I’ve hesitated to write this blog post for quite some time now because just the mention of it can trigger a volatile debate. What I’m referring to is the Prince Tudor, or Tudor Rose theory.
Since I have hinted at it in several posts already, it’s time for me to elaborate for those who are new to the concept.
CAUTION: For those of you who feel strongly against this theory, this would be the time to change the channel!
There are a few variations to this theory, but I will focus primarily on excerpts from Charles Beauclerk’s book, Shakespeare’s Lost Kingdom and in The Monument by Hank Whittemore. Since this project’s main focus is on Southampton, I won’t get too involved in de Vere’s story right now.
To begin, I have chosen to discuss this theory because it provides a specific lens for interpreting the Sonnets and therefore relates to my independent study. In this blog project, however, I’ve only focused upon the 17 Procreation Sonnets and the interpretation that implies they were written by Shakespeare to a young man.
If this is true, and if Henry Wriothesley was the addressee of these poems, it appears as if the poet is encouraging the young earl to marry and start making “copies” of himself.
The language is intimate, indeed, but it can be viewed from a homosexual lover-to-lover perspective or even from that of a father-to-son relationship. Let’s assume the collection of Sonnets are of an autobiographical nature, and that the poet is addressing the young man as if he was his own son.
If you recall, in my previous post entitled “The Young Earl: ‘Harry’ Wriothesley,” I mentioned that the 2nd Earl of Southampton, Henry Wriothesley “Senior,” had been imprisoned for his involvement in the Ridolfi Plot.
When an earl spent time in the Tower, he did not necessarily live in squalor, and may have been allowed conjugal visits.
So, we cannot completely rule out “HW Sr.” as the biological father of “HW Jr.,” but, suspiciously, soon after the elder Wriothesley was released from prison, his relationship with his wife, Mary Browne, went downhill.
The Countess was moved to another estate and forbidden to see her young son.
To quote Beauclerk:
Mary Browne, the Countess of Southampton, had given birth to a son on October 6, 1573, but there is no record of a baptism for the baby, who may have died in infancy or been placed with another family in preparation for the adoption of the queen’s son. Either way, her child was probably illegitimate and not a Wriothesley at all, for the earl, her husband, was in the Tower when the child was conceived and she was rumored to be having an affair with “a common person” by the name of Donesame, pretext enough in those days for the removal of the baby. (106)
Stopes explains how young Harry was kept in his father’s custody and that the “Earl secluded himself more and more among his followers and estranged himself from his wife” (3).
Although the Countess attempted to make contact and explain herself to her husband, her attempts were hampered by the messengers, the Earl’s servants. One in particular, Thomas Dymock, seems to have been the most influential in keeping the couple separated and was even designated an executor of the Earl’s will.
As mentioned in my post, “The Young Earl: Harry Wriothesley,” Harry’s wardship was “sold” and as an underage “Queen’s Ward” (Stopes 17), William Cecil became Harry’s legal guardian.
Yes, I’m sure you caught those ominous words in Beauclerk’s quote: “the adoption of the queen’s son.”
More details to follow in “Southampton and the Tudor Rose Theory (Part 2 of 2)!”