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 have no answers. What I have is the decision not to make statements either endorsing or denying the Prince Tudor hypotheses, based on what I know or think about my life in the past. If this disappoints you, I understand and 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 the default conception of history— wrote, more than four centuries ago, the greatest body of literature that the English language, possibly the planet, has ever produced. That’s a Starred First in chutzpah, full stop.

I get PT’s attractions. I also get why it’s untenable. It’s likely that I could make a good case either way if I wanted to argue like a lawyer or preach like a Puritan. Alas, even a good case would be of little use now. I have no authority, and nothing short of DNA will ever settle the matter. I’d be happy to provide a sample, but no one except Alexander 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 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. The method in my madness is to start with something that’s known, or that’s sensible or refutable enough for me to commit to, and then play with it. It’s entirely personal, and it applies to everything I write about. If I can’t make that 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.

Who am I? Where did I come from? What happened? It’s painful to recuse myself from engaging with these questions. What my 16th-century head holds doesn’t matter, because I haven’t found a 21st-century foothold. This in no way disparages anyone who has. To thine own self be true.

Would it be easier to toss Prince Tudor into the bin, clear my character of (some) calumny, have done with it? Of course. Conversely, would I like to write about the Procreation Sonnets as the soul-wrenching appeals of an ageing, ailing father longing for grandfatherhood, wanting to see his beloved son with a son of his own? God have mercy, yes. Could I do either one? Sure. Am I willing to, in good conscience? No.

Your judgement 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 before I died in 1604, but I had no grandsons. Lizzy’s daughter Anne was born in 1600, 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 died in 1625 at the age of thirty-two, married but childless. 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 following his release from the Tower, sons in 1605 and 1607.

Here are some Prince Tudor references, indicated pro or con if relevant. 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.

  • This episode of the Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship’s podcast series explores the origins of Prince Tudor in Oxfordianism dating back to the 1930s, the historical events that may or may not explain it, and why it continues to intrigue and polarise.
  • Con. Ms Price provides contemporary documentation for Elizabeth’s activities and audiences during the first half of 1574, and concludes that advanced pregnancy and birth during this period could not have gone unnoticed and unmentioned in the historical record. Discrepancies in works by PT-proponent authors are called out.

See also letters to the editor subsequently written by Elizabeth Sears and Charlton Ogburn Jr, two of the called-out authors, and Price’s responses to those letters, all 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 linked below, one generally sympathetic, one not, both in the same issue of Brief Chronicles (Vol 2, 2010), an Authorship studies journal published between 2009 and 2016.

Positive review [PDF] by Michael Delahoyde. He begins with an amusing tale told out of school, and includes a practical description of the Prince Tudor variants.

Negative review [PDF] by Christopher Paul

  • Con. A further example of the intensity of the disagreement.
  • Pro. A less expensive, easier to pick up, introductory version of the author’s autologically-named The Monument.