William Shakespeare wrote only two dedications in his life.
Both were attached to long narrative poems –Venus and Adonis (1593) and Lucrece (1594).
And both were addressed to the same man…
The Right Honourable Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton and Baron of Titchfield…
Titchfield was the favourite country seat of the Southampton family.
All of its members are buried in the crypt of St. Peter’s Church, Titchfield….
It was customary, at the time, for a writer to lodge in the household of his patron as part of his ‘patronage’ .
And it was customary for the Southampton family to stage entertainments at Titchfield.
Thomas Wriothesley, the First Earl of Southampton, was a keen amateur actor and his highly cultured wife , Jane, was described by a servant as being…
as merry as can be with Christmas plays and masques…’
But in his dedication to Venus and Adonis Shakespeare describes his ‘unpolished lines’ as being written during his ‘idle hours’ .
This suggests that his main occupation at the time was not soley as a writer…
The British Library holds a letter from the Third Earl of Southampton, written in 1592, which is signed by him but penned by another hand…
According to the American hand-writing expert, Charles Hamilton (whose attention was drawn to this letter by the Shakespearean scholar, the late Eric Sams) this hand is identical to a portion of the manuscript of The Play of Sir Thomas More….
……and is the hand of William Shakespeare.
Shakespeare was clearly working for the Third Earl of Southampton as his secretary….
This fits exactly with Robert Greene’s (in reality Thomas Nashe’s) posthumous attack on Shakespeare in A Groatsworth of Wit (1592).
He calls him a…
‘johannes fac totum’ [jack of all trades]….
Nashe also describes Shakespeare as…
the only Shake-scene in a country’.
During the threat of the Armada invasion in 1588, actors and playwrights became unpopular because of their perceived ‘unpatriotic’ effeminacy.
Shakespeare had done what his contemporaries Thomas Kyd and Christopher Marlowe had done…
He had joined an aristocratic household…
The Southampton family would have been an ideal choice for Shakespeare because….
1. The beautiful, widowed Mary Browne, Second Countess of Southampton….
….was distantly related to Shakespeare’s mother, Mary Arden.
2. The Arden family and the Southampton family remained deeply Catholic, even though Queen Elizabeth had imposed Protestantism on the country.
3. Mary, Second Countess of Southampton, had a teenage son, Henry Wriothesley, a ward of Lord Burghley,who had graduated from Cambridge in 1589. .
He would need a tutor and companion.
In 1590 Henry was 17 and in residence, for the summer, at Titchfield. Burghley wanted him to marry his grand-daughter, the daughter of the Earl of Oxford – but Henry showed no interest in girls. As Burghley was Henry’s ward, Henry’s family faced a tremendous £5,000 [£2.5 million] fine.
Shakespeare wrote a sequence of 17 sonnets advising the young man to marry. He called him his ‘rose’, playing both on the Wriothsely family name (which was pronounced ‘Riosely’) and the emblem of the town of Southampton….
Shakespeare also obliquely flatters Henry’s mother, Mary, who commissioned the sonnet sequence…
Thou art thy mother’s glass and she in thee
Recalls the lovely April of her prime..
On her 1591 Progress to the South East of England, Queen Elizabeth visited Cowdray (the estate of Henry Wriothesley’s maternal grandfather, Lord Montague) and Titchfield itself. She shot deer with a cross-bow from stands at both estates.
At Cowdray the men and women of the household staged an entertainment for her in the grounds.
These events are satirised by Shakespeare in Love’s Labour’s Lost.
The Princess of France (often referred to in the stage directions as ‘The Queen’) arrives with her ladies at the all-male Court of Navarre. She shoots deer from a stand, then endures an entertainment the local schoolmaster has written in her honour….
Reference is also made in the play to ‘The Parke’ and ‘The Place’ – both of which are indicated in a contemporary (1610) map of Titchfield.
This indicates that the play was performed in the grounds of Place House at the time of the famous Whitsun (originally ‘Corpus Christi’) Fair, granted to Titchfield by King Henry VI when he was married at the Abbey.
The word ‘fair’ is mentioned 48 times in the play…
There is also mention in the text of the steep hill opposite the gates of Place House and a ‘curious knotted garden’ – the remains of which survive to this day.
Titchfield also solves the linguistic conundrums in the play which have puzzled scholars for centuries…
The King of Navarre describes Rosaline as being….
black as ebony….
So why does Berowne describe her as…
a whitely wanton with a velvet brow…?
How can a dark-skinned woman be described as ‘whitely’?
‘Whitely’ is not a reference to Rosaline’s skin, but to ‘Whitely Lodge’ – a property owned by the Southamptons a mile or so away from Place House. It was here that the shadier activities of the Southampton family took place – and where the third Earl was to shelter his gay friends, the Danvers brothers, after they had committed a murder.
To describe Roasaline as a ‘whitely’ wanton is to re-inforce the idea of her promiscuity….
Why does the ‘hero’ of the play, Berowne, spell his name in such an odd way…?
‘Berowne’ is a coded reference to Shakespeare’s patron, Mary Browne, Second Countess of Southampton. Shakespeare probably played the part in the first performance at Titchfield, so is consolidating his link with the Southampton family.
Holofernes, the schoolmaster, is said to ‘educate youth at the charge house on the top of the mountaine’.
What is meant by this phrase?
From Bishop Warburton in the eighteenth century onwards, Shakespeare scholars have associated the character of Holofernes with John Florio….
Holoferenes even quotes verbatim from Florio’s language manuals…
We know for certain that Florio was in residence at Titchfield – ostensibly as a tutor and schoolmaster, but in reality as a Protestant spy in the pay of Lord Burghley.
He was also engaged in compiling an Italian/English dictionary and translating the Essays of Montaigne.
‘On the top of the mountaine’ is a joke about Montaigne…
But what is the ‘charge-house’ where Holofernes ‘educates youth’?
There has been a School House at the gates of Place House since the reign of Henry VI. It was standing, as a Tudor two-storey conversion when John Leland visited Titchfield in 1542. It was standing in 1610 when it was mapped…
And it is standing to this day….
A feature of the house is the remains of a ‘secure room’ on the first floor. There are holes in the ceiling and the floor where iron bars would have been fixed….
(Drawing by John Lyall Associates)
Schools in Shakespeare’s time often doubled as toll houses. Traffic crossing the Stony Bridge (shown in the 1610 map) would have passed the School House when travelling to and from Titchfield village.
Toll houses often had a ‘secure-room’ to lock up money or criminals…
There were many schoolmasters at the School House before Florio. One of them was the playwright (and flagellating paedophile) Nicholas Udall who wrote the first English comedy, Ralph Roister Doister.
The other, The Shakespeare Code believes, was the young William Shakespeare….
William Beeston, an actor and impressario born around 1610, told the antiquarian and gossip-monger John Aubrey…
…that in his ‘younger years’ Shakespeare had been ‘a schoolmaster in the country’.
For a long time, scholars have thought that there might be a link between this William Beeston, and a mysterious ‘Master William Apis Lapis’ mentioned by Shakespeare’s contemporary, Thomas Nashe, in 1592.
‘Apis Lapis’ is a Latin Code for ‘Bee’ and ‘Stone’ – so this man was also called William Bee-Stone or Beeston.
Now The Code’s Chief Agent has found the link between the two Williams….
There was a William Beeston who lived at Posbrook Farm, which stands to this day…
This Beeston fits the ‘Apis Lapis’ profile exactly – a lecherous lover of alcohol, food and literature…
The ‘Aubrey’ William Beeston had a father called Christopher, also an actor and impressario.
Stewart Trotter has discovered that ‘Apis Lapis’ Beeston wrote his will TWO DAYS after Christopher wrote his…
We know that ‘Apis Lapis’ Beeston had illegitimate children – and we know that Christopher Beeston and his son often used an alias – Hutchinson…
The implication is that Christopher was Apis Lapis’s bastard son – and that he told his own son, William, about Shakespeare at the Titchfield School House…
And William Beeston told Aubrey.
(To read a more detailed account of the Beestons and Shakespeare, please read: Shakespeare was a Schoolmaster in the Country. )
NICHOLAS ROWE (1674-1668)
Nicholas Rowe, the poet and playwright, writing in 1709 (less than a hundred years after Shakespeare’s death) states:
He [Shakespeare] had the honour to meet with many great and uncommon marks of favour and friendship from the Earl of Southampton, famous in the histories of that time for his friendship to the unfortunate Earl of Essex.
It was to that noble lord that he dedicated his Venus and Adonis, the only piece of his poetry he ever published himself, though many of his plays were surreptitiously and lamely printed in his lifetime.
There is one instance so singular in the magnificence of this patron of Shakespeare’s, that if I had not been assured that the story was handed down by Sir William D’Avenant, who was probably very well acquainted with his affairs, I should not have ventured to have inserted, that my Lord Southampton, at one time, gave him a thousand pounds [£500,000 in today’s money] to enable him to go through with a purchase which he heard he had a mind to. A bounty very great and very rare at any time, and almost equal to that profuse generosity the present age has shown to French dancers and Italian eunuchs…’
John Aubrey writes that Davenant (1606-1668) told his ‘intimate friends’ that he was Shakespeare’s illegitimate son – a claim for which there is good evidence.
Davenant died six years before Rowe was born – but Thomas Betterton (c. 1635-1710), a veteran actor who played the lead in one of Rowe’s plays, advised Rowe on Shakespeare’s life.
Betterton had actually travelled to Stratford-upon-Avon to collect evidence about Shakespeare from the Parish register.
When Betterton had played Henry VIII (in Shakespeare and Fletcher’s play) he recieved instruction on how to play the part from Davenant. Davenant, in turn, had received instruction on how to play the part from John Lowen, a Paris Gardens actor, who had received instruction from Shakespeare himself.
SO, ROWE HAD A DIRECT LINE OF INFORMATION STRETCHING BACK TO SHAKESPEARE!
Also Nashe, writing under Greene’s name in A Groatsworth of Wit, attacks a plagiarising actor called ‘Roberto’ who is loaded with money (not gained from the theatre) and flashily dressed.
The Shakespeare Code believes that ‘Roberto’ is a coded attack by Nashe on Shakespeare and his relationship to the Southampton family…
(For a fuller discussion of this idea, please read The Strange Case of Mr. Apis Lapis. )
THE SHAKESPEARE FAMILY CREST
In Shakespeare’s day, apart from a title, the highest status symbol you could have was your own family coat of arms.
To acquire one from the College of Heralds you needed two things:
1. Money (you had to earn the equivalent of our £250,000 a year).
2. Influence. You needed a member of the aristocracy to vouch for your personal honour and the veracity of your ancient family history…
If all went well, the College of Arms would consult you – then design your own, unique, crest. You were then allowed to put ‘Esquire’ after your name and you were second in rank to a Knight.
John Shakespeare, William’s wheeler-dealer father, had applied for a crest in the 1560’s – but did not have the clout to attain one.
In 1596 he applied again – and was granted one. Indeed, the American hand-writing expert Charles Hamilton believes the application was written in his son’s own hand.
By 1596, of course, Shakespeare had acquired an aristocratic patron (and lover) the Third Earl of Southampton. By association, Shakespeare’s father was then deemed wealthy and respectable enough to be granted a crest – which would also belong to his son.
We have the sketch which the Shakespeare family submitted….
a falcon, his wings displayed argent, standing on a wreath of his colours, supporting a spear gold….’
The ‘spear’ is readily explained as a play on the family name.
But where does the ‘falcon argent’ [silver] come from?
The answer is the Crest of the Southampton family….
….with its four silver falcons in the top left-hand quarter.
By ‘quoting’ from the Southampton Crest, Shakespeare is parading, for all to see, his intimacy with the Earl of Southampton….
(If you found this interesting, you might like: Shakespeare was a schoolmaster in the country: TITCHFIELD! )
Also you might like to read: Shakespeare in Titchfield: Startling new evidence from Edmund Spenser.