Was the Earl of Southampton the son of Queen Elizabeth and the Earl of Oxford?

NO. There is no documentation whatsoever to support this theory.
First of all, all of the rumours that Queen Elizabeth had secret relationships with men are unsubstantiated (see: Was Queen Elizabeth I a virgin?) Secondly, as we can clearly see in a letter written by Gilbert Talbot on 11 May 1573, the relationship between Oxford and Queen Elizabeth was typical for that monarch and her loyal courtiers (see: Was Oxford the lover of Queen Elizabeth?) Thirdly a copy of the letter that the second Earl of Southampton wrote to his friend to tell him of the joy that he felt on the birth of his son Henry, is still in existence. The wording of this letter written on 6th October 1573 leaves no room for speculation about any “uncertain descent” of Henry Wriothesley, later 3rd Earl of Southampton. The plea for clemency that his real mother, Mary Brown Countess of Southampton, wrote on his behalf after the bungled Essex uprising, leaves no room for speculation on this matter.

The so called “Prince Tudor theoriy” states that Oxford is Elizabeth's son- or not only her son but also her incestuous lover. This so-called theory is based on the remains of Baconianism, i.e. on a fascination for plots, machinations and unsavoury behaviour in high places and, of course, it is plain of tomfoolery. Rather like the old story that Mik Jagger was intending to have a sex change and get married to Charlie Watts- the “Tudor theory” is more a parlour game for a rainy afternoon than an academic undertaking.
(See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prince_Tudor_theory )

J. Thomas Looney, the first “Oxfordian”, retorted to the postulators of the Tudor theory with sharp words: “Mr. [Percy] Allen ... is now advancing certain views respecting Oxford and Queen Elizabeth which appear to me extravagant & improbable, in no way strengthen Oxford’s Shakespeare claims, and are likely to bring the whole cause into ridicule.” (Letter to Joan V. Robinson, 3 September 1933.)
Diana Price - Rough Winds Do Shake: A Fresh Look at the Tudor Rose Theory, (1996) - resumes her profound research: “As atttactive as the Tudor Rose theory may be on interpretive grounds, the historical facts plainly refute it... Adherents have not constructed their case with a single piece of documentary evidence, and the inaccurate arguments advanced to support the theory serve only to discredit it. Since ample documentation contradicts it, the Tudor Rose theory cannot be viewed as having any substance.”

The latest entertainers to grace the parlour with their imaginative speculations are Paul Streitz with “Oxford Son of Queen Elizabeth I” (2001) and Charles Beauclerk with “Shakespeare’s Lost Kingdom”. (See: Robert Detobel’s review of Beauclerk on the end of this page.)
According to Mr Streitz Henry Wriothesley was one of a series of children whom Elizabeth secretly brought into the world. In addition to H. W. there was Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury- Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex- and Mary Sidney, Countess of Pembroke!
In the film “Anonymous”, Hollywood has decided to go with the most entertaining version. When all said and done their job is to entertain and not to inform. Let us buy some pop-corn, enjoy the costumes, the story, the brilliant acting and the cinematic genius of the director and later look for the correct historical facts in the usual places.

For reasons best known to himself Percy Allen (1932 & 1934) felt himself duty bound to disprove any speculation that the Earl of Oxford- alias William Shake-speare could be homosexual. He fulfilled this self appointed duty by declaring Oxford and Southampton to be father and son. However, what sort of homosexual would have spoken to his lover, indeed what sort of father would have spoken to his son, in the manner of Sonnet 20?

A woman's face with nature's own hand painted,
Hast thou the master mistress of my passion,
A woman's gentle heart but not acquainted
With shifting change as is false women's fashion,
An eye more bright than theirs, less false in rolling:
Gilding the object whereupon it gazeth,
A man in hue all hues in his controlling,
Which steals men's eyes and women's souls amazeth.
And for a woman wert thou first created,
Till nature as she wrought thee fell a-doting,
And by addition me of thee defeated,
By adding one thing to my purpose nothing.
But since she pricked thee out for women's pleasure,
Mine be thy love and thy love's use their treasure.

Pondering over the parentage of Henry Wriothesly might be an interesting pastime for some, however there is a far more important question to be answered: Did William Shake-speare address the Sonnets to the Earl of Southampton, or did he not?

The two narrative poems, “Venus and Adonis” and “The Rape of Lucrece” were both dedicated to the young Earl of Southampton. In 1609 the printer Thomas Thorpe spoke of “the onlie begetter of these insuing sonnets – Mr. W.H” [..]. Did he mean Henry Wriothesley when he wrote of Mr. W.H.?

1. The description of the youth in the sonnets and the description of Adonis in Shakespeare's epic poem, “Venus and Adonis“ (1593) are identical. The two young men are both described as being enigmatic, fascinating and self-enamoured; the epitome of androgynous beauty, a mixture of Narcissus, Hermaphroditus and Adonis, who still doesn't react to the allures of women. Just like the youth in the first seventeen sonnets, Adonis is advised to seek a mate and have children so that his beauty may defeat “devouring time”.

Thou that art now the world's fresh ornament,
And only herald to the gaudy spring,
Within thine own bud buriest thy content,
And tender churl mak'st waste in niggarding

are the words directed at Wriothesley in Sonnet 1. - In “Venus and Adonis”, Venus, the goddess of love tenderly scolds Adonis with the words:

Upon the earth's increase why shouldst thou feed,
Unless the earth with thy increase be fed?
By law of nature thou art bound to breed,
That thine may live when thou thyself art dead;
And so in spite of death thou dost survive,
In that thy likeness still is left alive.
(Venus and Adonis, 169-174)

Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton
Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton (1573–1624)

2. Two years before “Venus and Adonis” was published, John Clapham wrote a Latin poem with the title “Narcissus” (1591) and dedicated it to Southampton. Clapham's Narcissus is suddenly transferred from Greek mythology to a fairy-tale England, where Venus welcomes him with open arms and Amor teaches him the art of love. Narcissus is splashed with the waters of the river Lethe, causing him to forget everything he ever knew. He mounts a wild horse named “Lust” which carries him far away and throws him off by the fountain of self desire. Narcissus drinks from the fountain, falls in love with the reflection that he sees of himself in the water and drowns.
John Clapham wasn't just an aspiring amateur; he was a member of Lord Burghley's household and probably one of Southampton's teachers. This means that the young man was not only given a poetical, but also a practical lesson in life, after his refusal to marry Elizabeth de Vere, against Lord Burghley's advice.
3. In his preface to “The Unfortunate Traveller” (1594), the satirist Thomas Nashe, a literary contemporary made a bold comment on Southampton's erotic magnetism:
“A dear lover and cherisher you are, as well of the lovers of poets as of poets themselves. Amongst their sacred number I dare not ascribe myself, though now and then I speak English.”
Nashe went a step further by dedicating a ribald poem by the name of “The Choosing of Valentines” to “Lord S.” In the dedication Nashe plays on the phonetic similarity between Wriothesley and ROSE-ly; with the words: “Pardon sweet flower of matchless poetry,/ And fairest bud the red rose did ever bare;/ Although my Muse, divorced from deeper care,/ present thee with a wanton Elegy.” The poem describes a sexual encounter in a brothel whereby the man is so excited that he is unable to “do his duty” and how the girl “helps herself”. - We don't know if Nashe meant to amuse and entertain or if the poem was intended as a provocation.
In his book “Wriothesley's Roses” (1993) Martin Green shows us how SHAKESPEARE never tired of making plays on Wriothesley's name and its association with roses. The associations were programmatic right from the first sonnet of the cycle.

From fairest creatures we desire increase,
That thereby beauty's rose might never die,
But as the riper should by time decease,
His tender heir might bear his memory:

Sonnet 54 compares the virtues of the youth with the sweet scent of a rose:

O how much more doth beauty beauteous seem,
By that sweet ornament which truth doth give!
The rose looks fair, but fairer we it deem
For that sweet odour, which doth in it live.
In Sonnet 95 the poet chides the youth and speaks of “the beauty of thy budding name”:
How sweet and lovely dost thou make the shame,
which like a canker in the fragrant rose,
Doth spot the beauty of thy budding name!
O in what sweets dost thou thy sins enclose!

Shakespeare copiously plays on the young man's flowery name:”Why should poor beauty indirectly seek,/ Roses of shadow, since his rose is true?” (67). - „More flowers I noted, yet I none could see,/ But sweet, or colour it had stol'n from thee.“ (99). - „For nothing this wide universe I call,/ Save thou my rose, in it thou art my all.“ (109).
The class system of the sixteenth century forbade that a commoner should speak to an aristocrat in the second person singular (thou art etc.) and thereby write a poem that made reference to his penis (Nr. 20: „And for a woman wert thou first created,/ Till nature as she wrought thee fell a-doting,/ And by addition me of thee defeated,/ By adding one thing to my purpose nothing“), that he publicly criticises Wriothesley's deceitful behaviour when he had sex with another man's girl-friend. (Nr. 40: „I cannot blame thee, for my love thou usest,/ But yet be blamed, if thou thy self deceivest/ By wilful taste of what thy self refusest./ I do forgive thy robbery gentle thief/ Although thou steal thee all my poverty.“ – Nr. 41: „Ay me, but yet thou mightst my seat forbear,/ And chide thy beauty, and thy straying youth,/ Who lead thee in their riot even there/ Where thou art forced to break a twofold truth:/ Hers by thy beauty tempting her to thee,/ Thine by thy beauty being false to me.“)
It would have been unthinkable for an actor and his girl-friend to enter into a three-way relationship with an Earl. If the actor had then deliberately made the relationship public, he would have been guilty of a serious offence. (Nr. 133, to the Dark Lady: “Beshrew that heart that makes my heart to groan/ For that deep wound it gives my friend and me;/ Is't not enough to torture me alone,/But slave to slavery my sweet'st friend must be?/ Me from my self thy cruel eye hath taken,/ And my next self thou harder hast engrossed,/ Of him, my self, and thee I am forsaken,/ A torment thrice three-fold thus to be crossed.“)
In order to come to the gigantic misconception that William Shaksper, the actor, could possibly have moved so freely in the house and in the company of Henry Wriothesly only to betray him with such verses without suffering serious retributions; one must be totally ignorant of the political climate and the social structures of the times.

The main purpose of the first 17 sonnets is to persuade to the Fair Youth to marry. What explanation do we have for this?

Two years after the death of his daughter, Anne, the Lord High Treasurer sets about the task of finding a suitable husband for his eldest granddaughter, Elizabeth de Vere. In the summer of 1590, just before Elizabeth de Vere's fifteenth birthday, Burghley found the right man, or so he thought. The chosen suitor was Burghley's rich ward, Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton who was almost seventeen at the time.
At this point we have to bear in mind that Elizabeth de Vere was Oxford’s eldest daughter.
The plan would have been perfect if not for the fact that the young Earl of Southampton didn't want to get married, at least not yet and not to Elizabeth de Vere. He made excuses, he hid behind his mother, he said he was too young and asked to have the matter postponed for a year. – In 1594 there is a letter from the priest Henry Garnet, which states: “The young Earl of Southampton, refusing the Lady Vere, payeth 5000 of present payment.” (
Foley's English Jesuits, iv. 49.)


Henry Wriothesley, 2nd Earl of Southampton to Sir William More in Loseley, 6 October 1573:

Yt has so hapned by the sudden seizing of my wife today, we could not by possibility have your wife present, as we desired. Yet have I thought goode to imparte unto you such comforte as God hath sente me after all my longe troubles, which is that this present morning at three of the clock, my wife was delivered of a goodly boy (God bless him.)... Yf your wife will take the paynes to visit her, we shall be mighty glad of her company. From Cowdray this present Tuesday 1573. Your assured frend H. Southampton.
Loseley Papers, iv. 16; Surrey History Centre Woking - cited in: Charlotte C. Stopes: The Life of Henry, Third Earl of Southampton 1922

Mary Browne, Contess of Southampton to Robert Cecil, April 1601 (after the failed Essex Rebellion):

God of heaven knows I can scarce hold my hand steady to write, and less hold steady in my heart how to write, only for what I know, which is to pray mercy to my miserable son. Good Mr. Secretary, let the bitter passion of a perplexed mother move you to plead for her only son. . . . Nothing is fitter than her [the Queen’s] safety, nor any virtue can better become her place and power than mercy, which let my prayer move you to beg for me, and God move her Majesty to grant the most sorrowful and afflicted mother.
[Stopes, p.219]


[Stopes] Charlotte C. Stopes: The Life of Henry, Third Earl of Southampton, Cambridge 1922

Christopher Paul: THE “PRINCE TUDOR” DILEMMA: Hip Thesis, Hypothesis, or Old Wives’ Tale?

Der Mann, der Shakespeare erfand. Edward-de-Vere, Earl of Oxford. Frankfurt am Main 2009; Berlin 2011

Robert Detobel about “Shakespeare’s Lost Kingdom” by Charles Beauclerk

In May 1548 Katherine Parr, Henry VIII’s widow, wife of Thomas Seymour, Lord High Admiral of England and uncle of King Edward VI, took fourteen-year old princess Elizabeth unawares in the arms of her husband. –No sexual intercourse, no pregnancy, the princess asserted and declared herself ready to deliver the visible proof on her body. – Only credulous people will be gulled, Beauclerk writes. Secretary of State William Cecil, later to become Baron Burghley, forged that letter. In Beauclerk’s book Lord Burghley plays the part of magician. Mister Spirit, as the queen nicknamed him, both spirited away all the evidence Beauclerk would have needed to better substantiate his theses or forged the “faked” evidence demolishing the same. Surely, princess Elizabeth was with child, he maintains. And the child was none other than the boy known to the world, the blind world, to have been born about two years later as Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford. The changeling had been stowed forth into the 16th earl’s household. The evidence is as clear as broad daylight if one opens one’s eyes or at least has at last opened them by the author. For the 16th Earl of Oxford was killed by or at the order of Lord Burghley. He that wonders why this didn’t happen until twelve to fourteen years after the fact has closed his eyes again too quickly... or kept them opened for too long. He that wonders why the blurb keeps on claiming the author to be a descendant of the Earl of Oxford and not of Thomas Seymour and Queen Elizabeth is doubtlessly malevolent. One also wonders why Lord Burghley would have been so anxious to conceal Oxford’s royal blood if, as the author maintains, Burghley married his eldest daughter Anne to Edward de Vere to inject this royal blood into his own family and twenty years later was trying still to instill more royal blood into it by proposing to marry his granddaughter Elizabeth de Vere to another alleged royal bastard, the Earl of Southampton, offspring of the commixture of the royal bloods of the queen and... Oxford.
On pages 151-152 the possibility is contemplated that the names John Lyly, Robert Greene and Thomas Watson would have been mere pseudonyms for Oxford. “Lyly”, the “lily”, the “fleur-de-lys”, was the heraldic emblem of the French kings - but this assciation did not occur to the author. Another association did occur to him, though, through an excursion in the French language: the French word for the colour “green” is “vert” and is pronounced like “Ver(e)”. Wat-son actually means “heir and son”, “Wat” being a common dialect word for “hare” and “hare” being homophonic with “heir”. As “sun” is regularly interpreted as a pun on “son”, it is hard to resist the pun that we have to do with a “heir-brained” and “son-burnt” tale.
The incest theme runs rampant through the book. Especially the second chapter with the title “The Blighted Rose” is no less than a staccato of instrumental and vocal variations on the incest theme. It is, for instance, insinuated that Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII’s second wife and Queen Elizabeth’s mother, might have been King Henry’s own daughter. Henry himself would have suspected Elizabeth to have been sired by George Boleyn with his own sister Anne.
The blurb displays a highly appreciative judgment of the book in a review by the newspaper The Boston Globe: “Beauclerk has not only scandalized professors throughout the English department of the world’s schools and universities, he has thrown down the gauntlet to historians as well… and he has garnered supporters in this long simmering debate.” Yet, one could also gain the impression: a brat threw a gauntlet and the gauntlet landed in a teacup where, evidently, it triggered a storm.