The Royal Family Triangle: Part Two – No. 53 of 100 Reasons why the Earl of Oxford was “Shakespeare”

When Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford appeared as “the Knight of the Tree of the Sunne” for the January 1581 tournament at the Whitehall Tiltyard, and his Page delivered a “Sweet Speech” or “Oration” to Queen Elizabeth, he was declaring his undying loyalty to Her Majesty and her Tudor dynasty.

The Sweet Speech spoken by Oxford’s page to Queen Elizabeth in 1581 was included in this book printed in 1592 [the name of Edw (sic) Spenser as translator of the Greek dialogue is, to me, a mystery] – Note the image of the Phoenix

He vowed to “incorporate his heart into that Tree,” the Page announced, referring to “the sole Arabian tree” or dynastic seat of Elizabeth the Phoenix.  The tableau of Queen, Knight and Boy was that of a family triangle representing Elizabeth, Oxford and their unacknowledged Royal Son – the latter being seven-year-old Henry Wriothesley, third Earl of Southampton, who would arrive in London at the end of 1581 to take up residence at Cecil House as a royal ward.

Some two decades later, Southampton was imprisoned as a traitor in the Tower of London on the night of 8 February 1601 for his role in the abortive Essex Rebellion that day.  Now with Secretary Robert Cecil in complete control over Southampton’s fate, Oxford composed The Phoenix and Turtle, a funeral dirge lamenting the end of the Tudor dynasty, published that year.  And here again he served up an image of the same family triangle, now as Beauty (Elizabeth), Truth (Oxford) and Rarity (Southampton), united by their “grace” or royal blood but now turned to ashes:

Beauty, truth and rarity

Grace in all simplicity

Here enclosed in cinders lie

The Phoenix emblem worn by Queen Elizabeth

The dynastic hopes of Elizabeth (Phoenix) are dead; and Oxford’s (Turtle-Dove’s) loyal heart, which he had incorporated into the Phoenix’ Nest (the Queen’s Dynastic Seat), lies forever in the cinders with her:

Death is now the phoenix’ nest

And the turtle’s loyal breast

To eternity doth rest

Oxford had considered himself married to the so-called Virgin Queen, but they would leave behind no record of their union and no descendants to be recognized by future generations:

Leaving no posterity

‘Twas not their infirmity

It was married chastity

Truth may seem, but cannot be

Beauty brag, but ‘tis not she:

Truth and Beauty buried be.

I am grateful to the Shakespeare scholar Charles F. Herberger, Ph.D., retired Professor Emeritus of Nasson College, Maine, for his endorsement of The Monument, my edition of the Shakespeare sonnets – which, he writes, “has so convincingly shown that Southampton was the son of Queen Elizabeth by Oxford, and a presumptive heir to the throne, that it invites taking a renewed look at The Phoenix and Turtle.”

“There can be no doubt that Oxford knew the significance of the Phoenix as a symbol of an era of time governed by the sun,” Professor Herberger writes, “for this meaning is clearly set forth in Ovid’s Metamorphoses (Book 15, lines 391-410).  That Oxford knew Ovid’s Metamorphoses and possibly was its translator rather than Arthur Golding is well known.

“If Southampton was secretly the son born to Elizabeth and Oxford in June (the month of the sun at solstice and apogee) of 1574,” he continues, “Oxford’s assumed title as Knight of the Tree of the Sunne might well have been an intended play on the word ‘son’ that only he and the Queen would understand.

“What is important is the full significance of the myth of the Phoenix.  In essence it symbolizes renewal or rebirth in a period of time.  If the Tudor dynasty which Queen Elizabeth embodies is to survive her death, it must be renewed by an heir.  If she is the Phoenix and the Tree of its rebirth, her ‘Sunne’ or rather ‘son’ must carry on the Tudor dynasty.”

A theme of The Monument is that Oxford agreed to a deal with Robert Cecil to forgo any claim by Southampton to succession to the throne, in exchange for Southampton’s life and Oxford’s own pledge to remain forever hidden behind the pseudonym “William Shakespeare,” which he had adopted in connection with Southampton, as a means of public support: “What I have done is yours, what I have to do is yours,” he wrote under the Shakespeare name in the 1594 dedication to him of Lucrece, “being part in all I have, devoted yours.”

“In 1601 the Queen, Oxford and the heir, Southampton, were still alive but the Tudor dynasty was doomed,” Professor Herberger writes,” and so also was Oxford’s public recognition as Shakespeare.”

According to The Monument the actual death of Queen Elizabeth on March 24, 1603 is recorded by Oxford in Sonnet 105, where he once again mourns the loss of the same family triangle, which has never held the same “seat” or dynastic throne in the person of the “one” royal son or heir:

Fair, kind, and true, is all my argument,

Fair, kind, and true, varying to other words,

And in this change is my invention spent,

Three themes in one, which wondrous scope affords.

Fair, kind, and true, have often lived alone,

Which three, till now, never kept seat in one.

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