Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford

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Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford (12 April 1550 – 24 June 1604) was an Elizabethan courtier, playwright, lyric poet, sportsman and patron of the arts, and is currently 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 on 3 August 1562 he became a ward of Queen Elizabeth, and received an excellent education in the household of her Principal Secretary, Sir William Cecil.[1] He was a champion jouster,[2] travelled widely throughout Europe, and participated in military campaigns after the Northern Rebellion, with the English forces in Flanders, and during the Armada invasion.

Oxford was noted for his literary and theatrical patronage. Between 1564 and 1599 some 28 books were dedicated to him, including works by Golding, Lyly, Greene and Munday.[3] He held the lease of the first Blackfriars Theatre in the mid-1580s, produced entertainments at Court, and sponsored companies of players and musicians.[4]


Early life

Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, heir to the second oldest continuously inherited earldom in England,[5] was born 12 April 1550,[6] the only son of John de Vere, 16th Earl of Oxford and his second wife, Margery Golding (d.1568). The name Edward, unique in the de Vere family, was perhaps a compliment to the young King Edward VI,[7] who bestowed a 'standing cup gilt' at Oxford's christening five days later on 17 April.[8] The young Oxford was styled Viscount Bulbeck, and raised in the Reformed Faith. He had a sister, Mary (d.1624), born about 1554,[9] and an older half-sister, Katherine (1538–1600), the daughter of his father's first marriage to Dorothy Neville (d.1548).[10]

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