Friday, October 28, 2011

Elizabethan Fact of the Day: Elizabeth the Protector

BREAKING NEWS: The Act of Succession has been updated! Hundreds of years of Primogeniture has been turned on its head! Should the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have a daughter first, and a son second, the son will not precede the daughter in ascending the throne, simply due to his gender. A daughter can now inherit first, regardless if her other siblings are boys!

This is wonderful news, and while I had no doubt that the act would pass, I am delighted and I think I can safely say that somewhere, Elizabeth I is smiling...In fact, Elizabeth I and Queen Victoria have been mentioned copiously in news coverage of this recent development in the monarchy. Some of the best monarch's of England where undoubtedly queens!

Think of all that Elizabeth, the Empress Matilda, and Mary Tudor went through to become monarchs, and to keep their thrones. It is a blessing no Princess shall have to struggle for the throne again!

Queen Elizabeth II rightfully announced this year's theme as "Women as Agent's of Change"! This will be a great year for British women, if it was not already!

Also, monarch's can now marry a Catholic; previously this was not allowed and could prevent an heir from inheriting the throne altogether. As Barb Alexander (@tudortutor) said on, "somewhere Mary I and Catherine of Aragon are high-fiving!"

Elizabeth the Protector

The Wanstead Peace Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I, by Marcus Gheeraerts. Painted between 1580-85.Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

There are countless instances, recorded both in state records and in personal papers and letters, that demonstrate the magnanimous nature of Queen Elizabeth. While she could be temperamental and prone to outbursts, she balanced these volatile Tudor traits nicely with her genuine love for her subjects.
Today I will share with you two such instances that exhibit Elizabeth’s defense of those who could not defend themselves...

Queen Elizabeth personally intervened to protect some of the 6th Earl of Shrewsbury’s Derbyshire tenants, after they made allegations of his abuses of power. The fact that the Earl of Shrewsbury was a trusted courtier of the Queen, and that their friendship did not cloud her judgement and make her biased, is commendable. Elizabeth always could tell right from wrong.

George Talbot, the Earl of Shrewsbury was appointed to keep Mary, Queen of Scots under house arrest in 1568. This was a position he would fill for the next 18 years. Shrewsbury was also the father of Catherine Herbert by his first wife. Catherine was a good friend of the queen who was married to Henry Herbert, the Earl of Pembroke, whose 3/4 length suit of armor resides in the collection at the museum where I work. The Earl of Shrewsbury would go on to marry the impressive Elizabethan matriarch Bess of Hardwick

A detail of a portrait of George Talbot, the 6th Earl of Shrewsbury. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

In 1590, Queen Elizabeth protected a minor customs official who had “blown the whistle” on the financial corruption of some of his superiors. Cecil and Burghley disapproved of the queen’s involvement in what they thought to be a very trivial manner. She responded to their judgment that she was ‘queen of the meanest (lowliest) subjects as well as the greatest’ in her kingdom.

A detail of a portrait of Francis Walsingham, Elizabeth's Spymaster. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.
William Cecil, Lord Burghley. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Queen Elizabeth not only improved lives on a grand scale, but also in more minor and personal ways. She pardoned, pitied and assisted the nobles, the tradesmen and the poor of her kingdom, and I look forward to sharing more anecdotes of her good nature on this blog.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Elizabethan Quote of the Day: Elizabeth Reprimands Philip Sidney!

In 1580, Queen Elizabeth I reprimanded Sir Philip Sidney, the celebrated soldier/poet, for answering the Earl of Oxford’s insult with one of his own, thus perpetuating a feud. She said to Sidney of his behavior that... “the gentlemen’s neglect of the institution of nobility taught the peasant to insult upon both”.
Sir Philip Sidney

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Peerage in Elizabethan England

Everyone has heard of at least some of the notable personalities of the Elizabethan era, even if it is only in passing in school or in a movie. But how much do we really know about the institution of nobility in Queen Elizabeth's time?

Well, I have found us the answers and am going to decode the "peerage" for you here!

In 1547 there existed only 48 men within the peerage. In 1553 the number had grown to 56, then 57 in 1558. Then, their numbers decreased again, to 55, by the year of Elizabeth's death.

The power to appoint worthy men to the peerage was reserved for the sovereign, and the survival of a given title was dependent on the nobleman's ability to produce legitimate male issue. Should a member of the nobility die without a legitimate son, like the Earl of Oxford did, the title reverted to the crown and was, for lack of a better word, dormant, until resuscitated by the monarch.

In other unfortunate cases, such as a nobleman being convicted of treason and subsequently executed, the title and the land reverted to the crown, regardless of whether the nobleman had legitimate issue. Part of the tragedy of having a traitor in the family is that not only would your name be dishonored, but you would loose your inheritance.

There were cases when a monarch made exceptions, such as an instance where Elizabeth took mercy on the heirs of a corrupt nobleman and bequeathed land back to them.

During Elizabeth's nearly 45 year reign, the queen only created 18 peerages. All but two of those (Burghley and Compton) were restorations or grants to old, loyal aristocratic families. Upon her ascension, 46% of England's peers were first or second generation in their title. By 1603, only 18% were.

D.M. Palliser, a Reader in Economic History at the University of Birmingham,  proposes that the actions of the Dukes of Somerset and Northumberland in King Edward Tudor's brief reign made both Mary I and Elizabeth I wary of promoting any of their subjects to a dukedom. Being a duke was traditionally one of the most powerful positions in the English kingdom, and usually reserved for brothers of kings.

A detail from a portrait of Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset, wearing his chain of office. Somerset was the Lord Protector of England during his nephew King Edward VI's minority. He was eventually executed for high treason. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

After the execution of the traitorous Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk in 1572, England would remain without a duke until 1623.

Thomas Howard, the proud 4th Duke of Norfolk, who after many shady grasps at power, was executed for treason. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

 As for knighthoods bestowed during Elizabeth's reign, the queen and her lords and generals created 878 knights. Robert Devereux, the tempestuous and willful Earl of Essex, would create the most knights at any one given time during Elizabeth's reign, 81, when he knighted his following during his disastrous term in Ireland. Essex did this without reason, as he had achieved no military victory; he also failed to ask the queens permission, which was becoming more and more typical at this point in their relationship. His knighting of his cronies was a thinly veiled attempt at earning loyalties and building a faction. Elizabeth of course saw through it, and was not pleased.

Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex. The stepson of Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester, and the queen's  favorite for the second half of her reign, until he betrayed her. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Essex was an exception, as was Norfolk, and for the most part, the members of the Elizabethan peerage were extremely loyal to their queen and hardworking on her behalf. Elizabeth's confidence, charisma and diplomacy commanded respect and instilled fierce commitment, and her people served her well.


Statistics taken from D.M. Palliser's socio-economic study The Age of Elizabeth: England under the later Tudors 1547-1603

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Great Day for Bess...

Dearest Readers,

I apologize for not updating recently! I have been very busy at work, and all the while thinking, I hope I have a chance to update Being Bess soon...

My wonderful job has once again allowed me to nurture my mission of sharing Elizabeth's legacy with the world. In a addition to an exciting new exhibit opening on the evening of the 21st, Extreme Sport: The Joust, I was asked to appear, as Queen Elizabeth I, at our most recent evening museum event The Tournament of Wines. The event was a fundraiser for the museum that featured quality wines, gourmet foods and exciting raffles, and amidst the festivities I did have the opportunity to talk to a lot of visitors about who I was, and what I was wearing, as well as take pictures with guests. I was also able to debut my new replica Dangers Averted medal, one of the commemorative coins Queen Elizabeth had issued and distributed to the veterans of the Armada conflict during the Spanish War. I retained my persona all night, interacting with guests and my two armored co-workers. The night was a success for the museum, and also a victory for Elizabeth!

I am delighted to inform you that in my spare moments I have been compiling a series of mini-articles to release to you daily, to renew your interest in the site and to hopefully gather new readers. Please spread the word, and I will be indebted to you!

Coming tomorrow is a new mini article for the blog-the first of many. I also intend to complete my article for Natalie at On the Tudor Trail, which she had asked for, and has been very patiently awaiting; it will be premiering exclusively on her wonderful blog.



Sunday, October 9, 2011

Who Was the Earl of Oxford?

A detail from a portrait of Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, by Marcus Gheeraerts. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Some of you may be wondering what all the fuss is about, with the upcoming controversial movie Anonymous, opening Oct. 28th worldwide.

In the literary world there has long been controversy over the true authorship of the most important pieces of drama in the Western world. Was William Shakespeare of Stratford-Upon-Avon the actual author of the collected works of Shakespeare, or was it perhaps a more believable candidate using a pen name or a decoy, such as Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford?
This brief article is intended to give a brief introduction to the “Authorship Question” of Shakespeare’s works, and provide you with a brief overview of the facts supporting Oxfords candidacy. I hope this article will clarify much of the confusion that will be caused by the upcoming film Anonymous (see my previous post on the films problems/inaccuracies HERE) and I also hope that it will galvanize you to learn more on the Earl of Oxford and why he is the most likely candidate for Shakespeare, in my opinion. Once you discover the facts, of which there are too many to include here in a mini-article, it will be hard for you to believe that William Shakespeare was anything more that a front man for the works, employed by De Vere.
Many people ask me if I believe in any Tudor or Elizabethan conspiracy theories. Let me be clear: I do not subscribe to any of them. The "authorship controversy" would be the only thing that could come remotely close to being categorized by others as a conspiracy theory; however, to me it is more a historical misunderstanding than anything else, not some great, epic cover up in order to protect the crowns secrets, as the new film Anonymous suggests!
I am in good company; The De Vere Society, among other societies of literary, legal, and 16th century academics are dedicated to proving the Earl of Oxfords authorship. And early 20th century game changers like Sigmund Freud and Mark Twain, though by no means the first to be suspicious about lowly William Shakespeare being the true author of the plays, did bring great attention to the idea that the Earl of Oxford is a more likely candidate.
The traditionally accepted Shakespeare, or Shaksper, as it is spelled in some written records, (and how I will refer to him hear, for clarity) was born in 1564, attended grammar school, traveled to London in 1580, and died in 1616. Church records detail his marriage and his children’s baptisms, and financial records show him to be a significantly wealthy moneylender. Legal documents from 1612 recorded a deposition in court from Shaksper. However, no evidence exists anywhere of a higher education and no letters to or from this supposed great literary figure have ever been found. If you had received a letter from the great Shaksper, wouldn’t you save his signature? Even more surprisingly, no books or manuscripts were listed in his will. No contemporary referred to him as a writer of any sort, and no one dedicated any works to him, which was a common homage of respect and admiration in 16th century literary circles. His physician son-in-law referred in his notes to knowing another author of the time, but never once mentioned his own father-in-law as a literary genius!
In 1550, Edward de Vere, later the Earl of Oxford, was being educated by private tutors and subsequently graduated from the two premiere institutions in England, Cambridge and Oxford Universities, all by the tender age of 16! He was a royal ward of Queen Elizabeth I’s most trusted advisor, William Cecil. In 1571 he was married to Cecil’s daughter, Anne, although they did not like one another and Anne would later be under suspicion of infidelity, and the paternity of one of her children questioned. Oxford had an affair with the 'interesting in her own right' Anne Vavasour, and an illegitimate son. 

The joint tomb of Edward de Vere's wife, Anne Cecil, and her mother, Mildred Cooke-Cecil in Westminster Abbey. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

 Like so many of Shakespeare’s characters, Oxford had credentials as a favorite in the queen’s court (although this in no way insinuates a romantic relationship, as the new movie suggests!) and he was known to possess the most celebrated talents a nobleman could have: being an accomplished dancer, champion jouster, a participator in court masques, and an unusually sharp dresser! 

The Earl of Oxford was the Lord Great Chamberlain of England; he is depicted here bearing the Sword of State in front of Queen Elizabeth I. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

He was a known writer of poetry that pleased the queen and her court, and it was once said that he was a man who “shaketh like a spear”. The atmosphere in which Oxford resided made him knowledgeable in tournaments, armor, and court customs, and he helped to facilitate the planning of court entertainment for the queen. These are things Shakper of Avon could only have guessed at, especially with no library of his own to speak of!

A detail of a portrait of Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

In 1575 Oxford traveled to the European continent, visiting many places mentioned in Shakespeare’s stories, such as Venice and Verona. William Shaksper, on the other hand, never left England.  There are written records of Oxford receiving a 1000 pound grant each year from the queen beginning in 1586, which was an unusually large sum for any courtier. Interestingly, James Stuart, Elizabeth’s successor, continued Oxfords annuity, again with no explanation. Oxford would die a year after his queen, in 1604, with no will and according to my research, his resting place is still unknown. (However, if anyone has knowledge of where he has been buried, I would be interested to know!)

A portrait of Anne Vavasour, Edward de Vere's mistress and the mother of his only son. She was also the longtime live-in love of Sir Henry Lee, Queen Elizabeth's tournament champion and commissioner of the Ditchley portrait. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain. 

Proponents of the "Earl of Oxford as Shakespeare" theory, also known as Oxfordians, are able to point out many extraordinarily intimate, specific details of his life residing within the volumes of Shakespearean works. While it is true that many of Shakespeare’s plots are “lifted” from earlier stories or legends, and also histories (Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, King Lear) the details are purely the authors creation. In the plays, there are characters and events that replicate the situations surrounding the Earls engagement and wedding, his involvement in the re-enactment of the Gads Hill Robbery, his mother’s hasty remarriage, his cousin Horace, his encounter with pirates, and unusual character names such as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. In yet one more coincidence, the book that Hamlet reads, which many scholars believe to be the epic Beowulf, only existed in printed form in one library in England at the time: William Cecil’s, Oxford’s father in-law. 

A portrait of William Cecil, Lord Bughley, in his robes for the Order of the Garter. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

It would have been political suicide for Oxford not to have used a pen name; most of the Shakespearean plays include direct commentaries, and often criticism, of political figures and policies of the time. A nobleman who was too free with his social views, especially Oxford, who already had attracted controversy for various other reasons, risked being reprimanded, banished from court, or worse. While it was not acceptable for a courtier to write anything for the playhouses, affluent men, Oxford included, could run or support theatre companies. Oxford could easily have crossed paths with Shaksper in his London residency, and paid him to be the front, or the face of his work.  The nature of their proposed relationship and much more on the Earl of Oxford and the authorship controversy is worth looking into. I hope I have sparked your interest to go and learn more!
Thoughts, dear readers?

To learn more, we recommend the following books...

Shakespeare by Another Name: A biography of Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford
by Mark Andersen
First published 2005

One of the best and most popular studies on the Earl of Oxford. Andersen makes his case for Oxford as the true author of the Shakespeare canon.

De Vere as Shakespeare: An Oxfordian Reading of the Canon
By William Farina
First published 2005

Each of the Shakespearean plays and sonnets are analyzed through an Oxfordian lens, finding ties to the Earl of Oxford through references, writing style and syntax. A good read for people as interested in the literature as in the history

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Read Our Interview at On the Tudor Trail!

Dear Valued Readers,

Natalie at On the Tudor Trail, Anne Boleyn aficionado and blogger extraordinaire, has interviewed me!

I was honored to have been asked to participate in her lovely column, Tudor Talk, and I greatly enjoyed answering her thought-provoking questions. We are honored to have been included among the ranks of people like Vanora Bennett and Elizabeth Norton.

I hope you will support Natalie and her mission to preserve the memory of Anne Boleyn, and also me and my mission to preserve Elizabeth I's legacy by reading our interview. Click the links below...

An introduction to our interview:

The Q & A portion:

I look forward to hearing from you all about what you thought of the interview...

Post your comments below!


Read what people are saying about the interview:

@SonnyandBrenda tweeted to me, @ERITudor and @OntheTudorTrail :

"I LOVED the Interview and I love your passion for Elizabeth and the Tudors. Very inspiring! :)"

, Tudor humorist and author tweeted to me and Natalie:

"Fabulous job...the poets did not call you 'Gloriana' for nothing!"