Elizabeth Trentham – Shakespeare’s Wife

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(The Original ‘Unbutchered’ Version of the Wikipedia Page We Created)

As part of our ‘Shake a Spear at Ignorance’ work at the Impostor industry (that’s why it started out at AOA) below is the pure (unbutchered) draft of our (User:Australiansofarabia) Wikipedia Elizabeth Trentham, Countess of Oxford page, originally created on Wikipedia 31 May 2010. There is strong evidence to support the claim that Elizabeth, along with her step-daughter, Susan de Vere, were the main ‘shakers’ in making possible the Shake-spear canon that we enjoy today, and though Wikipedia has been going for some 9 years, they did not have their own Wikipedia pages, so Tara and Peter Hogan had a go.


Lady Elizabeth Trentham
Countess of Oxford
Spouse Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford
Issue Henry de Vere, 18th Earl of Oxford
Father Thomas Trentham
Mother Jane Sneyd
Born b. c. 1562/3
Died d. circa December 1612 (aged 50)
Burial Hackney, London
Occupation Businesswoman

Lady Elizabeth Trentham, Countess of Oxford, (b. c. 1562/3 – d. c. December 1612) was the wife of Elizabethan courtier, poet, and playwright Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford (his first wife, Anne Cecil, having died in 1588). [1]

Elizabeth Trentham has claim to be the most underated shaker in history:


Family and early years

Lady Elizabeth was born b. c. 1562/3 at Rocester, eldest daughter of the wealthy Staffordshire landowner, Thomas Trentham and Jane Sneyd. Thomas had been appointed by the Privy Council, as one of the “principal gentlemen in Staffordshire”, to accompany the Scottish Queen Mary from her Staffordshire exile to her trial at Fotheringay in 1586 (the Earl of Oxford sat on the jury). [2]


Cheeky – Tara Hogan’s Parrot – 12010 – 12019CT

We are very very sad to announce Tara’s parrot that she named ‘Cheeky’ when she was 8 years old has transitioned to immortality – see Cheeky’s unique contribution to our Susan de Vere work, particularly “How to make a parrot sonnet” for students and exposing the Shakespeare mask, as Leonardo diConure.

< http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xgHdIQE0IS4 >
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A very special member of the family, Cheeky, a South American conure, was almost 9 years old. A fantastic whistler that loved flying around the house and landing on Tara.



Later years and marriage

Later Elizabeth was Maid of Honour to Queen Elizabeth (and possibly a god-daughter of the Queen) for at least 10 years.

She was known for her beauty and savvy, was wooed by several nobleman. Despite have three brothers had still become executor of her father’s estate after his death in 1587… her later extant letters to Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury reveal a sharp-minded, independent woman at ease with legal and business matters and not afraid to flex her muscles.”[3]

Edward began courting her some time after the death of first wife in 1588 and their eventual marriage in late 1591. Normally Queen Elizabeth frowned upon the poaching of her Maids of Honour by courtiers, but Oxford was not even royally rebuked, much less sent to the Tower, as Raleigh had been, over Elizabeth Throgmorton.[4]

In December 1591 Edward is forced by William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley (Queen Elizabeth’s chief advisor ) to sign over Castle Hedingham, the de Vere family seat from the time of William the Conqueror, to him in trust for his three daughters, Elizabeth, Bridget and Susan (compare his early The True Chronicle History of King Leir [sic], 1594, which was later reworked as King Lear, 1603.)

Still Edward had beaten out the competiton (including Southampton) even though Elizabeth knew he was ‘lame’ and broke.

Sonnet 138:
… vainly thinking that she thinks me young,
Although she knows my days are past the best.

So the only attraction for her was ‘immortality’ as facilitator of the Shake-speare canon.

Elizabeth and her brother ffrancis Trentham immediately took over the management of Edward’s near bankrupt estate and gradually returned it to profitability. Fisher’s Folly in Bishopsgate (theatre district) which Edward had shared with his writing protégés, had already been sold in July 1591.

The newly married couple then set up house at Stoke-Newington, still within two or three miles of the most successful of London’s popular playhouses, the Curtain and the Theatre.[5]

Later, on September 2, 1597, King’s Place in Hackney, north London, was purchased under the names of Elizabeth and her brother ffrancis Trentham (to keep Edward’s creditors at bay). The Queen’s personal salutation, “…to our well beloved cousin Elizabeth, Countess of Oxenford, wife of Edward, Earl of Oxenford…”. King’s Place was a substantial country manor house with a celebrated Great Hall, a classic Tudor Long Gallery, a chapel and “a proper lybrayre to laye bokes in”; the land comprised orchards and fine gardens and around 270 acres of farmland. It would remain their principal London home until Edward’s death in 1604, the Countess finally moving in 1609 after selling it to the poet ffulke Greville.[6]


  • Henry de Vere, 18th Earl of Oxford (1593-1625, aged 32) – had no issue.

Probably named after Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton – the name ‘Henry’ being unique in the Vere, Cecil, and Trentham families. Later he “went on to become a leading nobleman in a bold, Protestant, anti-Spanish quadrumvirate of the 1620s, composed of himself and the very same noblemen to whom both the poems and First Folio of Shake-speare’s plays had and would be dedicated: Southampton, William Herbert, 3rd Earl of Pembroke and his brother Philip Herbert, 4th Earl of Pembroke (who was married to Edward’s daughter, Susan de Vere.[7]

Henry was subsequently imprisoned in the Tower in 1621 over the Spanish match – his half sister Susan used the positive vibe that would be created by the publicaton of the Shake-spear canon, with it’s emphasis on the good ol’ days, the ‘Histories’ and propaganda, to avoid Raleigh’s fate. King James signed Henry’s released from the Tower just weeks after the first recorded purchase of the First Folio in December 1623. Then it was in his best interests to marry Cecil’s great granddaughter, Diana Cecil.


Elizabeth died circa December 1612 and was buried 3 January, 1613 at Hackney. Curiously her Will of November 1612 bequeaths “unto my dombe man yearlie during his life to be paid to him by my Executors…”,[8][9] implying some kind of patsy, perhaps Guillem Shaxper, the Stratford guy.[10]

1612 – a year to remember

To shake up the family not only does Elizabeth die; there is the possible production of the Ashbourne painting of Edward; protestant saviour Prince Henry dies; so does Robert Cecil; and Henry Peacham publishes “Minerva Britanna” (goddess of wisdom and civilization, could be read as “England’s spear-shaker) with the coded “Thy name is de Vere”.[11]

Later Peacham’s put out “The Compleat Gentleman”, 1622 with its exhaustive list of Elizabethan poets. At top of list “Edward, earle of Oxford”, but no mention of Shakespeare as if to do so would be a redundancy. In the words of Louis P. Bénézet, “Could the inhabitants of Lilliput ignore Gulliver?[12]

The Lame Storyteller and His Avisa

Elizabeth was strong-willed and businesslike. She created an environment where Edward could finally settle down and write or rework his poems and plays (like “The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet” going back to when he was just 12.[13]).

“We may take the marriage of Edward de Vere with Elizabeth Trentham as synchronizing with the advent of the Shakespearean dramas … this twelve years of comfort and seclusion exactly corresponds to the period of the amazing outpouring of the great Shakespearean dramas”.[14]

After Edward married Elizabeth the name “William Shakespeare” first appeared in literature in 1593 on the dedication page of the narrative poem Venus and Adonis.

Edward was lame since sustaining a leg injury in the 1582 fray with Sir Thomas Knyvet over the honour of his niece Anne Vavasour.

In several of his works and letters he is preoccupied with lameness, “When Your Lordship shall have best time and leisure if I may know it, I will attend Your Lordship as well as a lame man may at your house.”[15]

And in the sonnets we have:

Sonnet 37
As a decrepit father takes delight,
To see his active childe do deeds of youth,
So I, made lame by Fortune’s dearest spite

Then there is Tamburlaine the Great loosely based on the life of the Central Asian emperor, Timur ‘the lame’. Put together in the mid 1580s around the same time as The Spanish Tragedy / Ur-Hamlet, when a young Christopher Marlowe would follow Thomas Watson (Edward was the dedicatee of Hekatompathia) to the Earl of Oxford’s ‘Silexedra’ at Fisher’s Folly, and run into other hangers-on and secretaries like, Thomas Kyd, Anthony Munday, John Lyly and Thomas Nashe.

Compounded with the death of Anne at just 31, things looked grim for Edward, and posterity, “except but one, the like was never seen”:

Willobie his Avisa

In September 1594 came the first allusion in English literature of Shake-spear the man known to us – the anonymous Willobie his Avisa.[16].

“And Shakespeare, paints poor Lucrece rape.”

There appears in the poem a personage, “W.S.” a friend of Willobie, who is mentioned as “an old player”:

H.W. being suddenly infected with the contagion of a fantastical fit at the first sight of A[visa], pineth with a secret grief. At length not able any longer to endure the burning heat of so fervent a humour, [H.W.] bewrayeth the secrecy of his disease to his familiar friend W.S., who not long before had tried the courtesy of the like passion – and was now newly recovered of the like infection.

Mark Anderson lays out the evidence that, H.W. = Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton, who is after W.S.’s = Edward’s woman, Avisa = Elizabeth.[17]


Brittons Bowre of Delights, 1591 – a love poem with the first letter of each line spelling out TRENTAME:[18]

Time made a stay when the highest powers wrought
Regard of love where virtue had her grace,
Excellence rare of every beauty sought
Notes of the heart where honour had her place,
Tried by the touch of the most approved truth,
A worthy saint to serve a heavenly queen,
More fair than she that was the fame of youth,
Except but one, the like was never seen.

Prime Shake-spear Canon Facilitator

The Sonnets published in 1609 are really the simplest way-in to see that Edward de Vere is William Shakespeare (and conversely a major headache for Stratos).

Elizabeth Trentham was obsessed with restoration of the Vere family seat of Castle Hedingham in Essex for their son Henry, now the 18th Earl of Oxford.

In 1591, Vere, a la King Lear (note the rhyme), had signed Castle Hedingham over to his (then young) 3 daughters in trust as a result of pressure from William Cecil Lord Burghley (their grandfather).

By 1607 this dispossession grates on Elizabeth Trentham, Henry is now 14 and needs to take his rightful place in society.

The 3 daughters have married well and don’t need Castle Hedingham.

Elizabeth was going to need a lot of money to buy out the daughters (and their husbands) more than the proceeds from the sale of King’s Place (it had been the scene of Henry VIII reconciliation with daughter, Mary; then it has a series of owners, including William Herbert, 1st Earl of Pembroke) in Hackney – where Vere spent the last years of his life writing new works and revising old ones.

Elizabeth Trentham was also going to have to sell some of her late husband’s works too.

She had access to expert advice on the literary market through Susan de Vere’s mother-in-law, Mary Sidney Herbert (mother of the “Incomparable Paire of Brethren”) and her ‘close’ friend Fulke Greville. Both edited Philip Sidney’s works for publication after his death, including Astrophel and Stella, being an important milestone in the history of the English sonnet.

Despite their individual loyalties Fulke Greville and Edward de Vere go way back at least 30 years to the early 1570s. Once when their fireworks antics in Warwick (Fulke’s hometown in Stratford on Avon) got out of hand and they had to teamed up to rescue some villagers from burning houses.

In 1608 they test the market since no Shakespeare work has been published since Vere’s death in 1604 after averaging 2 publications each year since he settled down with Elizabeth in the early 1590s. Indeed  Robert Brazil (1955-2010) notes that where before the marketing slogan for the latest Shake-spear publication was often “improved” or “newly augmented“, use of such wording in Prefaces stopped after 1604.

These Plays were mainly reworks and included King Lear (1608 – revision of 1594 – the happy ending version).

And Troilus and Cressida, 1608 [revision of A History of Agememnon and Ulysses 1584; and 1599 (and almost in 1603).

The Preface contains a strange salutation:
A never writer to an ever reader. An obvious pun,
An E. Vere writer to an E. Vere reader.

It goes on to mention the ‘grand possessors‘ of the Shake-speare works following Vere’s death 5 years earlier (remember Shaksper is still alive).

And it’s the same printer as the Sonnets, the one and only, George Eld.

Shake-speare Plays would not be enough.
They know they are going to need something special to really wow the market.

They all know about Vere’s Sonnets that were passed around these literary families for years (just like Philip Sidney’s were).

In the meantime, Elizabeth Trentham is having King’s Place cleaned and made ready for sale.

On 1 April 1609 Elizabeth Trentham was given royal permission to sell King’s Place.

Next they use William Hall as their frontman in getting the Sonnets published – Stationer’s Register 20 May 1609 – Hall also ‘procured’ A Four-Fold Meditation, 1606 – for same printer as Sonnets, viz., George Eld – Hall had with connections to Vere through Anthony Munday, Hall’s cousin; he was mixed up Munday’s/Vere’s The Mirror of Mutability 1579 also dedicated to Vere – back in their Silexedra-Bishopsgate early days – Hall a probable ‘hanger-on’ followed Vere to King’s Place.

Fulke Greville was then only too happy to make up the difference – Kings Place is then straight away in June sold by Elizabeth Trentham to him for £4,980.

Immediately, after all this on July 8, 1609, Countess Elizabeth Trentham signed papers that brought Castle Hedingham back into the de Vere family.

So either side of the publication of the Sonnets its all happening among the ‘grand possessors‘ at Hackney:
We have them ‘procured’ by a Hackneyman, Hall who had been recently married in Hackney, hence:

Mr. W.H. ALL HAPPINESSE (which can also be read as
Mr. W. HALL HAPPINESSE    on your recent marriage)

And we have the man that edited Philip Sidney’s work, Fulke Greville (very much connected to the Veres and Sidney-Herberts, but no record connects Greville to any Guillem Shaxper even though they are both from Stratford), in the thick of it.

A couple of years ago there was a news report – The Daily Telegraph – “Tomb could end riddle of Shakepseare’s true identity” – about Fulke Greville’s expensive tomb in Warwick where some Stratos thought there might be the only extant Shakespeare manuscripts – mysteriously they called off the high tech underground probe when they found out about the Edward de Vere connection to Hackney (but no similar documentary evidence whatsoever linking Greville to Shaxper).

[Rupert Murdoch is also very much connected to our project through ‘Hackney’ not just because it is where Edward de Vere wrote SHAKE-SPEARES SONNETS, but because that’s where the word ‘hack’ originates – over-used horse or coach especially for hire (they were paddocked and stabled there in the N.E. London borough of Hackney in the old days) – hence, ‘hackneyed’; ‘hack writer, and to more recently, to ‘hack’ into someone’s mobile phone!]

And of course the standard eulogy phrase OUR EVER-LIVING POET clearly tells us the poet was now dead – Edward de Vere having died 5 years earlier (Guillem Shaksper is still living for another 7 years).

Even Stratos agree there were no Sonnets written later than 1604, the year de Vere died (cf. Guillem Shaxper d. 1616).

A nice and simple place to start is Sonnet 37.
It then plugs like a main circuit cable straight into the Plays – King Leir (c. 1594) / and the later King Lear Rework.

The Merchant of Venice’s brilliant Portia is based on Elizabeth. Portia, a woman no less, was the Shake-spear canon’s greatest legal mind. Portia is de Vere’s most touching tribute.[19]

It was Elizabeth, a woman no less, again, that managed to get Castle Headingham back from the perpetually (all the way to “Bob’s your uncle” nepotism of Prime Minister Robert Cecil and the rise of his nephew, Arthur Balfour, of the namesake Declaration) power and wealth accumulating Cecils.

If Oxfordian theory of Shakespeare authorship holds water, the person to be credited most with facilitating the Shake-speare canon that we know today is the savvy primordial feminist Elizabeth Trentham.


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  1. The De Vere Society, http://www.jeremycrick.info/TrenthamPics/TrenthamTree.pdf, retrieved May 31, 2010
  2. The De Vere Society, http://www.deveresociety.co.uk/OxfordChron.html, retrieved May 31, 2010
  3. Anderson, pp. xix & 251
  4. Allen
  5. Ward
  6. The De Vere Society, http://www.deveresociety.co.uk/OxfordChron.html, retrieved May 31, 2010
  7. Wright, “Who Was Edward de Vere?” quoted by Delahoyd, http://www.wsu.edu/~delahoyd/shakespeare/bio.html, retrieved May 31, 2010
  8. Ogburn
  9. http://socrates.berkeley.edu/~ahnelson/oxdocs.html
  10. Delahoyde, Michael (2009). “The Shakspere Signatures”. Washington State University. http://www.wsu.edu/~delahoyd/shakespeare/signatures.html. Retrieved May 31, 2010.
  11. Andeson, p. 409
  12. Andeson, p. 367 and notes p.562
  13. Ogburn
  14. Looney, p.366-8
  15. Anderson, p. 291
  16. Ogburn
  17. Anderson, p. 282
  18. Anderson, p. 249, quotes Bronson Feldman, “The Secret Verses of Edward de Vere”, The Bard, 1982
  19. Anderson, pp. 251 & 296

Links & References

Elizabeth Trentham – Shakespeare’s Wife
The most underrated proto-feminist in history
by Tara & Peter Hogan
ISBN: 9780987146427

From our ‘Shake a Spear at Ignorance’ Series

WordPress Elizabeth Trentham
Tara and Peter Hogan


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