A Timeline of Events in the Life of Henry Wriothesley, second Earl of Southampton (1545 – 1581): Was he the Real Father of the “Goodly Boy” Born on Oct. 6, 1573?

Here is a Timeline of significant events in the life of Henry Wriothesley, second Earl of Southampton (1545 – 1581), mostly in relation to his imprisonment for 18 months in the Tower of London ending on May 1, 1573. A question is whether the earl had any visits in the Tower with his wife; that is, was the “goodly boy” born Oct 6, 1573 conceived after such a visit in January 1573, or, instead, was some other man the actual father? Some of the letters mentioned in this Timeline were obtained courtesy of Christopher Paul. At some point I’ll try to put up full texts of the letters.

HENRY WRIOTHESLEY
2ND Earl of Southampton
1545 – 1581

April 24. 1545 – Thomas Wriothesley’s son Henry Wriothesley, future second Earl of Southampton, is christened “Henry” in honor of King Henry VIII.

November 1, 1545 – Thomas Wriothesley’s daughter Elizabeth Wriothsley marries Thomas Radcliffe, third Earl of Sussex (who will become a father figure to Edward de Vere). She will die in 1554.

February 16, 1547 – Thomas Wriothsley is one of the executors of King Henry’s will; and in accordance with the dead king’s wishes he is created Earl of Southampton, first of the new creation. He is relieved of his duties as Lord Chancellor.
April 12, 1550 – Edward de Vere, the future 17th Earl of Oxford, is born at Castle Hedingham in Essex (unless the official record is incorrect).

July 30, 1550 – Thomas Wriothesley, first Earl of Southampton of this creation, dies at nearly forty-five; and his son Henry Wriothesley, age five, becomes second Earl of Southampton. He passes into the custody of the royal Master of Wards. His mother, the widowed Countess of Southampton, is a devout Roman Catholic; and during the five years under Queen Mary [1553-1558], she will raise the boy as a Catholic. His country seat at Titchfield will become a bastion of Catholicism.

November 1558 – Elizabeth Tudor, twenty-five, becomes Queen Elizabeth I of England.

February 19, 1566 – The second Earl of Southampton, twenty-one, marries Mary Browne, age thirteen. She is daughter of Anthony Browne, first Viscount Montague, whose mansion at Cowdray is another bastion of Catholicism.

February 1568 – The second earl of Southampton settles his estates and his now master of his own affairs and a married man.

1569

February 1569 – The Earl of Sussex writes to Sir William Cecil asking for his “helping hand for the young Earl of Southampton [whose Catholicism must be worrying the government] that he may be charitably be won than severely corrected.”

Summer 1569 – Queen Elizabeth on progress spends one night at Tichfield as Southampton’s guest.

NORTHERN REBELLION BEGINS
Southampton & Montague Attempt to Flee

November 1569 – Northern Rebellion of the Catholic earls begins.

December 1569 – Southampton and his father-in-law Montague, who had both been involved in treasonable plans with the rebellion leaders, set sail for Flanders. But contrary winds force them back to England, where they are greeted with orders from the Queen to come immediately to Court to explain. [Akrigg, p. 8]

[Queen Elizabeth would be furious with the Second Earl of Southampton, given that her father King Henry the Eighth had created the earldom in the first place and, too, given the irony that the earl’s wealth had come from the dissolving and plundering of the Catholic monasteries.]

1570

[The Queen and her ministers are anxious to come to an amicable agreement with Southampton and Montague. They smooth things over and Montague is appointed a Joint Lord Lieutenant of his county, as evidence of royal trust in him. Montague would follow through on his commitment, keeping his Catholic religion while never again conspiring against Elizabeth, who would point to him as evidence that she could get along with Catholics so long as they were loyal to her. In fact he will pledge his undying defense of her at Tilbury in 1588, when the Spanish armada is arriving and she reviews the army there.]

ELIZABETH IS EXCOMMUNICATED

May 1570 – John Felton pins a copy of the Bull of Pius V, excommunicating Elizabeth, on the door of the Bishop of London’s house. The Pope has ordered subjects “that they presume not to obey her, or her monitions, Mandates, and Laws” under pain of excommunication. This poses an internal crisis for the Earl of Southampton.

[The earl seeks out John Leslie, Bishop of Ross, agent in London of Mary Queen of Scots, now in her English captivity. He asks the bishop whether he should, or should not, continue to serve his queen. The interview takes place secretly at night, in the seclusion of the Lambeth marshes, but is cut short by the arrival of the watch. So far the Crown is unaware of this meeting.]

June 16, 1570 – Council members Lord William Howard, Sir Francis Knowles, and Sir William Cecil write to Beecher, below. (The date below may be incorrect; this is from the Losely Papers, 229)

SOUTHAMPTON IS ARRESTED

June 18, 1570 – The Privy Council orders Southampton arrested and confined incommunicado in the house of Beecher, Sheriff of London. He is “to allow him to have conference with none save such his domestic attendants as he should have selected to wait on him; that he should neither write nor receive any letters which should not be subjected to the Sheriff’s inspection; that he might be allowed to walk in the Sheriff’s garden in the absence of strangers” provide that the sheriff or one of the sheriff’s trusted servants is with him. [Losely Papers, 230]

July 14, 1570 – Anthony Montague writes from his house at Cowdray to Mr. More, begging him to inquire of his son-in-law if he can do anything more in his behalf.

SOUTHAMPTON IN THE CUSTODY OF MR. MOORE

July 15, 1570 – The Privy Council has has Southampton transferred to the custody of William More at his country home in Losely. The Council instructs More to induce the earl to join in household devotions using the Book of Common Prayer in conformity with the Church of England. [Southampton will finally comply.] The plague is raging in London and the Second Earl of Southampton is in poor health; the Queen has him moved to More’s custody.

[Losely Papers comment under 15 July 1570: “The reports of Mr. More to the Council on this subject are curiously minute and detailed. The uniting in the Common Prayer was considered at that period a sort of test of the loyalty of suspected persons.” Montague “exerted all his influence” to obtain the earl’s release; “nevertheless he remained in durance at Losely for three years, when he was permitted to remove to the seat of the Viscount at Cowdray in Sussex.” (But that period would include the earl’s eighteen months of imprisonment.)

July 16, 1570 – The Earl of Southampton writes from London to Mr. More. He has sent letters from the Council that “I am appointed to continue with you for a time.” He’d rather be at his own house; “otherwise I am glad they have placed me with so honest a gentleman and my friend; and so desiring to come to you tomorrow, I bid you farewell with hardy commendations to your wife.” (Losely 231)

August 10, 1570 – Sheriff Beecher writes to Mr. More about sicknesses in London. (It may or may not have been the plague, though.)

October 18, 1570 – The Council writes to Mr. More desiring to be informed by private letter from him if the Earl of Southampton is attending Common Prayer in his house; “and in case he have not so done already, then we require you, as of yourself, to move and persuade him thereunto, and of that he shall do or hath done, and shall answer thereupon, we pray you advertise us with convenient speed.” This is signed from Wyndes (Windsor?) by W. North, F. Bedford, R. Leicester, W. Howard, F. Knollys, James Crofts, W. Cecil and Walter Mildmay. [ Losely Manuscripts 233]

[MR. MORE REPLIES: He told the earl to have Common Prayer twice a day in his house; the earl said he “had no disposition to come out of his chamber to pray, but rather to occupy himself in prayer, thinking it to be no great difference to do the one or the other, and therefore desired me to think that he did not absent himself from the same as of one that condemned (?) the service, for not only he had usually Common Prayer in his own house,” but he also did the same at Court. Mr. More was determined; the earl finally came to service and stayed from beginning to end,” and he has expressed willingness. More is still persuading, so the earl is again willing to be present for service. And so prayer continues.]

October 31, 1570 – Viscount Montague writes from Cowdray to Mr. More that his daughter purposes to make suit for her husband’s liberation. “I cannot a little marvel that my Lord of Southampton having dealt and written as lately you know he hath, no resolutions follow of his release.” He says his daughter had had cause to hope the best. “If there appears to you no likelihood of his discharge, I pray you send me word by this bearer what you think, to the end his wife may stay no longer, but for discharge of her duty to make suit as she may. I trust and make myself assured he hath and doth not want your best means to further him.”

[MR. MORE WRITES A DRAFT LETTER TO LEICESTER – (Indicating in so many words that he fears the Earl of Southampton may commit suicide.) He understands that Leicester and others have interceded with the Queen for the earl’s enlargement. “He is fallen into that heaviness and pensiveness of mind as that I see it will either breed in him some present sickness or some great inconvenience hereafter. I have used the best persuasions I can to stay him from the same, but it little prevails, and his answer is that his restraint of liberty is very painful to him, because he doubts the same to be such discomfort to my Lady his wife as may be to her great harm, yet the indignation and displeasure of her Highness which he thinketh vehemently turns against him, because he says his friends’ earnest labor unto her Grace in his behalf can take no better place, doth so far pass the other in grief of mind unto him, as that his life seemeth to him very tedious. Of which I thought it my duty to advertise your Lordship, because I perceive his hope of qualification of the Queen’s Majesty’s displeasure against him rests chiefly in you, by whose good care if he may effect the same, it shall not only be greatly to his comfort but also bind him in honor to be at your commandment during his life.”

SOUTHAMPTON IS FREED FROM CUSTODY

November 1570 – Southampton is freed from More’s custody.

April 1571 – Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford enters the House of Lords.

September 1571 – The government learns the full scope of the Ridolfi Plot, which had been simmering for a year, centered on the Duke of Norfolk, who was to raise an English Catholic army, release Mary Queen of Scots and then, with help from a Spanish invasion force, capture London and put Mary on Queen Elizabeth’s throne.

[The Bishop of Ross was deeply involved. He is arrested and learns that the Duke’s secretaries incriminated him. He is threatened with death on the scaffold, panics and tells all, spilling the story of meeting Southampton in the Lambeth marshes. Akrigg: “An English earl who had asked a Roman Catholic bishop whether or not he should obey the Queen had to be severely punished.” Elizabeth, at this point, would be so enraged at the earl that she would just as soon have him tried for high treason and executed. There is apparently no trial, however.]

SOUTHAMPTON IS ARRESTED AGAIN – IMPRISONED IN THE TOWER
October 1571

Late October 1571 – The second Earl of Southampton, twenty-six, is arrested and placed in the Tower of London, where he will spend the next eighteen months.

[Akrigg only speculates that the earl, at his own expense, could “maintain and furnish a chamber and could occasionally receive a license for a visit by his kin, but it was a grim life all the same.” He does not state what “kin” ever did receive permission to visit him, although one visitor near the end will be his father-in-law Montague.]

April 4, 1572 – The Second Earl of Southampton writes to Burghley from the Tower. [CSPD 1547-1580, Vol. I, p. 439; Vol. LXXXVI]. He hopes that through Burghley’s favor he may be able to obtain the Queen’s good will. He denies charges of misconduct while in prison. He requests to be restored to his liberty and Her Majesty’s favor. He has suffered “no small grief” that reports of his conduct in the prison are such that “thereby her Majesty’s displeasure should be more and more kindled against me (the heavy burden whereof to my great grief and discomfort I have now long time sustained).” This is a long letter, rambling on, mostly about the charges of bad behavior but also about the Queen’s negative attitude toward him, which he hopes will change.

April 20, 1572 – Mary Browne, Countess of Southampton, writes to Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, praying to be allowed to join her husband, who is a prisoner in the Tower. [Dudley Papers, DU/Vol. II, 21, f. 78; the original is archived at Longleat House; it is difficult to read and we have transcribed only the second half – courtesy of Christopher Paul, transcriber.] She writes from her father’s house, signing as “Your assured poor kinswoman, M Southampton.”

July 15, 1572 – William Cecil Lord Burghley is made Lord Treasurer.

July 1572 – Mary Browne, Countess of Southampton writes to Burghley asking his advice. Her mother in law [the earl’s mother] wants her to make suit to the Queen’s Majesty on behalf of her husband. “Marry, perceiving by my Lord my father, as also from my Lady Clinton, how unprepared the Queen’s Majesty is as yet to receive our suit, and how unwilling sundry of my Lords of the Council be that I should as yet press her Majesty therein, I can hardly resolve what to do, especially for that I fear my absence will be used by some as a matter to my discredit …” She wants to know what he thinks she should do. She signs it Your Lordship’s poor friend and cousin, M. Southampton (Cotton MS.)

July 16, 1572 – The Countess writes again to Burghley, saying her husband in the Tower is “sick I fear of a burning fever, as also troubled with a swelling in his stomach, which he was never till this time trouble withal.” She continues: “Therefore I beseech you for God’s sake, be a mean for some more liberty for him, and that I may have recourse to him to attend him in his sickness, if his full enlargement [liberty] will be not obtained.” [Clearly she has not yet been allowed to visit him in the Tower.]

“Truly, my Lord, if he be no better attended now in his sickness than commonly he is, I much fear his life will not be long. The necessity of the present cause compelleth me to be thus earnest for liberty to go to him, which I hope shall not be denied him being sick, and have been granted to others in health. Thus expecting your Lordship’s answer of some good comfort upon the which my Lord his well-doing resteth…”

August 1572 – St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre of Protestants in France – another reason for the Queen and Burghley to be afraid for their lives, and for the Queen to continue her fury against the earl of Southampton.

December 22, 1572 – An informant writes to the Duke of Alva, “The Earl of Arundel has been released … There are good hopes, too, of his son-in-law Lord Lumley, and the Earl of Southampton.”

January 1573 – Elizabeth visits Matthew Parker, Archbishop of Canterbury, at Lambeth. Oxford is with her on the visit. (ARCHBISHOP VISIT NUMBER ONE)

THE COUNTESS WOULD BE PREGNANT BY NOW
NO RECORD OF CONJUGAL VISITS

February 13, 1573 – The Earl of Southampton writes to Lord Burghley that he had been told by his wife and father-in-law how much kindness he owed him, and how grateful he was.

[There is no evidence that either the Countess of Southampton or Viscount Montague had visited the Tower and gave him this information in person; on the contrary, if either one had visited, there would be a record of it, as there will be a record when Montague does visit in the following month.]

Other notes on this letter of 13 Feb 1573 to Burghley:
The earl begins, “Understanding my very good Lord as well by my wife, as also especially from my Lord Montague how many ways I am beholding and bound in good will unto your Lordship…”

He is desperate for the “recovery of her Majesty’s favor.” He has enclosed or attached “the form of a letter which I wish to be delivered to her Majesty,” and he is “beseeching your Lordship” to read it and change it as he thinks best “and for the delivery thereof so to appoint either by my wife (if so her Majesty would like best to accept it) or else by your Lordship’s good means, so as she may read and peruse the same. “ He closes “from my wearisome prison.”

SOUTHAMPTON HAS BEEN IN “CLOSE IMPRISONMENT”
February 14, 1573 – The Earl of Southampton writes to the Lords of the Council – a humble letter of submission and entreaty that they would testify to the Queen his wish to do dutiful and faithful service to her, and help him to regain her favor, without which liberty would be worse than bondage. [Landsdowne MSS 16/23]

[Note: The earl gives no indication that he is aware of his wife’s pregnancy. She would be five or six weeks along by now. Perhaps she herself doesn’t know yet that she is pregnant. ]

[In this letter of 14 Feb 1573 the earl speaks of “the continuance of my misery as specially the previous and heavy answer of her Majesty given to my poor wife after her long suit [indicating that her pleas to be able to visit him in the Tower have been rejected] and travail that the sore of her Majesty’s opinion towards me is not either cured or by any my so aforesaid means removed” – confirming that in fact the Queen loathes this man who would have supported her murder.

[It has been said that at no time was the Queen more afraid and angry than she was at the time of the northern rebellion of Catholic earls, and her fierce retribution included the order to Sussex to hang several hundred men who had joined the rebellion. Her anger at the second earl of Southampton would have been part of the Queen’s overall emotional reaction that must have lingered long, fueled also by the recent St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre in France.]

After humble begging, he refers to “the 16 months close imprisonment” that he has endured so far – the phrase “close imprisonment” referring, at the very least, to his relative isolation in the Tower without having been allowed any visitors including his wife and father-in-law. Also, if the Countess has discovered her pregnancy in just the past week, she may have made a special plea to visit her husband and have conjugal relations with him, to try to cover up her adultery.]

February 14-March 30, 1573 – There is no letter pleading with the Council for the earl’s release because of his wife’s pregnancy. Certainly this would be a factor in considering whether to release him or not; unless, of course, she had become pregnant by some other man.

MONTAGUE VISITS SOUTHAMPTON IN THE TOWER
(To Arrange for His Release)

March 30, 1573 – Lord Montague is licensed to confer with his son-in-law “touching matters of law and the use of his living.”
The conference must be “in the Lieutenant’s presence,” that is, in the presence of the Lieutenant of the Tower. [The record of this visit, which required licensing by the Privy Council, makes it highly unlikely that the earl had ever received other visits, which surely would have been recorded if not requiring license. In fact, for example, visits to the Third Earl of Southampton in the Tower during 1601-1603 were recorded and such records are extant.]

At stake for Montague and his daughter is the danger of scandal, not to mention the danger of the Elizabethan government getting angry at them. This holds true for the second earl also.

[March 30, 1573 – By now the Countess of Southampton is most probably nearing three months of her pregnancy with the “goodly boy” to be born October 6, 1573; that is, conception for a normal nine-month pregnancy would have occurred on or about January 6, 1573.

[Given the lack of evidence that the Countess of Southampton had ever visited her husband in the Tower during his imprisonment, two tentative conclusions are inevitable: (1) the Countess had committed adultery and had become pregnant by another man, and (2) her father’s visit to her husband in the Tower was to inform him of the situation and explain to him that the Council, or Burghley, will release him from the Tower if he agrees to accept the forthcoming child as his own.

[Hereafter the Crown will keep the earl under strict supervision and control, again using William More of Losely, but also using Lord Montague as a poster child for loyal Catholic subjects. Montague is pledging utter loyalty to the Crown under the threat of his own imprisonment, but he would also want to avoid the scandal of his daughter as an adulteress, so his compliance is doubly assured.]

March 31, 1573 – At Greenwich – Acts of the Privy Council – A letter to the Lieutenant of the Tower signifying her Majesty’s pleasure “for more liberty of the Earl of Southampton and Sir Henry Percy, Knight, and that he should consign the said Earl to Mr. Moore.”
April 1573 – There is nothing to report about Southampton so far.

SOUTHAMPTON IS RELEASED FROM THE TOWER
May 1, 1573 – SOUTHAMPTON IS RELEASED BY THE COUNCIL AND COMMITS HIM TO THE CUSTODY OF WILLIAM MORE AT LOSELY. He is free after eighteen months in the Tower.

THE COUNTESS IS ALLOWED TO VISIT HIM AT MORE’S HOUSE

May 5, 1573 – THE COUNCIL GIVES MR. MORE PERMISSION TO ALLOW SOUTHAMPTON’S WIFE, FRIENDS AND SERVANTS TO VISIT HIM [at More’s home], to allow them to ride out together, and even to visit Dogmarsfield, the house he is rebuilding. But Mr. More must go with them. He must return to Mr. More’s house the same night. “And so desiring you hereof not to fail,” the Council tells More.

[This appears to be the first time the Earl of Southampton and the Countess of Southampton have been together since before his imprisonment.]

May 5, 1573 – “Whereas, upon the humble submission of the earl of Southampton, the Queen’s Majesty’s gracious pleasure was, that he should be set at more liberty, her highness hath made special choice of you with whom he might for the for the time remain, till some further order be taken: which we have thought good to signify unto you, desiring you as well to permit unto him the access of my lady his wife, his other friends and servants which shall repair unto him, as otherwise suffer him to go some time abroad [beyond his estate] with them for taking the air, so that it be with your liking and in your company.”

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“A GOODLY BOY” IS BORN

October 6, 1573 – Southampton writes to William More that God has sent him “a goodly boy.”

“After my most hardy commendations, both to you and your good wife: Although it so happed by the sudden sickness of my wife, that we could not by possibility have her present as we desired, yet have I thought good to impart unto you such comfort as God hath sent me after all my long troubles, which is that this present morning, at three o’clock, my wife was delivered of a goodly boy (God bless him!) the which, although it was not without great peril to them both for the present, yet now I thank God, both are in good state. If your wife will take the pains to visit her, we shall be mighty glad of her company; and so, with my hardy commendations to your son Polsted and his wife, and to good Mr. Soundar, if he be with you, I end for this time, bidding you hardy farewell. From Cowdray, this present Tuesday 1573. Your assured friend, H. Southampton.” [Losely Manuscripts, 240]

[It would seem the Earl has taken pains to avoid writing that the “goodly boy” is in fact his son and heir to the Southampton earldom. There are no other surviving letters, from or to Viscount Montague, Mr. More, the Countess and the Earl of Southampton himself.]

STOPES FINDS ABSENCE OF DOCUMENTS
THE BOY IS NICKNAMED “HARRY”

“It is strange that there has been preserved no record of his baptism … There appears to be no later allusion to the godparents of the young lord … The Registers of Tichfield for that period are not extant. We know very little about the young lord’s childhood. The first is in the will of his grandmother, the Lady Jane, dated 26 July 1574; by it she left various bequests to ‘my Son’s son, Harry, Lord Wriothesley.’ This gives us at least the clue to his baby-name, and a reference to his baby expectations.” — Charlotte Stopes writes this in her 1922 biography of the third earl, indicating that the boy was being called ‘Harry’ in honor of King Henry VIII, known as Great Harry [Wouldn’t this be odd for a Catholic family?] and, perhaps, that the ‘expectations’ for him were that he himself will become a king.

“FOSTERING OUT” FOR WET-NURSING
(12-18 MONTHS)

[“Quite apart from the powerful disincentive to psychological involvement caused by the high infant mortality rate, most upper-class parents, and many middle- and lower-class ones, saw relatively little of their children because of the common practice of ‘fostering out.’ In the upper classes, babies were put out to wet-nurse at birth, usually away from home, for between twelve and eighteen months … Not only were the infants of the landed, upper-bourgeois and professional classes in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries sent out to hired wet-nurses for the first twelve to eighteen months, but thereafter they were brought up mainly by nurses, governesses and tutors.” – Lawrence Stone, “The Family, Sex and Marriage in England, 1500-1800]

[Therefore we consider that the “goodly boy” born on October 6, 1573 is now put out to wet-nurse for twelve to eighteen months or until October 1574 up to as late as April or May 1575.]

JULY 1574: The earl’s mother dies; in her will she names her son’s new son Harry. Meanwhile, the Queen grants the earl a small office, giving him a sign of favor for his new loyalty. She makes him Commissioner of the Peace for his shire and he makes a survey of its defenses.

SEPT 1574: The earl appears to be acting bizarrely. He is now impoverishing himself, lavishing funds upon the building of his great new mansion at Dogmersfield, and, too, maintaining a much larger retinue than needed. He is recklessly bankrupting himself, as if he cared more for his posthumous image than for his current life.

From here on the earl and his wife the Countess are quarreling and reconciling, back and forth.

1577: The earl, upset at his wife’s intimacy with a man named Donsame, forbids her to ever see him again. When her affair actually began is unknown to me. Had it begun while her husband was in the Tower?

JAN 1580: The earl learns that his wife has been with Mr. Donesame at her father’s home of Cowdray. He now knows, if he has not known earlier or all along, that the Countess and the commoner Mr. Donesame are lovers.

The earl breaks with his wife and with her family. The Countess is banished from her husband’s home and grounds. She goes to live at one of his Hampshire residences. She is kept from here on under close surveillance. She is permitted to have carefully selected guests only on occasion.

FEB 1580: The Privy Council records that the servants of the two households, the Montagues and the Wriothesleys, are quarreling – as with the Montagues and Capulets.

MARCH 21, 1580: The Countess writes to her father Montague claiming that one Thomas Dymocke has taken over her husband’s house and his life. [I do not know exactly when Dymocke entered the picture, but obviously it was before now.] She blames Dymocke for her husband’s rage at her.

[And in 1598 she will claim that Henry the Third Earl of Southampton “never was kind to me.” In Oxford’s world “kind” is a loaded word, that means not only “nice,” etc., but kindred.]

JAN 16, 1581: The second earl is imprisoned [not sure when he is released] in consequence of the new Act against Catholics. His health has been declining and it will continue to decline as the government puts more pressure on him.

AUGUST 1581: The Council learns that the earl was in communication with Jesuit martyr Campion, through Thomas Dymock. The earl is now under increasing strain.

OCT 4, 1581: The earl dies at his Itchell house next to Dogmersfield.

DEC 1581: The boy Southampton, third earl, enters Cecil House in London as a royal ward of the Queen. The earl of Oxford had been the first; Southampton is now the eighth and last. Oxford returns to his wife Anne and all is well with the Cecil family.

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  1. I’m a little puzzled about why the Queen would place the changeling boy in the home of one of her Catholic adversaries, one who had plotted to replace her with Mary. I can understand the 2nd Earl’s willingness to bargain for his release, but weren’t there other nobles who would be just as amenable to persuasion, if indeed Henry was of her bloodline?

    • The timeline I presented is not about a changeling boy. It’s about the birth of the “goodly boy” born Oct 6, 1573, and the evidence that the father was probably not the second earl, but, rather, a man named Donesame, a commoner, with whom the Countess had an affair. This was a scandal that could have ruined not only Mary Browne but also the earl and his father in law, Montague. So the Crown was gaining control over two Catholic families. And the subsequent events bear this out, i.e., Montague became her trusted Catholic noble and the second earl was a broken man, young as he was. All this is before any changeling would have come into the picture. If and when that took place, in the future, it could have been carried out during an 18-month wet-nurse period, outside the household, and the earl may not have known about any changeling.

      This is an old question you bring up. The answer is that it would have been a perfect home to place a changeling in. And some seventeen years later we see the third Earl becoming an instant favorite at court, an earl of great promise — why?

      • Thanks for clarifying the issue. I realize the issue has been raised before but I don’t think I ever read a solid answer to it, so thanks.

        Just curious, I assume you have read Diana Price’s attack on the PT theory. Do you know if this has been specifically answered in an article that’s accessible? If so, I would like to read it.if you can point me in that direction.

  2. Great post, Whittemore. I’ve been reading so many writers writing against the PT Theory and had keep silence about it. I think, beside all this evidences, a reader doesn’t need to be a genius to know that a woman to give birth in early October must have conceived around late December-early January, so the “goodly son” Southampton named couldn’t have been his son given he admits he was in isolation and there is no evidence the Countess was visiting in the end of 1572 or early the next year.

    Also it’s curious that the likely reference to Southampton’s son as Harry comes from July 1574, which coincides with the birth of the Queen’s son by Oxford around May-June.

    I have read of many non-Pt Theorists the argument of Southampton’s mention of the “goodly boy” around the time of his son’s birth. Another argument it’s also how the Queen would have hidden her pregnancy showing herself to the Court every day and receiving visits in the summer of 1574. I don’t really see how this can be an evidence against the theory, didn’t Anne Vavasour hid her pregnancy very well without failing to serve the Queen and without being seen?

    Whittemore, Southampton’s will mentions “William, my Beggars Boy” providing money to his education until the age of 21. Could this William have been the true boy behind the identity given to the Queen’s son by Oxford?

    • Francisco, I don’t know about “William, my Beggar Boy” but it’s intriguing. Something happened to the “goodly boy” born to the Countess — he either grew up to be the third Earl of Southampton or was placed somewhere else when the Queen’s son by Oxford was put into the household as a changeling.

      An important point is that the “goodly boy” born Oct 6, 1573 would have been put out to wet nurse for up to 18 months, i.e., until as late as April 1575. If up to a year, that would be up to Oct 1574 — well after the Queen would have given birth in May or June 1574.

      Whatever the case, the second earl became increasingly embittered against his wife, ultimately accusing her of adultery and banishing her from the home. She became a kind of prisoner in one of the earl’s other houses. She was not to see the “boy” at all. The second earl may have waited to accuse her, that is, if she had gotten pregnant by someone else while the earl was in the Tower. So then the earl’s life is taken over by the mysterious Thomas Dymocke, whose last name is connected to the Elizabethan court, even though we can’t seem to find this particular Dymocke on the record. In his will, the earl leaves much to Dymocke including supervision of the third earl until his majority. Of course, the third earl was quickly ushered into Cecil House as a royal ward of the Queen, who became his official mother.

      The crown had this Catholic family under its thumb.

  3. Francisco remarks “. . . a reader doesn’t need to be a genius to know that a woman to give birth in early October must have conceived around late December-early January, so the “goodly son” Southampton named couldn’t have been his son . . . “.

    Indeed. But the point PT advocates tend to forget is that Elizabethans were also aware of such facts, and were able to count. They were humans, much like us. There were invariably a number of potential claimants to any title, and/or to the associated property. If those people saw that an earl had designated as his son and heir a boy who could not possibly be his, they would mount a legal challenge, along roughly the same lines as our Ned himself faced in his early ‘teens — when his half-sister claimed that the 16th Earl had not properly married Oxford’s mother, and so therefore Edward de Vere was merely a bastard and not entitled to become the 17th Earl nor to inherit the property. PT advocates also seem to forget that Elizabethan nobles could talk, and they gossiped about such matters in as much detail as we do about the lives of celebrities. There was never a legal, nor any other kind of challenge, to the entitlement of the 3rd Earl of Southampton to his title, nor to his inheritance. That should be more than enough for us 450 years later. But fantasy rules. It’s so much more fun. Never mind how ridiculous it makes Oxfordians seem.

    • Be patient, please. Everything will be clear in a not very long time. In the meantime there’ll be laughter of course, as it has been so for decades. It doesn’t matter now.

  4. Hank, what is the source of the comment by the Countess Southampton that her son, the 3rd Earl “was never kind to me”?

    • Hi Michael. At first I thought I could find it right away, having underlined it. Well, I’m still looking for the underlining, but found the quote in all three biographies. It was in a letter from the Countess of Southampton to Essex on October 6, 1598 — Southampton’s official birthday — and it’s a strange sentence: “In the mean, your kinswoman (Elizabeth Vernon, new wife of Southampton) shall find your favor in me, and more should, if she were not his (i.e., wife of Southampton) that never was kind to me, but in this matter and manner, unnatural, undutiful, God grant not unfaithful…”

      This is on page 129 of the Rowse biography. Akrigg cites it on Page 73 of his biography as “Salisbury MSS., VIII, 379.” Somewhere Akrigg quotes the “was never kind to me” statement that I recall underlining, but it must be in another part of his book. Stopes quotes the same letter on page 130 of her 1922 biography.

      There’s enough strangeness in the relationship of the Countess and her reputed son to further justify doubts of their biological tie. And this letter adding to that oddness.

  5. as a direct descendent of anthony browne, and anthony browne viscount montague, i need to let you know that what was known as melancholia, and mania, or as it is now known, bi-polar continues to be evident in the family. i would suggest that mary browne is the dark lady, dark being a synonym for melancholy in elizabethan times. wriotheley is suggested to be 1. the son of henry v111, or 2. thusly the brother of elizabeth 1. so she would have chosen to be lenient. or of course he could be oxford’s and the queen’s son, but i think that is unlikely. but who knows for sure. we have it that he is henry the v111’s, son. who had had an affair with another relative, which produced a boy and a girl, also. if you follow the decent of the browne’s you can trace us back to bi-polar in all threads of the family. the earl would also then be a cousin of james 1. we know about to economic ventures in the new world, and i believe that the browne’s owned southwark at one time. janeene browne blank. 2/18/17.

    • Thank you for this startling comment. I am away with family but will surely consider it all.

  6. also it is amazing how closely my three sons resemble the earl. our oldest the most. i am at facebook doug n janeene blank, and will post a photo of our oldest son owen blank for you to see. 2/18/18.


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