxford was the only son of John de Vere, 16th Earl of Oxford, and Margery Golding. After the death of his father in 1562, he became a ward of Queen Elizabeth and was sent to live in the household of her principal advisor, Sir William Cecil. He married Cecil's daughter, Anne, with whom he had five children.[2] Oxford was estranged from her for five years after he refused to acknowledge her first child as his.

Oxford was a champion jouster and travelled widely throughout Italy and France. He was among the first to compose love poetry at the Elizabethan court,[3] and he was praised as a playwright, although none of his plays survives.[4] A stream of dedications praised Oxford for his generous patronage of literary, religious, musical, and medical works,[5] and he patronised both adult and boy acting companies,[6] as well as musicians, tumblers, acrobats and performing animals.[7]

He fell out of favour with the Queen in the early 1580s and was exiled from court after impregnating one of her maids of honour, Anne Vavasour, which instigated violent street brawls between Oxford's retainers and her uncle's. Oxford was reconciled to the Queen in 1583, but all opportunities for advancement had been lost. In 1586 the Queen granted Oxford a £1,000 annuity to relieve his financial distress caused by his extravagance and selling off his income-producing lands for ready money. After his wife's death he married Elizabeth Trentham, one of the Queen's maids of honour, with whom he got an heir, Henry de Vere. He died in 1604, having lost the entirety of his inherited estates.

Edward de Vere was born heir to the second oldest earldom in England at the de Vere ancestral home, Hedingham Castle, in Essex, north-east of London. He was the only son of John de Vere, 16th Earl of Oxford, and his second wife, Margery Golding. He was probably named to honour Edward VI, from whom he received a gilded christening cup.[8] He had an older half-sister, Katherine, the child of his father's first marriage to Dorothy Neville,[9] and a younger sister, Mary de Vere.[10] Both his parents had established court connections: the 16th Earl accompanying Princess Elizabeth from house arrest at Hatfield to the throne, and the countess being appointed a maid of honour in 1559.

De Vere was styled Viscount Bulbeck and raised in the Protestant reformed faith. Like many children of the nobility, he was raised by surrogate parents, in his case in the household of Sir Thomas Smith.[11] At eight he entered Queens' College, Cambridge, as an impubes, or immature fellow-commoner, later transferring to St John's. Thomas Fowle, a former fellow of St John's College, Cambridge, was paid £10 annually as Oxford's tutor.[12]

His father died on 3 August 1562, shortly after making his will.[13] Because he held lands from the Crown by knight service, his son became a royal ward of the Queen and was placed in the household of Sir William Cecil, her secretary of state and chief advisor.[14] At 12, de Vere had become the 17th Earl of Oxford, Lord Great Chamberlain of England, and heir to an estate whose annual income, though assessed at approximately £2,500, may have run as high as £3,500.[15]

While living at the Cecil House, Edward's daily studies consisted of dancing instruction, French, Latin, cosmography, writing exercises, drawing, and common prayers. During his first year at Cecil House, Oxford was briefly tutored by Laurence Nowell, the antiquarian and Anglo-Saxon scholar.[16] In a letter to Cecil Nowell explains: "I clearly see that my work for the Earl of Oxford cannot be much longer required", and his departure after eight months has been interpreted as either a sign of the thirteen-year-old Oxford's intractability as a pupil, or an indication that his precocity surpassed Nowell's ability to instruct him.[17] In May 1564 Arthur Golding, in his dedication to his Th' Abridgement of the Histories of Trogus Pompeius, attributed to his young nephew an interest in ancient history and contemporary events.[18]

In 1563 Oxford's older half-sister, Katherine, then Baroness Windsor, challenged the legitimacy of the marriage of Oxford's parents in the Ecclesiastical court. His uncle Golding argued that the Archbishop of Canterbury should halt the proceedings since a proceeding against a ward of the Queen could not be brought without prior licence from the Court of Wards and Liveries.[19]

Some time before October 1563 Edward's mother married Charles Tyrrell, a Gentleman Pensioner.[20] In May 1565 she wrote to Cecil, urging that the money from family properties set aside for Oxford's use during his minority by his father's will should be entrusted to herself and other family friends to protect it and ensure that he would be able to meet the expenses of furnishing his household and suing his livery when he reached his majority; this last would end his wardship though cancelling his debt with that Court, and convey the powers attached to his title.[21] There is no evidence that Cecil ever replied to her request. She died three years later, and was buried beside her first husband at Earls Colne. Oxford's stepfather, Charles Tyrrell, died in March 1570.[22]

In August 1564 Oxford was among 17 nobles, knights and esquires in the Queen's entourage who were awarded the honorary degree of Master of Arts by the University of Cambridge, and was awarded another by Oxford University on a Royal progress in 1566. His future father-in-law, William Cecil, also received honorary degrees of Master of Arts on the same progresses.[23] There is no evidence Oxford ever received a Bachelor of Arts degree. In February 1567 he was admitted to Gray's Inn to study law.[24]

On 23 July 1567, while practising fencing in the backyard of Cecil House in the Strand, the seventeen-year-old Oxford killed Thomas Brincknell, an under-cook in the Cecil household. At the coroner's inquest the next day, the jury, which included Oxford's servant and Cecil's protégé, the future historian Raphael Holinshed, found that Brincknell was drunk when he ran onto Oxford's blade.[25] Cecil later wrote that he attempted to have the jury find for Oxford's acting in self-defence.[26]

Records of books purchased for Oxford in 1569 attest to his continued interest in history, as well as literature and philosophy. Among them were editions of a Geneva Bible gilt, Chaucer, Plutarch, two books in Italian, and folio editions of Cicero and Plato.[27] In the same year Thomas Underdowne dedicated his translation of the Æthiopian History of Heliodorus to Oxford, praising his 'haughty courage', 'great skill' and 'sufficiency of learning'.[28] Oxford made the acquaintance of the mathematician and astrologer John Dee in the winter of 1570 and became interested in occultism, studying magic and conjuring.[29]

In November of 1569, Oxford petitioned Cecil for a foreign military posting. Although the Catholic Revolt of the Northern Earls had broken out that year, Elizabeth refused to grant the request.[30] Cecil eventually obtained a position for him under the Earl of Sussex in a Scottish campaign the following spring. Oxford and Sussex became staunch mutual supporters at court.[31] Oxford received his first vote for membership in the Order of the Garter in 1569, but never attained the honour in spite of his high rank and office.[32]

On 12 April 1571, Oxford attained his majority and took his seat in the House of Lords. Great expectations attended his coming of age; Sir George Buc recalled predictions that 'he was much more like ... to acquire a new erldome then to wast & lose an old erldom', a prophecy that was never fulfilled.[33]

Although formal certification of his freedom from Burghley's control was deferred until May 1572,[34] Oxford was finally granted the income of £666 which his father had intended him to have earlier, but properties set aside to pay his father's debts would not come his way for another decade. During his minority as the Queen's ward, one third of his estate had already reverted to the Crown, much of which Elizabeth had long since settled on Robert Dudley. Elizabeth demanded a further payment of £3,000 for overseeing the wardship and a further £4,000 for suing his livery. Oxford pledged double the amount if he failed to pay when it fell due, effectively risking a total obligation of £21,000.[35]

By 1571, Oxford was a court favourite of Elizabeth's. In May, he participated in the three-day tilt, tourney and barrier, where although he did not win he was given chief honours in celebration of the attainment of his majority, his prowess winning admiring comments from spectators.[36] In August, Oxford attended Paul de Foix, who had come to England to negotiate a marriage between Elizabeth and the Duke of Anjou, the future King Henry III of France.[37] His published poetry dates from this period and, along with Edward Dyer he was one of the first courtiers to introduce vernacular verse to the court.[38]

In 1562, the 16th Earl of Oxford had contracted with Henry Hastings, 3rd Earl of Huntingdon, for his son Edward to marry one of Huntingdon's sisters; when he reached the age of eighteen, he was to choose either Elizabeth or Mary Hastings. However, after the death of the 16th Earl, the indenture was allowed to lapse. Elizabeth Hastings later married Edward Somerset, while Mary Hastings died unmarried.

In the summer of 1571, Oxford declared an interest in Cecil's fourteen-year-old daughter,[citation needed] Anne, and received the queen's consent to the marriage. Anne had been pledged to Philip Sidney two years earlier, but after a year of negotiations Sidney's father, Sir Henry, was declining in the Queen's favour and Cecil suspected financial difficulties. In addition, Cecil had been elevated to the peerage as Lord Burghley in February 1571, thus elevating his daughter's rank, so the negotiations were cancelled.[39][citation needed] Cecil was displeased with the arrangement, given his daughter's age compared to Oxford's, and had entertained the idea of marrying her to the Earl of Rutland instead.[40] The wedding was deferred until Anne was fifteen and finally took place at the Palace of Whitehall on 16 December 1571, together with that of Lady Elizabeth Hastings and Lord Herbert, with the Queen in attendance. The tying of two young English noblemen of great fortune into Protestant families was not lost on Elizabeth's Catholic enemies.[41][clarification needed] Burghley gave Oxford a marriage settlement of land worth £800, and a cash settlement of £3,000. This amount was equal to Oxford's livery fees and was probably intended to be used as such, but the money vanished without a trace.[42]

Oxford assigned Anne a jointure of some £669,[43] but even though he was of age and a married man, he was still not in possession of his inheritance. After finally paying the Crown the £4,000 it demanded for his livery, he was finally licensed to enter on his lands in May.[44] He was entitled to yearly revenues from his estates and the office of Lord Great Chamberlain of approximately £2,250, but he was not entitled to the income from his mother's jointure until after her death, nor to the income from certain estates set aside to pay his father's debts until 1583. In addition, the fines assessed against Oxford in the Court of Wards for his wardship, marriage and livery already totalled some £3,306. To guarantee payment, Oxford entered into bonds to the Court totalling £11,000, and two further private bonds for £6,000 apiece.[45]

In 1572, de Vere's first cousin and closest relative, the Duke of Norfolk, was found guilty of a Catholic conspiracy against Elizabeth and was executed for treason. Oxford had earlier petitioned both the Queen and Burghley on the condemned Norfolk's behalf, to no avail, and it was claimed in a "murky petition from an unidentified woman" that he had plotted to provide a ship to assist his cousin's escape attempt to Spain.[46]

The following summer Oxford planned to travel to Ireland; at this point, his debts were estimated at a minimum of £6,000.[47]

In the summer of 1574, Elizabeth admonished Oxford "for his unthriftyness", and on 1 July Oxford bolted to the continent without permission, travelling to Calais with Lord Edward Seymour, and then to Flanders, "carrying a great sum of money with him". Coming as it did during a time of expected hostilities with Spain, Mary, Queen of Scots, interpreted his flight as an indication of his Catholic sympathies, as did the Catholic rebels then living on the continent. Burghley, however, assured the queen that Oxford was loyal, and she sent two Gentlemen Pensioners to summon him back under threat of heavy penalties. Oxford returned to England by the end of the month and was in London on the 28th. His request for a place on the Privy Council was rejected, but the queen's anger was abated and she promised him a licence to travel to Paris, Germany, and Italy on his pledge of good behaviour.[48]

Elizabeth issued Oxford a licence to travel in January 1575, and provided him with letters of introduction to foreign monarchs.[49] Prior to his departure, Oxford entered into two indentures. In first contract he sold his manors in Cornwall, Staffordshire and Wiltshire to three trustees for £6,000. In the second, since he had no heirs and if he should die abroad the estates would pass to his sister, Mary, he entailed the lands of the earldom on his first cousin, Hugh Vere. The indenture also provided for payment of debts amounting to £9,096, £3,457 of which was still owed to the Queen as expenses for his wardship.[50]

Oxford left England in the first week of February, and a month later was presented to the King and Queen of France. News that Anne was pregnant had reached him in Paris, and he sent her many extravagant presents in the coming months. But somewhere along the way his mind was poisoned against Anne and the Cecils, and he became convinced that the expected child was not his. The elder Cecils loudly voiced their outrage at the rumours, which probably worsened the situation.[51] In mid-March he travelled to Strasbourg, and then made his way to Venice, via Milan.[52] Although his daughter, Elizabeth, was born at the beginning of July, for unexplained reasons Oxford did not learn of her birth until late September.[53]

He was so taken with Italian culture and language during his travels that after his return he became known as the "Italian Earl" at court.[citation needed] He is recorded by Stow as having introduced various Renaissance fashions to court which immediately became fashionable, such as embroidered or trimmed scented gloves. Elizabeth had a pair of decorated gloves scented with perfume that for many years was known as the "Earl of Oxford's perfume".[54]

In January 1576 Oxford wrote to Lord Burghley from Siena about complaints that had reached him about his creditors' demands, which included the Queen and his sister, and directing that more of his land be sold to pay them.[55] Oxford left Venice in March, intending to return home by way of Lyons and Paris; although one later report has him as far south as Palermo in Sicily.[56] At this point the Italian financier Benedict Spinola had lent Oxford over £4,000 for his 15-month-long continental tour, while in England over 100 tradesmen were seeking settlement of debts totalling thousands of pounds.[57]

On Oxford's return across the Channel in April, his ship was hijacked by pirates from Flushing who took his possessions, stripped him to his shirt, and might have murdered him had not one of them recognized him.[58]

On his return he refused to live with his wife and took rooms at Charing Cross. Aside from the unspoken suspicion that Elizabeth was not his child, Burghley's papers reveal a flood of bitter complaints by Oxford against the Cecil family.[59] Upon the Queen's request, Oxford allowed his wife to attend the Queen at court, but only when Oxford was not present and that she not attempt to speak to him. He also stipulated that Burghley must make no further appeals to him on Anne's behalf.[60] He was estranged from Anne for five years.

In February 1577 it was rumoured that Oxford's sister Mary would marry Lord Gerald Fitzgerald (1559–1580), but by 2 July she was linked with Peregrine Bertie, later Lord Willoughby d'Eresby. His mother, the Duchess of Suffolk, wrote to Lord Burghley that "my wise son has gone very far with my Lady Mary Vere, I fear too far to turn". Both the Duchess and her husband Richard Bertie first opposed the marriage, and the Queen initially withheld her consent. Oxford's own opposition to the match was so vehement that for some time Mary's prospective husband feared for his life.[61] On 15 December the Duchess of Suffolk wrote to Burghley describing a plan she and Mary had devised to arrange a meeting between Oxford and his daughter.[62] Whether the scheme came to fruition is unknown. Mary and Bertie were married sometime before March of the following year.[63]

Oxford had sold his inherited lands in Cornwall, Staffordshire and Wiltshire prior to his continental tour. On his return to England in 1576 he sold his manors in Devonshire; by the end of 1578 he had sold at least seven more.

In 1577 Oxford invested £25 in the second of Martin Frobisher's expeditions in search of the Northwest Passage.[64] In July 1577 he asked the Crown for the grant of Castle Rising, which had been forfeited to the Crown due to his cousin Norfolk's attainder in 1572.[65] As soon as it was granted to him, he sold it, along with two other manors, and sank some £3,000 into Frobisher's third expedition.[66] The 'gold' ore brought back turned out to be worthless, and Oxford lost the entire investment.[67]

In the summer of 1578 Oxford attended the Queen's progress through East Anglia.[68] The royal party stayed at Lord Henry Howard's residence at Audley End. A contretemps occurred during the progress in mid-August when the Queen twice requested Oxford to dance before the French ambassadors, who were in England to negotiate a marriage between the 46-year-old Elizabeth and the younger brother of Henri III of France, the 24-year-old Duke of Anjou. Oxford refused on the grounds that he "would not give pleasure to Frenchmen".[69]

In April the Spanish ambassador, Bernardino de Mendoza, wrote to King Philip II of Spain that it had been proposed that if Anjou were to travel to England to negotiate his marriage to the Queen, Oxford, Surrey and Windsor should be hostages for his safe return.[70] Anjou himself did not arrive in England until the end of August, but his ambassadors were already in England. Oxford was sympathetic to the proposed marriage, Leicester and his nephew Philip Sidney were adamantly opposed to it. This antagonism may have triggered the famous quarrel between Oxford and Sidney on the tennis court at Whitehall. It is not entirely clear who was playing on the court when the fight erupted; what is undisputed is that Oxford called Sidney a 'puppy', while Sidney responded that "all the world knows puppies are gotten by dogs, and children by men". The French ambassadors, whose private galleries overlooked the tennis court, were witness to the display. Whether it was Sidney who next challenged Oxford to a duel or the other way around, Oxford did not take it further, and the Queen personally took Sidney to task for not recognizing the difference between his status and Oxford's. Christopher Hatton and Sidney's friend Hubert Languet also tried to dissuade Sidney from pursuing the matter, and it was eventually dropped.[71] The specific cause is not known, but in January 1580 Oxford wrote and challenged Sidney; by the end of the month Oxford was confined to his chambers, and was not released until early February.[72]

Oxford openly quarrelled with the Earl of Leicester about this time; he was confined to his chamber at Greenwich for some time 'about the libelling between him and my Lord of Leicester'.[73] In the summer of 1580, Gabriel Harvey, apparently motivated by a desire to ingratiate himself with Leicester,[74] satirized Oxford's love for things Italian in verses entitled Speculum Tuscanismi in Three Proper and Witty Familiar Letters.[75]

Although details are unclear, there is evidence that in 1577 Oxford attempted to leave England to see service in the French Wars of Religion on the side of King Henry III.[76] Like many members of older established aristocratic families in England, Oxford inclined to Catholicism; after his return from Italy he was reported to have embraced the religion, perhaps after being introduced to a seminary priest, Richard Stephens, by a distant kinsman, Charles Arundell.[77] But just as quickly, late in 1580 he denounced a group of Catholics, among them Arundell, Francis Southwell and Henry Howard, for treasonous activities and asking the Queen's mercy for his own, now repudiated, Catholicism.[78] Elizabeth characteristically delayed in acting on the matter and he was detained under house arrest for a short time.[79]

Leicester is credited for having "dislodged Oxford from the pro-French group", i.e., the group at court which favoured Elizabeth's marriage to the Duke of Anjou. The Spanish ambassador, Mendoza, was also of the view that Leicester was behind Oxford's informing on his fellow Catholics in an attempt to prevent the French marriage.[80] Peck concurs, stating that Leicester was "intent upon rendering Sussex's allies politically useless".[81][82]

The Privy Council ordered the arrest of both Howard and Arundell; Oxford immediately met secretly with Arundell to convince him to support his allegations against Howard and Southwell, offering him money and a pardon from the Queen.[83] Arundell refused Oxford's offer, and he and Howard initially sought asylum with Mendoza. Only after being assured they would be placed under house arrest in the home of a Privy Council member did the pair gave themselves up.[84] During the first weeks after their arrest they pursued a threefold strategy: they would admit to minor crimes, prove Oxford a liar by his offers of money to testify to his accusations, and demonstrate that their accuser posed the real danger to the Crown.[85] The extensive list to discredit Oxford included atheism, lying, heresy, disobedience to the crown, treason, murder for hire, sexual perversion and pederasty with his English and Italian servants ("buggering a boy that is his cook and many other boys"), habitual drunkenness, vowing to murder various courtiers and declaring that Elizabeth had a bad singing voice.[86]

Arundell and Howard cleared themselves of Oxford's accusations, although Howard remained under house arrest into August, while Arundell was not freed until October or November. None of the three was ever indicted or tried.[87] In the meantime Oxford was at liberty, and won a tournament at Westminster on 22 January. His page's speech at the tournament, describing Oxford's appearance as the Knight of the Tree of the Sun, was published in 1592 in a pamphlet entitled Plato, Axiochus.[88]

On 14 April 1589 Oxford was among the peers who found Philip Howard, Earl of Arundel, the eldest son and heir of Oxford's cousin, Thomas, Duke of Norfolk, guilty of treason.[89] Arundel later died in prison. Oxford later insisted that "the Howards were the most treacherous race under heaven" and that "my Lord Howard [was] the worst villain that lived in this earth."[90]

During the early 1580s it is likely that the Earl lived mainly at one of his Essex country houses, Wivenhoe, which was sold in 1584. In June 1580 he purchased a tenement and seven acres of land near Aldgate in London from the Italian merchant Benedict Spinola for £2,500. The property, located in the parish of St Botolphs, was known as the Great Garden of Christchurch and had formerly belonged to Magdalene College, Cambridge.[91] He also purchased a London residence, a mansion in Bishopsgate known as Fisher's Folly. According to Henry Howard, Oxford paid a large sum for the property and renovations to it.[92]

Oxford's triumph was short-lived. On 23 March 1581 Sir Francis Walsingham advised the Earl of Huntingdon that two days earlier Anne Vavasour, one of the Queen's maids of honour, had given birth to a son, and that "the Earl of Oxford is avowed to be the father, who hath withdrawn himself with intent, as it is thought, to pass the seas". Oxford was captured and imprisoned in the Tower, as was Anne and her infant, who would later be known as Sir Edward Vere.[93] Burghley interceded for him, and he was released from the Tower on 8 June, but he remained under house arrest until sometime in July.[94]

While Oxford was under house arrest in May, Thomas Stocker dedicated to him his Divers Sermons of Master John Calvin, stating in the dedication that he had been "brought up in your Lordship's father's house".[95] Oxford was still under house arrest in mid-July,[96] but took part in an Accession Day tournament at Whitehall on 17 November 1581.[97]

Oxford was banished from court until June 1583. He appealed to Burghley to intervene with the Queen on his behalf, but his father-in-law repeatedly put the matter in the hands of Sir Christopher Hatton.

At Christmas 1581 Oxford reconciled with his wife, Anne,[98] but his affair with Anne Vavasour continued to have repercussions. In March 1582 there was a skirmish in the streets of London between Oxford and Anne's uncle, Sir Thomas Knyvet. Oxford was wounded and his servant killed; reports conflict as to whether Kynvet was also injured.[99] There was another fray between Knyvet's and Oxford's retinues on 18 June, and a third six days later, where it was reported that Knyvet had "slain a man of the Earl of Oxford's in fight".[100] In a letter to Burghley three years later Oxford offered to attend his father-in-law at his house "as well as a lame man might";[101] it is possible his lameness was a result of injuries from that encounter. On 19 January 1585 Anne Vavasour's brother Thomas sent Oxford a written challenge; it appears to have been ignored.[102]

Meanwhile, the street-brawling between factions continued. Another of Oxford's men was slain that month,[103] and in March Burghley wrote to Sir Christopher Hatton about the death of one of Knyvet's men, thanking Hatton for his efforts "to bring some good end to these troublesome matters betwixt my Lord and Oxford and Mr Thomas Knyvet".[104]

On 6 May 1583, eighteen months after their reconciliation, Edward and Anne's only son was born, and died the same day. The infant was buried at Castle Hedingham three days later.[105]

After intervention by Burghley and Sir Walter Raleigh, Oxford was reconciled to the Queen and his two-year exile from court ended at the end of May on condition of his guarantee of good behaviour.[106] However, he never regained his position as a courtier of the first magnitude.[107]

Oxford's father maintained a company of players known as Oxford's Men, which was discontinued by the 17th Earl two years after his father's death.[108] Beginning in 1580, Oxford patronised both adult and boy companies, a company of musicians, and sponsored performances by tumblers, acrobats and performing animals.[109] Oxford's Men toured the provinces during 1580-87. Sometime after November 1583, Oxford bought a sublease of the premises used by the boy companies in the Blackfriars, and then gave it to his secretary, the writer John Lyly. Lyly installed Henry Evans, a Welsh scrivener and theatrical affectionado, as the manager of the new company of Oxford's Boys, composed of the Children of the Chapel and the Children of Paul's, and turned his talents to play writing until the end of June, 1584, when the original playhouse lease was voided by its owner.[110] In 1584–85, "the Earl of Oxford's musicians" received payments for performances in the cities of Oxford and Barnstaple. Oxford's Men (also known as Oxford's Players) stayed active until 1602.

On 6 April 1584, Oxford's daughter, Bridget, was born,[111] and two works were dedicated to him, Robert Greene's Gwydonius; The Card of Fancy, and John Southern's Pandora. Verses in the latter work mention Oxford's knowledge of astronomy, history, languages and music.[112]

Oxford's financial situation was steadily deteriorating. At this point he had sold almost all his inherited lands, which cut him off from his principal source of income.[113] Moreover, because the properties were security for his unpaid debt to the Queen in the Court of Wards, he had had to enter into a bond with the purchaser, guaranteeing that he would indemnify them if the Queen were to make a claim against the lands to collect on the debt.[114] To avoid this eventuality, the purchasers of his estates agreed to repay Oxford's debt to the Court of Wards in instalments.[115]

In 1585 negotiations were underway for King James to come to England to discuss the release of his mother, Mary, Queen of Scots, and in March Oxford was to be sent to Scotland as one of the hostages for James's safety.[116]

In 1586, Oxford petitioned the queen for an annuity to relieve his distressed financial situation. His father-in-law made him several large loans, and Elizabeth granted Oxford a £1,000 annuity, to be continued at her pleasure or until he could be provided for otherwise. This annuity was continued by James I.[117] De Vere's widow, Elizabeth, petitioned James I for an annuity of £250 on behalf of her 11-year-old son, Henry, to continue the £1,000 annuity granted to de Vere. Henry ultimately was awarded a £200 annuity for life.[118] James would continue the grant after her death.

Another daughter, Susan, was born on 26 May 1587. On 12 September, another daughter, Frances, is recorded to be buried at Edmonton. Her birthdate is unknown; presumably she was between one and three years of age.[119]

In July Elizabeth granted the Earl property which been seized from Edward Jones, who had been executed for his role in the Babington Plot. In order to protect the land from his creditors, the grant was made in the name of two trustees.[120] At the end of November it was agreed that the purchasers of Oxford's lands would pay his entire debt of some £3,306 due to Court of Wards over a five-year period, finishing in 1592.[119]

In July and August 1588 England was threatened by the Spanish Armada. On 28 July Leicester, who was in overall command of the English land troops, asked for instructions regarding Oxford, stating that "he seems most willing to hazard his life in this quarrel".[121] The Earl was offered government of the port of Harwich, but he thought it was unworthy and declined the post; Leicester was glad to be rid of him.[122]

In December 1588 Oxford had secretly sold his London mansion of Fisher's Folly to Sir William Cornwallis;[123] by January 1591 the author Thomas Churchyard was dealing with rent owing for rooms he had taken in a house on behalf of his patron.[124] Widowed, weary of the unsettled life of a courtier, and anxious to provide for his children and himself, Oxford wrote to Burghley outlining a plan to purchase the manoral lands of Denbigh, in Wales, if the Queen would consent, offering to pay for them by commuting his £1,000 annuity and agreeing to abandon his suit to regain the Forest of Essex.[125]

In the spring of 1591 the plan for the purchasers of his land to discharge his debt to the Court of Wards was disrupted by the Queen's taking extents, or writs allowing a creditor to temporarily seize a debtor's property.[126] Oxford complained that his servant Thomas Hampton had taken advantage of these writs by taking money from the tenants to his own use, and had also conspired with another of Oxford's servants to pass a fraudulent document under the Great Seal of England.[127] The Lord Mayor, Thomas Skinner, was also involved.[126] In June Oxford wrote to Burghley reminding him that he made an agreement with Elizabeth to relinquish his claim to the Forest of Essex for three reasons, one of which was the Queen's reluctance to punish Skinner's felony, which had caused Oxford to forfeit £20,000 in bonds and statutes.[128]

In 1586 Angel Day dedicated The English Secretary, the first epistolary manual for writing model letters in English, to Oxford,[129] and William Webbe praised him as "most excellent among the rest" of our poets in his Discourse of English Poetry.[130] In 1588 Anthony Munday dedicated to Oxford the two parts of his Palmerin d'Oliva.[131] The following year The Arte of English Poesie, attributed to George Puttenham, placed Oxford among a "crew" of courtier poets;[132] he also considered Oxford among the best comic playwrights of the day.[133] In 1590 Edmund Spenser addressed to Oxford the third of seventeen dedicatory sonnets which preface The Faerie Queene, celebrating his patronage of poets.[134][135] The composer John Farmer, who was in Oxford's service at the time, dedicated The First Set of Divers & Sundry Ways of Two Parts in One to him in 1591, noting in the dedication his patron's love of music.[136]

On 5 June 1588 Anne Cecil died at court of a fever; she was 31.[137]

On 4 July 1591 Oxford sold the Great Garden property at Aldgate to John Wolley and Francis Trentham.[138] The arrangement was stated to be for the benefit of Francis' sister, Elizabeth Trentham, one of the Queen's Maids of Honour, whom Oxford married later that year. On 24 February 1593 she gave birth to Oxford's only surviving son and heir, Henry de Vere, at Stoke Newington.[139]

Between 1591 and 1592 Oxford disposed of the last of his large estates; Castle Hedingham, the seat of his earldom, went to Lord Burghley, it was held in trust for Oxford's three daughters by his first marriage.[140] he commissioned his servant, Roger Harlakenden, to sell Colne Priory. Harlekenden contrived to undervalue the land, then purchase it (as well as other parcels that were not meant to be sold) under his son's name;[141] the suits Oxford brought against Harlakenden for fraud dragged out for decades and were never settled in his lifetime.[142]

Protracted negotiations to arrange a match between his daughter Elizabeth and Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton, did not result in marriage; in 19 November 1594, six weeks after Southampton turned 21, 'the young Earl of Southampton, refusing the Lady Vere, payeth £5000 of present money'.[143] In January Elizabeth married William Stanley, 6th Earl of Derby.[144] Derby had promised Oxford his new bride would have £1,000 a year, but the financial provision for her was slow in materializing.[145]

His father-in-law, Lord Burghley, died on 4 August 1598 at the age of 78, leaving substantial bequests to Oxford's two unmarried daughters, Bridget and Susan.[146] The bequests were structured in such a way to prevent Oxford from gaining control of his daughters' inheritance by assuming custody of them.[147]

Earlier negotiations for a marriage to William Herbert having fallen through, in May or June 1599 Oxford's 15-year-old daughter Bridget married Francis Norris.[148] Susan married Philip Herbert, 4th Earl of Pembroke and Montgomery.

From March to August 1595 Oxford actively importuned the Queen, in competition with Lord Buckhurst, to farm the tin mines in Cornwall.[149] He wrote to Burghley, enumerating years of fruitless attempts to amend his financial situation and complained: 'This last year past I have been a suitor to her Majesty that I might farm her tins, giving £3000 a year more than she had made.'[150] Oxford's letters and memoranda indicate that he pursued his suit into 1596, and renewed it again three years later, but was ultimately unsuccessful in obtaining the tin monopoly.[151]

In October 1595 Oxford wrote to his brother in law, Sir Robert Cecil, of friction between himself and the ill-fated Earl of Essex, partly over his claim to the property, terming him 'the only person that I dare rely upon in the court'. Cecil seems to have done little to further Oxford's interests in the suit.[152]

In March he was unable to go to court due to illness, in August he wrote to Burghley from Byfleet, where he gone for his health: 'I find comfort in this air, but no fortune in the court.'[153] In September Oxford again wrote of ill health, regretting he had not been able to pay attendance to the Queen. Two months later Rowland Whyte wrote to Sir Robert Sidney that 'Some say my Lord of Oxford is dead'.[154] Whether the rumour of Oxford's death was related to the illness mentioned in his letters earlier in the year is unknown. Oxford attended his last Parliament in December, perhaps another indication of failing health.[155]

On 28 April 1599 Oxford was sued by the widow of his tailor for a debt of £500 for services rendered some two decades earlier. Oxford claimed that not only had he paid the debt, but that the tailor had absconded with 'cloth of gold and silver and other stuff' belonging to him, worth £800. The outcome of the suit is unknown.[156]

In July 1600 Oxford wrote requesting Sir Robert Cecil's help in securing an appointment as Governor of the Isle of Jersey, once again citing the Queen's unfulfilled promises to him.[157] In February he again wrote for his support, this time for the office of President of Wales.[158] As with his former suits, Oxford was again unsuccessful; during this time he was listed on the Pipe Rolls as owing £20 for the subsidy.[159]

After the abortive Essex rebellion in February 1601, Oxford was 'the senior of the twenty-five noblemen' who rendered verdicts at the trials of Essex and Southampton for treason.[160] After Essex's co-conspirator Sir Charles Danvers was executed on in March,Oxford became involved in a complicated suit regarding lands which had reverted to the Crown by escheat at Danvers' attainder, a suit opposed by Danvers' kinsmen.[161] Oxford continued to suffer from ill health, which kept him from court.[162] On 4 December he was shocked that Cecil, who had encouraged him to undertake the Danvers suit on the Crown's behalf, had now withdrawn his support for it.[163] As with all his other suits aimed at improving his financial situation, this last of Oxford's suits to the Queen ended in disappointment.

In the early morning of 24 March 1603 Queen Elizabeth died without naming a successor. A few days beforehand Oxford at his house at Hackney had entertained the Earl of Lincoln, a nobleman known for erratic and violent behaviour similar to his host's.[164] Lincoln reported that after dinner Oxford spoke of the Queen's impending death, claiming that the peers of England should decide the succession, and suggested that since Lincoln had 'a nephew of the blood royal...Lord Hastings', he should be sent to France to find allies to support this claim.[165] Lincoln relayed this conversation to Sir John Peyton, Lieutenant of the Tower, who, knowing how physically and financially infirm Oxford was, refused to take Lincoln's report as a serious threat to King James' accession.[166]

Oxford expressed his grief at the late Queen's death, and his apprehension for the future.[167] These fears were unfounded; in letters to Cecil in May and June 1603 he again pressed his decades-long claim to have Waltham Forest and the house and park of Havering restored to him, and on 18 July the new King granted his suit.[168] On 25 July Oxford was among those who officiated at the King's coronation,[169] a month later James confirmed Oxford's annuity of £1,000.[170]

On 18 June 1604 Oxford granted the custody of the Forest of Essex to his son-in-law, Lord Norris, and his cousin, Sir Francis Vere.[171] He died six days later, of unknown causes, at King's Place, Hackney, and was buried on 6 July in the parish church of St. Augustine.[172] In spite of his bouts of ill health, he left no will.[173] Elizabeth's will requested that she be buried with her husband at Hackney.[174] Although this document and the parish registers confirm Oxford's burial there, his cousin Percival Golding later claimed that his body was interred at Westminster.[175]

Oxford's manuscript verses circulated widely in courtly circles. Three of his poems, "When wert thou born desire", "My mind to me a kingdom is", and "Sitting alone upon my thought", are among the texts that repeatedly appear in the surviving 16th-century manuscript miscellanies and poetical anthologies.[176] His earliest published poem was "The labouring man that tills the fertile soil" in Thomas Bedingfield's translation of Cardano's Comforte (1573). Bedingfield's dedication to Oxford is dated 1 January 1572. In addition to his poem, Oxford also contributed a commendatory letter setting forth the reasons why Bedingfield should publish. In 1576 eight of his poems were published in the poetry miscellany The Paradise of Dainty Devises. According to the introduction, all the poems in the collection were meant to be sung, but Oxford's were almost the only genuine love songs in the collection.[177] Oxford's "What cunning can express" was published in The Phoenix Nest (1593) and republished in England's Helicon (1600). "Who taught thee first to sigh alas my heart" appeared in The Teares of Fancie (1593). Brittons Bowre of Delight (1597) published "If women could be fair and yet not fond" under Oxford's name, but the attribution today is not considered certain.[178]

Contemporary critics praised Oxford as a poet and a playwright. William Webbe names Oxford as "the most excellent" of Elizabeth's courtier poets.[179] Puttenham's The Arte of English Poesie (1589), places Oxford first on a list of courtier poets and included an excerpt of "When wert thou born desire" as an example of "his excellance and wit".[179] Puttenham also says that "highest praise" should be given to Oxford and Richard Edwardes for "Comedy and Enterlude".[179] Francis Meres' Palladis Tamia (1598) names Oxford first of 17 playwrights listed by rank who are "the best for comedy amongst us", and Oxford appears first on a list of seven Elizabethan courtly poets "who honoured Poesie with their pens and practice" in Henry Peacham's 1622 The Compleat Gentleman.[179]

Steven W. May writes that Oxford was Elizabeth's "first truly prestigious courtier poet ... [whose] precedent did at least confer genuine respectability upon the later efforts of such poets as Sidney, Greville and Raleigh."[180] He describes Oxford as a "competent, fairly experimental poet working in the established modes of mid-century lyric verse" and his poetry as "examples of the standard varieties of mid-Elizabethan amorous lyric".[181] May says that Oxford’s youthful love lyrics, which have been described as experimental and innovative, "create a dramatic break with everything known to have been written at the Elizabethan court up to that time" by virtue of being lighter in tone and metre and more imaginative and free from the moralizing tone of the courtier poetry of the "drab" age, which tended to be occasional and instructive.[182] and describes one poem, in which the author cries out against "this loss of my good name", as a "defiant lyric without precedent in English Renaissance verse".[177]

May says that Oxford's poetry was "one man's contribution to the rhetorical mainstream of an evolving Elizabethan poetic" indistinguishable from "the output of his mediocre mid-century contemporaries".[183] C. S. Lewis said that de Vere's poetry shows "a faint talent", but is "for the most part undistinguished and verbose."[184] Nelson says that "contemporary observers such as Harvey, Webbe, Puttenham, and Meres clearly exaggerated Oxford's talent in deference to his rank. By any measure, his poems pale in comparison with those of Sidney, Lyly, Spenser, Shakespeare, Donne, and Jonson." He says that his known poems are "astonishingly uneven" in quality, ranging from the "fine" to the "execrable".[185]

Oxford was sought for his literary and theatrical patronage, and between 1564 and 1599 28 works were dedicated to him by such authors as Arthur Golding, John Lyly, Robert Greene and Anthony Munday.[5] Of his 33 dedications, thirteen appeared in original or translated works of literature, a higher percentage of literary works than other patrons of similar means. His lifelong patronage of writers, musicians and actors prompted May to term Oxford "a nobleman with extraordinary intellectual interests and commitments", whose biography exhibits a "lifelong devotion to learning".[186] He goes on to say that "Oxford's genuine commitment to learning throughout his career lends a necessary qualification to Stone's conclusion that De Vere simply squandered the more than 70,000 pounds he derived from selling off his patrimony...for which some part of this amount Oxford acquired a splendid reputation for nurture of the arts and sciences".[187]

The Oxfordian theory of Shakespeare authorship proposes that de Vere wrote the plays and poems traditionally attributed to William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon. Though the attribution has been rejected by nearly all academic Shakespeareans,[188] popular interest in the Oxfordian theory persists,[189] and his candidacy was featured in the 2011 Hollywood film Anonymous (directed by Roland Emmerich), in which he was played by Rhys Ifans.

From: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_de_Vere,_17th_Earl_of_Oxford


  • Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 58
  • Vere, Edward de by Sidney Lee
  • VERE, EDWARD de, seventeenth Earl of Oxford (1550–1604), born on 2 April 1550, was only son of John de Vere, sixteenth earl of Oxford [q. v.], by his second wife, Margaret, daughter of John Golding, and sister of Arthur Golding [q. v.], the translator of Ovid. Until his father's death he was known as Lord Bulbeck. He matriculated as an ‘impubes’ fellow-commoner of Queens' College, Cambridge, in November 1558. Subsequently he migrated to St. John's College. Bartholomew Clerke [q. v.] is reported to have acted as one of his tutors at Cambridge, and Thomas Smith, an illegitimate son of Sir Thomas Smith (1513–1577) [q. v.] seems to have studied with him. When his father died in 1562, he succeeded to the earldom of Oxford and other hereditary dignities, which included the office of lord great chamberlain of England. His father, who left a large estate, nominated his son one of his executors; but Edward was only twelve years old, and consequently became a royal ward. Sir William Cecil, the master of the court of wards, drew up special orders for his exercises and studies, and he became an inmate of Cecil's house in the Strand. There his uncle, Arthur Gold- ing, joined him in the capacity of tutor and receiver of his property. He was thoroughly grounded in French and Latin, but at the same time learnt to dance, ride, and shoot. While manifesting a natural taste for music and literature, the youth developed a waywardness of temper which led him into every form of extravagance, and into violent quarrels with other members of his guardian's household.
  • Oxford became a prominent figure at Elizabeth's court during his boyhood. He accompanied the queen to Cambridge in August 1564, when he stayed at St. John's College. He also attended the queen on her state visit to Oxford in September 1566. He was created M.A. of both universities (cf. Elizabethan Oxford, Oxford Hist. Soc. pp. 115, 173, 177). Meanwhile his guardian Cecil found his perverse humour a source of grave embarrassment. In July 1567 Cecil narrated in his diary how the earl inflicted a wound which proved fatal on Thomas Bryncknell, an under-cook at Cecil House. Luckily a jury was induced to deliver a verdict of felo de se, the man's death being attributed to his ‘running upon a poynt of a fence sword of the said erle.’ On 24 Oct. 1569 Oxford begged his guardian to obtain for him some military duty. He took his seat in the House of Lords on coming of age on 2 April 1571, and on the first three days of the following May he greatly distinguished himself in a solemn joust at the tilt, tourney, and barrier, which took place in the queen's presence at Westminster. In August he was appointed to attend the French envoy, Paul de Foix, who came to England to discuss the queen's projected marriage to the Duc d'Anjou. Burghley wrote hopefully at the time that ‘he found in the earl more understanding than any stranger to him would think’ (Hist. MSS. Comm. 4th Rep. p. 95). In December he married, with the queen's consent, Burghley's eldest daughter, Anne. The queen attended the ceremony, which was celebrated with much pomp.
  • Oxford did not prove a complaisant son-in-law. A few months after his marriage he hotly remonstrated with Burghley on the government's prosecution of Thomas Howard, fourth duke of Norfolk, who was distantly related to him through his kinswoman, Lady Anne Howard, wife of John de Vere, fourteenth earl of Oxford. He projected a hare-brained plot which came to nothing to rescue the duke from the Tower (cf. Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1547–80, p. 478), and he was currently reported to have threatened to ruin his wife by way of avenging himself on his father-in-law for helping to ruin the Duke of Norfolk (Dugdale, Baronage, i. 200). Next year (on 22 Sept. 1572) he entreated Burghley to procure him naval employment. But Burghley kept him at home in the belief that the queen, who admired his gallant bearing, was likely to make more adequate provision for him. ‘My Lord of Oxford,’ wrote Gilbert Talbot to his father, the Earl of Shrewsbury, on 11 May 1573, ‘is lately grown into great credit; for the queen's Majesty delighteth more in his personage, and his dancing and valiantness, than any other. I think Sussex doth back him all that he can; if it were not for his fickle head, he would pass any of them shortly’ (Lodge, Illustrations, ii. 16).
  • Court life continued to prove irksome, and in July 1574 he escaped to Flanders without the queen's knowledge or consent. Elizabeth was enraged at his contumacy, and gentlemen pensioners were despatched to bring him back. He returned by the 27th, and in August he and his father-in-law waited on the queen at Bristol to offer apology. The queen was conciliatory and showed the earl renewed attentions (cf. Wright, Elizabeth, i. 504, 507; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1547–80, pp. 484–5).
  • In 1575 Oxford realised his ambition of foreign travel, and, with the permission of the authorities, made his way to Italy. In October he reached Venice by way of Milan (ib. p. 504). He returned home in the following March laden with luxurious articles of dress and of the toilet. To him is assigned the credit of first introducing from Italy into this country embroidered gloves, sweet-bags, perfumed leather jerkins, and costly washes or perfumes (Stow). He ingratiated himself with the queen by presenting her with a pair of perfumed gloves trimmed with tufts or roses of coloured silk. A temporary alienation from his wife followed his Italian tour. He ‘was enticed,’ wrote Burghley in his ‘Diary’ (29 March 1576), ‘by certain lewd persons to be a stranger to his wife.’ Although the difference was arranged, his domestic relations were not thenceforth very cordial.
  • Oxford's eccentricities and irregularities of temper grew with his years. He attended the queen to Audley End on 26 July 1578, and was present next day when a deputation from the university of Cambridge offered verses and gloves to her and her attendants. Some of the verses were from the pen of Gabriel Harvey [q. v.], who in his official poem (‘Gratulationes Valdenses’) paid the earl conventional compliments, but there was a suspicion that Harvey at the same date held the earl up to ridicule in his satiric portrait of an italionated Englishman, with his affected apparel and gesture, which formed the main topic of Harvey's ‘Speculum Tuscanismi.’ According to Nash, Harvey moreover circulated privately some ‘very short but yet sharp [jibes] upon my Lord of Oxford, in a rattling bundle of English hexameters:’
    • A little apish hat, couched fast to the pate, like an oyster;
    • French cambric ruffs, deep with a witness, starched to the purpose:
    • Delicate in speech; quaint in array; conceited in all points;
    • In courtly guiles, a passing singular odd man.
  • Nash's story that the earl was so angered by Harvey's lampoons as to cause his libeller to be imprisoned in the Fleet is not confirmed, and was warmly denied by Harvey (Harvey, Works, ed. Grosart, i. 183; Nash, Works, ed. Grosart, passim). In September 1579 Oxford grossly insulted (Sir) Philip Sidney [q. v.] in the tennis-court at Whitehall by calling him a ‘puppy.’ Sidney had previously circulated a sensible reply to a melancholy ‘epigram’ by the earl. He now sent the earl a challenge, but the queen interposed in the earl's behalf, and, while forbidding a duel, ordered Sidney to offer an apology on the ground of Oxford's superior rank. Sidney declined to obey and retired from court (cf. Wright, Elizabeth, ii. 100–1). To avenge himself on Sidney, Oxford is said to have deliberately planned the murder of his antagonist, and he very reluctantly abandoned what he affected to regard as a ‘safe’ scheme of assassination (Fulke Grevillw, Life of Sidney, pp. 74–81; Fox-Bourne, Life of Sidney, pp. 242–50). At the ensuing new year the earl presented to the queen a splendid gift, consisting of ‘a fair juell of golde, being a shippe garnished fully with dyamonds and a meane perle pendant.’ Soon afterwards he received from the queen's hand a prize for the prowess that he displayed in a grand tilt at court.
  • In March 1581–2 his violence involved him in new difficulties and jeopardised his hold on the queen's favour. He engaged in a duel with Thomas Knyvet (afterwards Lord Knyvet), a gentleman of the privy chamber. Both were wounded, the earl dangerously. During the period that the earl was disabled the warfare between him and Knyvet was pursued by their respective retainers. A man was killed on each side. The queen's attention was called by Knyvet to the series of hostilities which he and his dependents suffered at the earl's hands. Oxford was peremptorily ordered to confine himself, as a prisoner, to his own house. Burghley's equanimity was seriously disturbed by the queen's anger. He appealed to Hatton and Ralegh to intercede with her in his son-in-law's behalf. Ralegh had been treated with characteristic disdain by the earl since he appeared at court, and, while expressing his readiness to help Burghley in rehabilitating the earl at court, declared that he was helping to cure a serpent which, on recovery, would sting his benefactor. At length, in May 1583, Ralegh persuaded the queen to pardon the earl his past offences, and the queen received him in audience when she visited Lord Burghley at Theobalds at the end of the month (Edwards, Ralegh, i. 59, ii. 21; Birch, Memoirs of Elizabeth, i. 22, 37). Subsequently Oxford was given some dignified official employment. In October 1586 he was appointed special commissioner for the trial of Mary Queen of Scots, and he took part in the proceedings at Fotheringay and in the Star-chamber at Westminster. In 1588 he joined, as a volunteer, the fleet which repelled the Spanish armada, and he was in the procession when the queen went to return thanks at St. Paul's on Sunday, 24 Nov. (cf. Laughton, Defeat of the Spanish Armada, Naval Records Soc., vol. i. pp. lxxvi–vii). He was one of the peers who on 14 April 1589 sat in judgment on Philip Howard, earl of Arundel, and joined in convicting the earl of high treason.
  • During these years Oxford's continued extravagance involved him in pecuniary difficulties. He first ‘sent his patrimony flying’ (to use Camden's phrase) by alienating to Burghley soon after his marriage his property of Hedingham. In September 1583 he parted with the ancestral estate of Earl's Colne to his steward, Roger Harlackenden, for 2,000l., and thenceforth he seemed to take delight in selling every acre of his land at ruinously low prices. Burghley made ample provision for Oxford's wife and children. But when the countess died on 6 June 1588 he showed little inclination to relieve his son-in-law's necessities. Oxford had squandered some part of his fortune upon men of letters whose bohemian mode of life attracted him. He was patron of a company of players who gave performances at Ipswich, Cambridge (in 1581), and other places. When the earl was himself in distress he had no scruple in seeking assistance of his poor literary friends. About 1591 Thomas Churchyard [q. v.], the poet, hired lodgings in London for the earl at the house of one Mrs. Penn, giving his own bond for payment. Oxford left Mrs. Penn's lodgings without meeting his bill, and Churchyard, in fear of arrest, sought sanctuary. Thence he wrote to the landlady protesting his honesty and told her that he had informed the queen of the earl's faithlessness (Wright, Elizabeth, ii. 414).
  • A second marriage soon afterwards with Elizabeth Trentham, one of the queen's maids of honour, seems to have temporarily restored Oxford's tottering fortune. In 1592 he petitioned for a monopoly to import into the country certain oils, wool, and fruits, but appears to have met with no success. The rest of his life was mainly spent in retirement. But he sat on the trials for high treason of Robert, earl of Essex, and Henry, earl of Southampton, on 19 Feb. 1600–1601. He subscribed the proclamation of James I, and at James I's coronation (25 July) he officiated as lord great chamberlain. Towards the end of his life he lived in Cannon Row, Westminster, whence he removed before his death to a house at Newington, Middlesex. There he died on 24 June 1604; he was buried in Hackney church on 6 July.
  • Oxford, despite his violent and perverse temper, his eccentric taste in dress, and his reckless waste of his substance, evinced a genuine interest in music, and wrote verse of much lyric beauty. Puttenham and Meres reckon him among ‘the best for comedy’ in his day; but, although he was a patron of a company of players, no specimens of his dramatic productions survive. A sufficient number of his poems is extant, however, to corroborate Webbe's comment that he was the best of the courtier-poets in the early years of Elizabeth's reign, and ‘that in the rare devises of poetry, he may challenge to himself the title of the most excellent among the rest.’ Twenty-three lyrical pieces have been identified as his work. Most of them first appeared in poetical anthologies signed ‘E. O.,’ or ‘E. of O.’ Seven were published in the ‘Paradise of Dainty Devices.’ Three poetic fragments are in ‘England's Parnassus’ (1600); two of these, ‘Doth Sorrow fret thy Soul?’ and ‘What Plague is greater than the Grief of Mind?’ together with another beginning ‘Faction that ever dwells,’ figured in the appendix to the publisher Newman's surreptitious edition of Sidney's ‘Astrophel and Stella’ (1591). Others are found in ‘Phœnix Nest’ (1593) or in ‘England's Helicon,’ 1600 (‘The Shepherd's Commendation of his Nymph’). The earl is noticed as one of the poets from whose works unspecified extracts figured in Bodenham's ‘Belvedere, or the Garden of the Muses,’ 1600. The most attractive of his poems, a dialogue between the poet and Desire, was first printed imperfectly in Puttenham's ‘Art of Poesy’ (1589), and then perfectly in Breton's ‘Bower of Delights’ (1597). Verses by Oxford ‘To the Reader,’ together with a prefatory letter from the earl's pen to the translator, were prefixed to Bedingfield's translation of Cardanus's ‘Comfort,’ 1576, which was ‘published by commandment of the right honourable the Earl of Oxenford.’ A few others of the earl's poems have been recovered by modern editors from the unprinted collection in the Rawlinson manuscripts in the Bodleian Library (No. 85). Hannah printed five of the earl's poems in his ‘Courtly Poets’ (1885, pp. 142–7). Dr. Grosart printed all the extant verse that has been assigned to Oxford in his ‘Miscellanies of the Fuller Worthies Library,’ 1872.
  • Among men of letters who acknowledged Oxford's patronage the chief were John Lyly, who dedicated to him ‘Euphues and his England’ (1584), and Edmund Spenser, who addressed a sonnet to him in the opening pages of his ‘Faerie Queene’ (1590). Of books of smaller account that were dedicated to him mention may be made of the translation of Justinus's abridgment of Trogus Pompeius by his uncle, Arthur Golding (1564), Underdown's rendering of Heliodorus (1569), Thomas Twine's translation of Humphrey Lhuyd's ‘Breviary of Britayne’ (1573), Anthony Munday's ‘Galien of France’ (1579? lost), Zelauto (1580), and ‘Palmerin d'Oliva’ (1588), Southern's ‘Diana’ (1584), and John Farmer's song-books (1591, 1599).
  • A portrait of Oxford is at Welbeck, and has been reproduced in Mr. Fairfax Murray's catalogue of the pictures there (1894, p. 147). Another portrait—a small bust—was lent by Dr. John Harley to the Tudor Exhibition in 1890.
  • Oxford's first wife, Anne, elder daughter of William Cecil, lord Burghley, died at the queen's palace at Greenwich on 6 June 1588, and was buried in state at Westminster Abbey on 25 June. A Latin epitaph is preserved in Cottonian MS. Julius F. x. f. 132. She was a woman of notable cultivation, and was author of ‘Foure epytaphes, after the death of her young sonne the Lord Bulbecke,’ &c. which, together with ‘the fowre last lynes of [two] other that she made also,’ were printed in the volume of poems by John Soowthern [q. v.] called ‘Diana,’ 1584. By her the earl had issue: Elizabeth, born 2 July 1575, who married at Greenwich, on 26 Jan. 1594, William Stanley, earl of Derby, and died at Richmond on 10 March 1626–7; a son, born in May 1583, who died a few hours after birth (Birch, Memoirs, i. 32); Bridget, born 6 April 1584, who was married to Francis, lord Norris (afterwards Earl of Berkshire) [q. v.]; Frances, buried at Edmonton 12 Sept. 1587; and Susan, born 26 May 1587, who was first wife of Philip Herbert, earl of Montgomery, and died 1628–1629.
  • Oxford's second wife was Elizabeth, daughter of Thomas Trentham of Rocester Priory, Staffordshire; she was buried at Hackney on 3 Jan. 1612–13. By her he was father of Henry de Vere, eighteenth earl [q. v.]
  • [Cooper's Athenæ Cantabr. ii. 389–92, 554; Cal. State Papers, Dom.; Wright's Queen Elizabeth; Dugdale's Baronage, i. 199–200; Markham's Fighting Veres; Nicholas's Life of Sir Christopher Hatton; Martin A. S. Hume's Life of Lord Burghley; Walpole's Royal and Noble Authors; Cal. Hatfield Papers.]
  • From: https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Vere,_Edward_de_(DNB00)


  • Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford
  • M, #11736, b. 12 April 1550, d. 24 June 1604
  • Last Edited=30 May 2014
  • Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford was born on 12 April 1550. He was the son of John de Vere, 16th Earl of Oxford and Margery Golding. He married, firstly, Anne Cecil, daughter of William Cecil, 1st Baron of Burghley and Mildred Cooke, on 19 December 1571.2 He married, secondly, Elizabeth Trentham, daughter of Thomas Trentham and Jane Sneyd, circa 1591. He died on 24 June 1604 at age 54.
  • He and Ann Vavasour were associated.3 He gained the title of 17th Earl of Oxford.
  • Child of Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford and Ann Vavasour
    • Edward de Vere3
  • Children of Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford and Anne Cecil
    • Lady Elizabeth de Vere+4 d. 10 Mar 1626/27
    • Lady Susan de Vere+5 d. c Jan 1628/29
    • Lady Bridget de Vere+6 b. 6 Apr 1584, d. bt Dec 1630 - Mar 1631
  • Child of Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford and Elizabeth Trentham
    • Henry de Vere, 18th Earl of Oxford b. 24 Feb 1593, d. c Jun 1625
  • Citations
  • [S130] Wikipedia, online http;//www.wikipedia.org. Hereinafter cited as Wikipedia.
  • [S37] BP2003 volume 3, page 4153. See link for full details for this source. Hereinafter cited as. [S37]
  • [S3409] Caroline Maubois, "re: Penancoet Family," e-mail message to Darryl Roger Lundy, 2 December 2008. Hereinafter cited as "re: Penancoet Family."
  • [S6] G.E. Cokayne; with Vicary Gibbs, H.A. Doubleday, Geoffrey H. White, Duncan Warrand and Lord Howard de Walden, editors, The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain and the United Kingdom, Extant, Extinct or Dormant, new ed., 13 volumes in 14 (1910-1959; reprint in 6 volumes, Gloucester, U.K.: Alan Sutton Publishing, 2000), volume I, page 131. Hereinafter cited as The Complete Peerage.
  • [S6] Cokayne, and others, The Complete Peerage, volume III, page 44.
  • [S37] BP2003. [S37]
  • From: http://www.thepeerage.com/p1174.htm#i11736


  • Edward De VERE (17° E. Oxford)
  • Born: 12 Apr 1550, Castle Hedingham, Essex, England
  • Acceded: 1562
  • Died: 24 Jun 1604, King's Hold, Hackney, Middlesex, England
  • Buried: 6 Jul 1604, Hackney, Middlesex, England
  • Notes: See his Biography. http://www.tudorplace.com.ar/Bios/EdwardDeVere(17EOxford).htm
  • Father: John De VERE (16° E. Oxford)
  • Mother: Margery GOLDING (C. Oxford)
  • Married: Anne CECIL (C. Oxford) 19 Dec 1571, Westminster Abbey
  • Children:
    • 1. Elizabeth De VERE (C. Derby)
    • 2. Son De VERE (B. Bolebec)
    • 3. Bridget De VERE (B. Norreys of Rycote)
    • 4. Susan De VERE (C. Pembroke)
    • 5. Frances De VERE
  • Married 2: Elizabeth TRENTHAM (C. Oxford) 1591
  • Children:
    • 6. Henry De VERE (18° E. Oxford)
  • Associated with: Anne VAVASOUR
  • Children:
    • 7. Edward De VERE (Sir)
  • From: http://www.tudorplace.com.ar/VERE.htm#Edward De VERE (17° E. Oxford)


  • Edward de Vere
  • Birth: Apr. 12, 1550 Halstead, Essex, England
  • Death: Jun. 24, 1604 Hackney, Greater London, England
  • Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford and Lord Great Chamberlain of England. He was an Elizabethan courtier, playwright, poet, sportsman, patron of numerous writers. Because his father died when he was a minor, the new Earl became a royal ward. The wardship system involved his lands being used by the crown for its own profit, although ostensibly to the ward's benefit. He received legal training at Gray's Inn after having attended Queen's College, Cambridge, and was awarded Master of Arts degrees by Oxford and Cambridge universities. In 1571, at the age of 21, Lord Edward regained control of his estates and married Anne Cecil, daughter of Lord Burghley, for 40 years the Queen's Principal Secretary of State and later Lord Treasurer, in whose house he had been placed for his education during his minority. On 12 April 1571 Oxford reached the age of majority, and took his seat in the House of Lords.
  • Family links:
  • Parents:
  • John de Vere (1516 - 1562)
  • Spouses:
  • Anne Cecil De Vere (1556 - 1588)
  • Elizabeth Trentham de Vere (1559 - 1612)*
  • Children:
    • Elizabeth de Vere Stanley (1575 - 1627)*
    • Bridget de Vere Norris (1584 - 1631)*
    • Susan de Vere Herbert (1587 - 1629)*
    • Henry de Vere (1593 - 1625)*
  • Burial: St John-at-Hackney Churchyard, Hackney, London Borough of Hackney, Greater London, England
  • Find A Grave Memorial# 35858905
  • From: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=35858905




Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford was born on 12 April 1550. He was the son of John de Vere, 16th Earl of Oxford and Margery Golding. He married, firstly, Anne Cecil, daughter of William Cecil, 1st Baron of Burghley and Mildred Cooke, on 19 December 1571.2 He married, secondly, Elizabeth Trentham, daughter of Thomas Trentham and Jane Sneyd, circa 1591. He died on 24 June 1604 at age 54.

    He and Ann Vavasour were associated.3 He gained the title of 17th Earl of Oxford.

Child of Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford and Ann Vavasour

Edward de Vere3

Children of Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford and Anne Cecil

Lady Elizabeth de Vere+4 d. 10 Mar 1626/27

Lady Susan de Vere+5 d. c Jan 1628/29

Lady Bridget de Vere+6 b. 6 Apr 1584, d. bt Dec 1630 - Mar 1631

Child of Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford and Elizabeth Trentham

Henry de Vere, 18th Earl of Oxford b. 24 Feb 1593, d. c Jun 1625


[S130] Wikipedia, online http;//www.wikipedia.org. Hereinafter cited as Wikipedia.

[S37] BP2003 volume 3, page 4153. See link for full details for this source. Hereinafter cited as. [S37]

[S3409] Caroline Maubois, "re: Penancoet Family," e-mail message to Darryl Roger Lundy, 2 December 2008. Hereinafter cited as "re: Penancoet Family."

[S6] G.E. Cokayne; with Vicary Gibbs, H.A. Doubleday, Geoffrey H. White, Duncan Warrand and Lord Howard de Walden, editors, The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain and the United Kingdom, Extant, Extinct or Dormant, new ed., 13 volumes in 14 (1910-1959; reprint in 6 volumes, Gloucester, U.K.: Alan Sutton Publishing, 2000), volume I, page 131. Hereinafter cited as The Complete Peerage.

[S6] Cokayne, and others, The Complete Peerage, volume III, page 44.

[S37] BP2003. [S37]

Source; http://www.thepeerage.com/p1174.htm#i11736

Added by; HRH Prince Kieren de Muire Von Drakenberg

view all 13

Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford's Timeline

April 12, 1550
Castle Hedingham, Essex, England
July 2, 1575
Age 25
Hertfordshire, England
March 21, 1581
Age 30
April 6, 1584
Age 33
May 26, 1587
Age 37
Oxford, Oxfordshire, England
September 12, 1587
Age 37
Edmondton, London, Middlesex, England
February 24, 1593
Age 42
Stoke Newington, Middlesex, England
June 24, 1604
Age 54
Kings Place, Hackney, London, England