Oxford’s death

One of the moments in Oxford’s life that has remained a bone of contention is his death.  According to the public record, he died on June 24th, 1604, having just turned 54.  But like so many things in his life, this scenario is dubious at best. Although I had suspicions from the first, primarily due to the mythical significance of June 24th, it was the 2004 article by authorship scholar Christopher Paul: “A Monument without a Tomb: The Mystery of Oxford’s Death,” (published in The Oxfordian), that led to the following scenario. (Though he provides many of the facts that support it, Paul does not advocate for this scenario.)

In my view, what is far more likely is that Oxford did not die in 1604, that he continued to live in seclusion for another four or five years.  As an earl,  there is no way he could have escaped the pressures of his social position in any other way.  His forbears were able to end their worldly affairs and retire to a monastery when they felt that their lives were drawing to a close, as did the first Earl of Oxford.  Thus, for the centuries that Catholicism was the national religion, peers had the means by which they could be free to spend their final days in peaceful prayer and preparation for the afterlife, having passed on their possessions and titles to those they wished to have them, an option that ceased with the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the late 1530s.  (And obviously an issue that concerned Shakespeare, as witness King Lear.)

Measure for Measure

It’s a matter of record that Measure for Measure was performed at Court on December 26, 1604, six months (almost to the day) after Oxford’s supposed death.  The performance took place on the night before the marriage of his daughter Susan to the Earl of Montgomery.  The lead in that play is the mature Duke Vincentio, “the old fantastical duke of dark corners” as Lucio calls him, who disappears into a monastery early in the play, leaving his estate in the hands of lesser folk who wonder at one point if he might be dead.

If Oxford meant this to be understood by his Court audience as a reference to his situation at the time, was he merely fantasizing that he  actually had the kind of power he assigns to the Duke?  Could it be that at that time in history, with the Stage as his platform and the entire population of the city, plus visitors and every three years 500 parliamentarians, as his audience, that he did have that kind of power?   Could such a powerful constituency have been so utterly silent?  Consider the total silence of the powerful members of three other sizable communities at that time: the Catholics, the Freemasons, and the homosexual underground.

No funeral

Oxford was the highest ranking peer in his time.  At a time when the tradition was that an earl of his rank would be given a lavish and very public funeral, Oxford had no funeral at all.  Surely here’s another one of those Oxfordian dogs that didn’t bark in the night.  We can be certain about this as we have descriptions of the funerals of others like Sir Philip Sidney, the Earl of Leicester, and Sir Francis Walsingham.  His own wishes would have had nothing to do with the matter, nor or whether he was Shakespeare, nor even to the issue of cost, it was due purely to the position he held in society simply by virtue of his name and title.  Were he actually dead, someone would have seen to it that a respectable funeral took place, most notably his in-laws, the Trenthams, not to mention the King, who was on a royal spending spree, and whose favorite at the time, the young Philip Herbert (brother of the third Earl of Pembroke whose domain was all of southwestern England) would soon be marrying Oxford’s daughter Susan.

No certain burial place

There are different scenarios for Oxford’s burial site, depending on what authority you choose to follow, but the upshot is that there is no absolutely certain place where his body resides or ever resided, either temporarily or permanently.  The only possible reason for this lack of information is that his burial site, or more likely, sites, could not be made an issue because at the time that the records were being made regarding his demise, he was still alive, thus there was no body to bury.  When he did finally die some four or five years later, since he was supposed to have been already dead for some time, it was necessary that his passing and subsequent burial be kept as private as possible.

Although we do not know when or where he was buried, nor did most of his contemporaries, who would have known would surely have been those members of his family with whom he had maintained relations over the years.  One such would have been the Goldings, his mother’s family, while the most likely place for a peer of his stature to be buried would have been Westminster Abbey.

Percival Golding was Oxford’s cousin, the son of his uncle Arthur Golding, to whom was attributed the authorship of Shakespeare’s favorite source, the translation into English verse of Ovid’s Metamorphoses.  In a formal statement written in 1619, Percival Golding states flatly that Oxford was buried in Westminster Abbey.

The death of the summer lord

Right from the beginning it struck me as a little too coincidental that Oxford was buried on St. John’s Day, the classic moment for the death of the summer lord, whose sacrificial death marks the end of the rising half of the festival year, a bit of folk history he would have known from the same ancient Greek sources that gave Sir James Frazer the material for his masterwork, The Golden Bough.

If Oxford was Shakespeare,  his death would surely have been immensely meaningful to those patrons and audiences who made the King’s Men one of the most lucrative businesses of the early 17th century.  To 17th-century Londoners, Shakespeare’s death should have meant what the deaths of  impresarios like Leonard Bernstein, Oscar Hammerstein, or George Gershwin meant to 20th-century New Yorkers.  That there was no fanfare over William’s death says more than anything can about his actual relationship to the works that bore his name.  Bringing this within range of many other pieces of the Shakespeare and Oxford puzzles, it seems worth suggesting that Oxford was using what means were at his disposal to get the time he needed to put a final polish on those plays he considered his legacy, his “alms for oblivion,” and in a place where the Cecils could not get at him.

The great reckoning with Robert Cecil

Oxford’s behavior during the 1590s suggests that this retreat to the Forest was the final maneuver in his life-long battle with the power-hungry Cecils, to whom Fate had bound him by ties of blood; a fight for the freedom to do what he believed was his right as one greater than they, in rank, in wisdom, in humanity, in inherited office (Lord Great Chamberlain), and not least, in sheer will.  He had to fulfill his sacred calling, which was to tell the truth as he saw it.  He says as much through Jaques when he asks Duke Senior (King James) to “invest me in my motley . . . and I will through and through cleanse the foul body of the infected world . . . ,” meaning, no doubt, the Court, which was corrupt and becoming more so every day.

With Walsingham’s death in 1590, the Cecils had taken (rather retaken) control of the office of Secretary of State: William the paperwork , Robert the legwork.  The attack on the London Stage began immediately; Lyly was fired, Paul’s Boys and the Queen’s Men were dissolved, Marlowe was assassinated (or more likely, transported), Marlowe’s patron Lord Strange was murdered.

In 1594 Sussex’s two vice-chamberlains stepped forward to rescue the Stage from the chaos into which it had been thrown by these events.  Reorganizing the actors into two companies with themselves as patrons,  no doubt also with strict rules regarding what they were allowed to perform, Lord Hunsdon and his son-in-law Lord Admiral Charles Howard,  created the system that would be followed for the next three decades.

On January 26, 1595, William Stanley having inherited the title from his now dead older brother, Lord Strange (by then fifth earl of Derby),  marries Oxford’s daughter, Elizabeth Vere, thus acquiring for the Cecils a close family tie to the earldom of Derby and, through her son, the royal blood of the Derby earls, something they were frustrated of in their alliance with Oxford, who had produced no heir, and who, apart from his impressive lineage, had no claim on the throne (which, considering what happened to Lord Strange, was just as well for Milord).

Following his daughter’s marriage to Derby, it seems that Oxford did what he could to retire from Court, as is suggested by Roland White’s note later that year to Robert Sidney, governor of Flushing, which states: “some say the Earl of Oxford is dead.”  Two years earlier Oxford had returned to pressing the Queen regarding her promise to give him the stewardship of Waltham Forest, a perquisite that had always been within the purview of his ancestors and that he felt was his by right.  For whatever reason, she continued to fob him off with one excuse after another.  Perhaps she was afraid that he would disappear into the woods like Orlando, Timon, or all the principals in As You Like It.

The showdown

In June of 1596 Essex takes off for Cadiz, foolishly leaving the door open for Robert Cecil to get cozy enough with Elizabeth that she finally appoints him Secretary of State, thus giving him and his father powers equal to, or perhaps even greater than, her own.  This power was increased two weeks later with the death of the senior member of the Privy Council, Lord Chamberlain Hunsdon, patron of Shakespeare’s company.  It was hugely increased again a week after that when the Queen appointed Cecil’s father-in-law to fill Hunsdon’s place.  Thus by mid-August of 1596, Essex arrived home to find that the Cecils now held the top three governmental posts in the nation.

They used their now almost total power that November by seeing to it that the great new theater Burbage had built in the Blackfriars district was closed by edict of the Privy Council.  Perhaps they used it again when halfway through the winter theater season that year, James Burbage died, leaving his sons (and their playwright) with no theater with which to entertain the Parliament the following autumn.  They used it again that June to close all the theaters over the Isle of Dogs scandal, sending the actors on the road.  That the Company fought back by producing for the Parliament a version of Richard III in which Richard Burbage achieved fame by portraying the evil king­­––probably in the costume and attitudes of the recently appointed Secretary of State––is as close to historic fact as its possible to get.

It was during this showdown that the reading audience was introduced for the first time to the previously totally unknown William Shakespeare as the author of the most popular plays in London.  The following Christmas the Company tore down the old Shoreditch stage and rebuilt it on Bankside as The Globe, but by then Cecil was too busy with his showdown with Essex to bother with Oxford or the Stage.  With his reputation permanently damaged by the play and by its publication in two editions, one right after the other,  in which lines were added that could only point to him, Cecil could do little but maintain a holding pattern until Essex, at the end of his emotional tether, destroyed himself, taking with him a large portion of the younger courtiers who would otherwise have provided a counterweight to his subsequent grab for more and more power.

Oxford and his papers are saved

Following the Queen’s death in 1603, Oxford found King James a kinder sovereign than he probably had reason to expect.  Most likely persuaded by the Pembroke brothers, James gave him the stewardship of the Forest, perhaps in exchange for his agreement to continue to write for the Court.  In any case, while supposedly dead he had nine plays ready for the marriage of his daughter to the younger Pembroke the following Christmas.  Safely tucked away in a modest dwelling near the ancient Havering Palace, favorite residence of Edward the Confessor, he lived as he pleased, protected from Cecil, who had no jurisdiction in the Forest, an idyll he portrays in As You Like It, one of the plays he revised during this period, in which he left a number of clues to the events of his life.

When did he die?  Events suggest 1609.  In a website titled 1609, the late great authorship scholar Robert Brazil details a number of events and publications that, although none can be relied upon as hard evidence, suggest this was when the great impresario finally moved on to that better world that so many of his characters mention in passing.  Brazil, never one to move too far from hard evidence, would never state, so far as I know, the reason for choosing 1609 to highlight in this manner.  Perhaps he left it for the rest of us to consider.

In my view, this was when the movement to get Oxford’s works published as a collection first began, a project that would take another decade and a half, and (I believe) was also the beginning of the movement to get him buried in Westminster Abbey, where (I believe) he lies today beneath the huge screen, created in 1741 to honor Shakespeare, that divides Poet’s Corner in half.

So what if anything actually happened on June 24, 1604?  Only one thing we know for sure, which is that Robert Cecil, by then Viscount Cranborne, had the Earl of Southampton arrested on the trumped-up charge that he was suspected of plotting against the King (the excuse for all Cecil’s attacks on his personal enemies), so he could have his papers examined.  Southampton was released with no explanation for the arrest either then or later (by historians).  Obviously Cecil didn’t find what he was looking for.  As for what might have occurred on the day in question, June 24, 1604, or more likely the night before, Midsummer’s Eve, we can only dream.

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17 responses to “Oxford’s death

  1. I’ve wondered whether he was recruited by King James in 1604 to mastermind the production of the King James Bible. Seems odd that none of the creative minds we know about (ie, Mary Sidney) participated.

    • Not possible. Those who claim Shakespeare wrote part of the KJV are uninformed. Far from inculding poets, the KJV was put together in the first decade of the 17th century by a committee of theologians. If, as I believe, Oxford attended Oxford University for awhile in his teens he would have known the teaching fellow who would one day edit the KJV, Dr. John Rainolds. I believe those who study the KJV and the history of that time have come to agreement on those who contributed to it (I believe there are 12, nice number). If you’re interested in this issue you might check what I say here about Sir Thomas Smith and his connection to the Book of Common Prayer. Rainolds probably played the part in the KJV that Archbishop Cranmer played in producing the BCP.

      • Play-writing “collaborations” are all the rage among the academics. But can you name any translation collaborations? You won’t – because it’s never a viable course. Try to get two translators to agree on one paragraph, or even one sentence! So imagine trying it for a small part of the “Word of God”! Also bear in mind that the whole of the KJV is written in a pseudo-archaic English, that was never spoken by anyone.

        The answer is that King James knew all this, and he set an impossible task to the most useless bunch of people he could find — Church of England clerics. He already had (in his metaphorical back pocket) a finished version, and he wanted that to be adopted by the Church as their own. Had they any sense of its true origin, they would have spurned it. None of them could complain about the final outcome because each knew that progress of the ‘translation committee’ on which each had sat was disgracefully pathetic.

  2. Stephanie, I couldn’t agree more with this scenario. The last chapter of my book, Or Not To Be, describes Oxford’s life after the death of the Queen and up to the marriage of Susan De Vere. It is entirely consistent with what you propose.

  3. I’m happy to hear it. Now we can begin casting the movie. That’s always fun. For a long time I wanted to see Jude Law play Oxford. He’s a great actor, so wasted on the drivel he’s been doing in the movies. My first choice would be John Barrymore, but alas, he’s dead. Since this movie is something that can never happen, maybe the casting could be open to actors from all times. But I like to think that Oxford looked like Barrymore, who became famous for his stage version of Hamlet. Whoever plays Oxford would have to have a face that reflects both intellligence and humor.

  4. Hi Stephanie, I do not discount the possibility that de Vere lived, but I do think that whether he lived or died on that midsummer night, he was the target of a cooked up plot by the Knaves.

    Consider that the Earl of Lincoln, Bridgett de Vere’s father-in-law, reported to Lt. Peyton (and separately to Sgt. Harris) that de Vere “invayed against the Scots” and promoted the idea of an English peer as King days before the Queen died. Lincoln approached Peyton 3 times in 6 weeks even though he had already sent his son Thomas north with a letter reporting de Vere’s treasonous talk to James, yet supposedly they never consulted Thomas Clinton’s brother-in-law Thomas Howard or Bridgett’s uncle Robert Cecil, the go-to men for the king in the interim. Neither Peyton or Harris passed this early loyalty test. In Oct & Jan Peyton came under harsh political attack and had to justify to Cecil why he had not reported de Vere, and Harris would choose the same period to quietly retire from a busy career in Parliament.

    Fast forward to spring, summer of 1604. Sometime after April Jonson’s Sejanus is booed off the stage at the Globe, a play that might be taken to suggest that the Catholic dissidents are innocent, and Raleigh the victim of Henry Howard cooking up plots with the complicity of the king. Howard calls Jonson before the council with an accusations of Treason and Popery. We don’t know the date because this information was suppressed.

    In Parliament James was flummoxed to find the love fest was over. A group of MPs led by Maurice Berkeley are denying his wish to unify the Isle, insisting on wardship reform, refusing to grant him money, etc. So on that midsummer night they round up these rabble rousing MPs, Berkeley, his brother-in-law Neville as well as Southampton. An ambassador reported that it was for plotting to kill Scots advisors around the King. Around the same time a poem celebrating Essex was suppressed, and a week later the former Chaplain of Essex named Sharpe (then the Chaplain of the princes) was arrested for attempting to raise a gentlemanly league of defense for the King. Since this was an excuse used to raise troops in previous risings he was not believed and within a handful of years he would be arrested for a threat to massacre the Scots that was delivered on the floor of parliament (he got a colleague to mention the Sicilian Vespers in a speech). Berkeley was then called before the privy council before Parliament resumed again, this time accused of rebellion and being a Catholic sympathizer, with his accuser said to be Wriothesley’s mother. The events of June 24th, as well as when Jonson and Berkeley were grilled by the privy council were all suppressed but they are likely to have happened close to if not during that strange occluded summer.

    De Vere died or disappeared on the night that some Knave, years later said to be Cecil, scared the King with warnings of a pending violent attack by noblemen & MPs. Baxter gave us a hint of what happened in Ourania. De Vere was:
    “No traytor, but ever gratious and true:
    Gainst Princes peace, a plot he never drew.
    But as they be deceiv’d that too much trust:
    So trusted he some men who proved unjust.”

    Remember that last image of Oxford that Chapman left us with: de Vere enraged. This does not fit with de Vere dying quietly and Cecil deciding the time was ripe to take out Southampton too. De Vere was enraged over Wriothesley’s arrest but I wonder whether the Knaves tried to implicate him in their cooked up plot too. As they swept in Berkeley’s faction and Southampton under the excuse that they were plotting against Scots, de Vere’s “invaying against the Scots” may have come up in the dragnet.

    • Mystikel: Clearly you know more about the background to this sequence of events than I do. Have you written it up anywhere? It would be extremely helpful to have a scholarly piece on this period, backed up by substantive quotes from documented sources, and with as little interpretation as possible, or, at least the interpretation left for the end. You could get it published in one of the authorship publications, and if not, I would be glad to post a genuinely scholarly piece on this here. One that allows the facts to speak for themselves as much as possible.

      I looked into the Peyton report years ago, but don’t recall my response at the time. I certainly didn’t go into it as deeply as you have. Clearly the transition from Elizabeth to James was a very unstable period, when power was shifting and no one was certain what the morrow would bring, including the King, a foreigner with no direct experience of the English he now had to deal with. This added to the scenario that Oxford was seeking a way to get away from the Court to a safe place, something it seemed to me that he had been working towards ever since the Cecils took control of the Secretaryship. So whatever the details behind the Peyton incident, since the result tended to move things in that direction, I let the details go.

      What you say about the Earl of Lincoln, that he was Brigitte’s father-in-law, is interesting. Have you considered that Elizabeth and Brigitte may reflect to some extent the figures of Goneril and Regan in King Lear?

      • I had not seen your message when i wrote the follow up reply. I will go ahead and write that up in a clearer way (at least on my blog) and you are welcome to do so as well 😉 I have not yet looked closely at the daughters in King Lear though I know he has 3 daughters like Oxford. I will definitely look further though.

        I am Oxfordian, and my focus has been on the connections between Oxford, Shakspeare & Shakespeare. There really is quite a story to tell in that nexus.

        Consider the Russell connection where there is a thicket of authorship clues. Bridgett Russell née Hussey Countess of Rutland & Bedford (incidently a mother-in-law of the 2nd Earl of Lincoln among many other connections) was sister to Elizabeth Throckmorton of Coughton, 10 miles from Stratford on Avon.

        Elizabeth’s children & grandchildren were the Ardens, Treshams, Catesbys and Throckmortons that were along with their cousins the Vauxs, Inglebys and Wrights involved in nearly every single seditious plot that happened in England from 1580 to 1605. Why Bridgett’s family accrued honors and preferment while Elizabeth’s family experienced harassment, crippling fines, imprisonment, and too often execution was really due to their difference in religion.

        For instance Mary Tresham who lived at King’s Place with Oxford and his family was the widow of Lord Vaux (son of the poet) whose children ran the underground network that supported the Jesuits in England, inheriting the work of the by then devastated Catholic courtier group that was partly started by Southampton’s cousin Thomas Pound. When this group greeted and then sheltered Campion and Persons in 1580 it was filled with Throckmortons & their relations as well as … Charles Arundel. You know what happened after that.

        So this is all part of the story I’m working on that includes Oxford, Shakspeare and the people you find in between them in that crucible that produced the works of Shakespeare. I do intend to start putting up bits and pieces on my blog, though.

      • Thomas Clinton married Elizabeth Knyvett around 1584. Her father was the MP Henry Knyvett, brother of the Thomas Knyvett that so bitterly feuded with de Vere through the early 80s.

        Katherine Knyvett, the older sister of Thomas Clinton’s wife Elizabeth, was married to Thomas Howard, Henry Howard’s nephew and the future Earl of Suffolk.

        The wives of Thomas Clinton and Thomas Howard were first cousins of Anne Vavasour. Lincoln’s oldest son and heir had been a member of this extended clan where dislike and even hatred of Edward de Vere was rampant for nearly 20 years at that point.

        Clinton was also potentially putting his own stepson at risk because while talking to Peyton he “wondered” to see de Vere’s name on the proclamation naming James as King, when he must have known that Francis Norrys was the only one besides de Vere who had no known excuse for not signing it.(Derby showed up late but did sign later so three names had to be added on with the second printing: de Vere, Norrys and the guy with the good excuse of guarding the northern border).

        So due to the marriage of Bridgett De Vere to his stepson Francis Norrys and Thomas Clinton being a brother-in-law of Thomas Howard, the Earl of Lincoln had ready access to the proper channels of the men in charge. Yet we are asked to believe he avoided the Knaves altogether, was still pressing Peyton six weeks later and sent Thomas flying north with an explosive missive to the King (he actually sent the letter twice) accusing his own daughter-in-law’s father (Cecil’s brother-in-law) of treasonous speech. He bothered the very high (the new King) and the low (Peyton & Harris) but never mentioned it to the knaves? I just don’t think he would have thrown such an explosive grenade into the fine web of relationships that connected him to all power in the kingdom without the permission of Cecil and Thomas and Henry Howard.

  5. Dear Stephanie, thank you for writing about a difficult subject.
    I do not have enough kwowledge so it is so good to ask you:
    Could the silence in 1604 be due to a real or reported suicide?

    • Oh my. I’ve just been dealing with this issue on the FaceBook Authorship page. In fact, I wrote this blog mostly so I could put more fully and succinctly a response to the discussion on FB of the possibility that Oxford committed suicide in case anyone involved in that discussion cared enough to take a longer look. Our term suicide, meaning self-murder, is seen in today’s predominantly secular Christian culture as a horrible thing, an act of passion, which sadly ignores the needs of elders to have as much control as possible over their passing. (It’s still considered a crime to help a suffering family member die on their own terms.)

      Not only would Oxford have been concerned for his own life, but even more so for the survival of his papers, his “alms for oblivion.” Cecil’s need to own and edit as many of the records and paper collections as he could get his hands on was surely the reason why he had Southampton arrested as soon as he heard that Oxford was dead. No one in the Court community was at all fooled by his claim that he suspected S of plotting against the King, including the King.

      If Oxford was NOT dead, but was playing possum, like Duke Vincentio in Measure for Measure, he would have been seen as having won another round in the game of cat and mouse he was playing with Cecil, when not only did Robert fail to secure his papers, he soon found out that Oxford wasn’t really dead, which left him with no recourse but to play along. I believe that by this time, most of Oxford’s papers were safely in the hands of the Earl of Pembroke. All this is just an hypothesis. Until more close work is done on this period of transition, acquiring copies of the documents and translating them into modern English, etc., that’s all it will ever be.

  6. Stephen Williams

    Hi Stephanie,

    Great post, indeed. This reminded me of the dedication in the Sonnets, in which the poet’s referred to as “Ever-Living Poet”, meaning “he’s dead”. It also reminded me of a letter referred to by Christopher Paul in his article “A Monument without a Tomb” in which we can read that Oxford’s daughters are said to be “daughters of the late Earl of Oxford”. The letter is from January 1607, the first mention of Oxford as “late”. This is also curious. Did it take almost 3 years for someone to publicly admit that Oxford was dead?

    Just a mention (as you mentioned characters in Shakespeare’s plays who seem to reflect Oxford’s ideas of seclusion, I think this doesn’t fall out of context), there is also a play, “The Woman’s Prize”, attributed to John Fletcher, which seems to reflect Oxford’s late life as married to Trentham. Also in the play, we have Petruchio (Oxford?) playing dead. I wonder if there is some connection…

    Anyway, great post!

  7. Thanks, Stephen. Here’s a link to an article about “The Woman’s Prize” by George Swan, published in the 2007 edition of The Oxfordian, and a link to my editiorial in that issue in which I propose a connection to Oxford (pp 5-11).

  8. On the hypothesis that Oxford’s 1604 death was faked:

    First, the fact that there was no funeral following his supposed 1604 death isn’t evidence that he didn’t die in 1604. In fact, if “they” (or he) really wanted to fake his death, a funeral would have strengthened the subterfuge.

    Second (based on Christopher Paul’s article), the lack of plain written evidence for Oxford’s death in surviving correspondence is, again, not evidence that he didn’t die in 1604 – rather, if his death were faked, the ruse would be much more effective if in some way the “death” were announced, so that unguarded written evidence of the death should have existed in letters, etc.

    What advantage is there in faking a death, where no one acknowledges that there has been a death? If every correspondent who failed to note Oxford’s death (listed in Christopher Paul’s article) was “in on” the ruse, it would have been such an open secret that no such “secret” effectively existed. Which would fatally dash any advantage to be had in faking the death!

    Third, Percival Golding’s note is being quoted as being a credible report that Oxford was buried at Westminster. Golding’s note also asserts that Oxford died in April 1604. This note might be proved to be false in some of it’s assertions, but until then it strains credibility to approve one statement and ignore the other.

    There are mysteries surrounding Oxford’s death, to be sure. I’m glad you call the idea that Oxford faked his death an “hypothesis”. In fact, if you regard it as such, you should include facts that argue against the theory, to complete the discussion.

  9. You say: First, the fact that there was no funeral following his supposed 1604 death isn’t evidence that he didn’t die in 1604. In fact, if “they” (or he) really wanted to fake his death, a funeral would have strengthened the subterfuge.

    I say: None of this by itself is evidence. All of it together requires an explanation. That he didn’t die, but used this as a means of getting privacy in his later years is the best explanation so far. Can you think of a better? As for faking a funeral, that would require the efforts of many people and a lot of money, while what was actually done would have required the efforts of one or two properly placed.

    You say: Second (based on Christopher Paul’s article), the lack of plain written evidence for Oxford’s death in surviving correspondence is, again, not evidence that he didn’t die in 1604 – rather, if his death were faked, the ruse would be much more effective if in some way the “death” were announced, so that unguarded written evidence of the death should have existed in letters, etc.

    I say: Again, no single thing is evidence, evidence is all of these things together: no funeral, no letters, no certain location of his body; no use of the word “late,” plus a history of hiding and escaping.

    You say: What advantage is there in faking a death, where no one acknowledges that there has been a death? If every correspondent who failed to note Oxford’s death (listed in Christopher Paul’s article) was “in on” the ruse, it would have been such an open secret that no such “secret” effectively existed. Which would fatally dash any advantage to be had in faking the death!

    I say: Why would those who failed to note Oxford’s death have to have been aware that he wasn’t really dead? When one writes a letter, one comments on things that have happened, not things that haven’t happened. If you don’t hear from or about a friend for a long time, do you suspect that they might be dead? Or pretending to be dead?

    You say: Third, Percival Golding’s note is being quoted as being a credible report that Oxford was buried at Westminster. Golding’s note also asserts that Oxford died in April 1604. This note might be proved to be false in some of it’s assertions, but until then it strains credibility to approve one statement and ignore the other.

    I say: Golding may not have been in on the ruse. He may have believed that his cousin had died when the family said he did, but was included in the private ceremony during which he was reburied in the Abbey, or at least heard someone tell about it. The tone of Golding’s note, and that of George Buc from about the same time, shows how much rumor and negative gossip was circulating about Oxford at that time.

    You say: There are mysteries surrounding Oxford’s death, to be sure. I’m glad you call the idea that Oxford faked his death an “hypothesis”. In fact, if you regard it as such, you should include facts that argue against the theory, to complete the discussion.

    I say: There’s no reason whatsoever that one who poses an hypothesis is honor bound to include the evidence against it. Since I’m aware of what Oxford was up against with regard to the Cecils, I fail to see that, in fact, there is any genuine evidence against it. Again, what is a better scenario for this chain of extremely peculiar facts?

  10. Stephen Williams

    Stephanie, what did Oxford in his “exile” years, from 1604 to 1607-1609?

  11. Follow the links. He wrote plays.

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