Poetry about Elizabeth Sidney, The Shakespeare Connection?


William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare

The Shakespeare Connection?

Extract of a letter from John Chamberlain to Sir Dudley Carlton, August 1612

” The widow countesses of Rutland died about ten days since, and is privately buried in Pauls by her father Sir Phillip Sidney: Sir Walter Raleigh is slandered to have given her certain pills that dispatched her; her uncle the Lord Lile is gone over to Flushing richer by a thousand pound land a year by her death . The rest of her inheritance by Secretary Walsingham is returned to the Lady Clanrickard. (1) and is at her disposing. It is certainly said that the Lord Chamberlain (2) had concluded a match for her for his son Sir Thomas Howard and I hear she was lodged and died in Durham House.”

N.E. McClure, ed The Letters of John Chamberlain.Philadelphia 1939 Vol II p377


1. Elizabeth Manners mother, Elizabeth daughter of Sir Francis Walsingham, widow of firstly Sir Phillip Sidney, and secondly Robert Deveraux,, 2nd Earl of Essex then the wife of William Burke, 4th Earl of Clanrickard.

2. Thomas Howard, first Earl of Suffolk. The Howards were the sworn enemies of the Herbert court faction of former Essex supporters to which Elizabeth had belonged. The Howards had promoted the match between Robert Deveraux, 3nd Earl of Essex and Francis Howard which Elizabeth Manners had celebrated by dancing in Ben Jonson’s Masque of Hymenaei. This marriage was by 1612 in serious trouble which the ever well informed John Chamberlain recorded in the next passage after the above extract thus: ” The Countess of Essex was going down to her Lord into Staffordshire and some of her carriage was sent away, but she hath since changed her purpose and is come to this town being in hand (as I hear) to buy or take Sir Roger Ashtons house beyond Hounslow that stands commodiously for many purposes.” This is an innocuous sounding sentence, until you know the purposes undertaken by Frances Howard, Countess of Essex in Sir Roger Ashton’s house were the consummation of her affair with Robert Carr the King’s favorite and lover (see the Thomas Overbury section). Thus Elizabeth Manners alliance with the Howard faction at such a time, so shortly after Roger’s death may well have been seen by her Herbert clan as a betrayal and as a grossly indecent haste to remarry.

As I mentioned in the Life section, the Russian scholar Ilya Gililov has recently argued that both Roger and Elizabeth Manners were the real authors of Shakespeare’s work, a claim which he bases upon his interpretation of the poem The Phoenix and The Turtle and its first publication in Robert Chester’s strange anthology Love’s Martyr, which he argues was published in 1612 shortly after the deaths of Roger and Elizabeth. Gililov believes that The Phoenix and The Turtle poem proves that Roger and Elizabeth had a loving companionate marriage, an intellectual relationship which produced great works of literature and that she died of her overwhelming grief, of her lost love for him, perhaps utilizing the pills mentioned by Chamberlain to commit suicide. From my personal perspective I feel that Giliov suffers from the conspiracy theorists tendency to ignore evidence which does not fit his pet model. Thus the following Chamberlain’s sentence not appear in Giliov’s book “It is certainly said that the Lord Chamberlain had concluded a match for her for his son Sir Thomas Howard and I hear she was lodged and died in Durham House” (which does not to me suggest overwhelming grief by Rogers widow of less than two months! ) Neither is a full discussion of Beaumont’s description of the marriage in his An Elegy on the Death of the Virtuous Lady Elizabeth, Countess of Rutland included in the book. Omissions which I feel are frankly intellectually dishonest.

However you can make up your own mind by reading the book, which is published as Gililov, Ilya. The Shakespeare Game: The Mystery of the Great Phoenix. Trans. by Gennady Bashkov et al.. Agathon Press, 2003 and by looking at the poem below:-

Bob Sparham




The Phoenix and the Turtle

Let the bird of loudest lay

On the sole Arabian tree,

Herald sad and trumpet be,

To whose sound chaste wings obey.

But thou shrieking harbinger,

Foul precurrer of the fiend,

Augur of the fever’s end,

To this troop come thou not near.

From this session interdict

Every fowl of tyrant wing

Save the eagle, feather’d king:

Keep the obsequy so strict.

Let the priest in surplice white

That defunctive music can,

Be the death-divining swan,

Lest the requiem lack his right.

And thou, treble-dated crow,

That thy sable gender mak’st

With the breath thou giv’st and tak’st,

‘Mongst our mourners shalt thou go.

Here the anthem doth commence:-

Love and constancy is dead;

Phoenix and the turtle fled

In a mutual flame from hence.

So they loved, as love in twain

Had the essence but in one;

Two distincts, division none;

Number there in love was slain.

Hearts remote, yet not asunder;

Distance, and no space was seen

‘Twixt the turtle and his queen:

But in them it were a wonder.

So between them love did shine,

That the turtle saw his right

Flaming in the phoenix’ sight;

Either was the other’s mine.

Property was thus appall’d,

That the self was not the same;

Single nature’s double name

Neither two nor one was call’d.

Reason, in itself confounded,

Saw division grow together;

To themselves yet either neither;

Simple were so well compounded,

That it cried, ‘How true a twain

Seemeth this concordant one!

Love hath reason, reason none

If what parts can so remain.’

Whereupon it made this threne

To the phoenix and the dove,

Co-supremes and stars of love,

As chorus to their tragic scene.


BEAUTY, truth, and rarity,

Grace in all simplicity,

Here enclosed in cinders lie.

Death is now the phoenix’ nest;

And the turtle’s loyal breast

To eternity doth rest,

Leaving no posterity:

‘Twas not their infirmity,

It was married chastity.

Truth may seem, but cannot be;

Beauty brag, but ’tis not she;

Truth and beauty buried be.

To this urn let those repair

That are either true or fair;

For these dead birds sigh a prayer.


This page was added on 06/12/2007.

Comments about this page

  • All cracking stuff – a factual correction. Frances Walsingham’s 3rd husband was Richard de Burgh/Bourke, 4th Earl of Clanricarde.

    By Susan Forrester (21/12/2008)
  • THE HISTORY OF TWERTON Sundry Notes Of Explanation 2 On the unexpected death in battle of Sir Philip “Pimply Pip” Sidney in 1586, there was little hard capital left for his beneficiaries, a certain number of personal belongings, but perhaps the most valuable legacy was a scattering of various pieces of land all over the counties of Somerset and Wiltshire. Amongst these parcels was the site in East Twerton, now occupied by Hi-Q Tyres and the Bath Press’ paper factory, which was inherited by his one-year old daughter Elizabeth, his own surviving child. Obviously, at the age, Elizabeth was too young to know what to do with the piece of land, and so the temporary control of it was given to William Cecil, Lord Burleigh. After two years of trying to wade through various local oppositions, the Twerton Freemasons finally agreed in June 1588 to allow Burleigh to construct a theatre here. Cecil then commissioned London impresario Philip Henslowe to oversee its construction, designed by an unknown architect. The construction was completed in January 1589 and the first play to christen it was chosen as one highly appropriate to Twerton’s history, namely King Leir And His Three Daughters. Although nobody today is entirely sure who wrote this inaugural play, known notable shareholders in the Swan Theatre, East Twerton, from its inception were most likely William Cecil himself, Philip Henslowe, Edward Alleyn, and Christopher Marlowe, the last of which had already met with considerable success in London with Tamburlaine and was at the time conceiving The Jew Of Malta. Christopher Marlowe was well-known for his penchant for public baths, so it is no surprise to find him on several occasions taking a sabbatical from Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, in Bath itself. That he actually bought a small house in what is now East Twerton is open to conjecture, but the site is thought to have occupied the current position of Twerton Liberal Club on the Lower Bristol Road. For the next ten years, the Twerton theatre proved popular and regularly staged plays by the London writers as well as numerous plays by West Country authors now long lost to history. In 1599, Elizabeth married Roger Manners, the Earl of Rutland, and both then became shareholders in the Twerton theatre, heralding an increased flux of new writings from both London and Bristol, which generated some profit. However, Roger Manners’ ill-advised involvement in the Essex Rebellion in 1601 earned him a massive fine which forced him to sell his shares in the Twerton theatre, quite probably to Thomas Middleton and Thomas Dekker. It is not known if his wife also sold her own shares, but for the next two years the Rutland’s were disgraced and broke. The death of Queen Elizabeth in 1603, however, enabled a revival of Roger Manners’ fortunes, as he was given the task of travelling to Elsinore in Denmark to award the Danish King Christian the Fourth the investiture in the Order of the Garter. When the plague had shut down London’s playhouses in 1603-1604, the King’s Men made their way to Twerton and were given shelter at Francis Bacon’s house just down the street from the Swan, now occupied by the stretch of Saint Peter’s Terrace between Brougham Hayes and Regency Cleaners. They performed to much appreciation a revived version of King Leir And His Three Daughters, which they then took back to London when the capital’s theatres re-opened in 1605. In London, to, King Leir was well-received, and it is probably at this time Shakespeare turned his own hand to revamping the play and producing the masterpiece we all now know as King Lear, which probably received its first London performance in January 1606. There is much speculation, of course, as to who may have contributed to the writing of Shakespeare’s King Lear. Unsurprisingly, both Roger Manners and his wife Elizabeth often appear in theories concerning the authorship debate. With regards to Hamlet, from roughly the same period, both Roger Manners and Thomas Middleton, amongst others of the King’s Men, were certainly able to observe the Danish court at Elsinore first-hand ~ and yet it seems Christopher Marlowe had also been there in person more than ten years earlier.

    By Sarah Armstrong (06/02/2014)

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