Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Vere, Aubrey de (1626-1703)

VERE, AUBREY de, twentieth Earl of Oxford (1626–1703), born in 1626, was the eldest son of Robert de Vere, nineteenth earl, by Beatrice de Banck, daughter of Sjierck Hemmema of Nufen in Friesland.

Robert de Vere (1599?–1632) was the only son and heir of Hugh de Vere, grandson of John de Vere, fifteenth earl of Oxford [q. v.], by Eleanor, daughter of William Walsh. Hugh de Vere, who was first cousin of Sir Francis Vere [q. v.], and to Horace, lord Vere [q. v.], of Tilbury, served as a volunteer in Leicester's first campaign in the Netherlands. His son Robert followed in his footsteps, serving under Horace, lord Vere. In April 1625 Robert claimed the earldom of Oxford, and also the office of lord chamberlain in succession to Henry de Vere, eighteenth earl [q. v.] A rival claim was set up by Lord Willoughby de Eresby. After three days' debate the lords on 5 April 1626 adjudged the earldom to Vere, but awarded the chamberlaincy to his opponent. Sir Robert Cotton and Sir Simon D'Ewes had interested themselves in the claims of Robert, who was in narrow circumstances (D'Ewes, Autobiogr. 17 Jan. 1662; Hist. MSS. Comm. 13th Rep. ii. 117). Robert on 14 April 1626 took his seat in the House of Lords next below Arundel, the premier earl; but he passed the greater part of his remaining days abroad. Before his succession to the peerage he had received a commission (now in the possession of Mr. J. H. Round) as captain of foot in the service of the estates of Holland; and when his cousin, Sir Edward Vere, fell at the siege of Bois-le-Duc in August 1629, Oxford received the colonelcy of his regiment. Three years later he was serving under Lord Vere (who was congratulated on having diverted him from dissipation to a military life) at the siege of Maastricht. There, on 17 Aug. 1632, while bringing up reinforcements to the men in the trenches, he was mortally wounded. Clarendon's reference to the Duke of Buckingham's quarrels with ‘the Earl of Oxford’ is commonly assumed to apply to Earl Robert, but there is little doubt that Clarendon was referring to Earl Robert's predecessor in the title, Henry de Vere, eighteenth earl [q. v.] Evans mentions a rare print by Stent of a portrait of Oxford engraved by Richardson, and Doyle gives a portrait engraved after H. Vaughan.

Aubrey de Vere, who was between five and six years old at his father's death, was brought up by his mother's family in Friesland. He served in the regiment of English foot in the Dutch service till the peace of Westphalia. His name is attached to two protests in the House of Lords dated 24 Dec. 1641 and 24 and 26 Jan. 1642, while not yet of age (Rogers, i. 7, 10, 11). In April 1651, when in England, he quarrelled at play with Robert Sidney, the lieutenant-colonel of his regiment, and they were with difficulty prevented by friends from going to Flanders to fight a duel (Mercurius Politicus, pp. 749–93; Whitelocke, p. 467). In the same year the sequestration of his estates was ordered by the parliament, his ‘delinquencies’ having ‘been discovered’ (Cal. State Papers, Dom. p. 114). On 20 June 1654 he was committed to the Tower for conspiracy against the lord protector (Whitelocke, p. 574), but was never brought to trial, and was soon released, though strongly suspected of royalism (Thurloe, State Papers, vii. 83–84, 247). In September 1656 he was thought to be a fitting person to command the royalist forces which were to be ready when Charles II landed, ‘as being free from any former engagement;’ and as ‘Mr. Waller’ he was selected by the royalists as their chief when in the following year they contemplated seizing the city of London (Clarendon State Papers, ed. Macray, iii. 167, 220, 373). Oxford, who seems to have commanded ‘a regiment of scholars’ at Oxford (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1660–1, p. 88), was again arrested on 13 Aug. 1659 on suspicion of being concerned in Sir George Booth's rising, but was discharged by the committee of safety on 2 Nov. on security to live peaceably (Whitelocke, pp. 683, 688, 691).

Oxford was one of the six lords who, with twelve commoners, presented to Charles II at The Hague on 3 May 1660 the petition for his return to England. He came back with the king, who on 1 June gave him the Garter, and in the same year appointed him lord lieutenant of Essex and chief justice in eyre of the forests south of the Trent.

Oxford petitioned for the office of lord chamberlain, which had formerly been hereditary in his family; it was, however, granted on 9 May 1661 to the Earl of Lindsay, ‘but with the saving of the rights of the former’ (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1660–1, pp. 424, 584). At the coronation of Charles II Oxford bore the sword of state called the ‘curtana,’ as he did at that of the three succeeding sovereigns. On 16 Sept. 1660 Pepys records a false report of his death from smallpox, and on 15 May 1663 writes of a ‘ridiculous falling’ out at his house, including ‘high words and pulling off of perriwiggs’ by the noble guests, till Monck took away some of their swords and sent for soldiers to guard the house till the fray was ended. The affair was thought worthy of communication to M. de Lionne by the Comte de Comminges, the French ambassador (Pepys, Diary, ed. Lord Braybrooke, appendix). Pepys, in mentioning an early call which he made on Oxford in January 1665, speaks in very uncomplimentary terms of his family. He was much scandalised by his appearing in company with Monmouth in April 1667 in a hackney coach in the park with his Garter robes on.

On 29 Aug. 1661 Oxford received the colonelcy of a regiment which throughout his life was called after him ‘the Oxford blues,’ and which after his death became ‘the blues,’ or the royal regiment of horse guards blue. During the Dutch war he was very active in his own county of Essex making preparations against the threatened landing of the enemy. On 28 July 1667 he represented to Arlington the necessity of reinforcements, and especially of gunners for the fort of Harwich (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1667, p. 335). In October 1668 he was there attending the Duke of York. On 22 May 1667 he had been made warden of the New Forest, and on 6 Nov. 1670 a warrant for 2,000l. as a free gift from the king was issued to him. On 18 June of the same year he was named one of a commission to act under the Duke of York ‘to consider all military matters’ (ib. 1670, pp. 282, 518).

Oxford was sworn of the privy council on 5 Jan. 1669, but was left out on its reconstitution ten years later. On 4 May 1678 he had been gazetted lieutenant-general of the forces, and in the same year became a lord of the bedchamber. On 12 July 1680 he went to Calais ‘to compliment the French king on his arrivall in those parts’ (Luttrell, i. 52). He was readmitted to the privy council in the following January (ib. p. 64). He acted as one of Danby's sureties when in February 1684 he was released from the Tower on a writ of habeas corpus (ib. p. 300).

Oxford's pension of 2,000l. was continued by James II (see List in Append. to Clarendon's Diary); but, in spite of his encumbered estates and his dependence on the court, he gradually joined the opposition to the king's measures. When commanded to use his influence in his lieutenancy ‘for the taking off of the penal laws and the test,’ Oxford ‘told the king plainly he could not persuade that to others which he was averse to in his own conscience,’ and his regiment was thereupon given to Berwick (Reresby, Memoirs, ed. Cartwright, p. 390); and in February 1688, after an explanation had taken place in the royal closet, the lord-lieutenancy of Essex was given to Petre. Both, however, were restored to Oxford, the latter in October and the former in December (Luttrell, i. 421, 470, 489). In November 1688 Oxford refused to join in the petition for calling a free parliament, ‘as he knew it would not please the king’ (Clarendon's Diary, ed. Singer, ii. 209); but in the following month he went in to the Prince of Orange at Salisbury (Luttrell, i. 484). At the meeting on 8 Dec. at the inn at Hungerford between the representatives of James and William, Oxford, who was among the latter, ‘was persuaded to take the chair’ (Clarendon , ii. 221). William III reappointed him to his former offices, and on 13 Feb. 1689 made him lieutenant-general of horse and foot, with a day's precedency over Marlborough. Oxford was present at the battle of the Boyne, and in November 1690 was described as ‘making great preparations to attend his majesty into Holland’ (Luttrell, ii. 134). In 1691 he was to be ‘a lieutenant-general to command in Flanders next year’ (ib. p. 318). On 24 Oct. 1692 he went to Kensington at the head of the officers of the army ‘to congratulate the king's safe return’ (ib. p. 601; cf. p. 624).

During the reign of William III Oxford usually acted with the whig lords. Thus he signed protests against the rejection of a proposal for giving equal validity to the taking of the sacrament in all protestant places of worship, and against the refusal to give longer time to the city for preparing their case for reversing the quo warranto. In the controversy with the commons over the impeachment of Somers he favoured the rights of the lower house. In April 1697 he obtained a grant of ‘the quitt rents in Ireland’ (Luttrell, iii. 30). On several occasions he was one of the commissioners for the prorogation of parliament. On the accession of Anne he was again sworn of the privy council. He died on 13 March 1703. With him expired the earldom of Oxford, so long held by his family.

Oxford is described by Macaulay as ‘a man of loose morals, but of inoffensive temper and of courtly manners,’ of a nature not factious. In person he was handsome, and he shone at court. A full-length portrait in oils, by Verelst, is at Welbeck Abbey. A portrait of him, drawn by S. Harding, was engraved by Schenker for Harding's edition of the Grammont ‘Memoirs.’

By his first wife, Anne (d. 1659), daughter and coheir of Paul, second viscount Bayning, he had no issue; but by the second, Diana, daughter of George Kirke, groom of the bedchamber to Charles II [see under Kirke, Percy], he had a son and three daughters. A portrait of the second countess was painted by Lely (cf. Notes and Queries, 1st ser. viii. 461). The son predeceased his father. Two daughters, Margaret and Henrietta, were buried in Westminster Abbey. A third, Diana, married Charles Beauclerk, first duke of St. Albans. Their third son was on 28 March 1750 created Baron Vere of Hanworth; the barony afterwards reverted to the dukes of St. Albans, who now quarter the De Vere arms.

The ‘Aubrey de Vere’ who was baptised at St. Paul's, Covent Garden, on 15 May 1664, and buried from Gray's Inn at St. Andrew's, Holborn, on 4 June 1708, as ‘Earl of Oxford,’ was probably an illegitimate son of Vere by an actress (probably Elizabeth Davenport) with whom he went through a mock marriage. The story was told in Grammont's ‘Memoirs’ as ‘a recent proof of men's perfidy’ (see Vizetelly's ed. pp. 101–3 n.; cf. Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. vi. 461; Pepys, Diary, ed. Wheatley, ii. 191 note).

[Biographia Britannica, 1763, vol. vi.; G. E. C[okayne]'s Peerage, with De Vere pedigree; Doyle's Official Baronage; Cal. State Papers, Dom. passim; Noble's Contin. of Granger's Biogr. Hist. i. 54–5; Morant's Hist. of Essex, passim; Rogers's Protests of the Lords; Macaulay's Hist. of England, 1858, ii. 320–1, 524, 537, iii. 624; Markham's Fighting Veres, 1888, ch. iv. v.; authorities cited.]

G. Le G. N.