Edward De VERE

(17th 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: The Complete Peerage vol.X,p.250-254. B. Bolebec.

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)


Vere,Edward(17E.Oxford)01.jpg (99399 bytes)

Edward De Vere,

seventeen Earl of Oxford

Duke of Portland Collection

at Welbeck Abbey


Born on 12 Apr, 1550, at Castle Hedingham in Essex. Son of John De Vere, 16 Earl of Oxford, and his second wife, Margery Golding.

He may have lived in the household of Sir Thomas Smythe from 1559 until 1562. 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 wards benefit. He was installed at Sir William Cecil house on 3 Sep.

Edward Manners, the young Earl of Rutland, having just lost his father, was now, like Oxford, a Ward of the Crown, and so was sent to live with Cecil who would see to the completion of his education. A letter from Cecil to the Countess of Rutland establishes his move to join Cecil as taking place in Jan 1564 where he was to meet Oxford at Hitcham near Burnham. A year older than Oxford, Rutlands and Oxfords fathers had been friends, Rutlands mother having married his father at the same ceremony in which Oxfords father married her sister, both daughters of Ralph Neville, Earl of  Westmorland. For the first time in his life, the brotherless Oxford, now thirteen, had a companion of his own age and, what may have been more important in some ways, his own rank.

Margery, Oxford's mother, remarried to Charles Tyrrell by 1566. Oxford was on friendly terms with Tyrrell, as revealed by Tyrrell's will. Oxford had given him a black horse, and in his will Tyrrell granted him the return of his horse.

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. Thomas Twyne summed up the sense of Oxford's special distinction by describing him as "...beynge, as yet, but in your flower, and tender age, and generally hoped, and accompted of in time, to become the cheefest stay of this your commonwelth", while Sir George Buc recalled hearing "...four grave and... honorable persons (who knew this erl...) say and affirm he was much more like... to acquir a new erldome then to wast & lose an old erldom...".

On 23 Jul 1567, while practicing fencing with Edward Baynam, a tailor, in the backyard of Cecil's house in the Strand, the seventeen-year-old Oxford killed an unarmed undercook named Thomas Brincknell with a thrust to the thigh. A packed jury instructed by Cecil found that Brincknell had caused his own death by wilfully hurling himself on Oxford's rapier. Condemned as a suicide, Brincknell was denied Christian burial, his pregnant widow Agnes and three-year-old son Quyntyn stripped of their assets and abandoned to her relatives and the parish church. Thus logic and justice died that a hot-tempered young Earl might walk free.

Here Oxford learned a lesson which was to last the next thirty years of his life: he could commit no crime so vile that Cecil - soon to become the powerful Lord Burghley - would not personally forgive and persuade others to forget.

In 1569, at the age of nineteen, Oxford thanked Cecil for his good offices:

"For the which althothe I haue fownd yow to not account of late of me as in time tofore yet not wythstandinge that strangnes yow shall se at last in me that I will aknowlege and not be vngratfull vnto yow for them and not to deserue so ill a thowght in yow that they were ill bestowed in me. But at this present desiringe yow yf I haue done any thinge amise that I haue merited yowre offence imput to my yong yeares and lak of experience to know my friendes"

This was only the first of many times that Oxford would confess his misconduct but put the blame on his friends.

By 1569, Sir William had bethroted his thirteen-year-old daughter, Anne, to Phillip Sidney. But he could not arrive to a financial agreement with the father of Phillip, Sir Henry Sidney. By the summer of 1571, Cecil (now Lord Burghley) embarked on a new project. In a letter sent to Paris to the young Earl of Rutland, who also had hopes of becoming his son-in-law, Cecil broke the news that Anne was bethroted to the Earl of Oxford. Burghley persuaded himself that 'there is much more in him of understanding than any stranger to him would think'. This was a mistaken judgement. Sir William had allowed his normal caution and integrity to be overruled by admiration for his ward's high rank. On 19 Dec 1571, at the age of twenty-one, Lord Edward regained control of his estates and married Anne Cecil. Contemporary comments on Anne Cecil's marriage suggest that she took some initiative, irresistibly beguiled by the glittering propect of becoming the Countess of that handsome and rich Earl; and that her doting father was persuaded to let her have what she wanted. Oxford soon began sleeping in other beds, and Anne became pregnant in Oct 1574, only by her personal intervention in the household arrangements at Hampton Court - in effect, giving Oxford no option but to spend the night in her bedchamber.

On 25 Mar 1573 Oxford's servant George Brown killed George Sanders, a London merchant, on Shooter's Hill near Greenwich, and mortally wounded John Bean. The disclosure of Brown's prior romantic entanglement with Sanders' wife led to a total of four executions by hanging. Oxford's half-uncle Arthur Golding quickly published a sanitized account of what was England's most notorious murder since 1551. Both incidents earned a place in Holinshed's Chronicle and subsequently on the London stage, the 1551 murder as Arden of Feversham (1592), the 1573 murder as A Warning for Fair Women (1599).

On 20 May three more of Oxford's men, Danye Wylkyns, John Hannam, and Maurice Dennis alias Deny the Frenchman, attacked two of Burghley's men with muskets near Gravesend in Kent.

De Vere was, in his earlier years, a favourite at court, where he seems to have mostly lived when young. At 25, he undertook a tour of France, Germany and Italy in 1575 and was abroad for some sixteen months. The Earl flirted with Catholicism but in late 1580 he denounced a group of Catholic friends to the Queen, accusing them of treasonous activities and asking her mercy for his own, now repudiated, Catholicism.

In 1574 Oxford bolted to the Low Countries. Returning under duress, he managed to persuade Queen Elizabeth to let him travel to more southern climes. In 1575 Oxford visited Italy, where he spent over 4000, and wallowed in sexual infamy.

Oxford spent approximately ten months, from May 1575 to Mar 1576, in Italy, making Venice his base of operations. Sir Henry Wotton reported in 1617 that Oxford had built himself a house while in Venice. Oxford was accompanied on his journey to Italy by Nathaniel Baxter, who in 1606, two years after Oxford's death, published a poem, entitled 'Sidney's Ouriana', in which he reported, from personal knowledge, that Oxford had led a life of "infamie" in Venice, from which he was recalled by a higher power. While in Venice, Oxford consorted with a Venetian courtesan named Virginia Padoana, a prostitute whose identity is confirmed by contemporary Venetian legal documents.

Oxford's association with Virginia Padoana is recorded in a letter written by Sir Stephen Powle to John Chamberlain, 21 Sep 1587.

'... Yf to be well neighboured be no smalle parte of happines I may repute my self highly fortunate: for I am lodged emongst a great nomber of Signoraes. Isabella Bellochia in the next howse on my right hand: And Virginia Padoana, that honoreth all our nation for my Lord of Oxfords sake, is my neighbour on the lefte side: Ouer my head hath Lodovica Gonzaga the Frenche kinges m{ist}ris her howse: you thinck it peraduenture preposterous in Architecture to haue hir lye ouer me. I am sorry for it, but I can not remedye it nowe: Pesarina w{i}th hir sweet entertainment & braue discoorse is not 2 Canalls of[f]. Ancilla (Mr Hattons handmayde) is in the next Campo: Paulina Gonzaga is not farre of[f]. Prudencia Romana with hir courtly trayne of frenche gentlemen euery nighte goeth a spasso by my Pergalo. As for Imperia Romana hir date is out w{hi}ch florished in your tyme. I must of force be well hallowed emongst so many Saints. But in troath I am a frayde they doe condemne me of heresye, for settinge vp so fewe tapers on their high Altars...'

Oxford also consorted with a sixteen-year-old Venetian choirboy named Orazio Cogno. Oxford brought Orazio back to London with him, where he remained with Oxford for approximately one year before returning to Venice. In 1580-81 Oxford was accused of pederasty with Orazio, with another Italian boy named Rocco, and with other boys as well. Reports were abroad that two noble gentlemen from Polonia had been killed in Padua, and that the blame was being laid on 'Gentiluomini Inglesi'; these reports, however, were not to be credited.

On 24 Sep 1575, Oxford himself reported to Burghley that he had just returned to Venice, where he was experiencing a fever which had hindered his travel. He wrote of Italy, "I am glad I haue sene it", which implies that he had travelled more or less extensively over the summer. He had sent one of his servants back to England. Moreover, one Luke Atslow, who had been his servant, had gone over to the Roman church. On 3 Jan 1576 Oxford wrote Burghley from Siena. On 23 Mar Benedetto Spinola informed Burghley that he had received a letter from his brother (Pasquino) at Venice, dated 26 Feb, reporting that Oxford would travel home by way of Lyons, and would set out from Venice after Carnival. On 21 Mar Valentine Dale wrote from Paris that Oxford had arrived there. On 31 Mar Francis Peyto wrote Burghley from Milan stating that Oxford had passed by that way. The trophies he brought with him to England in Apr 1576 included a pair of silk gloves for the Queen, the choirboy, and syphilis.

Oxford rejected his wife on trumped up charges and refused to live with her for a period of more than five years. He denied paternity of the nine-month-old daughter he earlier acknowledged. Abandoning his wife and daughter to Burghley's care, he set up household with his choirboy in Broadstreet. The marriage, although it produced three surviving daughters, was not happy; Anne died in 1588. Three of the remaining daughters, Elizabeth, Bridget and Susan, would marry into the nobility, the latter to the Earl of Montgomery, one of two noblemen to whom William Shakespeare's First Folio was dedicated.

Throughout the 70's and 80's the Earl often requested military duty, yet he never gained the command of any sizable body of troops, nor was he actively engaged aside from a month or two at the time of the Northern Rebellion, an equally brief service in the Low Countries in 1585. Between 1575 and 1586, Oxford divested him-self of most of his lands so that, as early as 1583, Burghley was describing the Earl as practically bankrupt, with a household staff reduced to only four liveried servants. He was never entrusted with a diplomatic mission, entertainment of foreign dignitaries, nor office at court or in the government at large. His sole distinction in affairs of the realm was his hereditary post as Lord Great Chamberlain, an office with very real if ceremonial duties, which traditionally included his presence at court during the five great feasts of the year, specific functions at a coronation or the creation of peers, attendance upon the sovereign in processions to Parliament, and jurisdiction over Westminster Hall at the time of a coronation, trial of peers, "or any public solemnity". Ironically, Oxford's claim to this office was a fraudulent one. His grandfather held the Chamberlainship as a grant from the Crown which expired upon his death. Edward's father, John, sixteenth Earl of Oxford, claimed the office at the time of Elizabeth's coronation and, since there was no counterclaim, enjoyed the title by default, as did the Seventeenth Earl. At the coronation of Edward VI, however, the Earl of Warwick had officiated as Lord Great Chamberlain, an honor not even sought by a De Vere on that occasion.

In Jul 1577 William Weekes murdered William Sankey, a former servant of Oxford's, and was subsequently hanged for the crime. Oxford's confidante Henry Howard called it a contract murder for which Oxford paid 100. In late Aug 1579 Oxford pulled rank on Sir Phillip Sidney at the Greenwich tennis court. According to Fulke Grevilles account of the story, the young Earl appeared upon the court while Sidney was at play and commanded him to leave. Sidney answered provokingly, Greville says, whereupon Oxford grew angry and, before the onlooking French marriage-commissioners, denounced him 'by the name of Puppy'. Sidney asked him to repeat it, and he did, this time more loudly, upon which Sidney gave him the lie direct. Then, after a moments silence, Sidney and his friends strode from the court. Having waited a day in vain for Oxfords challenge, Sidney sent the Earl a reminder of honours obligations, and Oxford, thus jostled, responded in honour. Queen Elizabeth placed Oxford under house arrest from 29 Jan to 11 Feb 1580 for sending Sidney a written challenge.

Oxford, though he was Lord Burghleys son-in-law, was suspected of being secretly a Catholic. The group of Catholic courtiers included the Lords Windsor and Compton, the Lords Charles and Thomas Howard, George Gifford, Francis Southwell, Henry Noel, Arthur Gorges, William Tresham, and William Cornwallis, among others, most of them practising Roman Catholics, as well as others who came less often to Court, like the Earls of Northumberland and Southampton, Thomas Lord Paget, and Phillip Howard, the Duke of Norfolks son and heir. The Oxford-Howard circle  reached an apogee of sorts in the summer of 1579, when Simier had so won the Queen, Anjou was making his first visit into the realm.

The tennis court quarrel itself was symptomatic of the factional tension between these Catholics, who were solidly allied to Burghleys and Thomas Radcliffe, Earl of Sussexs support of the Duke of Anjous marriage suit to the Queen, and Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester - Francis Walsingham party (that is, Sidneys party), which was solidly opposed to the marriage. But the Earl of Leicester was in disgrace following the revelation of his secret marriage to Lady Essex. When the French marriage negotiations finally fell apart the Catholic group at Court became a sinking ship. Perhaps because of their very isolation and vulnerability, drifted into more and more questionable intrigues, chiefly in aid of the Queen of Scots but involving also the Spanish Ambassador, Bernardino de Mendoza. Over Christmas 1580, however, Oxford fell out with his colleagues and was induced to join the Earl of Leicester, who saw in this defection a chance to undermine Sussexs support; for to have several advocates of marriage exposed as practising Catholics. Accordingly, at Leicesters instance, on 16 Dec 1580 Oxford presented allegations to the Queen charging his kinsmen with various treasons. Howard, Arundell, and Francis Southwell were promptly arrested. Oxford was also detained, and altogether the business which dragged on for some time, became a sordid round of wild accusations in all directions.

A list of charges to be made against Oxford, found in Lord Henrys hand, cites:

'...His practise to murder Sidney in his bedde and to scape by barge, with calivers ready for the purpose...'

And from Arundell:

'...His savage and inhumayn practice at Grenewidge to make awaye Phillipe Sidneye...'

De Vere's tendency toward violence erupted at the age of seventeen when he killed Thomas Brincknell. Oxford so vehemently opposed the betrothal of his sister, Mary, to Peregrine Bertie, Lord Willoughby, that Bertie feared for his life, and the Earl not only quarreled with Sidney on the tennis court but may have planned his assassination as well. Arundell considered Arthur Gorges 'my Cosine', and claimed Oxford had tried to have Gorges murdered, too, on the Richmond green. In the first flush of his special attentions from the Queen, Oxford was noticeably disadvantaged by what Gilbert Talbot termed his "fyckle hed", a phrase which was to prove oracular.

In 1580-81, in letters directed to members of the Privy Council, Henry Howard and Charles Arundell accused Oxford of numerous crimes: murder, necromancy, athiesm, lying, drunkenness, and sedition, and included multiple instances of pederasty. Having sodomized an Italian servant of his named Auratio or Horatio; they reported that the boy had left Oxford's employ without Oxford's permission, citing sexual abuse as his reason.

The identity of this Italian servant and many details of his life with Oxford are verified by a deposition which he gave to the Inquisition on 27 Aug 1577, shortly after his return to Venice. He was then seventeen, which means that when Oxford picked him up in early 1576, he was fifteen or sixteen.

The deposition reveals that the servant's full name was Orazio Cogno. "Millort de Voxfor", who attended the Greek Church in Venice (not a Greek Orthodox church, but rather a church known as a haven of unorthodoxy), first noticed Orazio singing at the church of S. Maria Formosa. Orazio consulted his father (Francisco Cogno) and his mother about the Earl's subsequent invitation to accompany him back to England, and they advised him to accept. Orazio moved into Oxford's house in Venice on "Zuoba Grassa", the Thursday before the beginning of Lent, which in 1576 fell on 1 Mar; the party left Venice for England on the following "luni de carneval", or Monday before Ash Wednesday, that is, on 5 Mar.

Orazio spent 11 months in England, presumably from Apr 1576 to Mar (or perhaps only Feb) 1577, living in Oxford's house in London "per Paggio" (as a page). Since Oxford let everyone in his household live as he wished, Orazio could live as a Catholic, attending mass "in the houses of the Ambassadors of France and of Portugal".

In Venice and on the outbound journey through Italy and France, Oxford's entourage ate fish on Catholic fast days. In England, Oxford and his household ate meat on fast days, but Orazio was allowed to eat fish, as were 2 other servants in the household who were Catholics. According to Orazio, Oxford "does not live as a Catholic".

Although Orazio served Oxford officially as a page, he was by profession a musician. On one occasion he sang before Queen Elizabeth, who urged him to convert to the reformed religion. In London he made the acquaintance of "Ambroso da Venetia... che e musicho della Regina de ingelterra" (who is a musician to the Queen), and with five brothers from Venice who were "musici della Regina et fano flauti et viole" - evidently members of the extensive Bassano family.

Orazio was being interrogated on suspicion of heresy; the question of sodomy did not arise during the trial. Nevertheless, the general circumstances of Orazio's residence in Oxford's house during Oxford's complete separation from his wife, Anne Cecil, are fully compatible with the testimony of Henry Howard and Charles Arundell.

In one particular the fit is exact. Orazio was asked by the inquisitors if he had licence to leave. Orazio replied: "No; he would not have allowed me to leave". This statement correlates perfectly with the testimony of Howard and Arundell that Orazio had left Oxford's employ without Oxford's permission, citing sexual abuse as his reason. Oxford may have had a psychological need, but he had no legal right to deny Orazio permission to leave his employ at any time.

In Arundells 'Declaration of the Earell of Oxfordes detestable vices, and unpure life', Walter Raleigh is listed along with many of these men as able to confirm having heard Oxfords gross self-gratulant lying, 'with divers other Ientillmen that hathe accompanid him'; they were often 'driven to rise from his table laugheinge'. Howard, Arundell, Southwell, and Raleigh were dining in Oxfords chambers at Greenwich Palace when the Earl drunkenly insisted that the French had a tradition of 'crownenge none but cockscomes'. These four and Lord Windsor were present when Oxford asserted that Joseph was a wittol and the Blessed Virgin a whore, 'and Mr. Harrye Noell will saye that Rawlie told it him'; and again, Raleigh was present at Richmond when Oxford recited a whole catalogue of blasphemies.

Oxford is also alleged to have sought to kill Raleigh himself:

'...Lastlie yf him selfe lie not, he hathe practisid with a man of his one that nowe serves in Ireland to kill Rawlie when ever he goes[?] to any skirmishe, and this he termes a brave vendetta, and of this intent of his I have advertised Rawlie...'

Another document in Arundells hand elaborates further by citing Oxfords 'practice with certayne soldiers to kill Dennye, Rawlie, and [John] Cheke in Ireland' and 'his laying wayte for Rawlies life before his goinge into Ireland'. When accused by Oxford of having had intelligence from the Irish rebels, Arundell replied that he had received thence no letters save 'in causes of frinshippe' from the Earl of Ormonde (another great friend of the Howard circle whenever he was in England) and from Raleigh. Arundell admitted to having heard of Oxfords silly boast that Anjou had offered him ten thousand crowns a year to come to France; 'other knoledge have I none but that Rawlie told me, and what my answer was Rawlie [can] testefie'. From these documents and others like them emerges a picture of a set of boon companions who had passed whole days in conversation at Richmond and Hampton Court, in Oxfords chambers at Greenwich and Whitehall, in his house in Bread Street, and in the Horsehead in Cheapside, but had now fallen to recriminations.

Oxford was retained under house arrest for a short time and, following the birth to Anne Vavasour of an illegitimate child fathered by him on 21 Mar 1581 (Sir Edward Vere), was briefly in the Tower of London.

He had seduced the beautiful Anne Vavasour, and "on Tuesday at night Anne Vavasour was brought to bed of a son in the maidens' chamber. The E. of Oxeford is avowed to be the father" (Letter of Walsingham, 23 Mar 1580/1, Hist. MSS. Com., Hastings MSS, vol. ii, p. 29). The Earl was under restraint for some weeks and not admitted to Court until Jun 1583. Oxford and his followers reaped the fruits of this scandal in a duel, and a series of frequent and fatal brawls lasting over several years.

The birth of this child led to a long-running feud with Sir Thomas Knyvett, uncle of Anne Vavasour, which resulted in the deaths of three followers of De Vere and Knyvett as well as injury to both men. The infant son was buried on 9 May 1583. During the early 1580s it is likely that the Earl lived mainly at one of his Essex country houses, Wivenhoe, but this was sold in 1584. After this it is probable that he followed the court again and passed some time in his one remaining London house.

Vavasour,Anne.jpg (29416 bytes)

Anne Vavasour

c. 1605
Collection of the Armourers and Brasiers of the City of London

Martin Frobisher reported in 1581 that Oxford was interested in buying the ship Edward Bonaventure; the asking price was 1,800; Oxford's offer of 1,500 was apparently rejected.

Evidence of De Vere's lifelong interest in learning were the numerous contemporary tributes to his patronage. Among the 33 works dedicated to the Earl, six deal with religion and philosophy, two with music and three with medicine, but the focus of his patronage was literary, for 13 of the books presented to him were original or translated works of literature. Authors dedicating works to De Vere include Edmund Spenser, Arthur Golding, Robert Greene, John Hester, John Brooke, John Lyly, Anthony Munday, and Thomas Churchyard, the latter three writers all having been employed by De Vere for various periods of time. Another of his secretaries was the English scientist, Nicholas Hill.

Vere,Edward(17E.Oxford)02.jpg (135285 bytes)

Edward De Vere, seventeen Earl of Oxford

Collection of His Grace, the Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry, KT

His extensive patronage and possible mismanagement of estates led to the sale of all his inherited lands, inhibiting the formation of a local power base and possibly precluding high office. In 1586, with Burghley's help, Oxford secured a royal grant of 1000 per annum to repair his squandered fortune. Its unusual form, an annuity payable in quarterly installments, shows that it was designed to solve an unusual problem, the preservation of a necessary state figure whose irresponsibility precluded a grant which might be farmed out, commuted, or sold.

Two letters by the Earl of Leicester, in 1588, during the crisis of the Armada, reveal that Oxford refused point-blank Leicester's request that he assume governorship of the Essex port of Harwich, complaining that the post was beneath his dignity. Burghley saved the honor of the English nobility by retrospectively fabricating a heroic role for Oxford, but his peer support at the annual Order of the Garter elections plummetted to zero, and remained at zero while Elizabeth drew breath.

Oxford spent his last sixteen years scrounging for money. He applied for the right to gauge vessels for beer and ale; for the exclusive right to import fruits, oils, and wools; for the governorship of the Isle of Jersey and the presidency of Wales; and, from 1595 to 1599, for the tin monopoly in Devon and Cornwall. In the early 1590s, he repaired his fortunes by marrying the wealthy Elizabeth Trentham, one of the Queens maids of honour. Their only child, Henry, heir to the earldom, was born in 1592.

Despite an endless stream of begging letters to Burghley and his son Robert, including a desperate request in 1591 to trade in his 1000 annuity for a one-time settlement of 5000, Oxford received no further support from Elizabeth. Finally, under James and shortly before his death, Oxford received his first vote for the Order of the Garter since before the Armada.

He died on 24 Jun 1604, probably from plague, at Kings Place in Hackney, located in the London suburb of Stratford. He left no will and is presumed buried in St Augustines church in the same parish. Contemporary testimony that he may be buried elsewhere is provided by Percival Golding, the youngest son of Arthur Golding, the uncle of De Vere. Golding wrote twenty years after De Vere's death that the 17th Earl "died at his house at Hackney in the month of Jun 1604 and lies buried at Westminster [Abbey]".

Much as Oxford's rash, unpredictable nature minimized his success in the world of practical affairs, he deserves recognition not only as a poet but as a nobleman with extraordinary intellectual interests and commitments. Sir George Buc's awareness of De Vere's financial ruin did not prevent him from characterizing the Earl as 'a magnificent and a very learned and religious man'. Both William Webbe (A Discourse of English Poetrie, 1586) and George Puttenham (The Arte of English Poetrie, 1589) ranked him first among Elizabeth's courtier poets, and some two dozen poems are signed or ascribed to De Vere in manuscript or published form. De Vere's poetry first appeared in the 1576 publication of The Paradise of Dainty Devices, then in The Arte of English Poetrie (1589), The Phoenix Nest (1593), England's Helicon (1600) and England's Parnassus (1600). In 1622, Henry Peacham (The Complete Gentleman) would list De Vere as first among the poets of the Elizabethan period.

De Vere was also active as a dramatist at this time. Though none of his masques and plays survive, he wrote plays of a quality to be cited by Francis Meres (Palladis Tamia, 1598) for comedy and interlude, being praised by Meres as "the best among us for comedy".

Oxford took over the players of the Earl of Warwick in Mar 1580. When outraged law students from the Inns of Court rioted at the Theater, Oxford's men replied with such spirit that three of them landed in jail. Burghley then came to Oxford's aid by recommending his company to the Vice-chancellor of Cambridge University. Throughout the 1580s, De Vere maintained a band of tumblers as well as two theater companies, Oxford's Boys and Oxford's Men. The former company played at the Blackfriars Theater in London, the lease of which Oxford purchased and transferred to playwright and novelist John Lyly, his secretary for more than 15 years, and at Paul's Church, until it was closed in 1590. Oxford's Men was a troupe of actors which mostly toured the provinces. Oxford's company remained intact from 1580 until 1602, when it was amalgamated with Worcester's men.

Sources:

Archivio di Stato, Santo Uffizio, Venice; busta 41, fasc. 'Cocco Orazio'; not accessible for inspection.

Duncan-Jones, Catherine: Sir Phillip Sydney. Courtier Poet (Hamish Hamilton 1991 London)

May, Steven: Edward De Vere, Seventeenth Earl of Oxford (1550-1604)

Peck, D.C.: Raleigh, Sidney, Oxford, and the Catholics, 1579 1978   Oxford University Press

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