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1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Oxford, Edward de Vere 17th Earl of

OXFORD, EDWARD DE VERE, 17TH Earl[1] of (1550-1604), son of John de Vere, the 16th earl, was born on the 12th of April 1550. He matriculated at Queen's College, Cambridge, but he removed later to St John's College, and was known as Lord Bolebec or Bulbeck until he succeeded in 1562 to the earldom and to the hereditary dignity of great chamberlain of England. As one of the royal wards the boy came under the care of Lord Burghley, at whose house in London he lived under the tutorship of his maternal uncle, Arthur Golding, the translator of Ovid. His violent temper and erratic doings were a constant source of anxiety to Burghley, who nevertheless in 1571 gave him his eldest daughter, Anne, in marriage. Oxford more than once asked for a military or a naval command, but Burghley hoped that his good looks together with his skill in dancing and in feats of arms woiUd win for him a high position at court. His accompHshments did indeed secure EUzabeth's favour, but he offended her by going to Flanders without her consent in 1574, and more seriously in 1582 by a duel with one of her gentlemen, Thomas Knyvet. Among his other escapades was a futile plot to rescue from the Tower Thomas Howard, 4th duke of Norfolk, with whom he was distantly connected. In IS79 he insulted Sir Philip Sidney by calling him a " puppy " on the tennis-court at Whitehall. Sidney accordingly challenged Oxford, but the queen forbade him to fight, and required him to apologize on the ground of the difference of rank between the disputants. On Sidney's refusal and consequent disgrace Oxford is said to have schemed to murder him. The earl sat on the special commission (1586) appointed for the trial of Mary queen of Scots; in 1589 he was one of the peers who tried Philip Howard, earl of Arundel, for high treason; and in 1601 he took part in the trial of Essex and Southampton. It has been suggested that Oxford was the Italianated Englishman ridiculed by Gabriel Harvey in his Speculum Tuscanismi. On his return from a journey to Italy in 1575 he brought back various inventions for the toilet, and his estate was rapidly dissipated in satisfying his extravagant whims. His first wife died in 1588, and from that time Burghley withdrew his support, Oxford being reduced to the necessity of seeking help among the poor men of letters whom he had at one time or another befriended. He was himself a lyric poet of no small merit. His fortunes were partially retrieved on his second marriage with Elizabeth Trentham, by whom he had a son, Henry de Vere, i8th earl of Oxford (1503-1625). He died at Newington, near London, on the 24th of June 1604.

His poems, scattered in various anthologies — the Paradise of Dainty Devices, England's Parnassus, Phoenix Nest, England's Helicon — and elsewhere, were collected by Dr A. B. Grosart in vol. iv. of the Fuller Worthies Library (1876).

  1. I.e. in the Vere line.