In June 2004 Oxfordian Malcolm Blackmoor and I tracked down Ankerwycke, the location of Sir Thomas Smith’s manor where Edward de Vere lived and studied with him for four years, from December 1554 to November 1558. Age four-and-a-half when he joined Smith and his household, he was eight-and-a-half when, with the death of Mary Tudor, he was sent to live at Smith’s alma mater while Smith was busy helping his old student, William Cecil, prepare for Elizabeth’s coronation. Although the manor is long gone, as is the Victorian mansion built nearby by Smith’s decendant, the land is still much the same. There’s a bit of an old stone wall, either what’s left of the priory that Smith renovated in 1552-3, or what’s left of the manor itself. There’s also a famous 1,000 year old yew tree, or what’s left of it, that was old back when de Vere spent his early boyhood here.
The river isn’t so wide as it once was, but the Isle of Runnymede, where de Vere’s ancestor, along with the other barons, signed the Magna Carta, is still within shouting distance. Located in a bend in the Thames where it turns north at the juncture of Buckinghamshire and Berkshire, the forest of Windsor once extended for miles on the far side of the river, Windsor Castle, England’s ancient fortress, rising on the highest point of ground to the northwest. On the southern side of the river lies the Runnymede water meadow, now an area of National Trust and a Site of Nature Conservation Interest (SNCI), comprising an area of 188 acres, plus an area of 110 acres of woodland just beyond. The wetland, considered a Site of Special Scientific Interest, is still home to flocks of birds of all sorts.