4.4.3. Book the second, 1577-1588






































"I may not omit the deserved commendations of many honourable and noble Lords and Gentlemen in Her Majesty's Court, which, in the rare devices of poetry, have been and yet are most skilful; among whom the right honourable Earl of Oxford may challenge to himself the title of the most excellent among the rest."









"For a long time past Phoebus Apollo has cultivated thy mind in the arts. English poetical measures have been sung by thee long enough. Let the Courtly Epistle-more polished even than the writings of Castiglione himself-witness how greatly thou dost excel in letters. I have seen many Latin verses of thine, yea, even more English verses are extant."

Gabriel Harvey to the Earl of Oxford, 1578.





THE year 1577 opened without any improvement in the

relations between the Earl of Oxford and his wife, and Lord

Burghley took the opportunity of making a fresh appeal to

his son-in-law to relent:


My Lord, My silence and forebearing of speech to your

Lordship (now a good time) in a cause of that weight to

me as concerneth so nearly my dearest beloved daughter,

your Lordship's wife, hath hitherto proceeded, partly in

hope that after some space of months some change to the

better might follow, partly to avoid the offending of you

in whom I have seen some change from your old wonted

countenance. But considering with myself, and that

seriously, how long both I as a father to your afflicted wife

(and be it spoken without offence of comparison) for my

part as loving and as well deserving a friend towards you,

since I first knew you, as any whosoever of any degree;

and also (how long) your loving, faithful, and dutiful

wife hath suffered the lack of your love, conversation and

company: though in several respects desired, yea, in some

sort due by several deserts to us.

I cannot, my Lord, see this old year passed with such

disgraces, and a new entered meet to record a concourse of

graces, nor feel the burden of the griefs to grow as they

daily do without appearance of amendment, but assay by

reasonable means to seek relief; specially for my daughter,

whose grief is the greater and shall always be inasmuch as

her love is most fervent and addicted to you, and because

she cannot, or may not, without offence be suffered to come

to your presence, as she desireth, to offer the sacrifice


p. 147

ship (and by contestation of your honour do require you

to assent) that I may have some time convenient to speak

with your Lordship in your own chamber or in some other

meet place; meaning not to move anything to your

Lordship but that shall proceed from a ground of mere

love towards you, and that shall be agreeable to your

honour and calling, to your profit and comfort, and not

unmeet for either of us both. And if your Lordship shall

for any respect though unknown to me like to have any

person of noble or other degree present, I shall not refuse

of any such to be named by your Lordship's self. And to

this my request, my Lord, I pray you give me answer

by this bearer as it shall please you by speech or by writing,

having made nobody privy with this my letter.

Your Lordship's truly affected,

W. BURG. 1


The Earl's answer is not recorded; indeed, it is doubtful

if he deigned a reply, for in July his whole attention seems

to have been devoted to a suit he was trying to persuade

the Queen to grant him.


It may further please your Lordship to be advertised

[writes John Stanhope to Burghley on July 25th] that

my Lord of Oxford giveth his diligent attention on Her

Majesty, and earnestly laboureth his suit, the which he was

once persuaded and had yielded to leave; but now renewing

it with intent to proceed therein for his own good, some

unkindness and strangeness proceed therein between my

Lord of Surrey,2 my Lord Harry, and his Lordship. It is

p. 148


1 Lansdowne MSS., 238. 129.

2 Philip Howard, grandson of the poet Earl of Surrey and son of the late Duke of Norfolk. He was Oxford's first cousin, and was now twenty years old. The "strangeness" referred to was overcome later, because in 1579 Surrey and Oxford were associated in a Court Masque. He succeeded Henry Fitzalan, 12th Earl of Arundel (his maternal grandfather) as Earl of Arundel in 1580. He was an ardent Catholic. In 1589 he was tried and convicted by his peers, Lord Oxford being one, for having, among other things, heard a Mass at which the success of the Spanish Armada was prayed for. He died in the Tower in 1595. He was beatified in 1886 by the Roman Catholic Church.

said Her Majesty hath promised to give him the fee simple

of Rysing, and as much more of those lands in fee farm as

shall make up the sum of £250. 1


The Manor of Rysing originally belonged to the Duke of

Norfolk, and had been confiscated by the Crown on his

attainder and execution. In 1578 the Queen conveyed

it to Lord Oxford, as foreshadowed in Stanhope's letter.

The fact that it had belonged to Surrey's father would

account for the "strangeness" mentioned by Stanhope.


The wording of this grant by the Queen to Lord Oxford is



The Queen to all to whom these present letters may come,

Greeting. Know you that we, as well in consideration of

the good, true, and faithful service done and given to Us

before this time by Our most dear cousin Edward Earl of

Oxford, Great Chamberlain of England, as for divers other

causes and considerations moving Us; by Our special

grace, and out of Our certain knowledge and mere motion,

We gave and granted, and by these presents for Us, Our

heirs, and successors do give and grant to the above named

Edward Earl of Oxford, all that Our Lordship or Manor of

Rysing. . . .2


It is difficult to see exactly what "good, true, and faithful

service" Lord Oxford could have performed on the Queen's

behalf. We know, of course, that she was very fond of

him, and that he had been a diligent courtier. But, on the

other hand, it is indisputable that he had never held any

official appointment at Court. The hereditary title of Lord

Great Chamberlain held by the Earls of Oxford was in no

sense comparable to appointments like those of Lord

Chamberlain, Lord Steward, or Master of the Horse. Lord

Great Chamberlain was merely a rank which entitled the

holder to a specified seat in the House of Lords, and a place

in Royal Processions. The only duties it involved were in

connexion with Coronations.

It is most unusual to find Her Majesty bestowing lands

p. 149


1 Hatfield MSS. (Cal. II. 157). 2 Patent Roll 1165. m. 34. 20 Eliz. (1578). Latin.

on a courtier who was not also an official of the Royal

Household. Leicester, Essex, Hatton, and Ralegh all

received lavish gifts of land from her; but all, at one time

or another, had held highly responsible posts. Moreover,

gifts of land to State Officials cannot primarily be regarded

as personal presents to be enjoyed according to the

recipient's pleasure. They were, in part at least, intended

to be used in defraying the cost of such appointments.

The official salary was seldom if ever adequate. A typical

example -that of Francis Walsingham when he was

appointed Ambassador at the French Court in 1570- may

be quoted:


Surely if Her Majesty make choice of any of my mean

calling and ability, she must also resolve to enable them

some way whereby they may bear the burden. Sir Henry

Norris [Walsingham's predecessor] whose living is known

to be very great hath found the charge very heavy, and

therefore unfit for the shoulders of any other of my mean



The normal method by which Elizabeth "enabled"

her officials to "bear the burden" was by gifts of land or

monopolies to supplement their meagre salaries. But gifts

only followed services; and we may be quite sure that the

"good, true, and faithful service" that Lord Oxford had

performed in the past, and was no doubt then performing,

was no sinecure. But it does not transpire in any official

correspondence what its nature was. We shall have

occasion in a later chapter to discuss in greater detail this

and other mysterious gifts to Lord Oxford by the Queen.

It may be added that the conception of most modern

historians that Elizabeth gave indiscriminate presents to

her so-called "favourites" because they looked handsome

or danced well is so universally believed that it will not

be easily dispelled. That she took pleasure in the personal

attractions of men like Leicester, Essex, Hatton, and Ralegh

is as natural as it is undeniable. But they worked hard

p. 150


1 Walsingham to Cecil. Printed by Conyers Read, Sir Francis Walsingham, vol. i, p. 105.

for their presents. Leicester was her Commander-in-Chief

and was seldom absent from the Council-table: Essex

was one of her ablest Generals, her Master of the Horse,

and Earl Marshal; Hatton was successively her Bodyguard

Commander, Vice-Chamberlain, and Lord Chancellor;

and Ralegh, besides commanding her Bodyguard for many

years, spent his money freely in founding her Colonial

Empire. We may be quite sure that Oxford, for his part,

had certain definite duties to perform in return for a gift

of land worth £250 a year.




"The fifteenth day of July,

With glistering spear and shield,

A famous fight in Flanders

Was foughten in the field;

The most courageous officers

Were English Captains three:

But the bravest man in battel

Was brave Lord Willoughby." 1


"My Lord Willoughby was one of the Queen's best swordsmen... I have heard it spoken that had he not slighted the Court, but applied himself to the Queen, he might have enjoyed a plentiful portion of her grace; and it was his saying-and it did him no good-that he was none of the Reptilia: intimating that he could not creep on the ground, and that the Court was not his element. For, indeed, as he was a great soldier, so he was of amiable magnanimity, and could not brook the obsequiousness and assiduity of the Court." (Sir Robert Naunton, in Fragmenta Regalia.)


In July 1577 Lady Mary Vere, Lord Oxford's sister and

a Maid of Honour, became engaged to be married to

Peregrine Bertie. This match met with the strong dis-

approval of Peregrine's mother, who had been married

when quite a girl to Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk.

The Duke died in 1545, leaving her a childless widow, and

she had then married Richard Bertie, a zealous Protestant.

Their only son, Peregrine, had derived his name from the

fact that he had been born on the Continent during his

parents' enforced exile on account of the Marian perse-

p. 151



1 From an old English ballad (c.1585-90) published in Percy's Reliques.

cutions.1 The Duchess of Suffolk expressed herself forcibly

in a letter to Lord Burghley dated July 2nd:


It is very true that my wise son has gone very far with

my Lady Mary Vere, I fear too far to turn. I must say to

you in counsel what I have said to her plainly, that I

had rather he had matched in any other place; and I told

her the causes. Her friends made small account of me;

her brother did what in him lay to deface my husband and

son; besides, our religions agree not, and I cannot tell

what more. If she should prove like her brother, if an

empire follows her I should be sorry to match so. She said

that she could not rule her brother's tongue, nor help

the rest of his faults, but for herself she trusted so to use

her[self] as I should have no cause to mislike her. And

seeing that it was so far forth between my son and her, she

desired my good will and asked no more. ‘ That is a seemly

thing,' quoth I, ‘ for you to live on; for I fear that Master

Bertie will so much mislike of these dealings that he will

give little more than his good will, if he give that. Besides,

if Her Majesty shall mislike of it, sure we turn him to the

wide world.' She told me how Lord Sussex and Master

Hatton had promised to speak for her to the Queen, and

that I would require you to do the like. I told her her

brother used you and your daughter so evil that I could

not require you to deal in it. Well, if I would write, she

knew you would do it for my sake; and since there was

no undoing it, she trusted I would, for my son's sake, help



The Duchess goes on to say that the Queen has found

fault with her for keeping Peregrine away from the Court-


But God knows I did it not so but for fear of this marriage

and quarrels. Within this fortnight there was one spoke

to me for one Mistress Gaymege, an heir of a thousand

marks land, which had been a meeter match for my son.2


A fortnight later the Duchess wrote again to Lord Burgh-

ley. She was evidently most anxious to stop the marriage,

p. 152


1 He was born on October 12th, 1555, at Wesel (Collins, Peerage, vol. ii, p. 55).

2 Hatfield MSS. (Cal. XIII. 146).

and in the absence of her husband was turning to the

Lord Treasurer for advice:


My good Lord, I received this letter here enclosed

yesterday from my husband wherein your Lordship may

perceive his head is troubled, as I [can] not blame him.

But if he knew as much as I of my good Lord of Oxford's

dealings it would trouble him more. But the case standing

as it doth I mean to keep it from him. . . . I cannot express

how much this grieveth me, that my son, in the weightiest

matter, hath so forgotten himself to the trouble and dis-

quiet of his friends, and like enough to be his own undoing

and the young lady's too. For if my Lord of Oxford's

wilfulness come to my husband's ears I believe he would

make his son but small marriage.

I wot not what to do therein. If I should stay for Her

Majesty's good will in it, and my husband far off from it,

you know he cannot take that well at my hand, that I

should seek to bestow his son as it were against his will . . .

and so I am dead at my wit's end. And yet I think if

Her Majesty could be won to like it, I am sure my husband

would be the easier won to it, if my Lord of Oxford's great

uncourteousness do not too much trouble him.

My good Lord, I cannot tell what to do or say in this;

but as my good Lord and very friend I commit myself

and the case to your good advice and counsel and help. . . .

From Willoughby House, this 14th of July,



A hitch seems to have occurred in the autumn, for on

November 11th, in a letter to the Earl of Rutland, Thomas

Screven says:


The marriage of the Lady Mary Vere is deferred until

after Christmas, for as yet neither has Her Majesty given

licence, nor has the Earl of Oxford wholly assented thereto.2


But if outside forces were trying to prevent the marriage

the two persons most nearly concerned were equally

determined on their union. In an affectionate letter to

his fiancée Peregrine assures her that he "makes more

account of her than myself or life," adding that he writes

p. 153


1 Hatfield MSS. (Cal. II. 156). 2 Cal. Rutland MSS., I. 115.

to let her know "how uncourteously I am dealt with by

my Lord your brother, who, as I hear, bandeth against

me and sweareth my death." The letter ends "yours

more than his own and so till death." 1

The wedding took place soon after Christmas, for in a

letter to Lord Burghley in the ensuing March the Duchess

of Suffolk requests a bill off impost for two tun of wine

on behalf of her daughter Mary and her husband.2 But

the marriage did not prove a happy one. In September

we find Sir Thomas Cecil in a letter to his father speaking

of an "unkindness" that had grown up between them;

adding that he thinks the Lady Mary "will be beaten

with that rod which heretofore she prepared for others." 3

Subsequent evidence shows that Lord Oxford's "un-

courteous" behaviour towards his brother-in-law did not

last after the wedding had taken place. Their differences

were evidently religious in origin; but in 1582, after the

Earl had returned to Protestantism, we shall meet the

two men again and find their quarrels amicably settled.

Moreover, in 1599 Robert Bertie, the eldest son of Peregrine

and Lady Mary, wrote in a very friendly way to his uncle,

which would have been impossible had his father and Lord

Oxford remained enemies.


We now return to the matrimonial troubles of Lord and

Lady Oxford. Lord Burghley's new year appeal did not

have the effect he had hoped. The Earl and his Countess

remained separated. In December 1577 the Duchess of

Suffolk devised an ingenious and very kindly meant

scheme to try and bring them together:


My very good Lord [she writes to Burghley], Upon

Tuesday last Harry Cook being here and my daughter 4

entering in to talk with him of my Lord of Oxford, of his

sister, of my Lady his wife, and the young Lady his

daughter, at the last he uttered these speeches: that he

p. 154


1 Cal. Ancaster MSS.

2 Hatfield MSS. (Cal. II. 205).

3 Ibid.

4 Susan Bertie, who married Reginald Grey, 5th Earl of Kent. He died in 1573.

thought my Lord would very gladly see the child 1 if he

could devise how to see her and not to go to her. My

daughter said she thought if it might so like him my

Lady your wife would send the child to him; but to that

he answered my Lord would not be known of it that he so

much desired to see it. So because it was a young man's

words I took no great hold of it.

On Thursday I went to see my Lady Mary Vere. After

other talks she asked me what I would say to it if my Lord

her brother would take his wife again. ‘Truly,' quoth I,

‘nothing could comfort me more, for now I wish to your

brother as much good as to my own son.' ‘Indeed,’

quoth she, ‘he would very fain see the child, and is 10th

to send for her.’ ‘Then,' quoth I, ‘an you will keep my

counsel we will have some sport with him. I will see if

I can get the child hither to me, when you shall come

hither; and whilst my Lord your brother is with you I

will bring in the child as though it were some other child

of my friend's, and we shall see how nature will work in

him to like it, and tell him it is his own after.’ ‘Very

well,’ quoth she; so we agreed hereon. Notwithstanding,

I mean not to delay in it otherwise than it shall seem good

to your Lordship, and in that sort that may best like you.

I will do what I can either in that or anything else what

may anyway lay in me. If it be clear about your house

here in London I think if it may so please you it were good

that both my Lady of Oxford and the child were there,

and so the child might be quickly brought hither at my

Lord's being there. I would wish speed that he might

be taken in his good mood. I thank God I am at this

present in his good favour. For one other besides his

sister and Harry Cook told me that my Lord would fain

have the child a while in my house with his sister, and no

doubt of it if he be not crossed in this his liking he will

sure have me laid to, and then I trust all things will follow

to your desire. I hear he is about to buy a house here in

London about Watling Street, and not to continue a

Courtier as he hath done; but I pray you keep all these

things secret or else you may undo those that do take

pains to bring it to pass if my Lord's counsel should be

betrayed before he list himself. And above all others

my credit should be lost with him if he should know I

p. 155


1 Elizabeth Vere, then aged two and a half.

dealt in anything without his consent; and therefore my

good Lord I pray you keep it very secret, and write me

two or three words what you would have me do in it.

And thus with my very hearty commendation I commit

your Lordship to God, whom I pray to work all things to

your comfort. From Willoughby House this 15th of


Your Lordship's very assured friend,



History does not relate what came of the Duchess of

Suffolk's scheme to bring about a reunion between Lord

and Lady Oxford. But it is pleasant to think that it

may, perhaps, have been the first step which led to their

ultimate reconciliation.

After a distinguished military career Lord Willoughby

died in 1601 and was buried at Spilsby in Lincolnshire.

The following is taken from the inscription on his tomb:


This presents unto you the worthy memory of the

Right Honourable Sir Peregrine Bertie, knight, Lord

Willoughby of Willoughby, Beake, and Eresby; deservedly

employed by Queen Elizabeth as General of her forces in

the Low Countries and in France; as Ambassador into

Denmark; and lately as Governor of Berwick, where he

died in the forty-seventh year of his age, anno 1600. 2




In July 1578 the Queen paid another visit to Cambridge

University. She was accompanied by the whole Court,

among whom were Lord Burghley, the Earls of Leicester

and Oxford, Sir Christopher Hatton, who had recently

been knighted and appointed Vice-Chamberlain of the

Household, and Philip Sidney. It was on this occasion

that Gabriel Harvey met the Court at Audley End and

presented the Queen and her courtiers with a series of

Latin verses he had written in their honour. The portion

addressed to Lord Oxford was entitled:


An heroic address to the Earl of Oxford, concerning

p. 156


1 Lansdowne MSS., 25. 27.

2 Canon Gilbert George Walker, A Great Elizabethan (1927), p. 27 .

the combined utility and dignity of military affairs and of

warlike exercises.


Harvey's tribute to Lord Oxford's learning and scholar-

ship, and the statement that "I have seen many Latin

verses of thine, yea, even more English verses are extant,"

is important as showing us how far the Earl had progressed

along the path of literature:


This is my welcome; this is how I have decided to bid

All Hail ! to thee and to the other Nobles.

Thy splendid fame, great Earl, demands even more than

in the case of others the services of a poet possessing lofty

eloquence. Thy merit cloth not creep along the ground, nor

can it be confined within the limits of a song. It is a

wonder which reaches as far as the heavenly orbs.

O great-hearted one, strong in thy mind and thy fiery

will, thou wilt conquer thyself, thou wilt conquer others;

thy glory will spread out in all directions beyond the

Arctic Ocean; and England will put thee to the test

and prove thee to be a native-born Achilles. Do thou but

go forward boldly and without hesitation. Mars will

obey thee, Hermes will be thy messenger, Pallas striking

her shield with her spear shaft will attend thee, thine own

breast and courageous heart will instruct thee. For a

long time past Phoebus Apollo has cultivated thy mind in

the arts. English poetical measures have been sung by

thee long enough. Let that Courtly Epistle 1 -more

polished even than the writings of Castiglione himself-

witness how greatly thou dost excel in letters. I have seen

many Latin verses of thine, yea, even more English

verses are extant; thou hast drunk deep draughts not

only of the Muses of France and Italy, but hast learned

the manners of many men, and the arts of foreign countries.

It was not for nothing that Sturmius himself was visited

by thee; neither in France, Italy, nor Germany are any

such cultivated and polished men. O thou hero worthy

of renown, throw away the insignificant pen, throw away

bloodless books, and writings that serve no useful purpose;

now must the sword be brought into play, now is the time

p. 157


1 Lord Oxford's letter "To the Reader" prefixed to Bartholomew Clerke's Courtier (see p. 80).

for thee to sharpen the spear and to handle great engines

of war. On all sides men are talking of camps and of

deadly weapons; war and the Furies are everywhere, and

Bellona reigns supreme.


Gabriel Harvey was no false prophet. The Spanish

menace had begun in earnest. Protestantism and England

were standing on the threshold of the great struggle that

lasted to the end of Elizabeth's reign.


Now may all martial influences [he continues] support

thy eager mind, driving out the cares of Peace. Pull

Hannibal up short at the gates of Britain. Defended

though he be by a mighty host, let Don John of Austria

come on only to be driven home again. Fate is unknown

to man, nor are the counsels of the Thunderer fully deter-

mined. And what if suddenly a most powerful enemy

should invade our borders ? If the Turk should be arming

his savage hosts against us? What though the terrible

war trumpet is even now sounding its blast? Thou wilt

see it all; even at this very moment thou art fiercely

longing for the fray. I feel it. Our whole country knows

it. In thy breast is noble blood, Courage animates thy

brow, Mars lives in thy tongue, Minerva strengthens

thy right hand, Bellona reigns in thy body, within thee

burns the fire of Mars. Thine eyes flash fire, thy counten-

ance shakes a spear; who would not swear that Achilles

had come to life again ? 1


Gabriel Harvey, who was almost exactly the same age

as Oxford,2 was at this time a fellow of Trinity Hall,

Cambridge. Prior to this he had been at Christ's College,

where he had taken his B.A. in 1570. It was as an under-

graduate that he had first met Lord Oxford, because he

tells us that-


In the prime of his (i.e. Lord Oxford's) gallantest youth

he bestowed Angels upon me in Christ's College in Cam-

bridge, and otherwise vouchsafed me many gracious

p. 158


1 Gratulationes Valdinenses, libri quatuor, 1578.

2 Cf. McKerrow, Works of Thomas Nashe, vol. v, p. 69, where the date of his birth is given as 1550 or 1551.

favours at the affectionate commendation of my cousin

Master Thomas Smith, the son of Sir Thomas. . . .1


It is evident that a genuine friendship between the Earl

and Harvey sprang up as a result of their early acquaintance

and it is equally evident that literature must have been the

common ground on which they met. Although it is

probable that they kept in touch with each other during

the intervening years, this cannot be proved. But their

reunion at Audley End may have been the cause of a

visit Harvey paid to London in 1579 when he first met

John Lyly, who was the Earl's private secretary and was

engaged in writing his famous novel Euphues, which he

dedicated to Lord Oxford. Harvey tells us that Lyly was

then living in the Savoy, and it is more than likely that his

rooms there were provided for him at Lord Oxford's


Let us return now to Audley End and examine more

critically the address to Lord Oxford. Even if we discard

much of the fulsome praise as mere flattery we are left

with one indisputable fact. This is that Lord Oxford was

well known to have written a great number of poems both

in Latin and English, the majority in the latter tongue.

Eight poems only subscribed by his name had appeared

in print prior to this date, viz. one prefixed to Bedingfield's

Cardanus’ Comfort (1573), and seven in the Paradise of

Dainty Devices (1576). If we add the sixteen lyrics rescued

from their anonymity in A Hundreth Sundrie Flowres

(1573) we are still left with only twenty-four in English

and none in Latin. This number is quite incompatible

with Harvey's description of the Earl's poetical output.

It is therefore evident that he must have been privileged

to read Oxford's poems in manuscript- a privilege that

must also have been extended to others in the Court, be-

cause Harvey makes no secret of their existence in his open

address. These facts are important and confirm what

we are told by other, and no less credible witnesses than

Harvey, that Lord Oxford stands supreme amongst his

contemporary poets and dramatists.

p. 159


1 Gabriel Harvey, Foure letters . . . 1592. (Bodley Head Quartos, 34.) Thomas Smith, claimed as a cousin by Harvey, was the natural son of the Queen's Principal Secretary Sir Thomas Smith. It is not unlikely that when Sir Thomas was Lord Oxford's tutor in the previous reign his son had been young Edward de Vere's playfellow. In 1571 Sir Thomas received a grant of land in the long narrow peninsula on the north-east coast of Ireland known as The Ardes. He sent over his son to administer the estate, where he remained as Colonel of the district until about 1580.

2 Cf. Bond, Works of John Lyly, vol. i, pp. 17, 24. "[in the dedication to Euphues and his England] we have the first authentic indication of Lyly's connexion with Burleigh's son-in-law, a connexion which may have begun in the Savoy where, as we saw, Oxford rented ‘ two tenements,' but which Lyly must in any case have owed to Burleigh's recommendation. The nature of the connexion is to be inferred from Lyly's own letter of 1582 and from Harvey's Advertisement to Pap Hatchet. He was engaged as private secretary to the Earl and admitted to his confidence."

Another interesting feature of Harvey's address is his

evidently sincere appeal to Lord Oxford to give up his

preoccupation in literature and prepare himself for the

coming war. Everybody in England knew that war was

inevitable, and leadership in war was the heritage of the

nobility. There can be no doubt that Harvey was sincerely

distressed that his friend, who held one of the proudest

titles in the realm, was obviously unconcerned with martial

matters. Harvey no doubt considered that it was an

excellent thing for a nobleman to display a reasonable

interest in culture and the Muses, but here was a noble-

man who had exceeded all bounds of moderation and was

making literature his one occupation to the exclusion of

everything else. This, says Harvey, is quite wrong;

and his; engaging frankness helps to give us a very life-

like picture of Lord Oxford's character as judged by his

contemporaries at Gloriana's Court.

Another episode that occurred during this Progress may

be related here. We will let the Spanish Ambassador,

Bernardino de Mendoza, tell us the story in his own words:


This Queen [Elizabeth] has greatly feasted Alençon's

Ambassador,1 and on one occasion when she was enter-

p. 160


1 M. de Bacqueville, who had been sent to England by Alençon in connexion with his marriage and affairs in the Low Countries. Alençon had been created Duc d'Anjou in 1576, but he was indiscriminately known by both titles at this time, though the latter is more strictly correct.

taining him at dinner she thought the sideboard was not

so well furnished with pieces of plate as she would have

liked the Frenchman to have seen it; she therefore called

the Earl of Sussex, the Lord Steward, who had charge of

these things, and asked him how it was there was so little

plate. The Earl replied that he had, for many years,

accompanied her and other Sovereigns of England in their

Progresses, and he had never seen them take so much plate

as she was carrying then. The Queen told him to hold

his tongue, that he was a great rogue, and that the more

good that was done to people like him the worse they got.

She then turned to a certain North,1 who was there in the

room, and asked him whether he thought there was much

or little plate on the sideboard, to which he replied there

was very little, and threw the blame on Sussex. When

North left the Queen's Chamber Sussex told him that he

had spoken wrongly and falsely in what he said to the

Queen; whereupon North replied that if he (Sussex) did

not belong to the Council he would prove what he said to

his teeth. Sussex then went to Leicester and complained

of the knavish behaviour of North, but Leicester told

him the words he used should not be applied to such

persons as North. Sussex answered that, whatever he

might think of the words, North was a great knave; so

that they remained offended with one another as they had

been before on other matters. This may not be of im-

portance, but I have thought well to relate it to you 2 so that

you may see how easily matters here may now be brought

into discord, if care be taken on one side to ensure support

against eventualities. The next day the Queen sent twice

to tell the Earl of Oxford, who is a very gallant lad, to

dance before the Ambassadors; whereupon he replied

that he hoped Her Majesty would not order him to do so,

as he did not wish to entertain Frenchmen. When the

Lord Steward took him the message the second time he

replied that he would not give pleasure to Frenchmen,

nor listen to such a message, and with that he left the

room. He is a lad who has a great following in the country,

p. 161


1 Roger, 2nd Baron North (1530-1600). The Queen visited him at his seat, Kirtling, on this Progress. He was the Earl of Leicester's brother-in-law, having married the widow of Sir Henry Dudley, Leicester's younger brother.

2 Zayas, the King of Spain's Secretary, to whom the letter was addressed.

and has requested permission to go and serve His Highness,

which the Queen refused, and asked him why he did not

go and serve the Archduke Mathias, to which he replied

that he would not go and serve another Sovereign than

his own, unless it were a very great one, such as the King

of Spain.1


"His Highness" was Don John of Austria, the half-brother

of the King of Spain. He is chiefly remembered for his

celebrated sea victory over the Turks at Lepanto in 1571.

The memory of Lepanto and Don John would have been

very fresh in Venice when Oxford was there in 1575.

Venice was the great Naval Base of the Christian fleets in

the Mediterranean, and the Republic had provided the

majority of the ships comprising the Allied Navy at the

battle. Don John had afterwards been sent by King

Philip to the Netherlands as Governor-General on the death

of Requesens in 1576. But his conciliatory policy was a

failure, and he was obliged to leave Brussels and retire to

Namur in the following year. After his departure the

Prince of Orange was induced to enter Brussels, but he

was equally unsuccessful in reconciling the religious

factions. In October 1577 the Archduke Mathias, the

twenty-two-year-old brother of the Habsburg Emperor,

arrived in Brussels to take over the sovereignty of the

Netherlands at the invitation of the Dutch Catholic

Nobles. Orange announced that he was willing to co-

operate with him in the Government; but in January

1578 Don John, who had been reinforced by the Duke of

Parma with troops from Spain, inflicted a crushing defeat

on the Protestants at Gemblours.

Mendoza’s story that Lord Oxford had asked for per-

mission to serve under Don John must be taken with

considerable reservation. In the previous year Elizabeth

had written a letter to the King of Spain in which she had

referred to Don John as her "most mortal enemy." 2 It

is out of the question that Oxford would have been able

to maintain his favoured position with the Queen if he

p. 162


1 Cal. S.P. Spanish (1568-79), p. 607.

2 Camden, Queen Elizabeth, p. 222.

had expressed a genuine desire to serve under her most

mortal enemy. But it is by no means unlikely that, with

his privileged position, he should have jokingly remarked

to his Royal Mistress that he intended so to do-a remark

that Mendoza, with true Spanish gravity, accepted at its

face value. Moreover, it would naturally be the Spanish

Ambassador's policy to exaggerate any pro-Spanish

sympathies, real or imagined, that he could detect among

the English nobility.

However this may be, Lord Oxford's refusal to dance

before the French Ambassador bears quite a different

interpretation. It had nothing to do with hostility

towards Alençon, for we shall find him next year ardently

supporting the proposed marriage between Elizabeth and

the French Prince. His disobedience of the Queen's

command was simply his way of showing her what he

thought of her childish behaviour to her Lord Steward

over the episode of the supposedly insufficient display of

plate on the dinner-table. It affords another example

of the great esteem in which Oxford held the Earl of


Early next year Lord Oxford and some other courtiers

presented a masque before the Queen. They acted in it

themselves, as the following letter shows: ‘


It is but vain to trouble your Lordship [writes Gilbert

Talbot to his father the Earl of Shrewsbury] with such

shows as were showed before Her Majesty this Shrovetide

at night. The chiefest was a device presented by the

persons of the Earl of Oxford, the Earl of Surrey, the Lords

Thomas Howard and Windsor.1 The device was prettier

p. 163


1 Lord Thomas Howard was a half-brother of the Earl of Surrey. He was now eighteen years old, and was the son of the Duke of Norfolk- Oxford's first cousin- by his second wife Margaret, daughter of Lord Audley de Walden. He was created Lord Howard de Walden in 1597, and Earl of Suffolk by King James on his accession.

Frederick, 4th Baron Windsor (1559-85) was the eldest son of Lady Katharine Vere, Oxford's half-sister. He was a great "swordsman" (to use Naunton's expression) and won great distinction in Tournaments. He was a challenger, together with Oxford and Sidney, in the Tournament of 1580-1 described by Segar in his Honour Military and Civil.

than it happened to have been performed; but the best

of it, and I think the best liked, was two rich jewels which

were presented to Her Majesty by the two Earls.1


No other details about this masque exist. But Gilbert

Talbot's letter is important as being the first piece of

definite information that Lord Oxford was inclining towards

the drama as an outlet for his literary activities. We shall

trace the development of this interest in a subsequent





In the spring of 1579 an incident occurred that set the

whole Court talking. This was the arrival in London of

M. de Simier, who had been sent from France with a view

to opening negotiations for a marriage between Queen

Elizabeth and the Duc d'Anjou, the twenty-five-year-old

brother of the King of France. This match was being

eagerly sought by his mother, Catherine de Medicis.2

At the English Court opinions as to the proposal were

sharply divided. The majority, which included Sussex,

Burghley, Hunsdon, and Oxford, were in favour of it;

but the Earl of Leicester and his following, among whom

was his nephew and prospective heir, Philip Sidney, were

strongly opposed to it.

In August, however, the Leicester faction received a

severe rebuff. Simier had discovered that Leicester was

secretly married to Lettice, the daughter of Sir Francis

Knollys, and the widow of Walter Devereux, Earl of Essex,

who had died in 1576. He quickly realised that fate had

played into his hands, and at once informed the Queen.

She emptied the vials of her wrath on Leicester's head, and

banished him from the Court. For the time being, there-

p. 164


1 Lodge, Illustrations of British History, p. 22.

2 Catherine de Medici, the "Florentine," had been Queen-Mother of France since 1559. She had had four sons: the eldest, Francois II., who was the first husband of Mary Queen of Scots, had reigned from 1559 to 1560; the second, Charles IX., had reigned from 1560 to 1574; the third, Henri III., was now on the throne, and it was to him that Lord Oxford had been introduced when in Paris in 1575; the fourth, Hercule-Francois, had recently been created Duc d'Anjou.

fore, Philip Sidney was left as the leader of the opposition

to the French match.

This was not the first time that Oxford and Sidney had

found themselves at cross purposes. It will be remembered

that Anne Cecil, before her marriage to Oxford, had for

a time been engaged to Sidney. Moreover, another cleavage

had begun to appear over the question of poetry and

literature, matters as we know very dear to the hearts

of both the brilliant young Courtiers. This important

question will be dealt with in detail elsewhere, and need

not therefore receive more than a passing mention here.

In an atmosphere already rendered electric an incident

soon occurred that set their rivalry ablaze. This was the

famous Tennis Court quarrel. As most people know

nothing of Lord Oxford except in connexion with this

episode, a few explanatory words will first be necessary.

Sir Philip Sidney has very properly been classed as one

of our national heroes. His title to this position is beyond

dispute. But it has had an unfortunate result from the

point of view of the relating of true history. For every

historian who has devoted an hour to reading about Lord

Oxford there are hundreds who have devoted years to

studying Sidney's life. And it is perhaps inevitable that

when they constitute themselves Sidney's biographers they

should start with the preconceived idea, regardless of any

evidence that may exist to the contrary, that anybody

who dared to quarrel with Sidney must ipso facto be a

"brute" and a "scoundrel" and entirely to blame.

But if we can forgive Sidney's biographers for painting

Lord Oxford black in order to show up the virtues of their

hero in greater relief, we can less readily forgive them for

suppressing the truth. I do not assert that this has been

done deliberately; but in any case it is a serious charge

and one which requires to be fully substantiated.

The sources of our knowledge of the Tennis Court

quarrel are two, and two only. I will deal with each in


1. The first occurs in The Life of the Renowned Sir Philip

p. 165

Sidney, written by his intimate friend Fulke Greville,

Lord Brooke. It was written, as the author himself

tells us, a long time after Sidney's death, and was first pub-

lished in 1652. Mr. Nowell Smith, who edited it for the

Clarendon Press in 1907, makes the following remark in

his Introduction:


The treatise is indeed our first authority for some of

the well-known stories of Sidney, notably that of the

cup of water at Zutphen, and that of the quarrel with the

Earl of Oxford 1 in the tennis-court (Greville, however,

does not give the Earl's name); but it is at once much

less and much more than a regular biography of Sidney.

There are no dates, no details of personal appearance,

place of abode, habits, friends, and acquaintances; nothing

of marriage; scarcely anything of life at Court; nothing

even of Sidney's literary pursuits, except an interesting

criticism of the Arcadia solely from the point of view of the

political philosopher.2


In other words Greville's Life is really an essay written

from memory, and descriptive of events that had taken

place many years before. This should be remembered

when we come to consider the second source from which

we derive our knowledge of the quarrel.

2. This second source is of far greater importance

historically because it is absolutely contemporary with the

event. The information that it provides occurs in a

letter written to Sidney from Antwerp in October 1579

by his friend Hubert Languet.3 Languet and Sidney had

p. 166


1 Mr. Smith is mistaken here. There is a contemporary account of the quarrel, which we shall examine presently, written many years before Greville's Life.

2 pp. v, vi.

3 Hubert Languet (1518-81) was a French Huguenot writer and diplomat. As the Elector of Saxony's Ambassador at the French Court he had narrowly escaped assassination during the massacre of St. Bartholomew. Sidney was also in Paris at this time (1572), and it was probably from about then that their friendship dated. Languet left Paris shortly afterwards and settled in Antwerp, where he became the valued adviser of the Prince of Orange.

first met when the latter was travelling on the Continent.

They kept up a regular correspondence between November

1573 and October 1580. Altogether ninety-six letters

from Languet to Sidney have been preserved. Unfortu-

nately, only seventeen of Sidney's letters to Languet have

survived, the last being dated March 10th, 1578; and

the one in which Sidney described the tennis-court

quarrel to Languet has been lost. But Languet's reply,

and his significant comments, give us all the information

that is necessary.

Their correspondence was conducted in Latin. Languet's

letters, with which we are here concerned, were first

collected and published by the Elzevirs at Leyden in

1646, under the title Huberti Langueti Epistolae Politicae

et Historicae ad Philippum Sidnaeum. They were printed

in the original Latin and in extenso. The first English

translation was made in 1845 by Stewart A. Pears, and

published in a book entitled The Correspondence of Sir

Philip Sidney and Hubert Languet. But these transla-

tions were not made in extenso. Pears distinctly explains

this in his Preface, where he says that he has only made

selections from the volume.1

In spite of this warning all Pears's successors appear to

have been satisfied with his excerpts. As a matter of

fact, in the very letter dealing with the quarrel a long

paragraph has been omitted. In this paragraph Languet

administers a rebuke to Sidney. He says quite bluntly,

"you have gone further than you ought to have done,"

and that "carried away by your quick temper you have

sent him [i.e. Lord Oxford] a challenge, and thus you have

deprived yourself of the choice of weapons." But this

plain speaking on the part of Languet has been too much

for Sir Philip's biographers. It was no doubt unbearable

for them to think that their hero could in any way have

been responsible for the quarrel" They have therefore

quietly ignored Languet's trenchant remarks.

Another thing we should remember is that Languet

p. 167


1 p. vii. All the omissions are marked quite plainly by asterisks.

was a very real and genuine friend to Sidney. This

enhances the importance of his censure a thousandfold.

Had he been Sidney's enemy, or even a neutral, it might

with justice be argued that his rebuke was tinged with

bias. But he was quite definitely one of Sidney's closest

friends. He says, and there is no reason to doubt him,

that he is much distressed about the whole affair. If

Sidney had been absolutely blameless, and had come off

with the flying colours that his modern biographers would

have us believe, it is difficult to see why Languet should

have been so disturbed about it. But when we read the

letter in full we shall realise that his anxiety arises because

he perceives that Sidney's hasty temper has placed him

in an awkward predicament.

I have dwelt somewhat at length on these points, not

because I wish to disparage the work of Sidney's

biographers, but because I wish to make it clear that I

am now publishing for the first time in full the English

version of Languet's comments on the tennis-court

quarrel. If the reader should conclude therefrom, as I

think he must, that it is impossible to clear Sidney of

all blame, I would remind him that the story has not

been conjured up out of my imagination, but has been told

exactly as Languet told it within a month of the event.

But there is yet another reason why this preliminary

investigation has been rendered necessary. I have already

said that most people only know of Lord Oxford as the

ill-mannered blackguard who deliberately provoked a

quarrel with the "renowned Sir Philip Sidney." This,

more than anything else, has led to the assumption that

Oxford's character was "ill-tempered" and "churlish."

But what value are we to place on this assumption when we

know it to be based on false data ? I think most people

will agree that the answer is emphatically none. Let us

then, with our minds freed from the vapourings of our

modern historians, listen to the story of the tennis-court

quarrel as told first by Fulke Greville and then by Hubert


p. 168

Greville tells us that Sidney:


being one day at Tennis, a peer of this Realm, born great,

greater by alliance, and superlative in the Prince's favour,1

abruptly came into the Tennis Court; and speaking out

of these three paramount authorities he forgot to entreat

that which he could not legally command. When by the

encounter of a steady object, finding unrespectiveness in

himself (though a great Lord) not respected by this

Princely spirit, he grew to expostulate more roughly.

The returns of which style coming, still from an under-

standing heart, that knew what was due to itself and what

it ought to others, seemed (through the mists of my

Lord's passions swollen with the wind of his factions then

reigning 2) to provoke in yielding. Whereby, the less

amazement or confusion of thoughts he stirred up in Sir

Philip, the more shadows this great Lord's own mind was

possessed with, till at last with rage (which is ever ill-

disciplined) he demands them to depart the court. To this

Sir Philip temperately answers that if his lordship had been

pleased to express desire in milder characters perchance

he might have led out those that he should now find would

not be driven out with any scourge of fury. This answer

(like a bellows) blowing up the sparks of excess already

kindled, made my Lord scornfully call Sir Philip by the

name of Puppy. In which progress of heat, as the tempest

grew more and more vehement within, so did their hearts

breathe out their perturbations in a more loud and shrill

accent. The French Commissioners, unfortunately, had

that day audience in those private galleries whose windows

looked into the Tennis Court. They instantly drew all

to this tumult, every sort of quarrels sorting well with

their humours, especially this. Which Sir Philip per-

ceiving, and rising with inward strength, by the prospect

of a mighty faction against him, asked my Lord with a

loud voice that which he heard clearly enough before.

Who (like an echo that still multiplies by reflections)

repeated this epithet of "Puppy" the second time. Sir

Philip, resolving in one answer to conclude both the atten-

p. 169


1 The "peer of this Realm" is Lord Oxford; the "Prince" is Queen Elizabeth.

2 The "faction" favouring the French match, of which Oxford was a leader.

tive hearers and passionate actor, gave my Lord a lie,

impossible (as he averred) to be retorted; in respect all

the world knows, Puppies are gotten by Dogs, and Children

by Men. Hereupon those glorious inequalities of fortune

in his Lordship were put to a kind of pause by a precious

inequality of nature in this gentleman. So that they both

stood silent awhile like a dumb show in a tragedy; till

Sir Philip, sensible of his own wrong, the foreign and

factious spirits that attended, and yet even in this question

between him and his superior tender to his Country's

honour, with some words of sharp accent led the way

abruptly out of the Tennis Court; as if so unexpected an

accident were not fit to be decided farther in that place.

Whereof the great Lord, making another sense, continues

his play, without any advantage of reputation, as by the

standard of humours in those times it was conceived.

A day Sir Philip remains in suspense, when hearing

nothing of, he sends a gentleman of worth to awake him

out of his trance; wherein the French would assuredly

think any pause, if not death, yet a lethargy of true honour

in both. This stirred a resolution in his Lordship to send

Sir Philip a challenge. Notwithstanding, these thoughts

in the great Lord wandered so long between glory, anger,

and inequality of state, as the Lords of Her Majesty's

Council took notice of the differences, commanded peace,

and laboured a reconciliation between them. But need-

lessly in one respect, and bootlessly in another. The great

Lord being (as it should seem) either not hasty to adventure

many inequalities against one, or inwardly satisfied with

the progress of his own acts; Sir Philip on the other side

confident} he neither had nor would lose, or let anything

fall out 7 of his right. Which Her Majesty's Council

quickly perceiving, recommended this work to herself.

The Queen, who saw that by the loss or disgrace of either

could gain nothing, presently undertakes Sir Philip, and

(like an excellent Monarch) lays before him the difference

in degree between Earls and Gentlemen, the respect

inferiors ought to their superiors, and the necessity in

Princes to maintain their own creations, as degrees descend-

ing between the people's licentiousness and the anointed

sovereignty of Crowns; how the Gentleman's neglect of

the Nobility taught the peasant to insult both.

Whereunto Sir Philip, with such reverence as became

p. 170

him, replied: first, that place was never intended for

privilege to wrong; witness herself, for how sovereign

soever she were by Throne, birth, education, and nature,

yet was she content to cast her own affections into the same

moulds her subjects did, and govern all her rights by their

laws. Again, he besought Her Majesty to consider that

although he were a great Lord by birth, alliance, and

grace, yet he was no Lord over him: and therefore the

difference of degrees between free men could not challenge

any other homage than precedency. And by her father's

act (to make a Princely wisdom become the more familiar)

he did instance the Government of King Henry the

Eighth, who gave the gentry free and safe appeal to his

feet against the oppression of the Grandees, and found

it wisdom by the stronger corporation in number to keep

down the greater in power, inferring else that if they

should unite the overgrown might be tempted, by still

coveting more, to fall (as the Angels did) by affecting

equality with their Maker.1


The other account of the quarrel occurs, as has been

said, in Languet's letter to Sidney written from Antwerp

on October 14th, 1579. The paragraph omitted by Pears

has been put into italics:


On my arrival here [i.e. Antwerp] I found our friend

Clusius prepared for a journey, which I delayed for a day

or two that I might hear from him all about your affairs.

From your letter, as well as from his mouth, I was

informed of the dispute between you and the Earl of

Oxford, which gave me great pain. I am aware that by

a habit inveterate in all Christendom, a nobleman is dis-

graced if he does not resent such an insult: still, I think

you were unfortunate to be drawn into this contention,

although I see that no blame is to be attached to you for

it. You can derive no true honour from it, even if it gave

you occasion to display to the world your constancy and

courage. You want another stage for your character,

and I wish you had chosen it in this part of the world.

p. 171


1 Sir Fulke Greville, The Life of the Renowned Sir Philip Sidney, ed. Nowell Smith (1907), p. 63.

In this very quarrel, sound as your position was, you have

gone further than you ought to have done, for when you

had flung back the insult thrown at you, you ought to have

said no more; as a matter of fact, carried away by your quick temper, you sent him a challenge, and thus you have deprived yourself of the choice of weapons if at any time this controversy should have to be decided by a duel; for it is the

people who want to teach us how we should go mad by rule

who have applied their own laws to duels, which of all things are the most unjust. If you had stood fast after you had given your adversary the lie, it would have been his business to challenge you. In our time not a few jurists have written about duelling. William of Neuburg, an English writer, quotes the decrees of a certain Synod by which duels are altogether condemned, and Christians forbidden to take part in them.

Since your adversary has attached himself to Anjou's

party, if your wooer 1 shall return to you with a crowd

of French Noblemen about him you must be on your

guard, for you know the fiery nature of my countrymen.2


We can now examine the whole affair. In the first place,

taking Greville's account, we notice one definite incon-

sistency. He contradicts himself over the important point

as to who was in occupation of the tennis-court when the

quarrel broke out. He says in his opening sentence that

Sidney was playing when Oxford came in and "abruptly"

ordered him out. But a little further on we read that

after Sidney had retired with "some words of sharp

accent" Lord Oxford "continues his play." It would

be idle to speculate which of these two contradictory state-

ments is correct; but it is well to remember that any

blame in the matter depends to a considerable extent upon

who was playing at the time.

In another respect, however, Sir Fulke has clearly

made an incorrect statement. He says that it was Oxford

who sent Sidney the challenge. But Languet, in that part

of his letter that now appears for the first time, tells us

p. 172


1 Anjou.

2 Huberti Langueti Epistolae. Ed. Hailes (1776), p. 239; cf. Pears, op. cit., p. 165.

exactly the opposite; and Languet we know was writing

with Sidney's own account in front of him. In fact, he

does more than this. He rebukes Sidney for having gone

too far, and for having shown an over-hasty temper.

But when all is said and done these are comparatively

trivial details. The whole incident has been magnified

by modern historians into an importance far greater than

it really deserves. It would be absurd to suppose that

two members of Parliament who had spent the afternoon

hurling epithets at one another across the floor of the

House must inevitably become lifelong enemies. After

all, Oxford and Sidney were ordinary quick-tempered

human beings like ourselves, and there is no reason to

suppose that they thought or acted differently from the

rest of humanity. Nor is proof of this lacking. In the

Tournament held on January 22nd, 1581, we find them

jousting side by side as "defendants" against the "chal-

lengers" Lord Arundel and Sir William Drury. And yet

Sidney's modern biographers would lead us to imagine

that they were irreconcilable enemies ! Two high-spirited

young men are always as generous to forgive as they

are quick to quarrel; and this seems, to the present writer

at least, a much more sensible way of viewing the so-called

tennis-court quarrel than the time-honoured one of

rigidly isolating it from its historical context, and then

exaggerating it into an event with lasting consequences.

No one would surely deny that rivalry and healthy com-

petition are the very essence of human activity and

progress. The chief thing any Government really dreads

is being confronted by a weak and flabby Opposition.

What would Disraeli have achieved had it not been for

Gladstone ? Was it not Lord Byron's "quarrel" with

Bob Southey that stimulated him into writing Don Juan ?

Olivia's Clown in Twelfth Night sums the whole matter

up for us in the following piece of wise, foolery administered

to Duke Orsino who was arguing on the other side:

"Marry, sir, my friends praise me and make an ass of

me; now my foes tell me plainly I am an ass: so that

p. 173

by my foes, sir, I profit in the knowledge of myself, and

by my friends I am abused." A hundred volumes

could be filled with such examples, and still only the

fringe of the subject be touched.

Oxford and Sidney mutually provided each other with

the necessary stimulus without which no human achieve-

ment can be attained. Languet, who was no flaccid

weakling, recognised this and told Sidney so quite plainly:


If the arrogance and insolence of Oxford has roused you

from your trance, he has done you less wrong than they

who have hitherto been more indulgent to you.1


These words are a far finer tonic than the sentimental

sympathy with which Sidney has been overwhelmed by

his modern biographers.

Oxford and Sidney, as Courthope tells us, were the leaders

of the two great literary factions at Court. Oxford headed

the newly arisen Euphuist movement, which aimed at

refining and enriching the English language. It was the

magic of words and the imagery of sentences that appealed

to him and to his lieutenants, John Lyly and Antony

Munday. Sidney was the leader of the Romanticists.

Their object was to reclothe the old stories of knighthood

and chivalry so as to render them more vivid and applicable

to their own times. It was, in particular, the novel with

a love plot that Sidney and his associates, chief of whom

was Spenser, developed.2 In a word, Oxford was interested

primarily in the language, while Sidney was occupied more

with the story.

There is nothing essentially antagonistic in these two

points of view. Neither can live without the other. Oxford

p. 174


1 Pears, op. cit., p. 168. Languet to Sidney, Nov. 14th, 1579. Languet, when he wrote this, was evidently thinking of a sentence in one of Sidney's recent letters: "The use of the pen has plainly gone from me, and my mind, if ever it was active about anything, is now, by reason of indolent sloth, beginning imperceptly to lose its strength, and to lose it without any reluctance." (Cf. Courthope, A History of English Poetry, vol. ii, p. 208.)

2 Cf. Courthope, op. cit., vol. ii, pp. 224, 234, etc.

and Lyly on the one hand, Sidney and Spenser on the

other, were pioneers. English literature, as we who are

living in the twentieth century understand it, was still

unwritten, and good-humoured rivalry between the two

leaders of literary thought was the best stimulus to progress.

The following episode will illustrate my meaning:

Lord Oxford was not only witty in himself, but the cause

of wit in others. Several of the courtiers set themselves

to solve the problem proposed in his well-known epigram-


Were I a King, I might command content,

  Were I obscure, unknown should be my cares,

And were I dead, no thoughts should me torment,

  Nor words, nor wrongs, nor love, not hate, nor fears.

A doubtful choice of these three which to crave,

A kingdom, or a cottage, or a grave.


Sir Philip Sidney declared that there could be no doubt

as to the answer:


Wert thou a King, yet not command content,

Sith empire none thy mind could yet suffice.

Wert thou obscure, still cares would thee torment,

But wert thou dead all care and sorrow dies.

An easy choice of these three which to crave,

No kingdom, nor a cottage, but a grave.1


Here is another example. The poet Spenser, in a letter

written to Gabriel Harvey and dated from Leicester

House in October 1579- just a month after the quarrel-

says that Sidney and Dyer -


have proclaimed in their Areopagos 2 a general sur-

ceasing and silence of bald rhymers, and also of the very

best too; instead whereof they have, by authority of

their whole Senate, prescribed certain laws and rules of

quantities of English syllables for English verse; having

had thereof already great practice, and drawn me to their



p. 175



1 Courthope, op. cit., vol. ii, p. 313.

2 The Areopagos was a literary club founded by Sidney and the Romanticists.

3 The Works of Spenser, ed. R. Morris (1890), p. 706.

Very little is known of the Areopagos, except that it fired

Harvey to write a fantastic hexameter poem in which

he poked fun at Lord Oxford. It appears then to have

died the natural death it deserved. But it is obvious that

it came into being as a counterblast to the Euphuists and

their leader.1 These, and no doubt scores of similar

incidents, formed the predisposing causes of which the

tennis-court quarrel was the outward and visible sign.

In the following Interlude an endeavour will be made to

trace in outline the historical development of the Tudor

court poets, particularly in relation to Lord Oxford and

his Euphuists.

Before we pass on a word may be added as to the sequel

of the quarrel. When the Queen had rightly forbidden the

duel the Court became too small a place to hold both

proud young courtiers. And it was Sidney who had to

give way. He retired (the exact date is not known)

to his sister's house at Wilton.2 Here he found the leisure

to write, for the entertainment of his hostess, The Countess

of Pembroke's Arcadia. Thus we see that Languet's hope

that the quarrel might bring Sidney out of his "trance"

was fulfilled, for English literature has been permanently

enriched as a direct result of it.

It was probably from Wilton early in 1580 that Sidney

sent his famous letter to the Queen urging her not to marry

Anjou.3 It seems to have been at Leicester's instigation

that he took this step.4 Although his advice was un-

popular with the Queen at the time, Sidney's views pre-

vailed in the end. He returned to court favour about

p. 176


1 Fox Bourne, in his Life of Sidney (p. 201), rightly recognises that the Areopagos must not be taken too seriously; "There was evidently more frolic than seriousness in it, and there was a serious purpose in the frolic."

2 Mary Sidney, who had married Henry Herbert, 2nd Earl of Pembroke, in 1577. She is famous as a poetess and a patron of men of letters.

3 This letter, which is undated, has been printed in the Sidney Papers, vol. i.

4 Cf. Languet to Sidney, October 1580: "Since, however, you were ordered to write as you did by those whom you were bound to obey, no fair-judging man can blame you for putting forward freely what you thought good for your country" (Pears, op. cit., p. 187).

October 1580, for on the 22nd of that month Languet



Your letter was on many accounts most delightful to

me, but especially because I learn from it that you have

come forth from that hiding-place of yours into the light

of the Court.1


It is not unlikely that his return coincided with a secret

change in the Queen's disposition towards Anjou. At

any rate he had the supreme satisfaction in February 1582

of helping to convey the rejected royal suitor back to his

native land across the Channel.


p. 177


1 Huberti Langueti Epistoloe (cit.), p. 284. Pears in his translation (p. 187) says, "into open day"; but the Latin version reads, "in lucem aulae."





This Pamphlet,1 Right Honourable, containing the estate of England, I know none more fit to defend it than one of the Nobility of England, nor any of the Nobility more ancient or more honourable than your Lordship; besides that describing the condition of the English Court, and the Majesty of our dread Sovereign, I could not find one more noble in Court than your Honour, who is or should be under Her Majesty chiefest in Court, by birth born to the greatest office, and therefore, methought, by right to be placed in great authority; for whose compareth the honour of your Lordship's noble house with the fidelity of your ancestors may well say, which no other can truly gainsay, Vera nihil verius. . . . Now Euphues is shadowed, only I appeal to your Honour, not meaning thereby to be careless what others think, but knowing that if your Lordship allow it there is none but will like it, and if there be any so nice whom nothing can please, if he will not commend it let him amend it.

John Lyly to the Earl of Oxford, 1580.


Since the world hath understood-I know not how-that your Honour had willingly vouchsafed the acceptance of this work, and at convenient leisures favourably perused it, being as yet but in written hand, many have oftentimes and earnestly called upon me to put it to the press, that for their money they might but see what your Lordship, with some liking, had already perused.

Thomas Watson to the Earl of Oxford, 1582.


Your Honour being a worthy favourer and fosterer of learning hath forced many through your excellent virtue to offer the first-fruits of their study at the shrine of your Lordship's courtesy.

Robert Greene to the Earl of Oxford, 1584.


Your Lordship, whose infancy from the beginning was ever sacred to the Muses.

Angel Day to the Earl of Oxford, 1586.


A point has now been reached in the story of Lord Oxford's

life when we must pause for a while and examine the

literary environment in which he was living. We have seen

in the foregoing pages that before he attained his

thirtieth birthday his contemporaries accounted him a

p. 178


1 Euphues and his England.

renowned poet, a pioneer in literature, and a keen patron of men of letters. Let us now frame this picture of the

Earl so that we may the better judge how and where he

stood in relation to his predecessors and contemporaries,

and to the literary thought that was at this time finding


The wave of the Renaissance that flowed westward over

Europe after the capture of Constantinople by the Turks

in 1453 culminated in England in the latter years of King

Henry VIII. It found an outlet in the lyrics and sonnets

written by a group of courtier poets. The chief of these

were Sir Thomas Wyatt (born about 1503); Thomas,

second Lord Vaux (born 1510); Henry Howard, Earl of

Surrey (born 1517); and Edmund, first Lord Sheffield (born

1521).1 Two of them, Surrey and Sheffield, married sisters

of the sixteenth Earl of Oxford; and both died violent

deaths. Lord Surrey, when he was thirty, fell under the

headsman's axe as a victim of King Henry's homicidal

mania: Lord Sheffield, when he was twenty-eight, was

killed while helping to suppress Ket's rebellion. During

the troublous times of the minority reign of King Edward

VI and the Catholic reaction of Queen Mary there was little

scope or opportunity for the pursuit of poetry; and the last

survivor of this group, Lord Vaux, died in 1556.

The following year a book was published which proved

to be the progenitor of Elizabethan poetry. It was an

anthology, and bore the title- Songs and Sonnets of the

Right Honourable the late Earl of Surrey and other. How

this book came to be published is not altogether clear.

It is popularly supposed that the poems were "collected"

by the printer, Richard Tottel. But how he obtained the

manuscripts, and who gave him permission to print them,

is left to our imagination. It seems most likely that

behind Tottel stood some unknown figure who moved

p. 179


1 None of Lord Sheffield's poems survive, but we know that he was a poet because Fuller says of him: "Great his skill in music, who wrote a book of sonnets according to the Italian fashion." (Cf. Dict. Nat. Biog.)

in court circles and was acquainted with the aristocratic

poets and their descendants. Who this may have been we

do not know, but, judging from the title, we may hazard the

guess that he had been a personal friend of Lord Surrey

whose memory he wished to perpetuate.

With the accession of Queen Elizabeth English men of

letters found their greatest ally and supporter. Not only

did she bring to the realm peace and tranquillity, but she

proved throughout her long reign to be an active promoter

of all literary interests. "The following description

(quoted from Roger Ascham) of her accomplishments,"

writes Courthope, "whatever deduction may be made

from it in consideration of partiality or flattery, must be

accepted as the testimony of the highest possible authority:


Among the learned daughters of Sir Thomas More, the

Princess Elizabeth shines like a star of distinguished lustre;

deriving greater glory from her virtuous disposition and

literary accomplishments than from the dignity of her

exalted birth. I was her preceptor in Latin and Greek for

two years. She was but little more than sixteen when

she could speak French and Italian with as much fluency

and propriety as her native English. She speaks Latin

readily, justly, and even critically. She has often con-

versed with me in Greek, and with tolerable facility. When

she transcribes Greek or Latin nothing can be more

beautiful than her handwriting.1 She is excellently skilled

in music, though not very fond of it. She has read with

me all Cicero, and a great part of Livy. It is chiefly from

these two authors alone that she has acquired her know-

ledge of the Latin language. She begins the day with

reading a portion of the Greek Testament, and then studies

some select orations of Isocrates and the tragedies of

Sophocles. . . . In every composition she is very quick in

pointing out a far-fetched word or an affected phrase. She

cannot endure those absurd imitators of Erasmus who mince the whole Latin language into proverbial maxims. She

is much pleased with a Latin oration naturally arising from

p. 180


1 This is no exaggeration. Frederick Chamberlin, in his Private Character of Queen Elizabeth, gives four facsimiles of the Queen's exquisite calligraphy.

its subject, and written both chastely and perspicuously.

She is most fond of translations not too free, and with

that agreeable clash of sentiment which results from a

judicious comparison of opposite or contradictory passages.

By a diligent attention to these things her taste is become

so refined, and her judgment so penetrating, that there is

nothing in Greek, Latin, and English composition, either

extravagant or exact, careless or correct, which she does

not in the course of reading accurately discern; immedi-

ately rejecting the one with disgust, and receiving the

other with the highest degree of pleasure." 1


With such a Sovereign at their head it is not surprising

to find the courtiers conforming to the fashion she set.

When, for example, she paid her first visit to Cambridge

University in 1564, we cannot help being struck by the

list of courtiers who were given degrees. Seven of them

were over thirty years of age, and two over fifty.2 It is

difficult to believe that all these comparatively elderly

statesmen were suddenly seized with the idea that their

lives were incomplete until they could affix the letters

M.A. to their names. Such a thought does not seem to

have occurred to them during the two previous reigns.

But now that culture and learning were a sine qua non

at Court, they were quick to follow the lead of their Royal


Stimulated and encouraged by the Queen, Lord Surrey's

work, so cruelly terminated on Tower Hill in 1547, began

to take fresh root. It is impossible here to follow in detail

the part played in this revival by men like Lord Buckhurst,

Thomas Churchyard, George Ferrers, and George Gascoigne.

Churchyard, it may be mentioned, provides a direct link

between the "Surrey tradition" and Lord Oxford's

Euphuists of the fifteen seventies. He had been a page,

while still a boy, in Surrey's household; and after spending

his early manhood at the wars, he settled down to pursue

his writing in Lord Oxford's household about 1569.

The first anthology published in Elizabeth's reign, and the

p. 181


1 Courthope, A History of English Poetry, vol. ii, p. 129.

2 Cf. Nichols, Progresses, vol. i.

direct successor to the Songs and Sonnets, was A Hundreth

Sundrie Flowres. Lord Oxford's probable connexion with

its publication, and the bold innovation he introduced by

publishing not only his own but other courtiers' poems

while they were still alive, has been fully investigated in a

previous Interlude.


The title of the book [writes Courthope] is very interest-

ing as marking the approach of Euphuism.

A Hundreth Sundrie Flowres bound up in one small

Poesy, gathered partly by translation in the fine outlandish

gardens of Euripides, Ovid, Petrarch, Ariosto, and others;

and partly by invention out of our own fruitful orchards

in England. Yielding sundry sweet savours of Tragical,

Comical, and Moral Discourses, both pleasant and profitable to the well-smelling noses of learned readers. 1


Although English literature was making rapid strides it

was still far behind that of continental countries, particu-

larly Italy. It was towards the native land of Petrarch

and Ariosto that enthusiastic men of letters like Oxford

and Sidney continually turned. Sidney was the first

to have his wish to see the home of poetry gratified.

From 1572 to 1575 he was travelling in France, Italy,

Germany, and Poland. And during this time Lord Oxford,

as we have seen, was eating his heart out in London.

His turn came, however, in 1575; and he then spent

sixteen months in France, Italy, and Germany. The story

of the rivalry between the two returned travellers, cul-

minating in 1579, has already been touched on.

Let us pause here for a moment and consider The

Shepherd's Calendar, which was written by Spenser -who

was then living in Leicester House with Sidney- under

the pseudonym "Immerito" in 1579. One of the eclogues

in this remarkable piece of work, entitled August, gives

us a glimpse of Sidney, and perhaps Oxford, before their

quarrel on the tennis-court. In it we read of the meeting

between two poetical "shepherds"- Willye and Perigot.

They agree to pass the time of day in a rhyming match;

p. 182


1 Courthope, op. cit., vol. ii, p. 169.

and having laid down their wagers, they call on a third

"shepherd" -Cuddie- to act as judge. Says Cuddie:


Gynne when ye lyst, ye jolly shepheards twayne:

Sike a judge as Cuddie were for a king.


The two competitors accordingly start off, Perigot leading:


PER.: It fell upon a holy eve,

WIL.: Hey, ho, hollidaye !

PER.: When holy fathers wont to shrieve;

WIL.: Now gynneth this roundelay.

PER.: Sitting upon a hill so hye,

WIL.: Hey, ho, the high hyll !

PER.: The while my flocke did feede thereby;

WIL.: The while the shepheard selfe did spill.

PER.: I saw the bouncing Bellibone,

WIL.: Hey, ho, Bonibell !

PER.: Tripping over the dale alone,

WIL.: She can trippe it very well.

PER.: Well decked in a frocke of gray,

WIL.: Hey, ho, gray is greete !

PER.: And in a kirtle of greene saye,

WIL.: The greene is for maydens meete.

PER.: A chapelet on her head she wore,

WIL.: Hey, ho, chapelet !

PER.: Of sweete violets therein was store,

WIL.: She sweeter than the violet.


And so on.

Now, "Willy" was the name given to Sidney.1 Who

then is most likely to be Perigot who matches his skill

against Sidney in a rhyming match ? The most plausible

suggestion I can offer is that Perigot is Lord Oxford, whose

epigram "Were I a King" was answered, as we have seen,

by Sidney. Indeed, may not Cuddie's words to the two



Gynne when ye lyst, ye jolly shepheards twayne:

Sike a judge as Cuddie were for a king,


contain a direct reference to this incident ?

But whether or no Perigot, or perhaps Cuddie, is to be

identified as Lord Oxford, is of little moment here. It

is sufficient that the incident of the rhyming match,

described by Spenser, must have been characteristic of the

p. 183


1 He was called Willy- possibly a corruption of Philip or Phil- in an eclogue lamenting his death; see Appendix D.

friendly rivalry that existed between the Euphuists and the


Early in 1579 John Lyly published Euphues, the Anatomy

of wit, which he dedicated to Lord de la Warr.1 It is

generally taken to have been the first English novel, but

this is not strictly correct, because The Adventures of

Master F. I. preceded it by six years.

The story of Euphues is its least important part. It was

the wealth of metaphor and rhetoric, the interminable

juggling with words and sentences, that appealed so much

to the Elizabethans and made Lyly's novel in a single day

the most widely read book in the country.


Euphuism [as Courthope says] was the form assumed

in England by a linguistic movement which, at some

particular stage of development, affected every literature in

modern Europe. The process in all countries was the same,

namely, to refine the vocabulary and syntax of the language

by adapting the practice of early writers to the usage of

modern conversation. . . . Edward de Vere, seventeenth

Earl of Oxford, is unfortunate in being chiefly known to

posterity as the antagonist of Sidney in the quarrel already

alluded to; beyond this little is recorded of him. We see,

however, that he was a great patron of literature, and

headed the literary party at Court which promoted the

Euphuistic movement. 2


Anthony Munday, and later Thomas Lodge, rallied under

Lord Oxford's banner that had been unfurled by the

publication of Euphues. In this same year (1579) Munday

dedicated The Mirror of Mutability to Lord Oxford. The

p. 184


1 William West, 1st or 11th Baron de la Warr, was born before 1538 and died in 1596. He was brought up by his uncle Thomas, 10th Lord de la Warr, with a view to his succeeding him in the Barony. He rewarded his uncle's generosity, however, by attempting to poison him in 1551; for which act Parliament very properly disabled him from the succession. In 1556 he was imprisoned in the Tower and sentenced to death for complicity in the same anti-Catholic plot that Lord Oxford's father had been suspected of helping to promote. Six months later he was pardoned, and in 1569 he was restored to the Barony. Very little is known about him, and he does not receive a notice in the Dictionary of National Biography.

2 Courthope, op. cit., vol. ii, pp: 179, 312.

opening sentences of the dedication show us how the cult

of Euphuism was beginning to spread:


To the Right Honourable and his singular good Lord

and Patron Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxenford, Lord of

Escales and Badlesmere, and Lord Great Chamberlain of

England, Antony Munday wisheth in this world a trium-

phant tranquillity, with continual increase of honourable

dignity, and after this life a crown of everlasting felicity

in the eternal hierarchy.

After that I had delivered (Right Honourable) unto your

courteous and gentle perusing my book entitled Galien

of France,1 wherein, having not so fully comprised such

pithiness of style as one of a more riper invention could

cunningly have carved, I rest, Right Honourable, on your

clemency, to amend my errors committed so unskilfully.

But at that time being very desirous to attain to some

understanding in the languages, considering in time to come

I might reap thereby some commodity, since as yet my web

of youthful time was not fully woven, and my wild oats

required to be furrowed in a foreign ground, to satisfy the

trifling toys that daily more and more frequented my busied

brain yielded myself to God and good fortune, taking on

the habit of a traveller.


The rest of the dedication is occupied with a long account

of Munday's travels in France and Italy, which need not

concern us here. But his reference to Lord Oxford's

"courteous and gentle perusing" of his (now lost) book

Galien of France is interesting. Munday was finding, in

just the same way that Bedingfield had done in 157 2, that

Lord Oxford was no ordinary patron. He was evidently

willing to give both his time and attention to manuscripts

submitted to him, and could be relied on to make suggestions

and offer advice. But in some ways the most interesting

part of The Mirror of Mutability lies in the last four lines

of a Latin poem 2 which Munday addresses at the end of his

p. 185


1 This book no longer exists.

2 Mi formose vale, valeat tua grata voluntas,

Deprecor optata tutus potiaris arena.

Te, cunctosque tuos CHRISTO committo tuendos,

Donec praestentes sermone fruamur amico.

book "Ad preclarum et nobilissimum virum E. O." 1 The

translation of these lines is as follows:


My noble master, farewell. May your desires which are

dear to us all prevail. Earnestly do I pray for your welfare

and success in the struggle. To the guardianship of Christ

I commit you and yours, till the day when as conquerors we

may peacefully resume our delightful literary discussions.


The unmistakeable reference to the rivalry between the

Euphuists and the Romanticists shows how Munday and

his fellows were all looking to their leader in this literary



The following year (1580) Lyly brought out the second

part of Euphues. It was called Euphues and his England,

and was dedicated to "the Right Honourable my very good

Lord and Master Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxenford":


This Pamphlet (Right Honourable) containing the estate

of England, I know none more fit to defend it than one of

the Nobility of England, nor any of the Nobility more

ancient or more honourable than your Lordship; besides

that describing the condition of the English Court and the

Majesty of our dread Sovereign, I could not find one more

noble in Court than your Honour, who is or should be under

Her Majesty chiefest in Court, by birth born to the greatest

office, and therefore, methought, by right to be placed in

great authority; for whoso compareth the honour of your

Lordship's noble house with the fidelity of your ancestors

may well say, which no other can truly gainsay, Vero

nihil verius.


He goes on to make a curious reference as to the circum-

stances of the publication of his two volumes:


I have brought into the world two children; of the first

I was delivered before my friends thought me conceived;

of the second I went a whole year big, and yet when every-

one thought me ready to lie down I did then quicken . . .

My first burthen coming before his time must needs be a

blind whelp, the second brought forth after his time must

p. 186


1 "E. O." (i.e. Edward Oxford) was the signature Oxford used in signing his poems which appeared in The Paradise of Dainty Devices (1576).

needs be a monster; the one I sent to a Nobleman to

nurse, who with great love brought him up for a year, so

that Wheresoever he wander he hath his Nurse's name in

his forehead, where sucking his first milk he cannot forget

his master. The other (Right Honourable) being but yet

in his swathe cloutes I commit most humbly to your Lord-

ship's protection, that in his infancy he may be kept by

your good care from falls, and in his age by your gracious

continuance defended from contempt.


There has been much conjecture as to the identity of the

"nobleman" who "nursed" Euphues, the Anatomy of Wit.

It has been thought that he may have been Lord de la

Warr, to whom it was dedicated. But it is curious that

in the dedication Lyly makes no mention of his having

interested himself in the manuscript. May not this

"nobleman" have been Lord Oxford, who, as the leader

of the Euphuists, would surely be the most natural "nurse"

for his private secretary, John Lyly, to choose ? The con-

nexion between the two men did not necessarily begin with

Enphues and his England, and Munday had just spoken of

his "courteous and gentle perusing" of Galien of France

in this very year. There is, of course, no proof of this, but

the suggestion may be worth considering.

In the same year (1580) Anthony Munday produced yet

another book. From the dedication we see that he has now

become the "servant" of Lord Oxford, which means pre-

sumably that, like Lyly, he was attached to the Earl's

household, whence he was helping in the Euphuist campaign

to enrich the English language. The book was entitled:


Zelauto, the Fountain of Fame, . . . given for a friendly

entertainment to Euphues, at his late arrival into England.

By A. M. Servant to the Right Honourable the Earl of

Owenford . . . 1580.


A few extracts from the dedication may here be given:


So my simple self (Right Honourable) having suffi-

ciently seen the rare virtues of your noble mind, the heroical

qualities of your prudent person, thought, though ability

were inferior to gratify with some gift, yet good will was

ample to bestow with the best . . . And lo, Right

p. 187

Honourable, among such expert heads, such pregnant

inventions, and such commendable writers, as prefer to

your seemly self works worthy of eternal memory; a

simple soul (more emboldened on your clemency than any

action whatsoever he is able to make manifest) presumeth

to present you with such unpolished practices as his simple

skill is able to comprehend. Yet thus much I am to assure

your Honour, that among all them which owe you dutiful

service, and among all the brave books which have been

bestowed, these my little labours contain so much faithful

zeal to your welfare as others whatsoever, I speak without

any exception. But lest that your Honour should deem

I forge my tale on flattery, and that I utter with my mouth

my heart thinketh not, I wish for the trial of my trusti-

ness what reasonable affairs your Honour can best devise,

so shall your mind be delivered from doubt, and myself rid

of any such reproach. But as the puissantest Prince is

not void of enemies, the gallantest champion free from foes,

and the most honest liver without some backbiters, even

so the bravest books hath many malicious judgments,

and the wisest writers not without rash reports. If then

(Right Honourable) the most famous are found fault

withal, the cunningest controlled, and the promptest wits

reproached by spiteful speeches, how dare so rude a

writer as I seem to set forth so mean a matter, so weak a

work, and so skill-less a style ?


We must now leave the Euphuists at their labours in

Vere House and enter Leicester House, the domicile of the

Romanticists, so as to see how Sidney and Spenser were

taking this bombardment of Euphuistic literature.

In October 1579, as we have seen, they had started, under

Sidney's leadership, a literary club called the Areopagos.

In a letter dated October 5th to his old College friend and

tutor, Gabriel Harvey, Spenser observes that they have

decided to discontinue the use of rhyme, and have laid

down certain rules for the construction of English hexa-

meters. Harvey apparently replied with some hexameters

of his own composition, for in April 1580 Spenser wrote

to him again:


Good Master Harvey, I doubt not but you have some

p. 188

great important matter in hand, which all this while

restraineth your pen and wonted readiness, in provoking

me unto that wherein yourself now fault. If there be any

such thing in hatching I pray you heartily let us know,

before all the world see it. . . . I think the earthquake

was also there with you (which I would gladly learn) as it

was here with us 1; overthrowing divers old buildings and

pieces of churches. . . . I like your late English hexa-

meters so exceedingly well that I also enure my pen

sometime in that kind, which I find indeed, as I have

heard you often defend in word, neither so hard nor so

harsh, that it will easily and fairly yield itself to our

Mother Tongue. 2


To this Harvey made answer in a "short but sharp and

learned judgment of earthquakes," at the end of which he

added some more of his hexameter poems. One of these,

called Speculum Tuscanismi, was an obvious caricature

of Lord Oxford:


Since Galatea came in, and Tuscanism gan usurp,

Vanity above all: villainy next her, stateliness Empress.

No man but minion, stout, lout, plain, swain, quoth a Lording:

No words but valorous, no works but womanish only.

For life Magnificoes, not a beck but glorious in show,

In deed most frivolous, not a look but Tuscanish always.

His cringing side neck, eyes glancing, fisnamie smirking,

With forefinger kiss, and brave embrace to the footward.

Large bellied Kodpeasd doublet, unkodpeasd half hose,

Straight to the dock like a shirt, and close to the britch like a diveling.

A little Apish flat couched fast to the pate like an oyster,

French Camarick ruffs, deep with a whiteness starched to the purpose.

Every one A per se A, his terms and braveries in print,

Delicate in speech, quaint in array: conceited in all points,

In Courtly guiles a passing singular odd man,

For Gallants a brave Mirror, a Primrose of Honour,

A Diamond for nonce, a fellow peerless in England.

Not the like discourser for Tongue, and head to be found out,

Not the like resolute man for great and serious affairs,

Not the like Lynx to spy out secrets and privities of States,

p. 189


1 Stow, in his Annals under date 1580, relates that: "The 6th of April, being Wednesday in Easter week, about six of the clock towards evening, a sudden earthquake happening in London and almost generally throughout England, caused such amazedness of the people as was wonderful for that time, and caused them to make their earnest prayers unto Almighty God" (ed. 1631, p. 689).

2 The Works of Spenser, ed. R. Morris, p. 611.

Eyed like to Argus, eared like to Midas, nos'd like to Naso,

Wing'd like to Mercury, fittst of a thousand for to be employ'd;

This, nay more than this, doth practise of Italy in one year.

None do I name, but some do I know, that a piece of a twelve month

Hath so perfited outly and inly both body, both soul,

That none for sense and senses half matchable with them.

A vulture's smelling, Ape's tasting, sight of an Eagle,

A Spider's touching, Hart's hearing, might of a Lion.

Compounds of wisdom, wit, prowess, bounty, behaviour,

All gallant virtues, all qualities of body and soul:

O thrice ten hundred thousand times blessed and happy,

Blessed and happy travail, Travailer most blessed and happy.

Tell me in good sooth, doth it not too evidently appear that this English Poet wanted but a good pattern before his eyes, as it might be some delicate and choice elegant Poesy of good Master Sidney's or Master Dyer's (our very Castor and Pollux for such and many greater matters) when this trim gear was in the hatching? 1

It would be difficult in the whole of English literature to

find a parallel to these execrable hexameters by Gabriel

Harvey. And yet certain writers have imagined that

they were written au grand sérieux ! This certainly was not

Harvey's own view, for he indignantly denied that his

verses had any malicious intent towards the Earl, "whose

noble Lordship I protest I never meant to dishonour with

the least prejudicial word of my tongue or pen, but ever

kept a mindful reckoning of many bounden duties toward

the same"; adding that "the noble Earl, not disposed to

trouble his Jovial mind with such Saturnine paltry, still

continued like his magnificent self." 2

The truth probably is that Harvey had no idea Spenser

meant to print his letters, 3 and he must have been much

relieved to find that Lord Oxford took his foolish lampoon

in such good part. On the other hand Thomas Nashe, who

in after years was engaged in a violent paper quarrel with

Harvey, tells us a very different story. Harvey, he says-


came very short but yet sharp upon my Lord of Oxford

p. 190


1 The Works of Gabriel Harvey, D.C.L., ed. Dr. A. B. Grosart (1884), vol. i, pp. 83-6.

2 Grosart, op. cit., vol. i, p. 184.

3 Altogether five letters passed between Spenser and Harvey. They were published in the form of two pamphlets: first, Three proper and witty, familiar letters . . . dated June 19th, 1580; and second, Two other very commendable letters . . . (no month) 1580.

in a rattling bunch of English hexameters. . . . I had forgot

to observe unto you, out of his first Four Familiar Epistles,

his ambitious stratagem to aspire: that whereas two great

Peers being at jar,1 and their quarrel continued to blood-

shed, 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; but hewed and

slashed he had been as small as chippings, if he had not

played Duck Fryer and hid himself eight weeks in that

nobleman's house for whom with his pen he thus bladed. 2


Even if this is an exaggeration we may perhaps permit

ourselves a smile at the picture of the worthy Dr. Gabriel

Harvey, D.C.L., taking refuge in Leicester House to escape

from Lord Oxford's wrath. But Tom Nashe, having

discovered an excellent stick to beat the Doctor with,

continued to use it unmercifully. In another of his

satirical pamphlets he calls to mind the time when Harvey

"cast up certain crude humours of English hexameter

verses that lay upon his stomach; a Nobleman stood in his

way as he was vomiting, and from top to toe he was all

to bewrayed him with Tuscanism." He goes on to say

that Lyly, in Pap with a Hatchet, had spoken up for

Harvey, although Harvey had accused Lyly of trying to

inflame Lord Oxford against him:


He [Lyly] that threatened to conjure up Martin's [Marprelate] wit, hath written something too in your [Har-

veyʼs] praise, in Pap-hatchet, for all you accuse him to have

courtly incensed the Earl of Oxford against you.

Mark him well; he is but a little fellow, but he hath one

of the best wits in England. Should he take thee in hand

again (as he flieth from such inferior concertation) I

prophesy there would more gentle readers die of a merry

mortality engendered by the eternal jests he would maul

thee with, than there have done of this last infection. I

myself, that enjoy but a mite of wit in comparison of his

talent, in pure affection to my native country, make my

style carry a press sail, am fain to cut off half the stream

p. 191


1 A reference to the tennis-court quarrel.

2 Works of Thomas Nashe, ed. McKerrow, vol. iii, p. 78.

of thy sport breeding confusion, for fear it should cause a

general hicket [hiccup] throughout England.1


This paragraph about the "little fellow" who had one of

"the best wits in England" has always been assumed to

refer to John Lyly. Lyly's biographers and critics, however,

are always careful to omit the first sentence in which the

Earl of Oxford's name occurs. But if the paragraph is

read in its entirety it seems perfectly clear that Nashe is

really referring to Lord Oxford. Lyly had never "taken

Harvey in hand"; but we have it on Nashe's own showing

that Oxford had done so with such effect that Gabriel had

been obliged to spend eight weeks in concealment in Leices-

ter House. Moreover, Harvey, who was a D.C.L. and

a fellow of Pembroke College, could not possibly be

described as being of "inferior concertation" to Lord

Oxford's private secretary. On the other hand, it may

perhaps be argued that Nashe would not dare to refer to a

nobleman as "a little fellow." But we should remember

that Harvey, in the very lampoon Nashe is discussing,

calls Lord Oxford "a fellow peerless in England"; and it

seems to me highly likely that Nashe had this actual

phrase in mind when he spoke of the "little fellow"

who "hath one of the best wits in England." 2

In February 1581 another lampoon was directed against

Lord Oxford."This time the author was Barnabe Rich,‘

and the book Farewell to Military Profession. Rich,

having returned from the wars in the Low Countries, had

adopted Sir Christopher Hatton as his patron and


My very good Lord and upholder, who having builded a

house in Northamptonshire called by the name of Holden-

by, which house for the bravery of the buildings, for the

stateliness of the chambers, for the rich furniture of the

p. 192


1 McKerrow, op. cit., vol. i, p. 300.

2 See Appendix K.

3 Although the remainder of this Interlude is anticipating the story of Lord Oxford's life, I have thought it best for the sake of continuity to complete this survey of his literary environment.

4 Barnabe Rich (c.1540-1617) was, like Gascoigne and Churchyard, a soldier first and a writer second. He had fought in France and the Low Countries, and had finished his military career as a Captain.

lodgings, . . . is thought by those that have judgment to

be incomparable, and to have no fellow in England that

is out of Her Majesty's hands.1


Hatton, as we know, was no friend of Lord Oxford,

and although he does not appear to have taken part in

the Areopagos controversy, we may be sure that he

would lose no chance of ridiculing the man he secretly

detested. Such an opportunity occurred when Lord

Oxford fell temporarily from the Queen's high favour in

January 1581, and there can be no doubt that Rich's

lampoon, so obviously directed at Oxford a month after his

disgrace, was instigated by the Vice-Chamberlain. More-

over, Hatton belonged to Leicester's faction in opposing

the French match, and Rich's description of a man in

a French ruff, a French cloak, and a French hose makes

it practically certain that he is caricaturing Lord Oxford:


It was my fortune at my last being at London to walk

through the Strand towards Westminster, where I met one

came riding towards me on a footcloth nag, apparelled

in a French ruff, a French cloak, a French hose, and in his

hand a great fan of feathers, bearing them up (very

womanly) against the side of his face. And for that I

had never seen any man wear them before that day, I

began to think it impossible that there might a man be

found so foolish as to make himself a scorn to the world

to wear so womanish a toy; but rather thought it had

been some shameless woman that had disguised herself

like a man in our hose and our cloaks; for our doublets,

gowns, caps, and hats, they had gone long ago.

But by this time he was come something higher me and

I might see he had a beard, whereby I was assured that he

should have been a man. . . . And as he passed by me

I saw three following that were his men, and taking the

hindermost by the arm I asked him what gentlewoman

his master was. But the fellow, not understanding my

meaning, told me his master's name and so departed.

I began then to muse with myself to what end that fan

of feathers served, for it could not be to defend the sun

p. 193


1 Eight Novels . . . by Barnabe Riche, 1581. (Shakespeare Society, 1846.)

[Simier, Baron de St. Marc]

from the burning of his beauty, for it was in the beginning

of February, when the heat of the sun may be very well


Now, if it were to defend the wind or the coldness of the

air, methinks a French hood had been a great deal better,

for that had been both gentlewomanlike, and being close

pinned down about his ears would have kept his head a

great deal warmer; and then a French hood on his head,

a French ruff about his neck, and a pair of French hose

on his legs, had been right-a la mode de France; and this

had been something suitable to his wit.


There can surely be little doubt that the Elizabethan reader

would see in Rich's lampoon a picture of the chief sup-

porter of the Anjou match.

These fleeting vignettes, sketched by the literary under-

world of London, give us a vivid glimpse of Lord Oxford

and his Bohemian friends and foes. We may perhaps be

surprised at the familiar tone in which men like Harvey,

Nashe, and Rich spoke of the Lord Great Chamberlain;

but the fraternity of letters has always broken down the

artificial barriers of caste, and we shall undoubtedly miss

the light-hearted buffoonery of these quips if we attempt

to analyse them without a sense of humour. The Eliza-

bethans were not grave, solemn scholars who issued learned

treatises from the seclusion of their studies. They were

first and foremost men of action, full of joie de vivre, and

bubbling over with the irrepressible spirits of over-grown

schoolboys. They had nearly all, at one time or another,

trailed a pike as volunteers in the Protestant armies on

the Continent, and they revelled in such escapades as

Drake's mad pranks in his "private war" with the

King of Spain. To them life, literature, and war were

indissolubly mixed, and could only be enjoyed to the full

after a liberal admixture of fun and adventure. No one

who fails to appreciate this can catch the true spirit of

Elizabethan England.

But it is time now to return once more to Vere House.

In 1582 a new recruit joined the Euphuists. This was

Thomas Watson, who dedicated his collection of poems

p. 194

called Hekatompathia, the Passionate Century of Love, to

Lord Oxford on March 31st:


Alexander the Great [he writes] passing on a time

by the workshop of Apelles, curiously surveyed some of

his doings; whose long stay in viewing them brought all

the people into so great a liking of the painter's workman-

ship that immediately after they bought up all his pictures,

what price soever he set them at.

And the like good hap (Right Honourable) befel unto

me lately concerning these my Love Passions, which then

chanced Apelles for his portraits. For since the world

hath understood (I know not how) that your Honour had

willingly vouchsafed the acceptance of this work, and at

convenient leisures favourably perused it, being as yet

but in written hand, many have oftentimes and earnestly

called upon me to put it to the press, that for their money

they might but see what your Lordship with some liking

had already perused. And thus at this moment I humbly

take my leave; but first wishing the continual increase

of your Lordship's honour, with abundance of good friends,

reconciliation of all foes, and what good soever tendeth

unto perfect happiness.

Your Lordship's humbly at command,



In wishing his patron "reconciliation of all foes" Watson

gives us a glimpse of the unhappy and troubled life that

Lord Oxford was leading during his years of disgrace.1

The Earl no doubt was turning more and more from the

interminable intrigues of the Court to his literary associates.

While on the subject of the Hekatompathia it is perhaps

worth quoting what that profound Elizabethan critic,

Edward Arber, has to say about it in the Introduction to

his reprint of Watson's poems:


Whoever reads this remarkable work will wonder how

it can have fallen into such oblivion. On the poems

themselves we shall say nothing. They reveal themselves.

Each of them is headed with "an annotation." To these

short introductions we would call attention. They are most

skilfully written. Who wrote them ? May he have been the

p. 195


1 Oxford was out of favour with the Queen from January 1581 to June 1583.

Earl of Oxford ? Was he the friend whom Watson addresses

in Number 71 as "dear Titus mine, my ancient friend" ?


The answer to this suggestion- that Lord Oxford sup-

plied the introductory annotations when he read the poems

in manuscript -can be found, I think, in the annotation

to the 67th poem. Here Watson says that someone who -


for some good he had conceived of the works vouchsafed

with his own hand certain poesies [i.e. "posies," or annota-

tions] concerning the same; amongst which was this

one: "Love hath no leaden heels."


Surely this anonymous individual must have been the same

as he who "at convenient leisures" had perused the

manuscript "being as yet but in written hand" ?

Still more striking is the fact that in another of Watson's

books of verse-the posthumous Tears of Fancy (1593) -

the last sonnet of the series beginning "Who taught thee

first to sigh, alas, my heart ?" has been definitely ascribed

to Lord Oxford himself in the Rawlinson manuscript. I

give the poem in full:


Who taught thee first to sigh, alas, my heart ?

  Who taught thy tongue the woeful words of plaint ?

  Who filled thine eyes with tears of bitter smart ?

  Who gave thee grief and made thy joys to faint ?

Who first did paint with colours pale thy face ‘2

  Who first did break thy sleeps of quiet rest ?

  Above the rest in Court, who gave thee grace ?

  Who made thee strive in honour to be best ?

In constant truth to bide so firm and sure,

  To scorn the world, regarding but thy friends ?

  With patient mind each passion to endure,

  In one desire to settle to the end ?

Love then thy choice, wherein such choice thou bind,

As nought but death may ever change thy mind.

Finis. Earl of Oxenforde. 1


Whatever may be the true facts of the case, it is evident

that an exceedingly close link exists between the Earl of

Oxford and the poems of Thomas Watson. The poems

themselves are not all of the highest standard, but they

certainly do not deserve the scorn that is heaped on them

p. 196


1 Bodleian Library, Rawlinson Poetical M88. 85. 16. There are slight variations in the version published in the Tears of Fancy.

by Professor Courthope. As Watson was one of the

Euphuists, and as, like Bedingfield, Lyly, and Munday, he

had submitted his manuscript to his patron for help and

advice, it seems quite likely that some of the poems

published by him were really the work of the Earl. But

this is mere conjecture which may, some day, be proved

or disproved.

Two years after Watson had enrolled himself as a

Euphuist under Lord Oxford he was followed by one of

the most interesting personalities in Elizabethan literature,

Robert Greene. Says Courthope:


Lyly's most brilliant disciple, Greene, was ready to avail

himself of any subject which offered opportunities of

treatment in the Euphuistic manner. When he began to

write he naturally turned, like his master, to the theme of

Love, and for several years poured forth a succession of

amorous pamphlets and romances which were read with

eagerness by all sorts and conditions of men, to whose

barbarous taste the tricks of Euphuism seemed miracles

of art. . . . What is best and most characteristic in the

plays of Greene is the poetry of his pastoral landscape, and

his representation of the characters of women; in both

of these respects he exercised an unmistakeable influence

on the genius of Shakespeare. His pastoral vein is dis-

played rather in his novels than in his dramas; it runs very

happily through Menaphon, and even more so through

Pandosto, a story which furnished Shakespeare with the

outline of his Winter's Tale.1


One of Greene's earliest books, published in 1584, was

dedicated to Lord Oxford. It bore the title Greene's

Card of Fancy, wherein the folly of those Carpet Knights is

deciphered, which guiding their course by the compass of

Cupid, either dash their ship against most dangerous rocks,

or else attain the haven with pain and peril . . . by Robert

Greene, Master of Art in Cambridge. The dedication

runs as follows:


To the Right Honourable Edward de Vere, Earl of

Oxenford, Viscount Bulbeck, Lord of Escales and Badles-

p. 197


1 A History of English Poetry, vol. ii, pp. 388, 395.

mire, and Lord Great Chamberlain of England: Robert

Greene wisheth long life with increase of honour.

That poor Castilian Erontino (Right Honourable) being

a very unskilful painter, presented Alphonsus, the Prince

of Aragon, with a most imperfect picture, which the King

thankfully accepted; not that he liked the work, but that

he loved the art. The paltering poet Cherillus dedicated

his dancing poems to that mighty monarch Alexander,

saying that he knew assuredly if Alexander would not

accept them that they were not pithy, yet he would not

utterly reject them in that they had a show of poetry.

Cmsar ofttimes praised his soldiers for their will, although

they wanted skill; and Cicero as well commended stammer-

ing Lentulus for his painful industry as. learned Laelius

for his passing eloquence. Which considered (although

wisdom did will me not to strain further than my sleeve

would stretch) I thought good to present this imperfect

pamphlet to your Honour's protection, hoping your

Lordship will deign to accept the matter in that it seemeth

to be prose, though something unsavoury for want of

skill, and take my well meaning for an excuse of my

boldness, in that my poor want. The Emperor Trajan

was never without suitors, because courteously he would

hear every complaint. The Lapidaries frequented the

Court of Adobrandinus, because it was his chief study

to search out the nature of stones. All that courted

Atlanta were hunters, and none sued to Sapho but poets.

Wheresoever Maecenas lodgeth, thither no doubt will

scholars flock. And your Honour being a worthy favourer

and fosterer of learning hath forced many through your

excellent virtue to offer the first-fruits of their study at

the shrine of your Lordship's courtesy. But though they

have waded far and found mines, and I gadded abroad

to get nothing but mites, yet this I assure myself, that

they never presented unto your Honour their treasure

with a more willing mind than I do this simple trash,

which I hope your Lordship will so accept. Resting

therefore upon your Honour's wonted clemency, I commit

your Lordship to the Almighty.

Your Lordship's most dutifully to command,



p. 198


1 From the 1603 edition in the British Museum; but the first edition was 1584. (Cf. Courthope. op. cit., vol. ii, p. 388.)

In 1586 Angel Day 1 dedicated his first book- The

English Secretorie, wherein is contained a perfect method for

the vindicating of all manner of epistles and familiar letters

-to Lord Oxford. He was evidently another disciple of

Euphuism as the dedication shows:


To the Right Honourable Lord Edward de Vere, Earl

of Oxenford, Viscount Bulbeck, Lord Sandford and of

Badlesmere, and Lord Great Chamberlain of England:

all honour and happiness correspondent to his noble

desires, and in the commutation of this earthly being

endless joys and an everlasting habitation.

. . . My honourable Lord, the exceeding bounty where-

with your good Lordship hath ever wonted to entertain

the deserts of all men, and very appearance of nobility

herself, well known to have reposed her delights in the

worthiness of your stately mind, warrenteth me almost

that I need not blush to recommend unto your courteous

view the first-fruits of these my foremost labours, and to

honour this present discourse with the memory of your

everlasting worthiness. And albeit by the learned view

and insight of your Lordship, whose infancy from the

beginning was ever sacred to the Muses, the whole course

hereof may be found nothing such, as the lowest part of

the same may appear in any sort answerable to so great

and forward excellence. . . .

Your Lordship's most devoted and loyally affected



It was in the same year that Lord Oxford received the

highest possible tribute to his skill in poetry:


I may not omit the deserved commendations of many

honourable and noble Lords and Gentlemen in Her Majesty's Court, which, in the rare devices of poetry, have been and yet are most skilful; among whom the Right Honourable Earl of Oxford may challenge to himself the title of the most excellent among the rest.2


p. 199


1 Angel Day was the son of Thomas Day, a parish clerk of London. He was apprenticed to Thomas Duxsell, a London stationer, for twelve years from 1563. His first work- The English Secretary -was reprinted six times before 1614. He published three other works, including a poem "upon the life and death . . . of Sir Philip Sidney."

2 William Webbe, A Discourse of English Poetry. (See Haslewood's Ancient Critical Essays, vol. ii, p. 34.)

Three years later the same high praise was meted out

to him by the author of The Arte of English Poesy. I

shall deal with this evidence more in detail elsewhere.


During the eighties Anthony Munday had been hard

at work translating from French, Italian, and Spanish

a cycle of books which have come to be known as the

"Romances of Chivalry." There were originally at least

fifteen volumes, and they were published by Munday at

intervals between 1583 and 1618. 1 Unfortunately five

of them have been lost altogether, and only a few first

editions of the remainder exist. Probably the lost Galien

of France, which Lord Oxford had read evidently with

appreciation while it was still in manuscript in 1579, was

the first of these translations which Munday undertook.

Moreover, at least five of the first editions of the cycle-

viz. Palmerin d'Oliva, Parts I and II, and Primaleon of

Greece, Parts I, II, and III -are known to have been

dedicated to Lord Oxford.2 This certainly looks as if the

Earl had been responsible in encouraging Munday in this

particular line.


Of these five dedications, however, only one- Palmerin,

Part I -now exists. The title runs:


Palmerin d'Oliva: the Mirror of Nobility, Map of

Honour, Anatomy of rare fortunes, Heroical president of

Love, Wonder for Chivalry, and most accomplished

Knight in all perfections. Written in the Spanish, Italian,

and French, and from them turned into English by A. M.

one of the Messengers of Her Majesty's Chamber. . . . 1588.


The dedication is as follows:


To the right noble, learned, and worthy minded Lord

Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxenford, . . . A. M. wisheth

continual happiness in this life and in the world to come.

Among the Spartans, right noble Lord and sometime

my honourable master, nothing was accounted more

p. 200


1 There is an interesting account of this cycle in an article by Gerald B. Hayes in The Library, 4th Series, vol. vi, p. 57 (1926).

2 It is probable that eight, and possibly more, were dedicated to him, but this cannot be definitely proved.

odious than the forgetfulness of the servant towards the

master. . . .

Though this example (my good Lord) be unfit for me,

in what respect beseems me not to speak, yet that

excellent opinion of the Spartans I count it religion for

me to imitate. For if this vice was so despised among

such famous persons, what reproach would it be to so poor

‘an abject as myself, being once so happy as to serve a

master so noble, to forget his precious virtues, which

makes him generally beloved, but chiefly mine own duty,

which nothing but death can discharge. . . . If Palmerin

hath sustained any wrong by my bad translation, being so

worthily set down in other languages, your Honour having

such special knowledge in them I hope will let slip any

faults escaped, in respect I have done my good will, the

largest talent I have to bestow.

And seeing the time affords me such opportunity that

with ending this first part the old year is expired, I present

it to my noble Lord as your servant's New Year's gift, and

therewithal deliver my most affectionate duty, evermore

ready at your Honour's commandment.

Needless were it by tediousness to grow troublesome

when a word sufliceth to so sound judgment. I submit

myself and my book to your gracious conceit, and the

second part, now on the press, and well near finished, I

will shortly present to my worthy patron.

In meanwhile I wish your Honour so many New Years of

happiness as may stand with the heavenly appointment,

and my modesty to desire.

Sometime your Honour's servant yet continuing in all

humble duty,



It may be mentioned in passing that in 1619 Munday

brought out a second edition in three parts of Primaleon

of Greece, all of which were dedicated to Henry, the eigh-

teenth Earl of Oxford. The following extract is of interest,

not only because we see that it was originally dedicated

to the seventeenth Earl, but also because it shows that

Munday maintained a close friendship with both father

and son for at least forty years:


Sir, having sometime served that most noble Earl your

p. 201

father of famous and desertful memory; and translating

divers honourable histories into English out of French,

Italian, and other languages, which he graciously pleased

to countenance with his noble acceptance; among the

embrions of my then younger brain these three several

parts of Primaleon of Greece were the tribute of my duty

and service to him, which books, having long time slept

in oblivion and (in a manner) quite out of memory, by

favour of these more friendly times coming once more to

be seen on the world's public theatre, in all duty they offer

themselves to your noble patronage; for you being the

true heir of your honourable father's matchless virtues,

and succeeding him in place of degree and eminency,

who should inherit the father's trophies, monuments, and

ancient memories but his truly noble, hopeful, and virtuous

son ? In whom old Lord Edward is still living and cannot

die so long as you breathe.

For his sake then, most honourable Earl, accept of poor

Primaleon, newly revived, and rising from off your father's

hearse in all humility cometh to kiss your noble hand;

with what further dutiful service wherein you shall please

to employ me.

Your Honour's ever to be commanded,

A. M.


Lord Oxford's position as the principal patron of these

Continental Romances of Chivalry is a clear indication

of the extent of his literary interests. From 1564 to

1571 we have seen him extending his patronage to the

early translators of the classics like Arthur Golding and

Thomas Underdoune. After his return from Italy he

constituted himself the leader of the new Euphuist move-

ment, the chief exponent of which, John Lyly, was for

many years a member of his household. During the

eighties we find him encouraging another of his "servants"

-Anthony Munday -to undertake the task of translating

a great cycle of Continental Romances. His skill and

supremacy in poetry were universally acknowledged; and,

as we shall see later, from 1580 onwards he was organising

and writing plays for a company of actors he had taken

under his patronage. But even so wide a range of interests

p. 202

as is comprised in the Classics, Poetry, Euphuism, the

Drama, and Romantic literature failed to satisfy the

Earl's craving for culture and the arts. In 1591 John

Farmer 1 dedicated his first song-book- Forty several ways

of two parts in one made upon a plain song -to Lord

Oxford. The wording of the dedication leaves no doubt

as to why he chose the Earl as his patron:


. . . This poor conceit I have presumed of your honour-

able favour to present unto your Lordship, under coverture

of whom to the view of the world; not but that I knew

it unworthy of so high a personage, the less is in it to

recommend itself, which, how little it is, I am greatly

in fear. Hereunto, my good Lord, I was the rather

emboldened for your Lordship's great affection to this

noble science [i.e. music], hoping for the one you might

pardon the other, and desirous to make known your

inclination this way. . . . Besides this, my good Lord,

I bear this conceit, that not only myself am vowed to

your commandment, but all that is in me is dedicated

to your Lordship's service.


Farmer's second book- The first Set of English Madri-

gals -was published in 1599. Once again in the dedication

he pays tribute to Lord Oxford's skill as a musician:


Most honourable Lord, it cometh not within the compass

of my power to express all the duty I owe, nor to pay the

least part; so far have your honourable favours out-

stripped all means to manifest my humble affection that

there is nothing left but praying and wondering. There is

a canker worm that breedeth in many minds, feeding only

upon forgetfulness and bringing forth to birth but in-

gratitude. To show that I have not been bitten with that

monster, for worms prove monsters in this age, which yet

never any painter could counterfeit to express the ugliness,

nor any poet describe to decipher the height of their

p. 203


1 Nothing appears to be known of John Farmer except that he was a musical composer who dedicated his only two song-books to Lord Oxford. It seems probable that at any rate between the dates of their publication (1591-9) he was in Oxford's household.

illness, I have presumed to tender these Madrigals only as

remembrances of my service and witnesses of your Lord-

ship's liberal hand, by which I have so long lived, and from

your honourable mind that so much have all liberal

sciences. In this I shall be most encouraged if your

Lordship vouchsafe the protection of my first-fruits, for

that both of your greatness you best can, and for your

I judgment in music best may. For without flattery be it

spoke, those that know your Lordship know this, that

using this science as a recreation, your Lordship have

overgone most of them that make it a profession. Right

Honourable Lord, I hope it shall not be distasteful to

number you here amongst the favourers of music, and the

practisers, no more than Kings and Emperors that have

been desirous to be in the roll of astronomers, that being

but a star fair, the other an angel's choir.

Thus most humbly submitting myself and my labours

and whatever is or may be in me to your Lordship's censure

and protection, I humbly end, wishing your Lordship as

continual an increasing of health and honour as there is a

daily increase of virtue to come to happiness.

Your Lordship's most dutiful servant to command,



We do not know for certain whether Lord Oxford was

himself a composer, but it is probable that he was so. In

1588 Antony Munday, who had once been in the Earl's

employ but was then a "servant of the Queen's Majesty,"

published A Banquet of Dainty Conceits. This was a book

containing twenty-two poems of his own, and in it he

gives to each a musical setting. One of them, we read,

can be sung to the "Earl of Oxford's march," and another

to the "Earl of Oxford's galliard." These tunes have now

been lost.

In 1599 George Baker, who had once been Lady Oxford's

personal doctor, but, presumably at her death in 1588,

had been appointed "one of the Queen's Majesty's chief

chirurgiens in ordinary," dedicated his Practise of the New

and Old Physic to Lord Oxford. It was a reprint, having

first appeared in 1576 under the title of the New Jewel of

Health, with a dedication to the Countess his mistress.

p. 204

The new dedication, which was only slightly altered to

suit his new patron, concludes as follows:


Wherefore I at this time, to pleasure my country and

friends have published this work under your honourable

protection, that it may more easily be defended against

sycophants and fault finders, because your wit, learning,

and authority hath great force and strength in repressing

the curious crakes of the envious and bleating babes of

Momus' charm.

Your Honour's for ever to command,



But it is time now to retrace our steps and return once

more to the point where we last left Lord Oxford at the

height of his power and prominence after the tennis-court

quarrel with Philip Sidney. His contemporaries at this

time must have discerned in him the man who was almost

certain to supplant the Earl of Leicester as Her Majesty's

chief favourite. This, indeed, had already been more than

half accomplished; for with Leicester's disgrace in 1578 the

field seemed to be clear, and Lord Oxford's goal assured.

His only possible rival was Sir Christopher Hatton, the

recently appointed Vice-Chamberlain. Sir Walter Ralegh's

meteoric career was still undreamed of; and the Earl of

Essex, who became so great a figure in the latter years of

the reign, was a boy in his 'teens. Well might the Court

in 1580 have felt that nothing could shake the secure

foundations on which Lord Oxford's position rested.

But it was not to be. Within a brief year the whole

fabric of the brilliant career that appeared almost within

his reach had crumbled to the ground, and his life passed

out of the sunshine of prominence into the sombre gloom

of shadow.


p. 205





               "My report was once

first with the best of note. . . .

And when a soldier was the theme, my name

Was not far off: then was I as a tree

Whose boughs did bend with fruit: but in one night,

A storm, or robbery, call it what you will,

Shook down my mellow hangings, nay, my leaves,

And left me bare to weather. . . .

My fault being nothing, as I have told you oft,

But that two villains, whose false oaths prevailed

Before my perfect honour . . ."

Cymbeline, Act III, Sc. III, 57-68.





THE summer of 1580 may be said to mark the highest

point attained by Lord Oxford as a courtier and Royal

favourite. In 1579, at the time of the quarrel with

Sidney, we have it on Fulke Greville's authority that he

was "superlative in the Prince's favour"; and indeed

Sidney's banishment from the Court and retirement to

Wilton until October 1580 sufficiently shows the attitude

of the Queen at this period towards the Earl of Oxford.

But before the end of 1580 he took the first step in a

course of action which-however patriotically intended--

was destined to dethrone him from that position of prestige

and authority which he had occupied at the Court since

the time of his marriage to Anne Cecil on December 19th,

1571. In order to understand the motives that prompted

his action this winter it is necessary to go back some four

or five years to the time of his return from the Continent

in April 1576.

This return to England marked, as we have already

seen, a crisis in his affairs. It is difficult to say with

certainty what the precise causes of this crisis were. He

was probably angry and suspicious in matters that con-

p. 206

cerned not only his wife, but also some of his old friends

and literary associates such as George Gascoigne and

Christopher Hatton, perhaps also Lord Burghley and the

Queen herself. Whatever these causes may have been,

he and several friends, including Lord Henry Howard,

Francis Southwell, and Charles Arundel, joined together

soon after his arrival, and made a secret profession of their

adherence to the Catholic religion.1

That Oxford was partly influenced in taking this step

by other motives than purely religious ones is probable

from what we know of his affairs at the time, and also

from his own subsequent statements. But he never

allowed his Catholic sympathies to interfere with his

patriotism, and when he found that the adoption of

Catholicism meant, in the case of some of his friends, a

secret leaning towards Spain, he began to regret his

precipitate action in having become reconciled to the

Church of Rome. We have all this on the testimony of

Mauvissiere de Castelnau, the French Ambassador, who

on January 11th, 1581, wrote as follows to the King of



A few days before Christmas 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, as he says, and signed with them a declaration

that they would do all they could for the advancement

of the Catholic religion) 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 his best friends who had supported

him in his recent quarrels of having conspired against the

State by having made profession of the Catholic faith,

and he endeavoured to do them all the harm he could.

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 Lord Henry Howard, a brother of the

late Duke of Norfolk, and Charles Arundel, who is very

p. 207


1 Catholic Record Society, vol. xxi, p. 29.

devoted to your Majesties and to Monseigneur your

brother, both of them being strong advocates of the

marriage. . . .

It was to her great regret, as the Queen herself told me,

that she was obliged to place them under restraint in the

custody of some of her Councillors: Lord Henry under the

charge of Sir Christopher Hatton, Captain of the Guard;

and Francis Southwell under the charge of Sir Francis


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 well affected to it, as

indeed is the case with most of the nobility of this kingdom.

The Queen knew this perfectly well; and Lord Henry

Howard, Arundel, 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. He has lost credit and honour, and has

been abandoned by all his friends and by all the ladies of

the Court. . . .

Nevertheless, up to the present the Queen has been

endeavouring to find out all she can about the matter.

She has told me recently that they were madmen, but

that there were certainly plots being hatched, with their

roots abroad; and that she very much regretted to find

her own subjects implicated in them, especially those who

were so well affected to France and so favourable to the

marriage. She added that she would close her eyes to it

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,

and begged her to hear from my lips whether it was not

true that I knew of a Jesuit who had celebrated the Mass

about four years ago at which they were reconciled to the

Roman Church. 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

p. 208

did not place their consciences in antagonism to the State,

and entreated me to let her know about it.

I denied all knowledge of the business; 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 of his



The Ambassador goes on to say that Oxford then im-

plored him to report what he did remember. "I bade him

speak no more. He is evidently trying to sicken those

who were earnest on the side of the match. Perhaps he

is jealous of others, or is of the Spanish faction."

How wrongly de Castelnau judged of Oxford's action

can be seen from the following letter written by the

Spanish Ambassador Bernardino de Mendoza, on Decem-

ber 25th, 1580, to the King of Spain:


Milord Henry Howard, brother of the Duke of Norfolk,

has for some years- as I know through some priests -been

very Catholic. . . . He desired that the [French] match

should take place; believing, like many other Catholics,

that by this means they would be allowed to exercise their

religion in freedom.

On hearing that the Earl of Oxford had accused him,

together with Charles [Arundel and Francis] Southwell of

being reconciled to Rome, they did not dare to trust

themselves to the French Ambassador; but coming to

my house at midnight, though I had never spoken to them,

they told me the danger in which they found themselves of

losing their lives, unless I would hide them. As they were

p. 209


1 Catholic Record Society, vol. xxi, pp. 29, 30.

Catholics I entertained them. . . . Milord Harry, in gratitude

. . . has informed and continues to inform me of everything

he hears. . . . To touch of the greatness of the affection with

which he occupies himself in the service of your Majesty

is impossible.1


These two letters of the French and Spanish Ambassadors

enable us to follow the sequence of events and to under-

stand their political import.

Throughout the seventies a Court Catholic party

favouring the French match and the French alliance had

been in existence. The rising power of Spain during the

same period was, however, beginning to attract more and

more attention. Oxford had observed among his friends

the growth of this influence, and it would seem that in his

opinion it had by December 1580 reached a point of actual

disloyalty and treason. There is no reason to suppose

that he was influenced by other than patriotic motives

when he denounced his former friends to the Queen in

the presence of the French Ambassador. He evidently

expected to be supported by Mauvissiere de Castelnau,

in the interests of whose country he was genuinely acting.

It must have been a serious shock to him to find himself

left in the lurch. On the other hand, if we place ourselves

in the position of the French Ambassador, it is easy to see

that he would naturally be suspicious of Oxford's motives,

and that'a categorical denial would seem to be the only safe

line for him to take. There is no reason to doubt the veracity

of the statement made by Bernardino de Mendoza that he

had never spoken to Howard, Arundel, and Southwell

before they came to his house at midnight just before

Christmas. The inference to be drawn from the two letters

is that Oxford's action was the immediate cause of the

break-up of the Court Catholic party into two factions,

and that the disloyal Spanish faction was not formed until

Oxford, with what may seem to us now undue precipita-

tion, blurted out his accusation in the Presence Chamber.

The written charges and counter-charges that followed

p. 210


1 Catholic Record Society, vol. xxi, pp. 30, 31.

are voluminously recorded in the State Papers Domestic,

volume cli, articles 42 to 57, and in State Papers Domestic,

Addenda, volume xxvi, article 46, some of which have

already been quoted.

It will be sufficient to say here that during the four

months of wrangling on paper Lord Henry Howard was

placed under close restraint in the charge of Sir Christopher

Hatton, and Charles Arundel was similarly placed in a

house (the owner of which I have been unable to discover)

at Sutton. One of the latter's bitterest complaints, to

which he gave vent in a letter to Hatton, was that while

he himself had been virtually imprisoned his enemy was

free and allowed to "graze in the pastures." At the same

time there is a curious letter from 9th June 1581, signed by  the Privy Council, which shows conclusively that Lord Oxford was released from the Tower on June 8th:


A letter to Sir William Gorges 1 that where their Lord-

ships understand that the Earl of Oxford, being yesterday

by Her Majesty's commandment released of his imprison-

ment in the Tower, at his Lordship's departure he [i.e.

Gorges] did demand his upper garment and other things

as fees due unto him by his office; and hath thereupon

caused certain of his Lordship's stuff to be stayed: [we

therefore] giving him [i.e. Gorges] to understand that for

as much as his Lordship was not committed thither upon any

cause of treason or any criminal cause, it is thought that he

cannot challenge any such fees; and therefore do hereby

require him to forebear to demand the same and to suffer

the stuff stayed by him to pass; whereof he is to have

regard also for that the Earl supposeth he may not a little

be touched in honour if he shall be brought to yield unto

a custom only upon persons committed to that place for

treason, and for that respect especially neither may the

Earl well yield thereunto, nor he [i.e. Gorges] demand it. 2


p. 211


1 The Yeoman Porter of the Tower. "Amongst the Yeoman Porter's perquisites we find it laid down in 1555 that ‘ the Porter shall have of every prisoner condemned by the King and Queen's Majesty to the said Tower for treason, his uppermost garment, or he agree with him for it '" (Sir George Younghusband, The Tower of London, 1924, p. 88).

2 Acts of the Privy Council, New Series, XIII. 74.

It was with the object of trying to discover how long

Lord Oxford had been imprisoned in the Tower that I

undertook a search among the lists of prisoners, whose

names are recorded in the bills for their keep and custody

rendered quarterly to the Privy Council by the Lieutenants

of the Tower. The bills for this particular period-and

indeed for the whole of Sir Owen Hopton's tenure of the

Lieutenancy-are absolutely complete. But to my sur-

prise there was no mention whatsoever of the Earl of

Oxford in the lists for the two quarters beginning

December 23rd, 1580, and ending June 24th, 1581. The

Earl of Clanricarde, who was imprisoned on December 4th,

1580, is shown, and there are about a score of other

prisoners, but Lord Oxford does not appear.

Now the object of these lists was solely to enable the

Lieutenant of the Tower to obtain a refund of the expenses

he had incurred in rationing the prisoners under his charge.

It is therefore obvious that the Earl of Oxford cannot

have had any meals in the Tower during his imprisonment.

As the charges, which were absolutely baseless, brought

against him by his former friends included an alleged

attempt to murder them all three; such "dangerous

practices" as the attempted murder of Leicester, Walsing-

ham, Sidney, Ralegh, and Sir Harry Knyvet; treasonable

correspondence with the Spanish Ambassador as well as

with the English fugitives at Rome; and lastly, "notable

dishonesty of life" of a criminal nature, it is clear that

his confinement must be referred to some other cause-

because it is obvious that if he had been found guilty of

any of these charges he would have spent months, and

perhaps years, in the gloomy fortress.

On the other hand, there were a host of minor charges

preferred against him, and the following statements that

he was alleged to have made are significant:


That the Catholics were great Ave Maria coxcombs

that they would not rebel against the Queen;

My Lord of Norfolk worthy to lose his head for not follow-

ing his [i.e. Oxford's] counsel at Lichfield to take arms;

p. 212

Railing at my Lord of Arundel for putting his trust in

the Queen;

Railing at Francis Southwell for commending the Queen's

singing one night at Hampton Court, and protesting by

the blood of God that she had the worst voice and did

everything with the worst grace that ever woman did,

and that he was never,[so] nonplussed but when he came

to speak of her;

Daily railing at the Queen, and falling out with Charles

Arundel, Francis Southwell, and myself [i.e. Lord Henry

Howard] in defence of her.


It would seem that Lord Henry Howard took the

precaution of sending these written charges to his fellow-

conspirators in order to see how far they would be prepared

to support him in confirmation of his statements. Opposite

the last two charges referring to the Queen occur the follow-

ing words, written in another hand: "Audibi, sed in

poculis." 1 The handwriting of the marginal remark does

not seem to be that of Charles Arundel, and we may there-

fore surmise that it was written by Francis Southwell,

who does not appear to have originated any charges himself.

If this file of correspondence was ever submitted to

the Queen we may well imagine how angry she must have

been. Sir Christopher Hatton was Vice-Chamberlain at

the time, and it is unlikely that he would have failed to take

advantage of such a golden opportunity to damage his

most formidable rival in the eyes of the Queen. Although

she evidently declined to allow the random accusations of

Lord Henry Howard and Charles Arundel to be made the

basis of a legal process, it is not unreasonable to suppose

that she may have ordered Lord Oxford to be sent to the

Tower for a night as a disciplinary measure.2

This would also explain why the Privy Council, in their

p. 213


1 "Yes, I heard him say so, but he was intoxicated at the time."

2 It may be recalled that a similar sort of incident occurred during Essex's campaign in Ireland in 1599. Lord Grey de Wilton, who commanded a regiment of cavalry, had disobeyed a command given him by the Earl of Southampton, General of the Horse. The episode was not sufficiently serious to warrant deprivation of command; but Southampton, as a disciplinary measure, ordered Grey to sleep one night in the custody of the Provost-Marshal.

letter to Sir William Gorges, not only forbade him to take

his legal perquisite of the Earl's "upper garment," but

expressly stated that he was not committed "upon any

cause of treason or any criminal cause."

Whatever the Queen may have thought about these

personal affronts, she had no illusions whatsoever concern-

ing the revelations Lord Oxford had made in showing up

the Catholic conspirators and their Jesuit accomplices.

We are told that-


about the 12th of January (1581) Proclamation was pub-

lished at London for the revocation of sundry of the

Queen's Majesty's subjects remaining beyond the seas

under the colour of study, and living contrary to the laws

of God and of the Realm. And also against the retaining

of Jesuits and Massing Priests, sowers of sedition and other

treasonable attempts, etc.1


This Proclamation marks the turning-point of Elizabeth's

policy towards her Catholic subjects. For twenty-three

years she had striven to win their loyalty by leniency and

tolerance. But Lord Oxford had opened her eyes. From

this time forward Jesuits who ventured into England were

remorselessly hunted down, persecuted, and executed;

and the law imposing fines on Catholics for non-attendance

at Protestant services, which had remained practically a

dead-letter since it received the royal assent at the begin-

ning of Elizabeth's reign, was resuscitated and put into

rigorous execution. It is worth remarking that this change

of policy is frequently attributed to the well-known mission

to England of the Jesuits Campion and Parsons. But they

landed in England as far back as April 1580; and it was

not till after Lord Oxford's disclosures in December and

the Proclamation in January, that Campion was appre-

hended and sentenced to death. These dates make it

clear that it must have been Lord Oxford's dramatic

interview that induced the Queen to take the first decided

step against her Catholic subjects- a step that Burghley,

Walsingham, and the House of Commons had vainly urged

upon her over and over again in the past.


p. 214

1 Stow, Annals, p. 688.




In order to assist us in our appreciation of the utter

worthlessness of the evidence given by Charles Arundel

against Lord Oxford it will be necessary to follow the

former's subsequent career with as much detail as the

records permit.

On January 9th, 1581, Bernardino de Mendoza, the

Spanish Ambassador, wrote as follows to the King of Spain:


The Queen has recently ordered the arrest of Lord

Howard, brother of the Duke of Norfolk, and two other

gentlemen, Charles Arundel and Southwell, who were

formerly great favourites at the Court. The reason for

this is partly religious . . . but it is suspected also that it

may be attributed to their having been very intimate

with the French Ambassador, with the apparent object

of forwarding the Alençon match, together with some

Court ladies of the same party who were favourites of the

Queen. What adds to the mystery of the matter is their

having been taken to the Tower, and Leicester's having

spread the rumour that they were plotting a massacre

of the Protestants, beginning with the Queen. His object

in this is to inflame the people against them and against

the French, as well as against the Earl of Sussex who was

their close friend.


In view of the subsequent scurrilous libel published

abroad in 1584 entitled La Vie Abominable . . . du Comte

de Leycester, it is interesting to note that Leicester's name

occurs as early as 1581 in connexion with a rumour impli-

cating Charles Arundel.

There is no definite information as to the length of time

that Charles Arundel was kept imprisoned in the Tower;

but there are copies of some half-dozen letters of his in a

Letter Book of Sir Christopher Hatton, and from internal

evidence they undoubtedly belong to this period. These

letters have all been reprinted by Sir Harris Nicolas in his

Life of Hatton, from the original Letter Book in the British


None of the letters are dated, and Arundel refers in

veiled terms only to the Earl of Oxford, ‘Whom he never

p. 215

mentions by name. He complains of his long imprison-

ment without trial, and evidently counts on Hatton's

sympathy. We may readily believe that this was forth-

coming, for we know Oxford and Hatton were old rivals

for the Queen's favour.

It is probable that Arundel was released some time in

1583, and as Oxford was restored to court favour in the

summer of that year it is reasonable to suppose that he

was able to make things very unpleasant for his accuser.

Nor is this only a matter of surmise, because on

January 19th, 1585, we find a certain Thomas Vavasour,

who had been quoted by Arundel as a witness against

Oxford, inditing what is endorsed "a lewd letter" to the

Earl, in which he uses this expression: "Is not the

revenge taken of thy victims sufficient ?" 1

At all events, shortly after Oxford's restoration to

favour, we hear that Charles Arundel has fled from England,

our informant being Sir Edward Stafford, the Ambassador

in Paris, who writes as follows to Sir Francis Walsingham

on December 2nd, 1583:


Lord Paget, with Charles Paget and Charles Arundel,

suddenly entered my dining chamber before anyone was

aware of it, and Lord Paget says "they came away for

their consciences, and for fear, having enemies"; adding

that "for all things but their consciences they would live

as dutifully as any in the world." 2


Charles Paget was probably well known to the English

Ambassador, for he had been living in Paris for the last

eleven years or so as joint secretary with Thomas Morgan

to James Beaton, Archbishop of Glasgow, and Ambassador

of Mary Queen of Scots at the French Court.3 His elder

brother Thomas, Lord Paget, although a zealous Roman

Catholic, did not altogether approve of his brother's openly

treasonable attitude, and had written to him six weeks

p. 216


1 Lansdowne MSS., 99. 93.

2 Cal. S.P. Foreign.

3 Dict. Nat. Biog., vol. xliii, p. 46.

before that he was sorry to hear by some good friends

that he had carried himself not so dutifully as he ought to

do, and that he would disown him as a brother if he forgot

the duty that he owed to England.

However, shortly after the detection of Francis Throck-

morton's conspiracy in November 1583, Lord Paget

followed his brother's example by taking refuge in Paris;

and on the same day on which his sudden irruption into

Sir Edward Stafford's dining-room was reported to Wal-

singham he wrote to his mother, Lady Paget, trusting

that she would not mislike the step he had now taken, that

he might enjoy liberty of conscience and the free exercise

of his religion. He also wrote to Lord Burghley explaining

that he had been long minded to travel for two reasons:

one, to cure his gout; the other, of more moment, for the

satisfying of his conscience, about which he had been with

himself at marvellous conflict almost three years.1 The

estates and goods of Lord Paget were seized immediately

after his flight from England, and a Proclamation was

issued by the Queen commanding his return. He never

did return to England, and died at Brussels in 1590.

In June 1584 Sir Edward Stafford made a formal demand,

in the name of Queen Elizabeth, for the surrender of

Lord Paget, Charles Arundel, Thomas Throckmorton (a

brother of Francis the conspirator) and Thomas Morgan,

on the ground that they had conspired against the life of

the English Queen. The King of France refused to deliver

them up, although he shortly afterwards imprisoned

Morgan and forwarded his papers to Queen Elizabeth.

Charles Paget had had longer experience as a con-

spirator than any of the others, and he was not uniformly

consistent in his fidelity to his foreign employers. For

instance, on January 8th, 1582, we find him writing to

Walsingham from Paris:


God made me known to you in this town, and led me

to offer you affection; nothing can so comfort me as Her

Majesty's and your favour.


p. 217


1 Dict. Nat. Biog., vol. xliii, p. 59.

Again on September 28th, 1582, he wrote:


In my answer to Her Majesty's command for my return

to England, assist me that she may yield me her favour

and liberty of conscience in religion. . . . If this cannot be

done, then solicit her for my enjoying my small living on

this side of the sea, whereby I may be kept from necessity,

which otherwise will force me to seek relief of some foreign



On October 23rd he informed Walsingham that he

intended to go to Rouen for his health, and to drink

English beer. He professed dutiful allegiance to Elizabeth,

and his readiness to be employed in any service, matter of

conscience in religion only excepted.

Charles Arundel seems to have modelled his behaviour

on that of Charles Paget, and to have acted the part of a

double spy during the last four years of his life. He seems

to have lost no time in placing his services at the disposal

of the King of Spain, for within three weeks of his escape

from England we find the following reference to him in a

letter from Juan Baptista de Tassis to King Philip, dated

from Paris, December 22nd, 1583:


Lord Paget and Charles Arundel have taken refuge here

on account of this affair,1 they being Catholics and fearing

arrest. Paget is the son of the Paget whom your Majesty

will probably recollect. They have both secretly intimated

their arrival to me, and ask me to convey their humble

duty to your Majesty.2


It was not long before the English fugitives were

rewarded for their treachery, as may be seen from the

following letter from the King of Spain to Bernardino de

Mendoza, who had now been transferred to Paris:


You are already aware that, having regard to the rank

and parts of Lord Paget and his brother Charles, and

considering that they are fugitives from their home and

country for the sake of religion, I ordered Juan Baptista

de Tassis in September last (1584) to continue to pay these

allowances, namely, to Lord Paget 100 crowns a month,

p. 218


1 The Throckmorton Plot.

2 Cal. S.P. Spanish (1580-86), p. 511.

and 50 to his brother Charles. I understand that this

has not been done, and they petition me to have the

allowances duly paid. I have granted this, and now

order you to have them paid from the day the grant was

made, and that in future the same allowances are to be

paid regularly until contrary orders come from me, and the

sums should be included in your account of extraordinary

expenditure, which with their receipts shall be a good

discharge for you. I have given strict orders to this effect,

and no difficulty shall be raised about crediting you with

the amounts.


In the margin of the letter the following note is written:


For Lord Paget and his brother Charles 150 crowns;

idem for Charles Arundel 80 crowns; Thomas Throck-

morton 40 crowns.1


Not long afterwards the Spanish Ambassador in Paris

became suspicious of Charles Arundel, as is seen in the

following letter from Bernardino de Mendoza to the King

dated May 11th, 1586:


Charles Arundel, an English gentleman, to whom your

Majesty granted a pension of 80 crowns a month, in respect

of the Queen of Scotland, was constantly in the house of

the English Ambassador here when he was in Paris; which

Muzio 2 assures me was at his instructions, as the English

Ambassador was needy, and he [Muzio] had given him

3000 crowns. In return for this the Ambassador gave

him certain information through this Charles Arundel, to

whom I gave letters for your Majesty when he went to

Spain. I did this at the request of Muzio, and as he took

with him very much more money than he stated, I have

some suspicion that he may have gone at the instance of

the English Ambassador, in order to discover something

in your Majesty's Court, by which means he would be sure

of obtaining the favour of the Queen of England. This may

be concluded from the extreme care with which she obtains

intelligence by every possible means of your Majesty's

designs; and although I have found nothing at all to

inculpate Arundel, it will be advisable for your Majesty

to send him and the rest of them away from the Court.


p. 219


1 Cal. S.P. Spanish (1580-86), p. 540.

2 The Duc de Guise.

In a note written later in the same letter Mendoza says:


An English priest . . . feels himself bound to say that

Charles Arundel had gone to Spain by orders of the Queen

of England, in order to discover what was being done there,

she having supplied him with money for the purpose.

This confirms my suspicion, and your Majesty should

order him to return.1


Arundel, however, continued to serve Spain, as the

following account 2 drawn up by Mendoza in December

1586 shows:


Lord Paget, Baron Beaudesert, from March

24th, 1586, to the end of December, at 100

crowns a month . . . .                                              925 46 9

Charles Paget, 8 months and 8 days, at 50

crowns a month .                                                    412 52 4

Charles Arundel, 8 months and 23 days, at

80 crowns a month . . .                                           699 23 7

Thomas Throckmorton, 8 months and 8 days,

at 40 crowns a month . . . .                                     442 28 8

Thomas Morgan, 1 month, at 40 crowns a

month . . . . . .                                                           40 0  0

Earl of Westmoreland, 26 days, at 100 crowns

a month . . . . . .                                                        83 50 7

Charles Arundel has also to receive as a grant-

in-aid from His Majesty . . .                                  500 0  0

     Total crowns ….                                         3,154 21 11


It is interesting to note in the foregoing list that Charles

Arundel is the only pensioner to receive a special grant-

in-aid in addition to his regular pension. What was the

special service which earned him this large sum- more

than Thomas Morgan's pension for a whole year ?

We have already seen that Morgan was imprisoned in

the Bastille in 1584, where he remained for the next six

years. In a letter of protest on the subject Mary Queen

of Scots asserted that his imprisonment was really due to

the Earl of Leicester, who suspected that the libel origi-

nally published in French in 1584 called La Vie Abominable

du Comte de Leycester, and brought out in the following

p. 220


1 Cal. S.P. Spanish (1580-86), pp. 575-7.

2 Ibid., p. 690.

year in English as A Copy of a letter . . . from a Master of

Art of Cambridge, was written by Morgan. If this par-

ticularly foul and scurrilous libel, subsequently known as

Leicester's Commonwealth, was really the work of the Queen

of Scots' Secretary, it is hardly likely that she would have

coupled his name with the work even in protest. The

libel, which shows an intimate knowledge of English

affairs and the doings of the nobility, was translated into

French and published in France in 1584; and Charles

Arundel, who was then a new arrival from England,

would have been well up in all the information it provides.

Moreover, his successful experience three years before in

defaming Lord Oxford would have strengthened his

confidence in this particular mode of attack.

But there is another curious piece of evidence connecting

Arundel with the Vie Abominable. Thomas Rogers, an

English spy, wrote on August 11th, 1585, to Walsingham

to say that he had been offered a bed in the house of a

certain Thomas Fitzherbert in Paris. Fitzherbert seems

to have been playing the dangerous game of taking money

from both sides, for Rogers explains that he-


gives and receives intelligence to and from all places,

and his house is the place of common conference, and the

lodging of Charles Arundel when in Paris; but if I lodge

there I must do so amongst a great number of the libels

in French that were written against the Earl of Leicester.1


The evidence therefore points to Arundel as the most

likely author of this famous work. He seems to have been

endowed with literary ability as well as with force of

character, and the ability displayed in the libel is no less

conspicuous than its filthiness and scurrility. This is con-

firmed by the researches of the Catholic Record Society:


(Leicester's Commonwealth) appeared anonymously at

Paris or Rouen in September 1584. With our present

fairly full information we can say with some certainty

that the editor was Charles Arundel, with assistance of

other exiled followers of Mary Stuart. 2


p. 221


1 Cal. S.P. Dom., Addenda, 29. 39.

2'Vol. xxi. p. 58.

Arundel's death is referred to in a letter from the King

of Spain to Bernardino de Mendoza:


I learn by a letter of December 27th [1587] that Charles

Arundel had died of lethargy [modorra] and that you had

been obliged to assist him with money for his maintenance

during his last illness. It was well you did this, for it was

an act of true piety; and as the severity of his malady

prevented him from giving you a bill for the money so

provided, and you had also to find the money for his

funeral, he having left no property behind him, I approve

of the sum so expended being vouched for by your certifi-

cate only, receipts being furnished by the English doctor

who attended him, and by his servant, for the sums paid

to them through his confessor, the English Jesuit Father

Thomas. You may therefore credit yourself in account

with these amounts, and this shall be your sufficient

warrant. Madrid, January 1588.1


The story of a traitor is never pleasant, and Charles

Arundel's life and death is no exception to the rule. But

it is, unfortunately, the case that many modern historians

have accepted at their face value the preposterous slanders

written by him about the Earls of Leicester and Oxford.

Whatever faults these two Earls may have had they were

never guilty of any unpatriotic action.

The King of Scotsʼ opinion of Leicester's Commonwealth

is expressed very clearly in one of his Proclamations dated

at Holyrood, February 16th, 1584-5:


For as much as we are credibly informed that there are

divers slanderous and infamous bruits readily brought in

and publicly dispersed in sundry hands within the Realm,

full of ignominies and reproachful calumnies devised and

set out by some seditious persons of purpose to obscure

with lewd lies the honour and reputation of our trusty

cousin the Earl of Leicester,-


Then follow the measures to be taken to suppress these

libellous books.2


It is to be hoped that in future all right-minded his-

torians will follow the example of King James, and will

p. 222


1 Cal. S.P. Spanish (1587-1603), p. 187.

2 Bibliotheca Lindesiana, VI. 243.

never again advance the disgusting lies of the "suborned

informer" Charles Arundel as reliable historical evidence.




Lord Oxford was released from the Tower on June 8th,

1581; but the Queen, irritated no doubt by the references

to her in the Arundel accusations, still withheld from him

full liberty. In the following letter written in July to

Lord Burghley the Earl complains both of this and other

slanders with which he is assailed:


Robin Christmas 1 did yesterday tell me how honourably

you had dealt with Her Majesty as touching my liberty,

and that as this day she had made promises to your

Lordship that it shall be. Unless your Lordship shall

make some [motion] to put Her Majesty in [mind] thereof,

I fear, in these other causes of the two Lords, she will

forget me. For she is nothing of her own disposition, as

I find, so ready to deliver as speedy to commit, and every

little trifle gives her matter for a long delay. I willed

E. Hammond to report unto your Lordship Her Majesty's

message unto me by Master Secretary Walsingham, which

was to this effect: first, that she would have heard the

matter again touching Henry Howard, Southwell, and

Arundel; then, that she understood that I meant to cut

down all my woods especially about my house, which she did

not so well like of as if I should sell some land else other-

wise; and last, that she heard that I had been hardly used

by some of my servants during this time of my committal,

wherein she promised her aid so far as she could, with justice

to redress the loss I had sustained thereby. To which I made

answer as I willed Hammond to relate unto your Lordship.

Further, my Lord, whereof I am desirous something to

write. I have understood that certain of my men have

reported unto your Lordship and sought by false reports

of other of their fellows, both to abuse your Lordship and

me; but for that this bearer seems most nearly to be

touched, I have sent him unto your Lordship as is‘his most

earnest desire, that your Lordship might so know him, as

your evil opinion being conceived amiss by these lewd

fellows may be revoked. And truly, my Lord, I hear of

p. 223


1 Robert Christmas and Roger Harlackenden were the Earl of Oxford's two principal estate agents.

these things wherewith he is charged, and I can assure

you wrongfully and slanderously. But the world is so

cunning as of a shadow they can make a substance, and

of a likelihood a truth. And these fellows, if they be those

-as I suppose -I do not doubt but so to decipher them

to the world as easily as your Lordship shall look into their

lewdness and unfaithfulness. Which, till my liberty, I

mean to defer, as more mindful of that importing me at

this time, than yet seeking to revenge myself of such

perverse and impudent dealing of servants, which I know

have not wanted encouragement and setting on.

But letting these things pass for a while, I must not

forget to give your Lordship those thanks which are due

to you for this your honourable dealing to Her Majesty on

my behalf, which I hope shall not be without effect.

The which, attending from the Court, I will take my leave

of your Lordship, and rest at your commandment at my

house this morning.

Your Lordship's assured,



But Her Majesty still continued to show her displeasure

by forbidding him to come to Court, and by ordering him

to keep to his house; and so Lord Burghley enlisted

Walsingham on the Earl's behalf:


I dealt very earnestly with the Queen [wrote Walsing-

ham in a letter to Burghley on July 14th] touching the

Earl of Oxford's liberty, putting her in mind of her promise

made both unto your Lordship and to the Lady his wife.

The only stay groweth through the impertinent suit that

is made for the delivery of the Lord Henry and Master

Charles Arundel, whom, before their delivery, Her Majesty

thinketh meet they should be confronted by the Earl,

who hath made humble request to be set at liberty before

he be brought to charge them, as he was at the time he

first gave information against them. Her Majesty, not-

withstanding the reasonableness of the request, and the

promise made unto your Lordship that he should be first

set at liberty before he be brought to confront them,

cannot as yet be brought to yield. . . .2


In the same strain we find Burghley writing to Vice-

p. 224


1 Lansdowne MSS., 33. 6.

2 Cal. S.P. Dom. (1581-90), p. 23.

Chamberlain Hatton, an important person to win over

in any matter demanding the Queen's ear:


. . . yesterday, being advertised of your good and honour-

able dealing with Her Majesty in the case of my daughter

of Oxford, I could not suffer my thanks to grow above one

day old; and therefore in these lines I do presently thank

you, and do pray you in any proceeding therein not to

have the Earl dealt withal strainably, but only by way of

advice, as good for himself; for otherwise he may suspect

that I regard myself and my daughter more than he is

regarded for his liberty. 1


It is strange, on the face of it, to find Hatton apparently

ready and willing to use his influence with the Queen in

furthering Lord Oxford's cause. But there is little doubt

that his assistance was more apparent than real, and that

he continued to follow Dyer's sinister advice given nine

years before. We have seen, moreover, that Hatton was,

at this very time, secretly encouraging one of his literary

protégés- Barnabe Riche -to write a thinly veiled satire

designed to bring the Earl into ridicule. Nor is this all.

Any lingering doubts as to Hatton's honesty of purpose

must be finally dispelled when we find him receiving long

letters from Oxford's worst enemy, Charles Arundel.

These letters, like the rest of Arundel's effusions, are

obscure and long-winded; but the fact that he signs

himself "your honour's fast and unfeigned friend" leaves

little or no doubt as to where Hatton's true partisanship

lay. In fact, the obviously genuine attempt by Burghley

and Walsingham to get Lord Oxford restored to royal

favour was very likely frustrated by the double-dealing

of Master Vice-Chamberlain. It is evident that he must

have had some powerful secret enemies standing between

himself and the Queen, because with such strong allies as

the Lord Treasurer and the Principal Secretary one would

have imagined his release from the Tower would have

coincided with his return to royal favour.

p. 225


1 Nicolas, Life of Hatton, p. 177.

On December 7th the Countess of Oxford made a fresh

appeal to her husband to bring their five-year-old separation

to an end:


My Lord, In what misery I may account myself to be,

that neither can see any end thereof nor yet any hope to

diminish it. And now of late having had some hope in my

own conceit that your Lordship would have renewed some

part of your favour that you began to show me this summer,

when you made me assured of your good meaning, though

you seemed fearful how to show it by open address. Now

after long silence of hearing anything from you, at the

length I am informed- but how truly I know not and yet

how uncomfortably I do not seek it -that your Lordship

is entered into for misliking of me without any cause in

deed or thought. And therefore, my good Lord, I beseech

you in the name of that God, which knoweth all my

thoughts and love towards you, let me know the truth

of your meaning towards me; upon what cause you are

moved to continue me in this misery, and what you would

have me do in my power to recover your constant favour,

so as your Lordship may not be led still to detain me in

calamity without some probable cause, whereof, I appeal

to God, I am utterly innocent. From my father's house

at Westminster, the 7th December 1581. 1


Her husband's reply is not recorded, but on the 12th

the Countess wrote again. The original is lost, but a

transcript has been preserved which is endorsed: "A

copy of the Countess of Oxford's letter for answer to her

husband's letter."


My very good Lord, I most heartily thank you for your

letter, and am most sorry to perceive how you are un-

quieted with the uncertainty of the world, whereof I myself

am not without some taste. But seeing you will me to

assure myself of anything that I may as your wife chal-

lenge of you, I will the more patient abide the adversity

which otherwise I fear, and- if God would so permit

it and that it might be good for you -I would leave the

greater part of your adverse fortune, and make it my

comfort to bear part with you. As for my father, I do

assure you, whatsoever hath been reported of him, I know

p. 226


1 Lansdowne MSS., 104. 63. A copy only. [Burghley]

no man can wish better to you than he doth, and yet

the practices in Court I fear do make seek to make contrary


For my Lady Drury 1 I deal as little with her as any

can, and care no more for her than you would have me;

but I have been driven sometimes, for avoiding of malice

and envy, to do that with both her and others which I

would not with my will do. Good my Lord, assure your-

self it is you whom only I love and fear, and so am desirous

above all the world to please you, wishing that I might

hear oftener from you until better fortune will have us

meet together. 2


Early in March 1582 a fresh trouble overtook Lord

Oxford. This was a quarrel with Thomas Knyvet, a

Gentleman of the Privy Chamber.


In England of late [writes Faunt to Anthony Bacon

on March 17th] there hath been a fray between my Lord

of Oxford and Master Thomas Knyvet of the Privy

Chamber, who are both hurt, but my Lord of Oxford

more dangerously. You know Master Knyvet is not

meanly beloved in Court, and therefore he is not likely

to speed ill whatsoever the quarrel be. 3


The only other detail about this quarrel is to be found in

a note in the Diary of the Rev. Richard Madox, who had

been appointed Chaplain to the proposed expedition for

the discovery of the north-west passage under Captain

Edward Fenton. Writing on March 3rd he says that-


My Lord of Oxford fought with Master Knyvet about

the quarrel of Bessie Bavisar, and was hurt, which grieved

p. 227


1 Lady Drury (née Elizabeth Stafford) had been a Maid of Honour, with Anne Cecil, before her marriage to Sir William Drury. He had left her a widow in 1579. He had been with Lord Sussex in the Scottish campaign of 1570. He was a distinguished soldier, his greatest feat being the storming of Edinburgh Castle in 1573, which was then held by Maitland and Grange on behalf of the Queen of Scots.

2 Lansdowne MSS., 104. 64.

3 Birch, Memoirs of the Reign of Queen Elizabeth, vol. i, p. 22. Thomas Knyvet (d. 1618) was probably one of the Knyvets of Buckenham Castle, Norfolk, and connected by marriage with the Earls of Derby. On Jan. 21st, 1582- just two months before the quarrel -he had been appointed Keeper of Westminster Palace. He was knighted some time before 1601, and seems to have held the Keepership until his death.

the Lord Treasurer so much the more for that the Earl

hath company with his wife since Christmas. But

through this mishap, and through the pains he took at

the marriage of another daughter to my Lord Wentworth

on Shroveday, my Lord Treasurer was sick.1


It is possible, to a certain extent, to reconstruct the story

of this quarrel if we may assume that Madox really meant

"Anne Vavasour" when he wrote "Bessie Bavisar."

Anne Vavasour was one of the Maids of Honour.2 She

had evidently fallen in love with Lord Oxford, as the

following verses, preserved in a manuscript in the Bodleian

Library, show:



Sittinge alone upon my thoughte, in melancholy moode,

In sights of sea, and at my back an ancyente hoarye woode,

I sawe a faire young lady come, her secret feares to wayle,

Oladd all in coulor of a Nun and covered with a vaylle:

Yet (for the day was callme and cleere) I myghte discerne her face,

As one myghte see a damaske rose hid under christall glasse:

Three tymes with her softe hand full harde on her left syde she knocks,

And syghed so sore as myghte have movde som pittye in the rockes:

From syghes, and sheddinge amber teares, into sweete songe she brake,

When thus the Echo answered her to everye word she spake:


O heavens, who was ye first that bredd in me this feavere ? Vere.

Whoe was the firste that gave ye wounde whose fearre I ware for ever? Vere.

What tyrant, Cupid, to mye harme usurpes thy golden quivere ? Vere.

What wight'e first caughte this harte, and can from bondage it deliver? Vere.

Yet who doth most adore this wighte, oh hollowe caves tell true? You.

What nymphe deservs his lykinge best, yet doth in sorrowe rue? You.

What makes him not rewarde good will with some rewarde or ruthe?


May I his favour matche with love, if he my love will trye?  I.

May I requite his birthe with faythe? than faithfull will I dy?  I.


And I that knew this ladye well,

Said Lord how great a mirakle

To hear how eccho toulde the truthe

As true as Phoebus orakle. 3


p. 228


1 Cotton MSS., Appendix 47.

2 She was the daughter of Henry Vavasour of Coppenthorpe, and had a sister, Frances, also a Maid of Honour. There is no trace of any Vavasour of the name "Elizabeth," or "Bess," at the Court at this time.

3 Bodleian, Rawlinson Poetical MS., 85. 11.

History does not relate how Thomas Knyvet came to

be concerned in the matter. It seems probable that he

was another of Anne's lovers. He was not her future

husband, because she ultimately married Sir Henry Lee,

Queen Elizabeth's Champion-at-Arms. But three years

later, on January 19th, 1585, a certain Thomas Vavasour,

who had been connected in a minor way with the Arundel

accusations, sent Lord Oxford a challenge. This curious

document is endorsed: "A lewd letter from Vavasour

to the Earl of Oxford":


If thy body had been as deformed as thy mind is dis-

honourable, my house had been yet unspotted, and thyself

remained with thy cowardice unknown. I speak this

that I fear thou art so much wedded to that shadow of

thine, that nothing can have force to awake thy base and

sleepy spirits. Is not the revenge taken of thy victims

sufficient,1 but wilt thou yet use unworthy instruments to

provoke my unwilling mind? Or dost thou fear thyself,

and therefore hast sent thy forlorn kindred, whom as thou

hast left nothing to inherit so thou dost thrust them

violently into thy shameful quarrels ? If it be so (as I too

much doubt) then stay at home thyself and send my abuses;

but if there be yet any spark of honour left in thee, or

iota of regard of thy decayed reputation, use not thy birth

for an excuse, for I am a gentleman, but meet me thyself

alone and thy lackey to hold thy horse. For the weapons

I leave them to thy choice for that I challenge, and the

place to be appointed by us both at our meeting, which I

think may conveniently be at Nunnington or elsewhere.

Thyself shall send me word by this bearer, by whom I

expect an answer.



Nothing more is definitely known about the Knyvet

affair or its sequel. There is, however, preserved at the

British Museum a long "declaration" by Roger Townsend,

p. 229


1 This is evidently a reference to the just revenge Lord Oxford took on Lord Henry Howard and Charles Arundel in December 1583.

2 Lansdowne MSS., 99. 93.

I can find no other trace of Thomas Vavasour, or the sequel to his bombastic outburst. I dare say he was "dealt" with in the same way as his friend Charles Arundel had been.

Lord Arundel's private secretary, "touching the bruit

given out that the Earl of Oxford should have attempted

somewhat against Master Tho. Knevet." 1 This document,

unfortunately, gives us no details of the duel in March,

although it is dated June 18th. But one interesting piece

of side-evidence comes out of it. This is that Lord Oxford

was supping with his brother-in-law Lord Willoughby de

Eresby at Willoughby House, and that the two men were

obviously on friendly terms.

In the absence of any other documents on the subject

it is difficult to follow the exact meaning of this "declara-

tion." It appears that Knyvet and Townsend were dining

with Lord Arundel at Arundel House when word was

brought that the Earl of Oxford and Lord Willoughby were

planning to lie in wait for Knyvet and to attack him.

Townsend went round to Willoughby House, where he

found Oxford and Willoughby, having supped together,

walking in the garden. After an interview with them

Townsend asserts that-


truly I did think in my conscience there was nothing

intent, for there was none in the company prepared [i.e.

armed] to any purpose.


It has been supposed that the duel between Oxford and

Knyvet took place after the events described in this

"declaration." This is manifestly wrong, because the

duel took place before March 3rd, while the "declaration"

is dated June 18th.

It will be remembered that in 1577 Lord Willoughby,

then Peregrine Bertie, became engaged to Lady Mary

Vere, Oxford's only sister. The Earl's opposition to the

marriage was so violent that, in Bertie's own words, "he

bandeth against me and sweareth my death." It seems

likely that Oxford's secret reconciliation to the Roman

Church, which dated from 1576, may have led to his anger

at finding his sister engaged to an out-and-out Protestant.

At all events, they were on very friendly terms in June

p. 230


1 Lansdowne MSS., 154. 13. Printed in Catholic Record Society, xxi.

1582, by which time Lord Oxford had publicly recanted

his profession of the Catholic faith.

The quarrel with Knyvet, now a year old, seems to

have broken out afresh among their retainers in February

1583, for on the 2lst of that month the Parish Registers

of St. Botolph's near Bishopsgate record the burial of

"Robart Brenings, ye L. Oxford's man, slayne 21 Febr."

And in March 1583 Lord Burghley was oncemore endeavour-

ing to interest Hatton on Oxford's behalf. The tenor of

his letter shows clearly how difficult it was for a courtier

who was out of favour to obtain justice, particularly when

he was embarrassed by enemies, both secret and open:


Good Master Vice Chamberlain, . . . I perceive yesterday,

by my Lord of Leicester, that you had very friendly

delivered speeches to Her Majesty tending to bring some

good end to these troublesome matters betwixt my Lord

of Oxford and Master Knevet. . . . And now perceiving by

my Lord of Leicester some increase of Her Majesty's

offence towards my Lord of Oxford,1 and finding by

Master Thomas Knyvet that he only being called and

demanded of Her Majesty what he would say herein, he

did, as served his turn, declare to Her Majesty that his

men were evil used by Lord Oxford's men, and no redress

had. I cannot but think that Her Majesty had just

occasion given by such an information to be offended

towards my Lord of Oxford or his men; and did therefore,

like a Prince of justice and God's minister, command the

matter to be examined, which was done yesterday at

great length by my Lord of Leicester to his trouble and

my grief. And I doubt not but my Lord of Leicester

will honourably declare to Her Majesty how my Lord of

Oxford resteth untouched, or at least unblotted, in any

kind of matter objected by Master Knyvet, whom we

heard at great length, and his men also . . . so as, where

Her Majesty had just cause to conceive somewhat hardly

of my Lord of Oxford, I doubt not but when Her Majesty

shall be informed by my Lord of Leicester of the truth

which he hath seen and not disproved, Her Majesty will

diminish her offensive opinion.

p. 231


1 It is not surprising to find Hatton's "friendly" speeches merely increasing Her Majesty's "offence" towards Lord Oxford.

Good Master Vice Chamberlain, these things are hardly

carried, and these advantages are easily gotten where some

may say what they will against my Lord of Oxford, and

have presence to utter their humours, and my Lord of

Oxford is neither heard nor hath presence either to com-

plain or defend himself. And so long as he shall be subject

to the disgrace of Her Majesty (from which God deliver

him) I see it apparently that, innocent soever he shall be,

the advantages will fall out with his adversaries; and so,

I hear, they do prognosticate.


Lord Burghley goes on to complain that the Queen has

been told that the Earl is going about with a retinue Of

"fifteen or sixteen pages in a livery"; but so far from

this being the case, Lord Burghley asserts that his house-

hold consists of only four:


One of them waiteth upon his wife my daughter, another

is in my house upon his daughter Bess, a third is a kind of

tumbling boy, and the fourth is a son of a brother of Sir

John Cutts. . . . When our son-in-law was in prosperity

he was the cause of our adversity by his unkind usage of

us and ours; and now that he is ruined and in adversity

we are only made partakers thereof, and by no means, no,

not by bitter tears of my wife, can obtain a spark of favour

for him, that hath satisfied his offence with punishment,

and seeketh mercy by submission; but contrariwise

whilst we seek for favour all crosses are laid against him,

and by untruths sought to be kept in disgrace.1


But Lord Oxford's term of disgrace and long separa-

tion from his wife was now drawing to a close. The

first indication of this is to be found in a letter written

in May, where we read that "the Earl of Oxford . . .

had a son born, who died soon after his birth." 2 His

burial is recorded in the Parish Register of the Church

at Castle Hedingham: "1583. May 9th. The Earl of

Oxenford's first son." This entry is interesting because

it shows that the Earl and his Countess were evidently

then living at the Castle. This definitely gives the lie

p. 232


1 Nicolas, op. cit, p. 321.

2 Birch, Memoirs of the Reign of Queen Elizabeth, vol. i, p. 31.

to one of those foolish and persistent legends that have

grown up round Lord Oxford's life. All historians assert

with confidence that when Lord Oxford had failed to obtain

Burghley's assistance in saving the life of the Duke of



he swore he would ruin his estate at Hedingham, because

it was the jointure of his first wife Anne, Lord Burghley's

daughter. According to this insane resolution, he not

only forsook his Lady's bed, but sold and wasted the best

part of his inheritance; he began to deface the Castle,

pulled down the outhouses, destroyed all the pales of the

three parks, wasted the standing timber and pulled down

the walls that enclosed the Castle.1


This absurd story, for which it need hardly be said there

is not a shred of evidence, can now be relegated to the

limbo it deserves.

We are not told when or how the reconciliation between

the Earl and his Countess took place, but we may be

sure that it must have been a great relief to the Queen and

Lord Burghley. Ever since the disastrous quarrel nearly

six years before, Lord and Lady Oxford had lived apart.

Now, with the healing of the breach, tempered as it was

with sadness at the young Lord Bulbeck's death, brighter

times seemed in store.

And the Queen, who was always solicitous for the happi-

ness of the young couple whose marriage she had graced,

was not slow to forgive her old favourite. On June 2nd

Roger Manners wrote thus to the Earl of Rutland:


Her Majesty came yesterday to Greenwich from the

Lord Treasurer's. . . . The day she came away, which was

yesterday, the Earl of Oxford came to her presence, and

after some bitter words and speeches, in the end all sins

are forgiven, and he may repair to the Court at his pleasure.

Master Ralegh was a great mean herein, whereat Pondus

is angry for that he could not do so much. 2


The two yearsʼ disgrace was over at last, and Lord

p. 233


1 See p. 387, post.

2 Cal. Rutland MSS. "Pondus" I take to be a nickname for Lord Burghley.

Oxford, now aged thirty-three, once more took his place

in Gloriana's Court.




In July 1582 Lord Willoughby de Eresby was entrusted

with an important diplomatic mission by the Queen.

He was ordered to go to Elsinore, and there to invest

King Frederick II. with the Order of the Garter. Under

King Frederick's rule Denmark had risen to be one of

the Great Powers on the Continent. He had achieved

this by means of his sea power in the Baltic; and "before

he died he was able to enforce the rule that all foreign ships

should strike their top-sails to Danish men-of-war as a

token of his right to rule the Northern seas." 1

In consequence of their command of the Baltic the Danes

had claimed the right to levy dues on all foreign merchant

ships passing through the Sound. This had at first been

a severe blow to the English "Muscovy Company," which

since 1553 had been engaged in a profitable trade with

Russia. The merchants, however, hit upon a way out of

the difficulty by altering their base of operations to the

White Sea, and the trade was continued by way of the

North Cape. King Frederick, who found himself losing

his dues, wrote rather unreasonably to Elizabeth in 1576

protesting against this northern traffic route, and cited

certain old treaties by which merchant ships were bound to

trade with Russia via the Baltic.2 Elizabeth brought all

her diplomatic powers into play, and nothing seems to have

happened beyond an exchange of notes. But her decision

to confer the Garter on the Danish King was not un-

connected with the diplomatic manoeuvres she was engaged

in on behalf of her merchants.

The account of this mission is told in a "Relation of

my Lord Willoughby's embassy into Denmark, in his own

hand." 3 He sailed from Hull on July 14th, and landed at

p. 234


1 Encyc. Brit. (11th ed.), vol. viii, p. 32.

2 Cf. E. P. Cheyney, History of England, vol. i, p. 329.

3 Cotton MSS., Titus, CVII. 226.

Elsinore on the 22nd 1; and on August 12th the Danish

Chancellor came to his ship-


to know of me what points I had to treat with him, and in

what order I meant to present them; whom I answered

my chief negotiation was to present Her Majesty's loving

commendation, and for witness of her honourable opinion

of him [i.e. the King] she had sent to honour him with the

most famous and ancient Order of the Garter; likewise

I had to present certain grievances of some English

merchants unto them, who thought themselves somewhat

hardly dealt withal generally for great exactions and tolls

meanly imposed upon them.


Two days later the ceremony took place to the accom-

paniment of a characteristically Danish custom:


The King, very royally prepared, received the robes with

his own hands, and with great contentment accepted and

wore the Garter, the Collar, and the George. . . . This

being done we royally feasted, and the King all the ordnance

of the Castle given us.2 And we, demanding again the

oath and protestation to be answerable to that favour and

honour he had received from Her Majesty, he promised

this instrument [i.e. document] which we have delivered,

accompanied with many affectionate and loving speeches

to Her Majesty and all of the Order. All of which per-

formed after a whole volley of all the great shot of the

Castle discharged, a royal feast, and a most artificial and

cunning fireworks.


During the next few days Lord Willoughby and his

retinue were entertained at the Castle and were taken

hunting. The negotiations with regard to the Muscovy

Company and the Russia trade were continued, it would

seem, without any very definite result; and the "Lord

Ambassador, returning with his train, arrived at Broome-

holme in Norfolk on September 20th." 3


p. 235


1 The MS. reads "June," which is a slip of the pen. (Cf. Stow, Annals, p. 695.)

2 The last sentence has been lightly scratched out in the MS.

3 Stow, Annals, p. 695.



Before we go on to follow up Lord Oxford's return to

Court in June 1583, we must for a moment retrace our

steps and consider another interest that had been occupying

his mind during the past five years. This was Martin

Frobisher's famous attempts to discover a north-west

passage to China. But if Frobisher's story is to be fully

understood it must be framed in its historical context;

and the construction of this frame first began when

Columbus discovered America in 1492.

The immense influence that this had upon the develop-

ment of England cannot be too strongly emphasised.

From being situated in the "uttermost parts of the earth"

she gradually began to find herself in the centre-stationed

midway, as it were, between Europe and America. Unless

the psychological effect that this material cause had upon

the national character is recognised, the sea-faring exploits

of England under the last of the Tudors cannot be fully


Another factor, which is so well known that it scarcely

needs repeating, is that the English were a sea-faring

nation. They had to be, for England is an island, and all

foreign intercourse had to be conducted by means of ships.

At first there were not many signs of Englishmen seizing

the opportunities thus thrown open. True, the necessity

for sea-power was being felt, for it was in the reign of

King Henry VII. that the Royal Navy came into being.

But during the next three reigns the religious question

largely eclipsed everything else, including overseas explora-

tion and enterprise.

With the accession of Elizabeth, however, a host of

adventurers came into the field.1 The personal interest she

displayed in her seamen, and the money she subscribed

towards their overseas trading ventures (often indistinguish-

able from sheer piracy!) were not the least important

factors in the rise of English sea-power.

p. 236


1 Cal. S.P. Colonial, East Indies (1513-1616), Preface.

It was in 1565 that Anthony Jenckynson first urged the

Queen to attempt the discovery of a shorter route to the

"renowned Cathay," asserting that if this were done she

would become the richest and most famous Princess in

Christendom. Next year, however, Jenckynson was sent

on a voyage to Russia; and it devolved mainly upon three

other men, Humphrey Gilbert, Michael Lok, and Dr.

Dee, to follow up his suggestion.

Lok and Gilbert were both experienced sailors, and Dee

was the most famous mathematician and astronomer of

his time. About Easter 157 5 the three men met, and their

meeting resulted in the publication, a year later, of a

pamphlet written by Gilbert called A Discourse of a Dis-

covery for a new passage to Cataia. It is not without

interest that Lord Oxford's old acquaintance George

Gascoigne, himself a "kinsman" of Martin Frobisher, was

instrumental in procuring its publication.1

Lack of money prevented the enterprise from mate-

rialising that year; but on June 12th, 1576, two barks of

25 tons and a pinnace of 10 tons under the command of

Captain Martin Frobisher left Gravesend.

On October 2nd the expedition was back at Harwich,

and although there was much rejoicing at their safe

return, it had been a financial failure. The total cost had

been £1,600, of which Lok himself had subscribed nearly

half; but the profits, including the sale of the ships, only

realised about £800. Among the other "adventurers"

who had invested sums of money varying from £25 to

£50 were the Earl of Sussex, the Earl of Leicester, Lord

Burghley, the Lord Admiral, Francis Walsingham, and

Philip Sidney.

Nothing daunted by this preliminary failure, a second

and much greater expedition was decided on for the

following year. The total cost this time was estimated at

£4,500, the Queen giving a lead by, subscribing £1,000.

p. 237


1 Encyc. Brit. art. Gascoigne: "Sir Humphrey Gilbert's Discourse of a Discovery for a new passage to Cataia has led to the assertion that Gascoigne printed the tract against its author's wishes; but it is likely that he was really serving Gilbert, who desired the publication but dared not avow it."

Many new names, as well as those who had contributed

to the first voyage, appear in the list of adventurers.1

Frobisher's second voyage lasted from May till Sep-

tember 1577. The most noticeable feature it presents is

that the original intention to discover a north-west passage

to China has been quite lost sight of, for we find the

expedition returning with a large quantity of what they

claimed to be "gold ore." The greatest excitement pre-

vailed. Samples of the "ore" were sent to the mint to

be tested; and Lok asserted that in his opinion they would

realise a profit of £40 a ton.

During the winter many contradictory statements as

to the value of the "ore" were issued. One of the analysts

estimated that each ton would yield 10 ounces of gold;

another declared that he could find no trace of any precious

metal; while Dee himself signed a statement in which he

claimed to have obtained 7 ounces of silver from 2 cwt.

of the ore. Optimism ran high, and encouraged no doubt

by Dee's report, a new and still greater expedition was

decided on. This time the cost was to be £15,000. Eleven

ships were acquired, and Frobisher was instructed to

bring back 500 tons of the ore.

Four days before the ships sailed Lord Oxford, who was

an old friend of Dee, sent the following letter to the

Commissioners who were organising the venture:


To my very loving friends William Pelham and Thomas

Randolph Esquires: Master Yongem, Master Hogan,

Master .‘field; and others the Commissioners for the

voyage to Meta Incognita.

After my very hearty commendations: Understanding

of the wise proceeding and orderly dealing for the con-

tinuing of the voyage for the discovery of Cathay by the

north west (which this bearer, my friend Master Frobisher,

hath already very honourably attempted and is now

eftsoons to be employed for the better achieving thereof);

and the rather induced, as well for the great liking Her

Majesty hath to have the same passage discovered, as

also for the special good favour I bear to Master Frobisher,

p. 238


1 Cal. S.P. Colonial, 17.

to offer unto you to be an adventurer therein for the sum

of £1,000 or more, if you like to admit thereof; which

sum or sums, upon your certificate of admittance, I will

enter into bond, shall be paid for that use unto you upon

Michaelmas day next coming. Requesting your answers

therein, I bid you heartily farewell. From the Court,

the 21st of May 1578.

Your loving friend,



Not content with this, the Earl bought in addition

£2,000 worth of stock from Michael Lok, whose share had

by this time risen to £5,000.2 Lord Oxford's venture was

now £3,000, which made him the biggest single investor

in the enterprise.

On September 25th the convoy returned and anchored

off the Cornish coast. Frobisher immediately repaired

to the Court at Richmond, and samples of the ore were

brought to London to be tested. But the high hopes of

the adventurers were destined to be utterly dashed to the

ground. The ore was found to be absolutely worthless,

and not a particle of gold or silver was forthcoming.

As soon as the bubble was pricked everybody started

looking for a scapegoat, and the unfortunate Lok was

attacked on all sides. On November 20th Frobisher,

with forty men, came to his house in a fury, and accused

him not only of falsifying the accounts, but also of having

"cozened" Lord Oxford of £1,000 because he knew,

asserted Frobisher, that the ore was worthless when he

sold his shares.2 In vain Lok protested his innocence,

and he was imprisoned in the fleet.

This disaster damped the spirits of the adventurers, but

two years later a fresh development occurred. This was

the return to Plymouth of the Golden Hind, in which Drake

had successfully completed his famous circumnavigation

voyage. Her cargo, however, was not mere worthless

earth, but solid ingots of pure gold and silver captured from

the Spanish treasure-ships off the coast of Peru. For a

time the fate of Drake's capture hung in the balance, some

p. 239


1 S.P. Dom., 149. 42.

2 Cal. S.P. Colonial, 50. 64.

of the Council holding that his seizure of the Spanish

ships was an act of piracy. But ultimately the Queen

decided that he had acted within his rights, and the

treasure was divided up among the adventurers.

Those who held shares in Drake's voyage immediately

became enormously wealthy. The exact amounts they

received are not known, but one authority states that a

dividend of 4,700 per cent. was paid. Working on this

basis Sir Julian Corbett estimates that "the Queen's

private share on her investment of a thousand crowns

would be £11,750; which, being equal to nearly £90,000

of our money, goes far to account for the favour she showed

Drake." 1 A Royal Warrant gives Leicester a share of

£4,000 and Hatton £2,300. But it is probable that these

figures, for diplomatic reasons, fall far short of the real

figures. Another estimate puts the Queen's share at over

£150,000 sterling, so we may perhaps guess that Hatton's

share was really more like £30,000. 2

The remarkable success which had attended Drake

heartened the adventurers, and in September 1581 a

fresh project was mooted. Once again Frobisher was to

have command, but this time the course was to be south-

west instead of north-west. The prime mover seems to

have been the Earl of Leicester, who was flushed no doubt

by his recent success. For £2,000 he acquired a two-thirds

share in the flag-ship, a galleon of 400 tons, which was

renamed the Leicester.3 He also induced Lord Shrewsbury

to come in for £800, which included a part share in

the bark Talbot. But Frobisher's previous ill success

had aroused distrust among courtiers who had money

to invest; and on October 1st he wrote rather dole-

fully to Leicester that "he has not moved Sir Francis

Walsingham nor any of the rest but my Lord of Oxford,

who bears me in hand, and would buy the Edward

p. 240


1 Corbett, Drake and the Tudor Navy, vol. i, p. 410.

2 E. F. Benson, Sir Francis Drake, p. 174. As Drake had rechristened his ship the Golden Hind, after Sir Christopher Hatton's crest, we may surmise that he was not the least of the adventurers in the voyage.

3 Cal. S.P. Colonial, 72. 76.

Bonaventure"; adding that he has offered £1,500 for

her, but the owners are holding out for £1,800.1 As

the Edward Bonaventure ultimately sailed we must con-

clude that Lord Oxford was successful in buying her, but

no record of the sale exists.

In the list of adventurers 2 many names that had

appeared in Frobisher's previous voyages, notably that

of the Queen, are missing. There were three ships: the

galleon Ughtrede (renamed the Leicester), the Edward

Bonaventure, and the bark Talbot, their total value being

entered as £6,400. In addition, about £8,000 was sub-

scribed, the principal adventurers being the Earl of

Leicester and Mr. Ughtrede, £3,000 3; Sir Francis Drake,

£700; the Earl of Oxford, £500; Martin Frobisher, £300;

and Edward Fenton, £300. Among the other investors

who came in with smaller sums we find Sir Francis Walsing-

ham, Sir Christopher Hatton, and Lord Burghley.

In February Frobisher's instructions were drawn up by

Burghley and Leicester. In them he is told that trade is

the main object of the voyage; but, provided it does not

interfere with trading, exploration and discovery may be

carried out as well.4 Both Frobisher and Drake knew

this to be quite impossible. Frobisher, who was interested

chiefly in the exploration side of the undertaking, did not

wish his hands tied with such restrictions. He accordingly

resigned the command, and Edward Fenton was appointed

in his place.5

Fenton's instructions were signed on April 9th by

Leicester, Burghley, and Walsingham.6 They were in

substance the same as those that had been drafted for

Frobisher, though, if anything, more stringent. This

p. 241


1 Cal. S.P. Colonial, 67.

2 Ibid., 73.

3 Henry Ughtrede was a shipbuilder of Netley in Hampshire. He owned the Edward Bonaventure and had just completed building the Ughtrede. On July 2nd, 1581, he was given the usual ship subsidy of 5s. per ton for "his new ship the galleon Ughtrede of 500 tons" (Privy Seal Warrants, E. 403-2559). This subsidy had been granted by the Queen in order to encourage ship construction in the country.

4 Cal. S.P. Colonial, 75.

5 Ibid., p. xxiv.

5 Ibid., 77.

interference by landsmen in purely sea matters was bound

to end disastrously. All Drake's marvellous successes had

been gained because his genius had been allowed free rein,

and he had been able, untrammelled by orders and restric-

tions, to draw up his plans of campaign according to the

requirements of the ever-changing situations.

Various delays occurred, and during the spring the ships

lay moored in the Thames, where they were visited by the

Queen-who "passed by us in a barge"-and by Leicester,

Walsingham, and Gilbert. At length, towards the end

of May, they weighed anchor, and by 11 p.m. on June 1st

were "athwart the Lizard sailing west-south-west." 1

The following May, after nearly a year's absence, the

expedition returned to England. But it was a sorry report

that Captain Edward Fenton had to deliver to the Lord

Treasurer. The object of the voyage-honest and peace-

able trading-had been totally defeated by the King of

Spain's edict. Wherever they touched the inhabitants

refused to have anything to do with them, for they had

express orders from Madrid "to deny the French, and

especially the English, any relief, in respect of the spoils

and robberies committed by Sir Francis Drake in the

South Seas." Fenton goes on to give an account of how

they were attacked by three Spanish ships, and their

flagship sunk. We may sympathise with him when he

exclaims that such wrongs are not to be put up with,

although Drake had shown quite clearly how to turn

Spanish wrongs to a most profitable account.

Once more Lord Oxford's venture had turned out to be

a complete failure; and one cannot help remarking on the

strange caprice of fortune that had almost ruined Oxford

and at the same time had enriched his bitter rival Sir

Christopher Hatton beyond the dreams of avarice. It is

interesting, in this connexion, to recall Barnabe Riche's

Farewell to Military Profession, which he had dedicated

to Hatton in 1581. In it he gives a glowing account of

his patron's generosity and munificence which can un-

p. 242


1 Cal. S.P. Colonial, 85-7.

questionably be traced to Drake's windfall in 1580. The

tables had been completely turned. Lord Oxford, who at

the height of his power had poked fun in The Adventures

of Master F. I. at the indigent Gentleman Pensioner

Christopher Hatton, now found himself in turn lampooned

by the protégé of the wealthy and powerful Vice


Fenton's unfortunate voyage did not check Lord

Oxford's interest in maritime exploration. In 1584 we

find that in company with the Earls of Leicester and

Bedford he was a shareholder in the new company known as

"The Colleagues of the Fellowship for the Discovery of

the North West Passage." The moving spirits of this

company were Adrian Gilbert, Dr. Dee, and Walter

Ralegh. In the following year they fitted out under the

command of Captain John Davis an expedition which

penetrated farther than Frobisher had done into the ice-

bound waters. The fact that the name of Davis Straits

continues to the present day is in itself sufficient evidence

of the importance of the voyage. Soon afterwards

relations with Spain became so strained that little or no

"adventuring" for trade was done for some time. For

the moment our seamen's attention was wholly diverted to

that entertaining pastime which Drake called "singeing

the King of Spain's beard." And it was not till 1600,

when the Spaniards had practically shot their bolt, that

English trade began its rapid development and expansion

under the East India Company.




Although Ralegh had been "a great mean" in getting

the Earl of Oxford restored to royal favour, he evidently

thought that he was more likely to lose than gain by having

helped to rehabilitate the Earl in the Queen's good

graces. On May 12th, 1583, he had written thus to Lord



The evening after the receipt of your Lordship's letter

I spake with Her Majesty; and ministering some occasion

p. 243

touching the Earl of Oxford I told Her Majesty how

grievously your Lordship received her late discomfortable

answer. Her Majesty, as your Lordship had written-I

know not by whom lately and strangely persuaded-pur-

posed to have a new repartition between the Lord Howard,

Arundel and others, and the Earl; and said it was a

matter not so slightly to be passed over. I answered that

being assured Her Majesty would never permit anything

to be prosecuted to the Earl's danger- if any such possi-

bility were -and that therefore it were to small purpose,

after so long absence and so many disgraces, to call his

honour and name again in question, whereby he might

appear the less fit either for her presence or favour.

In conclusion Her Majesty confessed that she meant it

only thereby to give the Earl warning; and that, as it

seemed to me, being acquainted with his offences her grace

might seem the more in remitting the revenge or punish-

ment of the same. I delivered her your Ladyship's

letter; and what I said further how honourable and

profitable it were for [Her] Majesty to have regard to your

Lordship's health and quiet, I leave to the witness of God

and good report of Her Highness. And the more to

witness how desirous I am of your Lordship's favour and

good opinion, I am content, for your sake, to lay the

serpent before the fire as much as in me lieth; that,

having recovered strength, myself may be most in danger

of his poison and sting. . . .1


The reason for Ralegh's apprehension- which proved

quite groundless -was no doubt Oxford's well-known

intolerance towards upstart courtiers who, though lacking

in birth, were nevertheless becoming daily more and more

powerful.2 Naunton relates that when the Earl of Essex

was executed in 1601, Lord Oxford, apropos of Ralegh's

share in bringing about his downfall, remarked, "When

Jacks start up, heads go down." In justice to Ralegh,

p. 244


1 Lansdowne MSS., 39. 22.

2 Peck, in his Desiderata Curiosa, said that he proposed to publish a manuscript called "A pleasant conceit of Vere, Earl of Oxford, discontented at the rising of a mean gentleman in the English Court, circa, 1580." I have been unable to trace this manuscript, which does not seem to have been published; but the date makes it probable that Ralegh was the "mean gentleman" referred to.

[See Francis Bacon, 1625]

who though not of the nobility was of good family,

Naunton adds that this "savours more of his Lordship's

humour than of the truth."


The Earl of Oxford's first act on being restored to favour

was to ask his father-in-law to intervene on behalf of his

friend and cousin Lord Lumley. Lumley, once a member

of the Privy Council, had been utterly ruined, and indeed

had nearly lost his life, owing to the part he had played

in the Ridolphi Plot in 1571. His political downfall had

led him to devote the remainder of his life to scholarship

and literature. For fifty years he was the High Steward

of Oxford University; and he collected what must then

have been the finest library of books and manuscripts

in England. This library was afterwards bought by

King James I. for his son Prince Henry; and now forms

the collection known as the "Royal Library" in the

British Museum. His friendship with Lord Oxford is

not only evidenced by the following letter, but by the

fact that at his death Lumley was in possession of a

"statuary," or full-length portrait of the Earl. This

is interesting because it shows us that Lord Oxford, even

after his restoration to royal favour, was still seeking his

friends among men of letters rather than among politicians

and courtiers.


I have been an earnest suitor [he writes to Lord Burghley

on June 20th] unto your Lordship for my Lord Lumley,

that it would please you for my sake to stand his good Lord

and friend, which as I perceive your Lordship hath already

very honourably performed; the which I am in a number

of things more than I can reckon bound unto your Lord-

ship, so am I in this likewise especially. For he hath

matched with a near kinswoman of mine, to whose father

I was always beholden unto for his assured and kind

disposition unto me. Further, among all the rest of my

blood, this only remains in account either of me or else

of them, as your Lordship doth ‘know very well, the rest

having embraced further alliances to leave their nearer


p. 245

And as I hope your Lordship doth account me now-

on whom you have so much bound -as I am; so be you

before any else in the world, both through match- whereby

I count my greatest stay, -and by your Lordship's

friendly usage and sticking by me in this time wherein I

am hedged in with so many enemies. So likewise I hope

your Lordship will take all them for your followers and

most at command which are inclined and affected to me.

Wherefore I say once again- being thus bound with your

Lordship -to be so importunate in this matter, I crave

your Lordship's favour in easing my Lord Lumley's pay-

ment to Her Majesty, wherein we will all give your Lord-

ship thanks, and you shall do me as great an honour

I therein as a profit of it had been to myself. In this,

through your Lordship's favour, I shall be able to pleasure

my friend and stand needless of others who have forsaken

me. Thus, for that your Lordship is troubled with

many matters where you are, I crave pardon for troubling


Your Lordship's to command,



Lord Lumley had married secondly Elizabeth Darcy,

daughter of John, second Lord Darcy of Chiche (1525-

82). Her grandmother was Elizabeth de Vere, Lord

Oxford's aunt. The Darcys lived at St. Osyth's Priory

in Essex, which had been granted to Thomas, first Lord

Darcy (1506-58) on the dissolution of the monasteries.

The parish of St. Osyth borders that of Wivenhoe, and

Lord Oxford's friendship with John, Lord Darcy, dates

no doubt from the time that he was living in "his new

country Muses of Wivenhoe." In the chancel of St.

Osyth's Church are the recumbent effigies of Thomas and

his wife Elizabeth de Vere, and John and his wife Frances,

sister of Richard, Lord Rich. It is fair to conjecture that

John Lord Darcy stood by the Earl of Oxford during the

troubles of 1581, which would account for Oxford's

speaking of "his assured and kind disposition unto me"

in the letter just quoted.

Having thus done what he could to help his friend, Lord

p. 246


1 Lansdowne MSS., 38. 62.

Oxford turned relentlessly on his enemies, who soon felt

the full fury of his revenge. Before November Lord Henry

Howard was once more placed under restraint.1 In

December, as we have seen, Charles Arundel, accom-

panied by Lord Paget and other Catholic refugees, appeared

suddenly in Paris without the Queen's licence to leave

England, saying that "they came away from England for

their consciences, and for fear, having enemies." In the

following year Thomas Vavasour, who had been associated

in a small way with the Arundel slanders, wrote in a letter

to Lord Oxford: "Is not the revenge already taken of

thy victims sufficient ?" We may judge therefore that

the perpetrators of the scurrilous attacks on the Earl of

Oxford's honour in 1581 received their just deserts.


Financial crises were never long absent in Lord Oxford's

life, and in the previous October he had written to Lord

Burghley begging his assistance in a "suit," which was

probably an endeavour to stave off his creditors who were

gathering round him. In a postscript he shows that he

takes exception to Lord Burghley's attempts to control

him, the phrase "I am that I am" being typical of his

independent spirit:


My Lord, This other day your man, Stainner, told me

that you sent for Amis, my man, and if he were absent

that Lyly should come unto you. I sent Amis, for he

was in the way. And I think [it] very strange that your

Lordship should enter into that course towards me;

whereby I must learn that I knew not before,

both of your opinion and good will towards me. But I

pray, my Lord, leave that course, for I mean not to be

your ward nor your child. I serve Her Majesty, and I

am that I am; and by alliance near to your Lordship,

but free; and scorn to be offered that injury to think I

am so weak of government as to be ruled by servants,

or not able to govern myself. If your Lordship take and

p. 247


1 Catholic Record Society, vol. xxi, p. 338: "‘ To John Dannetts, upon a Privy Council Warrant, dated 5th May, 1584, for his charges in safe keeping of Lord Henry Howard in the house of Sir Ralph Sadler for six months, the sum of £26."

follow this course you deceive yourself, and make me

take another course that I have not yet thought of.

Wherefore these shall be to desire your Lordship, if

that I may make account of your friendship, that you will

leave that course as hurtful to us both.1


The expression "I serve Her Majesty" has more behind

it than might appear. In 1586 Lord Oxford received a

large annuity from the Queen "for services rendered."

The nature of these services will be fully traced in a

subsequent chapter. In brief, Lord Oxford at this time

was a lessee of the Blackfriars Theatre, where his private

secretary and actor manager, John Lyly, was producing

his Court Comedies. In the winter these comedies were

presented before the Queen by the Earl's company of

boy actors. It was no doubt galling to Lord Burghley

to find his son-in-law busied with such "lewd persons"

as common actors. But when he protested Lord Oxford

replied sharply that he was engaged on Her Majesty's


Foreign affairs were now rapidly heading towards a

crisis. Open war between England and Spain was im-

minent. But as this dénouement had been gradually

coming to a head over a long period of years, it will be

well to follow the relations between Queen Elizabeth and

"His Most Catholic Majesty" step by step.

The first landmark in the story occurred in 1567, when

King Philip II. sent the Duke of Alva to the Netherlands,

then a vassal State of Spain, with orders to suppress

Protestantism and reintroduce the Catholic religion.

English sympathy with the heroic defence put up by the

Dutch burghers and their untiring leader William the

Silent led in 1572 to a band of volunteers under Sir Roger

Williams going to their assistance. They were not, of

course, recognised diplomatically, but their action showed

the temper of the English people.

Nor were our sailors behindhand in taking up the

"Common Cause." Early in the seventies Captain Francis

p. 248


1 Lansdowne MSS., 42. 39. October 30th, 1584.

Drake took the Swan, a 25-ton bark, across to the Spanish

Main, and declared a "private war" on King Philip

and the Holy Inquisition. His amazing exploits are

unparalleled in history. The Spaniards firmly believed

that the terrible "El Draque" was in league with the

devil. It was in vain that the King of Spain issued

bombastic edicts forbidding his colonists to trade with

any foreigners. Drake's method of dealing with this

difficulty was simplicity itself. He would arrive outside

a Spanish seaport and politely ask the Governor for

permission to trade. The Governor would equally politely

draw his attention to the King's edicts. These formalities

over, Drake and his Devon boys would land and take what

they wanted-and if there was any trouble they burnt the

town into the bargain.

All this time, of course, the "Jezebel of the North"-

as the Spaniards called Queen Elizabeth -was by way of

being on the best possible terms with her "good brother

King Philip." When an indignant Spanish Ambassador

came to her presence and drew her attention to Drake's

latest outrage she would swear with great gusto that she

knew nothing whatever about it, and would investigate

the matter at once. Directly the Ambassador's back

was turned she would send for Drake -and lend him ships

of the Royal Navy to continue his peaceable trading!

Well might the Spanish Ambassador exclaim that "she

must have a hundred thousand devils in her body !"

The year 1580 brought two important developments.

The first was the seizure by King Philip of the crown of

Portugal, which not only added enormously to his pos-

sessions in the New World, but practically doubled his

sea-power. The second was the return of Drake from his

great circumnavigation voyage, which has already been

touched on.

The political situation created when the Golden Hind

anchored in Plymouth harbour was extremely critical.

During the voyage Drake had captured the largest Spanish

treasure-ship -the San Felipe -off the Chile coast. The

p. 249

treasure, which was worth over £300,000 according to

some authorities, was now in the Golden Hind.

King Philip demanded not only the return of the trea-

sure, but the execution of Drake as a pirate. The majority

of the Privy Council, many of whom stood to gain enor-

mously by Drake's plunder, held that he had acted legally.

Others, among them Lord Burghley, counselled prudence,

and advocated its return. For some months the Queen

hesitated before coming to a decision; but when she

finally did so, she showed how accurately she had gauged

the popular feeling in England. Amidst scenes of inde-

scribable enthusiasm she knighted Drake on the quarter-

deck of the Golden Hind.

From that moment the die was cast. Philip set to work

with his customary thoroughness to build a fleet with which

to invade England. But Elizabeth, dreading the cost of a

war, used all her ingenuity towards putting off the final step.

In 1584, however, her hand was forced, for in that year

William the Silent was assassinated. With his death it

looked as if the Dutch defence would crumple up. Once

the Netherlands were subdued Spain would be able to

turn her whole power against heretic England. Sturmius,

then in the last year of his life, saw the only course open

to England. For a dozen years or more this great leader

of Protestant thought in the Rhineland had been in

receipt of a salary of £40 a year from the English Exchequer

for acting as the Queen's Agent "in partibus Germaniae." 1

On March 15th, 1584, he wrote to Elizabeth urging her

to send "some faithful and zealous personage such as the

Earl of Oxford, the Earl of Leicester, or Philip Sidney"

in command of an expedition into the Low Countries.2

But England was not a rich country, and although

Elizabeth was not averse to war, she did not want to have

to pay for it. For a year negotiations between the Privy

Council and the Dutch Deputies dragged on. finally, on

p. 250


1 E. 403-2264 (Exchequer Roll of Issue, 1576-1577) in the Public Record Office.

2 Cal. S.P. Foreign (1583-1584), p. 406.

May 29th, 1585, the States-General issued a "Resolution"

to the effect that "2,000 English footmen be enlisted for

the relief of Antwerp." 1

In the same month Colonel John Norris handed over

the Presidency of Munster to his brother Thomas and

hurried to London; and on June 17th Alexander Witschayt

was ordered to enlist 1,500 men in England.

On June 25th Lord Oxford wrote to Lord Burghley.

The "suit" he refers to, in which he says that he is sup-

ported by Walsingham, was a request to be given a com-

mand in the impending war:


My very good Lord, As I have been beholden unto you

divers times, and of late by my brother R. Cecil whereby

I have been able the better to follow my suit, wherein I

have some comfort at this time from Master Secretary

Walsingham, so am I now bold to crave your Lordship's

help at this present. For, being now almost at a point

to taste that good which Her Majesty shall determine, yet

am I as one that hath long besieged a fort and not able

to compass the end or reap the fruit of his travail, being

forced to levy his siege for want of munition. Being thus

disfurnished and unprovided to follow Her Majesty, as I

perceive she will look for, I most earnestly desire your

Lordship you will lend me £200 till Her Majesty performeth

her promise, out of which I shall make payment, if it

please you, with the rest that your Lordship hath at

sundry times, to my great furtherance and help in my

causes, sent me by your servant and steward Billet. I

would be 10th to trouble your Lordship with so much, if I

were not kept here back with this tedious suit from

London, where I would have found means to have taken

up so much to have served my turn till Her Majesty had

despatched me, but for that I dare not, having been here

so long and the matter growing to some conclusion, be

absent. I pray your Lordship bear with me, that at this

time wherein I am to get myself in order I do become so

troublesome. From the Court this morning.

Your Lordship's ever bounden,



p. 251


1 Het Staatsche Leger, by F. J. G. ten Raa and F. de Bas, I. 189.

2 Lansdowne MSS., 50. 22.

Events now moved with headlong rapidity. On

July 10th Norris was charged to enlist 8,000 Englishmen

for the war. On August 1st, 1,000 English soldiers dis-

embarked without officers or arms on the island of Wal-

cheren. On August 10th a treaty was signed by Elizabeth

and the States-General, and on August 24th, 1585, Norris, who

had been appointed to command the field Army of

4,000 foot and 400 horse, sailed for Holland.1

The expedition was too late, however, to achieve its

primary object, for on August 18th Antwerp was captured

by Parma. Philip II. was overjoyed. "Antwerp is

ours!" he exclaimed over and over again when he re-

ceived the news in Madrid.2

Nevertheless preparations for war continued uninter-

ruptedly in England. On August 27th some English

ships arrived outside flushing, and next day the Guard

of the Earl of Oxford landed. 3 On August 29th Ber-

nardino de Mendoza informed King Philip that the Earl

of Oxford had left that day for the Netherlands by the

Queen's orders. On September 3rd instructions were

issued regarding the inspection of the English troops at

the Hague, and also for the victualling of the Earl of

Oxford and his retinue, Colonel Norris, and the Captains

and superior officers assembled there.4

Meanwhile a new arrival had landed in Holland in the

person of William Davison, afterwards one of Her Majesty's

principal secretaries. His commission, signed by the

Queen on September 3rd, was explicit. He was to receive

the delivery of the towns of flushing and Brill from the

Dutch as a surety, in return for which Elizabeth undertook

to maintain 5,000 foot and 1,000 horse during the con-

tinuance of the war.5

On September 4th he reported his arrival, as well as an

p. 252


1 Het Staatsche Leger; and Dict. Nat. Biog., article Norris, Sir John.

2 Davies, History of England (1842), II. 170.

3 Resolution of the Council of State assembled at Middelbourg. Dutch State Archives.

4 Het Staatsche Leger, I. 189.

5 Harleian MSS., 36. 347.

interview he had had with Prince Maurice, on whom the

mantle of William the Silent had fallen. It appears that

Prince Maurice disliked the idea of handing over flushing

to a civilian; "but," Davison adds significantly, "Sir

Philip Sidney is much commended here for his virtues,

if Her Majesty would send him there is no doubt flushing

would be delivered into his hands." 1 Walsingham duly

laid this letter before the Queen; but she was not at first

disposed to accept the suggestion. And on September 13th,

1585, Walsingham replied to Davison:


Sir Philip Sidney hath taken a very hard resolution to

accompany Sir Francis Drake in this voyage [to the West

Indies], moved thereto for that he saw Her Majesty dis-

posed to commit the charge of flushing unto some other,

which he reporteth, would fall out greatly to his disgrace,

to see another preferred before him, both for birth and

judgment inferior to him. 2


The story of Sidney's flight to Plymouth to join Drake,

his recall to Court, and subsequent forgiveness by the

Queen, is so well known that it need not be repeated here.

It is only necessary to add that by the end of Septem-

ber Davison had received the keys of flushing and Brill,

with orders that they were to be handed over to Sir

Philip Sidney and Sir Thomas Cecil respectively. And

on September 24th he wrote as follows to the Earl of



I find those of Holland as desirous of Sir Thomas Cecil

for the government of Brill, as in Zeeland they have been

for Sir Philip Sidney.3


Leicester's appearance at this point is interesting. It

would seem that as soon as Oxford had left for Holland

on August 29th a scheme had been set on foot by Leicester

and his party to supersede him; for on September 8th

Walsingham had written to Davison that the Queen was

talking of sending over "a nobleman" to advise the

States.4 This is curious in view of the fact that Lord

p. 253


1 Cotton MSS., Galba C., VIII. 113.

2 Motley, United Netherlands, I. 362.

3 Cotton MSS., cit.

4 Ibid.

Oxford had only just gone; but once he had left the

Court there was nobody in London to take his part except

the Queen and Lord Burghley.

Early in October Norris, for excellent military reasons,

took the offensive, and although Davison had nothing

whatever to do with strategical matters, being there solely

in a civilian capacity, he expressed his disapproval in a

letter to Leicester:


Of the General his doing your Lordship shall best under-

stand from himself. He is now gone to some enterprise he

hath upon a fort between Arnhem and Doesburgh upon the

Yser; where it is feared he will spend both his time and

his people (which fall sick daily) to little purpose.1


This uncalled-for interference on the part of Davison

was really only part of an old court intrigue. A bitter

feud had always existed between the Norris and Knollys

families, and Leicester, through his marriage with Lettice

Knollys, had been drawn into this quarrel.

A week later Davison reported that Norris had captured

Arnhem. And it was no doubt Leicester's influence over

the Queen that led her, instead of thanking him for his

victory, to condemn his action, saying in a personal letter

that her meaning was "to defend and not to offend."


Meanwhile the Earl of Oxford had been ordered home:


The Earl of Oxford [writes Thomas Doyley to Leicester

on October 14th] sent his money, apparel, wine, and

venison by ship to England. The ship was captured off

Dunkirk by the Spaniards on that day, and a letter from

Lord Burghley to Lord Oxford found by them on board.

This letter appointed him to the command of the Horse.2


On October 21st, 1585, in a letter to Captain Henry Norris,

Davison says cryptically that "the Earl of Oxford has

returned this night into England, upon what humour I

know not." 3 And in November Sir Philip Sidney, with the

rank of General of the Horse, took over the Governorship

of Flushing.

p. 254


1 Cotton MSS., cit.

2 Wright, Queen Elizabeth, vol. ii, p. 266.

3 Cal. S.P. Foreign (1585-6), p. 104.

The day after Oxford left Holland for England the

Queen signed the Earl of Leicester's commission as Lieu-

tenant-General of the English forces in the Low Countries.1

On December 8th he sailed from Harwich attended by the

"flower and chief gallants of England." 2 Two days

later he landed at flushing, where he was received with

great ceremony by Prince Maurice and Sir Philip Sidney.

Such was the abrupt termination of Lord Oxford's share

in an enterprise that had opened so auspiciously. We may

conjecture his bitter disappointment at this supersession

by his old rivals Leicester and Sidney; but as no despatches

either from or to him exist, the details remain a mystery.

No doubt court intrigue played a large part in his recall,

but there may have been other reasons of which no record





When Lord Oxford returned to England after his

supersession in the Low Countries he turned, as was his

wont, once more to literature. His position at this time


in the world of letters is stated in no uncertain language in

A Discourse of English Poetry, published by William Webbe

in 1586:


I may not omit the deserved commendations of many

honourable and noble Lords and Gentlemen in Her Majesty's

Court, which, in the rare devices of poetry have been, and

yet are, most skilful; among whom the Right Honourable

Earl of Oxford may challenge to himself the title of the

most excellent among the rest. 3


It is, of course, out of the question that Webbe, any more

than Gabriel Harvey in his eulogy at Audley End, could

have based his judgment of Lord Oxford's supremacy

in poetry on the half-dozen poems that had appeared over

the signature "E. O." in the Paradise of Dainty Devices.

Like Harvey, he must have been privileged to see the

Earl's unpublished manuscripts; but as little or nothing

p. 255


1 Leicester Correspondence, p. 11.

2 Stow, Annals, p. 711.

3 Haslewood, Ancient Critical Essays, vol. ii, p. 34.

appears to be known about him, we cannot now say ‘how

this came about.1

Meanwhile Lord Oxford's financial position had been

steadily going from bad to worse. If we refer to the table

in Appendix B we shall find that out of the fifty-six

separate sales of land he effected during his lifetime no

fewer than thirty-two, or more than half, were made

during the preceding five years (1580-85). On the face

of it there is little to show for such a high expenditure.

It is true that his investments as an "adventurer" in

Frobisher's voyages must have been partly responsible;

and to a lesser extent his employment for six weeks in the

Low Countries, although in the public service, would have

made demands on his private purse. On the other hand,

his life during this period was remarkable for its lack of

ostentation. In a letter, already quoted, Burghley tells

us that in 1583 his household consisted only of four

servants. Nor had he been called on to undertake any

of those duties that so often impoverished Elizabethan

courtiers. He had never held appointments such as Lord

Deputy of Ireland, Custodian of the Queen of Scots, or

Ambassador at Paris-appointments that had been so dis-

astrous financially to Sir Henry Sidney, Lord Shrewsbury,

and Francis Walsingham. In latter years, from all we know,

he had taken little part in court life or the public service.

At any rate, whatever may have led to the extensive

sales of land by Lord Oxford from 1580 to 1585, there can

be no doubt that by 1586 he was financially in very low

water. Historians have been unanimous in asserting that

he had been reduced to this state of penury through his

own wasteful and spendthrift habits. Nothing, apparently,

could be more obvious. Let us see, however, if this view

is upheld by contemporary evidence.

p. 256


1 I use the expression "unpublished manuscripts," but this may not be altogether correct. The author of The Arte of English Poesy (1589) said that he knew "very many notable gentlemen in the Court that have written commendably and suppressed it again, or else suffered it to be published without their own names to it: as [if] it were a discredit for a gentleman to seem learned, and to show himself amorous of any good art."

On June 26th, 1586, Queen Elizabeth signed a Privy Seal

Warrant. The wording of this document runs as follows:


Elizabeth, etc., to the Treasurer and Chamberlains of

our Exchequer, Greeting. We will and command you of

Our treasure being and remaining from time to time within

the receipt of Our Exchequer, to deliver and pay, or cause

to be delivered and paid, unto Our right trusty and well

beloved Cousin the Earl of Oxford, or to his assigns

sufficiently authorised by him, the sum of One Thousand

Pounds good and lawful money of England. The same

to be yearly delivered and paid unto Our said Cousin at

four terms of the year by even portions: and so to be con-

tinued unto him during Our pleasure, or until such time as

he shall be by Us otherwise provided for to be in some

manner relieved; at what time Our pleasure is that this

payment of One Thousand Pounds yearly to Our said Cousin

in manner above specified shall cease. And for the same

or any part thereof, Our further will and commandment

is that neither the said Earl nor his assigns nor his or their

executors nor any of them shall by way of account, imprest,

or any other way whatsover be charged towards Us, Our

heirs or successors. And these Our letters shall be your

sufficient warrant and discharge in that behalf. Given

under Our Privy Seal at Our Manor of Greenwich, the six

and twentieth day of June in the eight and twentieth year

of Our reign. l


Before we attempt to discover the reason which led the

Queen to grant this annuity to the Earl of Oxford, a few

preliminary remarks may be made. In the first place, we

cannot but be struck by its size. It would be idle to

speculate what £1,000 a year represents in terms of modern

money, but we may compare it with some contemporary

salaries and incomes.


I have been able to trace only three instances where this

specific sum has been mentioned:


1. The Earl of Huntingdon was appointed Lord Presi-

dent of the North in October 1572. ,This was a post of

great responsibility and trust; and he was paid £1,000

p. 257


1 An analysis of the Book of Privy Seal Warrants in which this entry occurs will be found in Appendix C.

a year, which was to cover the "diets and stipends" of

himself and his Council.1

2. When William Stanley, sixth Earl of Derby, married

Lord Oxford's daughter, Elizabeth Vere, in 1595, he

offered to settle £1,000 a year on her. The enormous

size of this jointure is accounted for by the fact that Lord

Derby was the richest man in England. This is proved

by a letter from Queen Elizabeth to the Emperor of

Russia, written on September 11th, 1601: "There might

have been a convenient marriage between the Prince,

your son, and one of the daughters and heirs of our Cousin

the Earl of Derby, being of our Blood Royal and of greater

possessions than any subject within our Realm." 2

3. The Rev. John Ward, who became Vicar of Stratford-

on-Avon in 1662, tells us that Shakespeare in his last years

"spent at the rate of £1,000 a year, as I have heard." 3


There are a few, but not many, instances of salaries and

incomes greater than £1,000 a year:

1. "The Office of the Lord Keeper is better worth than

£3,000, of the Admiral more, of the Secretary little less." 4

2. Stow tells us that Lord Burghley's expenditure at

Cecil House was about £2,000 a year; and that he main-

tained a household of eighty persons. 5

3. In 1602 King James VI. of Scotland was granted an

annuity of £2,500 by Elizabeth. This was raised next

year to £5,000. 6

p. 258


1 Cal. S.P. Dom., Addenda, XXI. 94.

2 Hatfield MSS. (Cal. XI. 388).

3 The Diary of the Rev. John Ward.

4 Manningham's Diary, quoted by Cheyney, A History of England, vol. i, p. 50. But the salary of Lord Admiral Buckingham in the reign of James I. was £133 68. 8d. (P.R.O. E. 403-2371).

5 See p. 18, ante.

6 See Appendix C, p. 358. I have included this item because it seems to be of unusual interest historically, and I do not remember having seen it referred to in any history of the time. These two grants would seem to show that from 1602 onwards the Queen intended James to succeed her. But they cannot, of course, be compared in any way to a salary or annuity granted by the Queen to one of her subjects, because the motive was obviously political. They come in the same category with Elizabeth's loans and grants to foreign Princes such as William of Orange and Henry of Navarre.


4. In 1601 Sir Thomas Parry was appointed Resident

Ambassador at the Court of France. He was allowed

£3 63. 8d. a day (about £1,200 a year).1

5. In 1590 Sir John Stanhope, the Master of the Posts,

was given £1,200 a year with which to maintain all ordinary

postal services throughout England.2


The following are some of the many examples of in-

comes, salaries, and annuities under £1,000 a year:

1. The Earl of Southampton's total income from land

was estimated at £1,145. Out of this £395 had to be

devoted to annuities to various dependents. This left

him a net income of £750, from which all charges arising

out of the land had to be paid.3

2. Sir Nicholas Parker was allowed £560 a year to main-

tain fifty soldiers in the new fort at Falmouth in 1599.4

3. Lord Dunsany was allowed £200 a year to maintain

"a company of horse" in Ireland in 1598.

4. In 1599 Lady Arabella Stuart, a niece of Mary Queen

of Scots and in the direct succession to the English crown,

was granted £200 a year "for her better maintenance." 5

5. In 1599 Lord Henry Howard, then restored to favour

through the offices of Sir Robert Cecil, was granted £200

yearly "so long as the lands of the late Earl of Arundel

shall remain in the Queen's hands." 6

p. 259


1 See Appendix C, p. 358. This, I imagine, included the upkeep of the Staff at the Embassy. Two of his predecessors, Dr. Dale and Francis Walsingham, had frequently drawn attention to the heavy expenses this post involved.

2 See Appendix C, p. 357.

3 Stopes, Third Earl of Southampton, p. 101.

4 See Appendix C, p. 357.

5 See Appendix C, p. 358. This was a case of destitution, the English estates belonging to the family having been sequestered by Elizabeth many years previously (cf. Camden, p. 229). Her father, the elder brother of the murdered Lord Darnley, had died in exile in England in 1576. Her grandmother, the Countess of Lennox, was another destitute exile in England who had received £400 a year from Elizabeth.

6 See Appendix C, p. 357. Philip Howard, Earl of Arundel, died in the Tower in 1595. His uncle, Lord Henry, thus became heir to the family estates, which had been confiscated by the Crown on Arundel's attainder in 1589. There can be little doubt that the Exchequer did not lose by this compromise!

6. In 1601 an annuity of £100 a year was granted to

James Crofts, a Gentleman Pensioner. 1

7. "The Earl of Warwick was Master of the Buck

Hounds with a fee of £50 a year, the Earl of Huntingdon

of the Hart Hounds with a fee of £13 63. 8d. 2

8. In 1595 the four daughters of Francis Dacres, Esq.,

were given annuities of £50 each. 3

9. In 1598 Joan and Elizabeth FitzGerald, daughters of

the Countess of Desmond, were given an annuity of

£33 68. 8d. each "during pleasure." 4


The foregoing salaries and annuities are typical of the

period, and are sufficiently exhaustive to make it clear

that £1,000 was a very large annuity indeed for a subject

to receive from his Sovereign. Let us then examine the

grant in rather more detail.

We observe, in the first place, that there is no hint as to

the reason or purpose of the grant. All we are told is

that it is "to be continued unto him during Our pleasure,

or until such time as he shall be by Us otherwise provided

for." This fact alone, to say nothing of its amount, puts it

on quite a different footing from such allowances as those

made to Lord Henry Howard and Lady Arabella


The next point to notice is that the Queen expressly

states that the Earl is not to be called on by the Exchequer

to render any account as to its expenditure. This is the

usual formula made use of in the case of secret service

money. Thus Cheyney, in his History of England, 1914,

vol. i, page 44, quoting P.R.O. Doquet, Signet Office,

p. 260


1 See Appendix C, p. 358. His father, Sir James Crofts, had been Comptroller of the Household for many years, and had died in 1590. Possibly £100 a year was the regular salary of a Gentleman Pensioner.

2 Cheyney, vol. i, p. 51.

3 See Appendix C, p. 357. This case is on a par with that of Lord Henry Howard, because the vast Dacres estates in Northumberland had been confiscated by the Crown after the rebellion and flight of Leonard Dacres, the head of the family, in 1570.

4 See Appendix C, p. 357 . Their father, Gerald FitzGerald, 15th Earl of Desmond, had been imprisoned, outlawed, and finally killed in 1583. This was presumably another case of destitution.

December 4th, 1589, states that considerable sums of

secret service money were put in the hands of Secretary

Walsingham, "to be by him employed in such causes of

Her Majesty's service as are appointed him, without

charge or anie accompte to be laid uppon him for the

same." It would seem therefore that this annuity of a

thousand a year was to be paid on account of some secret

service. But why should secret service money have been

paid to Lord Oxford ? He did not hold, openly at least,

any official appointment 1; he was not a Privy Coun-

cillor; and after 1585 he never left England on any foreign

diplomatic mission. Moreover, if the £1,000 a year was

for some secret service in connexion with Home affairs

we should expect to find him constantly at Court, having

audience with the Queen or her confidential advisers.

But, in point of fact, absolutely the reverse is true. From

1586 until his death in 1604- a period of eighteen years,

during which he received the £1,000 a year regularly -his

absence from the Court is most remarkable. He only

attended at the House of Lords on fourteen occasions--

mostly at the opening and proroguing of Parliament.

There is no record of his ever having an official audience

with the Queen, nor is there the slightest indication that

he corresponded or conferred with her Ministers, in spite

of the fact that most of this time he was living at Stoke

Newington and Hackney, a stone's-throw from West-

minster. This quite rules out the possibility that the

£1,000 a year was secret service money, at any rate in the

ordinarily accepted sense of the word.

This brings us to another line of argument. May it

not have been given in order to relieve him in his poverty ?

May it not, in other words, have been intended for the

maintenance of himself and his wife, and for the education

and upbringing of his children? Assuming this as a

p. 261


1 His rank of Lord Great Chamberlain was not an appointment but an hereditary honour. It only involved duties at Coronations. Moreover, no preceding or subsequent Lord Great' Chamberlain ever received an official salary on that account; and Lord Oxford himself had already been Lord Great Chamberlain for twenty-four years without payment.

possible hypothesis, let us see how it fits in with the facts

of the case.

In 1588 the Countess of Oxford died, but no reduction

or alteration was made in the grant. Next year Lady

Burghley, Lord Oxford's mother-in-law, died; and the

following remarkable sentences concerning her grand-

daughters may be read to this day on the Burghley tomb

in Westminster Abbey:


Lady Elizabeth Vere, daughter of the most noble

Edward Earl of Oxford and Anne his wife, daughter of

Lord Burghley, born 2nd July 1575. She is fourteen

years old and grieves bitterly and not without cause for

the loss of her grandmother and mother, but she feels

happier because her most gracious Majesty has taken her

into service as a Maid of Honour.

Lady Bridget, the second daughter of the said Earl of

Oxford and Anne, was born on April 6th 1584, and al-

though she was hardly more than four years old when she

placed her mother's body in the grave, yet it was not

without tears that she recognised that her mother had

been taken away from her, and shortly afterwards her

grand-mother as well. It is not true to say that she was

left an orphan seeing that her father is living and a

most affectionate grandfather who acts as her painstaking


Lady Susan the third daughter was born on May 26th

1587. On account of her age she was unable to recognise

either her mother or her grand-mother; indeed it is only

now that she is beginning to recognise her most loving

grand-father, who has the care of all these children, so that

they may not be deprived either of a pious education or

of a suitable up-bringing.1


So it was not Lord Oxford but Lord Burghley who was

bringing up and educating the Earl's three children!

Need we doubt any longer that the £1,000 a year had

nothing whatever to do with Lord Oxford's family ?

p. 262


1 From the west panel of the Burghley Memorial in Westminster Abbey, translated from the original Latin. The last sentence reads: ". . . qui omnium harum curam habet ita ut nec pia educatione nec congrua vivendi ratione destituantur."

But if this rules out the family as the intended bene-

ficiaries of the Queen's annuity it does not necessarily

rule out Lord Oxford himself. Is it not possible that the

Queen intended it as a personal gift to help him out of

financial difficulties? There are three weighty arguments

against this. In the first place, it would have been an

extraordinary act for a frugal Queen like Elizabeth to make

so munificent a reward to a man who had simply squandered

his patrimony. In the second place, why should she

choose public funds from which to effect a purely personal

gift? Her customary method of rewarding men like

Leicester, Hatton, Ralegh, and Essex for their faithful

services was by gifts of land or monopolies. Never, as

far as I have been able to trace, did she give them annuities

from the Exchequer. In the third place, the grant was

continued as a matter of routine after the accession of

King James, until the payment was regularised by a new

Privy Seal Warrant issued by the King.

What, then, was it for ? It must have been for something,

because we know that Elizabeth was the last person in the

world to scatter largesse around without expecting any

return. But the records have not revealed the slightest

clue. In view of this failure of direct evidence, due, it

would seem, to a deliberate desire for secrecy on the

Queen's part, we are compelled to fall back on indirect

evidence and inference. I must therefore ask the reader

to bear with me in a digression to see how Lord Oxford

was occupied before and during 1586.


p. 263





"For Tragedy Lord Buckhurst and Master Edward Ferrys do deserve the highest price: the Earl of Oxford and Master Edwards of Her Majesty's Chapel for Comedy and Enterlude."

The Arte of English Poesie, 1589.


"The best for Comedy among us be Edward Earl of Oxford. . ."

Francis Meres, in Palladis Tamia, 1598.


WE have seen in a previous interlude that about 1579

Lord Oxford had constituted himself the leader of the

literary party known as the Euphuists, and that he had

drawn to his side men like Lyly, Munday, and Greene.

Against him were ranged the Romanticists, whose party,

under the leadership of Philip Sidney, included Spenser,

Dyer, Harvey, and others. And we have followed in some

detail the paper warfare that raged between these two

factions, in which Oxford received the adulations of his

lieutenants and the ridicule of his opponents.

Whilst this battle was in progress the object of these

eulogies and witticisms was finding a new outlet for his

literary interests. In 1580 the Earl of Warwick's company

of actors transferred to Lord Oxford's service; and John

Lyly, who, was then his private secretary,1 was probably

appointed 'manager of the company.

The Earl of Oxford's acquaintance with the stage had

begun in his earliest boyhood. We have already observed

that his father had a company of actors who can be traced

in various parts of England between the years 1555 and

1563. 2 It is not unlikely that when the Queen visited

Castle Hedingham in 1561 a play by the Earl's men formed

p. 264


1 Cf. R. W. Bond, Complete Works of John Lyly, vol. i, p. 24. Lyly, as we shall see, remained in Lord Oxford's service until at least 1589, and probably till the early nineties.

2 E. K. Chambers, Elizabethan Stage, vol. ii, p. 99.

part of the entertainment. At any rate, we may be sure

that as a boy Edward de Vere witnessed the dramatic

performances of his father's company. But when he

succeeded to the Earldom at the age of twelve, and became

a Royal Ward in Lord Burghley's household, the company

was discontinued.

When Queen Elizabeth first came to the throne the

privilege of entertaining Her Majesty with plays and

masques was virtually a monopoly of the Choir Boys of

the various Chapels. From 1558 to 1572 numerous per-

formances were given at the Court by the Children of

Paul's, of Westminster, of Windsor, and of the Chapel

Royal. There were at the same time only four companies

under the patronage of courtiers which appeared at Court,

Viz. the Earl of Warwick's, Lord Robert Dudley's, Lord

Rich's, and Sir Robert Lane's. They can hardly be

called permanent institutions, however, for during the

fourteen years mentioned Warwick's men only appeared

twice (before 1564), Dudley's three times (before 1562),

Rich's four times, and Lane's twice.

In 1573 the Earl of Sussex started a company, and

Dudley (now Earl of Leicester) re-formed his. From then

onwards they appeared fairly regularly at Court during the

"season" between Christmas and Lent. In 1575 the

Earl of Warwick's men appeared once more at Court after

an absence of nine years, and in 1577 and 1580 respectively

Lord Howard of Effingham and Lord Derby brought their

companies to Court.

Oxford's friend, Lord Chamberlain Sussex, took a

particular interest in the court dramatic performances.

He not only personally selected the plays to be performed,

but superintended the rehearsals, as the following entries

in Revels Accounts for 1577 show:


Boat hire to and from the Court, to carry the stuff for

the Children of the Chapel to recite before my Lord


Boat hire to the Court to carry my Lord Chamberlain's

patterns of the masque.

p. 265

For a car the next day to carry two baskets of stuff to

Barmesey 1 to show my Lord Chamberlain.

Mr. Blagrave's boat hire to and from the Court, being

sent for by my Lord Chamberlain.2


An interesting point arises out of the appearance of

Sussex's and Leicester's men in 1573. The cost of the

office of the Revels had grown by this year to about £1,500.

From then onwards it fell rapidly, till by 1576 it was little

more than £300, at which figure it remained until the end

of Elizabeth's reign.3 In commenting on this curious

phenomenon, which was accompanied not by decreased

but heightened splendour in the entertainments,4 Sir

Edmund Chambers holds the view that the Office of Works

was called upon to bear the cost of buildings, scenery, and

other properties. This may be so; but it seems also

probable that it was partly due to the shifting of the

burden of maintaining the actors on to the shoulders of

the various patrons.

There is, moreover, evidence to prove that actors could

not and were not expected to maintain themselves by

playing alone. This transpires incidentally in a letter

written by the Corporation of London to the Privy Council

in or about November 1584:


It hath not been used nor thought meet heretofore that

players have or should make their living on the art of

playing, but men for their livings using other honest and

lawful arts, or retained in honest services, have by com-

p. 266


1 One of Sussex's houses was situated near Bermondsey Cross on the south bank of the river, nearly opposite the Tower and about a quarter of a mile east of London Bridge. It was called Bermondsey House, and had been built shortly after the dissolution of the monasteries by Sir Thomas Pope on the site of the old Abbey. Sussex died here in 1583; but prior to this, in 1562, he seems to have been living in a house in Cannon Row, Westminster. Cf. Wheatley, London Past and Present, vol. 1, p. 168.

2 M. S. Steele, Plays and Masques at Court, p. 69. Thomas Blagrave was Clerk in the office of the Revels from 1560 to 1603.

3 E. K. Chambers, The Tudor Revels, p. 63.

4 "Camden notes a growing tendency to luxury about 1574; others trace the change to the coming of the Duke of Alençon in 1581" (Chambers, vol. i, p. 5).


panies learned some Enterludes for some increase to their

profit by other men's pleasures in vacant times of recrea-



Sir Sidney Lee would have us believe that Elizabethan

companies of actors were under the "nominal" patronage

of noblemen; implying that as soon as a company had

persuaded a nobleman to grant them the use of his name

all connexion between patron and player ceased. So far

from this being the case the document I have just quoted

shows that the patron occupied the essential position of

paymaster; and that but for his financial support the

company would have been quite unable to carry on. 2 In

brief, it was the demand at Court for theatrical entertain-

ments that brought the companies into existence, and so

it was naturally the courtiers themselves who had to foot

the bill for their maintenance by "retaining them in

their services."

In 1580, as stated above,Lord Oxford took over Warwick's

Company. We do not know the exact date, but it must

have been after January lst, 1580, because on that date the

company performed The Four Sons of Fabius at Court and

are shown as still under the patronage of Warwick. By

April the transfer was complete, because on the 13th of

that month "Robert Leveson and Larrance Dutton,

servants of the Earl of Oxford," were committed to the

Marshalsea for frays committed upon certain Gentlemen

of the Inns of Court three days before at the Theatre.

We know that these two men were actors because two

brothers, Lawrence and John Dutton, had been transferred

to Oxford's service with the rest of Warwick's Company.3

We next hear of Oxford's men on tour. On June 21st

John Hatcher, Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge University,

wrote to Lord Burghley:


My bounden duty remembered with most humble and

p. 267


1 Chambers, vol. iv, p. 300.

2 It must be understood that I am talking of a time before the days of Henslowe and Burbage, when the position was considerably altered.

3 Chambers, vol. ii, p. 99.

hearty recommendations. Where it hath pleased your

Honour to commend unto me and the heads of the University

my Lord of Oxford his players, that they might show their

cunning in certain plays already practised by them before

the Queen's Majesty: I did speedily counsel with the

heads and others, viz., Dr. Styll, Dr. Howland, Dr. Binge,

Dr. Legge, etc. And considering and pondering that the

seed, the cause, and the fear of the pestilence is not yet

vanished and gone this hot time of the year, this Mid-

summer Fair time having confluence out of all countries

as well of infected as not: the commencement time at

hand which requireth rather diligence in study than dis-

soluteness in plays: and also of late we denied the like to

the Right Honourable the Lord of Leicester his servants:

and specially for that all assemblies in open places be

expressly forbidden in this University and town, or within

five miles compass by Her Majesty's Council's letter

30th October 1575. Our trust is that your Honour, our

most dear loving Chancellor, will take our answer made

unto them in good part; and being willing to impart

something from the liberality of the University to them,

I could not obtain sufficient assent thereto, and therefore

I delivered them but twenty shillings toward their charges.

Also they brought letters from the Right Honourable

the Lord Chancellor and the Right Honourable the Lord

of Sussex to the Vice Chancellors of Cambridge and Oxford.

I trust their Honours will accept our answer. Thus

leaving to trouble your Honour any longer with my rude

writing, I take my leave. Cambridge, the 21st of June


Your Lordship's humble and unworthy deputy,



In 1580 Richard Farrant (Master of the Children of

Windsor) and William Hunnis (Master of the Children of

the Chapel Royal) first conceived the idea of a theatre

open to the public on payment where the Choir Boys

could be rehearsed before appearing at Court. They

selected a room in the old Blackfriars Convent, in which

building the Office of the Revels had been established

since 1550. Farrant died later in the year, but Hunnis

p. 268


1 S.P. Dom., 139. 26.

continued the experiment till 1583, when he sold his

lease to Henry Evans. The latter shortly afterwards

transferred it to Lord Oxford, who in turn passed it on

to his secretary and actor manager John Lyly. Sir

Edmund Chambers remarks that:


doubtless Hunnis, Lyly, and Evans were all working

together under the Earl's patronage, for a company under

Oxford's name was taken to Court by Lyly in the winter

of 1583-4, and by Evans in the winter of 1584-5, and it

seems pretty clear that in 1583-4 at any rate it was made

up of boys from the Chapel and Paul's.1


Lyly subsequently sold the lease to Signor Roco Bonetti,

the fashionable Italian fencing master. It was here that

the latter established his famous school to which the Court

gallants flocked to learn the "art of defence." It is

curious that just about this time Lord Oxford seems to

have had a quarrel with Bonetti, though its cause does

not transpire. 2 Students of Shakespeare will remember

that the Italian's fantastic fencing terms are ridiculed in

Romeo and Juliet (Act II, Scene iv.):


MER. Ah! the immortal passado! the punto reverse! the hay!

BEN. The what ?

MER. The pox of such antick, lisping, affecting fantasticoes! These new tuners of accents! 3


Lord Oxford's Company of Choir Boys was quite dis-

tinct from the adult troupe that he had acquired from

the Earl of Warwick, though it is possible that they may

sometimes have worked together. But their tenancy at

Blackfriars was a short one, for in 1584 Sir William More

recovered possession of his property. It is interesting to

find Lord Oxford so closely connected with the founding

of the first theatre in England.


Lord Oxford's adult company can be traced in the pro-

vinces from 1581 to 1590, but after 1584: they do not

appear by the records to have acted at Court. The reason

p. 269


1 Chambers, vol. iv, p. 497.

2 Cal. S.P. Foreign, April 16th-26th, 1583.

3 Cf. J. Q. Adams, Shakespearean Playhouses, p. 195.

for this, I suggest, can be found in the appearance of a

new company, called the Queen's Men, in 1583.

This new company had been raised, no doubt at the

Queen's instigation, by Edmund Tilney, 1 the Master of

the Revels. On March 10th, 1583, he had been sum-

moned to Court by a letter from Sir Francis Walsingham,

the Principal Secretary, in order "to choose out a com-

pany of players for Her Majesty." 2 Stow, in his Annals,

under date 1583, gives us the following information:


Comedians and stage players of former times were very

poor and ignorant, in respect of these of this time, but

being now grown very skilful and exquisite actors for all

matters, they were entertained into the service of diverse

great Lords, out of which companies there were twelve

of the best chosen, and at the request of Sir Francis

Walsingham they were sworn to the Queen's servants,

and were allowed wages and liveries as Grooms of the

Chamber: and until this year 1583 the Queen had no

players. Amongst these twelve players there were two

rare men, viz., Thomas Wilton, for a quick, delicate, re-

fined, extemporal wit: and Richard Tarleton, for a

wondrous plentiful, pleasant, extemporal wit, he was the

wonder of his time; he lieth buried in Shoreditch Church.


This brief notice by Stow is perhaps more interesting

than appears at first sight. The Queen, we know, took

great delight in plays and masques, and it is natural to

suppose that it was at her instigation that the company

was started. It is probable that she was dissatisfied at

the inferior standard of entertainment provided in the

past, and was determined to raise the status of actors

appearing at Court by ranking them with Grooms of the


p. 270


1 Edmund Tilney (born before 1554; died 1610) was a second cousin of Charles Lord Howard of Effingham, both men having a common great-grandfather in Hugh Tilney, whose daughter, Agnes Tilney, was Lord Howard's grandmother. He was also connected with Lord Oxford, Lord Howard's aunt, Anne Howard (daughter of the 2nd Duke of Norfolk by Agnes Tilney) having married the 14th Earl of Oxford. Tilney was Master of the Revels from 1579 to 1610.

2 Chambers, Tudor Revels, p. 62.

The twelve actors chosen for the Queen's company were

Robert Wilson, John Dutton, Richard Tarleton, John

Laneham, John Bentley, Thobye Mylles, John Towne,

John Synger, Leonell Cooke, John Garland, John Adams,

and Wyllyam Johnson. They were licensed on Novem-

ber 28th, 1583, by the City Authorities to play at the

Bull in Bishopsgate Street and the Bell in Gratious Street. 1

Three of them- Wilson, Laneham, and Johnson -came

from Leicester's company, and one - Adams -from

Sussex's. John Dutton, as we have seen, was one of

Oxford's men; and his brother, Lawrence, also one of

Oxford's men, must have joined the Queen's Company

later, because in 1591 "Lawrence Dutton and John

Dutton" were payees for "Her Majesty's players and

their company" after a performance at Court. It is

quite possible that some of the remaining seven were also

drafted in from Oxford's. If so, his company, denuded of

their stars, may very well have been relegated to pro-

vincial status pure and simple, which would account for

their ceasing to appear at Court after 1584.

The new Queen's Company made its first appearance at

the beginning of the Court season on December 26th,

1583. On January 1st a performance was given by

Oxford's men; and as John Lyly appears in the Chamber

Accounts as payee for the company on that date there is

every reason to believe, with Sir Edmund Chambers, that

the play acted was Lyly's Campaspe. On March 3rd both

Oxford's and the Queen's men performed; once again

Lyly was payee for Oxford's, and Sir Edmund confidently

conjectures that the play acted was Sapho and Phao.2

Now, it seems unreasonable to suppose that two plays

were presented on this day; the most likely solution,

therefore, would be that the two companies were amal-

gamated and rehearsed by Lord Oxford's private secretary

John Lyly, the author of the play,. No other adult

companies besides these two appeared at Court during

this season.

p. 271


1 Chambers, vol. iv, p. 296.

2 Chambers, vol. iii; pp. 414, 415.

Next season (1584-5) the Queen's was the only adult

company that performed at Court. Two other entertain-

ments only were provided: one by "the children of the

Earl of Oxford," the payee being Henry Evans, and the

play Agamemnon and Ulysses; and the other by "John

Symons and his fellows, servants of the Earl of Oxford,"

who gave a display of vaulting and other activities.1

The fact that Lord Oxford's actors have by this time been

reduced to "children" and "tumblers" looks to me as

if the amalgamation in the preceding March had been

made a permanency; in other words that the Queen's

had absorbed an important adult portion of his company,

that Lyly was lent with them to act as coach, and that

Henry Evans took over from Lyly the juvenile remnants

of Oxford's players, and united them with boys from the

Chapel Royal and Paul's.

But there is still stronger evidence connecting Lyly in

some unofficial capacity with the Queen's company. It

is to be found in three of his letters, written between 1597

and 1600, from which we elicit the following facts:

1. That in 1588, if not earlier, he was "entertained

Her Majesty's servant."

2. That in 1585 the Queen had led him to hope for the

reversion (on Tilney's death) of the Mastership of the

Revels, or the Clerkship of the Tents and Toyles, which

was closely connected with the Revels Office.

3. That he had quite definitely received neither of these

posts by 1601. 2

Now, we know that at least till 1589 Lyly was in Lord

Oxford's service. He is quoted as "payee" for Oxford's

Company in January and March 1584; he is spoken of

as "servant to the Right Honourable the Earl of Oxford"

p. 272


1 Chambers, vol. iv, pp. 101, 160, 161.

2 These letters are printed in extenso by Feuillerat, John Lyly, pp. 554-62; and by Bond, Complete Works of John Lyly, vol. i, pp. 64-71, 378, 390-395. Cf. Chambers, vol. iv, p. 412: "Mr. R. W. Bond bases many conjectures about Lyly's career on a theory that he actually held the post of Clerk Comptroller in the Revels Office, but the known history of the post makes this impossible."

in a legal document dated May 10th, 1587, and in 1589

Gabriel Harvey calls him "the minion secretary." 1 It

is not definitely known how much longer he remained with

Lord Oxford; but I think we may detect a reference to

his discharge in an appeal he addressed to Sir Robert

Cecil, Oxford's brother-in-law, dated January 17th,



Among all the overthwartes of my poor fortunes this is

the greatest, that where I most expected to show my

dutiful affection I am cut off from the means. 2


If this, as I think, refers to his discharge by Lord Oxford,

we may fairly confidently date that event as having taken

place in the early nineties.

Not one of Lyly's biographers has hitherto succeeded

in explaining how he could have been Her Majesty's ser-

vant and Lord Oxford's private secretary at one and the

same time. The simplest solution is surely the one I

have suggested, viz. that when the Queen's Company

absorbed some of Oxford's leading actors Lyly was lent

unofficially as stage manager and coach. If so it would

have been in 1584.

Now in 1585 Thomas Giles, the Master of the Children

of Paul's, was authorised to "take up" fresh Choir Boys.

This, as Mr. Bond says, "may safely be taken as implying

a renewal of their permission to act." If,-then, Lyly was

at this time employed in coaching the Queen's men, what

could be more natural than to suppose that his duties were

extended in similar capacity to the Paul's Boys ? It is

clear that he was closely connected with these boys

because, as Mr. Bond says, "all his plays, except The

Woman in the Moone, are described on their title-pages as

presented by these children." This, moreover, would

completely explain what Gabriel Harvey meant when he

said in 1593 that -


p. 273


1 Chambers, vol. iv, p. 160; Feuillerat, p. 541; Bond, vol. i, p. 28.

2 Feuillerat, p. 552 (in extenso).

[Lyly] hath not played the Vicemaster of Poules, and

the Foolemaster of the Theater for naughtes.1


Considered in this light the vexed question of Lyly's

employment by the Queen becomes perfectly clear and


This would bring both Lord Oxford and his private

secretary into close touch with the Queen's Company, and

brings me to another point in connexion with Lyly's eight

Court Comedies. We may take it as certain that all his

plays were written and acted while he was in Lord Oxford's


The dating of the composition and first performance of Lyly's plays, which bear little or no relation to the dates on which they were published in quarto, is a question upon which opinions differ slightly. The following table gives the dates assigned by Sir Edmund Chambers, M. Feuillerat, and Mr. Bond:


 Play                       Date of composition or first performance  Quarto












Sapho and Phao







bef. Ap. '85



Love's Metamorphosis







bef. Feb. '87








Mother Bombie





Woman in the Moon






And although he had probably left the Earl's

service by 1594 at the latest, and lived for at least another

twelve years, he never wrote another play. This is all the

more curious because the whole of this time he was out of

a job, and was applying to the Queen for the post of Master

of the Revels; so that it is evident that his ceasing to

write plays cannot be attributed to a voluntary severance

of his connexion with the stage. 2 Now, we have it on the

p. 274


1 Grosart, Works of Gabriel Harvey, vol. ii, p. 212. The word "played" and the expression "Foolemaster of the Theater" seem to me to imply unofficial rather than official duties. Harvey, of course, knew perfectly well that officially Lyly was in Lord Oxford's employ -"the minion secretary," as he himself called him in 1589.

2 Mr. Bond (vol. i, p. 78) says: "It is not therefore surprising that between 1595 and 1606 we have practically no new work from Lyly's pen." Personally I think it is surprising-very surprising. Lyly was a professional playwright who was out of a job, and who was repeatedly applying for the Mastership of the Revels. I wonder what Mr. Bond's comment would be if a new play by Lyly were unexpectedly discovered together with proof that it was written in, say, 1600? Would he say it is very curious to find Lyly writing plays in 1600? 

authority of the author of The Arte of English Poesie

in 1589, and of Francis Meres in 1598, that Lord Oxford

was the best writer of comedy at that time. Is it not

possible that Lyly's Court Comedies were really a collabora-

tion between the Earl and his private secretary ?

It may be argued that this is pure hypothesis, and that

no evidence exists to prove such a collaboration. But this

is not the case. There are six definite reasons for sup-

posing that Lord Oxford had more than a sleeping partner's

interest in the Lyly comedies.

1. Mr. Bond makes the following comment in a note on

Act I. scene 1 of Sapho and Phao:


At the Ferry: the ferry and the passage of Venus is
from Aelian, Var. Hist. xii. 18. Lyly, in transferring it
from Mitylene to Syracuse, may have had no thought of
topography; yet this mention of a river, a passage of some
distance, the possibility of meeting with rough weather,
and further the making Pandion send his boy "about by
land," would all correspond accurately with a ferry con-
ceived as running from somewhere near the mouth of the
Anapus on the west side of the Great Harbour across to the
promontory of Ortygia, on which the oldest part of Syra-
cuse was built.1


We know, of course, that Lyly had never been to Sicily,
so we must assume that he received his information from
some returned traveller. May not this returned traveller
have been Lord Oxford, who can be definitely located at
Palermo in 1575 or 1576? 2 Since Sapho and Phao was
unquestionably written, acted, and printed while Lyly
was Lord Oxford's private secretary, this seems to me to
be the clearest possible indication that collaboration of
some kind did actually take place between the two men.
2. The well-known lyrics which are to be found in Lyly's

p. 275


1 Bond, vol. ii, p. 555.

2 See p. 111, ante.

plays provide an interesting problem. They are the only

poems by him which have come down to us. None of

them were printed in the quarto editions of the plays,1

and they were not published until Blount brought out the

first collected edition called Sixe Court Comedies in 1632-

that is to say, twenty-six and twenty-eight years after the

deaths of Lyly and Oxford respectively. If Lyly had

written them why did he refrain from publishing them

during his lifetime ? They would surely have helped

rather than have hindered his sales. Personally I think

he did not publish them for the simple reason that they

were not his to publish.2 They are universally admitted

to be of the highest standard; and I suggest that the

author was Lyly's employer, who, as Webbe said in 1586,

"in the rare devices of poetry may challenge to himself

the title of the best among the rest."

3. The allegorical character of many of Lyly's plays

seems to me totally out of keeping with his social position.

Critics tell us with a confidence that does not admit of

argument that Sapho and Phao was a scarcely veiled

allegory in which the two lovers- Sapho and Phao -

represent Queen Elizabeth and the Duc d'Anjou. Mr.

Bond, having traced the classical sources of the play,

makes the following remarks:


This medley of classical suggestion is made to serve the

author's main purpose of flattering the Queen by an

allegorical representation of the relations between herself

and her suitor the Duc d'Alençon 3 . . . . It is to this under-

lying allegory, clearly alluded to in the Prologue at Court,

and the Epilogue, especially in the words about "the

necessitie of the hystorie" and the comparison of the whole

inconclusive story to the mazes of a labyrinth, that the

p. 276


1 Except two which appear, evidently unintentionally, as part of the dialogue in the Woman in the Moon.

2 Dr. W. W. Greg, Modern Language Review, October 1905, argues against Lyly's authorship of these lyrics.

3 The Duc d'Alençon had been created Duc d'Anjou in 1576, and it was therefore under the latter title that he came to England as Elizabeth's suitor in 1581.

changes made in the classical myth of Sapho are chiefly

due. Hence the representation of her as Queen with a

Court, and the suppression, surprisingly and needlessly

thorough, of her poetic fame and functions: hence the

striking beauty and majesty of person with which she

is dowered, whereas Ovid represents her as of dark com-

plexion and short stature: hence the initiation of Phao

to her Court, her struggle against her passion and final

conquest of it; while her secure assumption at the close

of the prerogatives of Venus and the person of Cupid are

in the happiest vein of courtly flattery. The distress and

perplexities of Phao, and his departure from Sicily at the

call of other destinies, are quite in keeping with the facts

of Alençon's courtship; nor need the marked ugliness of

the Duke disqualify him for the part. Elizabeth had

declared in 1579 that "she had never seen a man who had

pleased her so well, never one whom she could so willingly

make her husband" (Froude, vol. Xi, p. 155). And the

courtly poet saw and seized his opportunity in the tale

that Love herself had made Phao beautiful.1


Is it conceivable that a man in Lyly's position would

have dared, on his own initiative and without any support,

even to write, let alone present before Her Majesty, an

allegorical play such as this ? M. Feuillerat is emphatically

of opinion that it would have been impossible for him to

have done such a thing:


Comment peut-on admettre qu'un dramatiste ait été

assez audacieux pour mettre à la scène les sentiments les

plus intimes les plus secrets de la reine ? 2


This seems to me unanswerable. But what also seems

unanswerable is that it is just the very thing that Lord

Oxford might have done. We have seen how strongly

he supported the French match; and we know that

his great friend Lord Sussex had addressed a letter on

August 26th, 1578, to Her Majesty urging her to marry

Anjou. Is it not highly probable, that Sapho and Phao,

which was acted (vide Chambers) by Oxford's own company,

p. 277


1 Bond, vol. ii, p. 366.

2 Feuillerat, p. 148.

was his share in the campaign led by Sussex for promoting

the Anjou marriage? 1 This does not necessarily mean

that Lord Oxford wrote the play himself; a collaboration

between him and Lyly seems most likely.

4. All the quartos of Lyly's plays were published

anonymously. This is most odd if we are to understand

that Lyly himself was the sole author, and had connived

at the publication. It is well-nigh impossible to believe

that a professional playwright, who was hoping to be

appointed to the Mastership of the Revels, should have

objected to having his name printed on the title-pages of

his own plays. But if he could not claim them as entirely

his own the matter becomes quite different. Equally

incomprehensible is the hypothesis that the quartos were

"pirated" and published against Lyly's wishes. As

Lord Oxford's private secretary he would not lack the

means of bringing influence to bear against the action of

piratical publishers. Are we to understand that he calmly

allowed his plays to be purloined one by one without so

much as raising a protesting murmur ‘? This, anyhow, was

not the case with Sapho as the following entry in the

Stationers' Register proves:


6to Aprilis 1584. Thomas cadman Lyllye it is granted

unto him yat yf he gett ye commedie of Sapho laufully

alowed vnto him. Then none of this cumpanie shall

Interrupt him to enjoye it. 2


The mention of Lyly by name shows that this was not a

piratical venture, and that Lyly himself was concerned in

the publication. Surely these anonymous quartos only

become comprehensible if we recognise that the plays were

p. 278


1 I am aware, of course, that Sir Edmund Chambers dates the performance of Sapho two years after Anjou's departure from England, but this latter event by no means meant that a definite rupture in the marriage negotiations had taken place. As long as he remained alive-and he did not die till June 10th, 1584- there was always the chance that the Queen would once more change her mind. Bond and Feuillerat, moreover, date the composition of the play in 1581 and 1582 respectively.

2 Arber, Stationers' Register, vol. ii, p. 430.

a collaboration, and that Lord Oxford, for personal reasons,

preferred them to be brought out anonymously.

5. If we are to assume that Lyly, alone and unaided,

wrote, produced, and printed allegories like Sapho and

Endimion, what explanation can we offer for their passing

the rigid censorship ? Tilney's commission to censor all

plays was dated 1581. Does anyone imagine for a moment

that if a professional playwright like Lyly had submitted

a play like Sapho to Tilney, he would have authorised its

acting and publication? It is surely out of the question

that any censor would have dared to pass any play con-

taining obvious allusions to the Queen's love affairs.

But if we substitute the Lord Great Chamberlain of

England for the professional playwright all difficulties


6. In Pierce's Supererogation (1593) Gabriel Harvey

makes the following enigmatic reference to Lyly:


Himself a mad lad as ever twang'd; never troubled

with any substance of wit, or circumstance of honesty;

sometime the fiddlestick of Oxford, now the very babble

of London.


It is perhaps a moot point whether by "Oxford"

Harvey meant the University or the Earl. But if, as

I think, he intended the latter-he may even have had in

mind a double entendre- its significance at once becomes

apparent. Surely the interpretation is that Lyly was

at one time the passive instrument employed by Lord

Oxford to play his tunes.

Indeed, the more one thinks it over the more one is

obliged to confess that Lyly recedes further into the

background, and Lord Oxford appears in greater promi-

nence. Nevertheless, in the article on Lyly, which occupies

over two pages in the Encyclopaedia Britannica, Lord Oxford

is not mentioned ! Incredible as this may seem it is really

scarcely more than typical of the treatment the Earl has

received at the hands of historians and literary critics.

I do not propose for the moment to disentangle the ins

and outs of Lord Oxford's actors from 1590 onwards;

p. 279

but a brief retrospect may be permitted. That he had

an adult company which acted provincially throughout

the eighties is certain. That they occupied the Blackfriars

Theatre in 1580 and again in 1583-4 is also certain.

That he had another company consisting, according to Sir

Edmund Chambers, of Choir Boys working at Court and

at the Blackfriars Theatre under Lyly, Hunnis, and Evans

may be taken as equally certain. Finally, there is little

doubt that the Earl himself collaborated in the writing

and production of Lyly's Court Comedies; and that from

1585 onwards Lyly was lent by him to assist in staging the

entertainments provided at Court by the Choir Boys, and,

probably, by the Queen's Company as well.


Let us now return to the point from which this digression

about the Earl of Oxford's actors started. Why did he

receive £1,000 a year from the Queen in 1586 ?

In the first place, we must remember that in court

social circles the majority would have deemed it a terrible

disgrace for a great nobleman to write, produce, and pub-

lish plays. 1 But there were two people at Court who quite

emphatically did not belong to this unenlightened majority.

The first was the Queen. Her attitude towards actors

admits of no dispute. Had she despised them we should

have had a very different story to tell. How many "noble-

men's companies" should we have found springing up ?

Is it likely that she herself would have ordered a company

to be picked for her especial patronage, and have advanced

her players socially to the rank of Grooms of the Chamber ?

The other was Lord Oxford. From the very beginning

his interests had centred round literature, poetry, and the

drama. His "1er friends" were the despair of Lord

Burghley. Even a man like Gabriel Harvey thought he

had overstepped the mark in allowing the "paltry pen"

to become an obsession.

There can be no two opinions that in this matter he

and the Queen saw eye to eye. Moreover, she would

p. 280


1 This, of course, does not apply to masques, which were really private theatricals; or to translations, especially from the classics.

have had no illusions as to the financial aspect of what we,

in the twentieth century, might be inclined to think was

an inexpensive hobby. She knew quite well that tene-

ments in the Savoy or elsewhere for servants like Lyly,

Munday, and Evans cost money. She knew, no doubt,

that in 1584 the Earl had granted Lyly land to the annual

value of £30 133. 4d. "in consideration of the good and

faithful service that the said John Lyly hath heretofore

done unto the said Earl" 1; and that in the same year

Lord Oxford had given his lease of the Blackfriars Theatre

to his private secretary. Nor need we suppose that

Henry Evans, Munday, Greene, and others were giving

their services and dedicating their books to him for nothing.

She was fully aware that companies of actors, no less than

companies of foot-soldiers, required food, clothes, shelter,

and pay. We need not doubt that by some means she

would have been informed that by 1583 Lord Oxford's

financial position had become so straitened that he was

only maintaining a personal household of four servants.

And, most important of all, she knew far better than we

do now the why and the wherefore of his many sales of

land between 1580 and 1585.

This latter consideration receives remarkable confirma-

tion in a letter Lord Oxford wrote many years afterwards

to his brother-in-law, Sir Robert Cecil. He was appealing

for Cecil's help to obtain for him the post of President of

Wales, and advances the following reason in support of

the justness of his claim for the Queen's consideration:


But if Her Majesty, in regard of my youth, time, and

fortune spent in her Court, and her favours and promises

which drew me on without any mistrust the more to presume

in mine own expenses, confer so good a turn to me, that

then you may further it as you may.2


Surely the only possible interpretation of the sentence

I have italicised is that in some way Lord Oxford in his

p. 281


1 Feuillerat, p. 536.

2 See p. 335, post.

courtier days had been spending his money on behalf of

the Queen rather than himself, and that she in return had

promised that he would not be the loser thereby.

What did he spend this money on? and what did he

do in return for his £1,000 a year ?

He certainly did none of the things we might have

expected. He did not serve her as a Minister, as a Privy

Councillor, as an Ambassador, or as a Soldier. But in a

less obvious respect he undoubtedly did serve her. He

was instrumental, by means of his brain, his servants,

and his purse in providing the Court with dramatic


Elizabeth, we may be sure, was fully alive to the import-

ance of masques and similar entertainments in promoting

the well-being of the Court. A well-organised recreation

department was as essential to herself and her courtiers as a

plentifully supplied supper-table. There can be no doubt

that a great part of the winter evening diversions during

the early eighties had emanated from Lord Oxford and Lyly.

She would very naturally be unwilling to allow so valuable

a courtier to go bankrupt and be compelled to leave the

Court just for lack of means to maintain his position.

I do not for a moment mean to suggest that the Earl of

Oxford had been selling land at the rate of something like

a dozen estates a year simply and solely in order to maintain

one or more companies of actors. Such an idea would be

absurd. He had beyond all doubt been a spendthrift.

His foreign tour had cost him about £5,000, and he must

have lost nearly as much in the Frobisher speculations.

But looked at from the Queen's point of view, the plain

fact was that by 1586 she was in imminent danger of losing

the services of one who, both directly and indirectly, had

been and still was the chief agent in providing the winter

entertainments. Had he been a person of no consequence

to her is it likely that she would have given him an annuity

of £1,000 a year?

Anyway, I imagine she got her money's worth-she

usually did.


p. 282



1587 -1588


"Were't aught to me I bore the canopy,

With my extern the outward honouring ?"

Sonnet No. CXXV.




TOWARDS the close of 1586 two events overshadowed

everything else. On September 22nd Sir Philip Sidney

was mortally wounded at the battle of Zutphen; and on

September 27th the Commissioners for the trial of Mary

Queen of Scots, among whom was Lord Oxford, were

assembled at Westminster.

Sidney's death was a national catastrophe. At the

early age of thirty-two one of the most promising lives in

England was abruptly cut short. His accomplishments

were as varied as they were graceful- soldier, scholar,

courtier, poet, diplomat; whatever he turned his hand to

prospered, until he had become the admiration not only

of England but of the whole of Europe as well.

It is not easy to form an exact estimate of the relations

between Sidney and Oxford. No correspondence between

them exists; indeed very little correspondence by either

of them, other than official or business communications,

has been handed down to us. But the fact that throughout

the seventies and eighties they were universally recognised

by their contemporaries as the two leading poets in the

country establishes between them a close and intimate


Their lives, however, ran curiously at cross purposes.

We met them first in early youth- when Oxford was

twenty-one and Sidney seventeen -as rivals for the hand

of Anne Cecil. In the field of literature this rivalry was

continued, Oxford being the leader of the Euphuists,

p. 283

while Sidney was head of the Romanticists. At Court

their interests met and clashed over the Anjou marriage;

and on active service they appear as rivals for the last

time, when Sidney and Leicester superseded the Earl

in the Low Countries. It would be wrong, however, to

exaggerate the importance of these incidents, and to argue

therefrom that throughout their lives they were hostile

to each other. Both were quick-tempered, proud, and

inclined to be arrogant; but it is usually the case that

men whose tempers flare up suddenly under the slightest

provocation are least inclined to sulk or bear ill-will.

Moreover, the mere fact of their long rivalry surely

argues that fundamentally they held the same ideals.

Both were endued with a patriotic desire to serve

their country on the field of battle, and Her Majesty

did not possess throughout the length and breadth of the

land two more loyal or devoted subjects. Both had

travelled to France, Germany, and Italy, and had come

back to England exhilarated by the wonders of the Renais-

sance. Both were intensely keen on literature, poetry,

and the kindred arts.

It has become an accepted rule among modern historians

to paint Sidney white and Oxford black. This attitude,

although not justified, is quite comprehensible when we

recognise that most writers' knowledge of Lord Oxford

is confined to the episode known as the Tennis-court

Quarrel. But when we call on the Elizabethans to tell

us the stories of these two men we hear a very different

version. In the Great Queen's heart there was room for

both the Earl of Oxford and Sir Philip Sidney; surely,

then, there should be room for them both in the pages

of England's story?

Within two days of Sidney's death Mary Queen of

Scots was brought to trial before a court consisting of

twenty-five English peers. She was condemned to death

and was executed at Fotheringay on February 8th, 1587.

Thus passed out of the page of history two famous figures:

one, the idol of England and the hope of Protestant Europe;

p. 284

the other an exiled Catholic Queen, whose chief misfortune

perhaps was the heritage of her birth.

Although the reconciliation between Lord Oxford and

his wife had taken place some years before, the old fires

of suspicion and mistrust were still smouldering and

ready to break into flame at any moment. It was after

one of these unhappy occasions that Lord Burghley opened

his heart in the following tragic letter to Sir Francis



Sir, Although I am sure that you will not omit any

convenient time to move Her Majesty to assent that Her

Majesty's gift to my Lord of Oxford of Edward Jones'

land and goods might be perfected; yet I was so vexed

yesternight very late by some grievous sight of my poor

daughter's affliction whom her husband had in the after-

noon so troubled with words of reproach of me to her-

as though I had no care of him as I had to please others

(naming Sir Walter Ralegh and my Lord of Cumberland

whose books I had speedily solicited to pass) -as she spent

all the evening in dolour and weeping. And though I

did as much as I could comfort her with hope; yet she,

being as she is great with child, and continually afflicted

to behold the misery of her husband and of his children,

to whom he will not leave a farthing of land; for this

purpose I cannot forbear to renew this pitiful cause,

praying you to take some time to have Her Majesty's

resolute answer.


Then follow some business details which need not

concern us here; and the letter concludes:


No enemy I have can envy me this match; for thereby

neither honour nor land nor goods shall come to their

children; for whom, being three already to be kept and a

fourth like to follow, I am only at charge even with sundry

families in sundry places for their sustenance. But if

their father was of that good nature as to be thankful for

the same I would be less grieved with the burden. And so

I will end this uncomfortable matter this 5th of May 1587.

Your most assured,



p. 285


1 S.P. Dom. Eliz., 201. 5.

Walsingham was successful in obtaining the Queen's

consent,1 and on May 13th Burghley acknowledges his



I heartily thank you [he writes] for your care had

of my Lord of Oxford's cause; wishing his own case was

the like to convert Her Majesty's goodness to his own

benefit, and in some part for his children. . . . When the form

is agreed to I must pray you that my Lord of Oxford may

perceive that the making of the books may be directed

from you, as by Her Majesty's order to Master Attorney.

For anything directed by me is sure of his lewd friends, who

still rule him by flatteries. 2


The "lewd friends" were presumably the Earl's literary

and dramatic associates, whose Bohemian manner of life

was most distasteful to the Lord Treasurer.

A fortnight later, on May 26th, the Countess gave birth

to a daughter, Susan Vere, who afterwards married Philip

Herbert, Earl of Montgomery and Pembroke.

On September 12th Lady Frances Vere, one of their

elder daughters, was buried at Edmonton.3 She must

have been quite a child, and nothing else is known of her.


Lord Oxford was evidently still holding Burghley

responsible for his failure to obtain some preferment at

Court. His father-in-law hotly denies this:


You seem to infer [he writes] that the lack of your

preferment cometh of me, for that you could never hear

of any way prepared for your preferment. My Lord, for

a direct answer, I affirm for a truth- and it to be well

proved -that your Lordship mistaketh my power. How-

soever, you say that I manage the affairs, the trouble

whereof is laid upon me; but I have no power to do

myself or any kin or friend any good, but rather impeached,

yea crossed; which I am taught these many years

patiently to endure, yea, to conceal.

p. 286


1 Lansdowne MSS., 53. 48.

2 S.P. Dom. Eliz., 201. 16.

3 All Saints' Parish Register. In the History of Edmonton (Robinson) it is conjectured that she may have died at Pymmes, one of Lord Burghley's country residences.

Secondly, that there have been no ways prepared for

your preferment I do utterly deny, and can particularly

make it manifest, by testimony of Councillors, how often

I have propounded ways to prefer your services. But

Why these could not take place, I must not particularly

set them down in writing, lest either I discover the hinderers

or offend yourself, in showing the allegations to impeach

your Lordship from such preferments. . . .1


This last paragraph is interesting, for Lord Oxford had

never been without enemies both open and secret. We

could have wished Burghley had told us who these were;

but in the absence of direct information we may hazard

the guess that they numbered among them Sir Christopher

Hatton and Lord Henry Howard.

The Countess of Oxford did not long survive the birth

of her youngest daughter; for on June 5th, 1588, she died

of a fever in the Royal Palace at Greenwich. The following

notice of her funeral is taken from a manuscript by Sir

William Dethicke, Garter King at Arms: 2


She was interred in Westminster Abbey on June 25th,

attended by many persons of great quality and honour.

The chief mourner was the Countess of Lincoln, supported

by the Lords Windsor and Darcy, and her train borne

by the Lady Stafford; and among other mourners at

her funeral were the Ladies Russel, Elizabeth Vere,

Willoughby, sister to the Earl of Oxford, Cobham, Lumley,

Hunsdon, Cecil, wife to Sir Thomas Cecil. Six bannerets

were borne by Michael Stanhope, Edward Wotton, Anthony

Cooke, William Cecil, John Vere and Richard Cecil.


A sad note is struck in the foregoing account of Lady

Oxford's funeral by the absence of any mention of her

husband's name. The old suspicions sown by Lord Henry

Howard's scandalous gossip in 1575 had never- it would

seem -been thoroughly rooted out, although partial

reconciliations between Oxford on the one hand and his

father-in-law and wife on the other were continually

taking place. The tragedy of estrangement is not the

p. 287


1 Lansdowne MSS., 103. 38 (December 15th, 1587).

2 Bibliographica Britannica, vol. vi, part i, p. 4031.

less tragical, because it is so common; and we feel that we

are here in touch with one of those "old, unhappy, far-off

things," which it were futile to discuss but none the less

impossible to pass over without at least a momentary

tribute of regret and sympathy.

It will be fitting to close this section by quoting a few

lines from an elegy "written upon the death of the right

honourable Lady Anne Countess of Oxford" by Wilfred


For modesty a chaste Penelope,

Another Grissel for her patience,

Such patience as few but she can use,

Her Christian zeal unto the highest God,

Her humble duty to her worthy Queen,

Her reverence unto her aged Sire,

Her faithful love unto her noble Lord,

Her friendliness to those of equal state,

Her readiness to help the needy soul,

His worthy volume had been altered,

And filled with the praises of our Anne,

Who as she liv'd an Angel on the earth,

So like an Angel she doth sit on high,

On his right hand who gave her angel's shape.

Thrice happy womb wherein such seed was bred,

And happy father of so good a child,

And happy husband of so true a wife,

And happy earth for such a virtuous Wight,

But happy she thus happily to die.

And now fair Dames cast off your mourning weeds,

Lament no more as though that she were dead,

For like a star she shineth in the skies,

And lends you light to follow her in life. 1




The story of His Most Catholic Majesty's Invincible

Armada has been told so often and so well that only the

briefest outline will be necessary here.

When Queen Elizabeth declared war on Spain in the

autumn of 1585, and sent an expeditionary force under

Lord Oxford and Colonel John Norris to the Netherlands,

King Philip determined to undertake an invasion of

England. His plan was to send a great fleet up Channel

p. 288


1 Hatfield MSS., 277. 8.

to Gravelines, where it was to join hands with the Spanish

army in the Netherlands under the Duke of Parma; and

from here a landing was to be effected somewhere on the

English coast. The fleet, which was to have sailed from

Spain in 1587, was delayed for various reasons. But in

July 1588 the Armada crossed the Bay of Biscay, and on

the 23rd Sir Francis Drake, with the van of the English

Fleet, was engaging the Spaniards off Portland.

Throughout July elaborate arrangements were being

made in England. The Earl of Leicester was in supreme

command with Norris as his Chief of Staff. The main

army, consisting of 1,000 horse and 22,000 foot, was

encamped at Tilbury. A subsidiary army, consisting

of 2,000 horse and 34,000 foot, for the "protection of Her

Majesty's person," under Lord Hunsdon, was located in

London, while 20,000 men were stationed at central

points along the south coast and at Harwich, to repel

the invaders should a landing be effected.1

The enemy, as we have seen, had been sighted on the

23rd, and for the next few days a running fight had been

carried on up Channel. On the 28th the Spaniards

anchored in Calais harbour. That night the English sent

fire-ships among the enemy vessels, which were once more

driven out into the open sea. The following day the de-

cisive battle was fought and the Spaniards utterly defeated.

Lord Oxford, who, as Camden 2 tells us, had fitted out

a ship at his own expense- possibly the Edward Bona-

venture, for the purchase of which he had been negotiating

in 1581 3 -took part in the fighting during the early days

of the encounter, although he missed the decisive battle,

as is evidenced by the following letter from Leicester to

Walsingham, written from Tilbury Camp on July 28th:


My Lord of Oxford . . . returned again yesterday by me,

with Captain Huntly as his company. It seemed only

his voyage was to have gone to my Lord Admiral; and at

his return thither he went yesternight for his armour and

p. 289


1 Camden, Annals (1675), p. 405.

2 Annals (1675), p. 414.

3 See p. 241, ante.

furniture. If he come, I would know from you what I

should do. I trust he be free to go to the enemy, for he

seems most willing to hazard his life in this quarrel.


Lord Leicester's letter concludes with an amusing

contrast between Oxford's eagerness to fight and the antics

of a certain Sir John Smyth:


Sir, You would laugh to see how Sir John Smyth hath

dealt. Since my coming here he came to me and told me

that his disease so grew upon him as he must needs go to

the baths. I told him I would not be against his health

but he saw what the time was, and what pains he had taken

with his countrymen and that I had provided a good place

for him. The next day he came again, saying little to

my offer then, and seemed desirous for his health to be

gone. I told him what place I did appoint which was a

regiment of a great part of his countrymen. He said

his health was dear to him and desired to take his leave

of me, which I yielded unto. Yesterday being our muster

day he came again to dinner to me, but such foolish and

glorious paradoxes he burst without any cause offered,

as made all that knew anything smile and answer little,

but in sort rather to satisfy men present than to argue

with him. After at the muster he entered again into

such strange tries for ordering of men and for the fight

with weapons as made me think he was not well, and God

forbid he should have charge of men that knoweth so . . .

little as I dare pronounce . . . he doth. I have no more

paper. God keep you. 28th July.

… assured,



Leicester seems to have been under the impression from

his interview with Oxford on the 27th that the latter had

intended to serve at sea under the Lord Admiral throughout

the campaign. For some reason or another he had been

forced to land, perhaps because his ship had been put out

of action. Hence his application to the Commander-in-

Chief for service with the land forces.

His "voyage to the Lord Admiral," as Leicester put it,

had however included some of the heavy fighting which

p. 290


1 S.P. Dom., 213. 55.

occurred during the last week of July between Plymouth

and the South Foreland.

The following ballad- perhaps by John Lyly -giving

an account of the battle, affords a glimpse of the Lord

Admiral and Oxford in action.


When from the Hesperian bounds, with warlike bands,

The vowed foemen of this happy Isle,

With martial men, drawn forth from many lands,

'Gan set their sail, on whom the winds did smile,

  The rumours ran of conquest, war, and spoil,

  And hapless sack of this renowned soil…


Dictimne, wakened by their bitter threats,    [The goddess of war]

Armed with her tools and weapons of defence,

Shaking her lance for inward passion sweats,

Driving the thought of wonted peace from hence,

  And gliding through the circuit of the air

  Unto Eliza's palace did repair.


As when the flames amid the fields of corn,

With hideous noise awake the sleepy swain,

So do her threatenings seldom heard beforne

Revive the warlike Courtiers' hearts again;

  So forth they press, since Pallas was their guide,

  And boldly sail upon the ocean glide.


The Admiral with Lion on his Crest,              [Lord Admiral]

Like to Alcides on the strand of Troy,

Armed at assay to battle is addressed;

The sea that saw his powers waxt calm and coy,

  As when that Neptune with three-forkèd mace

  For Trojans' sake did keep the winds in chase.


De Vere, whose fame and loyalty hath pearst      [Earl of Oxford]

The Tuscan clime, and through the Belgike lands

By wingèd Fame for valour is rehearst,

Like warlike Mars upon the hatches stands.

  His tusked Boar 'gan foam for inward ire,

  While Pallas filled his breast with warlike fire. 1 


p. 291


1 An answer to the untruthes published and printed in Spaine in glorie of their supposed victorie achieved against our English Navie … by I. L. … London 1589. The graphic description of the Earl "standing on the hatches" with the Bear on his helmet "foaming for inward ire" conveys the impression that the ballad was written by someone who actually saw Oxford standing in full armour on the deck of his ship. There could hardly have been a more likely eye-witness than John Lyly, Oxford's private secretary. Lyly always signed his name "Ihon Lyllie," whence no doubt the initials "I. L." of the author of the ballad.

[James or John Lea or Leigh; http://ota.ox.ac.uk

See Nelson, „Oxford and the Spanish Armada: Historical Accounts“.]



As we have seen, Lord Oxford reported himself to

Leicester on the 27th, and on August 1st the latter wrote

as follows to Walsingham acknowledging Her Majesty's

instructions regarding Oxford's employment:


I did, as Her Majesty liked well of, deliver to my Lord

of Oxford her gracious consent of his willingness to serve

her; and for that he was content to serve her among the

foremost as he seemed. She was well pleased that he

should have the government of Harwich, and all those

that are appointed to attend that place-which should be

two thousand men-a place of great trust and of great

danger. My Lord seemed at the first to like well of it.

Afterward he came to me and told me he thought the place

of no service nor credit; and therefore he would to the

Court and understand Her Majesty's further pleasure;

to which I would not be against. But I must desire you-

as I know Her Majesty will also make him know-that it

was good grace to appoint that place to him, having no

more experience than he hath; and then to use the matter

as you shall think good. For my own part being gladder

to be rid of him than to have him, but only to have him

contented; which now I find will be harder than I took

it. And he denieth all his former offers he made to me

rather than not to be seen to be employed at this time. 1


After his experiences at sea Lord Oxford must have

looked upon the offer of the command of a Naval Base as

somewhat of the nature of an anti-climax. He had missed

the dramatic episode of the fire-ships on July 28th and

the decisive battle of the following day. It is perhaps

to this cause that we must attribute the restlessness

amounting almost to insubordination that he exhibited

during his interview with Her Majesty's Commander-in-

Chief. Without question he was a very unsatisfactory

subordinate from the point of view of his superiors, but

so was Lord Nelson, and the reason was probably the same

in both cases. Oxford's views, we may be sure, coincided

very closely with those expressed in Nelson's favourite

p. 292


1 S.P. Dom. Eliz., 214. 1.

Shakespeare quotation from Henry V: "If it be a sin to

covet honour I am the most offending soul alive."

On Sunday, November 24th, the Queen, accompanied

by the Earl of Oxford and the rest of the nobility, went in

a procession to St. Paul's, to give thanks for the great

victory that had at once freed England and temporarily

at least crippled the power of her great adversary. For

nearly twenty years the Spanish menace had hung like a

pall over the people of England, and now, with this

great victory of the English sailors, the bogey of Spanish

supremacy was laid for ever. A tremendous wave of

enthusiasm and rejoicing swept over the country; and the

Queen decreed that on Sunday, November 24th, she would

head a solemn procession to St. Paul's to give thanks to

God for the preservation of the country.

An account of this great occasion has fortunately been

preserved in the form of an anonymous ballad, which is

of interest not only because of its vivid description of the

event, but also because it tells us of the part taken by

Lord Oxford.1 It is entitled "A joyful ballad of the

Royal entrance of Queen Elizabeth into the City of London,

the 24th of November in the thirty-first year of Her

Majesty's reign, to give God praise for the overthrow of

the Spaniards."


Among the wondrous works of God for safeguard of our Queen,

Against the heap of trait'rous foes which have confounded been,

The great and mighty overthrow of Spaniards proud in mind

Have given us all just cause to say the Lord is good and kind…


Our noble Queen and peerless prince did make a straight decree

That through her land a solemn day unto the Lord should be,

To yield all laud and honour high unto His glorious Name

Whose hand upholds our happiness and her triumphant reign…


Therefore to lovely London fair our noble Queen would go,

And at Paul's Cross before her God her thankful heart to show;

Where Prince and people did consent with joyful minds to meet

To glorify the God of Heaven with psalms and voices sweet.


p. 293


1 The ballad was first printed in Life's Little Day, pp. 277-281, by A. M. W. Stirling, and published by Messrs. Thornton Butterworth in 1924.

An hundreth knights and gentlemen did first before her ride,

On gallant fair and stately steeds their servants by their side;

The Aldermen in scarlet gowns did after take their place;

Then rode her Highness' trumpeters sounding before her Grace…


The noble Lord High Chancellor nigh gravely rode in place;

The Archbishop of Canterbury before her Royal Grace.

The Lord Ambassador of France and all his gentlemen

In velvet black among the Lords did take his place as then…


The Lord Marquess of Winchester bare-headed there was seen,

Who bare the sword in comely sort before our noble Queen;

The noble Earl of Oxford then High Chamberlain of England

Rode right before Her Majesty his bonnet in his hand.


Then all her Grace's pensioners on foot did take their place

With their weapons in their hands to guard her Royal Grace;

The Earl of Essex after her did ride the next indeed

Which by a costly silken rein did lead her Grace's steed…


And after by two noblemen along the Church was led,

With a golden canopy carried o'er her head.

The clergy with procession brought her Grace into the choir;

Whereas her Majesty was set the service for to hear.


And afterwards unto Paul's Cross she did directly pass,

There by the Bishop of Salisbury a sermon preached was.

The Earl of Oxford opening then the windows for her Grace

The Children of the Hospital she saw before her face.


Sir William Segar, in his Honor Military and Civil (1602),

also gives an account of "The Queen's Majesty's most

Royal proceeding in State from Somerset Place to Paul's

Church, Ann. 1588."

The Earl Marshal at this time was George Talbot, Earl

of Shrewsbury.1 When we consider the places occupied

by Oxford and Shrewsbury in the Procession, as shown

on the next page, there can be little doubt that they must

have been the "two noblemen" who carried the Golden

Canopy 2 over Her Majesty's head as she walked up the

p. 294


1 Will of George Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury (P.C.C. 86 Drury), proved 1590, in which he styles himself "Earl Marshal of England, KG."

2 Op. Samuel Butler, Shakespeare's Sonnets Reconsidered, ed. 1927, p. 146, quoting Stow, Annals, ed. 1615, p. 750: "She was, under a rich canopy, brought through the long West aisle to her travers in the quire, the clergy singing the Litany."

Nave of St. Paul's and took her seat in the Choir. More-

over, as Earl Marshal and Lord Great Chamberlain they

ranked as the two senior Earls in the realm; and the

only holder of a title higher than that of Earl at [this

time was the Marquess of Winchester, who carried the

Sword of State. It is therefore natural that they should

have been selected to "bear the Canopy" over their

Sovereign on this great and solemn occasion.

In "the List or Roll of all Estates that were in this

Princely Proceeding, according as they were marshalled,"

we read that the Procession ended as follows:



Garter King at Arms

The Mayor of London


A Gentleman Usher of the Privy Chamber

Lord Great Chamberlain of England

Sword borne by the Lord Marquess

Earl Marshal of England


Sergeants at Arms





Her Highness' train borne by the

Marchioness of Winchester


The Palfrey of Honour led by

the Master of the Horse


The chief Lady of Honour


All other Ladies of Honour


The Captain of the Guard

Yeomen of the Guard


Gentlemen Pensioners / Esquires of the State / Footmen


p. 295