“Sweet Swan of Avon” Refers to the Poet-Playwright of Hampton Court Palace!

At the recent conference of the Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship in Madison, Wisconsin, the multi-talented Alexander Waugh of England delivered a talk that should be picked up by the New York Times and put right on the front page, with a headline such as:


(Click on Image for Larger View)

(Click on Image for Larger View)

In other words, all these years – these centuries! – we have been misinformed that Ben Jonson, in the First Folio of Shakespeare plays (1623), was referring exclusively to William Shaksper of Stratford-upon-Avon:

Sweet Swan of Avon! What a sight it were
To see thee in our waters yet appear,
And make those flights upon the banks of Thames
That so did take Eliza and our James!

Waugh pointed out that neither Queen Elizabeth nor King James ever went to a play at the Globe on the Thames (or any other public playhouse in England). But the magical location where both monarchs enjoyed performances of the Shakespeare plays was the Great Hall at Hampton Court Palace in Surrey, on the banks of the Thames; and it turns out that Hampton Court had been known as Avon!

Alexander Waugh

Alexander Waugh

In Britannia, his Latin history of Great Britain and Ireland, Jonson’s mentor William Camden quoted historian John Leland in Genethliacon (1543) as indicating that Hampton Court had been called Avon; and when Camden translated his own work in 1610, he rendered Leland’s lines about Hampton Court this way (with my emphasis):

Hampton Court Palace

Hampton Court Palace

“A Stately place for rare and glorious shew. There is, which Tamis with wandring stream doth dowse; Times past, by name of Avon men it knew: Heere Henrie, the Eighth of that name, built an house So sumputuous, as that on such an one (Seeke through the world) the bright Sunne never shone.”

Waugh included many other details in his talk, which is reproduced in the current issue of The Oxfordian , the annual journal of the Fellowship. For example: “In his Cygnea Cantio (1545), Leland explained that Hampton Court was called ‘Avon’ as a shortening of the Celtic-Roman name ‘Avondunum’ meaning a fortified place (dunum) by a river (avon), which ‘the common people by corruption called Hampton.” And, Waugh added, “This etymology was supported by Raphael Hollinshed, who wrote in his Chronicles (1586) that ‘we now pronounce Hampton for Avondune.’”

[The original meaning of Avondunum was “fort by the river.”]

The Great Hall Hampton Court Palace

The Great Hall
Hampton Court Palace

So Jonson in the Folio of 1623 was undoubtedly pointing – indirectly! – to Stratford-upon-Avon, but he was even more strongly (for those who would know) identifying the great palace on the Thames where the true author’s plays were given wondrous “flights” or performances for Elizabeth and James – the Palace of Avon, a.k.a. Hampton Court!


PS – The swan, representing a poet, had been given royal status in the 12th century. And “sweet” in Shakespeare has several meanings, but perhaps the most famous one is applied to the royal protagonist of Hamlet: “Good night, sweet prince …”

“Sweet Swan of Avon!” – Royal Poet-Prince of Hampton Court Palace!

Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship Annual Conference on Its Way: Thursday Sept. 11 – Sunday Sept. 14


Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship – Madison, Wisconsin

Thursday, 11 September

12:00 – 1:15 Registration
1:15 – 1:30 Welcome – Opening of Conference & Review of Agenda
1:30 – 2:30 Shelly Maycock – Grafting Texts to Create New Strains: Jonson’s Intertextual connections between the Encomium to the First Folio and Shakespeare’s Richard III as rhetorical keys to concealed authorship
2:30 – 3:30 Julie Bianchi – Untangling Elizabethan Roots: A genealogical approach to the authorship question
3:30 – 3:45 Coffee break
3:45 – 4:45 James Norwood – Mark Twain and Shake-Speare: Soul Mates
4:45 – 5:00 Linda Theil – Looney “Shakespeare Identified” Centennial Brainstorm
5:00 – 5:10 Announcements

Friday, 12 September

8:30 – 9:15 W. Ron Hess – Did Oxford Use A Secretary Hand As Well As His Italic Hand? Could Oxford have perpetrated a documentary hoax on Shakspere?
9:15 – 10:00 Heward Wilkinson (England) – “If this be error and upon me proved”: ‘Deceptive Displacements’ and the Shakespeare Authorship Question.
10:00 – 10:15 Coffee Break
10:15 – 11:00 Don Rubin – Sisyphus and the Globe: Turning (on) the Media
11:00 – 11:30 John Shahan – Update on the Shakespeare Authorship Coalition
11:30 – 12:15 Alexander Waugh – Three Words to Think About
Buffet Lunch
1:00 – 1:50 Hanno Wember – Paper by Robert Detobel: Idle Hours
1:50 – 2:45 Ramon Jimenez – Six Characters in Search of an Author
2:45 – 3:00 Coffee Break
3:00 – 4:00 Bonner Cutting – Evermore in Subjection: Wardship in Early Modern England and its Impact on Edward de Vere.
4:00 – 5:00 Roger Stritmatter – By the Numbers: Palladis Tamia and the Shakespearean Question
Evening: Cheryl Eagan-Donovan: Film – Premier screening Nothing is Truer Than Truth

Saturday, 13 September

8:30 – 9:45 Annual Meeting of the Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship
9:45 – 10:00 Coffee Break
10:00 – 10:45 Walter Hurst – Sabbioneta, Italy, An Intersection of Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Edward de Vere?
10:45 – 11:30 Michael Delahoyde – Oxford’s Early Errors
11:30 – 12:15 Earl Showerman – Much Ado about Hercules’ Labors of Love
Lunch on your own
1:30 – 2:15 Alexander Waugh – Sweet Swan
2:15 – 3:00 James Warren – The Use of State Power in the Effort to Hide Edward de Vere’s Authorship of the Works Attributed to “William Shake-speare”
3:00 – 3:45 Newton Frohlich – The Shakespeare Mask
Evening Event – Separate Reservation required
4:00 p.m. Bus leaves for APT in Spring Green for Much Ado about Nothing. Dinner and Play are included.
10:45 p.m. Bus returns to Madison (arrives about midnight)

Sunday, 14 September

8:30 – 9:30 Linda Theil – Panel – “Every Power That Moves”: Using Mobile Tech to Advance SOF Goals
9:30 – 10:15 James McGrath – Shakespeare’s Numbers: English Metrical Verse and How It Is Spoken on Stage
10:15 – 10:30 Coffee Break
10:30 – 11:15 Ron Halstead – What’s Hecuba to Him? Connecting Life and Drama in Hamlet
11:15 – 12:00 Tom Regnier – Hamlet and the Law of Homicide: The Life of the Mind in Law and Art
12:00 – 12:15 Break
12:15 – 2:15 Closing Banquet with Keynote. Awards and Final words.
Hank Whittemore: 100 Reasons for Oxford’s Authorship of Shakespeare’s Works

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