De Vere, Edward (1550 -1604)

Edward, son of John de Vere, 16th Earl of Oxford, and Margery Golding, was born at Hedingham Castle, in Essex. At eight he entered Queens' College, Cambridge later transferring to St John's, Cambridge. In February 1567 he was admitted to Gray's Inn to study law. 

After the death of his father in 1562, he became a ward of Queen Elizabeth and was sent to live in the household of her principal advisor, Sir William Cecil. On 16 December 1571 he married Cecil's daughter, Anne, then aged 15, with whom he had five children.

The Queen issued De Vere a licence to travel in January 1575, and provided him with letters of introduction to foreign monarchs. But during his fifteen-month continental sojourn, his already considerable debts continued to mount. On his return to England he refused to live with his wife, who had given birth to a daughter, Elizabeth.  De Vere did not believe the child was his, and was estranged from Anne for five years.

He became a favourite of the Queen’s, and in 1575, he was granted travel to Europe and spent much of his time in Italy.  He fell out of the Queen’s favour, but was reconciled with her in 1583 after the intervention of Burghley and Sir Walter Raleigh.  However, all his opportunities for advancement had been lost. In 1586, the Queen granted De Vere a £1,000 annuity to relieve his financial distress caused by his extravagance and by selling off his income-producing lands for ready money. This annuity was continued by James I.

De Vere had a romantic affair with Anne Vavasour, one of the Queen’s ladies-in-waiting. A child was born in 1581, and both parents were thrown in the Tower, and subsequently house arrest. At Christmas 1581 De Vere reconciled with his wife, Anne.  Eighteen months later on 6 May 1583, Edward and Anne's only son was born, but died the same day.  On 6 April 1584, De Vere's daughter, Bridget, was born. Another daughter, Susan, was born on 26 May 1587.

On 5 June 1588 Anne Cecil died at court of a fever; she was 31.  Later that year De Vere married Elizabeth Trentham, one of the Queen's maids of honour.  On 24 February 1593 she gave birth to De Vere's only surviving son and heir, Henry de Vere.

De Vere was an accomplished court poet and playwright, and was among the first to compose love poetry at the Elizabethan court.   He was praised as a playwright, though none of his plays survive. His published poetry dates from this period, and was among the earliest to introduce vernacular verse to the court. 

He is chiefly remembered today as a candidate for authorship of Shakespeare’s plays.   Adherents to this claim propose that De Vere wrote the plays and poems traditionally attributed to William Shakespeare. The attribution has been rejected by nearly all academic Shakespearean scholars.

Seat / Residence(s): Hedingham Castle
Stamp(s) Stamp Information
Title: De Vere, Edward (1550 - 1604) (Stamp 2)
Crest: On a chapeau turned up ermine a boar statant
Dimensions (height x width):
Heraldic Charges: boar, Heraldic Charges: chapeau, on a