Still under house arrest in late July or August 1581, Charles Arundel recalled Oxford's charge ‘That my Lord Harrye shuld be present when I presentid a certayne boke of pictures, after the manner of a prophesie and by interpretacion resemblid a crowned sone [=son] to the Quene &c’ (LIB-2.3.1/5). The book evidently prophesied the date of the Queen's death and the identity of her male successor.
Arundel, denying that Henry Howard ever saw the book of prophecies, attempted to turn the tables on Oxford:
O[f] all other, this pointe is most childishe, vayne, and most ridiculus, for as my Lord Harrye never sawe this payntid boke, I protest – much lesse expowndid it or playd the paraphrast – so in my knoledge dyd he never of any suche, till my Lord of Oxford, beinge commaundid to kepe his chamber abowte the libellinge betwene him and my Lord of Lester, I declarid to my Lord Harrye that suche a toye Oxford layd vpp in his deske, which some man of his (as I conceavid) thrust vppon him vnder cullor of a prophesye, to [cozen] him of crownes [i.e., money] – as indede it was not rare to picke his purse with pretence of novelties and future accidentes – addinge further that I fearid lest Sir Thomas Henedge, who had the kepeinge of the fole [=the Queen's fool] at that time, lightinge on the same, might wilfullie pervert it to his [=Oxford's] hurt, and geve a greter oportunitie to those that had a mind to temper or to worke against him. This was mye sincere and honest care of my ingratefull and accurseid fri[e]nd, and this was all that ever my Lord Harrye h[e]ard of the payntyd gewegawes, so farr his iudgment and discretion was from geseinge or interpretinge. And for his further clereinge in this cawse, I will depose on my othe, he was never privie to the boke, and that Oxford shewinge it to me coniurid me by soleme othe never to impart the thinge to my Lord Harry, bycause he [=Howard] wold not hide it from my Lord Treaserer [=Burghley]. Nowe iudge whether it be likelie, that he wold make his eies wittnessis of that, wherof he was so lothe his eares shold receave the sownd by report of another.
The 16th Earl's players survived their master's death by two years, playing at Ludlow (Shropshire) as late as 1564–65. Then, following a fifteen-year hiatus, the 17th Earl took over another company altogether, the Earl of Warwick's men. Warwick was still patron on 1 January 1580, but by April the company's transfer to Oxford was complete. The transfer was also controversial, as revealed in a 12 April letter from Sir Nicholas Woodrofe, Lord Mayor of London, to Sir Thomas Bromley, Lord Chancellor:
My dutie humblie done to your Lordship. Where it happened on Sundaie last that some great disorder was committed at the Theatre, I sent for the vnder shireue of Middlesex to vnderstand the cercumstances, to the intent that by my self or by him I might haue caused such redresse to be had as in dutie and discretion I might, and therefore did also send for the plaiers to haue apered afore me, and the rather because those playes doe make assembles of Cittizens and their familes of whome I haue charge. But forasmuchas I vnderstand that your Lordship with other of hir Maiesties most honorable Counsell haue entered into examination of that matter, I haue surceassed to procede further, and do humbly refer the whole to your wisdomes and graue considerations. Howbeit I haue further thought it my dutie to informe your Lordship, and therewith also to beseche to haue in your honorable remembrance, that the players of playes, which are vsed at the Theatre, and other such places, and tumbleres and such like are a very superfluous sort of men, and of suche facultie as the lawes haue disalowed, and their exersise of those playes is a great hinderaunce of the seruice of God, who hath with his mighty hand so lately admonished vs of oure earnest repentance. It is also great corruption of youthe with vnchast and wicked matters, occasion of much incontinence, practises of many ffrayes, querrells, and other disorders and inconueniences, bisid [=besides] that the assemble of terme and parliament being at hand, against which time the most honorable Lordes haue given vs earnest charge to haue care to auoide vncleanenesse and pestering of the Citty, the said playes are matter of great daunger.
On New Year's Day 1600 the Countess of Oxford exchanged gifts with Queen Elizabeth. In July Oxford wrote to Cecil from Hackney, entreating his aid in securing the governorship of the Isle of Jersey (LL-30):
Althoughe my badd succes, in former sutes to her Magestye, haue giuene me cause to burye my hoopes [=hopes], in the diepe Abis and bottome of dispayre, rather then nowe to attempt, after so many tryales made in vayne, & so many oportunites escaped, the effects of fayre woordes, or frutes of gowlden promises. yet for that, I cannot beleue, but that there hathe bene alwayes a trwe correspondencie of woord and intentione in her Magestye. I doo coniecture, that wythe a lyttell helpe, that which of yt selfe hathe brought forthe so fayre blossumes will also yeld frute. Wherfore hauinge moved her Magestye lat[e]lye about the office of the I[s]le whiche by the deathe of Sir Antonie Paulet stands now in her maiesties dispositione to bestowe where yt shall best pleas her, I doo at this præsent most hartely desyre yowre friendship and furtherance fyrst for that I know her Magestye doothe giue yow good eare, then for that owre howses are knyt in alliance, last of all, the matter yt self ys suche, as nothinge chargethe her Magestye sythe yt ys a thynge she must bestowe vpon sume one or other. I know her Magestye hathe swters alredie for yt, yet suche as for many respects her Magestye may call to remembrance ought in equall ballence, to way [=weigh] lyghter then my selfe. And I know not by whatt better meanes, or when her maiestie may have an easier oportunite to discharge the dept [=debt] of so many hopes, as her promises have giuene me cause to imbrace, then by thys, whiche giue she muste & so giue as nothinge extraordinarelye doothe part frome her. yf she shall not dayne [=deign] me this in an oportunitie of tyme so fyttinge, what tyme shall I attend which is vncerteyne to all men, vnles in the graues of men ther were a tyme to receyve benifites, and good turnes frome princes. well I will not vse more woordes, for they may rather argue mistrust then confidence.
The closing days of July 1577 witnessed a murder recalled by Henry Howard in December 1580:
… Wekes was comaundid to kill Sankie my Lords man, and so he did after he was turned away because he wold not geue the stabbe to York, when he mette him in Holborne. Wekes confessed with what violence he had bene sette [on] by my lord [=Oxford] after he [=Weekes] had woundid him [=Sankey] to the death without eyther cause ore courage; [Weekes told it on] his death, both to the minester, his wife, and diuerse others. Thus laid he suche straight wayte for Rowland York that George Whitney had lyke to be slayne for him one night at the Horse Heade in Cheape.
Charles Arundel tells the same story but with other details. He characterizes Sankey as ‘beinge sometime a speciall favorite to this Monster’ – meaning Oxford; specifies that Weekes confessed to the minister ‘at the gallous’; and reports that Oxford ‘gave him a hundrid powndes in gold after the murder committid to shifte him a waye, and so muche was fownd abowte [him] when he was apprehendid’.
Sankey's murder occupied the Privy Council on 27 November:
A letter to the Bishop of Durham that where their Lordships are geven to understand that there is one William Weekes latelie apprehended within the Bushopricke of Durham uppon suspicion of a murder by him to be committed in London about July last past; for that the frinds of the partie slaine have ben humble suiters unto their Lordships that the said Weekes might be brought to London, where the facte was comitted, the rather for that there be manie circumstances depending on the said facte which cannot be so convenientlie dealt in wher he now remaineth, he being so farr from London, his Lordship is therfore required accordingly to cause the person of the said Weekes forthwith to be delivered to Hamblet Holcraft, the bearer herof, taking sufficient bands [=bonds] of him to her Majesties use for the safe delivering of the said Weekes here at London.
Thus William Weekes had been apprehended at Durham, suspected of a murder committed in London, while Hamlet Holcraft alias Holcroft had been engaged to escort him back to London.
The 16th Earl's second marriage is recorded in the parish register of St Andrew in the village of Belchamp St Paul's, Essex, under the year 1548:
The weddinge of my Lorde Ihon Devere Earle of Oxenforde and Margery the daughter of Ihon Gouldinge Esquier the firste of Auguste.
Despite the routine character of the entry, the marriage was so desperately irregular that it would prompt doubts and suspicions as to the legitimacy of the 17th Earl.
The circumstances of the marriage were the subject of depositions taken on 19 and 20 January 1585 before Sir John Popham, Queen Elizabeth's attorney general, and Thomas Egerton, her solicitor general. Twenty questions (interrogatories) were put to each of five examinants on behalf of Richard Masterson, gentleman, complaining against Hugh Key concerning property in Ashton, county of Chester, leased by the 16th Earl to Hugh and to Hugh's mother Margaret Key for the duration of either of their lives, or for eighty years (if either should live so long). After the 16th Earl's death in 1562, the 17th Earl sold the reversion of this property to Christopher Hatton, who provided a lease to Masterson, who entered the property while Key was still in occupancy. Key held that any contract issued by the 17th Earl was flawed as he was not a legitimate heir.
The five examinants were Rooke Green Esq., of Little Sampford, Essex, then about 62 years of age, son of Sir Edward Green of Sampford Hall; John Anson, clerk, 60 years of age and above, parson of Weston Turvill, Buckinghamshire; Richard Enowes of Earls Colne, Essex, about 92 years of age (hence born about 1493), sometime servant of the 16th Earl; Thomas Knollis of Cottingham, Northamptonshire, aged 58 years and above; and William Walforth of Finchingfield, Essex, yeoman, 60 years of age and above, the 16th Earl's servant for twenty years, and his gamekeeper at Hedingham Park. All five confessed ignorance concerning the Ashton property, but more or less extensive knowledge concerning the 16th Earl's marriages. All defended the legitimacy of the 17th Earl, and must thus be considered sympathetic witnesses.
The deponents agreed that the 16th Earl had married Dorothy Neville in or about 1536. Rooke Green ‘knoweth well that they lyved long after the same marriage in good lyking together, and came often together to this Examinantes fathers house [in Little Sampford]’ (A.6).
On 1 January 1573 Lady Mary Vere received a New Year's gift from the Queen. Now about eighteen, Lady Mary was beginning to be noticed at court.
By 3 February the Privy Council had taken up residence at Greenwich. On Wednesday 18 March, Queen and Court arrived for the Maundy Thursday celebration. Before the month was out Burghley dispatched a shattering message to Walsingham in Paris:
Here hath been a murther committed about Shooters-hill, somewhat to the reproof of this place; and herein I have used such care, as the party is taken, being one Brown an Irish man, who had served, and is put from my Lord of Oxfords seruice.
On 25 March, the Wednesday after Easter, George Brown murdered George Saunders, a London merchant, on Shooters-hill near Greenwich. Brown was in fact a Yorkshireman who had seen service in Ireland. On 26 March the Privy Council took action:
A letter to the Mayor of London to cause diligent inquirie to be made for a murdre donne the day before upon one Saunders, an honest merchant man, one Browne being vehemently suspected.
On 30 March the Council took up the subject once more:
A warraunt to the Tresorer of the Chamber for vli [=£5] to the Mayor of Rochester for bringing of George Browne, prisoner, to the Coourte for the murdering of Saunders, a merchant of London.
By now Brown had been captured. Again on 1 April:
A letter to the Knight Mershall to deliver unto the Lieutenant of the Towre George Browne, to be furder ordered as he shall receve from the Lords of the Counsell.
A letter to the Lieutenant to receve him and to kepe him in suer custodie, without havinge conference with any, saving the Master of the Rolles, Mr. Justice Sowthcote and Manwoode, or any two of them, whom they have appointed to examine him, willing him to assiste them by bringing or putting him to the racke or otherwise.
In early 1595 Lady Elizabeth Vere, then nineteen, married William Stanley, 6th Earl of Derby:
The 26 of Ianuarye beinge Fridaye [in fact, Sunday] in the yere of [Christ] 1594 and the 37 of the reigne of Quene Elizabethe at Grenewiche with great solempnitie and triumphe was William erle of Darbye (brother and heyre male to Ferdinando erle of Derbye and the sonne of Henry erle of Darbye & of his wyfe Margaret daughter to the erle of Cumberlande) maried to (blank) one of the daughters of Edwarde erle of Oxeforde by his first wyfe Anne the daughter of William Cecill lorde Burghleighe tresurer of England.
On the same day an unknown play was acted at Greenwich by the Lord Chamberlain's (Shakespeare's) company, doubtless as part of the festivities.
On 31 January John Carey wrote to Burghley from Berwick:
Touching the latter part of your lettre wherin your honour writes of the mariadge of your daughter the Ladye Vere, I am gladde as a feeling member of your Lordships Ioye and reioice at her ladyships good fortune in preserving your honours life so longe wherby thimperfections of her father shall be no blemishe to her honour whome I pray God make as happye a couple as ever were of that name. Being also very gladd that her maiestie will vouchsafe so honorablye to solempnise the matter, with her Royall presence which will be I dare saye a great comforth to your lordship and a great honour to the yonge couple.
The writer was the second son of Henry, 1st Lord Hunsdon, Lord Chamberlain from 1585 to 1596. Upon Henry's death his eldest son George Carey would became 2nd Lord Hunsdon, also succeeding his father (after a year's hiatus) as Lord Chamberlain. John, the writer of the letter, would succeed as 3rd Lord Hunsdon on George's death in 1603. At the time of the letter John was deeply involved in Scottish affairs. Elizabeth was Burghley's grand-daughter, but like her sisters she thought of Burghley as her father. Carey attributes to Oxford ‘imperfections’ which ‘shall be no blemishe to her honour’. Nevertheless – as we will discover – Oxford's ‘imperfections’ would follow Elizabeth Vere into her marriage.
Across the Channel, exiled Catholics monitored the young hothead. In a list of ‘Names and Faith of English Nobles’ dated 18 December 1567, Oxford appears fifth, following the Duke of Norfolk and the earls of Sussex, Leicester, and Rutland, all perceived as ‘Well affected towards Catholics’. Similar lists over the next thirty years (1571, 1592, 1603) would routinely (but vainly) pin Catholic hopes on Oxford.
Also about this time the adventurer-poet Thomas Churchyard seems to have become acquainted with Oxford, whom he names by title in his 1602 A True Discourse Historical (pp. 10–11):
… at the time when he ariued at Dillenbrough, where Churchyard[,] being sent (from the Lord high Chamberlaine of England)[,] saw the meeting of all this mightie assemblie, and serued vnder Monsieur de Lume (Counte de la March) as Cornet-bearer to two hundred and fiftie light horsemen all that warres, which was against the Duke of Alua in his first comming to Flanders.
Cecil rather than Oxford – still a minor – presumably authorized Churchyard's travels.
The indenture signed by the 16th Earl before his death required that his son, on his eighteenth birthday, which would occur on 12 April 1568, must choose for wife either Elizabeth or Mary Hastings. The day came and went with no known interest on either side. Oxford remained at Cecil House, joined by twelve-year-old Edward, Lord Zouch, whose wardship would last until 1577.
Countess Margery died on 2 December 1568, and was buried at Earls Colne, alongside her first husband. Presumably Oxford and Lady Mary attended their mother's funeral, along with Margery's second husband, Charles Tyrrell, who subsequently died at Kingston-upon-Thames, where his burial on 7 March 1570 is recorded in the parish register:
Tewsdaye the buring of Mr Charlles Terrell gentleman
Related entries appear in churchwardens’ accounts for the same year:
Item Received for the grawe [=grave] of Mr Terrell vis viiid
Item Received for the pavle clothe xiid
In his will, probated on 4 May, Charles bequeathed ‘unto the Earl of Oxford one great horse that his lordship gave me’. Since Oxford had given Charles a horse, and Charles returned it, the two must have been on a cordial footing. Charles also remembered Lady Mary:
In the summer months of 1580 the same Gabriel Harvey who complimented Oxford in Latin prose back in August 1578 found himself in trouble for satirizing Oxford in English verse. Under the title of Speculum Tuscanismi, that is, ‘Mirror of Tuscanism’ or ‘Italian Mirrour’, Harvey's poem appeared without his permission in Three Proper, and Wittie, Familiar Letters (sigs. E2–2v), evidently edited by Edmund Spenser, with a preface to the reader dated 19 June 1580. Harvey's poem is introduced as a ‘bolde Satyriall Libell lately deuised at the instaunce of a certayne worshipfull Hartefordshyre Gentleman, of myne olde acquayntaunce’ – a give-away description of Harvey. The proper name Galateo assigned to the mock hero derives from Robert Peterson's 1576 translation of Giovanni della Casa's Galateo (STC 4738, sig. B1), a treatise ‘of fashions and maners’.
Though Harvey's experiments with ‘quantitative verse’ are obscured by tortured grammar and limited comprehensibility, the target of the satire was openly recognizable – and recognized – as Oxford:
Since Galateo came in, and Tuscanisme gan vsurpe,
Vanitie aboue all: Villanie next her, Statelynes Empresse.
No man, but Minion, Stowte, Lowte, Plaine, swayne quoth a Lording:
No wordes but valorous, no workes but woomanish onely.
For life Magnificoes, not a beck but glorious in shew,
In deede most friuolous, not a looke but Tuscanish alwayes.
His cringing side necke, Eyes glauncing, Fisnamie smirking,
With forefinger kisse, and braue embrace to the footewarde.
Largebelled Kodpeasd Dublet, vnkodpeased halfe hose,
Straite to the dock, like a shirte, and close to the britch, like a diueling. [diueling = little devil]
A little Apish Hatte, cowched fast to the pate, like an Oyster,
French Camarick Ruffes, deepe with a w[h]it[e]nesse, starched to the purpose.
Euery one A per se A, his termes, and braueries in Print,
Delicate in speach, queynte in araye: conceited in all poyntes:
In Courtly guyles, a passing singular odde man,
For Gallantes a braue Myrrour, a Primerose of Honour,
A Diamond for nonce, a fellowe perelesse in England.
Not the like Discourser for Tongue, and head to be found out:
Not the like resolute Man, for great and serious affayres,
Not the like Lynx, to spie out secretes, and priuities of States.
Even as Anne was laid to rest, a great Armada threatened England from across the Bay of Biscay. On 19 July 1588, about four weeks after Anne's interment, Spanish ships appeared off the coast of Cornwall and Devon.
The saga of the Spanish Armada is immense, surviving documentation vast. For our purposes it is enough to appreciate that the huge Spanish fleet was constantly harried by the English as it made its way along the south coast, prevented from landing at Portsmouth; it was then driven towards the sandbanks off Gravelines (near Calais) as it made a fruitless attempt to rendezvous with Parma, commander of Spanish land troops. A plan to tow barges full of Parma's men into the mouth of the Thames near Tilbury was thwarted not only by Parma's reluctance, but by the inherent difficulty of the enterprise, and by English fireships launched into the anchored Spanish fleet. By 29 July the Armada broke to the north, facing open seas, enormous distances, starvation, capture, and shipwreck, limping around Scotland and through the Irish Sea before finding safety in Spanish ports.
Evidence for Oxford's role in the battle of the Armada takes two separate forms: literary-historical reports and contemporary letters from Leicester. A modern recapitulation of the literary-historical thesis is given by Duff Hart-Davis, writing in 1988, the ‘Armada Year’:
… a huge wave of patriotism had sent volunteers pouring into the ports along the south coast, many of them physically alerted by the thunder of the day's engagement, which had been audible for miles inland. Just as the Spanish noblemen now drifting helplessly up the Channel had been drawn to join the Armada by dreams of loot and glory, so now young English bloods came flocking (in Hakluyt's description) ‘as unto a set field, where immortal fame and glory was to be attained, and faithful service performed unto their prince and country’.
Chief among them were the Earls of Oxford, Northumberland and Cumberland, Sir Thomas and Sir Robert Cecil, Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir William Hatton, besides many other knights and gentlemen.
On New Year's Day 1562 Earl John gave Queen Elizabeth £10 ‘in a red silk purse, in dimy soveraigns’; similarly, Margery gave £5 ‘in a red purse, in dimy soveraignes’. Conversely, Elizabeth gave Oxford ‘oone guilt cup with a cover’, and Margery a smaller version of the same.
On 1 July the Earl put his signature to a marriage contract, called an indenture of covenants, between his twelve-year-old son, on the one part, and Elizabeth or Mary Hastings, younger sisters of Henry Hastings, Earl of Huntingdon, on the other part. The indenture provided that on his eighteenth birthday (which would fall on 12 April 1568) Edward should choose for wife whichever of the two Hastings sisters he might prefer at the time. Witnesses to the indenture were John Wentworth, Thomas Golding, John Gibon, Henry Golding, John Booth, Jasper Jones, and John Lovell, of whom ‘Iohn Wentworth’, ‘Thomas Goldyng’, and ‘Henry Goldyng’ attached signatures. Though ethically reprehensible by modern standards, the practice of arranging a marriage, and even of offering a young son the choice between two prospective brides, was conventional among the higher nobility of sixteenth-century England. Not that such negotiations inevitably achieved their intended goal: often as not, youth had its way.
About the same time, an entail was executed on behalf of the earldom:
the Erldome of Oxinford and the honors, castles … of the same Erldome together with the Offyce of Greate Chamberlayneshipp of England … have of longetyme contynued remayned and bene in the name of the Veeres from heire male to heire male by tytle of an ancyent entayle thereof … shoulde and myght contynew go remayne and be in the name of the Veeres from heire male to heire male forever yf yt maye please Almyghtye God so to permytt and suffer.
Since most honours and properties passed to the male heir in any case, the point of this legal exercise may have been to assure that the office of Great Chamberlain was included in the inheritance. Under Elizabeth the office would transfer without question, but rights to the office would become a matter of dispute in subsequent years.
On 20 December 1588, the danger from the Armada past, Sir Thomas Cornwallis replied to a letter from Burghley on the infinitely more mundane subject of his son William's purchase of Fisher's Folly:
I have lyved to[o] longe to se[e] nothyng but new trubles & greaves [=griefs] to dysquiet my oulde yeres, beyng latlye made tunderstande yow ar dyspleasyd with my Sonne for the bargen made with my Lord of Oxforde, wherein yf he do not satysfye yowr Lordship when he may aweyght [=await] vpon yow, he hathe deceyvyd me, but most hymselfe. but for my parte I meane not to enter the defence of my Sonnes action, as wone [=one] not pryvye what hathe passyd in the mater: And therfor hope yowr Lordship wyll not Impute hys rasheness & wante of regarde, to me, who in all my lyfe dyd never adventure vpon a mater of lesse weyght then thys, wythout muche longer tyme to loke in to yt. I dyd dysswade boathe my Sonne & dawghter [=daughter-in-law] for dealyng with the purchase: but when ther will & fancye preveyled agenst my advyce, I kept my purse frome the loone or gyfte of eny penny towardes yt. besides thys to shew my indysposytion to the bargeyn, I protest that I never sawe nor herde eny parte of thassurance which hathe passyd betwene Therle & my Sonne, thowghe summe of the same were offeryd me to vew. Thys ys the playne & symple truthe of my knowlege, assent, or advyse in the mater: If yt be otherwyse, let me feele as muche of yowr dyspleasure, as I have done ease & comfort of yowr favor. And good my Lord have yowr wontyd opinion & concept [=conceit, estimation] of me, & thynk me not so dotyng & folyshe in my age, that for thatteynyng of Fyssheres Follye, I woulde once but put in adventure to loose the goode wyll & favor which I have ever fownde towardes me sithe owr fyrst acquayntance, but especyally in the change of tyme when I most neadyd yt.
I humblye beseache Ihesu delyuer yowr Lordship of the greate peynes which I here [=hear] yowr [sic] ar[e] vexid with at this tyme, & sende yow longe & happye lyfe
Oxford evidently participated in Accession Day tilts from 1578 to 1580. Indications of his expenditures on the tilts, held on 17 November, come from a formal complaint made on 21 May 1598 by Judith Ruswell, widow of William Ruswell (or Russell), tailor, seeking to recover monies never repaid by Oxford. Denying the claim, Oxford conceded that Ruswell was indeed his ‘sometime servant and taylor’, and that about 1580 he had provided Ruswell with a stock of cloth worth £700 or £800. The lawsuit reveals the identities of 13 deponents who confessed to having known Judith and William Ruswell, and Oxford, the defendant.
Five of the deponents were Oxford's servants (ages adjusted to 1578): 1) Nicholas Bleake, yeoman, 36 years, Oxford's servant and bookkeeper: admits having created a book of accounts for transactions between Oxford and Ruswell, and having signed the book; Oxford's final obligation to Ruswell was £809–3–2, of which he paid £300–6–0 by William Walter, leaving a debt of £508–17–2; 2) William Walter, gentleman, 29 years, Oxford's purse-keeper: admits knowledge of little or nothing; 3) Edward Hubbard, Esq., 37 years, then Oxford's officer; later one of the Six Clerks of Chancery:
longe before that tyme spoken of in the Interrogatory viz when thearle had licence to travell beyond the seas this defendant made a collection of all thearles dettes amongst which there was a debt of l or lx li [=£50–60] then sett downe to be due to the sayd William Russell
4) Israel Amyce, 35 years, Oxford's servant subsequent to 1578:
[Ruswell] did often very earnestly speake vnto this deponent to move the defendant for the payment of his debt (but admits knowledge of little or nothing).
5) John Lyly (or ‘Lilly’) Esq., 23 years:
when he, this deponent, at the plainantes request hath spoken to the defendant for money claymed by her to be by him due, he, the defendant, hath denyed that he ought [=owed] her anythinge
This was of course John Lyly the Elizabethan man of letters. Born of a Kent family in 1554, Lyly matriculated at Oxford from Magdalen College in 1571. He received his BA on 27 April 1573 and his MA on 1 June 1575. He admits that he had known Ruswell, but nothing of consequence about Ruswell's finances.
Oxford is first noticed in France in letters of 5 and 7 March 1575, wherein the English ambassador Dr Valentine Dale informed Burghley:
– Cannot procure the Earl of Oxford's access to the King because of the new mourning for the Duchess of Lorraine, whose death the Queen Mother takes very heavily to heart, being her dear daughter.
– I presented my Lord of Oxford also unto the King and Queen, who used him honourably. Amongst other talk the King asked whether he was married. I said he had a fair lady. ‘Il y a donc’ dit-il ‘un beau couple’.
In his Diary, Burghley listed the event under 6 March: ‘Erle presented to the French kyng.’
On 12 March Giovanni Francesco Morosini, Venetian ambassador in Paris, wrote to the Signory:
An English gentleman, whose name is the Earl of Oxford, has arrived in this city; he is a young man of about twenty or twenty-two years of age. It is said that he fled from England on account of his inclination to the Catholic religion; but having returned he received great favour from the Queen, who gave him full licence to travel and see the world, when she ascertained that he had resolved to depart under any circumstances.
Thus Oxford retained his reputation for Catholicism. Morosini's underestimation of his age and the French King's compliment confirm that age sat lightly on Oxford.
Back in England, Burghley fretted over his daughter's pregnancy. On 7 March, about the beginning of her fifth month, Dr Richard Master wrote a long and complex letter to Burghley from Richmond:
The deepest recesses of Oxford's private life over the whole of the 1570s would become the subject of detailed reports composed in December 1580 and January 1581 by three companions who began that decade as Oxford's most intimate friends. The first, Henry Howard, Oxford's elder by ten years, was born on 25 February 1540, the second son of Lady Frances Vere (Oxford's aunt) and of Henry Howard, eldest son of the 3rd Duke of Norfolk, known to posterity as the poet Surrey. In 1540 Henry VIII married Surrey's sister Catherine Howard. Triumph turned to ashes when she went to the block in 1542. A second blow fell in 1547, when Surrey himself was executed for treason. His five children – Thomas, Henry, Jane, Catherine, and Margaret – were billeted upon the Duchess of Richmond, a Protestant aunt. Young Henry was subsequently placed under the tutelage of the avid Protestant John Fox.
The third Duke escaped his son's fate when Henry VIII conveniently died the night before the scheduled execution. The dukedom remained attainted until restored by Mary in 1553. Hereupon Henry, a precocious thirteen-year-old, was deposited in the household of John White, Bishop of Lincoln. Following White to Winchester in 1556, Henry's idyll vanished with the accession of Elizabeth in 1558. Restored in blood in 1559, Henry attended King's College, Cambridge, at the expense of the new Queen.
Thomas Howard became 4th Duke of Norfolk on his father's death in 1554. But while Thomas basked in the quadruple blessings of title, wealth, marriage, and social recognition, Henry survived in relative poverty and obscurity. Never interested in women or marriage, he sponged off rich relations decade after miserable decade until the accession of James in 1603. Academic life proved thoroughly congenial, however, and he ‘charted a career unusual for one of his birth and rank as a scholar and teacher’:
Taking his degree in 1564, he went on to read civil law at Trinity Hall. To his classical and legal training, Howard joined a knowledge of modern languages including Spanish, French and Italian and a familiarity with contemporary European literature.
On 19 January 1585 Anne Vavasor's brother (?)Thomas sent a written challenge to Oxford, evidently in response to provocation by Oxford's men:
If thy body had bene as deformed as thy mind is dishonorable my house had bene yet vnspotted and thy self remayned with thy cowardise vnknowne. I speake this that I feare thow art so much wedded to that shadow of thine that nothing canne haue force to awake thy base and sleapye spyrytes. Is not the reveng[e] alredy taken of thy vildnes [=vileness] sufficyent but wylt thou yet vse vnworthy instrumentes to provoke my vnwytting mynd? or dost thow feare thy self and therfore hast sent thy forlorne kindred whom as thow hast left nothing to inheryte so thow dost thrust them vyolently into thy shamefull quarelles? If yt be so (as I too much doubt) then stay at home thy self and send my abusers. but yf ther be yet left any sparke of honour in the[e], or iott [=jot] of regard of thy decayed reputation, vse not thy byrth for an excuse for I am a gentleman but meete me thy self alone and thy lacky to hould thy horse for the weapons I leaue them to thy choyse for that I challendge, and the place to be apoynted by vs both at our meeting which I think may convenyently be at Nuington or els where thy self shalt send me word by this bearer. by whom I expect an answere
Vavasor refers to an unnamed male relative of Oxford's – perhaps one of his many Vere cousins – as ‘that shadow of thine’, ‘thy forlorne kindred whom … thow hast left nothing to inheryte’, and ‘thy lacky’: perhaps this was the unidentified ‘Vere’ named by Sir Francis Knollys back in 1580. Oxford turned the challenge over to Burghley, who endorsed it as ‘a lewd lettre from Vavaser to the Erl of Oxford’. That Oxford would overlook such a torrent of abuse shows how thoroughly the Queen had tamed him.
On 4 March Mendoza wrote to the King of Spain:
It is understood that they are going to discuss with the king of Scotland the release of the Queen, his mother, if they can come to terms on the matter.
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