Part Two of Reason 51: Images of “The Defense of the Military Profession” Dedicated to Edward Earl of Oxford

I thought I’d add to Reason 51 by sharing facsimiles of some of the pages from The Defense of Militarie Profession (1579), dedicated to Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford by Geffrey Gates.  (Cover page at left.)

The volume was printed by Henry Middleton for publisher John Harrison, who would go on to publish Venus and Adonis in 1593, introducing “William Shakespeare” with a narrative poem personally overseen by the author.

Immediately inside the book, on the first lefthand page, is the coat-of-arms usually used by Oxford, with his earldom motto VERO NIHIL VERIUS or Nothing Truer than Truth displayed along the bottom.

On the first righthand page begins the dedication “TO THE RIGHT honorable, Edward de Vere, Earle of Oxenford, vicount Bulbecke, Lord of Escales and Baldesmere, and Lord great Chamberlaine of England.”

Experience bears such a sovereignty over all things human and divine,” it begins [modern English], “that without it the quality or power either of word, deed, devise, or matter, cannot make itself known to the understanding of men: for the heavenly truth justifies itself by the effects of his nature and power, made apparent to the eyes & capacities of earthly creatures…”

The sixty-three-page treatise begins [also modern English]:  “It has been an old controversy in the opinions of the English nation what profession of life is most honorable in worldly states…”

My feeling is that Edward de Vere not only acted as patron but financed the publication himself; and beyond that, I am sure he took great interest in this work and probably contributed a great deal to it behind the scenes.

When the Northern Rebellion began in November 1569, Oxford wrote to his guardian William Cecil, the future Lord Burghley, asking for military service against the northern Catholic earls.  To the nineteen-year-old earl, such service was the most honorable course.  He told Cecil that “at this time I am bold to desire your favour and friendship that you will suffer me to be employed by your means and help in this service that now is in hand … ” 

He reminded Cecil that “heretofore you have given me your good word to have me see the wars and services in strange and foreign places … Now you will do me so much honour as that by your purchase of my License I may be called to the service of my prince and country …”

In September 1572, after the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacrre of Protestants in France, Oxford wrote to Burghley saying he would be eager to serve the Queen abroad, on the Continent:  “I had rather serve there than at home where yet some honor were to be got; if there be any setting forth to sea, to which service I bear most affection, I shall desire your Lordship to give me and get me that favour and credit, that I might make one.  Which if there be no such intention, then I shall be most willing to be employed on the sea coasts, to be in a readiness with my countrymen against any invasion.”

Oxford never lost his eagerness to serve as a military man.  He connected that activity with honor.  It’s easy to imagine him composing Hamlet and having Ophelia cry out, “O what a noble mind is here o’erthrown!  The courtier’s, soldier’s, scholar’s, eye, tongue, sword, the expectancy and rose of the fair state…”

Edward Earl of Oxford was all of that … and much more.

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