1550 – 1604

Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, was married to William Cecil’s daughter Anne, an arranged marriage to elevate Cecil’s family into the nobility. Each of their three daughters in turn married into the peerage; one daughter married the Earl of Derby (also a candidate), and another married Philip Herbert, the Earl of Montgomery, one of the brothers to whom the First Folio is dedicated. Two of de Vere’s uncles, the Earls of Sheffield and Surrey, were influential poets; a third, Arthur Golding, translated Ovid’s Metamorphosis, a piece known to be one of Shakespeare’s favorite sources.

Edward de Vere was trained as a lawyer. He toured France, Germany, and Italy, where he spent extended time in Venice and Mantua. He was a leading patron of the theater. Throughout the 1580s, de Vere maintained two theater companies, Oxford’s Boys and Oxford’s Men. With his finances reduced to penury by 1586, Queen Elizabeth granted de Vere an annual pension of 1000 pounds, an enormous sum for the times, especially considering how

thrifty the Queen could be with so many others. This pension was continued by her successor, King James, until de Vere died in 1604. Many have wondered if those funds were spent for theatrical productions on behalf of the state.

Oxford was also known as a poet and playwright who possessed the classical learning and knowledge of law, music, Italian culture and the sports of jousting and hawking that are prominent in several Shakespeare plays and which also display many references to his career at court and his subsequent fall from grace.

Most impressive are the parallels between the plot and characters in Hamlet which is also a political satire of William Cecil, his father-in-law, and whom many scholars clearly identify as Polonius. Scholars also agree that Shakespeare favored the Geneva Bible and that many references from it have been cited in the plays. De Vere’s personal copy of the Geneva Bible, owned by the Folger Library, was found to have many marked places in it that correspond closely to usage in the Shakespearean plays.

Edward de Vere died in 1604, aged 54, of unknown causes.