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Alternative Shakespeare Authorship Candidates

Beginning in the middle of the nineteenth century, theories have been proposed that Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon, Shakespeare the actor, was not the actual author of the works that appeared under that name. Those who argue against Shakespeare the actor as the author of the works of Shakespeare are known as “Anti-Stratfordians.” Over the years, at least eighty candidates as the real author of Shakespeare have been proposed. Even Mark Twain announced his Anti-Stratfordian beliefs and wrote a book titled Is Shakespeare Dead? (1909), in which he argued that Francis Bacon, Viscount St. Albans, was the real author of Shakespeare.


For this book, I am going to discuss three of the leading alternate candidates for the authorship of Shakespeare: Francis Bacon, Viscount St. Albans; Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford; and Christopher Marlowe. Advocates for each of these candidates are known as “Baconians,” “Oxfordians,” and “Marlovians,” respectively. Advocates for Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon, Shakespeare the actor, are known as “Stratfordians.” The debate between the contending camps has been heated at times. This debate contributed to my interest in analyzing the First Folio.

Christopher Marlowe


Christopher Marlowe[1] (baptized February 26, 1564–May 30, 1593) was the son of a Canterbury shoemaker. Marlowe showed promise as a student and attended The King’s School in Canterbury. He received a scholarship to Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, and received his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1584. Marlowe got into some trouble in 1587 and the university initially refused to award him his Master of Arts degree. A rumor circulated that he intended to travel to the English college at Rheims to study for ordination as a Roman Catholic priest. Significantly, the Privy Council intervened by sending a letter to the university administrators vouching for Marlowe’s “faithful dealing” and “good service” to the Queen in unspecified “affaires” on “matters touching the benefit of his country.” Marlowe’s activities at this time, and at other times, have fueled speculation that he was employed as a spy by Sir Francis Walsingham.


Marlowe seems to have been a bit of a hothead, a troublemaker, or at least had a knack for being around trouble, because in 1589 he was a party involved in a fatal argument in Norton Folgate, resulting in his imprisonment in Newgate Prison for a time. He was eventually cleared of wrongdoing. In 1592 Marlowe was arrested in Flushing, Netherlands, for coin counterfeiting. His arrest may have been related to another spying operation to infiltrate Catholic opposition of William Stanley. He was sent to London to be dealt with by William Cecil, the Lord Treasurer, but no charges or imprisonment resulted.


Marlowe was a significant playwright of the period and was one of the first English playwrights to write in blank verse. Marlowe was a major influence on Shakespeare; large portions of Shakespeare’s plays are in blank verse, in the form of unrhymed iambic pentameter, and there are allusions to Marlowe’s plays and his death in Shakespeare’s works. Marlowe’s first play is thought to be Dido, Queen of Carthage, and was performed between 1587 and 1593. Marlowe’s first play performed on a regular stage was Tamburlaine the Great, which is about Tamburlaine, a conqueror who rises to power from the lowly origins of a shepherd. Tamburlaine the Great was followed by Tamburlaine the Great, Part II. Both Tamburlaine the Great, and Tamburlaine the Great, Part II were published in 1590. All of Marlowe’s other works were published after his death on May 30, 1593. These works include The Jew of Malta, Edward the Second, The Massacre at Paris, and Doctor Faustus.


Marlowe was killed on May 30, 1593, in house in Deptford, probably a private victualing house, owned by a widow named Eleanor Bull. The circumstances of his killing are documented, but the circumstances of his killing are the subject of much debate. Even the fact of his death on May 30, 1593, is the subject of disagreement. The survival of Marlowe beyond May 30, 1593, is an integral part of Marlowe’s candidacy for being Shakespeare. Because Shakespeare clearly wrote after 1593, Marlovians must explain away the accepted date of Marlowe’s death. They theorize that Marlowe’s death was faked and that he went into exile, where he continued to write under the pen name of Shakespeare.


The events leading to Marlowe’s killing began in the spring of 1593 when Marlowe again found himself at the center of trouble. In early May 1593, several bills began to appear posted around London threatening Protestant refugees who were arriving in London from France and the Netherlands. One bill, the “Dutch church libel,” signed anonymously by “Tamburlaine,” was written in blank verse and contained allusions to several of Marlowe’s plays. On May 11, the Privy Council ordered the arrest of anyone involved in the production and posting of these “divers lewd and mutinous libels.” Marlowe probably fell under suspicion but was not arrested immediately. However, the lodgings of one of Marlowe’s fellow writers, Thomas Kyd, were searched immediately. Kyd was a dramatist and the author of The Spanish Tragedy, or Hieronimo Is Mad Again. From 1587 to 1593, Kyd was in the service of an unidentified noble, and, in 1591, Marlowe came into service of this same unidentified noble. For some period during this time the two dramatists had shared lodgings together. The search of Kyd’s lodgings did not reveal evidence of the bills, but unfortunately for Kyd, a heretical Arianist tract was discovered, placing Kyd under further suspicion. Kyd claimed under torture that the heretical tract was not his and that it had probably been mixed up with his papers when he had previously shared lodgings with Marlowe. Kyd later claimed he was the victim of an informer.


Kyd’s statements under torture resulted in an arrest warrant for Marlowe being issued on May 18. He made his appearance at on Sunday, May 20, when the Privy Council was not in session. His appearance was as “indemnity” to show his willingness to appear to avoid further penalties.[2] He was ordered to “give his daily attendance on their Lordships, until he shall be licensed to the contrary.” Essentially, he was released on his own recognizance and ordered to appear later. Before his appearance at a Privy Council meeting, accusations of atheism were made against Marlowe. These accusations were made in documents known as “Baines Note” and “Remembraunces of wordes & matters against Ric Cholmeley.”


The official version of how Marlowe was killed is contained in the coroner’s inquest report.[3] First, it should be noted that the report indicates that Marlowe died “within the verge”; that is, within twelve miles of the Queen’s Court. Because of this, the report was prepared by William Danby, “Coroner of the Household of our said Lady the Queen.” The fact that the Marlowe killing in Deptford occurred “within the verge,” and the fact that the Coroner of the Queen’s Household conducted the inquiry, has been the source of extensive discussion. On the other hand, because Marlowe had to report to the Privy Council on a regular basis, it is not entirely surprising that he was in close proximity to the royal court on May 30. The report goes on to relate that on the day of his death, May 30, 1593, Marlowe spent the entire day at the house of Eleanor Bull, in the company of three other men: Ingram Frizer, Nicholas Skeres, and Robert Poley. All three of these men had disreputable reputations to varying degrees. As discussed previously, Robert Poley is known to have been acted as a spy or operative of Sir Francis Walsingham, the Queen’s spymaster. Poley’s involvement in the uncovering the Babington Plot is well documented. Frizer was a businessperson and a servant of Thomas Walsingham, first cousin once removed from Sir Francis Walsingham. Frizer was “a property speculator, a commodity broker, a fixer for gentlemen of good worship” and a con man who tricked “young fools” out of their money. Skeres, like Frizer, operated as a con man.


According to the coroner’s report, Marlowe, Skeres, Frizer, and Poley, spent the day together. After supper, the three men were in their room, with Marlowe resting on a bed, and the three other men, Skeres, Frizer, and Poley, in that order sitting at one side of a table in the room with their backs to Marlowe. Marlowe and Frizer then got into an argument over “le reckyninge” (i.e., the bill). Marlowe, in a fit of anger drew Frizer’s knife and attacked him from behind, inflicting two wounds to Frizer’s head “of the length of two inches & of the depth of a quarter of an inch.” The report states that Frizer was trapped between the table, Skeres, and Poley, “so that he could not in any wise get away,” with Marlowe attacking him with a knife from behind, and was “in fear of being slain.” A struggle between Frizer and Marlowe ensued (there is no mention of what Skeres and Poley did). The report goes on to relate—


“& so it befell in that affray that the said Ingram, in defence of his life, with the dagger aforesaid to the value of 12d, gave the said Christopher then & there a mortal wound over his right eye of the depth of two inches & of the width of one inch; of which mortal wound the aforesaid Christopher Morley then & there instantly died.”


Peter Farey theorizes that one possibility, among others he discusses, is that Marlowe’s death was actually faked and that the body of an executed was substituted for his body. The theory is that the body of John Penry, a Puritan preacher associated with the printing of Martin Marprelate tracts, which attacked the episcopacy of the Anglican Church, was substituted for Marlowe’s body. Penry was hanged at 4:00 p.m. on Tuesday, May 29, at St. Thomas-a-Watering, two miles from Deptford. The theory of the faking of Marlowe’s death would leave Marlowe alive to write Shakespeare’s later works.

Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford (April 12, 1550June 24, 1604)


Edward de Vere was born April 12, 1550, at the de Vere ancestral home, Headingham Castle, in Essex.[4] He was the only son of John de Vere, 16th Earl of Oxford, and his second wife Margery Golding. John had been married to Dorothy Neville, daughter of Ralph Neville, 4th Earl of Westmorland, until her death in 1548. John and Dorothy Neville had one daughter, Katherine de Vere.[5] John married Margery Golding on August 1, 1548. John and Margery had two children together—Edward and a daughter, Mary de Vere. Edward de Vere was styled the Viscount Bulbeck until he became the 17th Earl of Oxford. The coat of arms of the Viscount Bulbeck portrayed a lion “shaking a spear.” The earldom, to which Edward was heir, was the second oldest in England. Both John de Vere and Margery had severed Queen Elizabeth I. John had escorted Elizabeth from her house arrest to the throne and Margery was maid of honor to the Queen.


The 16th Earl also seems to have been interested in the theater and poetry. He maintained a company of actors, known as Oxford’s Men, from 1547 until his death in 1562.[6] John was also friends with scholar and diplomat Sir Thomas Smith and his brothers-in-law, the poets Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey (1516/1517–January 19, 1547), and Edmund Sheffield, 1st Baron of Sheffield (November 22, 1521–July 19, 1549). Sheffield married Anne de Vere, the youngest daughter of the Earl’s daughters. Surrey was married to Francis de Vere (c. 1516–June 30, 1577), daughter of the 15th Earl, and the 16th Earl’s sister. This marriage ended with Surrey’s beheading for treason on January 19, 1547. Surrey and his friend Sir Thomas Wyatt (1503–October 11, 1542) were the first English poets to introduce the sonnet form from Italy into England. Surrey was also the first English poet to publish a work in blank verse, his translation Virgil’s Aeneid.


Margery, the Countess of Oxford, also had ties to a noteworthy literary figure. Her brother was Arthur Golding, who was a prolific translator of more than 30 Latin works into English. His translation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, written in rhyming couplets of iambic heptameter, and dedicated to the Earl of Leicester, was a major influence on William Shakespeare’s works, Christopher Marlowe’s Tamburlaine and Edward II, and Edmund Spenser’s Faerie Queene, among others.


The 16th Earl of Oxford, died on August 3, 1562, and Edward de Vere became the 16th Earl of Oxford, Lord Great Chamberlain of England. However, because he was a minor of twelve years of age, and because his father held land from the Crown on the basis of knight service, Edward became a royal ward and he was placed in Sir William Cecil’s household. At this time, Cecil was serving as the Queen’s Secretary of State and principal advisor. Arthur Golding was in the service of Cecil and served as Edward’s receiver. Dedications of some of Arthur Golding’s works indicate that he was working within Cecil’s household and de Vere’s manor. His translation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses was first printed in 1567, and so was written during the period Golding was serving Cecil. Golding’s heartfelt concern for the young Earl is evident in his dedicatory letter to the Earl in his translation of Calvin’s Commentaries on the Psalms, in which Golding appeals to the Earl to stay faithful to the Protestant religion.[7] Golding also noted Oxford’s interest in ancient history and contemporary events.


In Cecil’s household, Oxford studied French, Latin, cosmography, writing, drawing, dancing instruction, in addition to common prayers. Time spent riding and training for tournaments must have been significant, as Oxford became a champion jouster. Laurence Nowell, antiquarian and Anglo-Saxon scholar, briefly served as one of Oxford’s tutors. Nowell left this position after eight months, writing to Cecil: “I clearly see that my work for the Earl of Oxford cannot be much longer required.” This enigmatic statement has been interpreted as either an allusion to the difficulty of Oxford as a student or, alternatively, as referring to his advanced intellectual abilities. Although no evidence exists that Oxford received a Bachelor of Arts degree, in 1564 he was one of seventeen nobles, knights and esquires who were awarded the honorary degree of Master of Arts by the University of Cambridge. In 1566, he was awarded another by Oxford University. He was admitted to Gray’s Inn in 1567 to study law.

Also during 1567, Oxford killed Thomas Brincknell, a seventeen-year-old undercook in the Cecil household, during fencing practice in the backyard of Cecil House in the Strand. The coroner’s inquest jury found that Brincknell was drunk when he ran onto Oxford’s blade. One of the jurors was Raphael Holinshed, Oxford’s servant, Cecil’s assistant, and future historian.[8] Also, Cecil later wrote that he tried to convince the jury that Oxford had acted in self-defense.


Based on records of his book purchases, Oxford was in interested in literature, history, and philosophy. These records include the purchase of a Geneva Bible gilt, Plutarch (in French), Chaucer, two books in Italian, and Cicero and Plato. A1568-70 second edition of the Geneva Bible gilt in the possession of the Folger Shakespeare Library Collection (Folger shelfmark 1427) is believed to be Oxford’s Geneva Bible. The Geneva Bible was the translation most familiar to Shakespeare. Numerous annotations in Folger shelfmark 1427 have been linked to passages in Shakespeare.[9]


Oxford, a champion jouster, obtained a posting under the Thomas Radclyffe, 3rd Earl of Sussex Earl of Sussex, in a Scottish campaign of spring 1570 to suppress the rebellion of the Northern Earls of Northumberland and Westmorland. Although Sussex initially had insufficient forces and exercised early caution, he went on to decisively crush the rebellion, laying waste to the border. The experience seems to have forged an alliance of Oxford and Sussex at Court. Sussex was a strong opponent of Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester.


On 12 April 1571, Oxford attained his majority and took his seat in the House of Lords; however, Lord Burghley did not formally release Oxford from his control until May 1572. During his wardship, one third of his estate reverted to the Crown, and the Queen had awarded most of this to her favorite, Robert Dudley. Saddled with his father’s debts, the Queen required payment of £3,000 for overseeing his wardship and a further £4,000 for suing his livery. Oxford’s money problems were to persist as a major difficulty throughout his life.


Oxford married Lord Burghley’s fifteen-year-old daughter Anne was on 16 December 1571. The marriage took place at the Palace of Whitehall with the Queen in attendance. Lady Elizabeth Hastings and Lord Herbert were married in the same event. Burghley gave Oxford a marriage settlement of land worth £800, and a cash settlement of £3,000. This amount was apparently intended for Oxford to pay his wardship and livery fees, but the money was spent elsewhere.


Oxford’s debts continued to mount, and in 1574, the Queen admonished him “for his unthriftyness.” On July 1, Oxford, “carrying a great sum of money with him,” left England for the continent with Lord Edward Seymour without obtaining the Queen’s permission. Burghley dispatched two messengers to request or order Oxford to return to England by the end of the month, by the twenty-eighth was back in London. Not surprisingly, his pending request for a place on the Privy Council was denied. The Queen eventually forgave him and granted a license for him to travel to Paris, Germany, and Italy on his pledge of good behavior.


Oxford again left for the continent in February 1575. Shortly after his departure, he learned that his wife Anne was pregnant. Initially, he seemed pleased, but then changed his mind and asserted that the expected child was not his. Of course, this created a great deal of animosity with the Cecils. Oxford continued with his travels and in the middle of March went to Strasbourg and subsequently traveled on to Milan and Venice. He became so enamored of Italian culture that he became known as the “Italian Earl” at court upon his return. Oxford’s daughter, Elizabeth, was born in July, but Oxford did not learn of her birth until three months later.


Oxford’s debt problems followed him to Italy. In January 1576, Oxford wrote from Siena to Burghley about creditors’ complaints. Oxford solved his immediate financial needs by going further into debt; he took out a loan of over £4,000 from Benedict Spinola, a Genoese merchant who was based in London, to help finance his travels.


Oxford returned to England and on his return voyage across the Channel, his ship was boarded by pirates, who robbed him, stripped him of his cloths down to his shirt. Oxford may have been killed he had not been recognized. Oxford, still estranged from his wife Anne Cecil, took rooms at Charing Cross on his return to England. He remained estranged from Anne for five years and bitterly complained about the Cecils.


Oxford apparently acquired some Catholic sympathies in his travels in Italy, which lead to some difficulties. During 1577, Oxford attempted to leave England to see service in the French Wars of Religion on the side of Henry III. However in 1580 he denounced certain Catholics, including Sir Charles Arundell, a Catholic recusant, Francis Southwell, and Henry Howard, 1st Earl of Northampton for treasonous activities, and Oxford asked for the Queen’s forgiveness for his own departure to the Catholic faith. Oxford was briefly placed under house arrest. After various scurrilous accusations were hurled by each side in the dispute, Arundell, Southwell and Howard were cleared. But enmity between those involved remained. Many years later, in 1589, after voting to find Philip Howard, Earl of Arundel, guilty of treason, Oxford said, “the Howards were the most treacherous race under heaven” and that “my Lord Howard [was] the worst villain that lived in this earth.”


Oxford was a favorite of the Queen, especially as a dancing partner. The Queen would often call for Oxford, her “Turk,” to dance with her. This led to an incident during the Queen’s royal progress during the summer 1578 when the Queen twice asked Oxford to dance with her before the French ambassadors. At the time, the French ambassadors were engaged in negotiations for Elizabeth to marry the younger brother of Henri III of France, the twenty-four-year-old Francis, Duke of Anjou. Oxford refused the invitations because he “would not give pleasure to Frenchmen.”


However, Oxford was initially sympathetic to the marriage of Elizabeth and the Duke of Anjou, which put him at odds with Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester, and his nephew Sir Philip Sidney. This may have contributed to a legendary argument between Sidney and Oxford on the tennis court at Whitehall in which Oxford called Sidney a “puppy,” while Sidney responded that “all the world knows puppies are gotten by dogs, and children by men.” The argument was clearly leading up a challenge to duel, which the Queen temporarily defused. The dispute continued to fester, and in January 1580, Oxford wrote and challenged Sidney. To restrain Oxford, he was confined to his chambers until early February. Oxford also openly quarreled with the Earl of Leicester at about this time. Leicester, however, seems to have been able to somehow turn Oxford away from the faction at court that favored Elizabeth’s marriage to the Duke of Anjou. Also, during this time Oxford reestablished Oxford’s Men, his company of actors, and began to support both adult and boy acting companies.


Oxford’s behavior again led to trouble in 1581. On March 23, 1581, an affair Oxford was having with Anne Vavasour, one of the Queen’s maids of honor, was discovered by Sir Francis Walsingham. Anne had given birth to a baby boy, later named Edward Vere, and Oxford was rumored to be preparing to flee. Oxford was apprehended imprisoned in the Tower, along with Anne and her baby. Lord Burghley again came to the rescue, and Oxford was released on June 8 but remained under house arrest into July. After his release from house arrest, he was banished from the court until 1583. Oxford attempted to regain the Queen’s favor, and at Christmas 1581, Oxford reconciled with his wife, Anne Cecil. In March 1582, Thomas Knyvet, Anne Vavasour’s uncle, and his servants began an open long-running series of duels with Oxford and his men over Oxford’s affair with Anne.[10] In this encounter, Oxford was wounded in the leg and one of his servants was killed. Oxford complained of his “lameness” in his correspondence after this injury.


On 6 May 1583, his wife Anne gave birth to a boy, but the child died later the same day. At the end of same month, Oxford was reconciled with the Queen after the intervention of Lord Burley and Sir Walter Raleigh, but Oxford’s position in the court was forever diminished. After his reconciliation with his wife, she gave birth to three daughters—Briget, born April 6, 1584; Susan, born May 26, 1587; and Frances (birthdate) unknown who died in infancy. Anne Cecil died on June 5, 1588, of a fever.


In the summer of 1588, England faced the Spanish Armada. Oxford reported to Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester, who was acting as commander of the English land forces. Oxford, however, refused his commander’s request that Oxford serve as governor of Harwich to lead the defenses there; however, Oxford rejected the post. What service he rendered during the Battle of the Spanish Armada is debated.


In 1591, Oxford married Elizabeth Trentham, one of the Queen’s Maids of Honor. On February 24, 1593, she gave birth to a son and heir, Henry de Vere.


On August 4, 1598, Oxford’s father in law, Lord Burghley, died. Burghley left substantial bequests to Bridget and Susan de Vere. Burghley was prudent in his dealings to the end; he had the bequests structured in such a way to prevent Oxford from gaining access to the funds.

In the trial of Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, in the aftermath of the Essex Rebellion of 1601, Oxford served as “the senior of the twenty-five noblemen” on the jury in the trial of Essex and Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton for treason.[11] Oxford also was among the nobles who officiated at the coronation of James I on July 25, 1603.


Oxford’s spendthrift ways and poor financial decisions caused his debts and financial situation to constantly worsen throughout his life. His health also began to decline, with reports of his ill health beginning in 1595. He died on June 26, 1604, of unknown causes, at King’s Place, Hackney, and was buried in the parish church of St. Augustine on July 6.


With regard to his ability as a playwright and poet, Oxford received high praise from contemporary critics. William Webbe names Oxford as “the most excellent” of Elizabeth’s courtier poets. Puttenham’s The Arte of English Poesie (1589), places Oxford first on a list of courtier poets, cites him for “his excellance and wit,” and states that he is one of the playwrights who “deserve the highest praise” in the genres of “Comedy and Enterlude.” Francis Meres’s Palladis Tamia (1598) names Oxford first of seventeen playwrights listed by rank who are “the best for comedy amongst us.” Henry Peacham’s The Compleat Gentleman (1622) places Oxford first on a list of seven Elizabethan courtly poets “who honoured Poesie with their pens and practice.”

Oxford received numerous dedications in his lifetime. From 1564 to 1599, twenty-eight works were dedicated to him. Oxford contributed thirty-three dedications, thirteen of which appeared in original or translated works of literature. This is a strong indication that he spent his resources in fostering learning and the creation of original works of literature.

Francis Bacon, Viscount St. Alban(s) (January 22, 1561April 9, 1626)

Bacon was a philosopher and prolific writer who published numerous works on the topics of science, religion, and law. His most well-known works are probably Novum Organum Scientiarum (“New Method”; 1620), in which he set out the foundations of the scientific method, and New Atlantis (1627), a novel of a utopian society where there is “generosity and enlightenment, dignity and splendour, piety and public spirit.” Another of his announced goals was his “Great Instauration,” which was published along with the Novum Organum Scientiarum. The “Great Instauration” was, in very general terms, Bacon’s project for the restoration of arts and sciences and the enlightenment or illumination of humankind to love and truth. Numerous writers have argued that Bacon was associated with late sixteenth/early seventeenth century Rosicrucian and Freemason societies.[12]


Francis Bacon, born on January 22, 1561, at York House on the Strand,[13] was the son of Sir Nicholas Bacon[14] and Anne (née Cooke) Bacon. Sir Nicholas and Anne had one other child together, Anthony, born in 1658. Francis and his older brother had a warm relationship for much of their lives. Francis’s father, Nicholas Bacon, a portly man, was Lord Keeper of the Great Seal and a respected attorney and politician. At the time of Francis’s birth Sir Nicholas was also an Attorney of the Court of Wards and Liveries, a position he held until February 8, 1561, a few weeks after Francis Bacon’s birth.[15] The Court of Wards and Liveries was responsible for wardship of orphaned minors of aristocratic birth. His marriage to Anne Cooke, in 1553, was his second marriage. Because of this marriage, he became the brother-in-law of then Sir William Cecil, later 1st Baron Burghley (Cecil had married Mildred Cooke, Anne Cooke’s sister, in 1545). This relationship and Cecil’s influence probably helped Sir Nicholas’s to be named Lord Keeper by the Queen in December 22, 1558. However, his position as Lord Keeper may initially have been thought of as temporary because Sir Nicholas retained his attorneyship of the wards. As it turned out, Sir Nicholas served until his death on February 20, 1579, longer than any other Lord Keeper served, with the exception of Thomas Egerton, then Baron Ellesmere, later elevated to 1st Viscount Brackley, who served as Lord Keeper and Lord Chancellor for twenty-one years.[16][17] On the coronation day of Queen Elizabeth I, January 15, 1559, Nicholas Bacon was knighted and made a member of the Privy Council within a few days thereafter. With the enactment of The Lord Keeper Act 1562 (5 Eliz 1 c 18), Sir Nicolas, as the Lord Keeper of the Great Seal, was “entitled to like place, pre-eminence, jurisdiction, execution of laws, and all other customs, commodities, and advantages as the Lord Chancellor.” Sir Nicholas was essentially the Queen’s and Cecil’s workhorse in Parliament.


Francis Bacon’s mother, Anne Cooke, was the head lady-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth when Francis was born. Anne was the daughter of Anthony Cooke, the noted humanist and tutor to Edward VI. Her father’s role as tutor gave the Cookes inside contacts in the courts of Henry VIII, Edward VI, and later Elizabeth I. Anthony Cooke also took steps to provide his daughters, Anne and Elizabeth, and his four sons the best humanist education possible. Both Anne and Elizabeth were taught languages, including Latin and Greek, and were taught the classics. Anne was also taught Italian, French, and possibly Hebrew. She went on to publish translations from Italian and Latin, most notably a translation from Latin of John Jewel’s Apologie of the Anglican Church (1564). Anne’s sister, Elizabeth, later Lady Elizabeth Russell, was proficient in French and Latin, and she translated from the French a work concerning the nature of the sacrament (printed in 1605).[18] Anne, like her sister, was deeply religious Puritan.


From 1563 to 1568, Sir Nicholas built a new house called Gorhambury House (now a ruin named Old Gorhambury House) near St Albans, Hertfordshire. Gorhambury House was built from bricks taken from the old abandoned Abbey buildings at St Albans. Gorhambury House became Francis Bacon’s home. Gidea Hall, the home of Sir Anthony Cook, his grandfather, was fifteen miles away. “Theobalds,” the home of his uncle Sir William Cecil, was nine miles away at Cheshunt. The Queen visited the homes in the area frequently from 1565 to 1578. Francis was educated at home, probably due to his poor health. When he moved to Gorhambury House, its surroundings became his playground and second schoolroom.


It soon became apparent that Francis was gifted with a unique intellect. He was a polymath—a genius. On April 5, 1573, at the age of 12, he was admitted to Trinity College, Cambridge. He stayed there for three years, with his brother Anthony, under the tutelage of Dr. John Whitgift, then Master of Trinity College, later Archbishop of Canterbury. Francis soon saw the deficiencies of the curriculum, which centered on pointless Aristotelian disputations. He saw the need for rigorous empirical inquiry focused on the goal of the improvement of humankind. He left Cambridge for good in December 1575 without taking a degree.


On 27 June 1576, he and Anthony began the study of law at Gray’s Inn. However, after only a few months, Francis’s studies at Gray’s Inn suddenly ended so that he could accompany Sir Amias Paulet, the new ambassador to France, to Paris. The Queen was directly involved because Francis wrote: “I went with Sir Amias Paulet into France direct from her Majesties Royal hand.”[19] Francis remained on the continent until 1579, visiting Blois, Poitiers, Tours, Italy, and Spain. This opportunity afforded him an opportunity to study statecraft first hand. He also continued his studies when he was not involved in routine diplomatic tasks.


In 1579, Sir Nicholas Bacon died and Francis returned to England. Although Sir Nicholas was a wealthy man, and his will provided bequests for all of his children by his first marriage, Lady Anne Bacon and Francis’s brother, Anthony Bacon, for some reason the will contained no mention of Francis. Without any significant assets or income, Francis returned to Gray’s Inn to take up the law. After completing the three-year term, he was called to the bar on July 27, 1582.


While studying the law, Francis was elected to Parliament. He continued his studies outside the law and wrote Temporis Partus Maximus (1593; now lost) on philosophical reform. In 1582, he argued for the execution of Mary Queen of Scots.


After obtaining the help of his uncle, Lord Burghley, Francis advanced quickly at the bar: in 1586, he became a Bencher; 1587, elected Reader; and in 1589, appointment of reversion to the Clerkship of the Star Chamber (took office in 1608). Bacon eventually became the confidential advisor of Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex; however, he terminated his relationship with Essex before the Essex Rebellion of 1601. Bacon gained a reputation as moderate reformer and took some positions on issues that brought him into conflict with the Queen. This probably came at a price. In 1594, the post of Attorney General became vacant, but the post was awarded to Bacon’s nemesis, Sir Edward Coke. Bacon also failed to receive the post of Solicitor General in 1595. In 1596 his fortunes improved somewhat and he received the post of Queen’s (later King’s) Counsel. He was, however, not selected for Master of the Rolls.


During this time, Bacon also suffered a setback in his personal life when failed to obtain the hand of Lady Elizabeth Hatton, granddaughter of Lord Burghley, in marriage. Lady Elizabeth ended up marrying Sir Edward Coke, Bacon’s rival.


In the aftermath of the rebellion of the Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, Francis Bacon participated in the investigation leading to the prosecution of Essex. Attorney General Sir Edward Coke led the prosecution team at Essex’s treason trial, with Bacon assisting. After a trial that lasted only a day, Essex was found guilty of treason. He was beheaded on the grounds of the Tower on February 25, 1601. Bacon was charged with writing the official government account of the trial, A DECLARATION of the Practices and Treasons attempted and committed by Robert late Earle of Essex and his Complices, against her Majestie and her Kingdoms, which was published after extensive edits by others in government. Bacon’s reputation suffered because of his participation in the prosecution of his former benefactor, Essex, who had been close to James VI, King of Scotland.


After James I ascended to the throne, Bacon’s fortunes improved. He was knighted on July 23, 1603, due in large part to the influence of Robert Cecil. In 1604, Bacon published his Apologie, In certaine Imputations concerning the late Earl of Essex, a careful justification of his participation in the Essex trial. Bacon advocated in favor of James’s plans for unification of England and Scotland, a proposal that was strongly opposed in Parliament. He was, however, again passed over for the position of Solicitor General.


On May 10, 1606, “clad from top to toe in purple,” Bacon married Alice Barnham, “his young wench.” Alice was the fourteen-year-old daughter of Benedict Barnham, Sheriff of London, Alderman, and Member of Parliament from Yarmouth, and his wife Dorothy (née Smith). Bacon was age forty-five. Alice’s father died when she was about six years old. Her mother remarried Sir John Pakington. The Queen bestowed the nickname “Lusty Pakington” on Sir John for his sporting ways and rich style of living. After his marriage, Bacon became Solicitor General in 1607, after being passed over for the appointment in 1606, and Clerk of the Star Chamber in 1608.


In “the Blessed Parliament” of 1604–1610, Sir Francis navigated a middle course between bitter battle between the Commons and the king, and he managed to maintain good relations with both. In 1613, Bacon was appointed attorney general. During this period, Bacon prosecuted Robert Carr, Earl of Somerset, and Frances Howard, Countess of Somerset, for the murder of Sir Thomas Overbury (see above). However, his reputation began to suffer for his record of support for the king’s policies and his own preferment. His letters seeking to those in a position to aid his advancement were often perceived as blatantly obsequious.


In 1617, Bacon was appointed as the temporary Regent of England for a brief period, and he was appointed Lord Keeper. He became Lord Chancellor in 1618. On July 12, 1618, Bacon was created Baron Verulam. He was elevated to Viscount St. Alban on January 27, 1621.


However, his rise in influence came to a sudden end in 1621 when, at the instigation of Sir Edward Coke, he was accused of taking bribes. Bacon admitted his guilt and was briefly sent to the Tower. After his release, he was barred from holding office and retired to his writings.


On April 9, 1626, Bacon died of pneumonia after catching a cold during an experiment to preserve a chicken with snow.[20]

[1] Peter Farey has written about the various ways that Marlowe’s name was spelled. See Peter Farey’s Marlowe Page http://www2.prestel.co.uk/rey/names.htm. [2] See Peter Farey’s Marlowe Page. http://www2.prestel.co.uk/rey/biog.htm. [3] The coroner’s report was discovered by Dr. Leslie Hotson in 1925, and a transcription of the original Latin text is printed in his The Death of Christopher Marlowe (pp.29-31), along with his translation into English; see also The Marlowe Society at http://www.marlowe-society.org/marlowe/life/deptford3.html ; and Peter Farey’s Marlow Page at http://www2.prestel.co.uk/rey/inquis~1.htm. [4] Some Oxfordians assert that Edward de Vere was actually the illegitimate son of then Princess Elizabeth by Thomas Seymour. See Paul Streitz, Oxford, Son of Queen Elizabeth I (2001). This idea is an aspect of a broader hypothesis known as “Prince Tudor Part II.” [5] In 1563, Katherine, then Baroness Windsor, challenged the legitimacy of the marriage of Oxford’s parents in Ecclesiastical court. His uncle Arthur Golding argued that the case should be dismissed on jurisdictional grounds by the Archbishop of Canterbury because a proceeding against a ward of the Queen could not be brought without prior license from the Court of Wards and Liveries. Sir William Cecil, Golding’s master, was the Warden of the Court of Wards and Liveries at that time. [6] The 17th Earl discontinued this company in 1564. [7] Louis Thorn Golding. An Elizabethan Puritan. New York: Richard R. Smith, 1937, p. 66. [8] Holinshed went on to collaborate in the writing of Holinshed’s Chronicles (1577), which was a major source for Shakespeare. [9] http://shake-speares-bible.com/bible-faq/ (citing Roger Stritmatter, De Vere Bible Dissertation (1998); see also http://shake-speares-bible.com/dissertation/). [10] Knyvet was later to apprehend Guy Fawkes in the search of cellars of the House of Lords during the Gunpowder Plot. [11] Southampton was found guilty, but his sentence was commuted to life in prison. He was later rehabilitated under James I. [12] The origins of Rosicrucianism and Freemasonry are obscure. I am going to assume for this book that the late sixteenth/early seventeenth century Rosicrucians and Freemasons were establishing a sort of proto-modern Rosicrucianism/ Freemasonry, with “modern” being eighteenth and later forms of these societies. [13] Dr. William Rawley, Francis Bacon’s chaplain and personal secretary, states in Resuscitatio, or Bringing into Public Light Several Pieces Hitherto Sleeping (1670) that Francis Bacon “[w]as born, in York House, or York Place, in the Strand; on the 22nd Day of January ; in the Year of our Lord, [1561].” [14] Sir Nicholas’s first marriage was to Jane Ferneley, and they had three sons and three daughters together: Sir Nicholas Bacon, 1st Baronet, of Redgrave; Edward Bacon; Sir Nathanial Bacon; Elizabeth Bacon; Anne Bacon; and a second daughter named Elizabeth Bacon. [15] In January 1561, the same month that Francis Bacon was born, Sir William Cecil became Master of the Court of Wards and Liveries. [16] Ellesmere was a friend of Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, and was one of the judges at his trial. [17] Bacon, Nicholas (1510–79), of Gray’s Inn and York House, London; Redgrave, Suff. Gorhambury, Herts. Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 15091558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982. Available from Boydell and Brewer; see also http://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1509-1558/member/bacon-nicholas-1510-79 [18] It should also be noted that in 1596 Elizabeth opposed the 1596 construction of the Blackfriars Theatre. Being a devout Puritan, she opposed the vices of live theater. [19] Dr. Rawley, Resuscitatio, p. 73 (1671). [20] Some have proposed that Bacon faked his own death.

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