Edward de Vere, Chronology
Vero Nihil Verius
Nothing truer than truth
There was a happy event in April 1550,
for the Earl of Oxford and his wife, Margery.
A son and heir born, he was Edward by name,
at their ancestral seat in Castle Hedingham.
He taught his son several sports and also to ride,
and to appreciate the Essex countryside.
As there was then no official school,
a nobleman’s son was tutored as a rule.
Edward was sent aged 5 to Sir Thomas Smith’s home –
an excellent setting for curiosity to roam.
Scholar Smith had many a different interest
and he would know what tuition was best.
At 8, there were 5 months at Cambridge spent
while Smith did some work for the government.
Later, when Smith was asked to evaluate
he said that Edward was profligate.
He had shown in his studies much success,
but Smith said he was given to excess.
A person of integrity, but somewhat straight-laced
he had noticed a character flaw to be faced.
After 7 years of an all-round education,
Edward then had a different allocation.
He was only 12 when the 16th Earl died.
The love and care of a father, thus denied.
By October his mother had remarried
the local Bailiff, who he then detested.
The name of that month gave him so much pain.
That he never used the word again.
And the word – Essex – he never again used
as that was where his loyalties were abused.
At 14 as a royal ward in Cecil’s house
He had a library, and tutors to rouse.
His uncle Golding had translated Ovid.
and helped his pupil with studies he did.
Tutor Nowell was an Anglo-Saxon scholar,
more spheres for young Edward to conquer.
He knew French, Italian, Latin and Greek,
with a fluency that he was able to speak.
At 14, Golding said he studied politics and history
and had “great forwardness” in his study.
Also, a “pregnancy of wit and a ripeness of understanding”,
which would give anyone a very good grounding.
Cecil commented on his skill and observation,
a good and clever pupil by destination.
At 17, he went to Lincoln’s Inn to study law.
By 21, he was a young bachelor no more.
At 19 a book dedication from Underdowne –
”haughty courage, great skill, and common sense,” of his own.
At 20 he went with the Earl of Sussex to Scotland,
to fight, and maybe some local stories to find.
His marriage to Anne Cecil was a step down, socially,
so the Queen created Cecil as Lord Burghley.
At 21 he expected the return of his estate,
but the Queen took a year to hesitate.
At 19 he signed his name as Oxenford
with a crown drawn above that word.
Below it he drew 7 bars or lines
denoting Edward VII in his time?
This arrogance was youthful pride,
but Elizabeth did not Edward chide.
Instead of an obvious punishment,
maybe a forceful word was her intent?
By 23 he was a favourite at Court;
he was said to be valiant and danced a lot.
Elizabeth’s pet name for him was her Turk or Boar,
as she danced with him upon the Court floor.
In the same year by Bedingfield, a dedication of a book,
saying he was well-versed in the philosophy he took.
As someone whose knowledge of history was certain,
Twyne dedicated to him his book – Breviary of Britain.
At 23 he sent to Bedingfield some lines.
Forgive me if I quote and drop the rhymes.
“I am forced like a good and politic captain
often times to spoil and burn the corn
of his own country, lest his enemies thereof
do take advantage. And why should this rose
be better esteemed than that rose,
unless in pleasantness of smell
it far surpassed the other rose?”
Edward wrote this letter from Wivenhoe.
Does it remind you of anything, you know?
1573 for him must have been a fluent year.
This verse contains some thoughts you should hear.
“So he that takes the pain to pen the book.
Reaps not the gifts of goodly golden Muse,
but those gain that on the work shall look,
and from the sour the sweet by skill doth choose.”
By 24 and a married man for three years,
he went abroad without any fears.
Queen Elizabeth then ordered him back
as he had no papers for that track.
By 25 he felt he could not wait
and decided to sell parts of his estate.
When he was in Europe to travel,
his sexual life began to unravel.
With female prostitutes he had liaisons,
and sex with young men on several occasions.
As his current life turned very muddy,
he still had time to research and study.
The liberal life that he wanted to see
was for him to be found in Italy.
In Italian he was completely fluent
and he found their culture was congruent.
He adopted Italian ways which he borrowed,
did he know that Burghley had him followed?
He travelled incognito on the way back,
discovering that for disguises he had a knack.
He had wanted to continue with his journey,
with plans to go to Greece and Turkey.
I suspect that Burghley had ordered him home.
He pretended in letters he no longer would roam.
A baby had been born while he was abroad,
but the date was in question, he had heard.
Back in England, Edward said with certainty
that he doubted his daughter’s paternity.
He refused to go home and see his wife Anne,
(but he had brought back an Italian man.)
At 26, well-travelled, with new sophistication,
he probably saw life with another destination.
Foolishly, as if the money was no question,
he invested in the Frobisher Expedition.
Flattered at 28, and praised by Gabriel Harvey,
who said his “countenance shakes spears,” readily.
Of book dedications, Edward had 33,
from authors who considered him worthy.
For his works, why did he not use his name?
For what reasons did he avoid any fame?
His motivation might have been
that he did not want to offend the Queen.
Also, it was ordered in Tudor days
that Noblemen did not write plays.
He would then have had to take great care,
knowing that the Queen’s spies were everywhere.
The Stationers’ Company checked all works suspicious
to see that they said nothing seditious.
William Aspley, who checked Henry IV, part II
found certain verses that he withdrew.
Even with this form of censorship,
some ideas slipped past the censor’s snip.
I have seen some of Edward’s poems and letters,
and must comment that I have seen better.
But I must admit this could be a ploy
to disguise his talent, as a decoy.
In the month of March 1581,
Anne Vavasour gave birth to his son.
The Queen, angry with him and Vavasour,
sent all three of them to the Tower.
In order to regain control of his life,
at 32, he reunited with his wife.
When she had a son who tragically died,
he returned to Court, the Queen did decide.
They were both driven to deep despair;
she for her son, he for his heir.
Some verses that were composed nicely,
were those for his baby son’s elegy.
They were said to be by Anne, his mother;
but I suspect they were by another.
References to the Classics in the writing –
about the author tell you something.
At 34, he bought the house, Fisher’s Folly, –
a house known for gatherings literary.
For this he had to dip into his estate –
which meant more transactions to litigate.
Thomas Vavasour challenged him to a duel,
but an Earl would not fall for this tool.
However, he made comments about his kinsmen
that indicated Edward kept close to them.
“I fear that thou art so much wedded to that shadow of thine
that nothing can have force to awake thy base and sleepy spirits.”
When Vavasour says that he is “wedded”
it could describe the closeness of bedded?
Could this be one of Edward’s paramours,
being held close by love’s captor?
Burghley had called his friends – “lewd.”
His choice there, maybe not so shrewd.
In 1586, Webb said he was the best of Court poets.
With his Discourse of English Poetry, he would know it.
The English Secretary by Angel Day
sent a dedication Edward’s way.
But as a husband he was not such a good catch.
Burghley said, “No enemy I have can envy this match.”
At 37, the Queen gave him an annuity
for services to the Court that were literary.
A thousand pounds was a generous fee
from a monarch not known for generosity.
Anne de Vere died in 1588;
no elegy written by her mate.
That same year, Munday was by Edward blinded,
he said he was “noble, learned and worthy minded.”
The next year, Puttenham said he deserved
“the highest prize for comedy and interlude.”
At 41 he married again,
Elizabeth Trentham, Countess by name.
Her brother Francis took over the bankrupt estate
in a valiant endeavour to make it appreciate.
They were married in 1591;
by ‘ 93, she had a son.
Now there was an heir, Elizabeth Trentham
was keen to retrieve Castle Hedingham.
She spent time seeking funds that were incomplete,
so that she would be able to purchase the seat.
In ’91, he wrote Burghley a note
saying from the Court he now felt remote.
To make his feelings very plain,
I would use his own words to explain.
“…To tell the truth, I am weary of an unsettled life,
which is the very pestilence that happens unto courtiers…”
They had moved to King’s House in Hackney
that had a very good library.
With Elizabeth and young son Henry,
he probably lived contentedly.
Having given up the life expected at Court
he had time to ponder the many battles fought.
A man with such experience and education
would not waste time in contemplation.
His genius had a need to be heard
and for that he used the written word.
In March 1603, there was much gloom
as the Queen stood dying in her room.
She had her whole reign to contemplate
with deep thoughts about the role of fate.
She wouldn’t leave her throne to rascals, she said,
when she eventually went to her deathbed.
Other claimants had conveniently died.
Robert Cecil had James already supplied.
The Queen was incoherent before she died.
She made noises and hand signals to decide.
Cecil translated them at her bedside,
choosing decisions that he could abide.
At her funeral, Edward was to be chief noble mourner,
but his attitude to her had now turned a corner.
He did not appear to walk in front of her coffin.
Now he had a new monarch with whom to begin.
He attended James’ coronation as Great Chamberlain,
no doubt hoping for attention with his new reign.
He supported James and made his claim go smoothly.
He had an important place at the ceremony.
He was one of the few who carried the canopy.
James rewarded him with a continued annuity.
Edward Oxenford, now aged 53,
had a son and secure family.
Just when his wants and needs were supplied,
in 1604 Edward Oxenford died.
There was something in the estate to share,
but I have a sad comment about his heir.
Edward, only 12 when his father had died
had an 11-year-old son at his graveside.
At 54, he could have left a literate legacy,
but he always wanted anonymity.
On Midsummer Day of 1604
death knocked at Edward’s door.
There was many a surprise
surrounding the Earl’s demise;
very few documents of the time,
though Edward’s earldom was prime.
The rumour was he died of plague,
but details were somewhat vague.
It was definitely very strange
with no grand funeral to arrange.
With burial at St. Augustine in Hackney
it all took place so very quietly.
There was no public announcement made.
Was this some kind of escapade?
It seemed like this well known peer
had been suddenly made to disappear.
No word, talk, or gossip that he was dead
leads to speculation why nothing was said.
Could it have been a faked death or suicide,
leading to a cover-up of how he died?
Where were the epitaphs and eulogies
from friends and relatives he did please?
Later, Golding said he was buried in Westminster Abbey.
There, they make no record of reburial, that is the key.
He had also died intestate,
which would have led to some debate.
No cause given and no will left,
leaving his family feeling bereft.
But before he died on June 24
of the year of 1604,
Edward had earlier that same year,
designated his cousin, Francis Vere,
to be son Henry’s legal guardian
to avoid a royal ward intervention.
No doubt a previous occasion remembered still,
his father died within 6 days of making a will.
For more than 60 years there had been a law —
no church burials for plague victims any more.
If Edward was buried in church on 6th of July,
I doubt that plague was the reason why.
He had a legal document made on 18th of June
and the people involved would not have felt immune.
If Edward had been ill with plague at that time,
to ask for attendance would have been a crime.
What was so important, 6 days before he died?
It was ownership of Waltham Forest he described.
In a letter to Robert Cecil of 1603
he said that forest was long in his family.
Edward de Vere stated without much adieu –
“tyme cannot make that falsse, which was once true.”
In Measure for Measure it was worth repeating –
“for truth is truth to the end of reckoning.”
About the issue of ownership, Elizabeth played games,
but the forest was granted back by King James.
In the document of 18th of June in 1604,
about Waltham Forest there was something more.
He instructed that the forest be monitored by his staff
because previous owners had not cared enough.
In his absence, the forest should be by his staff patrolled
and also by his cousin and son-in-law controlled.
There were several characters in his plays,
who went to a forest in their different ways.
As a child in Smith’s house at Ankerwycke
he was there, surrounded by woods, not brick.
His attachment to the forest was one of emotion
and John Manwood’s stewardship, a good promotion.
His – Discourse of the Laws of the Forest – was a mainstay.
What it basically said was relevant to this day.
Edward said by his ancestors the woods were preserved
and also commented that the game were cherished.
In order to maintain the forest “In her full state,”
his staff would thus need the King’s mandate.
These measures of nominating a guardian
and placing staff for the forest protection
lead one to wonder why a will wasn’t made;
maybe it was destroyed in the daylong raid?
Or perhaps these moves were a codicil
for what was the original will?
After Oxenford’s death in 1604,
it was said that his brother-in-law
eradicated some facts about him,
maybe to avenge his sister’s ruin.
Citing Oxenford’s “merciless humour,”
(maybe Robert wasn’t too mature.)
Neither did he like his “stinging wit.”
(Satire was not for him a hit;)
and finally he didn’t like “the truths he told.”
(Obviously Robert Cecil was not so bold.)
What I would like to know for sure,
was what those eradicated facts were.
Peregrine Bertie called William and Robert Cecil – “reptilia.”
Think of a word that is much more sinister.
They had a total time in power of 67 years,
giving plenty of opportunity to interfere.
Both were doing destructive work behind closed blinds
in the dark, cloistered rooms of their Machiavellian minds.
They plotted their permanent paths to power
using fear as a tool, to make men cower.
They were masters of manipulation
to protect the Queen and the nation.
This was the positive part of their position,
but negative work gave another conclusion.
They had a plan for their record in history,
but to extinguish others with their story.
They destroyed records of Essex, Oxenford, and Leicester,
and allowed bad rumours about them to fester.
Documents were removed and cut
by their control when doors were shut.
They altered Elizabethan history by their destruction,
but making sure that they had a shining reputation.
There was a final event to this chronology
which took place on June 24, mysteriously.
On this same day that Oxenford died,
a number of his friends were not at his side.
They were rounded up, arrested, and held in the Tower
while their residences were searched, hour by hour.
If documents were found they were examined.
It only took a day when the friends were summoned.
No word what they sought or what they found;
but a parallel event also to confound.
The king and his heir were kept closely guarded;
by palace guards they were totally surrounded.
These strange events all happened in one day
and then it was over, with nothing to say.
This action had Robert Cecil’s stamp upon it,
to check if Edward’s death was counterfeit.
He was probably somewhat frantic
with enough security, not to panic.
Committed to protect the royal succession
acting with a spymaster’s caution.
He would want to find Edward’s will
he now had a Cecil goal to fulfill.
Destroy any document with information
which posed a threat to him or the nation.
On December 27 1604, his daughter Susan was married.
At court, the play Measure for Measure was for her staged.
Knowing that one character was a missing duke,
was that choice something of a fluke?
In the Book of Revels the author was called – Shaxberd.
That is the closest notation to saying – Oxford.
For freedom of expression, Edward chose to use
another’s name that would the future confuse.
His genius didn’t need a blaze of glory
his delight was in forming the story.
Accolades and praise, not a necessity,
but he left a puzzle for posterity.
He enjoyed cyphers, anagrams and code
for a future genius to download?
Although there is “nothing truer than truth”,
we have some evidence, but no proof.