Saturday, March 26, 2011

Reel People: Rhys Ifans is Edward de Vere

The film is Anonymous. It is directed by Roland Emmerich (known for destroying the world in Independence Day, Godzilla, The Day After Tomorrow, and 2012). The script is written by John Orloff, known as one of the writers on the 2001 Band of Brothers TV-series.

Edward de Vere, 17th Duke of Oxford

Edward de Vere was born April 12, 1550 into one of the oldest earldoms of England. His father John de Vere, 16th Duke of Oxford, had a daughter (Katherine) from a previous marriage to his wife Dorothy Neville that had died in 1548. In addition to half-sister Katherine, he also had a younger sister Mary. But Edward was the only male.

Edward's father John, the 16th Duke of Oxford was known for a variety of activities, from being an avid sportsman to holding a company of actors in his regular circle. He was also involved with the ascension of Queen Mary I to the throne in 1553. He would die in 1562, and his son Edward, at the age of 12, would become the 17th Duke of Oxford as well as Lord Great Chamberlain of England, as the only male heir.

He became a royal ward to the young Queen Elizabeth I, and was placed in the household of William Cecil, who would later become 1st Baron of Burgley (who would be Elizabeth I's chief advisor for most of her reign). During this time in Cecil's household, Edward de Vere academic pursuits would expand to include English, Latin, writing, drawing, Anglo-Saxon studies, dancing and horseback riding.

It was during this time that Edward's half-sister Katherine would also challenge the legitimacy of Edward's Earldom, this would be an ongoing challenge until later when he would sue his livery. Despite the cause for question, the fondness people had for Edward is shown in his honorary degrees he would soon receive from the Queen from University of Cambridge in 1564, and the degree from the University of Oxford he received in 1566. He also was released without penalty for the death of a cook in Cecil's house that was killed while fencing. The coroner's report put the blame on the drunkenness of the cook, not on Edward de Vere.

Edward had previously been arranged by his father to marry either Elizabeth or Mary Hastings in 1568 at the age of 18, but this did not come to pass as planned, as records show Elizabeth married another man, and Mary died unmarried.

In late 1569 war broke out in Northern England over the legitimacy of Queen Elizabeth I's reign, and the Roman Catholic interest with replacing Elizabeth I with Mary Queen of Scots. He would receive the opportunity to serve in 1570 per his requests.

On December 16, 1571, Edward de Vere would marry William Cecil's young daughter Anna Cecil at Whitehall. His legitimacy was still partially in questioned, and it was until he made it a legal matter, was he able to enter his families property May 30, 1572.

It is clear from the record of history that Edward de Vere was quickly a patron of the arts and sciences with countless number of text prepared at this time citing dedications to Edward de Vere.

Edward de Vere also seemed to have an interest in travel, which was not actualized until 1575 which resulted in some interesting meetings in Statsbourg, France as well as Venice and Milan. This trip also resulted in an encumbrance of debts, a pirate attack, as well as a birth of a child that he was not informed of, and questioned the legitimacy of he relations to her.

Anna had given birth to Elizabeth July 2, 1575. Edward de Vere was mid-travel and did not hear of her birth until September of that year. When he returned home he would not live under his roof, but instead stayed at Charing Cross, where he was distant from his family in what is believed to have been caused by a message that Elizabeth was not his legitimate daughter.

In 1576 Edward published The Paradise of Dainty Devises, a collection of 8 poems he had written. During the years to follow he would also attempt to serve in war again, he would have numerous books dedicated to him, embark on further travels, experience courtier life, and be in some family drama as his sister Mary would try to make arrangements to see Edward's daughter Elizabeth.

There was some intense times in 1580 for the duke of Oxford as his loyalty to the Queen was challenged, as a French ambassador said that in 1776 Edward had converted to Catholicism, which led to Edward denouncing three of his catholic friends to the Queen (Lord Henry Howard, Charles Arundel, and Francis Southwell) and a series of attacks on Edward. Just when things seemed to have blown over for Edward, when other events in 1581 wold cause him to be banished from court.

On March 23, 1581, he found out that one of the Queens maids of honor Anne Vavasour had given birth to a son two days earlier, Sir Edward Vere. This caused Edward to be first put before counsel and under house arrest and eventually banished for the court. It was Christmas of 1581 that Edward de Vere would reconnect with his wife Anne Cecil.

In 1583, Edwards son to Anne Vavasour died, and Edward was allowed to re-enter court.

In 1584, Anne Cecil and Edward de Vere gave birth to another child, Bridget. Another girl, Susan, would be born in 1587. Another daughter, Frances, was probably born during this time as well but died as an infant. They also had a son who died in early infancy (Lord Bulbecke).

During this time in the 1580s Edward's financial situation got increasingly worse as he continued to sell off the family land and enter into many agreements that did not provide sustainable income. During this time his performance troupe, "The Earl of Oxford his Servants" did do decent as they became a widely traveling group with performances in London and across the court yard.

It also clear that during this time Edward was an active patron continuing during this time as well.

His wife Anne Cecil died June 5 1588, and was buried at Westminster Abby.
In 1591 Edward de Vare would marry Elizabeth Trentham, Elizabeth I's Made of Honour. Castle Hedingham, the ancestral seat of the de Vares would be sold to William Cecil in trust of his first wife and three daughters.

Edward and Elizabeth Tretham would have a son, and the Earl's only male heir February 24, 1593. Their son Henry de Vare would become the 18th Earl of Oxford.
Financially struggling Edward de Vare would try to obtain opportunities from the Queen to mine minerals, import oils, and with debt de Vare appears to have been busy fighting various legal issues relating to his financial quandary.

Queen Elizabeth I died March 24, 1603 and just a year and a few months later Edward de Vere would also die (June 24, 1604). He would die of unknown causes just days after helping his son-in-law Lord Norris regain custody of the Forest of Essex after years of battling for it.

Centuries later interest in Edward de Vere would rise to prominence in what has become known as the Oxfordian Theory of Shakespearean Authorship. In 1920 J. Thomas Looney published "Shakespeare" Identified in Edward De Vere, Seventeenth Earl of Oxford, which proposed that Edward De Vare was the true author of the works traditionally attributed to William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-avon. This theory has both been widely supported and not supported by various scholars and researchers.


In addition to Rhys Ifans playing the central part of Edward de Vere, Jamie Campbell Bower will play a younger version of Edward de Vare in the film as "Young Oxford."

The role of Queen Elizabeth I is played by Vanessa Redgrave, while the younger incarnation of Elizabeth is played by Joely Richardson casted as "Princess Elizabeth Tudor."

David Thewlis plays William Cecil. Rafe Spall plays the part of William Shakespeare.
Sir Derek Jacobi, plays the role of "prologue" as he has done in previous Shakespearean film interpretations.

The film, as the title indicates, creates a cinematic case for the Oxfordian Shakespearean theory presenting Edward de Vare, 17th Earl of Oxford as the true author of Shakespearean works. With the sure potential for historical qualms associated with the different perceptions of this theory of William Shakespeare could impact the perception of this film.

Will Rhys Ifans receive an Oscar nomination and perhaps a win for his portrayal of this
Reel (Real) Person (Even if the accuracy of the biographical history is under question)?

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