Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford
b.12 Apr 1550 Castle Hedingham, Essex, England
d.24 Jun 1604
m. 1 Aug 1548
Facts and Events
Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford (12 April 155024 June 1604) was an English peer and courtier of the Elizabethan era. Although he had a reckless, unpredictable, and violent nature that precluded him from attaining any court or government responsibility and led to the ruination of his estate, Oxford was a patron of the arts and noted in his own time as a lyric poet and playwright, and since the 1920s he has been the most popular alternative candidate proposed for the authorship of Shakespeare's works.
Oxford was the only son of John de Vere, 16th Earl of Oxford and Margery Golding. After the death of his father in 1562, he became a ward of Queen Elizabeth and received an excellent education in the household of her principal advisor, Sir William Cecil, with whose daughter he made an unfortunate marriage. Oxford was a champion jouster, travelled widely throughout Italy and France, and is recorded by Stow as having introduced various Italian fashions to the English court. He served briefly in the Northern Rebellion (1569–1570), and in 1585 he joined the Earl of Essex in Flanders during the Anglo-Spanish War and commanded a cavalry company, but he quit the field before seeing action.
Oxford was an important courtier poet and was praised as a playwright, although none of his plays survive. He was noted for his literary and theatrical patronage, and between 1564 and 1599 some 33 works included dedications to him by authors including Arthur Golding, John Lyly, Robert Greene and Anthony Munday. From 1580 until two years before his death, Oxford was the patron of a company of players. In 1583 he bought the sublease of the first Blackfriars Theatre and gifted it to the poet-playwright Lyly, who operated it for a season under Oxford's patronage.