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Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford : biography

12 April 1550 - 24 June 1604

Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford (12 April 155024 June 1604) was an English peer and courtier of the Elizabethan era. Oxford was heir to the second oldest earldom in the kingdom, a court favorite for a time, a sought-after patron of the arts, and noted by his contemporaries as a lyric poet and playwright, but his reckless and volatile temperament precluded him from attaining any courtly or governmental responsibility and contributed to the dissipation of his estate.; . Since the 1920s he has been the most popular alternative candidate proposed for the authorship of Shakespeare's works.

Oxford was the only son of John de Vere, 16th Earl of Oxford, and Margery Golding. After the death of his father in 1562, he became a ward of Queen Elizabeth and was sent to live in the household of her principal advisor, Sir William Cecil. He married Cecil's daughter, Anne, with whom he had five children.. Oxford was estranged from her for five years after he refused to acknowledge her first child as his.

Oxford was a champion jouster and travelled widely throughout Italy and France. He was among the first to compose love poetry at the Elizabethan court,; . and he was praised as a playwright, although none of his plays survive.. A stream of dedications praised Oxford for his generous patronage of literary, religious, musical, and medical works, and he patronised both adult and boy acting companies,; . as well as musicians, tumblers, acrobats and performing animals., accessed 22 March 2013;

He fell out of favour with the Queen in the early 1580s and was exiled from court after impregnating one of her Maids of Honour, Anne Vavasour, which instigated violent street brawls between Oxford's retainers and her uncle's. Oxford was reconciled to the Queen in 1583, but all opportunities for advancement had been lost. In 1586 the Queen granted Oxford a £1,000 annuity to relieve his financial distress caused by his extravagance and selling off his income-producing lands for ready money. After his wife's death he married Elizabeth Trentham, one of the Queen's Maids of Honour, with whom he got an heir, Henry de Vere. He died in 1604, having lost the entirety of his inherited estates.

Royal annuity

Portrait of Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, by [[Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger.]] On 6 April 1584, Oxford's daughter, Bridget, was born,. and two works were dedicated to him, Robert Greene's Gwydonius; The Card of Fancy, and John Southern'sPandora. Verses in the latter work mention Oxford's knowledge of astronomy, history, languages and music..

Oxford's financial situation was steadily deteriorating. At this point he had sold almost all his inherited lands, which cut him off from his principal source of income.. Moreover, because the properties were security for his unpaid debt to the Queen in the Court of Wards, he had had to enter into a bond with the purchaser, guaranteeing that he would indemnify them if the Queen were to make a claim against the lands to collect on the debt.. To avoid this eventuality, the purchasers of his estates agreed to repay Oxford's debt to the Court of Wards in installments..

In 1585 negotiations were underway for King James to come to England to discuss the release of his mother, Mary, Queen of Scots, and in March Oxford was to be sent to Scotland as one of the hostages for James's safety..

In 1586, Oxford petitioned the queen for an annuity to relieve his distressed financial situation. His father-in-law made him several large loans, and Elizabeth granted Oxford a £1,000 annuity, to be continued at her pleasure or until he could be provided for otherwise. This annuity was continued by James I.. De Vere's widow, Elizabeth, petitioned James I for an annuity of £250 on behalf of her 11-year-old son, Henry, to continue the £1,000 annuity granted to de Vere. Henry ultimately was awarded a £200 annuity for life.. James would continue the grant after her death.

Another daughter, Susan, was born on 26 May 1587. On 12 September, another daughter, Frances, is recorded to be buried at Edmonton. Her birthdate is unknown, presumably she was between one and three years of age..

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