Regarding Prince Tudor

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· 25 February 2020 ·
[How I deal with my Prince Tudor problem, and some references]
  • • Was Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton, my son?
  • • Was Elizabeth Tudor his mother?
  • • Was Elizabeth Tudor my mother?

In a nutshell: I do not have answers. What I have is the decision not to make statements that endorse or refute the Prince Tudor hypotheses based on what I know or think from my life in the past. If this disappoints you, I apologise. Please allow me to explain.

It’s not a reluctance to stick my neck out. I’ve been on the internet since 2015, telling anyone within range that I’m the man who –contrary to almost everyone’s conception of history– wrote, more than four hundred years ago, the greatest body of literature that the English language, possibly the planet, has ever produced. That’s a Starred First in Chutzpah.

I get PT’s attractions. I also get why it’s untenable. It’s possible that I could make a good case either way if I wanted to argue like a lawyer or preach like a Puritan (O heavens forfend). But even a good case would be of no use. I have no authority now, and nothing short of DNA will ever settle the matter anyway. I’d be happy to provide a sample, but no one except Alex Waugh seems to know where my corpse is.

I have grounds more relative than this. The playing’s the thing wherein I catch the conscience of my thinking. What I write has to make some degree of external sense to me. I don’t invent significant things just because I’d like them to be true, to help me sell a bill of goods. My game is to start with something that’s known, that’s at least plausible or deniable enough for me to commit to, then play with it from there. It’s entirely personal, and it applies to all the topics I write about. If I can’t make a commitment, find a place to stand, I don’t go there.

Largely because of its contra-historical implications (The Virgin Queen wasn’t? Who’s going to tell Virginia?) and its flirtation with a serious cultural taboo, Prince Tudor is controversial. Contentious. To some, repugnant. Well, so is my identity as Shake-Speare, to some others. And repugnance is no bar to veracity.

It’s painful to recuse myself from re-engaging with such existential questions. Who am I? Where did I come from? What my 16th-century head holds doesn’t matter, because I haven’t found a 21st-century foothold. This doesn’t disparage anyone who has. To thine own self be true, etc.

Would I rather toss the whole business into the bin, clear my character of (some) calumny, be done with it? Of course. Problem solved. Would I like to write about the Procreation Sonnets as the soul-wrenching appeals of an ailing father aching for grandfatherhood, wanting to see my beloved son with a son of his own? God have mercy, yes. Could I? Sure. Am I willing to, in good conscience? No.

Your judgment I condemn not, neither do I mistake your reasons, but I pray you to accept my thankfulness, excuse my doubtfulness, and take in good part my answer answerless.

Elizabeth I to a delegation from Parliament,
24 November 1586

In the interest of accuracy: I was a grandfather prior to my death in 1604, but I had no grandsons. Lizzy’s daughter Anne was born in 1600, and Bridget’s Elizabeth in 1603. Lizzy’s sons were born after my death, as were all of Susan’s children. My young son and heir Henry had his eighth birthday the day before Essex went to the block in 1601. Henry, married but childless, died at the age of thirty-two in 1625. My illegitimate son Edward Vere also died without children, unmarried, in 1629. I had to look that up.

Henry Wriothesley sired daughters in 1598 and 1600, and, after his release from the Tower, sons in 1605 and 1607.

Here are some Prince Tudor reference points, indicated pro or con. The order is meaningless and the list is selective, but it offers a few different looks at the debate. Note that the terms Prince Tudor, Tudor Rose, and Royal Birth are synonymous.

  • • (Con) Ms Price provides contemporary documentation for Elizabeth’s activities and audiences during the first half of 1574, concluding that advanced pregnancy and birth during this period could not have gone unnoticed and unmentioned by others. Discrepancies in works by previous PT-proponent authors are also called out.

See also the letters to the editor written by Elizabeth Sears and Charlton Ogburn Jr, two of the authors mentioned in the article above, with responses to those letters by Price, published in the next issue of the review, Spring 1997, Vol 5, No 1 [PDF].

  • • (Pro) I’m unaware of any PT book closer to the bleeding edge than this one. Consider yourself warned. I’ve mentioned its author before – he is a de Vere descendant, my first cousin eleven times removed. Two reviews of the book are also linked, one generally sympathetic and one not, both from the same issue of Brief Chronicles, an Authorship studies journal published between 2009 and 2016.

Delahoyde’s review begins with an amusing tale told out of school, including a practical description of the PT variants. If you’ve made it this far but still want clarifications, there they are.

  • • (Con) Further example of the intensity of the disagreement.
  • • (Pro) A shorter, more accessible, less expensive, easier to pick up introduction to Whittemore’s autologically-named The Monument.