Thursday, August 04, 2011

Anonymous questions: Did Queen Elizabeth have children?

[Aug. 9, 2011 EXCLUSIVE: See below for a crucial clarifying point from the screenwriter of Anonymous.]

In our sexually enlightened (obsessed?) times, discovering that a female monarch was once celebrated as "the Virgin Queen" immediately calls the pronouncement itself into question. Doth the lady protest too much?

The chaste public image campaign of the (ostensibly) childless spinster Queen Elizabeth I -- selling her to English Catholic revolutionaries as something like a royal, secular Virgin Mary -- was a piece of pure agitprop. And a brilliant one at that, engineered in no small part by her political genius of a chief counselor, William Cecil, Baron Burghley.

Queen Elizabeth was a woman with her own private sexual appetites. And no doubt like anyone else, some were fulfilled, some not. But, as portrayed considered in the movie Anonymous (and stated as fact by a host of Oxfordian and even Baconian books over the decades), the story of the Bard is allegedly one of almost unspeakable Elizabethan desires: Royal incest. Elizabeth, these claims state, was mother to "Shakespeare" and lover of "Shakespeare" who then produced a child by "Shakespeare."

The movie's director Roland Emmerich (2012, The Day After Tomorrow, Independence Day) has never been known to let the facts get in the way of a blockbuster storyline. The man has a track record for getting millions of butts into movie seats all over the planet. So let me not here be guilty of pettifogging a tub of popcorn.

On the other hand, the latest book that does unequivocally assert the royal incest theory of Oxford, Elizabeth and Southampton  that, by all accounts I can find, inspired the royal incest storyline in Anonymous is Charles Beauclerk's Shakespeare's Lost Kingdom. That's a book purporting to present a lost history of the Elizabethan court. That's fair game for more serious debate.

Nowhere have I seen a more thorough consideration of SLK than in Christopher Paul's review [PDF] in the 2011 edition of the online journal Brief Chronicles. Anyone interested in the so-called "Prince Tudor" debate would be well advised to familiarize themselves with Paul's characteristically cogent analysis.

At this year's joint Shakespeare Oxford Society-Shakespeare Fellowship conference in Washington, D.C., Oct. 13-16, I'm going to be presenting my own take on this crucial question that Anonymous will be raising.

"Prince Tudor: The Elephant in the Room" is now slated as the Saturday (Oct. 15) keynote address from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. If the conference committee can secure a special preview screening of Anonymous (which debuts in cinemas nationwide on Oct. 28) for earlier in the day, I will also be joining a panel of authors and researchers discussing the film.

If you think Elizabeth did have children -- whether her offspring was the 17th Earl of Oxford (aka "Shakespeare") or the 3rd Earl of Southampton (aka the "fair youth" of The Sonnets) or both -- the historical documents Christopher Paul presents in his review of Shakespeare's Lost Kingdom should at least give a fair-minded reader pause to reflect. If you think the answer to the title question to this post is "No," Paul puts more arrows in your quiver for the Prince Tudor debates that Anonymous will only be stirring up.

In either case, it's important too not to lose sight of the biggest Anonymous debate: Did Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford write the "Shakespeare" works? That this question is being raised for countless television and movie viewers around the world is certainly exciting. (Remember, people don't need to see the movie to see this riddle posed. That's something the trailer itself practically asks.)

What do you think? Was Queen Elizabeth the mother to one or both of the key players in the "Shakespeare" story? If not, is Anonymous a good thing or does it muddy the waters? No such thing as bad publicity?

"We'll debate," someone once wrote, "By what safe means the crown may be recover'd."

**Aug. 9 edit: **
I am thrilled to be able to provide readers here a sneak peek at how Anonymous handles the Prince Tudor question(s). This afternoon, I corresponded with John Orloff, Anonymous's screenwriter. He said, for the record,

Oxford's parentage is handled in the film in a manner that leaves it as a mere possibility that Oxford and Elizabeth committed incest. A character-- Oxford's rival and enemy, Robert Cecil-- informs Oxford that Oxford is the bastard son of Elizabeth.  But Cecil might be lying in order to crush Oxford's spirit by making Oxford think not only was he a bastard, but that he had committed the sin of incest as well.  Oxford immediately replies by saying "You lie!"
John also clarified a point I corrected above: Shakespeare's Lost Kingdom was not a source text or inspiration for Anonymous. (In fact, he said, Anonymous's screenplay predates Beauclerk's book.) I'd like to publicly apologize to John for misstating such a connection and hope this clarification can help to settle some of the speculation. 

(Creative Commons image by Koshyk)


Mark said...

A link to related discussion on the Fans of SBAN Facebook page

William Ray said...

Informed conjecture is surely one of the steps to a plausible theory, which in turn may lead to a persuasive theory, to test against conflicting evidence or other theories from different sources of information. At this point, we do not have a strong theory that Elizabeth mothered (and Seymour or Earl John Vere fathered) Edward de Vere. The obstacle is that the government of the time applied itself to eliminating any original evidence to support such an idea, for reasons of state. Hence the official "truth" and actual events may have parted ways long ago, never more to be distilled to a clear description of events. It is a common tale but true. We have experienced it in our own era on an enormous scale of political theater.

That Elizabeth mothered Southampton is somewhat more accessible to acceptable levels of proof. But what satisfies or exceeds all required forms of credibility is that both discrete and comprehensive aspects of the life and work of Edward de Vere tie him inextricably to the literary works known as Shakespeare. One could say that 1) the works and 2) the contrived fiction of Shakespeare as a person are demonstrable as an embroidered though stylistically secretive heraldic crest of Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford.

Peter said...

Christopher Paul doth protests too much, as do all those who dispute one or both aspects of the PT theory. The argument attacks the minutiae rather than the logic and common sense of the theory. But even on the details, Paul is sometimes entirely unconvincing.

On de Vere's "crown signature," nothing in Paul's rebuttal strikes a cord. The two signatures he provides by contrast do not contain names or a context, so we can't really compare them to de Vere's signature. Nothing in them indicates the writers passed themselves off as royalty. We don't know what the flourishes in their signatures mean. Isn't it odd that de Vere would draw a crown over his name, and then seven marks under his name? Who else did something like that? In footnote 29, Paul admits that "[t]he historical fact that Oxford did cease using this nearly life-long signature so
soon after Queen Elizabeth’s death is a legitimate puzzle." Is it really though? Beauclerk's explanation or theory for this cessation is that after the Queen died, de Vere realized he would not inherit the throne and dropped the flourishes. That makes a whole heckeva lot of sense to me.

The PT theories resonate with some Oxfordians and with Emmerich because they are theories that makes sense in the context of the plays and Elizabeth's relationship with de Vere. They fit well with the autobiographical outline of "Hamlet," which even non-PT believers acknowledge is largely autobiographical.

Even if Oxford was not Elizabeth's son, Hank Whittemore has rather convincingly demonstrated that the Queen and Oxford did indeed have a child together. Paul ignores this aspect of the PT theory.

In a court of law, Christopher Paul and other would win. They may well be as right as we can ever know. But logic of the PT theories remains.

jdickson said...

Here's an article by Diana Price which discusses de Vere's "Coronet Crown" signature:

Peter said...

Very interesting. For those who have trouble accessing the link as it is in the post above, forget the part after ".com". When you get to the page, click on the link at the top of the page for the "Prince Tudor Theory". Then scroll down and click on the article starting, "Rough Wind do Shake." Meanwhile, for a rejoinder to Price's interpretation of the crown signature, check out this link on "Unshaken: The Tudor Rose Theory Revisited" by Charles Boyle.

Anka said...

Thank you for the clarification!

Michael Prescott said...

I find Hank Whittemore's analysis of the Sonnets very persuasive in establishing that Southampton was the child of Oxford and Elizabeth - what Paul calls PT1.

PT2 seems unnecessary, since as Paul points out, Elizabeth was in a quasi-maternal position toward Oxford on his early years anyway, which could account for, say, Hamlet's confused feelings toward Gertrude.

Sonja Foxe said...

Hi Mark -- I read Beauclerk's book & I like the 1548 birthdate ... I do think deVere makes sense as Elizabeth's bastard, she called him so herself ... but given circumstance she certainly could deny agency in his conception, whereas the rest of the PT theory doesn't hang w/E's character -- her mother played sexual politics holding off the prize -- also, there are notations in Dee's journal -- he performed abortions with myrrh ... and E noted herself that she was too closely and constantly observed to bear a child to term unnoticed, even if Vavasour could do it.

I'm considering establishing a Chicago meet up group deVere Society ... I want to workshop a script concerning the death of Marlowe ... the Epilogue of Faustus was written by deVere about Marlowe -- who tended to leak state secrets on stage & hence was evaporated ... Burghley of course -- witness: Marlowe was accused as blaspheming the Virgin Mother in the same terms that, according to Beauclerk, deVere was accused ... VM being code for E ... & other matters involving that great druidical spirit, John Dee.

Q: Do I need your permission to use the name DeVere Society -- or Chicago DeVere Society -- I could do Atelier of the Blue Boar

A: Following Beauclerk's timeline, I've worked out a birthdate & time for deVere -- September 20, 1548, Sag Rising ... Shakespeare's horoscope features a Taurus Sun and Libra Moon ... this features a Libra Sun & Taurus Moon -- very alchemical connexions ... and a retrograde Mercury in Virgo, it turned direct by secondary progression when deVere was 6 and first sent to school ....

The 1550 chart duplicates Shakespeare's energies including my basic questioning of WS as author because lousy mercury in aries ... the 1550 chart can't write either,

However, that 1548 retro Mercury in Virgo, scholarly, aces in history,

Sarah.D.Poher said...

What of the theory regarding H.R.M Queen Elizabeth I.
I understand there is another theory of a daughter with her step father, Baron Thomas Seymour, 2nd husband to Dowager Queen, Lady Katherin Parr.