Edward de Vere’s “Crown” Signature – and More

Over the years many Oxfordians have been mystified by what appears to be a “crown signature” that Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford used at age nineteen at the end of a letter to his guardian William Cecil (the future Lord Burghley) on November 24, 1569.

Edward de Vere's "crown" signature that he used on letters to William and Robert Cecil from 1569 until the death of Queen Elizabeth in 1603

Edward de Vere's "crown" signature that he used on letters to William and Robert Cecil from 1569 until the death of Queen Elizabeth in 1603

He referred to himself as “Edward Oxenford” and continued to use the same crown-shaped signature on letters to William and Robert Cecil for more than three decades until the death of Elizabeth I in 1603, after which he reverted to a different form of signature.

What did it signify?  Why did he stop using it after the Queen died?  Couldn’t such a signature have amounted to a claim that he deserved to be a King or at least a King Consort? Was he taunting both Cecils, father and son, with extremely sensitive information of which they were aware?  Otherwise, couldn’t they have accused him of treason?  What do you think?

In Oxford’s letter of November 1569 he requests Cecil’s permission to take part in the military campaign against the uprising of the powerful Catholic earls in the north of England.  He reminds the chief minister that “heretofore you have given me your good word to have me see the wars and services in strange and foreign places,” but that Cecil had been unable to “obtain me license of the Queen’s Majesty.”

“Now you will do me so much honour,” he adds, “as that by your purchase of my License I may be called to the service of my prince and country as at this present troublous time a number are.”

“If your father will do me any honour” – 1 Henry IV, 5.4

“I come to thee for charitable license” – Henry V, 4.7

“That in your country’s service drew your swords” – Titus Andronicus, 1.1

“And showed how well you love your prince and country” – 2 Henry VI, 4.9

“But in this troublous time, what’s to be done?” – 3 Henry VI, 2.1

“So are a number more” – 2 Henry IV, 3.2

The following spring Oxford was allowed to accompany the Earl of Sussex as the campaign was winding down and they pursued the fleeing rebels and their allies into Scotland.

A terrified Elizabeth commanded barbarous reprisals, to the point where some 90 fortified castles were razed and 300 villages were savagely pillaged and destroyed and 800 captives were hanged — and we are left to wonder about how this harsh reality of war affected the young man who, more than two decades later, at age forty-three in 1593, would adopt the warrior-like pen name “Shakespeare” on his dedications to nineteen-year-old Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton, his son by the Queen who deserved by blood to succeed her on the throne.

PS – The lines from the plays with matching words or phrases come from the magnificent book SHAKESPEARE REVEALED IN OXFORD’S LETTERS by William Plumer Fowler, Peter E. Randall, Publisher, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, 1986 — one of the great Oxfordian works, with 872 pages showing how Edward de Vere’s letters are filled with Shakespearean language and unique Shakespearean forms of expression.

I had the privilege of meeting Mr. Fowler a few years before he died, in his nineties, and he recited Sonnet 33 while expressing his belief that Southampton was the son of Oxford and the Queen.  A retired lawyer and recognized poet, he was a graduate of Roxbury Latin School, Dartmouth College and Harvard Law School, not to mention that he had been an ardent Stratfordian and, for twelve years, president of the Shakespeare Club of Boston!

Now, there was a man who trusted his head and his heart, his mind and his gut instincts; and there, I might add, was a man of courage.

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19 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. If Oxfordians are mystified, Stratfordians must be…what? Most likely, not even interested in the discussion.

    Anyway, you indicate that Southampton is the son of the Queen and de Vere, a conception that coincides with de Vere’s age of about 23-24. And de Verer had already been using the Crown Signature since age 19. So, there is something else to the crown sig than Southampton’s supposed royal blood. Are we too assume that de Vere is somehow from Royal blood? Perhaps the son of the Queen and T. Seymore? What is your take, Hank?

    • Good question, Chris. All the evidence, in my view, is that Oxford was the son of Elizabeth by Thomas Seymour. Or to put it another way, if I had seen that evidence first, before seeing the evidence of Southampton as the son of Oxford and the Queen, I would have had little doubt that Oxford felt he was going to be named in succession and therefore wrote the crown signature as a constant reminder. But I’ve chosed to stick to the Sonnets and the Southampton story, for now at least, because it seems that this was what Oxford himself focused on. Anyway, in this connection I am looking forward to the new book by Charles Beauclerk, due out this spring, because in my opinion he has the greatest grasp of this whole subject. How’s that for a copout?! Cheers to you – Hank

  2. Some say I have nothing.
    Some say I have all.
    I’ve built a castle with my
    Every blood drop, except its
    Stones are not of this world.
    So no one knows that I am a lord.

    • That’s beautiful and perfectly describes a certain earl of the sixteenth century…

  3. Do you have a larger .gif or .jpg of the signature than what is represented above?

    • No, but probably it can be enlarged somehow. If I have time I’ll see what might be done. How large and for what purpose? (A poster wouldn’t be a bad idea:-)

  4. According to Diana Price, the crown signature actually signified the rank of earl through in the coronet above Oxford’s name. The long line below his name with seven dashes through it signified the number 17, for the 17th Earl of Oxford. This sounds pretty solid, and I’m sympathetic to both PT theories.

    A not completely convincing reply to Price has been that the signature could still signify the meaning of Edward VII as well as his Earldom, combined with other clues in Oxford’s emblems. And finally, there is still the question of why he stop using this special signature after the Queen died. This rather mitigates in favor of the crown signature, rather than the “earl signature.” In any case, nothing seems to be straightforward about all this.

    • Hi John — I feel much as you do. As you know, I’ve put forth in The Monument that Oxford used a “double-image” language for the sonnets — and that the sonnets, in any case, are very different from all the other Shakespeare works. One side of the double image is the one that contains all the usual sexual imagery, all the ambiguity, which means that there may be a hundred meanings or shades of meaning for that side; the other side being the one preserving the real contemporary autobiographical story, which is usually overlooked or not seen for various reasons (such as not having the right time frame).

      I think the double-image method operates throughout much of this, extending to allegory, etc., and that, for instance, “Mr. W. H.” could refer to Henry Wriothesley in the Tower as Mr. Wriothesley, a commoner and non-person in the eyes of the law, AND William Hall — but I simply don’t know about the latter. It certainly is NOT dedicated solely to Mr. W. Hall (which I won’t get into here.) And along the same lines, yes, the “crown” signature could be a coronet AND a crown — the overall outline of the signature certainly looks that way. Did Diana Price mention that? Perhaps not. But I do know she never includes the vital information, which you mention, that Oxford stopped using that provocative signature following Elizabeth’s funeral on April 28, 1603. If nothing else, this raises an “inescapable question” that demands some attempts at answering and, one might think, leads to some further investigation. But Price fails to mention it because she is not out to explore the issue, but, rather, to argue against the so-called Prince Tudor or Tudor Heir theory in whatever form. In fact that is my reaction to her entire critique that she wrote back in 1996.

      The fact is simply that Oxford dropped the signature once the queen was officially dead. Why?

      Thanks for your comment!

  5. Hank,

    I am not one of those on either side who is trying to argue the case one way or another. In my view, regarding this issue, political issues, evolution, or any number of other controversies, people often are not trying to explore the issues, but rather argue their case. Charles Beauclerk could have included Price’s objections in his own book on the matter and commented on them, but he did not. Unlike most of the Stratfordians, who refuse even to discuss the authorship issue, the Oxfordians should be more open discussion on issues they do not agree on. Regardless of Price’s motives in the matter, she raises a good point, and I still haven’t seen a great response to it. Here are some questions that might help us.

    How did other earls and members of the nobility write their signatures? How did the 16th Earl of Oxford sign his name? Was is similar Edward de Vere’s in style? How did the Duke of Cumberland or the 10th Earl of Gloucester sign their names? (These are examples–I don’t know if such people existed.) If no other earls signed their names with any sort of coronet or crown above their names, then this is an important fact. Maybe someone has said this, or I missed it, but no one mentions this.

    How common was incest among royals of the time? The Hapsburgs? How common is incest now? The fact that Queen and Oxford had a son to whom the sonnets was dedicated is very easy to accept. That Oxford was the Queen’s son is a much more shaky claim. But the two claims together is even more incredible. Again, I am not arguing against the double PT theory, but to the average person, it must seem quite absurd.

    In short, everyone on this side of the issue needs to engage the claims of the other side and also anticipate arguments and objections that will be made. That was what they told me in graduate school when I was writing papers. It’s almost always good advice.


    • Well said, John. Without trying to argue a point, I still think Oxford’s discontinuance of the signature upon the queen’s funeral is indicative of something, whatever that might be. But these are good points. I’ve seen some other signatures of earls — one document was a proclamation by the Great Council in May 1603, I believe, and there were all kinds of wild signatures on it, none like a crown, though; and Oxford signed it, too, by then without the crown-like one. I’ll try to find that document. And others.

  6. That he dropped his signature is a very good reason, I’ll admit (backtracking), but maybe I made some other good points there. 😉

  7. Hank,

    I wonder if the “double-image” idea applies to other Oxfordian works. What about “King Lear”. Supposedly and quite probably it’s based on the legend of King Leir of the Britons, who had three daughters. But why did Oxford choose this particular legend to base a story on? Well, Oxford himself had three daughters, and if you take the “L” off of Lear and put it at the end, voila–“Earl”. King Earl. Oxford could have used the original spelling of “Leir,” couldn’t he? So maybe this was his clever way of playing the double-image game you mentioned above.


    • Sure, John, that would be an example. In a sense it was an allegorical world….

  8. You’re all completely barmy living in your own fantasy world alongside flying saucers, Loch Ness monsters and intelligent design crackpots.

  9. Who was William Hall?

    • William Hall was a stationer and there was a William Hall living at Hackney where Oxford lived — and some have sought to link “Mr. W. H.” of the Sonnets dedication to William Hall, whether they were one and the same man nor not. Thorpe the publisher of the sonnets had some relationship with him, and indeed there might have been an attempt to appear to be referring to him in the dedication — but in my view, to state it, the “Mr. W. H.” of the dedication was Henry Wriothesley, 3rd earl of Southampton, the fair youth of the sonnets. Here’s a link to a 1969 article by Gwynneth Bowen, a well respected Oxfordian, who covers the subject very well –


      My belief is that Southampton caused the sonnets to be published by Thorpe — that he was the ‘onlie begetter’ who inspired the verses and who procured the manuscript for Thorpe, because he was the recipient.

      Thanks for the question.

  10. Well, Whittemore, I really think that De Vere was the first-born and lover and Queen Elizabeth I and father of Wriothesley. I want to ask if you think that this “crowned” earl was really the prince and that the boar in “Venus and Adonis” indicates that? If Adonis was the prince and all beauty in Shakespeare’s poetry is “royal blood”, then we can look at the second (or third?) stanza of V&A and read that Venus confess that Adonis is “thrice fair” than her. The boar in the end of the poem, to me, is significant. Begin fair (royal; prince; the Virgin Queen’s first-born and the child of a 14 year old princess) Adonis was killed by the boar to no one ever know the truth (the boar was in the Earl of Oxford motto and in some painting of him the boar is there). The boar (the Oxford Condad) killed Adonis (De Vere; turning him to a Earl) because he tried to kiss him (hide him from the truth?). And from Adonis comes a flower (Southampton) that his nothing but Adonis duplicated (“My spirit is thine” – Shake-Speare) and Venus admits that she slept with the flower’s (both De Vere and Southampton) father (Thomas Seymour to De Vere, De Vere to Southampton?). What do you think? Sorry my bad english

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