Thursday, September 08, 2016

Why I am not an anti-Stratfordian.

The earliest Google search entry for the term “anti-Stratfordian” is a long article, entitled “The Shakespearean Myth”, in Appleton’s Journal of June 1880.  A number of hints strongly suggest that it is in fact the first use of the term.  Not the least of these hints is the fact that the term “anti-Shakespearean” is used three times in the article and “anti-Stratfordian” only once.

The article was written by James Appleton Morgan[1], a popular writer on the subject of Shakespeare Authorship, and presumably related to the Appleton’s who managed the journal.  The article was expanded and released as a book in 1881.  In the book version, “anti-Shakespearean” was used 11 times and “anti-Stratfordian” once.

The earliest listing for the term “anti-Shakespearean” is letter by Richard J. Hinton in the November 17, 1866, number of  another journal under the name of The Round Table.  While the letter mentions Delia Bacon, it is much more about Harrington, a novel by William Douglas O’Conner, in which the title character asserts that Francis Bacon and Sir Walter Raleigh co-wrote the plays of Shakespeare.  The novel (according to Hinton) was written without the knowledge of Delia Bacon’s theory.  The use of “anti-Shakespearean,” in the letter suggests that it had probably been already in general use prior the the letter.

It is not difficult to see the disadvantages of the term “anti-Shakespearean”.  By the 1890s, the moniker “Baconian“ had almost entirely replaced both terms.


Sir Granville George Greenwood’s 1908 volume The Shakespeare Problem Restated being agnostic about who was the true author of the works of Shakespeare, the author reintroduced the term “anti-Stratfordian”.  He was confident that the Stratford man could not be the author but was unable to determine who might actually have written the works.  Thus he was, in the literal sense of the various labels, not a “Baconian,” and certainly not an "anti-Shakespearean" but rather an “anti-Stratfordian”.  Greenwood’s many books and articles on the topic were justifiably the most popular in the popular Shakespeare Authorship debate of the time.  They have aged well into the bargain.

In 1920, Thomas Looney published his "Shakespeare" Identified in Edward De Vere, the Seventeenth Earl of Oxford.   The Baconians had already descended to the point where they depended heavily upon the most extreme claims of secret ciphers (which they themselves could not decipher), purportedly utilized by Francis Bacon, Lord Verulam, and his familiars.  This had become necessary in order to answer otherwise unanswerable historical counter-arguments of their critics.  As the result, they began to be perceived as crackpots.  No such ciphers proved necessary to support the authorship of Edward de Vere (though a few were unwisely adopted by later theorists nevertheless).

The first use of the term “Oxfordian,” according to Google Search, as applied to Shakespeare authorship, appears in the year 1933.  By 1940, the Baconians very much on the wane, and the Oxford theory on the rise, the term “Oxfordian” becomes more common.  Many factors indicate that the authorship question in general, however, had lost its attraction with the general public.

The Shakespeare Authorship debate languished until 1962 when Charlton Ogburn and his mother Dorothy published their Shake-speare: The Man Behind the Name.  Charlton had built a large network of cultural and governmental contacts during his time in the U. S. State Department.  He had already gained many influential converts by the time he published The Mysterious William Shakespeare: The Myth and the Reality, his third book on the subject, in 1984, and those converts had made many more influential converts still.

The watershed moment of the Ogburn effort came in September of 1987 when the briefs for a moot court case ‘in Re “William Shakespeare”’ appeared in The American University Law Review.  The case was heard on November 25th of that year, by sitting Supreme Court Justices William Brennan, Harry Blackmun, and John Paul Stevens.  The event, which took place at the Metropolitan Memorial Methodist Church, in Washington, D.C., was mentioned on the Good Morning America television program guaranteeing an overflow crowd.

The case garnered a meaningful amount of coverage at the time it occurred.  The justices came down on the side of the Stratford man.   That might well have been the end of the matter, as far as academia was concerned, if an 18-page account of the event and the upper crust venues and dramatis personae of the event, simply entitled “The Authorship Question,” hadn’t appeared the next April in The New Yorker magazine.  The article would prove to be orders of magnitude more influential than the moot court case itself.  The Shakespeare academic and theme park industries were in danger of being displaced as the sole legitimate authority over the 300 year old (and highly lucrative) Shakespeare industry.


From 1988 onward, then, traditionalists (i.e. Stratfordians) began to develop a set of strategies and social connections of their own.  The means that proved most effective was also hinted at in James Lardner’s New Yorker piece.   Brief mention was made of the fact that a number of Elizabethan figures had been advanced over the years as the true author of the Shakespeare plays.  The lingering term “anti-Stratfordian” was applied to the supporters of these figures collectively.

Lardner had only mentioned those other figures who might be considered viable candidates.  In the article, it was clear (if unstated) that only the Earl of Oxford, among them, could provide the materials for a strong case. 

The reigning Shakespeare industry did not scruple at such a limitation.  In fact, dozens of ridiculous candidates had been advanced over the decades.  Arguing a socius, the Shakespeare industry rebuffed all questions with the argument that “anti-Stratfordian” arguments were ridiculous.  This amounted to the position that any champion of an alternative candidate must defend themselves from the collective abuses of all alternative candidacies before they were worthy of anything but preemptive derision.  With their own considerable connections, the traditionalists succeeded in establishing the terms of the debate: there were only “Stratfordians” and “anti-Stratfordians”.  Anti-Stratfordians stood responsible to explain how all of "their" candidates could have been Shakespeare at once, how all of the many ridiculous theories could be squared.

An analogy for this would be to make an Evolutionist whose data suggested that Evolutionary theory about the development of the human eye needed to be honed in order to be precisely correct and in accordance with Evolutionary theory, answer for why, “being an obvious anti-Evolutionist,” he or she believed the world was created in 7 days, why he believed in Intelligent Creation, why he believed that ancient aliens had introduced life onto the planet earth, etc.  The reason why this response is unlikely in the realm of science is because it is not at all valid scientific method.  The trope is pure politics and can be found in every hotly contested election in order to prevent actual debate.  Happily the sciences remain functional, introspective and open to new data.  Shakespeare scholarship, on the other hand, again does  not see fit to scruple.

In short, the Stratfordian party, aware of the crippling scarcity of data under which it labors, chose the strategy of filibuster.  All the was not Stratfordian would be required to legitimize the entire anti-Stratfordian universe before (theoretically) being heard.  Failure to meet this demand would be represented to the court of public opinion as yet another unmistakable  sign that “anti-Stratfordians” were prima facia bozos unworthy of a hearing.

I do not imagine that I am the only Oxfordian who rejects the label “anti-Stratfordian”.  But it does seem worth looking at the basis that I reject its new post -1988 co-option as nothing more than a cheap political ploy.  I am “anti” nothing.  The Stratford man is not worth opposing.  He was an unusually successful street hustler and I honor him for his accomplishments in that way.  The times were not easy for a man of his class and limited education.  He clearly had an eye for the main chance and likely spent most of his waking hours pursuing that chance.


  • Check out Virtual Grub Street's English Renaissance Article Index for articles and reviews about this fascinating time and about the Shakespeare Authorship Question.





[1] President of The Shakespeare Society of New York.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Why I am Not an Anti-Stratfordian

The earliest Google search entry for the term “anti-Stratfordian” is a long article, entitled “The Shakespearean Myth”, in Appleton’s Journal of June 1880.  A number of hints strongly suggest that it is in fact the first use of the term.  Not the least of these hints is the fact that the term “anti-Shakespearean” is used three times in the article and “anti-Stratfordian” only once.

The article was written by James Appleton Morgan[1], a popular writer on the subject of Shakespeare Authorship, and presumably related to the Appleton’s who managed the journal.  The article was expanded and released as a book in 1881.  In the book version, “anti-Shakespearean” was used 11 times and “anti-Stratfordian” once.

The earliest listing for the term “anti-Shakespearean” is letter by Richard J. Hinton in the November 17, 1866, number of  another journal under the name of The Round Table.  While the letter mentions Delia Bacon, it is much more about Harrington, a novel by William Douglas O’Conner, in which the title character asserts that Francis Bacon and Sir Walter Raleigh co-wrote the plays of Shakespeare.  The novel (according to Hinton) was written without the knowledge of Delia Bacon’s theory.  The use of “anti-Shakespearean,” in the letter suggests that it had probably been already in general use prior the the letter.

It is not difficult to see the disadvantages of the term “anti-Shakespearean”.  By the 1890s, the moniker “Baconian“ had almost entirely replaced both terms.



Sir Granville George Greenwood’s 1908 volume The Shakespeare Problem Restated being agnostic about who was the true author of the works of Shakespeare, the author reintroduced the term “anti-Stratfordian”.  He was confident that the Stratford man could not be the author but was unable to determine who might actually have written the works.  Thus he was, in the literal sense of the various labels, not a “Baconian,” and certainly not an "anti-Shakespearean" but rather an “anti-Stratfordian”.  Greenwood’s many books and articles on the topic were justifiably the most popular in the popular Shakespeare Authorship debate of the time.  They have aged well into the bargain.

In 1920, Thomas Looney published his "Shakespeare" Identified in Edward De Vere, the Seventeenth Earl of Oxford.   The Baconians had already descended to the point where they depended heavily upon the most extreme claims of secret ciphers (which they themselves could not decipher), purportedly utilized by Francis Bacon, Lord Verulam, and his familiars.  This had become necessary in order to answer otherwise unanswerable historical counter-arguments of their critics.  As the result, they began to be perceived as crackpots.  No such ciphers proved necessary to support the authorship of Edward de Vere (though a few were unwisely adopted by later theorists nevertheless).

The first use of the term “Oxfordian,” according to Google Search, as applied to Shakespeare authorship, appears in the year 1933.  By 1940, the Baconians very much on the wane, and the Oxford theory on the rise, the term “Oxfordian” becomes more common.  Many factors indicate that the authorship question in general, however, had lost its attraction with the general public.


The Shakespeare Authorship debate languished until 1962 when Charlton Ogburn and his mother Dorothy published their Shake-speare: The Man Behind the Name.  Charlton had built a large network of cultural and governmental contacts during his time in the U. S. State Department.  He had already gained many influential converts by the time he published The Mysterious William Shakespeare: The Myth and the Reality, his third book on the subject, in 1984, and those converts had made many more influential converts still.

The watershed moment of the Ogburn effort came in September of 1987 when the briefs for a moot court case ‘in Re “William Shakespeare”’ appeared in The American University Law Review.  The case was heard on November 25th of that year, by sitting Supreme Court Justices William Brennan, Harry Blackmun, and John Paul Stevens.  The event, which took place at the Metropolitan Memorial Methodist Church, in Washington, D.C., was mentioned on the Good Morning America television program guaranteeing an overflow crowd.

The case garnered a meaningful amount of coverage at the time it occurred.  The justices came down on the side of the Stratford man.   That might well have been the end of the matter, as far as academia was concerned, if an 18-page account of the event and the upper crust venues and dramatis personae of the event, simply entitled “The Authorship Question,” hadn’t appeared the next April in The New Yorker magazine.  The article would prove to be orders of magnitude more influential than the moot court case itself.  The Shakespeare academic and theme park industries were in danger of being displaced as the sole legitimate authority over the 300 year old (and highly lucrative) Shakespeare industry.


From 1988 onward, then, traditionalists (i.e. Stratfordians) began to develop a set of strategies and social connections of their own.  The means that proved most effective was also hinted at in James Lardner’s New Yorker piece.   Brief mention was made of the fact that a number of Elizabethan figures had been advanced over the years as the true author of the Shakespeare plays.  The lingering term “anti-Stratfordian” was applied to the supporters of these figures collectively.

Lardner had only mentioned those other figures who might be considered viable candidates.  In the article, it was clear (if unstated) that only the Earl of Oxford, among them, could provide the materials for a strong case. 

The reigning Shakespeare industry did not scruple at such a limitation.  In fact, dozens of ridiculous candidates had been advanced over the decades.  Arguing a socius, the Shakespeare industry rebuffed all questions with the argument that “anti-Stratfordian” arguments were ridiculous.  This amounted to the position that any champion of an alternative candidate must defend themselves from the collective abuses of all alternative candidacies before they were worthy of anything but preemptive derision.  With their own considerable connections, the traditionalists succeeded in establishing the terms of the debate: there were only “Stratfordians” and “anti-Stratfordians”.  Anti-Stratfordians stood responsible to explain how all of "their" candidates could have been Shakespeare at once, how all of the many ridiculous theories could be squared.

An analogy for this would be to make an Evolutionist whose data suggested that Evolutionary theory about the development of the human eye needed to be honed in order to be precisely correct and in accordance with Evolutionary theory, answer for why, “being an obvious anti-Evolutionist,” he or she believed the world was created in 7 days, why he believed in Intelligent Creation, why he believed that ancient aliens had introduced life onto the planet earth, etc.  The reason why this response is unlikely in the realm of science is because it is not at all valid scientific method.  The trope is pure politics and can be found in every hotly contested election in order to prevent actual debate.  Happily the sciences remain functional, introspective and open to new data.  Shakespeare scholarship, on the other hand, again does  not see fit to scruple.

In short, the Stratfordian party, aware of the crippling scarcity of data under which it labors, chose the strategy of filibuster.  All the was not Stratfordian would be required to legitimize the entire anti-Stratfordian universe before (theoretically) being heard.  Failure to meet this demand would be represented to the court of public opinion as yet another unmistakable  sign that “anti-Stratfordians” were prima facia bozos unworthy of a hearing.

I do not imagine that I am the only Oxfordian who rejects the label “anti-Stratfordian”.  But it does seem worth looking at the basis that I reject its new post -1988 co-option as nothing more than a cheap political ploy.  I am “anti” nothing.  The Stratford man is not worth opposing.  He was an unusually successful street hustler and I honor him for his accomplishments in that way.  The times were not easy for a man of his class and limited education.  He clearly had an eye for the main chance and likely spent most of his waking hours pursuing that chance.


  • Check out Virtual Grub Street's English Renaissance Article Index for articles and reviews about this fascinating time and about the Shakespeare Authorship Question.





[1] President of The Shakespeare Society of New York.

Friday, July 08, 2016

A Point of Agreement.

One thing all sides of the authorship issue should surely be able to agree about. The works are phenomenal.  Let's not forget to enjoy them.

A New Variorum Edition of Shakespeare: Othello.A New Variorum Edition of Shakespeare: Othello. by William Shakespeare
My rating: 5 of 5 stars




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Monday, January 25, 2016

Sir Anthony Bacon: a Life in the Shadows.

This selection is taken from AN Historical View OF THE NEGOTIATIONS Between the Courts of England France and Brussels From the Year 1592 to 1617, by Thomas Birch, M.A. F.R.S. And Rector of the United-Parishes of St Margaret-Pattens and St Gabriel-Fenchurch.  The Anna Castle Blog[1] informs us that “Anthony Bacon’s only biographer is Dame Daphne Du Maurier” in her book entitled Golden Lads.  In the course of her research, Du Maurier states that Sir Anthony resided in Southern France for about 1585-89 "and was having too much fun to come home. Until he was charged with sodomy.”  The papers have since remained closed to the public, by all accounts.  There is no reason to believe that the Dame would have fabricated such a story.  There is some circumstantial evidence in papers elsewhere that Bacon did need help to escape some dilemma in 1589-90 and which eventually required intervention by the French king in order that he might leave the country never to return.  There were also rumors, upon his return, about his comportment with his household pages.


Somehow Sir Anthony had the habit of ingratiating himself in circles of the highest historical interest and most questionable mores.  Upon his return from France, he and his more famous brother, Francis, gathered a group of hired '"good pens" to do piece work -- a number known to have served as agents in his friend Sir Francis Walsingham's (who died in April 1590) network of informers -- but they seem to have put much more of their energies toward gaining preferment under the Earl of Essex.  Anthony became secretary to Essex, for a number of years, until the Earl pleaded with the Queen to save him from the man (blackmail is rumored to have been involved). A number of mysteries surrounding the Earl’s infamous rebellion and the Shakespeare Authorship Question seem to reveal Sir Anthony playing roles officially of little importance but regularly having leveraged himself into a participant of some power and influence.  My researches inform me that I likely will have reason to mention him in future work in this regard.

The following explains the close family relationship between the Bacons and the Cecils and something of Sir Anthony’s role in the international relations of the time.  I have yet to find further information on his paintings, which were extant in 1749.

Every bit as fascinating is the respect which Nicholas Bacon’s daughters received for being fluent both in Greek and Latin.  Not only were these very rare accomplishments for noble (much less bourgeois) women of the time, but almost no English men of the time, regardless of rank or education, were well-versed in classical Greek.  An even slightly more common knowledge of the language had to wait until the middle of the 18th century.   

Anthony Bacon, Esq; whose papers have been also of great service to me in this work, and of which there are several volumes in the Lambeth library, besides that in my possession, was son of Sir Nicholas Bacon, Knight, Lord Keeper of the Great Seal of England in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, by his second wife, Anne, one of the daughters of Sir Anthony Cook, a Lady eminent for her skill in the Latin and Greek languages; as was likewise her sister Mildred, the second wife of the Lord Treasurer Burghley.  He was elder brother of the whole blood to Sir Francis Bacon, Lord High Chancellor, to whom he was thought equal in parts, though inferior in the acquisitions of learning and knowledge. He travelled early into foreign countries; for he was at Paris the beginning of the year 1580, and at Geneva in 1581, where he was acquainted with the celebrated Theodore Beza, who speaks of him in very high terms of admiration, in a letter to the Lord Treasurer in December that year. It appears likewise, from his papers, that he was at Bourdeaux, and Montauban, and in other parts of France in the years 1584 and 1586. Upon his return to England, about January 1589-90 he held a correspondence by letters in different countries; by which he received the earliest accounts of what passed there. And tho’ the Lord Treasurer was his uncle, and Sir Robert Cecil, Secretary of State, his cousin-german, yet he attached himself chiefly to Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, who, by his means, carried on a correspondence with the King of Scots, of which there are sufficient evidences among Mr. Bacon's manuscripts in my hands.
*
He was extremely well skilled in all the polite arts, and particularly in that of Painting; several excellent performances of his in the Flemish style, being still preserved at his seat at Gorhambury, near St Albans in Hertfordshire; an estate, which had been settled upon him by his father, and descended upon his death without issue, to his brother, Sir Francis Bacon.



[1] Anna Castle: Mysteries with Heart and Wit.  http://www.annacastle.com/anthony-bacon/

  • Historical inaccuracies in the film Anonymous: #3 When Edward de Vere and Vavasour had their affair, Anne, the Countess of Oxford, was in no position to arrive home to find them together.  Where the two conceived their illegitimate son.  Etc.



Monday, December 07, 2015

Historical inaccuracies in the film Anonymous: #4

The Cecils did not arrange for the Earl of Essex to be sent to Ireland.  William Cecil did not use the occasion to replace Essex on the Privy Council with his son.


In the movie Anonymous, William Cecil and his son Robert have a discussion in which William informs his son that he will arrange for the Earl of Essex to be sent to Ireland.  The aging William has convinced the Queen to send Essex and to introduce Robert into the Privy Council in the Earl’s place.  Soon thereafter, Robert has presumably executed his father’s instructions to arrange for the assassination of Essex and Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford, as both assassinations are attempted and fail.

William Cecil dies soon after.  The Queen attends the funeral where she is informed by Robert Cecil that Essex has hatched a treasonous plan to gain the crown.  She orders that Essex return.

In actual historical fact, the decision to send the Earl of Essex to Ireland was made in early 1599.  The politics of the matter are not certain but Essex himself seems to have embraced the opportunity at martial glory.  It was his favorite means of gaining status and Ireland the only available theater of action.  Had he succeed in bringing Ireland back under English control he would have been the most admired man in England.


William Cecil, towering figure, and closest advisor to the Queen for decades, had already died some six months earlier, in August of 1598.  Robert could not have had Essex recalled then as Essex had yet to be appointed Lord Marshall of Ireland much less led his army to the country. 

There is no historical record of assassination attempts against either the Earl of Essex or of Oxford.  Edward de Vere was, in fact, injured in a street fight, probably around the thigh, but the injury occurred nearly 20 years earlier in an entirely unrelated matter.  The Cecils played no role.

As for William Cecil introducing his son to the attention of the Queen, and suggesting that he replace Essex on the Privy Council, Robert had already been a member of the Privy Council since 1591.  He was further appointed Principal Secretary to the Queen in 1596, roughly the equivalent of the modern Secretary of State.  At that time, William, his father, largely withdrew from active life, unable to perform his duties any longer due to illness and age.  William kept his office of Lord Treasurer though the duties were delegated to his son and his treasury staff.

There is another reason Robert Cecil could not have arranged to have Essex recalled from Ireland.  The foremost charge of insubordination against Essex was that he had returned in direct disobedience of the Queen’s direct order that he remain.  He had requested to return in order to conference directly with the Queen and Council about the conditions in that country and his request had been firmly denied.  He returned anyway.





Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Mermaid Series on Thomas Dekker (Part 4)

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Later in the Mermaid introductory biography we learn that Henslowe paid Dekker (and, in one case, fellow playwright Henry Chettle) for plays with titles associated with Shake-speare:

The year 1599 especially, towards the middle of which The Shoemaker's Holiday was published, must have been a year of immense activity. On the 9th and 16th April, Henslowe records a play by Dekker and Chettle, Troilus and Cressida. On the 2nd of May, a payment of five shillings was made to him, “in earnest of a book called Orestes Furies” and again in the same month there are payments to him and Chettle, for The Tragedy of Agamemnon. In July and August The Stepmother's Tragedy is mentioned;…
Versions of The Tragedy of Agamemnon and The Stepmother's Tragedy (the latter under the title of An history of the crueltie of a Step-mother) were listed in the records of the Court Revels during the late 1570s and the 1580s.  These two titles have long been suspected to have been written by Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford, and rewritten as parts of the Shakespeare plays Cymbeline and Troilus and Cressida. [1]  

Of course, a Troilus and Cressida under the name of Shakespeare began to be spoken of at around the same time that Dekker was paid for a play of the same title.  No manuscript by Dekker of any of these plays has ever been discovered.  No record of any payments to Shakespeare for any plays have been discovered. These coincidences cannot help but raise the question as to whether or not we may have a record of Dekker acting as a front man in dealings with Henslowe.  After all, Dekker arriving with a manuscript and demanding payment does not establish that he ever actually wrote the plays.



Source: Ellis, Havelock and Rhys, Ernest, editors.  The Best Plays of the Old Dramatists: Thomas Dekker.  London: Vizetelli & Co., 1887.


[1]  Endless thanks to Catharine Reed for bringing to my attention that a partial plot summary was made, by the scribe of The Admiral's Men, of the Troilus and Cressida.  This summary has long been understood to be of the Troilus and Cressida for which Henslowe paid Dekker and Chettle.  By all indications, the play is nearly identical with the plot we have of Shake-speare's.  This powerfully supports the thesis that there were not two Troilus and Cressida plays but one and that one delivered to Henslowe by Dekker and Chettle and thereafter attributed to Shake-speare.  For the source see: Henslowe Papers: Being Documents Supplementary to Henslowe's Diary, ed. Walter W. Greg @ 142.  [This note is added 10/8/15]




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Mermaid Series on Thomas Dekker (Part 3)

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Mermaid Series on Thomas Dekker (Part 2)

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Click Here to visit the author's Facebook Group




Mermaid Series on Thomas Dekker (Part 1)

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The following is the text of the introductory biography of the Mermaid Series volume of the "best plays" of Thomas Dekker.  Havelock Ellis's excellent popular series is never less than solid and often surprisingly useful even to scholars.  Dekker's biography is written mainly in his own works.  The Mermaid volume, however, begins by collecting together the little documentary evidence that remains concerning the man.







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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Historical inaccuracies in the film Anonymous: #3

When Edward de Vere and Vavasour had their affair, Anne, the Countess of Oxford, was in no position to arrive home to find them together.  Etc.


In the Shakespeare authorship movie Anonymous, Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford, takes a lover who he calls “Bessie”.  Bessie was the nickname of Anne Vavasour, with whom the Earl did indeed have an affair.  In the movie, Anne, the Countess of Oxford, arrives at one or another Oxford manor, to find Vavasour leaving after a night sleeping together with the Earl.  Vavasour is clearly pregnant.

The Queen is informed.  Edward and Anne Vavasour, his mistress, are arrested and thrown into prison (presumably The Tower).  Vavasour has their child while under arrest.  The day after the delivery, the decision is made to free Edward upon conditions.  He is no longer allowed to attend at Court.  The Baron Burghley — Edward’s father-in-law, the Great Lord Treasurer and closest advisor to the Queen — adds one further condition of his own: Edward is to return to the Countess, his daughter.


In fact, Edward and his Countess had not lived together since he left for a European tour on February 7, 1575.  The reasons he refused to return to her are not clear.  When Edward and Vavasour had their affair, Anne, the Countess of Oxford, was in no position to arrive home to find Edward and his mistress together.  Edward had lived a bachelor’s life at or near the Royal Court between his return from Europe, in April 1576, and March 23rd of 1581, when Vavasour delivered her child.

Anne Vavasour lived continuously at Court in one or another of the Lady-in-Waiting chambers.  For this reason it is highly probable that Edward and she never shared an actual bed on so much as a single occasion during their affair.  The voluminous female dress of the time prevented her pregnancy being detected until the end.  

Between June 26th and July 4th of 1580 — the span within which Anne Vavasour would have conceived if her pregnancy was of the normal length — the Queen and her Court were installed at her favorite country residence, Nonsuch Palace.  The palace sat in the midst of impressively large hunting parks and gardens, even in Royal terms, and was essentially a palatial hunting lodge.  It being a working vacation, the Ladies in Waiting were likely tucked away wherever a bit of space could be found and more or less forgotten when not in attendance.  If their rooms were not sufficiently private to allow trysts (and they likely were not), thousands of acres of woodlands were available for very private romantic walks.

So then, she and Edward were never rousted out of a shared bed, on any of Edward’s estates, to be escorted to The Tower.  They may have had opportunity for sexual intercourse on as few as one occasion, in some private spot in the woodlands surrounding Nonsuch, and surely did not have opportunity with any regularity.  Vavasour delivered her child nine months later, most likely at St. James Palace, where the Court had removed for the session of Parliament of that month, and she and her child were immediately thereafter escorted to The Tower.  Edward went on the lam in order to avoid the same fate.  Once found, he was placed under house arrest.  Upon his release from a brief token stay in The Tower he was indeed forbidden to attend at Court.

Regardless of all (including his powerful father-in-law’s desires), Edward still refused to set up housekeeping with his wife.  The two remained estranged.  In 1582, amidst considerable effort by the Baron Burghley, pleading in his behalf, the Queen declared that there could be no hope of a return to Court unless Edward reconciled with his wife.  By May of 1583, Oxford and his Countess were living together and a son was born to them.  The child died a few days after birth.  In June, after a stormy audience with the Queen, at Burghley’s estate in Greenwich, he was given permission to once again appear at Court.







Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Historical inaccuracies in the film Anonymous: #2

In the movie Anonymous, a rebellious London crowd pours out of The Globe theater, incensed by the suggestive performance of a Shakespeare play, and is cut down by troops of soldiers pre-positioned in order to slaughter them by the evil Robert Cecil.  The director of the movie explains that he intentionally changed the play from Richard II to Richard III in order to highlight that the Earl of Essex’ enemy was Cecil, the Queen’s Principal Secretary, rather than the Queen per se.  Both Cecil and Richard III were hunchbacked.

In fact, the Earl of Essex himself did not precisely know what he intended to accomplish by his rebellion.  He was furious at having lost certain royal monopolies once gifted to him by the Queen, in respect of his acts of insubordination while he commanded the Queen’s troops in Ireland.  His overbearing pride was further wounded to think that the world was watching his loss of prestige.  After his arrest he would claim that he had planned to remove Elizabeth’s evil counselors, not the Queen herself.  But the play his allies had commanded was not Richard III.  London theater goers were not treated to an evil hunchback on the stage but Richard II, a weak monarch with poor judgment in the selection of counselors who was forcibly deposed by nobleman who felt the monarch was not competent to rule.


It might be thought that it was an ally of Essex who commanded the play, and not Essex himself, and therefore he may not have known what had been done in his name.  Yet it is a matter of historical record that the play was publicly acted on more than 40 occasions over an extended period.  The Earl’s own coterie regularly attended the performances.  He could only have known.

At no point, during any of the 40 or so performances, or during the Earl of Essex’s machinations, did the army massacre a single person, commoner or gentleman.  If the army had been commanded to do so, London would have risen against the Queen.  Not because it supported the Earl of Essex but because the city possessed very powerful rights and was quite prepared to defend them even against the monarch.  The genius of Cecil was that he managed the defeat of the rebellion without firing a single shot (not the kind of thing to grip a movie audience).

In part because of the news that Richard II was being played in London for weeks, the Queen and her counsel were working behind the scenes to assure the loyalty of the civil magistrates of London.  The people never rose up in small group or large.  When the moment came that Essex would act, the London watch and strategically placed military units cordoned off the city.  The few citizens that did not immediately obey the order to clear the streets were arrested.  Essex found himself eerily alone.

Realizing that he had failed to gather the least support, and that he would soon be arrested, the Earl returned to Essex House and he and his close supporters resolved to resist.  No preparations had been made for such a step, however, and he lacked gunpowder and other essential supplies.  Soon all saw the wisdom of surrender.  Still, however briefly and foolishly, he had taken up arms in this fashion, against his Queen, and, in light of the fact, was guilty of treason.