Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford


Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford : biography

12 April 1550 – 24 June 1604

Arundell and Howard cleared themselves of Oxford’s accusations, although Howard remained under house arrest into August, while Arundell was not freed until October or November. None of the three were ever indicted or tried. In the meantime Oxford was at liberty, and won a tournament at Westminster on 22 January. His page’s speech at the tournament, describing Oxford’s appearance as the Knight of the Tree of the Sun, was published in 1592 in a pamphlet entitled Plato, Axiochus.

On 14 April 1589 Oxford was among the peers who found Philip Howard, Earl of Arundel, the eldest son and heir of Oxford’s cousin, Thomas, Duke of Norfolk, guilty of treason. Arundel later died in prison. Oxford later insisted that "the Howards were the most treacherous race under heaven" and that "my Lord Howard [was] the worst villain that lived in this earth."

During the early 1580s it is likely that the Earl lived mainly at one of his Essex country houses, Wivenhoe, which was sold in 1584. In June 1580 he purchased a tenement and seven acres of land near Aldgate in London from the Italian merchant Benedict Spinola for £2,500. The property, located in the parish of St Botolphs, was known as the Great Garden of Christchurch and had formerly belonged to Magdalene College, Cambridge. He also purchased a London residence, a mansion in Bishopsgate known as Fisher’s Folly. According to Henry Howard, Oxford paid a large sum for the property and renovations to it.

Oxford’s triumph was short-lived. On 23 March 1581 Sir Francis Walsingham advised the Earl of Huntingdon that two days earlier Anne Vavasour, one of the Queen’s Maids of Honour, had given birth to a son, and that "the Earl of Oxford is avowed to be the father, who hath withdrawn himself with intent, as it is thought, to pass the seas". Oxford was captured and imprisoned in the Tower, as was Anne and her infant, who would later be known as Sir Edward Vere.; . Burghley interceded for him, and he was released from the Tower on 8 June, but he remained under house arrest until sometime in July..

While Oxford was under house arrest in May, Thomas Stocker dedicated to him his Divers Sermons of Master John Calvin, stating in the dedication that he had been "brought up in your Lordship’s father’s house".. Oxford was still under house arrest in mid-July, but took part in an Accession Day tournament at Whitehall on 17 November 1581..

Oxford was banished from court until June 1583. He appealed to Burghley to intervene with the Queen on his behalf, but his father-in-law repeatedly put the matter in the hands of Sir Christopher Hatton.

In Christmas 1581 Oxford reconciled with his wife, Anne,. but his affair with Anne Vavasour continued to have repercussions. In March 1582 there was a skirmish in the streets of London between Oxford and Anne’s uncle, Sir Thomas Knyvet. Oxford was wounded and his servant killed, reports conflict as to whether Kynvet was also injured.. There was another fray between Knyvet’s and Oxford’s retinues on 18 June, and a third 6 days later, where it was reported that Knyvet had "slain a man of the Earl of Oxford’s in fight".. In a letter to Burghley three years later Oxford offered to attend his father-in-law at his house "as well as a lame man might"; it is possible his lameness was a result of injuries from that encounter. On 19 January 1585 Anne Vavasour’s brother Thomas sent Oxford a written challenge; it appears to have been ignored..

Meanwhile, the street-brawling between factions continued. Another of Oxford’s men was slain that month,. and in March Burghley wrote to Sir Christopher Hatton about the death of one of Knyvet’s men, thanking Hatton for his efforts "to bring some good end to these troublesome matters betwixt my Lord and Oxford and Mr Thomas Knyvet"..

On 6 May 1583, eighteen months after their reconciliation, Edward and Anne’s only son was born, and died the same day. The infant was buried at Castle Hedingham three days later..