Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford

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Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford : biography

12 April 1550 – 24 June 1604

Oxford left England in the first week of February, and a month later was presented to the King and Queen of France. News that Anne was pregnant had reached him in Paris, and he sent her many extravagant presents in the coming months. But somewhere along the way his mind was poisoned against Anne and the Cecils, and he became convinced that the expected child was not his. The elder Cecils loudly voiced their outrage at the rumors, which probably worsened the situation. In mid-March he travelled to Strasbourg, and then made his way to Venice, via Milan. Although his daughter, Elizabeth, was born at the beginning of July, for unexplained reasons Oxford did not learn of her birth until late September.

He was so taken with Italian culture and language during his travels that after his return he became known as the "Italian Earl" at court. He is recorded by Stow as having introduced various Renaissance fashions to court which immediately became fashionable, such as embroidered or trimmed scented gloves. Elizabeth had a pair of decorated gloves scented with perfume that for many years was known as the "Earl of Oxford’s perfume".; .

On January 1576 Oxford wrote to Lord Burghley from Siena about complaints that had reached him about his creditors’ demands, which included the Queen and his sister, and directing that more of his land be sold to pay them. Oxford left Venice in March, intending to return home by way of Lyons and Paris; although one later report has him as far south as Palermo in Sicily. At this point Italian financier Benedict Spinola had loaned Oxford over £4,000 for his 15 month long continental tour, while in England over 100 tradesmen were seeking settlement of debts totalling thousands of pounds.

On Oxford’s return across the Channel in April, his ship was hijacked by pirates from Flushing, who took his possessions, stripped him to his shirt, and might have murdered him had not one of them recognized him.

On his return he refused to live with his wife and took rooms at Charing Cross. Aside from the unspoken suspicion that Elizabeth was not his child, Burghley’s papers reveal a flood of bitter complaints by Oxford against the Cecil family. Upon the queen’s request, Oxford allowed his wife to attend the Queen at court, but only when Oxford was not present and that she not attempt to speak to him. He also stipulated that Burghley must make no further appeals to him on Anne’s behalf. He was estranged from Anne for five years.

In February 1577, it was rumoured that Oxford’s sister Mary would marry Lord Gerald Fitzgerald (1559–1580), but by 2 July, she was linked with Peregrine Bertie, later Lord Willoughby d’Eresby. His mother, the Duchess of Suffolk wrote to Lord Burghley that ‘my wise son has gone very far with my Lady Mary Vere, I fear too far to turn’. Both the Duchess and her husband Richard Bertie first opposed the marriage, and the Queen initially withheld her consent. Oxford’s own opposition to the match was so vehement that for some time Mary’s prospective husband feared for his life. On 15 December, the Duchess of Suffolk wrote to Burghley describing a plan she and Mary had devised to arrange a meeting between Oxford and his daughter. Whether the scheme came to fruition is unknown. Mary and Bertie were married sometime before March of the following year.