The Prince Tudor Aspect of “Famous Victories”: Part Two of Reason No. 60 to Believe Oxford = “Shakespeare”

Another aspect of The Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth is the way it fits into the Southampton Prince Tudor (PT) theory that Henry Wriothesley, third Earl of Southampton was the natural son of Edward de Vere, seventeenth Earl of Oxford and Elizabeth I of England.  In the view of this theory from here, Southampton would have been born in May or June 1574.

"The Case for Shakespeare's Authorship of 'The Famous Victories' by S.M. Pitcher, 1961

“The Case for Shakespeare’s Authorship of ‘The Famous Victories'” by Pitcher, 1961

And in that context, if in fact Famous Victories was presented before the Queen during the Christmas season of 1574, some major aspects of the play are both explained and transformed.

This context immediately explains the prominence in Famous Victories of the Eleventh Earl of Oxford (1385-1487), while it also explains the constant and repetitive and even obsessive references to Hal, the future King Henry V of England, as “the young prince.”

The Prince Tudor theory holds that almost immediately after Elizabeth gave birth to a son in May or June 1574, she had him hidden away (eventually to be raised in the Southampton household):

Even so my Sunne one early morn did shine

With all triumphant splendor on my brow,

But out alack, he was but one hour mine,

The region cloud hath masked him from me now.  (Sonnet 33)

And what if Oxford wrote the play to remind Elizabeth that she had a royal child, an heir of her blood to succeed her, and to warn her not to abandon this unacknowledged young prince?  What if he wanted to lessen her fears, while reminding her that very possibly her son would grow into a great monarch like Henry the Fifth?  If so, he might well have created Famous Victories for the Queen in 1574, when he was twenty-four.

Kenneth Branaugh as Henry the Fifth

Kenneth Branaugh as Henry the Fifth

The play (printed first in 1598 but written decades earlier) presents King Henry IV as the sitting monarch, with whom Queen Elizabeth would identify.  Also she would view the king’s son, Prince Hal, as her own son, the future third Earl of Southampton.  And, of course, she would see the Earl of Oxford as Edward de Vere himself.

Oxford: If it please your Grace, here is my lord your son that cometh to speak with you.  He saith he must, and will, speak with you.

King: Who?  My son Harry?

Oxford: Ay, if it please your Majesty…

Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford, knowing of Elizabeth’s fear that any natural heir would pose a threat to her, depicts Prince Hal coming upon the King with a dagger in his hand, intending to kill him.  When the King sees this, he is overcome with fear and grief:

King: Come, my son; come on, in God’s name!  I know wherefore thy coming is.  Oh, my son, my son!  What cause hath ever been that thou shouldst forsake me … Oh, my son, thou knowest that these doings will end thy father’s days … I tell thee, my son, that there is never a needle in thy cloak but it is a prick to my heart, and never an eyelet-hole but it is a hole to my soul; and wherefore thou bringest that dagger in thy hand I know not, but by conjecture.

But then young Prince Hal undergoes an instant turnaround:

Prince: [Aside] My conscience accuseth me.  [To the King] Most sovereign lord, and well-beloved father, to answer first to the last point, that is, whereas you conjecture that this hand and this dagger shall be armed against your life, no!  Know, my beloved father, far be the thoughts of your son – “son,” said I?  An unworthy son for so good a father! But far be the thoughts of any such pretended mischief.  And I most humbly render it [Giving him the dagger, kneeling] to your Majesty’s hand.  And live, my lord and sovereign, for ever! … “

This speech goes on and on in the same vein, with the Prince begging over and over for the King’s mercy and pardon, while pledging his loyalty even above his life.  If this is indeed intended for Elizabeth, we can imagine her now leaning forward to hear the King’s response, which is what Oxford hopes would be her response as well:

King: Stand up, my son; and do not think thy father but at the request of thee, my son, I will pardon thee.  And God bless thee, and make thee his servant.

Prince: Thanks, good my lord.  And no doubt but this day, even this day, I am born new again.

Oxford has symbolically presented the Queen’s own son on the stage, making him “born new again” as if replaying the birth of Elizabeth’s own son several months earlier.

But when the King falls asleep, Prince Hal believes that he’s dead; and assuming that he is now the new monarch, he removes the crown from his father’s head and exits.  Here, right on the stage in front of her, is Queen Elizabeth’s worst nightmare!  And when the King wakes up and feels his head, he blurts out, “The crown taken away!  Good my Lord of Oxford, go see who hath done this deed!”

In other words, Edward de Vere is telling Elizabeth that he’s the one upon whom she can rely, to make sure the crown is not taken from her (by their son) before she dies.  And sure enough, Lord Oxford returns with Hal, saying, “Here, if it please your Grace, is my lord the young Prince with the crown.”

If the Queen had given birth to Oxford’s own son, her argument would have been precisely that she should never acknowledge him, because he would try to take her crown before she died – perhaps while she was old and dying.  And if she had made that argument to Oxford, well, then, here was his answer in return, in Famous Victories – “Don’t worry, I’ll protect you!”

An extraordinary aspect of this play is that the King, representing Elizabeth, actually goes on to hand over the crown to the young Prince:  “But come near, my son, and let me put thee in possession whilst I live, that none deprive thee of it after my death.”  And the Prince, taking the crown, replies:  “Well may I take it at your Majesty’s hands – but it shall never touch my head so long as you live.” 

In this way Oxford has used the stage hoping to “catch the conscience” of the Queen, even to the point of showing that she could acknowledge their own son without fear.  And the monarch of the play tells the Earl of Oxford that “my son will be as warlike and victorious a prince as ever reigned in England.”

And indeed the Queen will now watch the youthful Prince Hal growing into the mature King Henry the Fifth who leads his English nation to glory.

When it comes time for Oxford to expand Famous Victories into 1 & 2 Henry IV and Henry V as by Shakespeare, he will no longer represent himself in the character of his ancestor the eleventh Earl of Oxford (who disappears completely).  Instead, Oxford will create the full fictional character of Sir John Falstaff to represent himself on stage, so that it’s Falstaff [Oxford] who becomes the “father” of Hal [Southampton]; and in 1 Henry IV they play-act by reversing the father-son roles:

PRINCE   Dost thou speak like a king? Do thou stand for me, and   I’ll play my father.
FALSTAFF   Depose me? If thou dost it half so gravely, so majestically,   both in word and matter, hang me up by the heels for a rabbit-sucker or a   poulter’s hare.
PRINCE   Well, here I am set.
FALSTAFF   And here I stand: judge, my masters.
PRINCE   Now, Harry, whence come you?
FALSTAFF   My noble lord, from Eastcheap.
PRINCE   The complaints I hear of thee are grievous.
FALSTAFF   ‘Sblood, my lord, they are false…
PRINCE   Swearest thou, ungracious boy? Henceforth ne’er look on   me.

The Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth is transformed when viewed as Oxford’s allegorical plea to Queen Elizabeth to recognize their son so she will have an heir of her blood to succeed her.  If such was the case, it would be difficult to find any greater personal motivation to write not only the early play but, later, the Henry IV and Henry V trilogy as well.

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