Sonnet 1: ANNE CECIL, Lady VERE, prophaned, desecrated, used with contempt

Sonnet 1, plaintextFig. 1

Sonnet 1, ANNE O. buries own BUDFig. 2

Sonnet 1, ANNE thine own BUD makst wasteFig. 3

Sonnet 1, Anne O., E.R., ERLE hid heirFig. 4      

And again:

Sonnet 1, BETH HID his bud:heireFig. 5

The blame for the death of the infant Edward Vere, 18th. Earle of Oxenforde?:

Sonnet, because of:due to BETHFig. 6

   As I was going through each of the 154 sonnets, searching for Oxford’s encyphered signature in the form of either letter-strings and consecutive two line combinations of 17 words, suggesting his title of the 17th. Earle of Oxenforde, I discovered there were seven sonnets (1, 15, 33, 66, 67, 113, 145) without any indication of Vere’s name or title.  I spent much time looking for such key words as:  Vere, Veer, Vaere, Henry, Henri, Henrie, Cecil, code, codes, secret, veil, vaile, and a host of other possible encryptions–but could find nothing.  That 147 sonnets contained either one or both of these signatures convinced me I had to pay closer attention to the plaintexts of these sonnets, as I was relatively certain in each of these plaintexts there were clues in them pertaining to the personal and/or public life of the author or authors of these sonnets.

   Beginning with the first of the seven sonnets (without demonstrable cipher/code presence), Sonnet 1, what leapt off the page for me (after I paid closer attention to the plaintext diction) is what may be a simple projection on my part; that is, I was seeing what I either wanted to see, or my view was colored by my own reaction to the emotional content of certain words, words that reeked of despair, loss of hope, “by the grave and thee”, and other elements of death and despair I discovered once one certain keyword was found within the plaintext of the sonnet, in a letter-string which made what for me were emotionally laddened words heavily felt by the sonnet’s author.  The phrase “by the grave and thee” told me, in terms of my focus on letter-strings and ciphertext, was the support the plaintext gave to a single letter-string (the only proper name I could find), as well as one of the two subjects of the sonnet.  Plaintext diction such as:  “die”, “decease”, “famine”, “thy selfe thy foe”, “cruell”, “thine owne bud buriest”, “to eate the worlds due, by the grave and thee” — this litany of what feels to this reader as a list of descriptions of death rather than procreation or birth — caused me to focus on the prepositional phrase (the last five words of Sonnet 1, and a phrase with (perhaps, or perhaps not) a phrase coincidentally composed of 17 letters:  “by the grave and thee”.

   Who, then, was the “thee”, and just what or whose “grave” is being referred to?  And what about the 17letter prepositional phrase?  In short, is Sonnet 1 an indictment of Edward de Vere, one “fewell [ed]” by anger and despair?

   Anne Cecil, Countess of Oxford (1556 – 1588), was the daughter of William Cecil (later Lord Burghley, and the leading member of Elizabeth I’s Privy Council) and Mildred Cooke.  She was a childhood friend of Edward de Vere when the twelve-year-old Edward became a ward of Queen Elizabeth (upon the sudden and unexlained death of his father, John Veer, 16th. Earl of Oxford), and was made a member of the Cecil household.

   Anne shared a similar education as did her future husband, was likely tutored by her mother, Mildred (known for her learning and translations from the Greek), and was known for her considerable knowledge of Latin, French and Italian.  She married Oxford in 1571, a mere two weeks after turning fifteen years of age.

   Historical documents present varied accounts concerning the marital relations between the teenage Anne and Oxford.  Speculation has it he had been refusing to lay with Anne since 1572, and that at one time, Oxford presumably ordered one of his servants to prevent Anne from access to his sleeping chambers.  Another account says Oxford did not sleep with his wife until October of 1574.  And still another claim is that Queen Elizabeth said de Vere (in her presence) stated the last time he had slept with his wife was at Hampton Court, also giving the October, 1574 date.  When Anne gave birth on 2 July, 1575 to their first child (Elizabeth) when he was touring the Continent, Vere’s calculations from the beginning of Anne’s pregnancy to birth told him the child could not be his.  Furthermore, sometime in April of 1576, while he was still in Paris, he was told scandalous Court gossip had it that the child was not his, and that he had been cuckholded by Anne.  Oxford bought this gossip as truth, accused her of adultery, and shunned her until they reconciled some five years later in 1582.

   That de Vere was obsessed with having a male heir is not a matter of dispute.  Following his estrangement from Anne in 1572, he later began an affair with Anne Vavasour, one of Elizabeth’s ladies-in-waiting.  An illigitimate child (Edward) was born to them in 1581.  Elizabeth sentenced them both to the Tower for a time.  Oxford was soon released, Lady Anne began corresponding with him, which led to their reconciliation in 1582, whereupon Oxford acknowledged his paternity of Elizabeth, the first of their five children together.

   What was speculation and the time (and is still considered by most to be spurious today) is the alleged affair between Edward de Vere and Queen Elizabeth which led to the birth of their love-child in 1573, shortly after Edward’s rejection of Lady Anne in 1572.  Since the birthdate of this child is 1573, the Queen’s (alleged) pregnancy likely began when Edward was allegedly refusing to sleep with Anne, to the point of disallowing her access to his bedchamber.  The child in question, of course, is Henry Wriothesley, 3rd. Earle of Southhampton.  That Anne would not have known of her husband’s relationship with Queen Elizabeth is unlikely, considering at the very least the best source of certainty in the matter was her father, Lord Burghley, a man who mopped up all de Vere’s messes from the beginning of his wardship, and did so for the rest of his life; not to speak of running similar interference for Elizabeth.  (Note: for a lengthier discussion of this matter, go to my commentary by clicking HERE.)

   One of the images that repeatedly popped into my mind as I was writing about Sonnet 1 and Anne Vere as its possible author, was that of the composer and contemporary of Beethoven, Franz Schubert (1797 – 1828).  At the time of Schubert’s death as a result of the complications of tertiary syphilis, he was virtually unknown.  His friends placed his manuscripts in a closet for safe-keeping where they were not to be found for over forty years.  Like Anne, he died in his 31st. year.

   We know that Lady Vere was well-educated and an accomplished poetess in her own right.  What we do not know is whether many of her writings, left unsigned, were subsequently attributed to others (John Soothern, perhaps even Shakespeare) on the basis of a poem’s ‘internal evidence’.

   The above is certainly a loose association, but answering questions of ‘why’ is the business of all research.  Following a ‘hunch’ is often as important as testing and retesting results of an experiment in that bits and pieces of a puzzle can add up to the verifiable.

   And so I asked myself if any other such ‘internal’ clues in Sonnet 1 exist in other sonnets that point to Anne Vere, either that she is their author or is at least being referred to by another writer?

   Can anyone say for certain all 154 sonnets represent a single voice?  The chronological order is subjective.  Were they written one after the other, consecutively, or were they organized neatly into categories; i.e., the first 17 sonnets are the ‘procreative sonnets’, and so on?  Or, were they so enumerated and categorized by a publisher, or by Horatio Vere and Ben Jonson, for example?  Is Edward de Vere being referred by his wife Anne in a sonnet written upon the death of their infant son, and/or an expression of her despair at being unable to provide her husband, Edward, a male heir?

  And do letter-strings (codes) represent the missing attribution a literal signature at the end of a piece of writing, a by-line, might offer?  Even a signature as far-fetched as a phrase with 17 letters in it might seem?  It’s intriguing to me that the 17-letter phrase in Sonnet 1 (“by the grave and thee”) can be perfectly anagrammed as:  BY THE GRAVE AND THEE  =  VERE, THY DEATH BEGAN.

   Coincidence, perhaps.  But put another way:  Could some of the sonnets without a signature-17, or a letter-string code such as VERE”, “E.VERE or DEVERE (Sonnets 76 and 30) lack these encrypted signatures for the simple fact that they are not there because some of the sonnects were written by another or others, such as Elizabeth I, Henry Wriothesley, Edward de Vere, and now Anne Cecil, Lady Oxford?  The 154 sonnets were likely gathered into a pile and given a single attribution.  The single-attribution label I believe to be wrong.

   Of the first of the arrays above, the true content in the ciphertext is given. Anne O. encrypts: “Anne O., thine owne bud buries”, strongly suggesting Sonnet 1’s plaintext is sleight of hand for a ciphertext recording the real matter of the poem: the death of her infant son Edward in 1583.

   Understandably, the two words “makst wast” comes from a place of deep grief at the loss of her child. By 1583, her husband had already had one acknowledged illegitimate son by Anne Vavasour and another not acknowledged, but suspected, son (Henry Wriothesley) by Queen Elizabeth, born in 1573. It has been suggested Anne’s father, William Cecil, Lord Burghley, placed the young Henry in the household of the Southhamptons on order from Elizabeth I. It is unlikely Anne knew nothing of both the birth and placement of this child. In this context, then, Anne was in the position of being Oxford’s legitmate wife, two women had already given birth to sons (the one by the Queen, and possibly someday to become King Henry 9 of England), and her son by Edward dies hours after birth. Her perceived value as a wife and mother of a legitimate male heir is severely compromised to the point of despair. The third array appears to record what some suspect today: that both Edward de Vere and Elizabeth I had a child together, and conspired to conceal this fact by having him hidden away.

   Furthermore, is pervasive mood of depression (possibly suicidal depression) mirrored (or ‘echoed’) in at least two passages in Hamlet, namely, Hamlet’s discussion to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern in I. II. 1340 – 1356, and in the “To be or not to be” (suicide ideation) soliloquy in Act III:

Hamlet, Lo! VERE, I, E.O. fate (depression)Fig. 7


Hamlet, Vere secrecy, depressionFig. 8

   Assuming the above is reasonably accurate, and Anne is the author of Sonnet 1, then the sonnet’s diction understandably points to depression, a depression in an age without anti-depressants and mental health resources. Untreated, it is probably such a depression might have grown into a clinical suicidal depression. If Anne’s father, Lord Burghley, was Shakespeare’s model for Polonius, then perhaps Anne was his model for Ophelia. If Hamlet is a veiled autobiography of Edward de Vere, is it possible Anne’s death of unknown causes (although some sources say she died of a fever) was in reality a suicide?

   If so, is Sonnet 66 Anne’s suicide note?

Click HERE to go to Sonnet 66


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