7.2.6. Oxford’s accusation, 1580-1582



A most dramatic incident occurred shortly before the Christmas of 1580. Oxford accused his two former friends Lord Henry Howard and Charles Arundell of Catholic conspiracy against the crown. It turned out that the two men had deliberately stirred up ill feeling against Elizabeth whilst praising the glories of Spain.

On the strength of Oxford’s accusation Howard and Arundell were put under guard and interrogated for months. Lord Harry responded to the charges of treason by saying that his accuser was an unbalanced malevolent wastrel. Charles Arundell filled an accusation on 9 counts, and 70 sub-counts, including perjury, murder, buggery and Atheism- but not Catholicism. (“Lord Harry and myself,” says Arundell, “have justified by word and writing his protesting at Richmond 1) that the glorious Trinity was an old wives’ tale, and void of reason. 2) That he could make a better and more orderly scripture in six days’ warning. 3) That Christ was a simple man. 4) That Joseph was both a cuckold and a wittol.”) On 18 January Oxford responds to the war of words with the speed and precision of an expert swordsman. On 11 January 1581, three weeks after the event, the French ambassador Sieur de la Mauvissière (a secret follower of Mary Stuart) sent a report that was full of inconsistencies to King Henri III, in which he described Oxford as being a fallen catholic.

Queen Elizabeth was unmoved by the hysterical accusations of Howard and Arundell. Oxford was invited by the Queen to take part in the New Year’s festivities at court where she graciously accepted his gift: “A fair jewel of gold, being a beast of opals with a fair lozenged diamond, three great pearls pendant, fully garnished with small rubies, diamonds, and small pearls, one horn lacking”. Furthermore she expected his participation in a tournament that was to be held in honour of Philip Howard, Earl of Arundel and Surrey on 22 January 1581.

As I brought to attention in 2009, the historians Bossy (in 1959) and later Nelson (in 2003) along with their flock of sheep, took the accusations of the ingenious liar, Mauvissière, along with the blatant libel of Howard and Arundell, copied it parrot style and made it the foundation of wild, ridiculous theories.  

The two identical accusations brought forward by Howard and Arundell, not only contradict the theory that Oxford was a Catholic; they give us unique insight into Shake-speare’s literary tool box. The formulations, used by Howard and Arundell to counter what they referred to as Oxford’s “impudent and senseless lies”, are nothing other than the foundations of some of the most volatile comedic scenes which we encouter in the Shakespearian works.


The accusants


Henry Howard, later Earl of Northampton (1540-1614), son of Henry Howard (1516/17-1547), Earl of Surrey, and Frances de Vere (1517-1577), sister of John de Vere, 16th Earl of Oxford, was Oxford’s cousin.

Lord Henry Howard, later to be the Earl of Northampton, (1540–1614), was one of the major scholarly intellects, as well as one of the most prolific writers, and one of the most cynical men of his age. He was the brother of the treasonous Duke of Norfolk, and he made no secret of his catholic faith. Lord Howard hated the Anglican Church under Queen Elizabeth. He also hated her chief advisor Lord B., England’s most powerful politician, and her favourite, the Earl of Leicester. In 1571 Howard was under suspicion of having abetted his brother in his treasonous activities but he managed to lie himself out of trouble. After his brother’s execution he received a pension from the state but nonetheless maintained close contacts to Maria Stuart. When this came out he was again arrested in the beginning of 1575. In 1583 he was brought into connection with the Throckmorton plot, a plan to assassinate the Queen. - After having ruined all his chances with Elizabeth he set about ingratiating himself with King James VI of Scotland. Under the patronage of James I, Howard was raised tremendously in rank and privilege. Following Essex's example he tried to poison James's mind against his personal enemies, chief among whom were Henry Brooke, eighth lord Cobham, and Sir Walter Raleigh. He made no secret of his intention, when opportunity offered, of snaring his rivals into some questionable negotiation with Spain which might be made the foundation of a charge of treason. Partly on the basis of Howard’s evidence, Sir Walter Raleigh was imprisoned in the Tower of London for 13 years; to advance his own interests, Howard supported the divorce of his great-niece from her husband. Later he had poisoned an adversary of the divorce.

Charles Arundell, a distant kinsman of Oxford and his mistress Anne Vavasour, was the son of Sir Thomas Arundell (executed in 1552) and of Margaret Howard (died 1571), a sister of Queen Catherine Howard. In 1554, two years after their father's execution, the Arundell brothers were restored in blood and the elder succeeded in regaining most of their father's estates in Dorset and Wiltshire.

In 1581, after he had been unmasked by Oxford as a traitor, Arundell spent seven months under house arrest. Neither he nor Howard ever returned to court favour, and after the Throckmorton Plot of 1583 in support of Mary, Queen of Scots, Arundell fled to Paris with Thomas, Lord Paget, the elder brother of the conspirator Charles Paget.

In August 1584 there appeared in England Leicester's Commonwealth, a brilliant written, anonymous tract of Roman Catholic propaganda which attacked the Queen's favourite, the Earl of Leicester who was portrayed as an amoral opportunist. At that time Arundell was seen as a leader of the English Roman Catholic exiles. The historian J. H. Pollen first believed that Arundell was the author of that poisonous and lying pamphlet (J. H. Pollard, Howard Traditions in Leicester’s Commonwealth, Publications of the Catholic Record Society 21, 1919, pp. 57-66.)

Arundell was reported to have pawned his valuables to raise money for an armed landing in England to be led by the Earl of Westmorland in support of Mary, Queen of Scots. In Paris he worked with James Beaton, the Archbishop of Glasgow, Mary Stuart's trusted representative in France. Arundell was a cousin of the wife of Sir Edward Stafford (1552–1605), the English ambassador in Paris, and had a role in putting Stafford into secret contact with Bernardino de Mendoza, the ambassador in Paris of Philip of Spain. Early in 1587, Arundell acted secretly as a mediator between them to offer Stafford's services to Philip as a spy, when Arundell received two thousand crowns to pass on to Stafford. - Arundell died in Paris in 1587- perhaps having been poisoned. 


Henry Howard to Queen Elizabeth,

c. December 29-31, 1580.

Although this course of casting open other men’s deformities, most gracious and most redoubted Sovereign, repugn so much against my nature as I rather would endure the smart of trouble than be noted for any instrument of other men’s calamity, yet since things are not at such liberty that men may choose their path, since my true friendship hath been quitted with untrue reports, since grounds of nature warrant guiltless minds in piercing those unshamefast foreheads with the point of truth which will not blush to see the falsehood of their own attaints, and since your Majesty commandeth me to publish truth without regard of persons or of circumstance, I vow to speak without all spite and poison of the spleen, and so sincerely to discharge my part as neither malice overrule my wit nor practice overweigh my knowledge. Wherefore, to be short, the points wherewith I mean to charge my Lord [Oxford] are want of awe to God, of duty toward you, of honour to the world, of gratitude to those that best deserved.

Touching the first, I tremble to remember how blasphemously, not in merry moods alone and cups of jollity (although that be not good, as Cotta said in Cicero, vel ioco contra deos disputare[to dally about gods]), but in earnest and with choler he hath stretched out his horrible and most blasphemous voice against the sacred and most glorious Trinity, affirming 1) That the wise philosophers deride our ignorance in that great mystery, with more to that effect which shall be justified. 2) That the Blessed Virgin (horresco referens [I am afraid to refer]), made a fault, and that Joseph was a wittol, than which words what can be more abominable considering the dainty fruit that sprang of that unspotted root, or how can any truth or wholesome liquor be contained in so filthy and unsound a vessel. To the first of Matthew, when I vouched it against this beastly paradox wherein she is affirmed to conceive by the Hold Ghost, he said the Jews of Italy would tell another tale and put both Matthew, Mark and John to silence. 3) Sundry times, and that in diverse companies, not for disputation’s sake but with advisement, he hath sworn that more plain reasons and examples may be vouched out of scripture for the defence of bawdry than out of all the books of Aretinus. The Turk himself speaks better both of Christ, of the Virgin, and the canon of the scriptures.

Concerning want of duty to your Majesty, which I detested most in him, and so did all that kept him company, I am to witness and avow an utter condemnation of those princely virtues and good gifts which the worst disposed cannot but admire and wonder at. And lest I may be thought to speak of spleen, I crave that Charles Arundell, Francis Southwell, William Cornwallis may be charged on their oath to tell whether he could ever brook the praises of your wit or of your person. I will not speak in this respect so fully as I may, but I can prove by witnesses enough that when I ’scaped best I was reproved to my face of servile flattery, and so were divers other, as I can declare by setting down both times and places of this bitter dealing. How often hath he sworn to me, persuading him with all the reasons I could possibly devise to be directed by your Majesty’s advice alone, and prosecute your favour, that he never was nonplus but when he dealt with you[1], and the reason was because he was enforced still to speak against his heart and liking.

This is but a taste. Your Majesty shall hear of better stuff if ever I be called face to face for proof of these particulars. Neither will I run forth with a single voice, as my Lord is fain to do[2], but vouch more honest than himself for warranties. I speak not of his strange digesting of your slight disgraces when they came upon his own default and made both me and others pensive for his sake, because I would not gladly wound him further than the tearing of this painted mask and vizard of hypocrisy. It was a fault, I grant, to cover this, but still me thought it was but froth and wantonness of youth which either time would alter or correction would amend, the scourge whereof although I held to be the fittest instrument of calling home this wandering and wasteful child, yet could I never yield to be the mean or author of his trouble. At the last, I found this malice was engrafted in his nature, whereupon I laboured with all my friends to keep aloof from him that had no playfellows but kings and queens to sport withal. But as I promised before, wherein I may forbear his person I had rather be too silent than too liberal. And whereas it should seem by one special point whereof I was examined by my Lord Chancellor[3] that he hath glanced at me someways for the Queen of Scots, I protest before Almighty God that, saving for a bookbinder that brought me commendations more than six years ago, I never heard of her but by common bruit. But indeed it is the practice of a fencer to direct his blows to that part chiefly which, having once been hurt before, is weaker and less able to bear out a venue. The course which I have run hath been to look upon your Majesty with a single eye, and to deserve the mending and repairing of my fortune by the comfort of your favour. But if I were so childish as to build upon the figure of such future hopes, it lies not in the talent of so mean a man as I to win her liking, or to bind her favour by a merit of more weight than the loss of my brother’s head for dealing in her causes. If that were not enough to make her wish me well if I had any foolish look that way, unless I put myself in peril to no purpose I am resolute not to buy repentance at so dear a bargain. Thus much wit my Lord of Oxford might afford me to the world, though malice will not suffer him to grant me such regard of duty to my sovereign.

But by the way he putteth me in mind of a very strange discourse which his Lordship had with me in Lent [February 14-16, 1580], the scope whereof I would be glad your Highness understood, because for my part I conceive it not. - Walking on the terrace at Howard House, I began to deal with him about the trimming up of Fisher’s Folly[4], and no great portion of his Lordship’s wisdom, considering the price he told me that he was in hand with it, but some other should enjoy the pleasure. I demanded why, but he would not answer in a good while, till at the last he said he would deal plainly with me. -There is a cause, said he, not telling what it was, that drives me to depart from hence. You are my cousin-german, and most like of all men to be doubted and suspected for my going hence, considering your good devotion toward me, and therefore were you better to depart for company than afterward to come in trouble, for worse than you live here can you live nowhere. -Whither will you go, my Lord, said I. -To Spain, quoth he, where I have promise to be well entertained. -I told him that in my conceit this was the very worst course he could take, considering the jealousies between our states, if ever he meant to return again, but if either debt or any suchlike cause should drive him hence, his best way were to bide in France, that if the marriage should after take effect, Monsieur[5] might be witness of his good demeanour and be a mean for his recovery. But my Lord, said I, what cause should make you lose this opportunity of benefiting both yourself and others, since you seem the likest man to wax great in Monsieur’s favour if he come, or else perhaps the Queen will give you leave to travel, which is the surest way, because you may return at pleasure, and liberty is always acceptable. -God’s blood, said he, press me not about the cause, for it stands not now upon quid est dialectica, nor I will not tarry. And as for Monsieur, neither shall he come, because the Queen is only bent to dally, or if he should come, all were one, for though these Frenchmen have an outward flourish, yet is there not a more variable head in Christendom than Monsieur’s. I have enquired of his humour at the spring-head, and before he made these roving journeys, wherefore I will not lose mine opportunity for any man, for time lost is not recovered. This is short and long, if you will go with me, no man shall be more welcome; if not, keep my counsel like a kinsman and a gentleman, and God be with you. -My Lord, said I, my case is not to flit I know not whither from a place where I am settled. Beside, her Majesty remains my gracious Lady, and hath promised to do me good. Again, I might by this mean bring the man whom in this world I love most dearly into suspect, my Lord of Surrey[6], which were a slender token of that dear goodwill which I have always borne him, but before I would forsake him for all the world I would lease my life. Moreover, I see not but that my house is likely every day to mend, and mine old Lord of Arundel not likely to continue. It may be also that I may do your Lordship greater good with recommending of your suits and causes to your friends than I could do pleasure there. I will not speak of your intent to any man, but good Lord, take great heed you ruin not your house with ill demeanour to the Queen, which is already crazed with your own great waste and vain expenses, and let your resolution always be to return to England. -Good Lord, are you so simple (said he) to think that the Queen favours either my Lord of Surrey or you? I know her opinion of you both, and the more he seeks to please her with his entertainments, and to love and follow her in everything, the more she scorns him, and the world doth laugh at him. I would you had heard her speeches of him to me after the marriage of his sister[7], that you might see the wisdom of your nephew in honouring and loving one so much that longs for nothing but to lift at him, and when I am gone you shall see whether they will hoist you both or no. For there is not in the world a person more ungrateful than the Queen. -It seems not so, my Lord, said I, by those follow her. -Assure yourself, said he, it shall be so with him, and all the noblemen of England, and as for you, notwithstanding all your labour to content her and your waiting here in court without profiting yourself any way, she turneth all your wit to conceit of practice and would be glad of the smallest opportunity to trip you. -My Lord, said I, though mine enemies be great, yet have I always found her Majesty most gracious, wherefore, God willing, I have cast mine anchor in this place, and will rather prove my fortune further on than lease my seven years’ service. Besides, it is not possible to draw me from my Lord of Surrey, whom I do profess to love and serve before all other as the person which deserveth best and whom I hope to see the fairest flower of our garland. Here he would have terrified me with unkindness of my Lord, but I told him howsoever some had gone about to wrest the goodness of his nature, I had found a sweeter disposition to myself, and the world should taste the like in all his dealings. In conclusion, I demanded when he would away. -He said within one month at the furthest, and that he had a bank of fifteen thousand pound which he had so bestowed as it should be safer much than if he carried it about him. -I asked how he would do when this stock was spent. -He said before that time he would find a better trade than the bearing of a white waster [8]. -I besought him once again to regard his honour and his duty, and then I doubted not but we should meet again more cheerfully. Then we departed.

Upon this speech I presently withdrew myself from his ordinary train, and withal advised my Lord Thomas [Howard][9] not to be too much with him for causes which I might not utter. After two months overblown at Oatlands, I bade him welcome out of Spain. He said the like occasion might renew the like adventure. This was the full discourse of all, as near as I can tell it word for word.

I never durst impart so much to my Lord of Arundel, because I knew his faith and zeal to be so firmly grounded on the favour of the Queen as, though he would not hastily believe my Lord of Oxford’s words, yet poising between hope and doubt would very near have killed him. If I may be bold to speak my judgement without partiality, there never lived on this earth a more devout and zealous servant to the Queen, nor a more upright and honest gentleman to all the world, whose steps if my Lord of Oxford would as well have traced as he pined at his favour, it had been better with him than it is. But difference in qualities makes difference in fortune, and I fear this one is not a more assured pillar of his house than that other is a plague to all that friend or further him. I never looked for better proof since I heard him answer my Lord of Arundel so scornfully upon his hearth at Howard House, persuading him both kindly and discreetly to behold the Queen and follow her advice, for this, said my Lord, experience hath taught me to be the surest course, and by God’s grace I mean to hold it. More things there are to this effect which I shall have better opportunity to sting upon his Lordship’s further accusation.

Now touching his default in honour, if I were as sharply bent to blaze my Lord’s unshamefast follies as his Lordship is addicted to the wrongful charging of his friends, I could paint him for a man of more rapace [avarice] and spotted life than becomes me to declare before your Majesty, but wherein I may spare him without danger to myself, I will not be spiteful. Neither will I stand upon the falseness of his word, his slight regard of oaths, his strange excess some ways which daily rocks him fast asleep in the cradle of contempt and ignorance. I would {give thanks} to God that every page and corner of the court were not acquainted with these follies, so that I were rather bound to bring a screen that to withdraw the veil that covers them.

Only, by the way, it stands me much upon not to let slip his horrible untruths which he hath uttered so many times and with such confidence that he takes and swears them for approved verities. Of this sort is that constant and continual affirmative of his that the meanest shoemaker’s wife in Milan (be it spoken with reverence and pardon) is more gallant and more delicately suited every common working-day that the Queen our mistress is at Whitsuntide [Pentecost] [10]; that he hath abused and polluted almost all the noblewomen of account in England; that he took a principal town in Flanders by the Duke of Alva’s direction, and had taken another but for the coming of Mr. Bedingfield [11]; that his judgement was demanded touching the fortification of Antwerp, and the curtain altered; that he should have had the government of Milan; that Don John sent him fifteen thousand men to surprise the state of Genoa during the civil war; that he might have had I know not how many thousand pounds a year at Naples; that the Countess of Mirandola[12] came fifty mile to lie with him as the queen of Amazons did to lie with Alexander; that a greater lady far by some degrees than she made court to him in France[13]; that St. Mark’s church at Venice was only paved with diamonds and rubies; that a merchant in Genoa hath a mantel of a chimney that cost more than all the treasure in the Tower doth amount unto[14]; that he read the rhetoric lecture at Strasbourg; that he and Malim, the schoolmaster of Paul’s, preached either of them a sermon at Brigstock in Northamptonshire; that he had oftentimes copulation with a female spirit in Sir George Howard’s house at Greenwich; that Charles Tyrrell appeared to him with a whip after he was dead, and his mother in a sheet, foretelling things to come[15]; that he saw Christ crucified between the priest’s hands at sacring; that he could conjure[16], and had often conference with Satan, which I do most easily believe, the man is so much guided and directed by the spirit of his counsel. These matters, with a number more, are so confidently sworn as thereby men may deem what trust is to be given either to his word or to his judgement. I could bring in a thousand maims of honour touching divers other friends, but as I vouch not these saving by commandment, so mean I to reserve the rest for more necessity.

Concerning his ingratitude, to let yourself escape, who notwithstanding have the chiefest interest in this complaint, your Majesty may boldly take and ground this principle, that since he was but seventeen years of age the man had never constant and approved friend whom either he rewarded not with the sting of spite or the sword of slaughter. I will not deal with the bloodshed of his youth[17] because it is long past, although most terrible. Whoever dealt more friendly with him than my Lord of Worcester[18] and yet now since his last coming over, without offence or any quarrel in the world, he rushed into the said Lord’s house in Warwick Lane, and all his cutters with him, having their swords drawn, and there had murdered my Lord and all his people if the doors had not been speedily shut up against, and my Lord constrained, as if he had been in a fort in time of war, to parley out of his own windows. This outrage could not be forgotten when he falls to Mr. Secretary Walsingham, his constant and approved friend, advertising my Lord of Leicester of a certain practice [of treason] which himself, forsooth, had found out against him by Rowland York[19] wherein Mr. Secretary, my Lord of Huntingdon and Essex were consorted, but when upon the denial of Rowland York my Lord of Oxford was put to bed for want of proof, he would have wrested me by flattery or any mean to justify the knowledge of such practices from Rowland York, of whom I never heard any such word nor syllable.[20]

During all that time wherein both I and divers honest gentlemen did choose to friend and follow him, no {} passed clear wherein he set one of them upon another by devising tales, till at the last we found a remedy by giving warning before our lives should pay the price of his desire to mischief. Thus was Charles Arundell set on me, Southwell upon Arundell, Rowland York upon us all. Thus I and Francis Southwell were brought into Saint George’s fields to skirmish for our lives, and when the matters came to ripping up, they were nothing but tales invented by my Lord’s treachery. Thus Robinson was animated to brave and challenge Harry Borough at Hampton Court upon suspect of uttering some words in the Maids’ Chamber. Thus Weekes was commanded to kill Sankey[21], my Lord’s man, and so he did after he was turned away because he would not give the stab to York when he met him in Holborn. Weekes confessed with what violence he had been set on by my Lord after he had wounded him to the death without either cause or courage, and Sankey took [avowed] it on his death both to the minister, his wife, and divers others. Thus laid he such straight wait for Rowland York that George Whitney had like to be slain for him one night at the Horsehead in Cheap. Thus should Mr. Vice-chamberlain [Sir Christopher Hatton] have been set one night going to his chamber at Westminster if I had not threatened to discover it unless he would desist, only because six year before he said that my Lord of Leicester and he kept him at Dover from being sworn of the Privy Council, and that he sought again to cross his credit. Thus did he set Jack Wotton upon Brouncker, and could never brook him after because he killed him not. Thus did he proffer all his cutters to Tom Drury[22] to hew my Lord Howard in pieces when he got more enemies for friending him than the other had friends in England. Thus was he sundry times in practice for the murdering of my Lord of Leicester, but demonstratives of peril and inevitable danger to his own person drove him ever from the mischief. Thus but for me, as I will prove by witness, Mr. Philip Sidney, proffering his person to the combat like a gallant gentleman, had notwithstanding been most beastly murdered by twelve calivers in his bed at Greenwich and a barge with 12 calivers more should have carried them away to Gravesend where a little higher a bark of Baker, brother to his surgeon, should have waited for them. Thus hath he at this present a practice in Ireland for the murdering of Denny and Raleigh[23]. Thus, for a recompense of Raleigh’s service, his life should have been latched between both the walls before his going over, and suits of apparel given to those that should have killed him, for seeking my Lord of Leicester’s favour. Thus at her Majesty’s last being at Richmond should Gerard and Wingfield have slain Arthur Gorge as he crossed over the green to get to his lodgings. Thus was Gifford[24] set upon me with a colour that I disgraced him to your Majesty at Oatlands, and I upon Gifford upon assurance that he should say I smiled at my Lord of Oxford’s drunkenness. Thus Hoby was encouraged first to set my Lord of Arundel and me together, and when that would not be, to challenge me himself, and now again attempted since your Majesty coming hither to renew the quarrel upon speeches fathered on Steward, my Lord of Arundel’s man, which he disavowed, and my Lord let fall the matter. Thus should Charles Arundell have delivered a message that since I friended the boy, his nephew, for so it pleased him to call a noble and an honest gentleman, he would be revenged of me by right or wrong, by hook or crook, directly or indirectly, and to Francis Southwell he threatened to blow up my Lord Windsor and all his company, both men and women. Thus laboured he Charles Arundell on Christmas even for a thousand pound to warrant and confirm but that which he would say, and when he could not make him an accuser, he would have wrought him for a fugitive. And thus his Lordship hath made up that gracious principle of his bolted out at Mr. Philips’ board unawares, that this was chick and he detested all his kin which made chicken. Thus hath he prettily begun his solemn vow to be revenged of all the Howards in England one after another, though he could not pay them all at once, for it was the most villainous and treacherous race under heaven, and my Lord Howard of all other the most arrant villain that lived, witness Charles Arundell on Friday night[25] was a fortnight in the presence chamber, and thus hath he made good his promise to Mr. Pakington that since he could not have his will, yet no man should forbid him with blind Samson to pull down the post and crush the Philistines.

 Thus have I run over the unpleasant subject by your Majesty’s commandment. My desire was rather to have suffered a double smart than to burden any man. You see how dangerous a man is clothed in the purple of your court, and peising [weighing] his light humours, God I take to witness I have been oftentimes afraid to see him shroud himself so near unto your person.

My request and humble suit unto your Highness is that, as I never was acquainted with any practice that concerned either your most princely person or your state, so that your Majesty will rather send me present death or banishment than hold me long exiled from your presence. It is the dew whereon I feed, and the life wherein I labour [!!]. I have made a fault against your laws in hearing Mass, but as it is almost six years ago since that time, if either I have been with priest or heard a Mass let my life be taken for the forfeit. God preserve your Majesty forever, and make us as worthy to enjoy the virtues of so rare a queen as your Majesty is to rule a far more large and mighty regiment.

Your Majesty’s most humble, most affectionate and loyal subject, and servant till the death.

Henry Howard.

(BL, Cotton Titus C.6, ff. 7-8)


Charles Arundell’s allegations against Oxford

probably written in 29-31 December, 1581.

The strength of this monster’s evidence against my Lord Henry, Mr. Southwell and myself weakened and taken down by the sufficient proof of the man’s insufficiency to bear witness against any man of reputation, for these respects no less warranted by laws of honour and of arms than by the civil laws and the laws of our own country.

1 Atheism

2 Ordinary use to lie for the whetstone in the worst degree

3 Mercenary faith

4 Butcherly bloodiness

5 Dangerous practice

6 Notable dishonesty of life, scant to be named

7 Drunkenness

8 Particular grudge to us all three

9 Undutiful dealing to the Queen


Touching the first, the said Lord Harry and myself have justified by word and writing his protesting at Richmond in the presence of a number, as my Lord Windsor, Mr. Russell and Raleigh, & his protesting

1 that the glorious Trinity was an old wives’ tale, and void of reason.

2 that he could make a better and more orderly scripture in six days’ warning.

3 That Christ was a simple man.

4 That Joseph was both a cuckold and a wittol.

5 That nothing was so defensible by the scripture as bawdry, often affirmed in the presence of all and singular these persons above named.

6 That he could never believe in such a God as dealt well with those that deserved evil, and evil with those that deserved well.

7 That he could prove by scripture that after this life we should be as if we had never been, and that the rest was devised but to make us affrayed, like babes and children, of our shadows.[26]

This, with much more, hath been, is and shall be justified.

Ordinary Use To Lie

Let these examples plead, that the cobblers’ wives of Milan are more richly dressed every working-day than the Queen on Christmas-day.

1 That but for the coming of Bedingfield and the Duke of Alva’s persuasion rather to omit the service than forsake his country, he had surprised Bommel. Witness my Lord Howard of Effingham, Lord Henry, Francis Southwell, Walter Raleigh and myself.

2 That if my Lord Howard had not in the Queen’s name called him away by letter, he had been governor of Milan. Henry Howard, Walter Raleigh, Francis Southwell, Harry Burgh, Robinson.

3 That he was in the way to Genoa with 3,000 horses, a 10,000 footmen, to take it for the King of Spain by Don John’s direction when the Cardinal Morone took up the matter.

4 That he was proffered ten thousand pounds a year by the Pope and more by King Philip at Naples.

5. That the Countess of Mirandola came fifty miles to lie with him for loves.

That the Queen of Navarre sent a messenger to desire him to speak with him in her chamber.

7 That St. Mark’s church is paved at Venice with diamonds and rubies.

8 That a merchant in Genoa hath a mantel of a chimney of more price than all the treasure of the tower.

9 That he read the rhetoric lecture publicly preached at Strasbourg.

10 That Charles Tyrrell appeared to him with a whip which had made a better show in the hand of a carman than of hobgoblin, and this was in Uncle Howard’s at Greenwich.

11 That in the same place he had copulation with a female sprite.

12 That he had often seen the devil by conjuring with [Robert] Parsons of the Chapel [Royal] that died [Parsons drowned in 1570], and by his direction painted out a book of prophecies. The conjuring was in the little house in the tiltyard at Greenwich.

13 That he saw the real body of Christ visibly between the hands of Stevens at Mass.

14 That he preached at Brigstock in Northamptonshire in the presence of Mr. Malim, schoolmaster of Paul’s.

15 That he hath had the company of sundry great personages within the realm whom I forbear to name for reverence.

16 Beside household lies, which are infinite.

Perjury. For proof hereof we need seek no further than his ordinary manner to forswear himself fifteen times in an hour, whereof, because the pages and the boys in the street can bear witness, I will say no more, besides a thousand others in confirmation of all these particulars which have been repeated.

Mercenary Faith. He willed me to say to one in England that whatsoever he would have him affirm as said to him by my Lord of Leicester, he would affirm it to his face at Greenwich. He proffered my Lord Harry and myself five hundred pounds to affirm upon our own knowledge the words uttered by Rowland York of Mr. Secretary Walsingham, with much more, but these examples are most notable.


(Public Record Office, SP12/151[/46], ff. 103-4)


Michel de Castelnau, seigneur de Mauvissière to Henri III, roi de France [27]

January 11, 1581

Sire, etc. I will not omit also to say to your Majesty that several days before Christmas[28], the Earl of Oxford (who about four and a half years ago on his return from Italy made profession of the Catholic faith together with some of his relatives among the nobility and his best friends, and had sworn, is he says, and signed with them a declaration that they would do all they could for the advancement of the Catholic religion) [29] accused his former friends to the Queen of England your good sister. For his own part he craved forgiveness for what he had done, saying that he now recognised that he had done wrong. He then proceeded to accuse those who most loved and defended him, and wished to accompany him in his latest quarrels.  

He said that they had conspired against the State by having made profession of the Catholic faith, and he endeavoured to do them all the harm he could. One can imagine that the Queen your good sister was very much upset about it, for she was very fond of most of those accused by the Earl; among whom were Milord Henry Howard, a brother of the late Duke of Norfolk, and Lord Charles Arundell, greatly affectioned to your Majesties [Henri III] and to Monsieur[30], your brother [François Duc dʼAlençon], in being strong solicitors of the marriage, and from both receiving many boons for their courtesies towards the said Lady [Elizabeth]. It was to her great regret, as the Queen herself told me, that she was obliged to place them under guard in the custody of some of her Councillors[31]: Lord Henry under the charge of the Chancellor [Sir Thomas Bromley], and Charles Arundell under the charge of Sir Christopher Hatton, Captain of the Guard; and Francis Southwell under the charge of Sir Francis Walsingham.

 Having been questioned regarding the accusations preferred against them by the Earl of Oxford, namely that they had conspired against the State, they were able to clear themselves very satisfactorily; and as concerns Catholicism, they are known to be earnestly affected to it, as indeed is the case with most of the nobility of this kingdom[32]. The Queen knew this perfectly well; and Lord Henry Howard, Arundell, and Southwell, although Catholics at heart, are nevertheless much esteemed and favoured by her, seeing that both they and their friends have always been in favour of the marriage and of the French alliance.

The Earl of Oxford thus found himself alone in his evidence and accusations[33]. He has lost credit and honour, being abandoned by all his friends and by all the ladies of the Court, because he wanted to involve some of the most favourable ones to Monsieur, your brother. Thus the said Earl found himself with so much disgrace and regret that he lost all countenance, and no-one esteemed of him.

Nevertheless, up to the present the Queen has been endeavouring to find out all she can about the matter. She told me recently that they were all madmen, and that there were certainly plots being hatched, with their roots abroad; and that she very much regretted to find implicated those of her subjects who were so well affected to France and so favourable to the marriage. She added that she would close her eyes to their wrongs as far as possible, in view of their attitude towards the marriage.

The Earl of Oxford, finding himself alone and unsupported, threw himself on his knees several times before the Queen[34], and begged her to hear from my lips whether it was not true that I knew of a Jesuit[35] who had celebrated the Mass about four years ago at which they were reconciled to the Roman Church[36], and whom I had delivered to France at the request of the same said Earl[37]. The Queen earnestly begged me to tell her the facts not so much to injure them in any way, but to satisfy her as to the truth. She said that I knew quite well her favourable attitude towards Catholics who did not place their consciences in antagonism to the State, and entreated me to let her know about it.

I had to deny everything to him; saying that I not only knew nothing about it, but that I had never even heard it talked about. On hearing this the Earl of Oxford once again threw himself on his knees before her, and implored her to urge me to tell her the truth. At the same time he begged me to do him the favour to recall a circumstance which touched him very closely. He reminded me that he had sent me a message begging me to assist the said Jesuit to return in safety to France and Italy, and that when I had done so he gave me his thanks. I replied clearly and unequivocally to the Queen that I had no recollection whatever of this incident. The effect of my reply was that the Earl was fairly put to confusion in the presence or his Mistress.

Since he again sought and entreated me to do him this favour to remember that which I knew nothing of, I threw a wrench into his works saying that I had no memory of it at all, and praying him not to speak to me more of such a thing. And truly amazed, he told me that if I had wished I could have saved him from a great difficulty. But he did not consider where he would plant those who had been his friends, following them no longer. (If it is true that they made a like profession of religion together, as it could be.[38])

In fact, I have always known them affectioned to your Majesty, and to Monsieur, your brother, and they are the best allied in the realm. It does not appear that they would have any difficulty or trouble with such accusations of the said Earl of Oxford, on whom remains all the disgrace, and no-one will ever trust him.

He must have had some jealousy of them for being favoured, speaking of the marriage, and for seeing himself greatly indebted on all sides, after he has sold much of his property, as he sells it still every day[39]. Of little consideration in all his affections and undertakings, he thought to have favour by a means which has brought him very great dishonour. And those whom he has accused have more friends than he, and are able to defend themselves against his accusations without other testimony than his own.

Some have considered and think that the said Earl of Oxford has been stirred up by the enemies of the marriage to vex all those who are friends of it, and that some strangers who are in this realm of the Spanish faction are joined with him, gaining the said Earl of Oxford to make this intrigue- as they do all to cross the friends and servants of France[40]. But the said lady cannot not escape from the marriage without her ruin and great dishonour, or seek again the friendship of Spain against which she has had such alteration until now, as the results have demonstrated, having always feared to treat freely with you [Henri III] for fear that you would have more affection to Spain than to England. But she has lost that opinion.

(Public Record Office, 31/3/28, ff. 216-221.)


Oxford’s First Interrogatory, 18 January 1581

Item, to be demanded of Charles Arundell and Henry Howard
What combination, for that is their term, was made at certain suppers, one in Fish Street, as I take it, another at my Lord of Northumberland's[41], for they have often spoken hereof and glanced in their speeches.
Further, for Henry Howard
If he never spake or heard these speeches spoken, that the King of Scots[42] began now to put on spurs on his heels, and so soon as the matter of Monsieur[43] were assured to be at an end, that then within six months we should see the Queen's Majesty to be the most troubled and discontented person living.
Further, the same
Hath said the Duke of Guise[44], who was a rare and gallant gentleman, should be the man to come into Scotland, who would breech her Majesty for all her wantonness, and it were good to let her take her humour for a while, for she had not long to play.
Item, to Charles Arundell
A little before Christmas at my lodging in Westminster, Swift being present, and George Gifford[45], [Arundell] talking of the order of living by money and difference between that and revenue by land, he said at the last if George Gifford could make three thousand pound he would set him into a course where he need not care for all England, and there he should live more to his content and with more reputation than ever he did or might hope for in England and they would make all the court here wonder to hear of them, with divers other brave and glorious speeches, whereat George Gifford replied, "God's blood, Charles, where is this?" He answered, if you have three thousand pound or can make it he could tell, the other saying, as he thought, he could find the means to make three thousand pound. That speech finished with the coming in of supper.
Whether Charles Arundell did not steal over into Ireland within these five years without leave of her Majesty, and whether that year he was not reconciled or not to the church likewise, or how long after.
When he was in Cornwall at Sir John Arundell's[46], what Jesuits or Jesuits he met there, and what company he carried with him of gentlemen.
Not long before this said Christmas, entering into the speech of Monsieur, he passed into great terms against him, insomuch he said there was neither personage, religion, wit or constancy, and that for his part he had long since given over that course and taken another way, which was to Spain. For he never had opinion thereof since my Lord Chamberlain [Sussex][47] played the cockscomb (so he termed my Lord at that time) as, when he had his enemy [Leicester] so low[48] as he might have trodden him quite underfoot, that then he would of his own obstinacy, following no man's advice but his own (which he said was his fault), bring all things to an
equality, wherein he was greatly abused, in his own conceit, and so discouraged Simier[49] as never after he had mind to Spain any longer, reputing the whole cause then to be overthrown. And, further, for Monsieur, a man now well enough known unto him, and he would be no more abused in him, and it was for nothing that Simier saved himself, for he knew his [Monsieur's] inconstancy, and Bussy d'Ambois[50] had been a sufficient warning unto him, whom Monsieur's treachery had caused to be slain and would by practise bring Simier into the slander thereof that his [Monsieur's] villainy might not be found, but it was plain enough. And he had made an end and quite done with the cause, and liked of it no more, and so with a great praising of the King of Spain's greatness, piety, wealth, and how God prospered him therefore in all his actions, not doubting but to see him monarch of all the world, and all should come to one faith, he made an end, and thus much considering his practise with Jerningham. And the other articles wherewith he is charged import a further knowledge, and gives some light to his dealings with these persons of religion and Irish causes wherein the King of Spain seems underhand to deal.

(Public Record Office, SP12/151[/42], ff. 96-6v.)


Oxford’s Second Interrogatory, 18 January 1581
Item, to my Lord Henry
How he came to the intelligence that there should come ambassadors of France, Spain and others which should assist the King of Scots' ambassador in the demand of his mother, and this should be determined among them on the other side, as he said, and shall shortly come to pass.
Likewise, both Charles and Henry
Likewise, they have been great searchers in her Majesty's wealth, having intelligence out of all her receipts from her Majesty's courts in law, customs (as well of them that go out as are brought in); what subsidies, privy seals, and fifteens she hath made since her coming to the crown; what helps, as they say, by the gatherings, as for the building of Paul's steeple, the lotteries, and other devises from the clergy; and what forfeits by attainder or otherwise, and what pensions, what other out of bishops' livings to some of her counsellors; what gifts she hath bestowed; what charges she was at in her household reparations of her houses and castles, fees and a number of things which now I cannot call to remembrance whereof they ordinarily would speak; and of her navy, the charge she was at; what the wars of Leith, Newhaven [Le Havre], and other petty journeys into Ireland and Scotland and in the time of the rebellion, which are too long; as well what she received as what she spent in all offices, places, etc.
Likewise, to the said Charles
For what cause he sent [his servant] Pike to La Mote[51], and who he was who went into Spain, and whether Pike went or no, but he assuredly remained the other's return who carried letters from La Mote and brought back again letters from the King [of Spain] and recompense, whereupon Pike returned with answer to Charles Arundell, who helped the man, as I heard, to a marriage. And whether the fellow brought his master [Arundell] some assurance and reward from the King, his master, I know not, but ever since he [Pike] lives of himself and gives no more attendance, to colour, as I conjecture, the cause better; and the course, as I guess and have great reason to conjecture, put into some other's hands, a thing which, if it be well looked into, cannot be void of great and some notable practise, if it will please her Majesty but to look into the zealous mind which the said Charles hath since carried more than covertly to the Mass.

Likewise, both Charles Arundell and Henry Howard are privy, as oftentimes they have declared by their speeches these last years past for 4 or 5,
What increase hath been made of souls to their church in every shire throughout the realm,
Who be of theirs and who be not, who be assured and who be inclined, for this difference they make between them that are reconciled and such as are affected to their opinion and are to be brought in, and in every shire throughout the realm where they be strong and where they be weak. And this is known by certain secret gatherings for the relief of them beyond the seas, wherein there be notes of very households.

(Public Record Office, SP15/28[/2], f. 3.)


Charles Arundell, A brief answer to my Lord of Oxford’s slanderous accusations. (February-March 1581)

3 Article

That my Lord Harry should be present when I presented a certain book of pictures after the manner of a prophecy [52], and by interpretation resembled a crowned son to the Queen, etc.


Of all other this point is most childish, vain and most ridiculous, for as my Lord Harry never saw this painted book, I protest, much less expounded it or played the paraphrast, so in my knowledge did he never of any such till my Lord of Oxford, being commanded to keep his chamber about the libelling between him and my Lord of Leicester[53], I declared to my Lord Harry that such a toy Oxford laid up in his desk[54], which some man of his, as I conceived, thrust upon him under colour of a prophecy, to cozen him of crowns, as indeed it was not rare to pick his purse with pretence of novelties and future accidents, adding further that I feared lest Sir Thomas Heneage, who had the keeping of the fool [the Queen’s fool] at that time, lighting on the same might wilfully pervert it to his [Oxford’s] hurt, and give a greater opportunity to those that had a mind to temper or to work against him. This was my sincere and honest care of my ingrateful and accursed friend, and this was all that ever my Lord Harry heard of the painted gewgaws, so far his judgement and discretion was from guessing or interpreting, and for his further clearing in this cause, I will depose on my oath he was never privy to the book, and that Oxford showing it to me, conjured me by solemn oath never to impart the thing to my Lord Harry because he would not hide it from my Lord Treasurer. Now judge whether it be likely that he would make his eyes witnesses of that whereof he was so loath his ears should receive the sound by report of another, and such unkindness was at that time whereof he speaketh between them that not so much as ordinary speech, much less private secrets, were current on either side.

PRO SP12/151[/44], ff. 98-9


Charles Arundell,  Interrogatory (March-May 1581)

And first will I detect him of the most impudent and senseless lies that ever passed the mouth of man, which as heretofore they have made much sport to the hearers, so are they now turned to the prejudice of divers. Of a million at the least that hath passed his tongue I will only speak of three, in affirmation of which lies, being void of sense and without colour of truth, to have them believed he hath perjured himself a hundred times and damned himself to the pit of hell, a vice not inferior to many that him attend, and leaving all his circumstances, this is the first lie.

At his being in Flanders, the Duke of Alva, as he will constantly affirm, grew so much to affect him for those rare parts he saw in him as he made him his lieutenant-general over all the army then in the Low Country, and employed him further in a notable piece of service where, according to his place, he commanded and directed the ambassador of Spain that is now here [Mendoza], Mondragon, Sancho D’Avila and the rest of the captains, but these whom I have named, as he will say, of all others were most glad to be commanded by him, and so valiantly he behaved himself as he gained great love of all the soldiers, and no less admiration of his valour of all sorts, and in this journey he passed many straits and divers bridges kept by the enemy, which he beat them from with the loss of many a man’s life, but still he forced them to retire till at the last he approached the place that he went to besiege, and using no delay the cannon was planted, and the battery continued the space of ten days, by which time he had made such a breach as by a general consent of all his captains he gave an assault, and to encourage his soldiers, this valiant prince led them thereto, and through the force of his murdering arm many were sore wounded, but more killed. Notwithstanding, being not well followed by the reiters, he was repulsed, but determining to give a fresh and general assault the next day, Mr. Bedingfield, as the devil would have it, came in upon his post horse and called him from this service by her Majesty’s letters, being the greatest disgrace that ever any such general received, and now the question is whether this noble general were more troubled with his calling home, or Bedingfield more moved with pity and compassion to behold this slaughter, or his horse more afeard when he passed the bridges at sight of the dead bodies, whereat he started and flung in such sort as Bedingfield could hardly keep his back.

Whether this hath passed him I leave it to the report or my Lord Charles Howard, my Lord Windsor etc. And if in his soberest moods he would allow this, it may easily be gathered what will pass him in his cups. [55]

Not much unlike to the lie that went before, I have heard him often tell, and as often heard it affirmed by his own knaves when he called them for witness, that at his being in Italy there fell discord and dissension in the city of Genoa between two families, whereupon it grew to wars, and great aid and assistance given to either party, and that, for the fame that ran through Italy of his service done in the Low Countries under the Duke of Alva, he was chosen and made general of thirty thousand that the Pope sent to the aid of one party, and that in this action he showed so great discretion and government as by his wisdom the matters were compounded and an accord made, being more for his glory than if he had fought the battle. This lie is very rife with him, and in it he glories greatly; diversely hath he told it, and when he enters into it he can hardly out, which hath made such sport as often have I been driven to rise from his table laughing. So hath my Lord Charles Howard and the rest whom I named before, and for the proof of this I take them all as witnesses.

His third lie, which hath some affinity with the other two, is of certain excellent orations he made, as namely to the state of Venice, at Padua, at Bologna and divers other places in Italy, and one, which pleased himself above the rest, to his army when he marched towards Genoa, which, when he had pronounced it, he left nothing to reply, but everyone to wonder at his judgement, being reputed for his eloquence another Cicero and for his conduct a Caesar, and for his senseless lies, as I will avow, both a fool and a knave. But when this is told, up starts a knave with three long legs and tells him his Honour said true. Thus much for his lies, the least of which will gain a whetstone.

(PRO SP12/151[/45], ff. 100-2.)


Lord Henry Howard to Sir Francis Walsingham, dated September 14 [1581].

The thing which her Majesty was wont to urge against me chiefly was the sight, concealment & construction of a prophecy which I will take my oath upon the Bible that I never saw. Beside, they that were acquainted with that book of babies [= fairies] [56] in my Lord of Oxford’s hand will clear me both from sight and knowledge by their oath, and yet this would not serve when it pleased some that had the guiding of my false accuser’s tongue to bestow this favour on me for a token of old courtesy, lest by standing clear in a matter of most moment I might have been too much at liberty.


A year after Oxford’s denunciation of Howard and Arundell to the Queen, the Spanish ambassador clearly states that which they had denied so vehemently during their interrogation. He said, in truth that Howard and Arundell were both good Catholics and agents for the Spanish crown.


Bernardino de Mendoza to Philip II, king of Spain.

December 25, 1581

The Treasurer continues his efforts to expedite Alençon's departure, and I understand that, as another reason for hastening him, they have represented how expensive it will be for him to stay here over New Year's Day, by reason of the presents he will have to give, according to the custom of the country. I cannot say, however, precisely, the day that he will leave, as it depends upon the instability of the Queen and Alençon ; nor can I assert whether his going to Flanders will be carried through, but it is quite evident that all Englishmen were greatly rejoiced at seeing him ready to go, and they brought the ships to the mouth of the river to take him over, almost dead against the wind.
Lord Harry Howard, the brother of the duke of Norfolk, I have known by repute for years past, by means of priests, as a good Catholic, who, since his reconciliation with the Church, has performed all his duties as such. He was therefore desirous of bringing about the marriage, as he believed, like many others, that it would result in their being allowed freedom for their faith. On hearing that the earl of Oxford had accused him and Francis [=Charles] Arundell of submitting to the Roman Church, and that the Queen had ordered them both secretly to be arrested, they came to my house at midnight, although I had never spoken to them, and told me that they had been warned of their danger by a Councillor, a friend of Lord Harry's. They had been in close communication with the French ambassador, but they did not dare to trust him at this juncture, and feared that they would be taken to the Tower and their lives be sacrificed. They therefore came to me in their peril, and asked me to hide them and save their lives. As they were Catholics, I detained them without anyone in the house knowing of it, excepting one servant, until their friend the Councillor informed them that they would only be placed under arrest in a gentleman's house, whereupon they immediately showed themselves in public.

Milord Harry, in gratitude for the goodwill with which I received him, and with a care which I can hardly describe, has informed and informs me of everything he hears, which is of service to your Majesty, and recognises my favour, no little novelty for an Englishman to do. He has very good qualities and intelligence, and much friendship with the ladies of the privy chamber, who inform him exactly what passes indoors. He is also as intimate with the Earl of Sussex, as nail with quick. To touch off the greatness of the affection with which he occupies himself in the service of your Majesty (which is his constant desire) — I may here say, that in no wise would I wish him even to [extend] his arm to help me more.

London, 25th December 1581.

(Calendar of State Papers, Spain (Simancas), Vol. 3, pp. 242-46;

Catholic Record Society, vol. 21, The Ven. Philip Howard. Earl of Arundel, p. 31)


In 1583, with a view to exonerating himself, Lord Henry Howard published A defensative against the poison of supposed prophesies, where he describes Oxford’s involvement in the “Verdungus affair”.  Hitherto nobody had explained who Verdungus was.


Henry Howard, A defensative against the poison of supposed prophecies (1583)

A defensative against the poison of supposed prophecies.... not hitherto confuted by the pen of any man. Which being grounded either upon the warrant or authority of old painted books, exposition of dreams, oracles, revelations, invocation of damned spirits, judicials of astrology, or any other kind of pretended knowledge whatsoever de futuris contingentibus, have been causes of great disorder in the commonwealth, among the simple and unlearned people. Very necessary to be published, considering the great offence which grew by most palpable and gross errors in astrology. London 1583.

Chap. XXIII. How many cunning sleights and stratagems have been devised by these Prophets, to deceive men by their frivolous conceits.  [ed. 1620, p. 114]

Another pretty knack these cogging Prophets have, to mark what Noble Families are either tied by consanguinity, allied by matches, or united in good will together. If the league be sound and durable, or at the least (in reason) like to be the Beasts which are most commonly given by them for Crests in Armory, and best known to the world; they shall be made to court and to embrace, and like Hippocrates his twins, to weep and to laugh, to be sick and whole at once; otherwise they fight and scratch, they whet their tusks and beat their tails, they take divers ways, which always gives best advantage to the counterfeit.


Chap. XXVI. A further examination of their Bookes, concerning things future, or accidents already past. [ed. 1583, Sig. K.k.i; ed. 1620, p. 120-21]

It was once my hap, to be examined upon the sight of a certain painted Treatise of this kind; garnished with sundry Beasts and Birds; and fitter (as I gather by some friends of mine, who make good sport thereat) for a childish game than sober judgement. It is certain that I never was admitted to this Sybillae’s Oracle, although I could have been as well content to feed mine eyes without offence, for anything I know, as others were to content their humours, in a Wilderness of folly. But whether it be probable, that either I did ever see the same, or make account thereof, or would afford expense and waste of time (which is most precious) to fancies of this kind, which are most frivolous: let them conceive, that either are acquainted with myself, or will vouchsafe to read and scan the reasons of this book, which having been collected in a book of notes, out of the full course of all my reading, from the fifteenth year of mine age until this day, upon a mortal malice against Prophecies, in respect of some Progenitors and Ancestors of mine, which smarted for presuming overmuch upon their hopes; should never have been recommended to the print, if mere necessity, and care to satisfy the world herein, had not prevailed at the length against my bashful and retirade humour. For my own part I always conceived them to be the froth of folly, the scum of pride, the shipwreck of honour, and the poison of nobility. But notwithstanding, for so much as I can gather by report of some dear friends of mine, who saw the gewgaw in the keeping of another (who esteemed it too much)[57] it should appear either to have been over-flourished in a Painter’s shop, with matter correspondent to their humours which delighted in news; or else to have been drawn upon the guess of one Verdungus: [58] who, during the reign of King Henry the eight, seeking (according to the guise of such bad persons) to content and please the moods of certain Princes, which were then in war and deep unkindness with the King: gave out in writing, that the Realm should be given up In praedam diversis animantibus, For a prey or spoil to sundry Beasts.


Johannes Virdung, Practica deutsch uff das 1524. jare

The certainty he durst not limit nor set down, for fear of being taken with a gross and shameful lie. Neither durst he publish or reveal the points and reasons whereupon the judgement stood, because the man himself, being posted forward with a humour of revenge, sought rather by this means to make his voice a trumpet of encouragement than a messenger of tribulation. For proof whereof we are to note the end, and chiefly that the King was laid to rest with his Fathers in convenient time, when Verdungus, having made a shameful wreck, both of conscience and credit, was scorned and derided for his vain presumption without ground, and malice without moderation. This may suffice to shadows of pretence, and to descry the grounds of Prophecies, either written in old Books, or painted with fresh colours.




John Hungerford Pollen, and William MacMahon (eds.), The Venerable Philip Howard Earl of Arundel, 1557-95, Catholic Record Society, vol. 21 (1919).

Bernard M. Ward, The Seventeenth Earl of Oxford (1550–1604) from Contemporary Documents, London 1928.

Robin B. Barnes, Astrology and Reformation, Oxford 2016.

Alan H. Nelson, Monstrous Adversary, The Life of Edward de Vere 17th Earl of Oxford, Liverpool 2003

The Oxford Authorship Site





Calendar of State Papers, Spain (Simancas), Vol. 3, 1580-1586, ed. by Martin A. S. Hume, London 1896. http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/simancas/vol3



[1] that he never was nonplus but when he dealt with you. OED: nonplus. ‘A state in which no more can be said or done; inability to proceed in speech or action; a state of perplexity or puzzle.’ - We have reason to believe that Oxford’s statement was recorded rather correctly. However, Howard’s denunciation is despicable.

[2] Neither will I run forth with a single voice, as my Lord [of Oxford] is fain to do. An indication that Howard and Arundell concocted their statements against Oxford together.

[3] whereof I was examined by my Lord Chancellor. Sir Thomas Bromley (1530–1587) was a lawyer, judge and politician who established himself in the mid-Tudor period and rose to prominence during the reign of Elizabeth I. He was successively Solicitor General and Lord Chancellor of England (since 1579).

[4] the trimming up of Fisher’s Folly. Oxford had recently acquired Fisher’s Folly as his London residence.

[5] Monsieur. Hercule-François Duke of Alençon (1555-1584), the French King Henri III's younger brother, marriage candidate to Queen Elizabeth, commonly referred to by the title ‘Monsieur’. – See: W. Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, I/2:

NERISSA. How say you by the French lord, Monsieur Le Bon?
PORTIA. God made him, and therefore let him pass for a man … If a throstle sing he falls straight a-cap'ring. 

(When the the “throstle” is singing, Monsieur jumps for joy:  Mauvis ist the french word for throstle (or thrush) – and Mauvissière is the match maker.)

[6] my Lord of Surrey. Philip Howard, 1st Earl of Arundel, Lord of Surrey (1557–1595) was an English nobleman. He was canonised by Pope Paul VI in 1970, as one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales. He is variously numbered as 1st, 20th or 13th Earl of Arundel.

[7] Lady Margaret Howard (1561-1591) married  Robert Sackville, later 2nd Earl of Dorset, on 4 February 1580.

[8] the bearing of a white waster. Signifies the empty office of Lord Great Chamberlain.

[9] my Lord Thomas. Thomas Howard, later 1st Earl of Suffolk (1561-1621). - See 7.2.5 Oxford and France, Gilbert Talbot’s letter to his father from 5 March 1579: “It is but vain to trouble your Lordship with such shows as was showed before her Majesty this Shrovetide at night. The chiefest was a device presented by the persons of th’ Earl of Oxford, th’ Earl of Surrey, the Lords Thomas Howard & Windsor.”

[10] that the meanest shoemaker’s wife in Milan is more gallant and more delicately suited every common working-day that the Queen our mistress is at Whitsuntide. See: William Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing III/4:

MARGARET. I like the new tire within excellently, if the hair were a
   thought browner; and your gown's a most rare fashion, i' faith.
   I saw the Duchess of Milan's gown that they praise so.
HERO. O, that exceeds, they say.
MARGARET. By my troth, 's but a nightgown in respect of yours--
   cloth-o'-gold and cuts, and lac'd with silver, set with pearls
   down sleeves, side-sleeves, and skirts, round underborne with
   a blush tinsel. But for a fine, quaint, graceful, and excellent
   fashion, yours is worth ten on't.

[11] that he took a principal town in Flanders by the Duke of Alva’s direction, and had taken another but for the coming of Mr. Bedingfield. Thomas Bedingfield (1537 -1613) was one of Oxford’s friends; in July 1574, on the orders of the Queen, Bedingfield searched in Flanders for the young Earl, caught him up in Zaltbommel on the river Waal and accompanied him to London. –See 7.2.3 Oxford in Flanders, note 10.

[12] that the Countess of Mirandola came fifty mile to lie with him. This will be a humorous reference to the historical figure of Francesca Pico, Countess of Mirandola (1475-1560). She was the natural daughter of Gian Giacopo Trivulzio, and widow of Ludovico Pico, who defended the fortress of Mirandola against Pope Julius II in 1510. – Compare with the statement made by Arundell at the same time.

[13] that a greater lady far by some degrees than she made court to him in France. In a parallel action, Charles Arundel claimed to have heard from Oxford’s mouth, “That the Queen of Navarre sent a messenger to desire him to speak with him in her chamber.” – The talk is of Marguerite de Valois (1553-1615), the sister of Henri III, and wife of Henri de Navarre (1553-1610).

[14] that a merchant in Genoa hath a mantel of a chimney that cost more than all the treasure in the Tower doth amount unto. See, William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, III/1:

SHYLOCK. I thank thee, good Tubal. Good news, good news – ha, ha!- heard in Genoa.
TUBAL. Your daughter spent in Genoa, as I heard, one night, fourscore ducats.

[15] that Charles Tyrrell appeared to him with a whip after he was dead, and his mother in a sheet, foretelling things to come. Oxford’s stepfather buried on 7 March 1570 at Kingston-upon-Thames. - See William Shakespeare, Prince Hamlet. The apparition of King Hamlet’s ghost.

[16] that he could conjure. Like Prospero, the right Duke of Milan, in The Tempest.

[17] the bloodshed of his youth. This is a reference to the death of the under-cook Thomas Brincknell on 24 July 1567.

[18] my Lord of Worcester. Edward Somerset, 4th Earl of Worcester (1553-1628) and Oxford celebrated a double wedding on 16 December 1571. Later Somerset was an important advisor to King James I, serving as Lord Privy Seal. On February 21, 1589, he succeeded his father as Earl of Worcester.

[19] Rowland York. Rowland York (c.1553-1588), in his youth a friend of Oxford, volunteered for the Netherlands under Captain Thomas Morgan in 1572. He embarked at Gravesend on 19 March that year with his two companions, the poet George Gascoigne and William Herle, but their ship was nearly lost on the coast of Holland owing to the incompetence of the Dutch pilot. Reaching the English camp in safety, York took part in August that year in the attack on Goes under Captain (afterwards Sir) Humphrey Gilbert and William of Orange's captain Jerome Tseraerts.

“York was an adventurer of the most audacious and dissolute character. He was a Londoner by birth, one of those ‘ruing blades’ inveighed against by the governor-general on his first taking command of the forces.  A man of desperate courage, a gambler, a professional duellist, a bravo, famous in his time among the ‘common hacksters and swaggerers’ as the first to introduce the custom of foining, or thrusting with the rapier in single combats--whereas before his day it had been customary among the English to fight with sword and shield, and held unmanly to strike below the girdle--he had perpetually changed sides, in the Netherland wars, with the shameless disregard to principle which characterized all his actions.” (John Lothrop Motley, History of the United Netherland, From the Death of William the Silent to the Twelve Year's Truce -1609, Chapt. XIII (1587), Vol. I, New York and London 1867.)

[20] he would have wrested me by flattery or any mean to justify the knowledge of such practices from Rowland York. Fitting to this muddled accusation, Charles Arundell went on to say, “A device [of Oxford] fathered upon Rowland York, that Mr. Walsingham should pack [federate] with my Lords of Essex and Huntington, first to begin with my Lord of Leicester about his wife [Lettice Knollys], making all the strength he could under colour of pretending request of justice, and when that should either be denied or abridged, to attempt the reformation of the government. - The practice [of Oxford] with my Lord Harry and myself to avow the knowledge of the said practice from Rowland York’s mouth, which we refused.”

[21] Thus Weekes was commanded to kill Sankey. This (along with all other accusations) was invented without a trace of evidence or a wisp of a connection to reality. William Sankey, the husband of Henry Golding’s stepdaughter, had been murdered during the closing days of July 1577 (Henry Golding was the half-brother of Oxford's mother, Margery Golding.) – The highly imaginative Alan H. Nelson dedicates an entire capital to Howards untruthful denunciation in his book: “Murder by Hire” (Monstrous Adversary, 2003, pp. 174-177.)

[22] Tom Drury. Thomas Drury (1551–1603), government informer, messenger and swindler, is noted for having been one of the main people responsible for accusations of heresy, blasphemy and seditious atheism on the part of the Elizabethan playwright Christopher Marlowe given to the Privy Council in May 1593. Within a couple of weeks, Marlowe was reported dead.

[23] Denny and Raleigh. (Sir) Edward Denny (1547–1600), Knight Banneret of Bishop's Stortford, was a soldier, privateer and adventurer. Denny was also befriended with George Gascoigne (See Gascoignes Voyage to Holland, 1573). - Sir Walter Raleigh (c. 1554–1618) was an English landed gentleman, writer, poet, soldier, politician, courtier, spy and explorer. He was cousin to Sir Richard Grenville and younger half-brother of Sir Humphrey Gilbert. At some time during the course of 1579 Raleigh provoked Oxford, his rival at court, with a poem which the latter had written for Anne Vavasour –

Many desire, but few or none deserve
To win the fort of thy most constant will;
Therefore take heed; let fancy never swerve
but unto him that will defend thee still.
   For this be sur, the fort of fame once won
   Farewell the rest, thy happy days are done. 
Many desire, but few or none deserve
To pluck the flowers and let the leaves to fall;
Therefore take heed; let fancy never swerve
But unto him that will take leaves and all.
   For this be sure, the flower once plucked away.
   Farewell the rest, thy happy days decay.
Many desire, but few or none deserve
To cut the corn not subject to the sickle;
Therefore take heed let fancy never swerve,
But constant stand, for mowers minds are fickle;
   For this be sure, the crop once being obtain'd
   Farewell the rest, the soil will be disdained.

(Rawlinson Poet. 85, fol. 116.)

Clearly the relationship between Oxford and Sir Walter Raleigh was somewhat tense, however it would be a gross exaggeration to say that they were enemies. In response to a request from Lord Burghley, Raleigh supports his unfortunate rival. He writes, in a letter to Lord Burghley: “I am content, for your sake, to lay the serpent before the fire, as much as in me lieth, that, having received strength, myself may be most in danger of his poison and sting.” (See 5.2.1, Oxford’s poem No.59: ‘The cruel hate which boils within thy burning breast.’)

[24] Thus was Gifford. (Sir) George Gifford (1552-1613), gentleman-pensioner.

[25] Friday night. The 16th of December 1580. – See Henry Howard’s letter from 12 January 1581 to Sir Walsingham: “Touching mine accuser, if the botches and deformities of his mis-shapen life suffice not to discredit and disgrace the warrant of his wreckful word, yet let his practice with some gentlemen to seek my life, his message by Charles Arundel on Friday next shall be a month [16-12-1580] that either indirectly or directly, by right or wrong, he would be revenged.” (PRO SP/147[/6], ff. 6-7.)

[26] after this life we should be as if we had never been, and that the rest was devised but to make us affrayed, like babes and children, of our shadows. At the same time, Arundel also accuses Oxford of sorcery and communication with the spirit world - which contradicts his testimony (see Ordinary Use To Lie, Nr. 10-12). Henry Howard adds two further points to the list. Oxford had said:

What a blessing Solomon had for his 300 concubines.
The Bible only to be to hold men in obedience, and man’s device.

[27] Michel de Castelnau to Henri III, roi de France. Revised translation from Bernard M. Ward, The Seventeenth Earl of Oxford, pp. 207-9.

The letter reads in the original:

Sire ... Je nobmettray aussy à dire à vostre magesté que il y a quelques jours et ses festes de Noel que le comte D’auxfort lequel avoit fait il y a environ quatre ans et demy a son retour d’Itallie  profession de la religion catholique avec quelques gentils hommes de ses parenset meilleurs amys et juré comme il dit et signé avec eulx quilz feroient tout ce quilz pourroient pour  l’advancement de la religion catholicque, il les a accusez à la royne d’Angleterre vostre bonne soeur et pour sa part il a demandé pardon disant qu’il voyoit bien avoir mal faict et a voulu  charger sur ceulx qui l’avoient plus aymé et deffendu et voulu accompagner en ses dernières querelles.

Il a dict quilz avoient conspiré contre l’Estat en faisant profession de la religion  catholicque et a cherché de leur faire tout le mal quil a peu penser ce qui a fort fasché la dicte royne vostre bonne seur car elle estoit merveilleusement affectionnée et faisoit beaucoup de faveur a la plus part deceulx que a accusez le dict comte d’Auxfort comme au milord Henri de  Haward frère du feu duc de Norfoc au Sr Charles Arondel grandement affectionnez à voz  magestez et a monseigneur vostre frère en estant de bons solliciteurs pour le mariage dont ilz recepvoient beaucoup de bonnes chères pour faire en cela chose qui plaisoit à la dicte dame laquelle toutefois a esté avec son grand regret comme elle mesme le m’a dict contrainte de les faire mettre en garde entre les mains de quelques conseillers à sçavoir le milord de Henry entre les mains du chancellier et le Sr Charles Arondel entre les mains du Sr de Haton cappitaine de la garde et le Sr Sandonel entre les mains du Sr de Walsingham.

Ayant estez interrogez pour ce que le dict comte Dauxfort les avoit accusez contre l’Estat ils s’en purgent très bien et pour ce qui seroit de la religion catholicque ilz sont bien congnuz  pour y avoir tousjours esté fort affectionnez et n’en avoir point eu d’autre en leurs coeurs  comme n’ont la plus grande part de la noblesse de ce royaume ce que la dicte royne vostre bonne soeur connoist et que le dict mylord de Hawart, Arondel et Sandonel estant catholicques d’affection estoient néantmoins estimez et favorisez de la dicte royne vostre bonne soeur à loccasion que eulx et leurs amys ont tousjours esté pour le dict mariage et pour l’alliance de France.

Le dict comte Dauxfort ce trouve tout seul tesmoin et accusateur, ayant perdu le crédit et  l’honneur estant habandonné de tous ses amys et de toutes les dames pour en avoir encores voulu toucher quelques unes en cecy des plus favorables à monseigneur vostre frère et ce  trouve avec tant de honte et de regret le dict comte qu’il en pert toute la contenance et nul ne fait cas de luy, toutefoys la dicte royne a essayé jusques à ceste heure de tirer tout ce quelle pourroit, mais elle m’a dict ses jours quelle voyoit bien que cestoient des foulz et que cestoient des praticques qui venoient de loing de quoy elle avoit beaucoup de regret d’y voir meslez ceux qui estoient si bien affectionnez a la France et sy favorables au mariage mais qu’encores quil ce trouvast quelque mal en eux elle fermeroit les yeux le plus qu’elle pourroit pour ce respect quilz estoient amys du dict mariage estant bien marrye de telz accidans en ce temps icy.

Le dict comte Dauxfort a requis à la dicte royne et c’est mis à genoux plusieurs foys pour la supplier voyant quil ne pouvoit avoir autre tesmoingnage que le sien de me prier luy dire et sçavoir de moy sy je n’avois pas congneu il y a environ quatre ans un jésuiste qui leur avoit dit la messe et les avoit reduitz à l’esglise romaine et lequel j’avois fait sauver en France à la requeste mesme du dict comte Dauxfort, dequoy la dicte royne m’a instamment prié de luy dire ce qui en estoit, non tant pour leur faire mal que pour en sçavoir la vérité me disant que je  pouvois bien sçavoir quelle elle estoit envers les catholicques qui ne mestoient leurs  consciances avec l’Estat et m’a fait grande instance et prière de sçavoir de moy telle chose.

Je luy ay dutout nyé, ne sçavoir que c’estoit, ny n’en avoir jamays ouy parler, ny rien sceu,  quoy voyant le dict comte Dauxfort c’est encores venu jecter à genoux d’avant elle la suppliant en ma présence de me prier de luy en dire la vérité et me supplioit de l’autre part que je luy fisse ceste grâce de me souvenir de chose qui luy importoit tant que celle là et  comme il m’avoit envoyé prier et requérir de faire sauver en France et en Itallye le dict jésuiste et lors qu’il fust en seureté il m’en remercia. Je luy ay dict nectement à la dicte royne que je n’en sçavois rien et que je n’avois connoissance ny mémoire de telle chose de sorte qu’en la présence de sa maistresse le dict comte c’est trouvé bien confus.

Depuis il m’a encores recherché & supplié de luy faire ceste faveur de me souvenir de ce que j’en sçavois: je luy ay coupé la broche que je n’en avois point de mémoire en le priant de ne  me parler plus de telle chose, et bien estonné me dit que si j’eusse voulu je l’eusse tiré d’une  grand peine mais il ne considéroit pas celle ou il vouloit mettre ceux qui avoient esté ses amys ne leur faisant pas tour de compagnon s’il est vray qu’ilz eussent fait une mesme profession de religion ensemble comme il peult estre, et davantage je les ay tousjours connuz affectionnez à vostre à monseigneur vostre frère, et sont des mieux alliez en ce royaume.

Il n’y a pas aparance quilz ny peine ny ennuy de telles accusations du dict comte Dauxfort auquel en demeurera toute la honte et nul ne se fiera jamays en luy. 

Il a peu avoir quelque jalousie d’eux pour estre favorisez parlant du mariage et aussi que ce voyant grandement endebté de tous costez, et vendu beaucoup de ses biens comme il en vent encores tous les jours et homme de peu de considération en toutes ses affections et tout ce qu’il entreprent.

Il pensoit avoir de la faveur par un moyen qui luy a porté très grand deshonneur et ceulx quil a accusez ont plus d’amys que luy et d’entendement pour leur conduire et deffendre de ses  accusations sans autre tesmoingnage que le sien.

Aucuns ont estimé et pensent que le dict comte Dauxfort a esté suseité par les ennemys du mariage pour fascher tous ceux qui en sont amys et que quelques uns estrangers qui sont en ce royaume de la faction espagnolle ce sont joinctz avec luy gaignant le dict comte d’Auxfort  pour faire ceste menée comme ilz font ce quilz peuvent pour traverser les amys et serviteurs de la France et qui en désirent l’amitié et l’alliance et y ont fait comme leur reste, estimant  que c’est le bien et l’honneur et seureté de leur royne et de l’Angleterre et que la dicte dame ne pourroit quand elle voudroit trouver moyen pour eschapper le mariage sans sa rhuyne et  grand deshonneur, ou rechercher l’amitié d’Espaigne contre laquelle elle a eu tant d’altération  jusques à présent comme les effectz l’ont monstré ayant tousjours creint de traicter librement  avec vous de peur que ne eussiez plus d’affection à l’Espagne qu’a l’Angleterre mais elle a perdu ceste oppinion.

(Public Record Office, 31/3/28, ff. 216-221. Transcript made by M. Armand Baschet of Bibliothèque Nationale, 15973, ff. 389v – 391v. – See: http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b90609269/f790.item.r=mauvissi%C3%A8re%2015973.zoom)

[28] several days before Christmas. Mauvissière writes: “il y a quelques jours et ses festes de Noel”. It would appear that the ambiguity in the ambassador’s report was deliberate due to the fact that it was written three weeks after Oxford’s appearance before the Queen. According to the testimonies of both Howard and Arundel; Oxford made his accusation against Lord Howard after 16-12-1580 and before 25-12-1580, probably on 19-20 or 21 December.

[29] the Earl of Oxford who about four and a half years ago on his return from Italy made profession of the Catholic faith together with some of his relatives among the nobility and his best friends, and had sworn, is he says, and signed with them a declaration that they would do all they could for the advancement of the Catholic religion. Even in their most frenzied accusations, neither Howard nor Arundell went as far as to say that Oxford had converted to Catholicism or had reconciled to the Church of Rome; instead, Howard worked himself up to an artificial indignant rage and said: “his horrible untruths which he hath uttered so many times … that he saw Christ crucified between the priest’s hands at sacring; that he could conjure, and had often conference with Satan”. And Arundell emphasized: “I will prove against him his most horrible and detestable blasphemy in denial of the divinity of Christ our Saviour, and terming the Trinity as a fable.” - Although Mauvissière intended to sing the praises of his two heros, he was actually exposing them as liars.

[30] Monsieur. See note 5.

[31] It was to her great regret, as the Queen herself told me, that she was obliged to place them under guard in the custody of some of her Councillors.  I.e. Howard and Arundell were placed under house arrest under the supervision of Sir Bromley, Sir Hatton and Sir Walsingham. Whether or not they were detained in the famous Tower of London remains a matter for speculation.

[32] as concerns Catholicism, they are known to be ernestly affected to it, as indeed is the case with most of the nobility of this kingdom. This statement is at best an erroneous assessment, at worst, a deliberate lie.

[33] The Earl of Oxford thus found himself alone in his evidence and accusations. This statement defies reason, who else was there to support Oxford during his interrogation by the Queen? Mauvissière had clearly been summoned by the Queen to make assist her in the evaluation of Oxford’s utterances. Seeing himself in the role of the accused he saw himself forced into stating a denial.

[34] The Earl of Oxford, finding himself alone and unsupported, threw himself on his knees several times before the Queen. This is a truly preposterous statement. It would have taken more than a lady in waiting pulling a stern face at his “treason” or the French ambassador’s refusal to help him out. From the very outset, Oxford had been a supporter of the “French Marriage”- that was the reason behind his famous quarrel with Philip Sydney on the tennis court in August 1579. A year later, Gabriel Harvey attacked him with his poem Speculum Tuscanismi implying that he was a friend of Tuscanian decadence. Oxford’s current accusation had nothing to do with the “French Marriage” but rather Howard’s secret contacts to Mary Stuart and the Spanish faction.

[35] and begged her to hear from my lips whether it was not true that I knew of a Jesuit. This concerns a former secretary of the Bishop of Salisbury, by the name of Richard Stevens, who converted to Catholicism in 1573 and left England in 1574. In the seminary of Douai he became Bachelor of Sacred Theology (STB) and was ordained to the priesthood. He embarked for England on 10 November 1576, where he secretly preached. On 14 July 1577 Stevens returned to Douai, and never came back to England.

[36] who had celebrated the Mass about four years ago at which they were reconciled to the Roman Church. Mauvissière lies so as not to have to disclose information concerning his own and Lord Howard’s connections to Stevens.– See note 29.

[37] and whom I had delivered to France at the request of the same said Earl. Steven’s journey to Douai was obviously made possible by Mauvissière (see note 35). What other reason could Oxford have had to mention the Jesuit to the King? He wanted to incriminate Howard and Arundel and embarrass Mauvissière. This theory is supported by Mauvissière’s statement: “et lequel [jésuiste] j’avois fait sauver en France”.) – See Thomas Norton’s interrogatories put to Charles Arundell. – See Thomas Norton’s interrogatories put to Charles Arundell.

2. Item, whether have you been reconciled to the Church of Rome, and at what time and
place, and who were reconciled with you, and how many others do you know so
3. How often have you heard Mass and been confessed within these 5 years last past, and
in whose house and in what company?
21. Item, whether doth any Jesuit say Mass for any man before reconcilement to the
Church, and whether did not Stevens and other so declare unto you before they would
suffer you to hear their Mass?

(PRO SP12/147[/4] f. 6.)

[38] If it is true that they made a like profession of religion together, as it could be. It would appear that Mauvissière had decided to retract the adventurous statement which he made earlier.

[39] for seeing himself greatly indebted on all sides, after he has sold much of his property, as he sells it still every day. See, William Shakespeare, Timon of Athens.

[40] that some strangers who are in this realm of the Spanish faction are joined with him, gaining the said Earl of Oxford to make this intrigue- as they do all to cross the friends and servants of France. Mauvissière turns the truth around completely. It was common knowledge that Oxford had always been a supporter of the “French Marriage”.

[41] Lord of Northumberland. Henry Percy, 8. Earl of Northumberland (c.1532-1585), brother of the insurgent Thomas Percy, 7. Earl of Northumberland.

[42] the King of Scots. James VI (1566–1625), King of Scotland, later James I., King of England, Scotland and Ireland.

[43] Monsieur. see note 5.

[44] the Duke of Guise. Henry I, Prince of Joinville, Duke of Guise (1550-1588), founder of the Catholic League in 1576.

[45] George Gifford. See note 24.

[46] at Sir John Arundell’s. Sir John Arundell (died 1580), of Trerice in Cornwall, was an English landowner and Member of Parliament. 

[47] my Lord Chamberlain. Thomas Radcliffe (c.1525-1583), 3rd Earl of Sussex, Lord Chamberlain of the Household.

[48] when he had his enemy [Leicester] so low. Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester (1532/33-1588), was the favourite and close friend of Elizabeth I from her first year on the throne. On 21 September 1578, Leicester married Lettice Knollys. The Queen was both shocked and offended that she never came to terms with the marriage.

[49] Simier. Jean de Simier, Baron de Saint- Marc, had been Alençon's personal representative in England from 1578, promoting the “French Marriage”.

[50] Bussy d'Ambois. Louis de Clermont, seigneur de Bussy d'Amboise (1549–1579) was a gentleman at the court of French king of Henri III. – George Chapman wrote The Tragedy of Bussy D'Ambois (c.1603).

[51] La Mote.  Bertrand de Salignac Fénélon, seigneur de la Mothe (1523-1589), French diplomatist from 1568 to 1575. He was recalled when Catherine de' Medici wished to bring about a marriage between Elizabeth and the duke of Alençon, and thought that another ambassador would have a better chance of success in the negotiation. In 1582 Fenelon was charged with a new mission to England, then to Scotland, and returned to France in 1583. He opposed the Protestants until the end of the reign of Henry III.

[52] a certain book of pictures after the manner of a prophecy. The “certain book” mentioned here is a prophetic almanac, illustrated with wood cuts, from the 16th century. During Elizabeth’s reign, it was frowned upon to broach the subject of succession. Any prophecies pertaining to the subject scared the courtly readers off. – See note 58. 

[53] the libelling between him and my Lord of Leicester. In his pamphlet Have with you to Saffron Walden (1596) Thomas Nashe is referring to this quarrel of 1580: “I had forgot to observe unto you, out of his first four [=three] familiar Epistles, his ambitious stratagem to aspire; that whereas two great Peers being at jar, and their quarrel continued to bloodshed, he would needs, uncalled and when it lay not in his way, step in on the one side, which indeed was the safer side (as the fool is crafty enough to sleep in a whole skin) and hew and slash with his Hexameters…” (See 3.1.10 Nashe, Have with You, note 47.)

[54] that such a toy Oxford laid up in his desk. Unlike Shakespeare, many Elizabethans believed in astrology and the occult. The playwright estimated the prophecies for their entertainment value. He even included witches and ghosts into his dramatis persona in both King Lear and Macbeth, and according to 2Henry IV (IV/3) on 20 March 1413, Henry IV, king of England, fulfilled a prophecy that he should die at Jerusalem: this wasn’t, however, Jerusalem in the Holy Land but a more domestic version: the ‘Jerusalem Chamber’ at Westminster Abbey.

[55] Thus much for his lies, the least of which will gain a whetstone. – See 7.2.3 Oxford in Flanders.)

[56] that book of babies [= fairies]. Vgl. John Lyly, Endymion (IV.3):

CORSITES. Good madam, pardon me; I was overtaken too late. I should rather break into the midst of a main battle than again fall into the hands of those fair babies [= fairies].

OED, babies (4.) pl. ‚Pictures in books; perh. orig. the ornamental tail-pieces and borders with cupids and grotesque figures interworked.‘

[57] who saw the gewgaw in the keeping of another (who esteemed it too much). See Arundell’s statement (February-March 1581): “This was my sincere and honest care of my ingrateful and accursed friend, and this was all that ever my Lord Harry heard of the painted gewgaws.”

[58] or else to have been drawn upon the guess of one Verdungus. The person to whom Howard is referring is the German astrologer, Johannes Virdung (= Verdungus) (1463-1538) whose book Practica Teutsch (1523) contributed to the contemporary debate concerning the great flood. Virdung discussed the coming of the Antichrist and the Apocalypse; he prophesied a weakening of the Catholic faith. His writings passed into the agenda of religious conservatives and were used to stir up fear and animosity towards Martin Luther’s reformation. - Without any regard for historical fact, Howard made up a story with a sticky end for Johannes Virdung.



Johannes Virdung of Hassfurt, was a celebrated astrologer of the early sixteenth century from the Electoral Palatinate. He travelled through Germany, France and Italy. He was even summonsed to the Danish court when King Christian II wished to discuss the interpretation of Genesis with him.

Virdung published several Prognostica and Royal decree forbad unauthorized copies. His book Practica Teutsch uff das MCCCCC und XXIII. jare [1523] dealt with astrological predictions pertaining to certain celestial constellations- with particular attention to the different areas of Germany.

Robin B. Barnes comments in Astrology and Reformation (2016): „A mainly older generation of German humanist astologers, includimng figures such as Georg Tannstetter, Joseph Grünpeck, Johann Virdung, and Johann Stöffler, showed the influence of the Lichtenberger tradition of deeply threatening forecasts for the immediate future together with hopeful scenarios of a return to peace and harmony in a reformes Empire and Church. Johann Virdung’s predictions typified this orientation, for he thought that the disasters to come would be followed by the final triumph of the Ship of St. Peter. Virdung took a common line in denying a universal flood or the imminent end of the world, especially since the Bible made it clear that the end would be brought about not by water but by by fire. Neither the astrological nor the biblical evidence supported the extreme scenarios.”