SNAPSHOT: DE VERE – The Northern Rebellion and a Taste of War (1570)

“The Queen’s Majesty sendeth at this present the Earl of Oxenford into the north parts to remain with my Lord of Sussex & to be employed there in her Majesty’s service …” – Sir William Cecil, Master of the Court of Wards (and future Lord Burghley), March 30, 1570, authorizing payment of forty pounds to Edward de Vere for “his charges whilst he shall remain in those parts.” 

Thomas Radcliffe,
third Earl of Sussex (c.1526-d.1583)

“Those parts” of northern England and the border counties of Scotland would have seemed a “strange and foreign place” to young Oxford, writes Mark Anderson, adding that so far most of the earl’s life (as he approached his twentieth birthday) probably had been spent “within a one or two days’ ride from the queen and her court.” Now, accompanied by servants and soldiers, de Vere embarked upon a ten-day, 270-mile journey on horseback to the front lines – venturing into a feudal world where the calendar seemed to have stood still.

Queen Elizabeth’s forces had been mobilized to prevent the Catholic nobles of the north from advancing upon London with their armies. The rebel leaders had hoped to replace the Protestant daughter of Henry VIII with Catholic Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, who had fled to England for safety and remained Elizabeth’s captive. By now the English columns had soundly crushed the rebellion; but Thomas Radcliffe, third Earl of Sussex, was obeying his sovereign’s command by waging a campaign of barbarous reprisal that would “leave a memory in Scotland whereof they and their children shall be afraid” to attack England ever again.

“Nothing in Elizabeth’s life is more dreadful than the callous savagery which she permitted, and more than permitted, in the slaughter and pillage that followed the northern rebellion,” the old Dictionary of National Biography states, adding that she “did as her father would have done in the fury of his wrath.”

Here, then, is one snapshot: Edward de Vere, coming upon his first taste of war and entering the terrible scenes of its final chapters – a seemingly endless, scarred landscape of ongoing death and destruction … hanging corpses … charred ruins, still smoking … eight hundred rebels hanged … three hundred villages burned … fifty castles razed …. forty other buildings leveled … an orgy of government retribution.

Now another picture comes into focus: a snapshot of Oxford with Thomas Radcliffe, third Earl of Sussex, 44, apparently serving on his staff. Sussex was a man of courage, bluntness, intellect and empathy. Twenty-four years Oxford’s senior, he would become a father figure, mentor, colleague, friend and close ally in mutual antipathy toward Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, the queen’s intimate favorite, who was rumored to be a serial poisoner. Upon his deathbed in June 1583, Sussex would harshly warn Sir Christopher Hatton about Leicester’s malignity: “Beware of the gypsy. He will betray you. You do not know the beast as well as I do.”

“The earl of Sussex was one of the great nobles of the Elizabethan period,” the Encyclopedia Britannica records. “Though his loyalty was questioned by his enemies, it was as unwavering as his patriotism. He shone as a courtier; he excelled in diplomacy; he was a man of cultivation and even of scholarship, a patron of literature and of the drama on the eve of its blossoming into the glory it became soon after his death” – that is, during the rest of the 1580s, when his protégé the earl of Oxford would act as the foremost patron of writers working to create that very blossoming that would reach its climax with “Shakespeare” in 1593.

Hume Castle

Oxford served in Scotland when Sussex was still in anguish over the orders he was carrying out. As commander of the English forces, gifted with strategic brilliance and military prowess, he nonetheless abhorred what his sovereign ruler had told him to do. Back in January he had written to the Privy Council recommending a policy of restraint; he would execute “some” of the rebels to make an “example” of them; otherwise the “principal offenders” would be imprisoned, and, crucially, England would “extend her Majesty’s mercy” to their lowly, poor followers.

The queen, however, was “wound up to a pitch of anger that spurned this suggestion,” Elizabeth Jenkins writes. On her command to Sussex, only those same poor followers of the Catholic earls were being hanged. What made this policy so odious was her motive: Elizabeth Tudor was furious about the cost of putting down the rebellion; therefore, those with greater wealth and power were spared and allowed to buy their pardons with cash or land.

A final snapshot: Oxford would have witnessed Sussex’s twelve-hour siege of Hume Castle. Bombardment of the fortress was followed by Lord Hume’s suit for a parley, to which Sussex agreed. The defenders were allowed to retire upon abandoning their weapons – the way “Shakespeare” would depict Henry V laying siege to Harfleur, followed by the Governor’s suit for a parley and the king’s mercy.

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Mark Anderson, Shakespeare By Another Name, 2005; pp. 42-43

J.R. Black, The Reign of Elizabeth, 1939; p. 143

William Camden, Annales; Anno Domini 1570

Dictionary of National Biography – Elizabeth I; Thomas Radcliffe

Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th edition, Vol. XXVI

Nina Green, The Oxford Authorship Site, Documents; National Archives SP 15/19/37, f.88

Paul Hammer, Elizabeth’s Wars, 2003; p.83

Elizabeth Jenkins, Elizabeth the Great, 1959; pp. 153-155, 252

J.R. Neale, Queen Elizabeth, 1934; p. 189

Charlton Ogburn, Jr., The Mysterious William Shakespeare, 1984, 1992; pp. 467-469

B.M. Ward, The Seventeenth Earl of Oxford, 1928; p. 48

An Agreement with “The Monument” on the Possible Dating of Sonnet 81 — in “Brief Chronicles” for the Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship

In the current Brief Chronicles (No. VII, 2016, published 12 January 2017), edited by Roger Stritmatter, PhD with Michael Delahoyde, PhD for the Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship, researchers Elke Brackmann and Robert Detobel suggest a possible dating of Sonnet 81 that coincides with the one expressed in The Monument (2005), which presents a time frame for the central 100-sonnet sequence:

Sonnet 27 upon the failed Essex Rebellion on 8 February 1601 ….. to Sonnet 125 upon Queen Elizabeth’s funeral on 28 April 1603  ……… (plus Sonnet 126, the “envoy” ending the sequence)

bc-7-front-cover-300x236

Sonnet 81 begins with a sense of the younger man’s impending death:  “Or I shall live your Epitaph to make…”

That opening line, Backmann and Detobel write, “would suddenly take on a piercing dramatic quality” if the youth’s life had been threatened. (Well, yes!) And in fact, they note, the life of Henry Wriothesley, third Earl of Southampton, was definitely threatened when a tribunal on 19 February 1601 sentenced him to be executed for his role in the rebellion.

Robert Detobel

Robert Detobel

The case for Southampton as the younger man in the Sonnets “can now be considered firmly established,” they continue, adding, “We know of one point in time in his life (and within the generally accepted period of composition of the sonnets) when he was in great danger and/or about to die. This was in February 1601, when he was sentenced to death for high treason. It is also useful in this context to recall that the use of the word ‘epitaph’ is suggestive of death in a foreseeable future…”

Essex was beheaded on 25 February 1601, but Southampton’s penalty was commuted into lifelong imprisonment.  “The exact date of the commutation is not known,” Brackmann and Detobel write, “but it must have occurred before the end of March.”

Therefore, Sonnet 81 could have been written “between February and March when Southampton’s life was in the balance,” they suggest, adding, “It could also have been written later in the year, during the first six months or so of Southampton’s imprisonment in the Tower, when he was reported to have been very sick.”

MONUMENT cover

We might add that Oxford could not know, during the next two years, whether Southampton would be left to die in the Tower. Everything depended upon Robert Cecil being able to bring James of Scotland to the throne upon Elizabeth’s death — and it appears, from our reading of the Sonnets, that the Earl of Oxford was forced to help the Secretary engineer the succession of James.

The success of this “deal” between Edward de Vere and his former brother-in-law is expressed in Sonnet 107, the high point of the sequence — with Oxford declaring that Southampton had been “supposed as forfeit to a confined doom,” but that now, upon the queen’s death, Henry Wriothesley was free. The queen died on 24 March 1603 and Southampton was released from the Tower on 10 April 1603; and this view of the biographical/historical context of the central 100-sonnet sequence (1601-1603) is the basis for The Monument…

Your monument shall be my gentle verse,

Which eyes not yet created shall o’er-read… (Sonnet 81)

And thou in this shalt find thy monument,

When tyrants’ crests and tombs of brass are spent. (Sonnet 107)

 

 

The Remarkable Letter of Dr. Masters to Lord Burghley about Anne Cecil’s Pregnancy – Part 1

One of the most remarkable items of surviving correspondence related to Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford is a letter from court physician Dr. Richard Masters to William Cecil, Lord Treasurer Burghley on the night of March 7, 1575, about Oxford’s wife Anne Cecil. The earl himself had left England the month before and was now at the French royal court in Paris, being introduced to the recently crowned King Henry III.

William Cecil Lord Burghley 1520 - 1598

William Cecil
Lord Burghley
1520 – 1598

Dr. Masters reported to Lord Burghley about his audience that morning with Queen Elizabeth in the Presence Chamber at Richmond Palace.  Her Majesty was seated alone on cushions, listening to the doctor explain how he had met that morning with Cecil, who was still a bit under the weather physically and “desired me to say thus much to Your Highness – ”

Elizabeth understood that Burghley, too afraid to come in person, had sent Dr. Masters as the messenger who might have his head lopped off.  The physician told her:  “Seeing it had pleased Your Majesty often times to inquire tenderly after my Lady of Oxford’s health, it has now fallen out so (God be thanked) that she is with child, evidently; and albeit it were but an indifferent thing for Her Majesty to hear of, yet it was more than indifferent for your Lordship to signify the same unto her.”

This was big news. Anne, daughter of Burghley and wife of Oxford, was pregnant for the first time since her marriage to de Vere in December 1571.  Very possibly she was carrying his son, the all-important heir to his earldom. Elizabeth, the physician reported to the Lord Treasurer, reacted spontaneously in apparent shock: “Here-withal she arose, or rather sprang up from the cushions, and said these words: ‘Indeed it is a matter that concerneth my Lord’s [Burghley’s] joy chiefly, yet I protest to God that next to them that have interest in it, there is nobody can be more joyous of it than I am.’”

Well, okay, but Her Majesty might be protesting too much.  She appears to be not only acting, but overacting.

“Then I went forth and told her that your Lordship [Burghley] had a pretty likelihood of it upon your coming from Court after Shrovetide [Sunday, February 13, nearly a month earlier], but you concealed it, Ne si adversum evaderet Audires parturient montes; and that now, because your Lordship did fear the concealing of it any longer, doubting lest the matter might otherwise come to the Court, your Lordship thought it good and a piece of duty to have it imparted unto Her Majesty rather by yourself than by any other.”

Clearly this was the most immediate reason Burghley had sent Dr. Masters in his place – to admit to the Queen that he, Burghley, had “concealed” this news from Elizabeth, thereby letting the court physician take the initial blast of heat.  But why, in the first place, had the Lord Treasurer kept his daughter’s pregnancy a secret?  Why would he want to conceal it from the Queen? Burghley worried that Her Majesty would hear the news at court from someone else, which would ignite her fury at him; by now he had no choice but to tell her – or, that is, to have Dr. Masters serve as messenger.

Elizabeth I of England 1533 - 1603

Elizabeth I of England
1533 – 1603

His report continued: “And here again she bade me make her thanks with those words, reported as before, by comparing your Lordship’s joy and interest to hers. After this, I had leisure to show her of my Lady’s [Anne’s] double reckoning, viz., a retention et a consortio Comitis [recalling or calcultating both when her periods had stopped and when she had “consorted” with her husband], and that my Lady being here [Richmond] at Shrovetide had dealt with me to prepare some medicines ad menses promotions [to cause her periods to resume; that is, to produce a miscarriage or, in effect, an abortion], but I counseled her to stay a while – “

Whoa!  Is this why Burghley had concealed the news from Queen Elizabeth?  Without saying so, Dr. Masters had just slipped in some astonishing information.  Oxford’s wife had come to him asking help to abort her pregnancy!  She had sought his help in secretly terminating the life of the premier earl’s first child and, quite possibly, his son and heir!

Anne’s severely negative reaction to her pregnancy must indicate some earth-shaking circumstance. After all, she was pleading for help with an act that ultimately could have meant the end of the Oxford’s earldom. And surely she knew how it would affect her father, Burghley, who had arranged this marriage so the ancient Vere line could be linked to his own family and descendants.

On the one hand, Anne must have been experiencing tremendously frightening physical pain, which could account for everything — except that now she had also become mentally and emotionally distraught, for entirely different reasons:

“Her Majesty asked me how the young Lady did bear the matter,” Dr. Masters continued in his letter to Burghley. “I answered that she kept it secret four or five days from all persons and that her face was much fallen and thin with little color, and that when she was comforted and counseled to be gladsome and to rejoice, she would cry: ‘Alas, alas, how should I rejoice, seeing he that should rejoice with me is not here?  And to say truth, I stand in doubt whether he [Oxford] pass upon me and it [the child] or not.’ And bemoaning her case would lament that after so long sickness of body, she should enter a new grief and sorrow of mind.”

Anne was “in doubt whether he pass upon me and it or not” — indicating, it would seem, that she feared Oxford would not believe he was the father. In the next year he would come to seriously doubt his paternity and separate from the marriage for five years. As a matter of fact, reports that his wife had played a “bed trick” upon him will be reported by Francis Osborne in 1658 and Thomas Wright in 1836; and four “Shakespeare” plays (All’s Well That Ends Well, Measure for Measure, Cymbeline and The Two Noble Kinsmen) will include the same trickery by which, without the man’s knowledge, one woman is substituted for another.

The very fact this letter from Dr. Masters managed to survive at all is surprising; it offers a rare glimpse into some very private moments and encounters at the highest level, such as:

“At this Her Majesty showed great compassion, as your Lordship shall hear hereafter, and repeated my Lord of Oxford’s answer to me, which he made openly in the Presence Chamber to Her Majesty [that is, Elizabeth related to the doctor what Oxford had told her publicly], viz., that ‘if she were with child, it was not his.’ “

It may be that Oxford said this to the Queen because he knew she would not allow him to leave England while his wife was pregnant; or, perhaps, he was making such a statement for other reasons.  (Was he intending, while on the Continent, to seek an annulment of his still-childless marriage?)

Dr. Masters told Elizabeth that de Vere’s statement was “the common answer of lusty courtiers everywhere so to say.”  He also informed the Queen that other physicians had been primarily worried about Anne’s own health, preferring to stabilize her condition before tending to the fetus, but he was certain that by now both mother and child were safe.

When Elizabeth learned that Oxford’s enemy the Earl of Leicester was in the next chamber, she called him in and related the whole conversation up to this point. Then Dr. Masters spoke up again, explaining to her“that though your Lordship [Burghley] had concealed it yet a while from her, yet you left it to her [Anne’s] discretion either to reveal it or to keep it close. And here an end was made, taking advantage of my last words, that she would be with you for concealing it so long from her.”

This news must have alarmed Burghley.  Her Majesty would be “with you” — yes, she would speak to the Lord Treasurer face-to face and reprimand him for “concealing it so long from her.” It seems he was in for one of those famous tongue-lashings from Elizabeth Tudor.

But now for the final royal histrionics, swinging back and forth between joy and anger: “And severally she showed herself unfeignedly to rejoice, and in great offence with my Lord of Oxford, repeating the same to my Lord of Leicester after he came to her.”

The final word from a shaken Dr. Masters was his strong, even urgent advice to Burghley that he should be prepared to counter any suspicions by Oxford that the child might not be his: “Thus much rather to show my good will than otherwise, desiring your Lordship that there may a note be taken from the day of the first quickening [to determine the date of conception], for thereof somewhat may be known noteworthy.” So it was already feared that de Vere would erupt with questions.

The child, Elizabeth Vere, was reportedly born on July 2, 1575, not quite four months later — or nine months after Oxford and Anne had been lodged in adjacent rooms during a stay at Hampton Court Palace.

After storming home in April 1576, he commanded Burghley to prevent his daughter from being present at the royal court whenever he was there. The separation lasted until some time in late 1581 or early the following year. How much does the remarkable letter of Dr. Masters shed light on Edward de Vere’s subsequent behavior toward his wife and child? Or on any other aspect of the Oxford-Shakespeare story?

Comments and/or questions are welcome!

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One transcript of the letter (with brief introductory matter) is to be found at The Oxford Authorship Site of independent researcher Nina Green.  Here is a full version, with my own breaks inserted for easier reading:

“After my duty it may please your Lordship to understand that having her Majesty this Monday morning in the Chamber at the Gallery end, next to the Green, sitting alone, I said that the confidence in my messages made me presume to come to her in that place, for being at London with my wife that had been sick, I heard say that my Lord Treasurer had left word at my house that I should not return unto the Court until I had spoken with him; whereupon fearing lest he had been sick upon his purgation taken that Friday, I went unto him and found him mickle [much] well, saving for his cough and often sneezing, and understanding of my speedy return to the Court, he desired me to say thus much to Your Highness, that –

“’Seeing it had pleased Your Majesty often times to inquire tenderly after my Lady of Oxford’s health, it has now fallen out so (God be thanked) that she is with child, evidently; and albeit it were but an indifferent thing for Her Majesty to hear of, yet it was more than indifferent for your Lordship to signify the same unto her.’

“Here-withal she arose, or rather sprang up from the cushions, and said these words:

“’Indeed it is a matter that concerneth my Lord’s [Burghley’s] joy chiefly, yet I protest to God that next to them that have interest in it, there is nobody can be more joyous of it than I am.’

“Then I went forth and told her that your Lordship had a pretty likelihood of it upon your coming from Court after Shrovetide, but you concealed it, Ne si adversum evaderet Audires parturient montes; and that now, because your Lordship did fear the concealing of it any longer, doubting lest the matter might otherwise come to the Court, your Lordship thought it good and a piece of duty to have it imparted unto Her Majesty rather by yourself than by any other –

“And here again she bade me make her thanks with those words, reported as before, by comparing your Lordship’s joy and interest to hers.

“After this, I had leisure to show her of my Lady’s [Anne’s] double reckoning, viz., a retention et a consortio Comitis, and that my Lady being here at Shrovetide had dealt with me to prepare some medicines ad menses promotions, but I counseled her to stay a while –

“Her Majesty asked me how the young Lady did bear the matter.

“I answered that she kept it secret four or five days from all persons and that her face was much fallen and thin with little color, and that when she was comforted and counseled to be gladsome and to rejoice, she would cry, ‘Alas, alas, how should I rejoice, seeing he that should rejoice with me is not here?  And to say truth, I stand in doubt whether he pass upon me and it or not.’ And bemoaning her case would lament that after so long sickness of body, she should enter a new grief and sorrow of mind.

“At this Her Majesty showed great compassion, as your Lordship shall hear hereafter, and repeated my Lord of Oxford’s answer to me, which he made openly in the Presence Chamber to Her Majesty, viz., that if she were with child, it was not his. I answered that it was the common answer of lusty courtiers everywhere so to say.

“I told her also that she ought to think the case to be hard, when that she was let blood and purged, the physicians having greater regard to the stock than to the branch, but I trusted now they were both in safety.

“Then she asking, and being answered of me, who was in the next chamber, she calleth my Lord of Leicester and telleth him all. And here I told her that though your Lordship had concealed it yet a while from her, yet you left it to her discretion either to reveal it or to keep it close. And here an end was made, taking advantage of my last words, that she would be with you for concealing it so long from her; and severally she showed herself unfeignedly to rejoice, and in great offence with my Lord of Oxford, repeating the same to my Lord of Leicester after he came to her.

“Thus much rather to show my good will than otherwise, desiring your Lordship that there may a note be taken from the day of the first quickening, for thereof somewhat may be known noteworthy.

“From Richmond the 7th of March, 1575

“By your Lordship’s most bounden

“Richard Masters”

 

Max Perkins to Ernest Hemingway: “That Stratford Man Ain’t No Shakespeare!”

“It is certain, to my mind, that the man Shakespeare [i.e., Shakspere] was not the author of what we consider Shakespeare’s works.”

— Maxwell Perkins, writing to Ernest Hemingway on August 13, 1942. (From Editor to Author: The Letters of Maxwell E. Perkins, Scribners, 1950)

Perkins and Hemingway in Key West, Florida in January 1935

Perkins and Hemingway in Key West, Florida in January 1935

Max Perkins was the editor at Charles Scribner’s Sons for some of the greatest novelists of his time, including not only Hemingway but also Thomas Wolfe and F. Scott Fitzgerald, among many others.  Given that the works of these three writers so closely reflected their individual lives and perspectives, this devoted editor (who got so thoroughly involved in his authors’ joys and sorrows) was in the perfect position to see that the soaring, universal works of Shakespeare utterly fail to reflect the life and perspective of William Shakspere.

To Perkins, given what he knew firsthand, the traditional belief that the Stratford man could have written those works was absurd.

At the time he wrote that letter to Hemingway, the editor was reading the proofs of Will Shakspere and the Dyer’s Hand (1943) by Alden Brooks, who had put forth the candidacy of Sir Edward Dyer (1543-1607), the English courtier and poet.  In his biography Max Perkins: Editor of Genius (1978), A. Scott Berg reports that Perkins was able to get the Dyer book published “only because of his obstinacy.”

“For some time the book had been a mania with him,” Berg writes.  “At every editorial conference Perkins brought it up and the board unanimously voted it down. ‘So, being a man of infinite patience,’ one Scribners employee recalled, ‘he would reintroduce his suggestion at the next conference, with the same result.’ What charmed Perkins about the work was that it credited Sir Edward Dyer, an editor, with Shakespeare’s success.”

[Note: I am not sure what Berg means by saying Dyer was an “editor,” but he appears to suggest that Perkins was rejecting the Stratford myth at least partially because of some kind of narcissistic bias or vanity.  If so, I disagree.]

Eventually the board agreed to publish the book “to please Perkins,” Berg reports. “Max sent copies to many critics, hoping to rouse support.  Nearly every one dismissed the work as mere speculation.  Still Perkins retained his faith in the book and his respect for it.”

The reason for this tenacity, I suggest, is that he had come to realize the unbridgeable gap between the literary and dramatic works of Shakespeare and the personal experience of the Stratford man.  It must have come as a profound shock. Max Perkins, who was so attuned to his writers and how their lives affected whatever they wrote, could feel that gap in his bones.

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Postscript: Edward Dyer is rather infamous among Oxfordians because of his letter to Sir Christopher Hatton on October 9, 1572, offering advice on how to compete with Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford for the love and intimate favor of Queen Elizabeth.  His counsel, in short, was to be every bit as cynical and hypocritical as an Elizabethan courtier could be, and then some.  He exhorted Hatton to “acknowledge your duty, declaring the reverence which in heart you bear, and never seem deeply to condemn her frailties, but rather joyfully to commend such things as should be in her, as though they were in her indeed; hating my Lord Ctm [Oxford, Lord High Chamberlain] in the Queen’s understanding for affection’s sake, and blaming him openly for seeking the Queen’s favor.  For though in the beginning when her Majesty sought you (after her good manner), she did bear with rugged dealing of yours, until she had what she fancied, yet now, after satiety and fullness,” he should “use no words of disgrace or reproach” toward Oxford so that the earl, “being the less provoked, may sleep, thinking all safe, while you do awake and attend your advantages.”  [Emphasis added to those words appearing to suggest that Hatton and Elizabeth had engaged in sexual intercourse.]

 

“To Gain Knowledge and Understanding of the Ways of Men” – Queen Elizabeth, Describing the Earl of Oxford in Letters of Introduction to Foreign Princes

It’s my pleasure to pass on news of work by Alexander Waugh, who has obtained English translations of two Latin letters by Queen Elizabeth, addressing the princes of Europe on behalf of Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford as he was about to set forth in early 1575 on his foreign travels. The translations were obtained after “quite a sweat and a consultation with two serious Latin scholars,” he reports, adding, “What I think is really tremendous about this is that Elizabeth says her recommendation of Oxford is not the normal thing but ‘in all sincerity’ (‘ex animo’) or ‘from the heart’, because of his ‘outstanding intellect’ (‘praestantes animi’) or ‘outstanding mind.’”

oxford11

In the second letter the queen uses “ingenio,” which refers to innate talent and natural capacity or, quite possibly as the Latin word suggests, genius. Waugh aptly remarks that these introductions of Oxford from the Queen of England are not merely standard letters prepared by a clerk for her Majesty to sign off.  Instead they refer in specific ways to a specific young nobleman, not quite twenty-five years old, taking the trouble to emphasize his unique qualities and indicating a special interest in his mission “to gain knowledge and understanding of the ways of men in different cities and regions.”

1 Elizabeth, by the grace of God, etc.  To all individual kings, etc. 

An illustrious and highly accomplished young man, our beloved cousin, Edward Vere, Earl of Oxford, Viscount Bulbeck, Lord of Scales and Badelsmore, Great Chamberlain of England, plans (with our good grace) to travel overseas to gain knowledge and understanding of the ways of men in different cities and regions. We therefore sincerely request your servants, your most excellent educators and your own kindness, that when he comes into any kingdom, territory, land or jurisdiction of yours, not only will he be permitted to stay there freely and to pass through without impediment, but he will be treated with all kindness for our sake, and will be welcomed so that we may see your friendship and benevolence towards us reflected in your treatment of this most noble earl, our kinsman (whom we recommend not in the usual way, but in all sincerity, on account of his outstanding intellect and virtue). When this young nobleman shows himself worthy of your kindness by virtue of his manners, we too, as a sign of thanks for things great and small, shall never forget to repay you generously, and by any means, when the time and occasion may arise.  In witness whereof etc.

Hampton, 24 January 1574 [=1575], in the seventeenth year of our reign.

2 Elizabeth by the grace of God etc.   To the most powerful Prince and Lord Maximilian the Second, Holy Roman Emperor, King of Hungary and Bohemia, eternally Augustus, our brother and kinsman and dear friend, greetings. 

An illustrious young man, greatly adorned with many virtues – Edward Vere, Earl of Oxford, Viscount Bolbeck, Lord of Scales and Badelsmere, Lord High Chamberlain of England, our most beloved subject and cousin – is presently setting out from England to visit your royal court of many princes and will be passing through the cities and regions of your empire, to benefit from the knowledge thereof. He is endowed, by his very nature, with manners, virtue and learning. We therefore earnestly desire your Imperial Majesty to protect this young nobleman by your authority, to grant him your favour, to help him with recommendations, and to favour him with all kindness, so that he may understand that our greatest recommendation holds weight with your Imperial Majesty. Nothing else could give us greater joy. May God preserve your Imperial Majesty in health and safety.

Hampton [Court], 24 January 1574 [=1575], in the seventeenth year of our reign.

The full Latin texts are on Nina Green’s website The Oxford Authorship site to be found at this location.

“Proving His Beauty by Succession” – Queen Elizabeth in the Sonnets (Continued)…

Queen Elizabeth appears throughout SHAKE-SPEARES SONNETS of 1609.  Edward de Vere, the seventeenth Earl of Oxford, employs a conventional form of romantic poetry to preserve for posterity a real-life story that is not at all romantic but political.  In this slice of contemporary history within the Elizabethan poetry, otherwise unavailable to future historians,  Oxford reveals the reasons behind his obliteration as the author of the Shakespearean works – not just the reasons for his use of the pen name, which began in 1593, but also the why’s and how’s of his subsequent and enduring erasure from the official record.

ElizaTriumphansWmRogers1589Compressed

This is the thirteenth item on our expanding list of ways in which the queen appears as the woman (or dark lady) of the Sonnets.

“History is written by the winners,” George Orwell wrote; and Oxford in Sonnet 123 yells at “Time,” that is, at the official record being written by those who engineered the royal succession after Elizabeth’s death in 1603: “Thy registers and thee I both defy … For thy records and what we see doth lie…”  He knew the false history written by the winners of the political power struggle would become a widely accepted lie, a myth, so he constructed a “monument” of verse containing the truth for future generations: “And thou in this shalt find thy monument, When tyrants’ crests and tombs of brass are spent.” (Sonnet 107)

(When J.T. Looney “identified” the author in 1920 as the Lord Great Chamberlain of England, he was standing the Stratfordian fairy tale on its head. The true story is just the opposite of the popular legend that is still being celebrated.  It resides not in Anne Hathaway’s cottage but, rather, at the Royal Court of Elizabethan England — thinly disguised as the Royal Court of Denmark, where Prince Hamlet fights until his dying breath and begs his friend to tell the world what really happened:  “O God, Horatio, what a wounded name, things standing thus unknown shall live behind me! If thou didst ever hold me in thy heart, absent thee from felicity awhile, and in this harsh world draw thy breath in pain, to tell my story.”)

Now we focus on line 12 of Sonnet 2: “Proving his beauty by succession thine.”   De Vere was fully aware of the reverberations of succession.  He was inserting a political bombshell within the landscape of what may appear to be a bisexual triangle — concealing yet revealing his dangerous subject matter within the “noted weed” (Sonnet 76) or familiar costume of the poetry of love.

There’s an interesting angle on that line of Sonnet 2 in a 2015 book by the late John M. Rollett: William Stanley as Shakespeare: Evidence of Authorship by the Sixth Earl of Derby, which I highly recommend (despite our different candidates for “Shakespeare”).  When John and I spent a day together at the British Library in September 2000, we shared our mutual conviction that words and phrases throughout the Sonnets are intentionally royal and dynastic.

The poet tells the younger man in Sonnet 2 (which I believe was written circa 1591*) that his use of “beauty” will be praised if he has a “fair child,” thereby “Proving his beauty by succession thine.” This line, Rollet writes, is “introducing what seems to be the main theme of these ‘dynastic’ sonnets, that of ‘succession.’ It is interesting to learn,” he continues, “that this sonnet was the one most frequently copied out into common-place books in the thirty years following publication [in 1609].”

No less than eleven manuscript versions of Sonnet 2 have been found, “suggesting that it had a particular appeal or significance for readers at the time,” Rollet writes, adding that in those three decades after 1609 the Stuart kings James I and Charles I “had proved themselves lamentably inferior to the Tudors as rulers, and maybe people were speculating on how things might have turned out differently.” **

As mentioned before in this series, the phrase “beauty’s Rose”*** at the outset of Sonnet 1 amounts to an announcement that the overall theme of the forthcoming sequence is a plea for the preservation and continuance of Elizabeth’s dynasty of the Tudor Rose: “From fairest creatures we desire increase, That thereby beauty’s Rose might never die.”

And so that theme continues in Sonnet 2, with “beauty” signifying not only Elizabeth herself, but, as well, her Tudor blood within her own successor, who will pass on the “warm blood” of the final line to his own child:

1 When forty Winters shall besiege thy brow,

2 And dig deep trenches in thy beauty’s field,

3 Thy youth’s proud livery, so gazed on now,

4 Will be a tottered weed of small worth held:

5 Then being asked where all thy beauty lies,

6 Where all the treasure of thy lusty days,

7 To say within thine own deep sunken eyes

8 Were an all-eating shame, and thriftless praise.        

9 How much more praise deserved thy beauty’s use,

10 If thou couldst answer, ‘This fair child of mine

11 Shall sum my count, and make my old excuse,

12 Proving his beauty by succession thine.

13 This were to be new made when thou art old

14 And see thy blood warm when thou feel’st it cold.

+   The Monument sets forth a structural design opening with twenty-six sonnets (1 – 26) corresponding to the years 1591-1600.  (The first seventeen also correspond, numerically, with the first seventeen years in the life of Henry Wriothseley, third Earl of Southampton, up to 1591; the next nine correspond with the years 1592-1600, making a total of twenty-six.) The Monument explains the real-life story of the Sonnets in terms of three individuals: the author (Oxford), the fair youth (Southampton) and Elizabeth (the dark lady), with Oxford’s pen name (“Shakespeare”) mistaken by tradition for a so-called rival poet.

++ Some of the early sonnets (1-26) may have begun circulating in manuscript during the 1590s. (Francis Meres in 1598 wrote of the author’s “sugared sonnets among his private friends.”)  The remaining 100 sonnets of the fair youth series (nos. 27-126) correspond with the years 1601-1603 and were not circulated in manuscript; they, along with the rest of the quarto, remained underground until 1711.  [However, a bogus edition in 1640, thoroughly mangling the 1609 quarto, represents an extension of the 1623 Folio effort to obscure the true story.  And this version is another source of some manuscript versions, which have many variations from the authentic text of 1609.]

+++ “Rose” is both capitalized and italicized in the 1609 quarto.

The list to date, compiled by sonnet number:

In the Fair Youth series:

1 – Sonnet 1: “Beauty’s Rose” – the Queen’s dynasty of the Tudor Rose

2 – Sonnet 2: “Proving his beauty by succession” — the succession to Elizabeth 

3 – Sonnet 19: “The Phoenix” – the Queen’s emblem

4 – Sonnet 25: “The Marigold” – the Queen’s flower

5 – Sonnet 76: “Ever the Same” – the Queen’s motto in English

6  – Sonnet 107: “the Mortal Moon” – Queen Elizabeth as Diana, the chaste moon goddess

7 – Sonnet 125: “Were’t Ought to Me I Bore the Canopy” – Elizabeth’s funeral

In the Dark Lady series:

8 – Sonnet 128: “Those Jacks that Nimble Leap” – recalling the Queen at her virginals

9 – Sonnet 131: “Commanded by the Motion of Thine Eyes” – to a monarch

10 – Sonnet 151: “I Rise and Fall” – the courtier as sexual slave to his Queen

11 – Sonnet 152: “Thy love, thy truth, thy constancy” – Echo of Oxford’s sonnet to Elizabeth

The Bath Epilogue:

12 – Sonnet 153: “Against Strange Maladies a Sovereign Cure” – the Queen’s touch

13 – Sonnet 154: “Sleeping by a Virgin Hand Disarmed” – the Virgin Queen

 

“Oaths of thy love, thy truth, thy constancy” – Oxford to Elizabeth I (the Dark Lady) in Sonnet 152, Echoing His Own Early Sonnet to the Queen

Another  way in which Elizabeth I can be seen in the Sonnets appears in number 152.

Sonnet 152 contains key words that Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford had used in a much earlier sonnet to/about her.     oxford11

In about 1573, when he was twenty-three, Oxford expressed his devotion to the Queen by asking himself a series of rhetorical questions; the unspoken answer, in each case, was “Elizabeth.”

    Above the rest in Court who gave thee grace?

    Who made thee strive in honor to be best?

    In constant truth to bide so firm and sure…

    Love then thy choice wherein such choice doth bind

(Emphases added)

(Only Elizabeth, the divinely ordained monarch, could bestow “grace” upon him.)

The three words/concepts emphasized above – constant, truth, love – are clustered within a single line of Sonnet 152:

    For I have sworn deep oaths of thy deep kindness,

    Oaths of thy love, thy truth, thy constancy

Following is the full sonnet by Oxford, one of the first of the Elizabethan reign written in the form to become known as “Shakespearean,” again with added emphasis on those three key words or concepts:

    Who taught thee first to sigh, alas, my heart?

    Who taught thy tongue the woeful words of plaint?

    Who filled your eyes with tears of bitter smart?

    Who gave thee grief and made thy joys to faint?

    Who first did paint with colors pale thy face?

    Who first did break thy sleeps of quiet rest?

    Above the rest in Court who gave thee grace?

    Who made thee strive in honor to be best?

    In constant truth to bide so firm and sure,

    To scorn the world regarding but thy friends?

    With patient mind each passion to endure,

     In one desire to settle to the end?

       Love then thy choice wherein such choice thou bind,

      As nought but death may ever change thy mind.

                                           Earle of Oxfenforde

eliza.jpg

In Sonnet 152 he speaks decades later to the same sovereign Mistress, using some of his same words; but now Oxford turns those earlier lines upside-down.

Now he expresses profound feelings of betrayal and heartbreak.

In the earlier sonnet, above, he reveals his pure belief in the Queen despite whatever “tears of bitter smart” she has caused him to shed.

But now, below in Sonnet 152, he writes that “all my honest faith in thee is lost” — an unambiguous statement of his disillusion and desolation.

The pure faith in his sovereign Mistress has given way to shattered faith and raging fury.

He is angry not only at Elizabeth and her lies but at his own complicity in them — angry at himself for his continued loyalty to a royal liar.

The simplicity of the early sonnet by a young, idealistic courtier-poet has given way to the complex maturity of an experienced master whose spirit, like that of Hamlet, has been beaten down to the point of near insanity:  “Past cure I am, now Reason is past care,” he tells her in Sonnet 147, “And frantic mad with ever-more unrest;/ My thoughts and my discourse as madmen’s are,/ At random from the truth, vainly expressed.”

In the final line of Sonnet 152, he has ultimately betrayed “truth” or himself,  echoing his motto Nothing Truer than Truth and winding up with “lie” as his final word to the Queen he once had loved:

                                 Sonnet 152

    In loving thee thou know’st I am forsworn,

    But thou art twice forsworn to me love swearing;

    In act thy bed-vow broke and new faith torn

    In vowing new hate after new love bearing:

    But why of two oaths’ breach do I accuse thee,

    When I break twenty? I am perjured most,

    For all my vows are oaths but to misuse thee,

    And all my honest faith in thee is lost.

    For I have sworn deep oaths of thy deep kindness,

    Oaths of thy love, thy truth, thy constancy,

    And to enlighten thee gave eyes to blindness,

    Or made them swear against the thing they see.

       For I have sworn thee fair: more perjured eye,

       To swear against the truth so foul a lie.

Without the identification of Edward de Vere as the author of Sonnet 152, we are deprived of the equally crucial knowledge of Elizabeth Tudor as the “dark lady” whose dark or negative viewpoint has turned the world, England, from day to night.

The Queen, to whom the younger Oxford was so devoted, has forced him to “swear against the thing” he sees.

To maintain his continued service to her, he has adopted a state of “blindness” toward her false public image.

Southampton in the Tower: 1601 - 1603

Southampton in the Tower: 1601 – 1603

He has allowed her to break “two oaths” – one made to him, and one made to Henry Wriothesley, third Earl of Southampton, the “fair youth” of the Sonnets.

Sonnet 152 is a bitter cry of emotional pain, recorded not for contemporary eyes, but, rather, for “eyes not yet created” (Sonnet 81) in posterity — for those of us who, because his “monument” to Southampton has survived, can read his words today.

Without the knowledge that Oxford is writing to Elizabeth, the scope and depth of this personal suffering is inexplicable.

Without Elizabeth identified as the so-called dark lady, the lines of Sonnet 152 seem inflated, fatuous, hyperbolic.

This suffering on Oxford’s part begins to explain the resounding silence of “Shakespeare” upon the Queen’s death.

There’s much more to come in this compilation of ways the Queen appears in the Sonnets; meanwhile, here is the list to date, arranged according to the sonnet numbers in the 1609 quarto:

1 – Sonnet 1: “Beauty’s Rose” – the Queen’s dynasty of the Tudor Rose

2 – Sonnet 19: “The Phoenix” – the Queen’s emblem

3 – Sonnet 25: “The Marigold” – the Queen’s flower

4 – Sonnet 76: “Ever the Same” – the Queen’s motto in English

5 – Sonnet 107: “the Mortal Moon” – Queen Elizabeth as Diana, the chaste moon goddess

6 – Sonnet 125: “Were’t Ought to Me I Bore the Canopy” – Elizabeth’s funeral

7 – Sonnet 128: “Those Jacks that Nimble Leap” – recalling the Queen at her virginals

8 – Sonnet 131: “Commanded by the Motion of Thine Eyes” – to a monarch

9 – Sonnet 151: “I Rise and Fall” – the courtier as sexual slave to his Queen

10 – Sonnet 153: “Against Strange Maladies a Sovereign Cure” – the Queen’s touch

11 – Sonnet 154: “Sleeping by a Virgin Hand Disarmed” – the Virgin Queen

12 – Sonnet 152: “Thy love, thy truth, thy constancy” – Echo of Oxford’s sonnet to Elizabeth

“Were’t Ought to Me I Bore the Canopy” – the Funeral of Elizabeth I, the Dark Lady of the Sonnets

“On 28 April 1603, more than a month after her death, Elizabeth’s body was taken in procession to Westminster Abbey. It was an impressive occasion: the hearse was drawn by four horses hung with black velvet, and surmounted by a life-size wax effigy of the late Queen, dressed in her state robes and crown, an orb and scepter in its hands; over it was a canopy of estate supported by six earls.” – Alison Weir, The Life of Elizabeth, 1998

Our continuing demonstration of Elizabeth I of England in the Sonnets now includes the clear reference to her funeral procession in Sonnet 125:

Were’t ought to me I bore the canopy,

With my extern the outward honoring…

No, let me be obsequious in thy heart…

funeral of Eliza

“Canopy – a cloth covering, carried tent-like over the head of a dignitary in a ceremonial procession … Through its relation to ‘obsequy,’ ‘funeral,’ obsequious had the specialized meaning ‘dutiful in performing funeral rites,’ and invites a reader to think of the canopy as borne in a funeral procession.” – Stephen Booth, Shakespeare’s Sonnets, 1977

Sonnet 125 occurs immediately before the “envoy” at the end of the long opening sequence to the so-called Fair Youth, whom we identify as Henry Wriothesley, third Earl of Southampton.  As noted in The Monument, there are nineteen sonnets and nineteen days from Sonnet 107 on 10 April 1603 (when Southampton was released from the Tower) to Sonnet 125 on 28 April 1603, the date of Elizabeth’s funeral (when the end of the Tudor dynasty was official) – or exactly one sonnet per day, and surely not a coincidence.

The bitterness of “Shakespeare” toward the Queen reflects Oxford’s own bitterness toward the female monarch he had served, adding to our evidence that Elizabeth is also the Dark Lady of Sonnets 127 to 152, wherein he rages at her in lines such as those at the end of Sonnet 147: “For I have sworn thee fair, and thought thee bright,/ Who art as black as hell, as dark as night.”

“If, then, we take Sonnet 125 as being the Earl of Oxford’s expression of his private feelings relative to Queen Elizabeth’s funeral, we can quite understand his not troubling to honor her with any special verses (under his own name or that of “Shakespeare”).” – John Thomas Looney, “Shakespeare” Identified, 1920

Sonnet 125

Wer’t ought to me I bore the canopy,

With my extern the outward honoring,

Or laid great bases for eternity

Which proves more short than waste or ruining?

Have I not seen dwellers on form and favor

Lose all and more by paying too much rent

For compound sweet; Forgoing simple savor,

Pitiful thrivers in their gazing spent?

No, let me be obsequious in thy heart,

And take thou my oblation poor but free,

Which is not mixed with seconds, knows no art,

But mutual render only me for thee.

   Hence, thou suborn’d Informer, a true soul

   When most impeached stands least in thy control.

(The “suborned informer” is Time itself, or the Official Record created by those in power, who are liars; and Oxford is saying: No, Time, you will not crush me, because this “monument” containing the Truth will endure and be triumphant.)

(Oxfordians have had some discussion of whether Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford was officially entitled to “bear the canopy” during Queen Elizabeth’s funeral procession. In my view, however, that discussion misses the essential point – that Oxford is using this great occasion as a clear “historical marker” within his “monument” of verse for posterity, and, too, using it as the allegorical or metaphorical basis upon which to record his true thoughts and feelings for future generations.  The end of the Tudor dynasty is, in fact, the end of his story.)

The List to Date:

1 – Sonnet 76: “Ever the Same” – the Queen’s motto in English

2 – Sonnet 25: “The Marigold” – the Queen’s flower

3 – Sonnet 131: “Commanded by the Motion of Thine Eyes” – to a monarch

4 – Sonnet 1: “Beauty’s Rose” – the Queen’s dynasty of the Tudor Rose

5 – Sonnet 107: “the Mortal Moon” – Queen Elizabeth as Diana, the chaste moon goddess

6 – Sonnet 19: “The Phoenix” – the Queen’s emblem

7 – Sonnet 151: “I Rise and Fall” – the courtier as sexual slave to his Queen

8 – Sonnet 128: “Those Jacks that Nimble Leap” – recalling the Queen at her virginals

9 – Sonnet 153: “Against Strange Maladies a Sovereign Cure” – the Queen’s touch

10 – Sonnet 154: “Sleeping by a Virgin Hand Disarmed” – the Virgin Queen

11 – Sonnet 125: “Were’t Ought to Me I Bore the Canopy” – Elizabeth’s funeral

“Against Strange Maladies A Sovereign Cure” — Queen Elizabeth as the Dark Lady … in Sonnet 153

Here’s the ninth item on our continually growing list of ways in which Elizabeth I of England appears within the Sonnets, adding to the evidence that she herself is the powerful dark lady, whose dominating “eye” or viewpoint permeates the sequence – for example, turning the younger man from “fair” to “black” with an imperial frown.

Roman Bath at the City of Bath, England

Roman Bath at the City of Bath, England

These items are being highlighted one by one, in no particular order; and now we focus on Sonnet 153, wherein the author journeys to the medicinal springs of a hot bath in search of “a sovereign cure” but finds, instead, that only “my mistress’ eye” can save him.

I, sick withal, the help of bath desired,

And thither hied, a sad distempered guest.

“‘I … thither hied.’ Whither?” Sir George Greenwood mused in The Shakespeare Problem Restated (1908).  “Surely here is an allusion to the City of Bath, popular in Elizabethan times as ‘against strange maladies a sovereign cure’ … Here, then, I believe, we have an allusion to the poet’s ‘Mistress,’ the Virgin Queen, and to the City of Bath … Was Shakspere at Bath with the Queen?” he asked, referring to the man from Stratford, before replying, “I think it probable that ‘Shakespeare’ was.”

More than a dozen years before Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford was identified as the great author, Greenwood had become convinced that he must have been a nobleman close to Elizabeth Tudor. “The real problem of the Sonnets is to find out who ‘Shakespeare’ was,” he wrote in the same volume of 1908.  “That he would be found among cultured Elizabethan courtiers of high position, I can entertain no doubt.”

Queen Elizabeth I and the Royal Maundy

Queen Elizabeth I and the Royal Maundy

It turns out that Elizabeth visited Bath in the west of England only once in her entire reign of nearly forty-five years, according to the meticulous work of Mary Hill Cole in The Portable Queen (1999).  It was a stay of two nights during August 21-23, 1574, as part of her progress.  Earlier that summer Oxford had bolted across the Channel to the Continent on an unauthorized trip only to return three weeks later, catching up to her Majesty at Bristol and continuing with her and the royal court to Bath, with its ancient Roman shrines built around natural springs with healing waters:

Cupid laid by his brand and fell asleep.                                

A maid of Dian’s this advantage found,       

And his love-kindling fire did quickly steep        

In a cold valley-fountain of that ground:             

Which borrowed from this holy fire of love,        

A dateless lively heat still to endure,        

And grew a seething bath which yet men prove

Against strange maladies a sovereign cure:                

But at my mistress’ eye love’s brand new-fired,

The boy for trial needs would touch my breast.

I, sick withal, the help of bath desired,         

And thither hied, a sad distempered guest.                

But found no cure; the bath for my help lies      

Where Cupid got new fire: my mistress’ eye.     

POSTSCRIPT: “Against strange maladies a sovereign cure”

Carole Levin writes in The Heart and Stomach of a King (1994):

“By the Tudor period the monarch had become clearly associated with the Maundy ceremony. The ceremony of washing the feet of the poor, done in imitation of Christ washing the feet of his disciples at the end of the Last Supper, was a part of the Easter vigil … The use of these religious ceremonies fit well with Elizabeth’s self-presentation as the Virgin Queen, an image she presented to her people as a means to replace the Virgin Mary and help heal the rupture created by the break with the Catholic Church …

Christ washing the feet of disciples

Christ washing the feet of   disciples

“Elizabeth’s progresses were critical in systematically promoting the cult of the Virgin Queen for people of all classes all over the country … The continuation of the Maundy ceremony and touching for the king’s evil were manifestations of the sacred aspect of monarchy Elizabeth represented to a people suffering from the dislocations of so many changes in church and state.

“Elizabeth deliberately performed these ceremonies with as much drama as possible, a holy or sacred theatre … Blessing and curing with the queen’s touch was yet another aspect of religious functions subsumed by the monarch … As with touching, Elizabeth began celebrating the Maundy from the very beginning of her reign … There were carpets and cushions on which the queen could kneel and basins of holy water …”

In Macbeth the author writes of a “most miraculous work in this good King,” who tends to the needs of “strangely-visited [sick and suffering] people, all swollen and ulcerous, pitiful to the eye,” and “the more despair of surgery, he cures…” (4.3)

Roman Bath at the City of Bath, nighttime

Roman Bath at the City of Bath, nighttime

A most miraculous work in this good King,

Which often, since my here-remain in England,

I have seen him do.  How he solicits Heaven,

Himself best knows; but strangely-visited people,

All swoln and ulcerous, pitiful to the eye,

The more despair of surgery, he cures…          

Macbeth, 4.3.148-152

The list to date:

1 – Sonnet 76: “Ever the Same” – the Queen’s motto in English

2 – Sonnet 25: “The Marigold” – the Queen’s flower

3 – Sonnet 131: “Commanded by the Motion of Thine Eyes” – to a monarch

4 – Sonnet 1: “Beauty’s Rose” – the Queen’s dynasty of the Tudor Rose

5 – Sonnet 107: “the Mortal Moon” – Queen Elizabeth as Diana, the chaste moon goddess

6 – Sonnet 19: “The Phoenix” – the Queen’s emblem

7 – Sonnet 151: “I Rise and Fall” – the courtier as sexual slave to his Queen

8 – Sonnet 128: “Those Jacks that Nimble Leap” – recalling the Queen at her virginals

9 – Sonnet 153: “Against Strange Maladies a Sovereign Cure”

Queen Elizabeth as the Dark Lady: “Do I envy those Jacks that nimble leap to kiss the tender inward of thy hand”

“Prominent among these favorites was Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford … He was an agile and energetic dancer, the ideal partner for the queen, and he had a refined ear for music and was a dexterous performer on the virginals.” – Carolly Erickson, “The First Elizabeth” (1983)

How oft, when thou my music music play’st

Upon that blessed wood whose motion sounds

With thy sweet fingers when thou gently sway’st

The wiry concord that mine ear confounds,

Do I envy those Jacks that nimble leap           

To kiss the tender inward of thy hand…

(Emphasis added)

Queen Elizabeth's Virginal

So begins Sonnet 128, the second verse of the Dark Lady series (127-152); and with Oxford viewed as the author, it is plainly about Elizabeth I, who was fond of playing on her virginals – a musical instrument of the harpsichord family, with “jacks” or wooden shafts that rest on the ends of the keys. The presumption here is that Oxford, an expert musician, composed pieces that he and the queen would play together:

Oxford had been jealous of Sir Walter Raleigh, a “jack” who had leaped into the court’s attention in 1580, when he went to Ireland to help suppress an uprising. He soon became a favorite of the queen, and in 1587 he was knighted and appointed Captain of the Queen’s Guard.  Later he helped the government bring Essex to his tragic ending upon the failure of the Essex Rebellion and was said to gloat at the time of the earl’s execution.

“When the news was officially announced that the tragedy was over, there was a dead silence in the Privy Chamber, but the queen continued to play, and the Earl of Oxford, casting a significant glance at Raleigh, observed, as if in reference to the effect of Her Majesty’s fingers on the instrument, which was a sort of open spinet, ‘When Jacks start up, then heads go down.’ Everyone understood the bitter pun contained in this allusion.” – Agnes Strickland, “The Life of Queen Elizabeth” (1910), p. 674, citing “Fragmenta Regalia: Observations on the late Q. Elizabeth, her times and favorites,” Sir Robert Naughton (1641)

[The Monument views the chronological arrangement of the Dark Lady series as beginning with Sonnet 127 on the night of the Rebellion on February 8, 1601; in this context, Sonnet 128 would follow upon the execution of Essex a little more than two weeks later on February 25, 1601.  The placement is a perfect fit within that context of the contemporary history.]

The lines about “those Jacks that nimble leap/ To kiss the tender inward of thy hand” recall a letter from Essex to Elizabeth in 1597: “And so wishing Your Majesty to be Mistress of all that you wish most, I humbly kiss your fair hands.”

Sir Walter Raleigh

Sir Walter Raleigh

Francis Bacon apparently recalled the same incident with the virginals (or perhaps one that occurred much earlier) in “Apophthegemes New and Old” (1625): “When Queen Elizabeth had advanced Raleigh, she was one day playing on the virginals, and my Lord of Oxford, & another Noble-man, stood by. It fell out so that the Ledge, before the Jacks, was taken away, so the Jacks were seen [i.e., making them visible]; My Lord of Oxford and the other Noble-man smiled, and a little whispered.  The Queen marked it, and would needs know what the matter was?  My Lord of Oxford answered that they smiled to see that ‘when Jacks went up, Heads went down.’”

The actual occasion of the incident matters little in terms of its placement in the Dark Lady series or its relationship to Sonnet 128. The point is that there is, in fact, documentary evidence that the Queen and Oxford were together while she played on the virginals and he came up with his now-famous, spontaneous quip about the leaping jacks being like Raleigh, an upstart “jack” at the royal court.  To express his bitterness at Raleigh in relation to the execution of Essex, there was no better allusion than this one.  [In addition, all recollections of the quip have the same rather obvious allusion to an execution-by-beheading.]

Sonnet 128

How oft, when thou my music music play’st

Upon that blessed wood whose motion sounds

With thy sweet fingers when thou gently sway’st

The wiry concord that mine ear confounds,

Do I envy those Jacks that nimble leap

To kiss the tender inward of thy hand…

Whilst my poor lips, which should that harvest reap,

At the wood’s boldness by thee blushing stand.

To be so tickled they would change their state

And situation with those dancing chips,

O’er whom thy fingers walk with gentle gait,

Making dead wood more blest than living lips.

Since saucy Jacks so happy are in this,

Give them thy fingers, me thy lips to kiss.

The list of ways in which Queen Elizabeth permeates the Sonnets of Shakespeare continues to grow:

1 – Sonnet 76: “Ever the Same” – the Queen’s motto in English

2 – Sonnet 25: “The Marigold” – the Queen’s flower

3 – Sonnet 131: “Commanded by the Motion of Thine Eyes” – to a monarch

4 – Sonnet 1: “Beauty’s Rose” – the Queen’s dynasty of the Tudor Rose

5 – Sonnet 107: “the Mortal Moon” – Queen Elizabeth as Diana, the chaste moon goddess

6 – Sonnet 19: “The Phoenix” – the Queen’s emblem

7 – Sonnet 151: “I Rise and Fall” – the courtier as sexual slave to his Queen

8 – Sonnet 128: “Those Jacks that Nimble Leap” – recalling the Queen at her virginals

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