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Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Edward de Vere's Memorial For His Son, Who Died at Birth May 1583.

Standard Citation: Purdy, Gilbert Wesley. “Edward de Vere's Memorial 
For His Son, Who Died at Birth May 1583.”Virtual Grub Street. 5 July 2017.
Hedingham Castle, the ancestral
seat of the De Vere family.

We do not know much about Anne de Vere née Cecil, the Countess of Oxford, wife of Edward de Vere.  Even noblewomen generally left little biography behind them.  But some brief introduction is in order before we proceed to the memorial poems she and her husband wrote to mourn the son who may only have lived outside the womb for minutes.

We know that she was the daughter of William Cecil and Mildred Cooke.  Cecil was the First Secretary (sometimes called the Secretary of State), to Queen Elizabeth I, from her ascent to the throne of England until he was created Baron of Burghley and appointed Lord High Treasurer on July 13, 1572.[1]  Upon the death of the Earl of Leicester, in 1588, Burghley became the Queen’s closest friend and adviser.

Mildred Cooke was a wonder of her time.  Her father, Sir Anthony Cooke, had given his five daughters the same education as his sons.  Not only did she know contemporary languages and Latin but she was particularly fluent in Classical Greek.  This some 100 years before England could boast even a small academic community of male scholars in the Greek language.  Acquisition of the language was something of a wonder and a sign of the highest intellectual achievement.

Being born from such distinguished parents the occasional curious fact emerges from one or another document.  From Cecil’s diary we learn that “Litell Tannikyn,” as her father lovingly called her, was born on a Saturday night between the hours of 11 and 12, in the bedroom on the Thames River side of his house at Canon-Row, Westminster.

die Sabati, nocte, intr hora undecima et duodecimo, in domo mea Wesmonast. in cubiculo prox. Thamesi, edidit in partu uxor mea Mildreda.  Int' hor. 3* et 4* post meridie filia que postea die lune baptizata nome suscep. Anna, imponetibus illud Walto Mildmay, milite, Anna Comit Pembrok, Anna Dona Petre.[2]

She was baptized the following Monday.  Sir Walter Mildmay, her father’s closest friend at the time, stood as god father.  Anna, the Countess of Pembroke, stood as god mother.  It is said that, while Tannikyn lived, she was her father’s favorite child.

William Cecil surely thought he was establishing his beloved daughter for a long life as matron over one of the most prestigious and wealthy families in England when he arranged for her to marry Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford.  The nuptials were celebrated on December 19, 1571, in a grand ceremony at Westminster Cathedral.  The reception was held at Cecil’s grand estate at Theobalds.  It hosted the Queen herself, the great nobles and officers of the realm, and the senior diplomatic representatives of many of the countries of Europe.

Edward de Vere had no intention, however, of losing his place as the Queen’s favorite at Court.  He remained in constant attendance at whichever palace the Court occupied at a given time.  He continued to travel in the Queen’s retinue wherever she went on progress.  He did not choose to bring his wife with him.  After some time, her mother, Mildred, complained, and Cecil found himself in a very uncomfortable position between an angry wife, a devastated daughter and an offended Queen.

[1] Purdy, Gilbert Wesley.  Edward de Vere was Shakespeare: at long last the proof, Richmond, VA: The Virtual Vanaprastha, 2013.  58.
[2] Burgon, John William.  The Life and Times of Sir Thomas Gresham, 1, 228.  London: Robert Jennings, 1839.  (Cited from Landsdowne MS. No. 118, f. 91.)  

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