Connections in the Shakespeare Nexus

This is a long list of short bios for a handful of family lines that share connections to Edward de Vere and William Shakspere of Stratford-on-Avon.  It essentially serves as an overview of material which will be explored with documentation in future posts. Hopefully once it is complete with supporting documentation and links it will be a useful research tool for those studying the authorship question. This is not a complete genealogy of these families, just characters and connections that in some way impact understanding of the authorship question.

When we look at the people in the nexus between Edward de Vere and William Shakspere, we are looking in the same direction as the author of the Shakespearean plays. It is known that the Arden relations of Shakspere and the Sheldon associations of Oxford drew the two intriguingly close together. At the Oxford Authorship Site Nina Green has documented multiple connections in the area of the Sheldon family and their relations, including Russells, Savages and Lygons. There are also curious references to the Vaux family in the plays, and connections that have previously been overlooked. Since all of these families intersect with or near the Throckmorton clan of Coughton, from this data we can create one great, though truncated family tree that is filled with clues and connections. Since the template does not support outlines, this “cast list” is the result.

Authorship connections are highlighted in green. Scrapes with authority and the law are flagged with red. This will help readers to scan for areas of special interest. Note: Since supporting Roman Catholic priests or hearing a Roman mass was illegal for most of this period, these activities will fall under the latter category. 

Sir William Vaux of Great Harrowden: Lancastrian who died in the Battle of Tewksbury in the War of the Roses. The character Vaux who delivers a message to Queen Margaret of Anjou in 2 Henry VI is thought to represent Sir William Vaux. It is important to note that this publication predates the career of his descendant John Fletcher.

Katherine Peniston: It was an apt characterization because the knight’s wife was in fact Margaret of Anjou’s maid-in-waiting. She accompanied her Queen into exile in France, leaving their children effectively orphaned by the War of the Roses.

Joan or Jane Vaux: The Vaux children were raised in the household of Henry VII’s mother Margaret Beaufort. Joan became “Mother Guildford”, the well-loved Governess who accompanied Mary Tudor on her journey to marry Louis XII of France and was admired by Erasmus for her learning (though not by the French King who sent the pious lady back across the channel). The Vaux Passional, now in the collection of the National Library of Wales, is a beautiful medieval manuscript in its original crimson velvet binding that passed from the English royals to “Mother Guildford”, and at one point was inscribed with her son Henry Guildford’s name before it was passed on to her nephew Thomas, the 2nd Lord Vaux and eventually wound up in the library of Kenelm Digby, the child of a Gunpowder Plotter, and was passed on to his descendants. The illustrated passional expresses well the devout religiosity that was as pronounced in the family as a love for theater and poetry.


Sir Henry Guildford: Son of Richard Guildford and Joan Vaux. Master of Horse and comptroller for Henry VIII’s household, he was known for his production of masques and may have wanted the job of Lord Chamberlain, whose role he playfully usurped in Henry VIII, Act I, Scene IV, a very apt characterization however stern he appeared in the painting by family friend Hans Holbein the Younger.


Warning his man Sandys that he doesn’t want to be late because the Cardinal had assigned him and Henry Guildford “to be comptrollers” or managers of the night’s festivities, the Lord Chamberlain arrives to find Guildford entertaining Anne Boleyn and her ladies as MC.

“O, my lord, you’re tardy,” he tells the Lord Chamberlain. “The very thought of this fair company clapp’d wings to me.”

The Lord Chamberlain replies, “You are young, Sir Harry Guildford.”

Young, though not as impertinent as Lord Sandys (Sands), a future Lord Chamberlain, who tells Anne Boleyn, “If I chance to talk a little wild, forgive me. I had it from my father.”

Anne: Was he mad, sir?

Sands: O, very mad, exceeding mad, in love too:

But he would bite none; just as I do now,

He would kiss you twenty with a breath.

Kisses her

The impertinency in this case is revealed by stylometric analysis to belong to John Fletcher, who was a descendant of Guildford’s uncle Nicholas Vaux. 

Sir Nicholas Vaux, 1st Baron Vaux of Harrowden: Heir of his father Sir William Vaux. His respectfully overseeing the logistics of the Duke of Buckingham’s transport as a prisoner was an apt characterization in Henry VIII, and was also by stylometric analysis written by his own descendant John Fletcher.


Knight Banneret, Lieutenant of Guisnes and no nonsense project manager who supervised the ingenious stage set that was the Palace of Crystal at the Field of Cloth of Gold, he was said to be “a great reveller, good as well in a March as a Masque.” It is surprising that Fletcher did not play up his great-great-great grandfather’s role in the Field of the Cloth of Gold, considering that the Duke of Norfolk was given all the glory of association for an event that he never even attended! Yet in a curious way this would always be the fate of Nicholas Vaux. After a lifetime devoted to the Lancastrian cause, this foster brother of Henry VII was finally issued a long overdue barony by Henry VIII shortly before the elderly soldier passed away. He left that hard won barony to his son Thomas.

2nd lord vaux

Sir Thomas Vaux, 2nd Baron Vaux of Harrowden: The 1st baron’s son was a courtier poet. With four different official state religions in 11 years and at times severe penalties for those who would not or could not turn on cue, Thomas Vaux chose to retreat from the House of Lords and court life soon after Queen Elizabeth ascended the throne. After his death, his poetry appeared in Tottel’s Miscellany with works by Henry Howard, the Earl of Surrey, a son of that Cloth of Gold glory-stealing Duke of Norfolk. Like so many, Surrey was executed by Henry VIII and his father the Duke of Norfolk escaped execution only by the death of “Bloody Harry”.  

Decades later these poets were published together again in The Paradise of Dainty Devices (1576), an anthology that included seven poems by E.O., the 17th Earl of Oxford, a nephew of  the executed “Poet Earl” of Surrey. The Earl of Surrey with his friend Sir Thomas Wyatt developed the form of English Sonnet later used by Shakespeare while their contemporary the Lord Vaux pioneered the use of the “Venus and Adonis” style of stanza. One poem written by Lord Vaux was later adapted without attribution as the grave digger’s song in Hamlet.


Even if we discount the two Fletcher insertions, Shakespeare has shown a particular interest in the Vaux family including Sir William Vaux in 2 Henry VI and the 2nd Lord Vaux in the form of a lyric in Hamlet. As we will see another Vaux relation — a contemporary — is referenced rather stunningly in 3 Henry VI. What was Shakespeare’s connection to this family?

William Vaux, 3rd Baron Vaux of Harrowden: Owner of a theater troupe and a bearward, William Vaux perhaps shared the creative gene of his predecessors but his life got a little sidetracked after 1581 when he was arrested and convicted for harboring the charismatic Jesuit priest Edmund Campion. After release he was restricted to the pale of London so the family lived from the mid 1580s through mid 1590s at a Hackney estate that is believed to have been King’s Place with its professional “Little John” Owen style priest hide. The Father Weston Exorcism circle began at the Vaux house in Hackney. The names of demons like “Hobbididence” and “Flibbertigibbet” used in King Lear stemmed from these exorcisms, which moved among other places to the home on Cannon Row of Henry Fiennes Clinton, the 2nd Earl of Lincoln. As Clinton was the stepfather of Oxford’s son-in-law Francis Norrys, the Baron of Rycote, and de Vere’s second wife Elizabeth Trentham purchased King’s Place as their primary residence we might wonder whether Oxford took an interest in those exorcisms even before we know that the 3rd Lord Vaux’s second wife stayed with them for a while at King’s Place. The exorcisms ended with the discovery of the Babington Plot, hardly surprising when Anthony Babington’s servant was one of those exorcised at the Vaux house and an exorcist, John Ballard, acted as a recuiter for the other endeavor — placing Mary Queen of Scots on the throne of England.



Elizabeth Beaumont: The 1st wife of the 3rd Baron Vaux was an aunt of the literary Beaumont brothers. After her widowed husband remarried and produced a large family, the children of the first marriage were sent to Elizabeth’s mother to be raised in the hauntingly beautiful Grace Dieu priory where the Beaumont brothers later grew up. Francis Beaumont was the writing partner of Shakespeare collaborator John Fletcher, also a kinsman. 


It was just a coincidence that in 1571, the same year that the Lord Vaux sent Henry and his sisters up to the Grace Dieu or Grace of God priory, Oxford secured a ship called the Grace of God and was trying to hire Martin Frobisher to sail to the rescue of his doomed soon to be executed cousin the Duke of Norfolk, imprisoned in the wake of the the Northern Rising and Ridolfi Plot though his only proven “crime” was planning to wed Mary Queen of Scots. Since the Pope had issued a bull excommunicating Elizabeth I and calling for the overthrow of that “pretended Queen”, a succession of plots would follow that would devastate some of the family lines in this Nexus and had to affect Shakespeare’s view of the world as well.   

Henry Vaux: Poet, prodigy, a former home-schooled student of the charismatic Campion, later a friend of the Jesuit poet Robert Southwell. His early poetry would be preserved in a handwritten manuscript that collected together the works of  a trio of martyrs for the Roman Catholic cause: besides Henry Vaux, the executed Jesuit Robert Southwell and Philip Howard, the Earl of Arundel, son of the slain Duke of Norfolk who died in prison. The effects of living in the religious isolation of Grace Dieu, with its own model of the Garden of Gethesme in the rear of the priory, is evident in the vivid precocity of his translation from Latin of the Passion story at age 13, or in the blurred lines of empathic identification in A Complaint to the Nightingale. Consider his description of the seizure of Christ in the Garden of Gethesme, supposed to be written in his late teens before he had ever been imprisoned: 

“Of all his dear Disciples soon forsaken,

With battes, with billes, with glaives and many a light,

Helpless alone my liberty was taken,

Fast bound, and brought in furious wise by night…”

By 19, he was a member of the covert Catholic Courtier Group. He gave up the right to the barony so he could lead a contemplative life but the job of treasurer and defacto head of the underground movement supporting the priests in England fell to him until his arrest in a raid at the Hackney estate. Henry caught consumption in the Marshalsea prison and was released to die in the care of his sisters, Eleanor and Anne, and of the Jesuits to whose cause all three would devote their lives. He was not yet 30 years old.  

Eleanor Vaux and Edward Brooksby: Also tutored as a child by Edmund Campion, Eleanor married Catholic Courtier Group member Edward Brooksby. The couple had children but continued to work for the cause. In fact when the Jesuit Father Robert Persons first made contact with the secretive brotherhood in London, it was with Thomas Pound in the Marshalsea prison, a relative of Southampton’s, and he called on Eleanor Vaux’s husband Edward Brooksby to escort Persons to the Catholic safe house. Brooksby also supplied the house that was used for the first secret Jesuit press in London. After his death Eleanor would devote her efforts and resources to protecting the Jesuits. Persons role as head of the mission would be taken over by the “exorcist” Father Weston so family members were key figures every step of the way in the Jesuit mission to reclaim England for the Roman Church.

Elizabeth Vaux: Became a nun in Rouen

Anne Vaux: Intrepid never married Jesuit protector, especially of Father Henry Garnet who succeeded as head of the Jesuit mission in England after Weston’s arrest. Since Eleanor was terrified of the pursuivants or priest hunters, Anne would sometimes appear as “Mrs. Brooksby”, once playing the genteel English hostess over a greatly drawn out breakfast in order to keep pursuivants busy long enough to give the servants time to hide priests and mass items elsewhere in the house. She just as skillfully and fearlessly handled interrogators when detained in the Tower over the Gunpowder Plot which involved her cousins. Anne had feared the “hotheads” were up to no good when she saw warhorses in the stables during a pilgrimage a large group took to the shrine of St Winefride’s Well in Holywell, a trip that included plotter Everard Digby and his wife. and warned Father Garnet who was able to reassure her after he spoke to Robert Catesby that there was no cause for concern. In reality her younger male cousins were preparing to launch the Gunpowder Plot on an unsuspecting world and Catesby had recruited Digby during the trip. it was Everard Digby’s son who would later add the Vaux Passional to his library.  

Mary Tresham: 2nd wife of the 3rd Lord Vaux, sister of Thomas Tresham. Her brother was arrested with her husband the 3rd Lord Vaux for harboring the Jesuit Edmund Campion. As a widow she stayed at King’s Place for a time with the Countess of Oxford, Elizabeth Trentham, when the Earl of Oxford should have been living there as well. Possibly required to live near London, as was the case when her husband was alive, but may also have been estranged from her step daughters and daughter-in-law who were feuding with her brother Thomas Tresham over finances. 

Eliza Vaux (nee Roper): Widow of George, a son of the 3rd Lord Vaux and Mary Tresham, mother of the underage 4th Baron Vaux. Descendent of the statesmen, lawyer, humanist writer and beheaded martyr Sir Thomas Moore through his daughter Margaret Roper. She commandeered the Vaux estate of Harrowden and at one point opened a school on the premises. She was a central Jesuit protector, most closely associated with Father Oswald Tesimond and was questioned over a letter suggesting foreknowledge of the Gunpowder Plot.

The preceding traced the lines of a single son descended from the second marraige of the 1st Lord Vaux. What follows is the line of descent through a daughter of his first wife.

1st wife of 1st Baron Vaux, Lady Elizabeth Fitzhugh: Grandmother of Queen Katherine Parr. She was first married to Sir William Parr of Kendall. Their children were:

John Parr who married Constance Vere, daughter of Sir Henry Vere of Addington & Isabella Tresham, (Only shared a descent from Aubrey De Vere II with Oxford).

Anne Parr who married Thomas Cheney of Irthlingborough whose daughter Elizabeth Cheney married the 2nd Baron Vaux

Sir William Parr, 1st Baron Parr of Horton who married Mary Salisbury, parents of:

  •  Maud Parr married Sir Ralph Lane of Orlingbury. Their son Sir Ralph Lane was an early governor of Virginia.
  • Mary Parr married Sir John Digby of Ketilby.
  • Anne Parr married Sir Thomas Tresham I, under Mary I the last Grand Prior of the Knights of St. John in England. Their daughter was Isabella Tresham who married Henry Vere of Addington and was mother of Constance who married John Parr. Their son was John Tresham who married Eleanor Catesby and had Thomas Tresham, the English “Moses” and Mary Tresham who married the 3rd Lord Vaux.

Sir Thomas Parr married Maud Greene, sister of the second wife of his stepfather the 1st Baron Vaux. His children were:

  • Katherine Parr, who married Henry VIII
  • William Parr, the 1st Marquess of Northamptonshire and 1st earl of Essex
  • Anne Parr who married William Herbert, 1st Earl of Pembroke.
    • Their son was Henry Herbert, the 2nd Earl of Pembroke who married Mary Sidney. They had:
      • William Herbert, the 3rd Earl of Pembroke
      • Philip Herbert, the 1st Earl of Montgomery, later 4th Earl of Pembroke, who married Edward de Vere’s daughter Susan de Vere.

The two brothers were the dedicatees of Shakespeare’s First Folio, probably its financiers and as they held a lock on the office of Lord Chamberlain and the Revel’s Office by that time certainly approved its publication. 

Katherine Vaux: The daughter of Lady Fitzhugh and the 1st Baron Vaux was, through her mother’s first marriage, a half-sister of Queen Katherine Parr’s father Sir Thomas Parr just as she was a half sister of the Poet Baron Vaux. Since her half brother Thomas Parr had married her stepmother’s sister, or an aunt of the 2nd Lord Vaux, the ties of these lines were doubly reinforced. A strong and resourceful woman Katherine oversaw an estate with over a hundred rooms in Coughton and gave birth to her 19th child while her husband was in the Tower. She is thought to have obtained the help of Parr relations to get him freed, though her niece was not yet Queen.

Sir George Throckmorton of Coughton Court: An MP, early on he was an opponent of the King’s plan to divorce Katherine of Aragon and marry Anne Boleyn, though he toned it down after being warned by his enemy the Lord Chancellor Cromwell. Even so he was twice arrested and held in the Tower of London under Henry VIII. The first arrest was for passing papers to other MPs that gave information about the Lincolnshire and Yorkshire Rebels’ demands which a colleague’s servant then leaked into the wider community.

The second arrest was under the pretext of a possibly apocryphal story. Asked to speak frankly to the King about his concerns he supposedly said that he had heard that the king “meddled both with the mother and the sister” of Anne Boleyn.

“Never with the mother,” Henry VIII was said to have replied.

“Nor never with the sister neither, so put that out of your mind,” Archbishop Wolsey protested.

This story was repeated by an acquaintance being interrogated in the Tower and Throckmorton was again arrested. By the time of the second arrest the crown had seized control of the churches in England, their assets confiscated and nuns and priests turned out into the streets. The real thrust of interrogations concerned the fact that his half brother Michael Throckmorton had self-exiled to the camp of Henry VIII’s relation Cardinal Pole who was overseeing massive protests of the king’s actions from over the channel. These marches, known as the Pilgrimage of Grace, involved great masses of people who linked arms and sang as they wandered barefoot around the country carrying banners depicting the Five Wounds of Christ. Many of Sir Throckmorton’s friends and associates were executed by the crown for their role in the risings and protests of the period, including Sir John Hussey of Sleaford, father of the Bridget Hussey who became the indomitable Countess of Rutland and Bedford and of Elizabeth Hussey who married Sir George’s son Robert. Sir George emphatically disowned his “unnatural” half-brother Michael and against high odds was released a second time from the Tower and was allowed to return home to his beloved wife, 19 children and wider family living in the haven of Coughton Court. Cardinal Pole’s brother, the Lord Montague, and their nobly descended elderly mother were not so lucky. Both were executed.

Sir Robert Throckmorton of Coughton Court, Heir to his father Sir George Throckmorton, he was favored as an MP and High Sheriff of Warwickshire under Queen Mary but retreated to the life of a powerbroker in the shire after Elizabeth came to power. When Sir Robert’s protestant brothers brought the information about Henry VIII’s demise to Mary she said she “durst have hazarded the hap” if Sir Robert had delivered the information. Conservative Catholic patriarch of Coughton Court less than 10 miles from Stratford-on-Avon.


Muriel Berkeley: Sir Robert Throckmorton of Coughton’s first wife, daughter of the 5th Lord Berkeley, sister of the 6th.

Sir Thomas Throckmorton of Coughton Court: Succeeded father in holding the family seat at Coughton. Married Mary Whorewood. Despite being to all appearances loyal to the crown and law abiding, he was heavily fined for recusancy or refusal to go to the official church and was arrested multiple times, rounded up with family members in cases of national crisis like the Spanish Armada. His wife Mary kept excellent records of the raids and fines that the family was subject to during the time she was the lady of Coughton Court. It was with Thomas that his sister Mary, the widow of Edward Arden and his niece Margaret Somerville found shelter after the Somerville Plot. When Coughton was raided, in 1593 his sister Mary Arden and her servants were imprisoned for recusancy. Thomas was overseas in 1605 but allowed Everard Digby to rent Coughton Court in his absence. 

Anne Throckmorton: A daughter of Sir Robert Throckmorton and Muriel Berkeley. Anne married Sir Ralph Sheldon of Beoley.


Sir Ralph Sheldon of Beoley: Following his brothers-in-laws’ arrests for harboring Campion, he publicly and under great pressure renounced his Catholicism but remained a “Church Papist”. Listed by priest Hugh Hall in the wake of the Somerville Plot as a past harborer. Denounced by his daughter’s husband Sir John Russell of Strensham as a Catholic in court and fielded physical attacks from a gang sent out to their estate. A cousin of his son’s wife, Sir John Harington of Kelso, Queen Elizabeth’s “saucy” Godson defended Sir Ralph Sheldon in The Metamorphosis of AjaxSir Ralph Sheldon was the father-in-law of Oxford’s close brother-in-law, Francis Trentham. 

Edward Sheldon and Elizabeth Markham: Sir Ralph’s heir married Elizabeth Markham, sister of the Bye Plot’s Griffin Markham, first cousin of Anthony Babington as well as of Sir John Harrington, Queen Elizabeth’s “saucy” godson. Sir John defended Elizabeth and Edward’s fathers from persecution in the Metamorphosis of Ajax.

William Sheldon: The son of Edward Sheldon and Elizabeth Markham owned a rare surviving copy of the original run of Shakespeare’s First Folio of plays now in the Folger Shakespeare Library.

Katherine Sheldon and Francis Trentham: Sir Sheldon’s daughter married Francis Trentham in the same year that Trentham’s sister Elizabeth married Edward de Vere. Francis Trentham helped his sister purchase King’s Place, at the end of Oxford’s life was assigned, with Oxford’s son-in-law Lord Francis Norrys, the stewardship of the Forest of Essex. Thought to have served as a financial advisor who helped to stabilize Oxford’s income.

Elizabeth Sheldon: Her marriage with Sir John Russell of Strensham failed quite publicly. He attacked her father’s house, denounced Sheldon in court and even disinherited his own children for a time.  

Sir John Russell of Strensham. Distant relation of the Earls of Bedford but raised in wardship in the Earl’s household. In other words he was raised by the Countess of Rutland and Bedford, the sister of Sir Robert Throckmorton’s late wife, whose granddaughter Elizabeth Sheldon he married and then divorced. In 1581 her devoutly Catholic grandfather Sir Robert Throckmorton had passed away which may have made it easier for the Countess to reach across the aisle to her sister’s side of the family when securing her ward’s marriage. They had not taken into consideration the continued covert Catholicism of the bride’s family or the intolerance of the groom. Sir John Russell divorced his wife, accusing his father-in-law of Catholicism a handful of years before Trentham married his ex wife’s sister. The battles were still raging in 1591 when Francis Trentham married into the family and the Earl of Oxford, in turn, became his brother-in-law.

The Bedford Earls’ London home was across the street from where Oxford grew up at Cecil House on the Strand. Like Oxford, the Earls of Rutland and Bedford were raised in wardship in the house of Lord Burghley, as was their friend the Earl of Southampton and, for a shorter period, the Earl of Essex. It is no coincidence that the only other Earls who joined Essex and Southampton in the Essex Rebellion of 1601 were those two stepsons of the Countess of Rutland and Bedford and her grandaughter’s husband, the Earl of Sussex.

This gave Sir John Russell some interesting if inconclusive connections in the nexus. Yet John Russell’s half brother was Thomas Russell who decades later would be the overseer of William Shakspere’s will. Thomas Russell’s stepson Leonard Digges would be one of the few tapped to provide a commendatory verse for the First Folio collection of the Shakespearean plays which would be dedicated to Oxford’s son-in-law Philip Herbert, the Earl of Montgomery and his brother, William Herbert, the Earl of Pembroke.

After the father of Sir John Russell and Thomas Russell died, his widow, Thomas Russell’s mother Margaret Lygon, went on to marry Sir Henry Berkeley of Bruton. Margaret Lygon herself belongs in his nexus. Her son Sir Maurice Berkeley of Bruton (b. 1577) was arrested with the Earl of Southampton and Henry Neville on June 24 1604, the day that the Earl of Oxford reportedly died. Her 1st cousin Francis Savage married Sir Ralph Sheldon’s sister Anne. Margaret Lygon and Henry Berkeley had two sons, Maurice and Henry Berkeley, who were sent up to join their half brother Thomas “the overseer” in studies at Queen’s College, Oxford. The elder of the two half brothers, Maurice Berkeley would marry Elizabeth Killegrew, a cousin of the wife of his friend Henry Neville, and the younger brother Henry would marry Henry Neville’s daughter. Caught up in the Essex Rebellion former French Ambassador Neville would spend as long as Southampton in the Tower. Both would be released in the reign of King James I . Maurice Berkeley and Henry Neville were MPs in the fractious first Parliament of King James and it was said in his Parliament Online biography that it was Maurice who “turned” the tide against the King’s plans to unify Scotland and England. On the night of Oxford’s mysteriously occluded death, Midsummer 1604, Southampton, Henry Neville and Maurice Berkeley as well as the Baron Danvers and a Lee were swept up for arrest. An unknown informer had accused the men of planning to kill Scots courtiers surrounding the King. A contemporary historian would later claim that this informer was Robert Cecil, Neville’s wife’s cousin, Oxford’s brother-in-law from his first marriage. 

On the Sheldon side, Nina Green has collected a slew of authorship clues. Sir Ralph Sheldon’s sister Anne’s second marraige was to Anthony Daston and their daughter together, Anne Daston, married Ralph Huband who sold a 1/2 share in the Stratford-on-Avon tithes to William Shakspere in 1605.  

Anne had first married Francis Savage who was a first cousin of Margaret Lygon. Their Son Walter Savage married Elizabeth Hall whose subseqent husband Simon Underhill was the son of William Underhill. William Underhill was raised as a ward of the Privy Councilor, Sir Christopher Hatton and was also the man who sold New Place for far less than market value to William Shakspere in 1597. Simon Underhill was therefore the son of the man who sold Shakspere newplace and the brother of Hercules Underhill who confirmed the sale in 1602. Another brother Fulke Underhill had murdered their father shortly after the sale, for which he was hanged in 1599. It was these “peculiar circumstances” that caused “some doubt on the validity of the original purchase” and the need for Hercules Underhill and Shakspere to later confirm the purchase and possibly agree on an additional settlement. 

Mary Savage, a daughter of Anne Sheldon and Francis Savage married John Washbourne and they were the parents of William Washbourne who with the Globe shareholder and Kingsmen actor Henry Condell in 1617 purchase property in Brockhampton, Gloucestershire from a nephew of Mary Savage and grandson of Francis Savage, John Savage of Broadway. When Mary died her husband John Washbourne married a daughter of Margaret Lygon’s brother. Margaret had first married Sir Thomas Russell of Strensham, father of John Russell. Her brother Richard had married Mary Russell, a daughter of Sir Thomas Russell and a sister of Sir John Russell of Strensham. Eleanor Lygon, a daughter of Richard Lygon and Mary Russell had married Mary Savage’s widower John Washbourne.

Elizabeth Hussey: Sir Robert Throckmorton of Coughton’s second wife was the former Lady Hungerford. Despite appeals to Lord Chancellor Cromwell, her 1st husband kept her imprisoned in the Tower in Hungerford Castle while her father Sir John Hussey was himself in the Tower of London and ultimately executed but Hungerford was accused of “bockery” and dealing with conjurers to know how long the king would reign and was executed alongside Henry VIII’s by then fallen enforcer, the Lord Cromwell, a man against whom Lord Rich and his kinsman Sir George Throckmorton were happy to testify. Freed from Hungerford Tower by her first husband’s death, Elizabeth Hussey then married Sir George’s son the widower Sir Robert Throckmorton of Coughton.

Mary Throckmorton: Born when half sister Anne was an infant, Mary Throckmorton grew up to marry a second cousin of Mary Arden who lived in Wilmcote less than ten miles from Coughton Court. She was convicted in the Somerville Plot of 1583 but her execution was stayed and she was freed. Returned with her daughter and grandchildren to the shelter of Coughton Court under under the shelter of her brother Thomas Throckmorton, her home of Park Hall having been seized. In the 90s she and her servants were charged with recusancy after a raid of Coughton Court by pursuivants of the crown.

Sir Edward Arden of Park Hall: The eminent Sir Arden was executed over the Somerville plot. After his son-in-law Jon Somerville was arrested, it was discovered that Arden was harboring the priest the Hugh Hall. The historian Dugdale recorded that Arden was “prosecuted with so great rigour and violence” because he had refused to wear Leicester’s livery when he was High Sheriff of Warwickshire and suggested that Leicester had relations with Lettice Knollys before her husband, the Earl of Essex, had died. Arden was a second cousin of William Shakspere’s mother, born Mary Arden in Wilmcote. Ardens in Warwickshire were harassed by Justice of the Peace Lucy following the Throckmorton and Somerville Plots which may have prompted Shakspere, the son of a local Arden, to leave the shire, rather than for the apocryphal deer poaching story.

Margaret Arden: Their daughter was also convicted in the Somerville Plot but her execution was stayed and she was freed. Returned to Coughton Court with her mother and children where they were later harassed for harboring the accoutrements of a “Popish Mass”.

John Somerville: He headed to London with a pistol threatening to kill the Queen in the pressured aftermath of the Throckmorton Plot which involved his mother-in-law’s cousins. Said to have strangled himself in the Tower on the night before his scheduled execution. His father-in-law’s priest Hugh Hall who was said to have inflamed his mind and worked at Park Hall under the guise of a gardener, at one time worked for Privy Councilor Hatton, the only Catholic leaning member of the Leicester faction.  And the priest who was involved in both the Throckmorton and Somerville Plots, the one who had worked for Hatton and under questioning implicated Arden, Ralph and William Sheldon, John Throckmorton as well as the Oxford’s brother-in-law, the 3rd Lord Windsor, as his harborers? He walked free.

Shakespeare included a walk on role as messenger for a “Sir” John Somerville in the War of the Roses in 3 Henry VI, the only messenger given a name and individual entrance.

“Say Somerville, what says my loving son?” The scene takes place in Coventry. The Duke of Warwick has already been informed of the whereabouts of Montague and Oxford, ancestors of Henry Wriothesley and Edward de Vere who  were both relatives and military commanders under the command of Warwick, while Shakspere’s relation is a messenger.  With Somerville’s response we know that they are all in towns ranging south of Coventry. Somerville hailed from Edstone, two towns above Stratford-on-Avon and Coventry is less than 20 miles away. That was pretty brave of Shakspere, resurrecting a dead disgraced assassin as a knight on the side of the Lancastrian good guys, especially considering that his father’s request to quarter the atteinted noble Arden coat of arms with the new Shakespeare coat of arms had been denied in 1599. 

Catherine Arden: Another daughter was married to Edward Devereaux, who had to wait until the reign of King James I to become the 1st Baron of Castle Bromwich. Edward Devereaux was a great uncle of Robert Devereaux, the rebel Earl of Essex, and served as trustee for his son the 3rd Earl of Essex. 

Anne Throckmorton: Shared the same name as her half-sister who was only a few years older. This may indicate that the first Anne was taken to live with the Berkeleys after her mother’s death, but not necessarily so. This Anne married Sir William Catesby.

Sir William Catesby: Ward of Sir Robert at Coughton, later married his daughter. Arrested with his brother-in-law Tresham and wife’s cousin Lord Vaux and tried in 1581 for harboring Campion over the previous year. When William Shakspere’s father signed a handwritten testament of faith of a kind that Campion was known to distribute in the early months of his 1580 mission, it is theorized that it was at a sermon preached at Catesby’s Lapworth residence that the elder Shakspere may have been exposed to the charismatic Jesuit.

Robert Catesby: Essex rebel and charismatic Catholic widower who conceived of the idea of blowing up Parliament and the royal family of King James, feeling that “so sharp a remedy” was necessary to end the persecution of Catholics. After the death of his protestant wife, born Catherine Leigh, and disappointed when King James’s promises of tolerance instead gave way to increased persecutions of Catholics, he drew in a string of cousins and associates to blow up Westminster on the 1st day of Parliament. The soldier Guy Fawkes would take the blame in history for what was actually Catesby’s mission. 

Elizabeth Catesby: It is said that his sister Elizabeth married the Gunpowder Plotter Thomas Wintour and this is possible but not confirmed by the records. 

Anne Catesby: Anne married Sir Henry Browne, a half uncle of Southampton. He was raised with his half-siblings the Countess of Southampton and Lord Montague in the family estate of “Little Rome”. Son of the 1st Lord Montague and Magdalene Dacre.

Muriel Throckmorton: The next of Sir Robert Throckmorton’s daughters also married a man who was raised in wardship at Coughton Court, Sir Thomas Tresham.

Sir Thomas Tresham: Heir of namesake grandfather who was the last Grand Prior of the Knights of St John in England following the order’s restoration under Mary I until it was disbanded under Elizabeth. Knighted at Kenilworth festivities 1576. His wily prevaricating defense was not enough to keep himself, Catesby and Vaux from from conviction for harboring Campion in 1581. The “English Moses” was imprisoned seven years for the first offense and arrested again in 1597 and 1599. A fierce protector and financial manager of his brother-in-law the 3rd Lord Vaux, he became the gatekeeper battling over money with the female Jesuit supporters in the family. Creator of the triangular metaphysical lodge known as the Rushton Triangular Tower. Despite all, known for his loyalty and promotion of toleration for loyal Catholics. Led an ecumenical group of Catholics and Puritans that read the proclamation declaring James I King of England in Northamptonshire. 


Francis Tresham, Essex Rebel, employed as an usher at Essex House, guarded officials imprisoned at Essex House, giving the rebels a head start to London. Robert Cecil named Tresham at the Essex trial as one of the Earl of Essex’s “chiefest councilors”. A reluctant participant in the Gunpowder Plot, tapped by cousin Catesby after the senior Tresham died and Francis had come into his inheritance. Suspected by some of having sent the letter whose discovery forewarned authorities, including Catesby and his swordsman Wright who threatened him with death but he managed to convince them of his innocence. It is known that Catesby had denied his wish to warn his brothers-in-law who would be at the opening of the parliament when the gunpowder laying under Westminster was ignited. Died in prison of illness after plot was foiled. A confession of his was forged by his servant, a Vavasour, a man Attorney General Coke complained bitterly and publicly should have been charged with the rest of the plotters. Then again this Vavasour was related to the discoverers of the plot, Thomas Howard and his wife’s uncle Thomas Knyvett, who discovered the barrels of gunpowder on the second search of the Westminster basements. Knyvett famously feuded with Oxford in Montague-Capulet style street battles, defending the honor of his niece Anne Vavasour, the mistress that the Earl had gotten with child.

Elizabeth Tresham and William Parker, 14th Baron Monteagle: Like his brother-in-law Francis, Parker was an Essex Rebel, one of only two barons involved. Monteagle remained in the loop of his wife’s cousins’ intrigues until the ascension of James I to the throne when he denounced the Catholic religion. He brought a mysterious letter he received to Robert Cecil which led to the discovery and exposure of the Gunpowder Plot. Hailed as a national hero, he managed to protect his sister’s husband, the antiquarian Thomas Habington, from prosecution after this brother-in-law’s arrest for harboring the Jesuits Garnet and Oldcorne in the wake of the plot. His sister is considered to be another candidate for the letter writer, though that might have been dangerous for her husband whose house was fortified with 11 Nicholas Owen built priest hides and so became the refuge for Garnet and Owen after the plot’s discovery, joining Oldcorne who had resided there for 15 years.

Frances Tresham and Edward Stourton, 6th Baron Stourton: Another sister’s husband was arrested because he received a warning letter and did not turn it in to authorities. 

Clement Throckmorton: protestant MP, one of a set of twins born to Sir George and Katherine Throckmorton after Robert. Clement married Katherine Neville. 

Job Throckmorton: Their son became a firebrand Puritan MP, suspected at the time and now believed by historians to be the lead writer of the Martin Mar-prelate tracts that so plagued Church of England authorities. In the most egregious of this anonymous group’s offenses, authorities were forced to place their public defense in the hands of the equally witty and scurrilous University Wits, Nash, Lyly and Greene, all of whom were associated with the Earl of Oxford, Lyly in particular as his longterm secretary rewarded by the Earl with the lease to the Blackfriar’s Theater after Oxford purchased it to prevent its closure.

Sir Nicholas Throckmorton: Followed Sir Robert and the twins in birth order, M.P. and French Ambassador, served in courts of Queen Katherine Parr and Edward VI, retainer in her household during Princess Elizabeth’s residence. Married to Anne Carew. Arrested for participation in the Wyatt Rebellion and tried for treason, he exploited a loophole in Mary’s treason laws to become the only person to ever beat a charge of treason in a Tudor courtroom. Locked up and heavily fined by the crown in an effort to get them to change their minds, the imprisoned jury amazingly held out to the last man, despite their continued incarceration, refusing to change their verdict. Eventually they and Nicholas Throckmorton all walked free. An eminent well connected man, admired by even the Lord Burghley, Throckmorton came under suspicion again following Ridolfi Plot over supporting the Duke of Norfolk’s bid to marry Mary Queen of Scots.

Nicholas Throckmorton

Arthur Throckmorton: His religiously conformist son Arthur was named a Servant of the Body at Court. A friend of Edward de Vere, when Oxford was placed under confinement in his rooms at the palace for agreeing to send a challenge for a dual to Sidney, as the knight insisted, Arthur wrote a letter to Leicester that also landed him under time out. A fellow member of the Sussex faction promoting the Alencon match, following his family troubles in the mid 80s he became much more conservative. Eventually as High Sheriff of Northamptonshire forced to oversee searches of the houses of his own relatives after the Gunpowder Plot. Arthur married Anna Lucas. 

Bess Throckmorton: A popular addition to Elizabeth’s coterie of maids-in-waiting, a job secured by her brother’s petitions, Bess secretly married Sir Walter Raleigh and bore his child, risking all not for religion but for love. She was still buoyant in the Tower and never apologized. Their happiness would be short as he was rearrested in the Main Plot in 1603. After her husband’s eventual beheading she carried his embalmed head around in a bag, in effect treating him as a martyr. She may have gotten the idea from the Shakespeare play 2 Henry VI, where Margaret of Anjou carries the head of the Duke of Suffolk, her slain lover, around.


Sir Walter Raleigh: First appears as a go between for Philip Sidney and Oxford after their Tennis Court quarrelhe became one of Queen Elizabeth’s romantic favorites and among the hardest working officials in the court. He married Arthur’s sister Bess and had a child without royal permission and both were imprisoned in tower for concealment from the Queen. Pioneer of colonial settlement, founder of Roanoke colony. Tried for treason following the Main and Bye Plots, he represented himself brilliantly but unlike his late father-in-law failed to become the 2nd man to beat a charge of treason in a Tudor courtroom. He was a favorite of James I’s son Prince Henry who said, “None but my father would keep such a bird in a cage.” Raleigh would be allowed out in 1616 to conduct an expedition to find El Dorado, the fabled city of Gold. However their attack on a Spanish outpost broke a treaty with Spain, and James I was obliged to have him beheaded. 


Elizabeth Throckmorton: This daughter of Sir George Throckmorton married Sir John Gifford of Weston-under-Edge, not to be confused with Sir George’s sister Ursula who married Sir John Gifford of Chillington. 

“Gabriel” Gifford: Their son became a priest and then Archbishop of Reims. He had an association with his double agent cousin Gilbert Gifford, a son of  Sir George’s sister Ursula Throckmorton Gifford. Together they convinced a John Savage of obscure parentage but who probably belongs close to this nexus to try to murder the Queen in what became known as the Babington Plot.

George Gifford: Friend of Oxford in the 1570s. The George Gifford who became a priest was his cousin and the spy Gilbert Gifford’s brother. 

Maria Gifford: Father Gabriel and George Gifford’s sister married Richard Fletcher, a minister who once wrote a piece praising Oxford’s horsemanship. 

John Fletcher: Their son was the King’s Men Playwright who collaborated with Shakespeare, inserted Vaux and Guildford references in his portion of the Henry VIII play and eventually became their chief pen.

Sir John Throckmorton: Another son of Sir George Throckmorton of Coughton, he was a VP of the Marches of Wales, covert Catholic, and mentored under Henry Sidney. He was acused of being a harborer by the priest Hugh Hall when his son, after Sir John’s death, was arrested over the Throckmorton Plot. Before his death, he was disgraced for a questionable decision as a judge and removed from his offices but family members blamed the disgrace on his friendship with his wife’s nefarious brother, George Puttenham. John had posted a bond for Puttenham’s freedom that came due for John Throckmorton when his brother-in-law went on the lam. 

Margery Puttenham: noted for her interest and ability in medicine, devout religiosity and charitable good works in her son Edward’s biography put out by the English college, which was also supported by the evidence of her will. She was also a sister of the violent criminal and serial rapist George Puttenham who despite repeated imprisonments and years on the lam was attributed with the anonymous publication of Partheniades that impertinently sought to pressure the Queen to marry, as well a propaganda piece put out as a legal defense of the execution of Mary Queen of Scots and The Arte of English Poesie that named Oxford first in the list of hidden courtier poets and also included a memorial poem for Sir John Throckmorton. The court found that he had abused and swindled his noble wife, the Dowager Countess of Windsor, mother-in-law of Oxford’s half-sister Katherine de Vere. Much of his misdeeds came out in trials related to his divorce, filed when his wife discovered and freed from imprisonment in one of their properties a 20 year old lady that claimed she was lured with offers of a job as maid, raped and subsequently kept as a slave for several years. Steven May believes Puttenham was the author of the works attributed to him, although in the case of the case of the first two publication writing at the behest of Lord Burghley, for which he was rewarded with reversions to properties and even a post of JP at one point that was quickly rescinded after it was pointed out that he had led a savage gang attack on a minister at a church during a Sunday sermon.

Francis Throckmorton: Member of CCG, following discovery of the plot named after him which planned to place Mary Queen of Scots on the English throne with the support of a Spanish invasion, he was imprisoned as was Henry Howard and the Spanish Ambassador Mendoza expelled from the country. Francis was tortured horribly and executed for treason.


Thomas Throckmorton: Fled overseas following exposure of the Throckmorton Plot. Engaged to the niece of Cardinal William Allen, one of the masterminds of the English college overseas with the intent of creating a new generation of priests that could reconquer England. 

Edward Throckmorton: Young Catholic evangelist who it was suggested in his English College biography was raised with his Uncle Robert Throckmorton at Coughton Court, CCG member, died as a young man studying to be a Jesuit at the English College overseas.

Anthony Throckmorton: A son of Sir George Throckmorton who married Catherine Willington, Robert Catesby’s grandmother. 

Mary Throckmorton: A daughter of Sir George, married John Huband. 

Anne Throckmorton: A daughter of Sir George, married John Digby. Their grandson was John Digby, 1st Earl of Bristol. Everard Digby of the Gunpowder Plot was not a descendant.

Katherine Throckmorton: Married Robert Wintour. The only daughter of Sir George who was known to be certainly Catholic. She died in the Blackfriar’s collapse during a secret Catholic mass.

Robert Wintour: Married to Sir George Throckmorton’s youngest daughter, his sister Elizabeth married Thomas Bushell of Broadmerton. His brother-in-law Thomas Bushell was listed as willing to stand surety for a loan requested by Richard Quiney of William Shakspere in a letter that was written but perhaps never sent. Bushell was also the publisher of the Epigrams of John Weever & Marlowe’s Faustus. His brother Edward Bushell was an Essex Rebel who was a retainer of first the Lord Strange and then Essex. An Essex Rebel, Bushell was also mentioned in the Gunpowder investigation. Their sister Elizabeth was married to Richard Quiney’s son Adrian. Another of Quiney’s sons, Thomas, later married Shakspere’s daughter Judith.

George Wintour: Their son George Wintour married Jane Ingleby, sister of the executed priest Francis Ingleby and the notorious guide of priests in the north country, David “the Fox” Ingleby. Both brothers-in-law faced off against their father’s troops when they participated in the 1569 Northern Rising.

Robert Wintour: The older Wintour was married to Gertrude Talbot, a relation of the Earl of Shrewsbury. In joining the Gunpowder Plot he was said to be led by his younger brother Thomas. 

Thomas Wintour: Gunpowder Plotter, said to have been married to Catesby’s sister Elizabeth. the records.

John Wintour (half-brother) Gunpowder Plotter. 

Dorothy Wintour: Their half sister was married to John Grant who owned the Norbrook estate within 5 miles of Stratford-on-Avon. He also became a Gunpowder Plotter


One thought on “Connections in the Shakespeare Nexus

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s