Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford


Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford : biography

12 April 1550 – 24 June 1604

In July 1600 Oxford wrote requesting Sir Robert Cecil’s help in securing an appointment as Governor of the Isle of Jersey, once again citing the Queen’s unfulfilled promises to him. In February he again wrote for his support, this time for the office of President of Wales. As with his former suits, Oxford was again unsuccessful; during this time he was listed on the Pipe Rolls as owing £20 for the subsidy.

After the abortive Essex rebellion in February 1601, Oxford was ‘the senior of the twenty-five noblemen’ who rendered verdicts at the trials of Essex and Southampton for treason. After Essex’s co-conspirator Sir Charles Danvers was executed on in March, Oxford became involved in a complicated suit regarding lands which had reverted to the Crown by escheat at Danvers’ attainder, a suit opposed by Danvers’ kinsmen. Oxford continued to suffer from ill health, which kept him from court. On 4 December he was shocked that Cecil, who had encouraged him to undertake the Danvers suit on the Crown’s behalf, had now withdrawn his support for it. As with all his other suits aimed at improving his financial situation, this last of Oxford’s suits to the Queen ended in disappointment.

Oxfordian theory of Shakespeare authorship

The Oxfordian theory of Shakespeare authorship proposes that Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford and Lord Great Chamberlain of England, wrote the plays and poems traditionally attributed to William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon. Though the attribution has been rejected by nearly all academic Shakespeareans,, quoting William Hunt: "No, absolutely no competent student of the period, historical or literary, has ever taken this theory seriously. First of all, the founding premise is false — there is nothing especially mysterious about William Shakespeare, who is as well documented as one could expect of a man of his time. None of his contemporaries or associates expressed any doubt about the authorship of his poems and plays. Nothing about De Vere (Oxford) suggests he had any great talent, and there is no reason to suppose he would have suppressed any talents he possessed."; : "There is, it should be noted, no academic Shakespearian of any standing who goes along with the Oxfordian theory." popular interest in the Oxfordian theory persists,. and his candidacy was featured in the 2011 Hollywood film Anonymous in which he was played by Rhys Ifans.


While living at the Cecil House, Edward’s daily studies consisted of dancing instruction, French, Latin, cosmography, writing exercises, drawing, and common prayers. During his first year at Cecil House, Oxford was briefly tutored by Laurence Nowell, the antiquarian and Anglo-Saxon scholar. Nowell’s letter to Cecil stating: "I clearly see that my work for the Earl of Oxford cannot be much longer required" and his departure after eight months has been interpreted as either a sign of the thirteen-year-old Oxford’s intractability as a pupil, or an indication that his precocity surpassed Nowell’s ability to instruct him.; . In May 1564 Arthur Golding, in his dedication to his Th’ Abridgement of the Histories of Trogus Pompeius, attributed to his young nephew an interest in ancient history and contemporary events.:’It is not unknown to others, and I have had experience thereof myself, how earnest a desire your Honour hath naturally grafted in you to read, peruse and communicate with others, as well as the histories of ancient times and things done long ago, as also the present estate of things in our days, and that not without a certain pregnancy of wit and ripeness of understanding’.

In 1563 Oxford’s older half-sister, Katherine, then Baroness Windsor, challenged the legitimacy of the marriage of Oxford’s parents in the Ecclesiastical court. His uncle Golding argued that the Archbishop of Canterbury should halt the proceedings since a proceeding against a ward of the Queen could not be brought without prior licence from the Court of Wards and Liveries.