Saturday, June 25, 2011

Tudor Tart: Elizabeth Vernon, Countess of Southampton


 Lady Elizabeth Vernon, daughter of Sir John Vernon and Elizabeth Devereux was a cheif Lady-in-Waiting to Queen Elizabeth I in her later reign. After an illicit tryst, Elizabeth discover she was pregnant. Who was the baby's daddy? There are two theories:

1) The most obvious father is the man who stepped forward and illegally married Elizabeth without the Queen's permission: Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton.

Henry Wriothesley

When it was discovered that the two had wed and Elizabeth was with child, the Queen had both thrown in prison. Eventually the two were released and went on to have three more children. However, the Queen never really forgave them.

2) The other possible baby-daddy is none other than William Shakespeare. This theory was proposed by a German historian, Hildegard Hammerschmidt-Hummel, and is based on an apocryphal sonnet possibly written by William Shakespeare (though no one knows for sure). In the sonnet, "Shakespeare" finds himself caught in a love-triangle between a Dark Lady (Elizabeth) and a Fair Young Man (Southampton). Southampton was in fact a friend of the bard's as well as his literary patron. One may ask just how far his patronage exceeded...

Hammerschmidt-Hummel basis her theory not only on Shakespeare's possible authorship of the sonnet, but also on a previously unidentified portrait of the "Dark Lady," as actually being a portrait of Elizabeth. What do you think?

The real Elizabeth Vernon
The "Dark Lady"

Even at the time of the affair, the paternity of Elizabeth's child was in question. Southampton was in the process of going (and actually leaving on) a long voyage roughly nine months before the child was born. He returned and married Elizabeth 10 weeks before the child's birth.Will was around during that time and, according to the theory, comforted Elizabeth at the temporary loss of her lover.

The historian also states that Shakespeare's later theme of the "lost daughter" was a sign of his paternity of Elizabeth's daughter.

Elizabeth's daughter, Penelope
Whoever the father was, Elizabeth married Southampton. Of course, Shakespeare was already married, but even if he wasn't why would a Lady of Elizabeth's social standing give up the chance to marry an Earl to marry a Bard?

Now it is up to you to judge. Was Elizabeth marrying her love-child's father or did she marry some poor chump, proving herself to be a stuck-up Tudor Tart? Pin It

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like they needed Maury Povich back then lol. The daughter does favor William's rounder face though.

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