Elizabeth, Seymour and Shakespeare

Edward de Vere, 1575

OK, I promise that this is my last post on the conspiracy theories, rumours and scandals surrounding Good Queen Bess – I will move on from this subject and give Elizabeth I a break – poor woman having all this dredged up again! But, I wanted to explore the whole Earl of Oxford/Shakespeare issue.

As I said a couple of weeks ago, American author Paul Streitz, in his book “Oxford: Son of Queen Elizabeth I”“Oxford: Son of Queen Elizabeth I”, put forward the idea that William Shakespeare was actually the illegitimate son of Elizabeth I and was raised as Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford.

But who was the father?

Well, this is where it gets interesting. Streitz names Thomas Seymour, who was married to the Dowager Queen Catherine Parr at the time, as Elizabeth’s lover and Shakespeare’s father.

As you know, I do love conspiracy theories but this one just makes me chuckle as I just can’t see any good reason to believe it, although I think it would make a wonderful novel. So, how does Paul Streitz justify this incredible allegation? Well, unfortunately, I haven’t yet managed to get hold of his book but I have read a review of it by “The Independent”, a daily newspaper from the UK and it seems that Streitz argues this theory in the following ways:-

  • He rejects the “Virgin Queen” idea of Elizabeth – Streitz does not believe that Elizabeth was a virgin and is of the opinion that she actually had a few illegitimate children. He says: “The Virgin Queen was a myth created by the Tudor propaganda machine that was copied uncritically by the vast majority of historians in the following centuries.”
  • Streitz believes there is evidence that Elizabeth had a relationship with Seymour – We know from evidence from contemporaries that Thomas Seymour acted inappropriately with the teenage Elizabeth, visiting her bed chamber in a state of undress, tickling her and stroking her etc. but while many historians believe that this did not turn into a full-on sexual relationship, Streitz thinks that it did.
  • Streitz believes that Elizabeth’s disappearance when she should have been with her pregnant stepmother Catherine Parr is a cover for her her own pregnancy and childbirth. Although many believe that Elizabeth was ill at this time, Streitz says that there are no records of doctors seeing her at this time.
  • Streitz believes the rumours of the time were true – He says: “I became suspicious that she had had a child and if you start studying the literature, there were rumours coming directly from Elizabeth that she had had a child.” Although in her letters, Elizabeth condemned the rumours about her “lewd demeanour”, Streitz says “She does not say the rumours are false; rather, she says the rumours are damaging to the king’s majesty’s sisters.”
  • He argues that the following facts all point to Oxford being Elizabeth’s son: the fact that John de Vere, 16th Earl of Oxford, was forced to marry a lady close to Elizabeth’s advisers, the fact that there are no christening records for Edward de Vere, the fact that when Edward became a ward of the Crown on his father’s death that his wardship was not sold, as was common practice, and that the Queen could choose who he would marry.
  • Streitz also argues that Shakespeare’s sonnets and works such as Hamlet point to Oxford/Shakespeare knowing of his true origins.
Thomas Seymour

Now, Streitz does not profess to be an historian, he is an author of plays and musicals who became interested in the whole Oxford/Shakespeare theory when was researching for a play. He then went on to research Elizabeth I by reading biographies of her, which is not quite the same as browsing primary sources. So, he is not exactly a David Starkey and I must say that I take his theories with a huge pinch of salt. While his arguments are interesting and make for great fiction, I say “poppycock, poppycock” rather loudly.

I know that there were many rumours during Elizabeth’s lifetime about how she only went on her summer progresses to give birth to illegitimate children, who, according to some sources could have included Henry Wriothesley, Elizabeth Leighton, Robert Cecil, Robert Devereaux, Edward Devere, Mary Sidney and Arthur Dudley, but I cannot believe that a Queen who was forever surrounded by her ladies could have secretly given birth. I just don’t think that she could cover up a pregnancy or an illegitimate child when there were so many people waiting to knock her virgin image and threaten her throne.

Streitz’s arguments just do not add up. I actually believe that Elizabeth was a virgin, that it was a life-choice and political choice that she made and I see no reason to doubt her word. I cannot say how far things went with Thomas Seymour but I think that Catherine Parr sent Elizabeth away not to give birth in secret but to keep her from Seymour, to protect her reputation and to save Catherine’s own marriage. When Elizabeth, Kat Ashley and Thomas Parry were detained and questioned in early 1549 over Seymour’s plans to marry Elizabeth, Elizabeth denied a relationship with Seymour and denied that she was planning to marry him. I am sure that if the couple had had a full blown affair resulting in a pregnancy then this story would have come out at this time. Thomas Seymour was executed for treason but no charges were brought against Elizabeth.

Thomas Seymour – What was he doing?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on what was going through Thomas Seymour’s mind when he started acting so inappropriately with Elizabeth. He was newly married to Catherine Parr so it couldn’t have been an attempt to get Elizabeth to fall in love with him so that she would marry him. Was it pure lust?

What on earth was he up to and why did Catherine start becoming involved? To hold a teenage girl while your husband slashes her dress to bits or to watch while he tickles and strokes her seems very strange behaviour. What do you think about this situation?


If you want to read Paul Streitz’s book, “Oxford: Son of Queen Elizabeth I”, then you can click here to buy it from Amazon.com. It has very mixed reviews on Amazon, with some people thinking that he may have a point and others feeling that the idea is preposterous and pointing out glaring mistakes that Mr Streitz has made in the book. Do let me know if you have read it and what you thought of it.

Elizabeth and Seymour in Fiction

As I said, the “relationship” between Elizabeth and Seymour and Elizabeth’s sexual awakening make for great fiction and I am presently enjoying Robin Maxwell’s “Virgin: Prelude to the Throne” which is, as it says on the back, “…a riveting portrait of Elizabeth I as a romantic and vulnerable teenager, dangerously awakening to a perilous liaison with the wrong man”. I am really enjoying it.

Another book which Elizabeth Files visitor Jenny told me about is “Unicorn’s Blood” by Patricia Finney. Jenny found her copy of it and said that in her forward Finny “This is a novel, not a history book. I have used history as skeleton and scaffolding, but I have freely jumped off into fantasy whenever I felt like it, turned speculation into fact and rank conjecture into assumpton – although I have tried to keep within the boundaries of what might just be possible, given the evidence”.  This is how Jenny describes the book:-

“It is set in the period when Elizabeth is being co-oerced into signing the warrant for the execution of Mary Queen of Scots – and Davison, seems to have some hold over the Queen by mentioning a “Unicorn Book” which is supposed to be recommendations to the state of Virginity.

This particular copy was supposed to belong to the young and teenaged Princes Elizabeth who, according to the plot, did become pregnant by Sir Thomas Seymour, performed her own abortion with a knitting needle and co-oerced a witch (ex -nun) to patch her up! Prior to that however, thinking that she was about to die, she wrote her last will and testament on the last pages of the book, naming the father and willing the throne (if it ever came her way) to her cousin Mary Queen of Scots!

The “witch” sees the book when Elizabeth faints and steals it hoping that it will come in handy in the future to acquire a dowry for either her grandchild or great grandchild (as it turns out to be) so as to avoid her becoming a whore. It’s a novel, very funny, very sad and very poignant in places – worth a re-read which is what I did this weekend”

29 thoughts on “Elizabeth, Seymour and Shakespeare

  1. I cannot help but feel that Elizabeth did have a relationship with Seymore ending in serious results, but maybe elizabeth didn’t plan it to be that way. But Shakespear her son? The theory almost comepletley made up.

  2. Well, the same theory is commented by Mr. Charles Beauclerck.

    And he is a historian.

    The problem is: Are there any documents that have survived the pass of time that show that the Queen was not a virgin queen married “to his country”?

    There are: literary. One of them is Shakespeare’s works. That’s why Shakespeare’s identity is still a question of debate: his works are full of symbols and allegoric truths about who he was, what he desire and what was his relationship with power and the monarchy.

    Starts from the poem Venus and Adonis and follow the thread.

  3. My family is descended from the Butlers, Earls of Ormonde. There is anectodal evidence that Elizabeth I had a child with her cousin Thomas Butler, 10th Earl of Ormonde. The great-grandmother of Queen Elizabeth I was the daughter of Thomas Butler, 7th Earl of Ormonde. Thomas Butler, 10th Earl’s illegitimate child Peirs Butler of Duiske is thought to be the child of the union with QEI. I will not relate the whole story here, you can find it on the web.

  4. I agree that Paul Streitz has gone off the deep end with his theory about Edward de Vere being Elizabeth’s son by Seymour. And Charles Beauclerk’s beautiful book goes astray by assuming that Edward de Vere expected to become a king.
    However, I have researched this subject for 20 years and have concluded that “William Shakespeare” was a pen name used by Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford. There was a rumor, reported by historian Neville Williams, that in 1572-1573 Oxford was Elizabeth’s “favorite” and that they had a love-child being raised as the Third Earl of Southampton, Henry Wriothesley, Jr. (Neville sneers at this rumor as being preposterous, but he does affirm that the rumor existed.)
    But what if it had a grain of truth in it? I researched this rumor thoroughly and have concluded that it was true. That’s why the secret had to be kept, and that’s why Oxford had to use a pseudonym when he published “Venus and Adonis” in 1593.
    The sonnets tell the story, which is the most beautiful love story ever told about Elizabeth. I’ve matched every sonnet to the life events of Edward de Vere, and the Fair Youth of the sonnets was his beloved natural son (NOT a homosexual lover!!!). The Dark Lady was Ann Vavasor, who bore Oxford a son in 1581. The rival poets were seeking the favor of Queen Elizabeth, NOT the patronage of an earl, but many of the love poems were to Elizabeth. I’ve explained all this in my 2008 book, “The Secret Love Story in Shakespeare’s Sonnets” If you will review it, I will send you a copy. If your readers are curious, it is available through Amazon and can be downloaded to Amazon’s kindle for $9.95. The hardback book is also available through online bookstores at $29.95, the paperback at $19.95. Or your readers can go to the website of Anacade Publishing Company LLC, http://www.anacade.biz, and order it directly from me.
    Best regards, Helen Heightsman Gordon, M.A., Ed.D.

  5. I have to agree, first of all with Lisa and Claire, in that I will never understand why people can’t accept Elizabeth’s word for it that she was a virgin. Incredible! When I clicked on the book and got to amazon.com, there is a footnote that there is now criticism from the Folger Library(libary dedicated completey to Shakespeare [and that so many scholars are digging into the theories that it was Chistopher Marlowe who wrote “Dr. Faust, is one of many who really wrote Shakespeare’s work, but that is far from the point here] but is not the fault of the staff who were very nice to him while doing his research, but is dictated of senior management of official policies (the same thing happened with the Vatican Library in the 1980’s, so this is not the first time.

    Okay, let’s just examine dates. Thomas Seymour was executed in 1549 after the dowager Queen Katherine Parr died. Elizabeth, as about 21 years old at this time. Shakepeare was born on 26 April 1564 (Elizabeth would have been around 31 and Sir Thomas was executed as staed above. I could go on, but this makes no sense to me, and if I am wrong, please advise me! Now, there is primary research here (unlike Weir whose publisher will not allow her to use), so I may have to see what that may be in order to form a more involved and interpretive judgement. Opinions are made without facts, judgements are made with them, etc. I so also wish people would stop thinking about Elizabeth’s children, and I do agree with Jeane Westin in that if Elizabeth had as many children as people lay claim, she wouldn’t have had time to rule, much less be the greatest monarch England has ever had, and that she would shame her innocent mother, Anne, by such actions and behavior. Thank you! WilesWales

  6. I personally think the evidence points to the fact that Elizabeth I DID have several children – ALL of the rumoured ones – most of them fathered by Robert Dudley. Am currently writing a book, “Secrets of the Bloodline”, which will include this information. Info will be published on my website http://jmshistorycorner.blogspot.com (if I can get around to it).

  7. Until I get around to posting the info on my website, these should provide plenty of interesting information:
    There are more, but these will suffice for now.

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