The Tudor Society

3 August – A notorious Tudor rake

On this day in Tudor history, 3rd August 1562, Essex magnate and notorious rake, John de Vere, 16th Earl of Oxford, died at his home, Hedingham Castle in Essex.

Oxford served four Tudor monarchs and was great chamberlain at the height of his career, but he had a rather colourful reputation. Find out more about the life of this Earl of Oxford and what gave him his reputation in today's talk.

Also on this day in history, 3rd August 1553, the newly proclaimed queen, Queen Mary I, processed through the streets of London with her half-sister, the future Elizabeth I, after having been greeted as queen. It must have been a sight to see as the citizen of London celebrated the accession of Mary I, after the rather short reign of Queen Jane. Find out more about it in last year’s video:

Also on this day in history:

  • 1528 – Death of Hugh Inge, Archbishop of Dublin and Lord Chancellor of Ireland, from sweating sickness in Dublin. He was buried in St Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin.
  • 1548 – Birth of Sir Robert Houghton, judge, Treasurer (1599) and Sergeant-at-Law (1603), in Gunthorpe, Norfolk.
  • 1549 – Lord Russell marched his 1000 men from Honiton to Woodbury and set up camp for the night. He was heading towards Clyst St Mary and the rebels of the Prayer Book Rebellion.
  • 1558 – Burial of Thomas Alleyne, clergyman and benefactor, at St Nicholas Parish Church, Stevenage. Alleyne was known for his support of education, through his financing of schoolmasters and the free tuition he arranged for boys.


On this day in Tudor history, 3rd August 1562, Essex magnate and notorious rake, John de Vere, 16th Earl of Oxford, died at Hedingham Castle, in Castle Hedingham, Essex.

Let me share with you a few facts about this Tudor rake!

• Oxford was born at Hedingham Castle, in Essex, in 1516 and was the eldest son of John de Vere, 15th Earl of Oxford, and his second wife, Elizabeth Trussell.
• Oxford’s father, the 15th earl, had served Henry VIII as an esquire of the body, great chamberlain, and a royal councillor, and had carried the crown at Anne Boleyn’s coronation in 1533, as well as subsequently sitting on the jury trying her in 1536.
• Oxford was Lord Bulbeck until his father’s death in 1540, when he became the 16th Earl of Oxford. Unfortunately, he didn’t follow in his father’s footsteps as chamberlain as that title was granted to Thomas Cromwell.
• With his father, Oxford was present at the reception of Anne of Cleves in London in January 1540, he served in Henry VIII’s French campaign in 1544 as captain of the rearguard, and was a chief mourner at the king’s funeral in 1547. He also served in that role at Edward VI’s funeral in 1553.
• Oxford was knighted in the celebrations for Edward VI’s coronation in 1547.
• Oxford married Dorothy Neville, daughter of Ralph Neville, 4th Earl of Westmorland, in 1536 in a ceremony attended by Henry VIII. The couple had a daughter, Katherine, in 1538, but Dorothy left Oxford in June 1546. When the Duke of Norfolk, who was related to her by marriage, tried to persuade her to go back to her husband, Dorothy explained that “she wold never goe home agayne amongst such a bad comanye as were about the Earle of Oxford at that tyme”. She was referring to men like John Lucas, master of requests, who gambled with Oxford and who even won the wardship of a young woman from Oxford via a game of dice. Oxford also had a mistress and it was said that he made a bigamous marriage to a woman called Joan Jockey, who was subsequently attacked, her nose cut, by Thomas Darcy and Edmund Sheffield, who were married to Oxford’s sisters, Elizabeth and Anne.
By the time of Dorothy’s death in January 1548, he was already involved with Dorothy Fosser, who was his daughter’s servant, and even had banns of marriage read out in 1547 before Dorothy’s death. However, in August 1548, he married Margery Golding and had a son by her, Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, and a daughter, Mary.
• In 1552, Henry Neville, Dorothy’s brother, attacked Oxford, striking him and drawing blood. It is not known what provoked the attack.
• In 1553, Oxford was one of those who signed Edward VI’s letters patent in which the king named Lady Jane Grey as his heir, and he was said to have imprisoned a man named Clement Tusser in Hedingham Castle after Tusser had proclaimed Edward VI’s half-sister, Mary, as queen. Tusser was able to get Oxford’s servants on side, though, and Oxford did an about-turn, and released Tusser and confined those in his household who were on Lady Jane Grey’s side. He then organised his men and supported Mary with his force. He was rewarded for his support by being made great chamberlain after the office was taken off the Marquess of Northampton.
• In 1554, he opposed the marriage match of Mary I and Philip of Spain, but managed to avoid getting implicated in any plots against the queen.
• In 1555, as the local magnate, he helped oversee the burnings of heretics in Colchester and Manningtree.
• When Elizabeth I came to the throne, Oxford kept his office of chamberlain and served as Lord Lieutenant of Essex. He was on the jury that tried Thomas Wentworth, 2nd Baron Wentworth, for his part in losing Calais in 1558.
• In 1561, he entertained Queen Elizabeth I at his home.
• Like Earls of Oxford before him, Oxford maintained a company of players that performed in London and in the provinces.
• He died on this day in Tudor history, 3rd August 1562. Although he had stated in his will that he wanted to be buried at Earl’s Colne, it appears that he was buried at Castle Hedingham.
• Oxford’s widow went on to marry Charles Tyrell, but was buried with Oxford when she died in 1568. Oxford’s son and heir, Edward, became the ward of Sir William Cecil, chief advisor to Elizabeth I.
• Oxford’s daughter, Katherine, married Edward Windsor, 3rd Baron Windsor; his son, Edward, married Anne Cecil and then Elizabeth Trentham, and his daughter Mary married Peregrine Bertie, Baron Willoughby, and then Sir Eustace Hart.

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3 August – A notorious Tudor rake