Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Monstrous AdversaryThe Life of Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford$

Alan H. Nelson

Print publication date: 2003

Print ISBN-13: 9780853236788

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: June 2013

DOI: 10.5949/UPO9781846313592

Show Summary Details
Page of
Subscriber: null; date: 21 March 2018



51 Prisoners
Monstrous Adversary
Liverpool University Press

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter details the continued detention of Henry Howard, Charles Arundel, and Francis Southwell. It presents letters from Arundel after he was removed to the ‘wilderness’ of Sutton in West Sussex in 1591. Arundal seems to have been released in November, after being confined for more than ten months without a formal charge, thanks to accusations by Oxford that never proceeded to trial. Howard and Southwell gained their freedom before Arundal.

Keywords:   Henry Howard, Charles Arundel, Francis Southwell, arrest, release

While Burghley helped extricate Oxford from royal wrath, Henry Howard, Charles Arundel, and Francis Southwell remained under arrest. About Easter 1581, which fell on 26 March, Arundel was removed to the ‘wilderness’ (LIB-5.3) of Sutton in West Sussex. From here, in a letter dated 1 May, he enlisted his ‘Sweet Lady’ as his London intelligencer (LIB-6.4):

yf you cold drawe your selfe to a certayne place of contynuance [i.e., residence] in London or theraboutes and so able your selfe to be corespondent to my letters from time to time as I will be with you by God his grace we shall drawe some good cowrse amonge vs profitable to souche as we tender and honorable for you to take in hand.

Like the rest of Arundel's letters, this was read by Walsingham's agents, so Arundel's ‘Lady’ was soon caught. News got back to Arundel, who wrote to her again (LIB-6.9), still unaware that he was being spied upon: ‘I vnderstand by common report of yowr disgrace and banishement’.1

On 20 July Arundel again requested official adjudication (LIB-5.5):

cravinge of charite and iustice, that my tryall, which hath ben longe promised, maye not be any longer deferred, for then [i.e., if not deferred] shall my ennemyes, syncke with shame, & I departe, out of the feilde with honor: and what soever, either malice hath vniustly buylt, or a foole devised, vppon a false ground, must playe castell cum downe, and dissolue to nothinge.

Later in the month, when news of Oxford's full freedom had filtered down to Sutton, Arundel wrote to Hatton with particular bitterness (LIB-5.7):

I trust her Maiestie will not denye you as muche favoure in the behalfe of me lightlie suspected of nothinge, and never offendinge in thought I take God to wittnesse, as she hathe latelie grawntyd vnto some others, in the behalfe of my monsterous adversarye Oxford, a parson [=person] convicted [i.e., accused] of great bestlynesse, as you knowe. yf her Maiestie vppon yowr motion pretend a pawse [=postponement], or promis to take a time as she hathe done all this while, withowte any frute, yow may wekeen that excuse by alleging my 7 monthes imprisonment, withowte ether 〈…〉 of my defence or regarde of my credit or callinge (p.274) me to answere yf she limite [i.e., determine] my restraint by Oxfords punishement first remember that owre causees are not one then that I was kept close in yowr howse fowre monthes togither when Oxford went vp and downe the towne graseinge in the pastures …

Rather than show mercy as he had been shown mercy, Oxford gave his former friends another twist of the knife. In late July or August Arundel drafted ‘A breife answer to my Lord of Oxfords slawnderous accusations’ (LIB-2.3.1). Of five new articles, 1 and 2 concern hearing of mass, which Arundel replies he had already partly confessed. Article 3, ‘That my Lord Harrye shuld be present when I presentid a certayne boke of pictures, after the manner of a prophesie and by interpretacion resemblid a crowned sone to the Qwene &c’ was the one that Arundel took most seriously and, as we have seen, was answered at greatest length. Article 4 reveals both accuser and accused at their most absurd:

That I shuld once bringe in a Iesuite to see the Qwene dawnce in her privie chamber // Christ never receave me to his mercye nor forgeve me my sinnes yf ever I spake with Iesuite muche lesse browght then to the sight of suche an exercise …

Answering Article 5, ‘that I bothe sent letters and messengers to Monsieur’, Arundel (or Walsingham's amanuensis) invokes a code-name: ‘yf hir Maiestie obiect [=put] it to X as I thinke she will not he maye best acquite me of all others as beinge best acquaynetid with his Masters intelligence’.

Mendoza's report of 10–11 September reveals that Howard had now been granted his freedom (doubtless with conditions). Mendoza writes of Don Antonio, the Portuguese pretender:2

[The Queen] sent a gentleman of her chamber to tell Lord Howard and Philip Sidney to accompany Don Antonio. The four ships were ready to leave to-day by the midday tide, but a message from the Queen came at 10 o'clock, which further delayed them, and it is expected they will sail tomorrow. The Earl of Oxford has been ordered to accompany him, but I do not venture to assert that they will go, as it depends upon these fickle people, and I fear he may still be detained here. I do not know whether he [=Don Antonio] will go to France or to the Prince of Orange, to whom he has sent two Portuguese, but I will let your Majesty know as soon as I can learn. I have advised Tassis some days ago of his intention of leaving. Four Portuguese came for him recently, having come in a poor boat from St. Ules in 18 days. They landed at Dover, and wore false beards.

Alençon has sent back to the Queen her gentleman of the chamber, Sterling [Somers?], who went over with Lord Harry [Howard].

Howard, Sidney, and Oxford were all variously instructed to see Don Antonio safely put to sea, but Mendoza is not certain he can count on the promises of these ‘fickle people’.

Southwell may also have been released by now, but Arundel made an unauthorized journey to Petworth, ten miles distant from Sutton, to hunt – perhaps at (p.275) Philip Howard's invitation – and was ordered back to Sutton. Arundel appealed to Sussex, whose letter of 19 October (LIB-5.11) tells us all we know about the episode. Thanks probably to Sussex, Arundel seems to have been released in November. He had been confined for more than ten months without a formal charge, thanks to accusations by Oxford that never proceeded to trial. Arundel's bitterness over his long incarceration and another twist of Oxford's knife is almost incandescent in a letter to Hatton apparently written in December (LIB-5.12):

my Monsterus adversarye Oxford (who wold drinke my blud rather then wine as well as he loves it) as I am credablie enformyd hathe saide in open speche and in maner of avant [=boast] since his comynge owte of troble that wheras I builte my onelie trust on the frindshipp of yowr honor he had spedd me to the purpose in bringeinge me in condemmnation of a libel that shuld be writen against you, whervnto a frind of myne [=Howard?] beinge present doubting whether I had writen this indede Oxford answerid with an othe that he cold not tell but he was verye sure that it had geven Charles his full payment. …

triall is all that I require and triall shall acquite me, and hange the villayne for sodomye that hathe no profe of anythinge but the slawneder of his one [own] blasphemowse tonge &c of this last practice against my selfe, and others more monsterous, whiche speke the fownedacion wheron I bwilte all hope, I shall one daye tell you more and make you to wonder, at that is come to light

Thus Arundel complains that Oxford had named him in public as the author of a satire against Hatton then circulating among London wits. Though the attribution may have been accurate – Arundel had a penchant for satire3 – it was scarcely the place of Oxford, a libeller since at least 1574, so to accuse another.

Fresh trouble threatened not only Arundel, but Howard, who on 3 December wrote to Walsingham from Ivy Bridge, Howard's official London residence (LIB-3.9):4

God shall be my witnesse that I am not guiltie of the leaste offence, as theie that haue most strictely ciftid [=sifted, examined] me can tell, and yet I he[a]re by common voice of a freshe attempte to shake and vndermine my libertie Since my laste waytinge on youe, I haue bene often menacid, that roddes wear in preparinge for me, notwithstanding all the labor of my frendes

Howard's accuser and threatener, like Arundel's, was doubtless Oxford. A presumably contemporary letter from Howard to Hatton, also from Ivy Bridge, seems to continue the complaint (LIB-3.10):

God I take to witnes, and as manye as were present, that in this matter, I gaue no more cause of iust offence to any man, then hee that was as farr from Grenewich at that instant, as my self was from London:

Evidently Howard had been charged with misconduct at Greenwich by Oxford, who had been in London at the time, and who was thus a mere retailer of hearsay.


(1) Chambers (1936), p. 155, and Peck (1985), p. 272, argue that Arundel's ‘Lady’ may have been Anne Vavasor, but Arundel's letters to the lady (LIB-6.1–9) make such a hypothesis untenable.

(2) CSP Spanish, 1580–86, p. 172.

(3) See Peck (1985), p. 31, discussing the authorship of Leicester's Commonwealth. My own belief is that Arundel wrote only the ‘Continuation’ (pp. 228–48).

(4) Nicolas, p. 137, misidentifies Ivy Bridge as the town of that name in Devonshire.