Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford


Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford : biography

12 April 1550 – 24 June 1604

After intervention by Burghley and Sir Walter Raleigh, Oxford was reconciled to the Queen and his two-year exile from court ended at the end of May on condition of his guarantee of good behaviour.. However, he never regained his position as a courtier of the first magnitude.; .

Remarriage and later life

Oxford’s daughter, Elizabeth de Vere, who married Wiliam Stanley, the 6th Earl of Derby in January, 1594/5, at the Royal Court at Greenwich. On 5 June 1588 Anne Cecil died at court of a fever; she was 31..

On 4 July 1591 Oxford sold the Great Garden property at Aldgate to John Wolley and Francis Trentham.; The arrangement was stated to be for the benefit of Francis’ sister, Elizabeth Trentham, one of the Queen’s Maids of Honour, whom Oxford married later that year. On 24 February 1593, she gave birth to Oxford’s only surviving son and heir, Henry de Vere, at Stoke Newington.

Between 1591 and 1592 Oxford disposed of the last of his large estates; Castle Hedingham, the seat of his earldom, went to Lord Burghley, it was held in trust for Oxford’s three daughters by his first marriage. he commissioned his servant, Roger Harlakenden, to sell Colne Priory. Harlekenden contrived to undervalue the land, then purchase it (as well as other parcels that were not meant to be sold) under his son’s name; the suits Oxford brought against Harlakenden for fraud dragged out for decades and were never settled in his lifetime.;

Protracted negotiations to arrange a match between his daughter Elizabeth and Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton did not result in marriage; in 19 November 1594, six weeks after Southampton turned 21, ‘the young Earl of Southampton, refusing the Lady Vere, payeth £5000 of present money’.; In January Elizabeth married William Stanley, 6th Earl of Derby. Derby had promised Oxford his new bride would have £1,000 a year, but the financial provision for her was slow in materializing.

His father-in-law, Lord Burghley, died on 4 August 1598 at the age of 78, leaving substantial bequests to Oxford’s two unmarried daughters, Bridget and Susan. The bequests were structured in such a way to prevent Oxford from gaining control of his daughters’ inheritance by assuming custody of them.

Earlier negotiations for a marriage to William Herbert having fallen through, in May or June 1599 Oxford’s 15-year-old daughter Bridget married Francis Norris. Susan married Philip Herbert, 4th Earl of Pembroke and Montgomery.

From March to August 1595 Oxford actively importuned the Queen, in competition with Lord Buckhurst, to farm the tin mines in Cornwall. He wrote to Burghley, enumerating years of fruitless attempts to amend his financial situation and complained: ‘This last year past I have been a suitor to her Majesty that I might farm her tins, giving £3000 a year more than she had made.’ Oxford’s letters and memoranda indicate that he pursued his suit into 1596, and renewed it again three years later, but was ultimately unsuccessful in obtaining the tin monopoly.

In October 1595 Oxford wrote to his brother in law, Sir Robert Cecil of friction between himself and the ill-fated Earl of Essex, partly over his claim to the property, terming him ‘the only person that I dare rely upon in the court’. Cecil seems to have done little to further Oxford’s interests in the suit.

In March he was unable to go to court due to illness, in August he wrote to Burghley from Byfleet, where he gone for his health: ‘I find comfort in this air, but no fortune in the court.’ In September Oxford again wrote of ill health, regretting he had not been able to pay attendance to the Queen. Two months later Rowland Whyte wrote to Sir Robert Sidney that ‘Some say my Lord of Oxford is dead’. Whether the rumour of Oxford’s death was related to the illness mentioned in his letters earlier in the year is unknown. Oxford attended his last Parliament in December, perhaps another indication of failing health.

On 28 April 1599 Oxford was sued by the widow of his tailor for a debt of £500 for services rendered some two decades earlier. Oxford claimed that not only had he paid the debt, but that the tailor had absconded with ‘cloth of gold and silver and other stuff’ belonging to him, worth £800. The outcome of the suit is unknown.