Oxfordian authorship theorists connect Hamlet’s friends Horatio and Francisco to Edward de Vere’s cousins, the famous “Fighting Vere” military commanders, Horace and Francis.
“Horatio, I am dead. Thou livest. Report me and my cause aright to the unsatisfied…O God, Horatio, what a wounded name. Things standing thus unknown, shall I leave behind me. If thou didst ever hold me in thy heart, absent thee from felicity a while, and in this harsh world draw thy breath in pain to tell my story.”
Richard Whalen asserted that this passage represented “Oxford’s anguished cry that posterity may never link his name with the work of his lifetime, printed under the pen name William Shakespeare…”
Countering this claim in Spearing the Wild Blue Boar, Frederick Keller argued, “The cousin referred to was actually named “Horace”, which, we’re told, in the olden days was on occasion spelled “Horatio”, and thus…?!”
The name Horace was at times rendered as Horatio but this does not lessen the significance that Horace Vere’s grandson was formally given the name Horatio.
Horatio Townshend, 1st Baron Townsend and 1st Viscount Townshend (/ˈtaʊnzənd/; 14 December 1630 – 10 December 1687), known as Sir Horatio Townshend, 3rd Baronet, of Raynham, from 1648 to 1661, was an English politician who sat in the House of Commons between 1656 and 1660 and was raised to the peerage in 1661.
To point out a few family connections, Horatio was a great grandson of Sir Roger Townsend, a retainer of Oxford’s cousin the 4th Duke of Norfolk. Roger Townsend purchased Coxford Abbey after that property belonging to the executed Norfolk was granted to Oxford. Townsend also strong armed Norfolk’s son Phillip Howard, the Earl of Arundel into a boat to keep him away from a street battle between Oxford and the Howards’ kinsman Thomas Knyvett.
Sir Roger Townsend’s heir Sir John Townsend fought under Sir Francis Vere, was knighted by Essex in Cadiz and married Sir Francis Bacon’s niece, Anne Bacon. He distanced himself from Essex in 1600 like Bacon and Henry Howard but died of a duel with a cousin early in the reign of James.
John’s son Roger married Mary Vere, daughter of Horace. I mention the paternal genealogy so we can see that both husband and wife were well positioned to know whether Shakespeare named Horatio and Francisco after Horace and Frances Vere.
When the couple decided to name a son after her father HORACE they officially gave the baby the name HORATIO.
All of this is evidence that Horace Vere was called Horatio, and that the family particularly treasured this nickname. They could have named their son Horace Townsend or Horace Vere Townsend. Instead they chose the dramatic Shakespearean “Horatio”.
When Horace Vere’s grandson Horatio Townsend was 17, a Colonel Richard Townsend of uncertain origin arrived in Ireland as a commander for the British crown and his Anglo-Irish descendants continued a strong tradition of naming children Horace (12) or Horatio (20), including Horatio Vere Townsend, born 1870, son of Horatio Hamilton Townsend and Elizabeth Ware, which suggests that there may have been a “Fighting Vere” connection that has since been forgotten.
The way Townsend lines treasured and passed along the name Horatio is just another reason to believe that Hamlet’s Horatio was named after Horace Vere and Oxford was the author writing under the pen name William Shakespeare.