The Dark Lady is Identified in the Sonnets as Elizabeth I of England – (1)

Elizabeth I 1533 - 1603

Elizabeth I
1533 – 1603

The Shakespeare sonnets involve three real-life individuals: the author, Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford; the friend, Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton; and the dark lady, Queen Elizabeth I of England.  There is a fourth character [the “rival poet”] who is not a person but, rather, Oxford’s pen name — “Shakespeare” — which he can attach publicly to Southampton while he himself must remain silent.

Oxfordians have had many candidates for the Dark Lady, but this is only because some continue to view the Sonnets as recording a “love” story rather than a political story involving Southampton’s role in the “succession crisis,” which led to his death sentence as a traitor followed by the Queen’s sparing of his life, and, after a confinement of more than two years in the Tower, his release and pardon by King James. Once this context of the Sonnets is perceived, it becomes immediately clear that the so-called dark lady must be Elizabeth, who was only “dark” or “black” because of her negative view of Southampton — her imperial “frown” that cast its shadow of shame and disgrace upon him.

Once Elizabeth is recognized as the treacherous, powerful female of the Sonnets, she can be seen being identified throughout the  sequence of Sonnets 1 to 154. Following are just two examples, rooted in documents of the time:

Elizabeth to Leicester July 19, 1586 CLICK ON IMAGE FOR LARGER VIEW

Elizabeth to Leicester
July 19, 1586


In Sonnet 76 the author states by way of a rhetorical question that he writes in all these lines of the sequence “still” or always “all” about just “one” topic, which is “ever the same” – the Queen’s recognized motto, Semper Eadem, which she occasionally signed in English as “ever the same.”

“Why write I still all one, ever the same…”

A good example is provided by a letter from “E. R.” (Elizabeth Regina) written on July 19, 1586 to Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, who was acting as her lieutenant general in the Low Countries, signed, “As you know, ever the same, E.R.”  [See Leah Marcus, Janel Mueller and Mary Beth Rose: Elizabeth I: Collected Works, University of Chicago Press, 2000, p. 283]

If in fact Edward de Vere is writing these words, it’s a given he’s quite aware of referring to the Queen by means of her motto. Oxford knew many things about his sovereign mistress, without question, and was incapable of using her motto without doing so deliberately.  He was recording her presence in the Sonnets and it was intentional.

Marigold Flower

Marigold Flower


In Sonnet 25 he refers quite explicitly to her Majesty as one of the “Great Princes” who can remove all glory from her favored subjects by a simple “frown” of royal disapproval – and in the process he brings in the Queen’s own flower, the marigold, again identifying her without question. (Oxford’s personal secretary John Lyly wrote in Euphues his England, dedicated to Oxford in 1580, about Elizabeth:  “She useth the marigold for her flower, which at the rising of the sunne openeth his leaves, and at the setting shutteth them…”)

“Great Princes’ favorites their fair leaves spread,

“But as the Marigold at the sun’s eye,

“And in themselves their pride lies buried,

“For at a frown they in their glory die…”

To be continued…

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. The flower in your picture doesn’t fit the description “… which at the rising of the sunne openeth his leaves, and at the setting shutteth them…”. The flower in the photograph is also called Tagetes, see e.g. (I found this flower in John Gerard’s book ‘Great Herball, or Generall Historie of Plantes’ (1597), see Tagetes are not native in Europe.

    A very different type of flower, also called marigold, is called calendula in latin, see e.g. .
    And this one fits the description. And it is long known in Europe. The calendula has also an entry in ‘Great Herball…’ (see and a few more pages).

    Both flowers grow in my garden, the Calendula grows easily every year, the Tagetes needs more care. In German they are called ‘Ringelblume’ and ‘Tagetes’. The German name of Calendula is another hint that this is a plant long known in Europe, whereas the foreign name Tagetes is typical for plants with a far away origin.

    Hoping my English is understandable, Claudia Wigger (Physicist)

    • Well, thank you so very much! When I get around to changing the picture, I’ll make sure with crediting you for steering me correctly. Very much appreciated!

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