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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

“Shakespeare’s Lost Kingdom: The True History of Shakespeare and Elizabeth”, by Charles Beauclerk



448 pages, Grove Press, ISBN-13: 978-0802145383

There are, as far as I can tell, two principle claimants to the Shakespeare-Was-Not-Shakespeare Alternative Interpretation/Paranoid Delusion Historical Conspiracy Thing: 1st is Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford and the supposed son of Elizabeth I and Lord Thomas Seymour; 2nd is Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton and the supposed son of Elizabeth I and the afore-mentioned Earl of Oxford; thus, either of these illegitimate sons of the Queen were potential heirs to the throne. Integral to the latter “Prince Tudor Theory” is the assumption that, after the secret birth of a son in May-June 1574 by the Queen and Oxford, the baby was placed in the Southampton household as a substitute for the son known to have been born to the Southamptons in October 1573, a theory that originated with Alfred Dodd, who claimed in his book, Francis Bacon’s Personal Life Story (first published in 1910) that both Sir Francis Bacon and Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, were the sons of Queen Elizabeth. In his article, “Occultist Influence on the Authorship Controversy” in the Spring 1998 issue of The Elizabethan Review, Roger Nyle Parisious, explained how this Baconian scenario was taken over by two British Oxfordians, Captain B. M. Ward and Percy Allen, at some time between 1930 and 1933. Since then, the “Prince Tudor Theory” has been the subject of any number of books and was even the subject of Anonymous, a feature film directed by Roland Emmerich and released in late 2011.

A wide range of historical documents decisively refutes the “Prince Tudor Theory”, a significant number of which were examined by Diana Price in “Rough Winds Do Shake: A Fresh Look at the Tudor Rose Theory” in the Autumn 1996 issue of The Elizabethan Review. Another refutation of is Christopher Paul’s article “The Prince Tudor Dilemma: Hip Thesis, Hypothesis or Old Wives’ Tale?” published in the October 2002 issue of The Oxfordian.

Readers who demand hard evidence rather than flatulent conjecture will come up empty with Shakespeare’s Lost Kingdom: The True History of Shakespeare and Elizabeth. Yes, it’s true that we have very little fact about Shakespeare’s life, but the fact that he acted in at least one of his friend Ben Jonson’s plays, and that when it came time to collect Shakespeare’s work in 1623 (seven years after his death) Ben Jonson wrote an eloquent introduction in which he lauded his friend’s genius should put paid to any claim that Shakespeare the playwright was not a real person. I believe Shakespeare wrote the plays because Ben Jonson tells me he wrote them as even a cursory examination of Jonson’s career shows that he was no candidate to be part of an Elizabethan cover-up. In short, if the plays had been written by Queen Elizabeth’s love child, as Lost Kingdom posits, Jonson would have been all over that cock-up faster than you can say Da Vinci Code. I can at least thank Beauclerk for helping me to wise up, for since reading his book I have definitively removed from the list of “Shakespeare Doubters”.

The vast consensus of the academic experts on the authorship of Shakespeare’s works is that he was William Shakespeare of Stratford and that there are gaps in his biography should not be read as an invitation to conspiracy. The Shakespeare authorship controversy, as evidenced by the hilarious mélange of candidates and theories – besides Edward de Vere and Henry Wriothesley, other candidates include Sir Francis Bacon, Christopher Marlowe, Sir William Stanley, Mary Sidney Herbert, the Countess of Pembroke, to name just a few – is a prime example of what Michael Shermer means by “smart people believing weird things”. Who was it said: “The surest sign of a theory in trouble is the vast number of versions of that theory that exist?”

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