Was Elizabeth 1st the Mother of Henry Wriothesley? Part 1

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Thank you very much for joining me on my 4th presentation. Do have a look at the previous ones as this one follows on naturally from them.

The topic of whether or not Elizabeth bore any children at all is extremely contentious, even before considering any possible identity. Opinions seem to be polarised with no room for doubt on either side


Henry Wriothesley in 1594
queen elizabeth
Queen Elizabeth in 1575

The image on the right is of Elizabeth in 1575 at around the time when some authors believe that she could have been pregnant. On the left is Henry Wriothesley 3rd Earl of Southampton in 1594 when he was 21. During the middle of the 20th century largely in America, the theory emerged that he was the Queen’s Illegitimate son. This view is still strongly held by some authors, but in the United Kingdom few give it credence.

This is the first of two presentations on the fascinating topic of whether or not Henry Wriothesley 3rd Earl of Southampton was the son of Elizabeth 1st and Edward de Vere. It may seem an odd thing to do, but I am going to approach this by considering a poem. The one that sits in a cartouche at the bottom of the Pregnancy Portrait of Elizabeth 1. In the second part I will look at whether or not what this reveals could possibly have occurred.

The Pregnancy Portrait by Marcus Gheeraerts around 1600

The story so far is that we have a good look at the mysterious painting of the sad young woman and the weeping stag. I made the case for this being an allegorical portrait of a pregnant Elizabeth 1st appearing as the Goddess Diana and that the stag was Edward de Vere the 17th Earl of Oxford, who wrote under the pen name William Shakespeare. I followed this with 2 videos about the relationship of Elizabeth with Nonsuch Palace which revealed her close affiliation with Diana through the imagery in the Grove of Diana. This further strengthened my case for the figure in the portrait being Elizabeth.

Obviously most paintings do not have an accompanying poem. The image is sufficient to convey the meaning of the work. This may of course be aided by a title, either in the painting, as was common in Tudor times, or on the frame.

There are several Tudor portraits which do have poems for example the Ditchley portrait of Elizabeth painted by Marcus Gheeraearts the younger and presented to the Queen by Sir Henry Lee in 1592. You can see it tucked away up against the frame on the right hand side.

Unfortunately cropping of the painting has removed the last word from each line and other words are unclear. The theme, however is one of a eulogy to the Queen as far as anyone can tell.

Ditchley Portrait 1592 Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger

There is a painting of Sir Henry himself and his dog Bevis, by the same artist. Here the theme is one of a eulogy to his faithful friend.

Sir Henry Lee with his faithful dog and poem

The pregnancy portrait poem is in a different league. It is in sonnet format, in other words 14 lines long and the rhythm is iambic pentameter, which I will come back to later. It is both beautiful and enigmatic. Nearly telling us something but leaving us frustrated as there are in sufficient clues as to what.

I know that some of you had some trouble grasping that the painting is a highly sophisticated allegory. The elements of which are laid out in a scene which never actually happened. Elizabeth never posed pregnant in a wood with a stag weeping or otherwise. It is all symbolic, even perhaps the pregnancy.

The second issue is the poem. Although written in the first person. I am certain Elizabeth did not write it. It was written by whoever commissioned the painting, ie the stag, most likely Edward de Vere, It was a method of getting a message across, by putting the words and thoughts into the mind of the subject. So please bear this in mind.

My aim here is to look for evidence of how the poem is meant to enhance or explain the portrait.

I am going to do this in a number of ways.

  1. Interpretation of the words by a simple reading of the poem
  2. Analysis of the text of the poem line by line.
  3. Analysis of hidden messages within the text of the poem.
  4. Analysis of any hidden message in the layout of the poem
  5. Analysis of the cartouche.
  6. Considering the poem in relation to the latin text in the painting.
  7. Comparison of the poem with another one.

Writing and publishing anything in Tudor times was a very risky business. Formal printing was tightly controlled with only 60 printing presses in London and any book, pamphlet or play had to pass the official censor the Lord Chamberlain or his assistant the Master of the Revels. Lord Chamberlain from 1585 to 1596 was Henry Carey; from 1596 to 1597 was William Brooke Lord Cobham and from 1597 to 1603 was George Carey son of Henry. And here they are, bent on rooting out all evil or indeed any inconvenient truth.

Much has been written about censorship of written works and we know that paintings of the Queen were closely scrutinised to ensure she was how she wanted to look not how she really was. There is nothing that I can find about censorship of other works of art, in particular those that contain a poem. Perhaps as a novel idea a good way to slip past the censors?

Publishing anything that was considered seditious could lead to punishment and imprisonment. It was crucial therefore that writers took great care not to be caught out. They achieved this in a number of ways, firstly by using “posies” or nick names to hide their identity. Secondly by being deliberately ambiguous and thirdly by hiding messages within the text or layout of a piece, that could only be deciphered by those in the know.

The Elizabethans loved trying to decipher hidden meanings to such an extent that certain practitioners raised the design of ciphers to that of an extraordinary level. If you have some time to spare take a look at Alexander Waugh’s you tube video on the design of the front page of the 1609 edition of the Sonnets.

Trying to decode messages through encoded 400 years ago is no easy task at least in part because of language differences. We do have some experience to draw from which have helped demonstrate the techniques used.

So lets make a start.

1. A simple reading of the poem.

This the poem sitting the cartouche or frame. The technique employed is called scraffito. In which the artist over paints a light layer with a dark one. Before this dries the script is produced by scraping away the top layer. So this writing rather than printing and variation in the text is to be expected.

Here is the text itself in higher resolution. There has been some deterioration over the years, but it is still easily readable.

Below is the text which I have produced by typing over an image of the poem making some attempt to reflect the differing sizes of the lettering and text layout. Remember this poem was drawn not printed so variation is to be expected.

A simple reading of the poem

For the purposes of this study I am taking the stance that the person in the painting is Elizabeth 1, for a whole variety of reasons explained in earlier videos. You may not agree with this viewpoint, but please bear with me and keep an open mind until you have heard what I am going to say.

I have paraphrased the text into plain modern English, which I hope helps you to understand what she is saying at the first level at least. The poem is in the first person with the subject of the portrait speaking.

The subject tells us that her restless mind which keeps going over things she has done wrong is like a swallow singing cruel but just complaints about her. The song of the swallow is the only thing that sustains her life.

She thoughtfully crowns her weeping stag, whose sad tears express her own worries.

His silent tears and her hidden sadness are only things that remedy the harm she has done.

Her only hope had been in planting and tending a tree of love (the walnut in the picture), but this was in vain as she discovers too late that the kernels (the central or essential part of the nuts) have been taken away by others and she is left with the dry outer shells.

If her love tree bears no more fruit then she has only the music of the swallow and the tears of her stag to sustain her.

Analysis of the text of the poem.

Now lets look deeper into the text by taking each line in turn, to see if there are any hidden messages or references.

Lines 1& 2

The restles Swallow fits my restles minde,
In still revivinge Still renewinge Wronges;

The analogy of the singing and complaining swallow is used, but why? Could it be a person whose songs or poetry, although critical of her still give her something to live for? Could the swallow be a poet’s muse?

 One clue may be in a poem by Sir John Davies entitled “Orchestra, or A Poem of Dancing (1596)” Davies concludes Orchestra by singing the praises of one living English poet far above the rest: the Swallow,

Davies does not tell us who the hidden poet is but it is clearly someone using a swallow as his muse and someone Davies knows and respects.

Note that the swallow is referred to as feminine. “her joyful spring” This is because we are talking about the poet’s muse, not the person of the poet himself.

Note also the used of “sugared tunes” very similar to the “sugared sonnets” used to describe Shakespeare’s work by Francis Meres in 1598.

At this stage it is fair to say that the lines are consistent with that hidden poem being Edward de Vere.


In antiquity, swallows were associated with the gods, as well as the souls of the dead. In Greek and Roman mythology, deities were able to change their form and metamorphose into a swallow. If you have seen my other presentations you will realise that the Roman poet Ovid seems to be everywhere in particular his work Metamorphoses which describes the changing states of deities.

Now what follows may be nothing, but here is another of his stories.

Ovid relates the tale of sisters and Philomela (on the left below) and Procne (on the right) in book 6 of Metamorphoses. It is a tale of censorship and I warn you it is not a pleasant one.

philomela and procne

Philomela and Procne. William-Adolphe Bouguereau 1861

To cut a long story short. Procne’s husband Tereus rapes her sister Philomela. In order to stop her from telling what has happened he cuts out her tongue. Believe me it does get worse..

Philomela poor thing unable to speak, weaves a tapestry to tell her sister what had happened to her.

In turn Procne when she finds out kills her son and serves him up to Tereus. As well as punishing him, the act renders mute, Tereus for the next generation has been eliminated.


To finish it off the sisters, both tainted, transform into a swallow (Procne) and a nightingale (Philomena) which can communicate by beautiful songs thereby escaping their oppressor. Tereus meanwhile becomes a hoopoe, which can’t really sing at all. As I touched on in an earlier presentation Ovid himself was banished from Rome for his views, but continued to write in Romania. Could this reference be relevant? I think it could.

The works of Ovid were published into English in 1576; ostensibly by Arthur Golding, the uncle of Edward de Vere. Both were living in the same house at the time and it is widely believed, that the teenaged de Vere, who was fluent in Latin did the translations. The books became his favourite source for inspiration. And one other thing if we go back to the painting you will remember two of the birds in the walnut tree. A swallow sitting on a sawn off branch of the tree


Right in the top of the tree is a songbird. You may also remember that I believe this bird together with the walnut tree itself and the phoenixes on Elizabeth’s robe are a direct reference to William Shakespeare’s Poem the Phoenix and the Turtle (Dove). Well take a close look at this bird. I apologise for the grainy nature of the image. Note that it has an upright stance, and a pale underbelly. Don’t be confused by the appearance it is looking over its shoulder, this is the tip of a leaf behind it (red arrow). The beak is pale (yellow arrow). Now I know bird identification is a bit difficult in this situation, but I’m pretty sure this is a nightingale.

You might be thinking that the tale is too erudite. Well the internet is littered with references to the myth of Philomela and Procne.

By the way, a latin name for nightingale is Philomela Luscina. Interestingly “Philomel” appears in Sonne102, so Edward de Vere was well aware of the connection.

As Philomel in summer’s front doth sing,
And stops his pipe in growth of riper days

It is very important to remember that the Elizabethan mind was obsessed with the classics as part of the flood of knowledge during the Renaissance. So far then we have reference to a hidden poet who uses a swallow as his muse and I believe a very strong reference to the myth of Philomela and Procne. A story of censorship communication by way of a tapestry and ultimate escape by finding other ways of communication. Substitute painting for tapestry, and some one “tongue tied by authority” in Sonnet 66 and the story starts to sound rather familiar.

There is one more thought about the swallow. The bird is commonly referred to as a harbinger of spring. The Latin word for spring is “Ver”. I think you may already know where this is going.

Line 3

Her just complaintes of cruelly unkinde

The third line of the poem has an odd syntax.

Interestingly swallow is feminine, but once again this is a reference to the poet’s muse, which can be of either gender.

Most authors report the fifth the word as “cruelty” but in fact close examination reveals that this is not the case.

A magnified image of the word shows how the tail of the “g” from “renewinge” can be been misinterpreted as the cross piece of a “t”. In that case we are left with two adjectives. It is possible that in the interest of rhyme the word order has been altered; the most obvious one which makes sense being:

Her just but cruelly unkinde complaintes

That still leaves us with two adjacent adjectives which seem to say much the same thing. “Unkinde” has more than one meaning. In the Middle English Dictionary (up to 1500) it could be used to mean contrary to the natural moral law, indecent, immoral or incestuous. As a noun it was used to describe someone who commits incest. An alternative meaning was to describe someone

who was childless or barren. Indeed it appears in verse 200 of Venus and Adonis by William Shakespeare. Venus talking to Adonis says:

‘Art thou obdurate, flinty, hard as steel,
Nay, more than flint, for stone at rain relenteth? 200
Art thou a woman’s son, and canst not feel
What ’tis to love? how want of love tormenteth?
O, had thy mother borne so hard a mind,
She had not brought forth thee, but died unkind.

So it is possible that the complaintes lodged at Elizabeth may involve either some sexual indiscretion, or her appearing to be a childless woman.

Line 4

are all the Musique that my life prolonges

Although we are told that the swallow’s songs are complaintes, they seem to be the only thing keeping her going. I take this to mean that although critical the songs are very important and meaningful to her. ie the hidden poets work is vital to her survival.

Let’s move on to the stag. By now if you have looked at my other presentations, you are well aware of the myth of Diana and Actaeon. What we are presented with in the portrait is an extension of this and ties in with Elizabeth’s dual personality as we saw expressed in the Grove of Diana at Nonsuch. It is summed up by the words on the plaque:

The chaste virgin naturally pitied: (Actaeon)
But the powerful goddess revenged the wrong.

Elizabeth is portrayed as being sorry for what she has done to whoever has become the stag.

A weeping stag appears in book 7 of Vergil’s Aeneid when Aeneas’ son Ascanius kills the pet stag of Sylvia. Thereby starting a war.

Ascanius shoots the stag of Sylvia

It struck the animal’s flank and went into its belly
The wounded creature fled for refuge under
The roof of the house, the house that it knew so
And sought its familiar stall, where it lay down,
Beseechingly weeping and weeping and calling
The house was filled with its pitiful woeful noise..

Vergil’s Aeneid Book 7

A weeping stag also appears in As You Like it Scene 1 Act 2. A melancholy Jacques contemplates a weeping stag. You can see the wound in the flank of the animal and the tears on its cheek.

…the big round tears
Coursed one another down his innocent nose
In piteous chase; and thus the hairy fool…
Stood on the extremest verge of the swift brook,
Augmenting it with tears.

These are the only two examples I can find of the weeping stag scenario and both are the result of physical injury to the animal. The concept of a stag weeping as an extension of the Diana and Actaeon myth is to my knowledge unique. So what can we learn from the text?

Lines 5 & 6

With pensive thoughtes my weeping stagg I crowne

whose Melancholy teares my cares expresse

Well “pensive” is a pun on the French word “pense” to think. The word being the source for the flower named pansy, said to be Elizabeth’s favourite flower.

flowers and etching

In Tudor times the flower the wild version Viola tricolore was regarded as a symbol of remembrance. The name “love in idleness” implied someone so besotted that they could think of nothing but their lover. Its alternative name “heartsease” came from St. Euphrasia a nun from Constantinople who refused marriage and took the veil. The three colours of the pansy white

(purity), yellow (joy) and purple (mourning) gave the flower the name of “herb trinity” relating it to the life of the Virgin Mary.

Not only does the pansy appear in crowning the stag but in her headdress and in various forms in the design of the robe.

Elizabeth refers to “my” stag. Now many landed women of Tudor times has large estates with stags in them so ownership by the queen was not exclusive. The word “my” conveys to me a sense of being personal. This was not any old stag, but it was certainly a very special one.

The act of crowning is of course not exclusive to investing a monarch and I believe in this instance it can be read as act of love.

The second line appears to be straightforward.

Lines 7 & 8

His Teares in Sylence and my Sighes unknowne

Are all the physicke that my harmes redresse

The implication is that the stag is silent because it is unable to speak and Elizabeth is silent because she dare not. These lines tell us that the silent tears of the stag and her hidden sighs are the only thing that to an extent remedy the harm she has done. In other words the fact that because their shared sorrow for what has gone on is hidden, it goes some way to limit the damage.

Lines 9 & 10

My onely hope was in this goodly tree,

which I did plant in love, bringe up in care;

The first line tells us that in the past she had just one hope. But hope of what? I can think of no other answer, but achieving a Tudor succession.

Elizabeth then refers to “this goodly tree”. The tree being referred has to be the walnut tree in the background as she is speaking in the present tense. The term “goodly” means of pleasing or fine appearance. It stands as a metaphor, but for what?

My way of looking at it is that it stands for her way of ensuring the succession; not in the way of a family tree, but as a tree of love. This is confirmed by the use of “love tree” in a later line.

The second line continues with the tree metaphor, but could have a secondary meaning. You sow a seed, but plant a tree. So could “Planting in love” be a reference to implanting an offspring into another place.

In addition there is a difference in meaning between “bring up in care” and “bring up with care”. Albeit in modern English the former implies raising a child in some form of protective environment. The latter is more suitable for nurturing a plant.

So does this mean that a child was put somewhere and then later taken back into her care?

William Cecil chairing the Court of Wards

As part of William Cecil’s plan to enrich himself while plunging the wealthy into penury, the fatherless children of the gentry were taken into care by way of the Court of Wards. Of which Cecil was leader. Cecil’s friends bid for the right to Manage their lands and when the children reached

maturity there was an expensive exit payment for what was left of their estate. Edward de Vere was the first of such children and Henry Wriothesley the last.

Many of the children were brought up in Cecil House his home, given first class educations and were considered stepchildren of the Queen.

As a result of all of this Cecil went from being a jobbing lawyer to the richest man in the country! Interestingly during Elizabeth’s lifetime the law was changed to allow an offspring born out of wedlock to be her successor. Recognition of such a child would at a stroke resolve the issue of the succession and eliminate the need for a a foreign king.

Lines 11 & 12

but all in vaine, for now to late I See

The Shales be mine, the kernels others are

Continuing in the present tense, the metaphor continues. All her effort has been in vain and she now realises that it is too late. The question here is what is it too late for? One must assume that she had continued to believe that all was well with her plan. Then something unexpected happens and she realises that she has lost control.

In the second line is interesting in that the items are in the plural, both the shales, the discarded outer part of the nut, and the kernels, the essential vital parts which have gone to others. This may simply be a result of following the metaphor of the walnut tree, which obviously carries many fruits. It would however have been just as easy to use singular nouns without affecting the meter of the poem.

It is also possible that it is intentional implying that more than one child had been involved or one other way of securing the succession and that there was only one chance left. You may remember that in the portrait the swallow sits on a sawn off branch of the tree. This may imply the removal of a dynastic line.

Lines 13 & 14

My Musique may be plaintes, my physique Teares

If this be all the fruite my love tree bears.

As is traditional in the sonnet format the last two lines sum up the whole piece. Elizabeth tells us that if there are no more fruite ( ie children) then she has to be content with the swallow’s complaints and the stag’s teares. She is trapped in sorrow and regret.

So far, so ambiguous. The poem hints at but does nothing to confirm the identity of the stag. Or indeed from the text alone that the subject is Elizabeth. However referral to past events is consistent with Elizabeth being pregnant as a younger woman, as she appears in the painting. There is also a hint that she was creating her own dynastic line (the allegorical tree). Interestingly some have interpreted the 1571 Succession Act as allowing Royal Bastards to inherit the throne.

Analysis of the poem for hidden messages within the text.

In order to take things further we have to enter the rather murky but fascinating world of ciphers and hidden meanings. In order to understand this you need some basic information as to how the Tudor mind worked. One man’s in particular. That of John Dee.

John Dee 1527-1608

Dee was a doctor, mystic, cryptologist, astrologer and mathematician. He was also a very religious man. One of his central tenets was that everything could be defined by numbers and that each individual had one or more numbers which united them with God. Not surprisingly the Trinity was involved here and he had a concept that the trinity could be contained within a quaternary. In other words by making a pattern of three elements a fourth one could be contained within it. The fourth  element signified the connection of the individual to God. In his case he used the symbol Δ the Greek letter delta. This had three sides (Trinity) it is also the 4th letter of the Greek alphabet (Quaternary).

The Greek letter Delta

Dee’s fascination was not just numbers but also geometrical shapes and patterns and hiding messages within text. Such secret codes and ciphers allowed individuals to convey information known only to themselves, and their intended audience.

If you feel inclined to form an impression of Dee’s skill, look at Alexander Waugh’s YouTube video about him entitled John Dee’s secret patron revealed. This man thought on an immense scale and it is hard to escape the concept that he encoded things for posterity. To escape the censors of the time but with the hope of decoding in years to come. The name of the Youth in the sonnets and the site of Edward de Vere’s burial place are perfect examples. As I hope to show you this is another example of his extraordinary skill.

We are now going to look at the numbers associated with another man Edward de Vere, who followed the principles of John Dee. He too was very religious, which many people may find surprising. Although he may not have shared modern moral values, he was very aware of his role as working through God to communicate with his audience. Decoding of the Sonnet front page tells us it was written by God and de Vere.

The first two numbers are 17 and 40. The 17 is obvious as he was the 17th Earl of Oxford. This number is scattered all over publications of the late 16th century to such an extent that it is well beyond occurrence by chance. Those who knew the true identity of William Shakespeare left a trail of acknowledgement, that is still being followed.

Forty is a bit more difficult to understand. The capital T (Tau in Greek) is a ancient christian sign for the cross. Three such T’s joined at their bases is called the Triple Tau, and has in later centuries become an emblem of Royal Arch Masonry. Within the symbol is a fourth T hidden upside down. In de Vere’s world 4T was synonymous with 40. This signified his closeness to God.

T T T T = 40

Four T’s are to be found hidden in the Sonnet frontispiece and the coded inscription below the effigy of William Shakspere in Stratford, which when decoded tells you where the real William Shakespeare is buried.

Then there is 57. Capital T is the 19th letter of the both Roman and Greek alphabets. Three 19’s = 57 which is of course the sum of 17 and 40. Once again emphasising de Vere’s closeness to God.

There is an ancient coding system termed Gematria which involves assigning a numerical value to individual letters in order to encode text. The Greek letter X (chi) was assigned the value of 40 at the time of the New Testament. The Greek letter P (rho) is the 17th letter of the Greek alphabet. The superimposition of these two letters forms the Chi Rho christogram, incorporating as it does the first two letter of the Greek word ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ or Christ.

The combination of 17 and 40 again crystallising Edward de Veres’ proximity to God. Once again this concept is explained in much more eloquence than my own by Alexander Waugh in his video.

Complicated though this may all seem it is important to have some knowledge of it to appreciate what follows.

You should also know is that for something to be validated it is often repeated 3 times, referring back to the Trinity.

I am going to digress slightly at this point to tell you about another number relevant to
Edward de Vere. This point is not about the poem but fits very nicely with numbers
related to de Vere

The number we are considering is 153.

Now 153 is a triangular number, which has a series of features. The one of interest here is that if the number from 1 to 153 are laid out as a triangle below.

There are 17 rows and 17 numbers along the bottom.

If we look at the hand of Elizabeth in the Pregnancy Portrait, there is a prominent ring on her right thumb which has 5 black stones.

Now imagine for a moment that it had just four stones and you were asked to number them. I would wager that you would start at one point and go in a clockwise direction. 1 to 4.

Or perhaps in an anticlockwise direction 1 to 4.

If there were 5 stones then this sequence would carry on to the 5th stone.

As you can see that the magic 153 number appears and It remains even when the sequence is rotated in either direction.

To the initiated 153 = 17 = de Vere.

My interpretation of this is that Elizabeth is pointing at the stag. Not with her index finger, as a ring here would be malrotated, but with her thumb where a ring is in the correct plane. If I’m right then this forms strong support for the stag being Edward de Vere.

Hopefully you are now getting a flavour of how their minds were working. All based on a fervent belief in religion and the fundamental belief in numbers as the basis of everything.

For Edward de Vere 17 40 57 and 153 demonstrated his proximity to the almighty. As you are probably thinking these philosophies were the basis of pre masonic thinking.

One more thing about cryptic elements in the painting. I am following on from a recent video by Alexander Waugh in which he showed a picture of the man pictured below William Herbert Earl of Pembroke, Chancellor of Oxford University, Lord Chamberlain and dedicatee of the First Folio of Shakespeare’s works.

It was the posture which caught his attention in particular the left arm, which he interpreted as the obsolete digraph thorn, which stood for the sound TH. It came in a variety of different shapes, which did not look much like a thorn. However there was one form which did as shown above

It you take the letters T and H, then by stretching the H and joining the T you get our friend the Triple Tau.

Now look again at the pregnancy portrait. Could this also be the digraph thorn?

Was the Queen a member of this illustrious group pre masonic group, after all John Dee was her physician? Did she have her own sacred numbers? Was she indeed the figure head?

Back to the plot!

Metric Feet

The poem has 5 metric feet to each line as it is written in iambic pentameter. This strange term is used to describe a particular rhythm of a poem. Each two syllables make up a metric foot, and there are five of these in a line. As you read the poem the stress is placed on the second syllable, so the rhythm goes.

da DUM da DUM da DUM da DUM da DUM.

This comprises of 10 syllables. Each verse contains 40 syllables. The last two lines stand alone. We thus have 40, repeated three times for validation.

The first line, the fourth line and the last line each have 4T’s.

Not impressed? I don’t expect you to be, but remember the poet chose to use the iambic pentameter.

Hidden word

Here is the last line of the poem with the two words “love tree”. Although written as two separate words with a fairly large space, I suggest that these are two nouns, the former of which is acting as an adjective. It could also be written as love-tree or even lovetree. In either case tree is the 17th word of last paragraph.

I have inverted the colours to make the text easier to read. If you rearrange the letters of the two words “e vere” can be derived. These letters are separated by a “t”, which appears a rather odd shape for a lower case “t”. There are 35 t’s in the poem, in four different styles.

Here are all 15 of the conventional lower case “t’s” in the order they appear in the poem.

To my eye number 35 in the poem, has no upstroke on the “t” it looks more like a Tau. There is good clearance around the letter so there was no need to squeeze it in.

This may be nothing, but an anagram of e vere with a Tau in the middle of it might be taken as verification in terms of de Vere identifying himself with that letter.

More hidden words.

The words “Wriothesley ” (pronounced Rosely) can be derived from the letters in lines 1,7 and 9 of the poem. The sum of these lines is 17. The fact that this happens 3 times would seem to verify the finding. Rather surprisingly Wriothesley can be derived from 3 or 4 times from 24% of the 154 Shakespeare Sonnet sequence. The sum of the lines being 17 in only 2%. I am advised that quantifying the probability of the findings in our poem is difficult, but the line sum reaches significance.

Although taken in isolation each finding may unimpressive, taken together however they become powerful, even if it evades quantifiable analysis. Another example is that if several letters are used more than once the following sentence can be constructed from each of these 3 lines.

Henry Wriothesley is my onely son and heir.

As I am sure you are aware Henry Wriothesley was the 3rd Earl of Southampton and was also the Fair Youth of Shakespeare’s Sonnets. He was brought up in Cecil House as a Ward of Court, just as was Edward de Vere years before. He was pressurised in the early 1590’s to marry Edward de Vere’s eldest daughter Elizabeth; a pressure he withstood although it cost him £30,000.

The last line of the poem

Now let’s look at the whole of the last line of the poem.


This letters can be rearranged to form the sentence:


Is this just chance? The combination of “Vere and true” would support its veracity. Indeed the de Vere motto is “Nihil Vero Verius” nothing truer than truth. The use of “o’’ was a valid abbreviation for “of” in Tudor times. The term “babe” may seem odd, but it does occur in the last two lines if Sonnet 115.

Love is a babe; then might I not say so,

To give full growth to that which still doth grow?

But what about “still life” does this mean that the child was still- born? I think not. Still life was a valid for of art in late 16th century England and included not only static objects, but also scenes with human figures. It is thought to have originated in the Netherlands. the name is derived from the Dutch word “stilleven”. Marcus Gheeraerts the younger, the painter of the portrait was of course Flemish.

Hidden messages in the layout of the text

I have looked at the pattern of the poem many times and thought that there was something odd about it. This is not at the beginning and ends of the lines, but in the centre. Some words seemed to have spaces on each side which were two large. I thought initially that this was because the writer of the script wanted to ensure that the poem fitted nicely into the cartouche, possibly by starting in the middle and working outwards.

Then I discovered the following. If you count the words from the beginning you arrive at the 17th word which is “of ”. If you then construct a perpendicular between the two letters it intersects four words. “of, my, that, love and fruite”. Rearranged this can be read as.

That fruite of my love

There is a technical point here. Photographing an object such as a painting can result in parallax errors if the camera is not absolutely perpendicular to the canvas. This causes distortion particularly in the horizontal and vertical planes. I therefore used an image from the Royal Palace Collection which revealed that the lines of text were horizontal, even though the cartouche was not perfectly symmetrical. Unfortunately the text on this image was illegible, so I superimposed one of my own images to check that it was properly aligned. I am confident therefore that the relationship of the vertical lint to the words is not an error. I concede that the line just touches the word “my” rather than crossing it. I believe that I am on fairly safe ground to conclude that we have the word Wriothesley written three times horizontally and that that fruite of my love is written vertically.

I have analysed all other lines in the poem using a computer assisted word finder and so far I have been unable to detect any other words of interest.

The cartouche

Next let’s look at the frame around the poem. Not of much interest you might think, just a rather ornate frame for the poem. Take a closer look, there are several features.

  1. Three single flowers, one at the top and one on each side.
  2. Two symmetrical “O” shaped rings, one on each side
  3. At the top is another circular perforation with a square one below it. Two side pieces curve forwards, giving the appearance of outstretched arms. The top suggests a crowned head.
  4. At the bottom is a fourth circular perforation with a shaped surround.

The flower has four pointed petals in a cruciform pattern. Each one is aligned vertically. There relatively few flowers with this configuration. I believe that the one of interest to us is Daphne.

This genus has nearly 100 species varying from shrubs to alpines. The plant was known to the Tudors. Gerard describes Spurge Laurel in his Floral of 1597 The top two pictures are from his book. An illustration of the plant and details of its naming. Δάφνη is the Greek word for Laurel is Daphne. The Latin name Daphnoides

Gerards Floral 1597

What is the connection between a woman’s name and a laurel plant? Well we need to go back to Ovid.

Daphne was considered to be a minor figure in Greek mythology. She was a female nymph associated with fountains, wells, springs, streams and brooks. Various forms of the myth exist, but centre around the pursuit of Daphne by the Greco/Roman God Apollo sometimes known as Phoebus.

Apollo finds Daphne asleep Unknown artist around 1480

The story was interpreted by Ovid in Metamorphoses. According to this version Apollo’s infatuation was caused by a golden-tipped arrow shot at him by Cupid, son of Venus, who wanted to punish Apollo for having insulted his archery skills by commenting “What hast thou to do with the arms of men, thou wanton boy?”, and to demonstrate the power of love’s arrow. Cupid also shot Daphne, but with a leaden-tipped arrow, the effect of which was to make her flee from Apollo.

Elated with sudden love, Apollo chased Daphne continually. He tried to make her cease her flight by saying he did not wish to hurt her. When she kept fleeing, Apollo lamented that even though he had the knowledge of medicinal herbs, he had failed to cure himself from the wound of Cupid’s arrow. When Apollo finally caught up with her, Daphne prayed for help to her father, the river god who immediately commenced her transformation into a laurel tree (Laurus nobilis):

“a heavy numbness seized her limbs, thin bark closed over her breast, her hair turned into leaves, her arms into branches, her feet so swift a moment ago stuck fast in slow-growing roots, her face was lost in the canopy. Only her shining beauty was left.”

Even this did not quench Apollo’s ardour, and as he embraced the tree, he felt her heart still beating. He then declared:

“My bride,” he said, “since you can never be, at least, sweet laurel, you shall be my tree. My lure, my locks, my quiver you shall wreathe.

Upon hearing his words, Daphne bends her branches, unable to stop it. This sculpture is by Gian Lorenzo Bernini showing the moment Daphne turns into a laurel. If you are not familiar with Bernini’s work Please take a moment to marvel at one man could do with a single piece of marble. To my mind one of the most beautiful artistic creations.

Now more about Apollo.

Apollo was a sun god of great antiquity, yet he is represented as an ever youthful god, just, wise and of great beauty. Apollo represented the moral excellence that we think of as civilisation. His cult at Delphi had enormous influence on matters of state and religion, as well as on everyday law and order.

As the God of Muses he presided over music, songs, dance and poetry. He presided over medicine either through himself or his son Asclepius. In Roman times he became known by the epithet Phoebus. (bright) ie the God of Light. Now we know that Edward de Vere referred to himself as Apollo / Phoebus. Arguably Apollo was God of all things at which de Vere excelled.

Apollo freshening up

Here is a section of a poem written by de Vere before 1566, when he was a teenager. I will return to the circumstances of this poem later, but at this stage it is clear that De Vere was well aware of the myth from an early age.

The myth of the god chasing something he could not have does resonate with the theme of the painting.

A crown of bays shall that man wear
That triumphs over me,
For black and tawny will I wear,
Which mourning colours be.
The more I followed one, the more she fled away,
As Daphne did full long agone, Apollo’s wishful prey;
The more my plaints resound, the less she pities me;
The more I sought, the less I found that mine she meant to be.
…Drown me you trickling tears, you wailful wights of woe
… Ah a lalalantida, my dear dame hath thus tormented me

To return to the cartouche. The detail on the right side has been partially obscured by the frame so I have replaced the missing part.

The spelling of Daphne in Greek begins with the letter Δ. So we have Daphne three times over one for each flower.

Δ is the 4th letter of the Greek Alphabet, so if we replace it with figure 4’s we then have three 4’s. If we describe a circle within the three perforation then three 40’s appear.

The next observation is that the scrolls on the cartouche are ribbed on the outer sides. Together with the cross piece this could be interpreted as a T. So we have three 40’s and 4T’s. Special numbers of Edward de Vere allied to the Triple Tau emblem.

If we return to the cartouche frame and join the centres of the three circular perforations, the shape described is the Greek capital letter delta Δ. The circular projection on the right of the capital delta If we return to the cartouche frame and join the centres of the three circular perforations, the shape described is the Greek capital letter delta Δ. The circular projection on the right of the capital delta

might suggest reflect the way in which John Dee sometimes signed his name with the letter delta followed by a dot Δ.

This is based on a Hebrew system called nikud in which dots are used to denote the pronunciation of consonants in a language which does not have vowels. In this case it tells us to pronounce the Δ. as Dee. (Alexander Waugh goes into this in some detail in his presentation John Dee’s Secret Patron Revealed.)

The small square perforation lies with the larger triangle and may represent the quaternary within the tertiary, in other words a four sided object within a three sided one. The philosophy of John Dee.

You will remember I discussed the Chi Rho symbol with respect to Edward de Vere. Well if you draw lines between the centres of the cut outs on the scrolls. Then these intersect with a vertical line down the centre of the cartouche.The top of the rho can be drawn along the edge of one side of one of the arms at the top of the cartouche. In addition the vertical line bisects the word “of” from which one might read Oxf the first three letters of Oxford.

The poem and the Latin text of the painting.

You will remember the three inscriptions on the left hand side.

A just complaint of injustice

The first emerges from a swallow’s mouth and translates as a just complaint of injustice. This completely consistent with the first verse of the poem, and I would now interpret the swallow as the poet’s muse and the whole work of art being a skilfully designed complaint about how the poet has been mistreated by Elizabeth.

Thus what is mine should be mine

The second translates, as Thus what is mine is mine. It appears to be carved onto the trunk of the tree. I would now interpret this as Elizabeth recording a loss, and the interpretation of the poem that this is her son as heir.

Pain is pain’s medicine

The third inscription is being spoken into the ear of the stag. It translates as Pain is Pain’s medicine. A colloquial expression might be “get over it”. This would certainly fit with human Elizabeth feeling love and sympathy for the stag, but her alter ego the Goddess Diana, remains harsh and unbending. The stag will not be allowed to speak again.

I believe that these are all consistent with the information which I have demonstrated in the poem.

Comparison of the poem with another one.

Lastly I would like to draw your attention to another poem written many years before.

Richard Edwardes 1525-1566

This man is Richard Edwardes. He was a poet, playwright and composer. And during his life time he built up a collection of his own works and those composed by others.

After his death in 1566 the collection came into the hands of the printer Henry Difle. The introductory epistle to Henry Compton confirms that all were composed before Richard Edwardes died. Although the collection was not published until 1576, entitled Paradyse of Dainty Devices. It was updated in the 1596 edition of the book which I have as yet been unable to locate.

You will see that one of the authors is named E.O. This stood for Edward Oxenford or Earl of Oxenford ie Edward de Vere.

The book contained 8 of his early poems written, if Henry Difle is to be believed, before he was 16. We have heard part of one of them earlier entitled “A Crowne of bayes” in which he describes an unattainable “dame”.

I would like to introduce you to another one. Entitled “A lover rejected complaineth”. Consider a 16 year old youth, supremely well educated, brimming with self belief, living in the house of William Cecil, and effectively the Queen’s stepchild; a youth who is hopelessly besotted with the Queen, who has eyes only for Robert Dudley. The very man who was awarded his estate by the Court of Wards from which he benefitted enormously. How could the youth express himself but by poetry? As you listen to it also note the theme and the vocabulary.

A lover rejected complaineth

The trickling tears that fall along my cheeks,
The secret sighs that show my inward grief,
The present pains perforce that Love aye seeks,
Bid me renew my cares without relief;
In woeful song, in dole display,
My pensive heart for to betray.

Betray thy grief, thy woeful heart with speed;
Resign thy voice to her that caused thee woe;
With irksome cries, bewail thy late done deed,
For she thou lov’st is sure thy mortal foe;
And help for thee there is none sure,
But still in pain thou must endure.

The stricken deer hath help to heal his wound,
The haggard hawk with toil is made full tame;
The strongest tower, the cannon lays on ground,
The wisest wit that ever had the fame,
Was thrall to Love by Cupid’s slights;
Then weigh my cause with equal wights (weights).

She is my joy, she is my care and woe;
She is my pain, she is my ease therefore;
She is my death, she is my life also,
She is my salve, she is my wounded sore:
In fine, she hath the hand and knife,
That may both save and end my life.

And shall I live on earth to be her thrall’
And shall I live and serve her all in vain?
And kiss the steps that she lets fall,
And shall I pray the Gods to keep the pain
From her that is so cruel still?
No, no, on her work all your will.

And let her feel the power of all your might,
And let her have her most desire with speed,
And let her pine away both day and night,
And let her moan, and none lament her need;
And let all those that shall her see,
Despise her state and pity me.


Of course this poem could have been written to a young lady of the Court. I do wonder if this poem, was written by a love struck youth to his idol Elizabeth and later formed the basis of the poem in the cartouche.

We have tears running down his cheeks, secret sighes, the use of pensive, and above all an overwhelming feeling of rejection. Interweave the myth of Diana and Actaeon, Ovid’s source for which de Vere was working on at the time, and you have the makings of an illustrated sonnet that was to emerge in 1600 at the foot of a painting of Elizabeth as the Goddess Diana.

Summary and Conclusions

Thank you for making it this far. Many of the concepts I have discussed are very hard to grasp at first hearing. I can take no credit for discovering them. That honour goes to my learned friend Alexander Waugh. I have merely applied his discoveries to a new topic.

What I have presented to you is a series of observations on the poem and cartouche within the Pregnancy Portrait. You may disagree with some or indeed all of them. You could say that I had preconceived ideas as to what I was looking for and chose those that fitted. The result may have been different if, for example, I had looked for the words “The moon is made of green cheese” within the poem. (it isn’t there by the way).

Although the observations of Alexander Waugh may be new to you, I hope that you can begin to understand the complexity of the ciphers used to avoid detection.

It is crucial to remember that this painting, although altered over the years, is a genuine original 16th century document, making a very big and indeed expensive statement. Whether or not it was intended to embarrass those living at the time or to convey a message to future generations to set the record straight is of course unknown.

It is remarkable that it has survived, and I believe it has done so for a number of reasons. Firstly its secrets, and there may be more, were hidden by the one of the world’s finest cryptographers John Dee. Secondly it came right at the end of Elizabeth’s reign. The succession was secure and soon the painting was tucked away in various Royal Palaces, labelled Elizabeth in fancy dress. Very few people ever looked at it, and certainly no member of the General public. In 1838 it was moved to Hampton Court Palace where it was in public display. To be honest few people took much notice until interest grew over the authorship question concerning the Shakespeare canon, and the paintings existence was revealed by Dr Paul Altrocchi. Today the picture is too famous for it to suddenly vanish. All attempts for a dialogue with those responsible for it are met with silence. Raising the possibility that they know more about it than they are letting on.

My aim is bring these findings to a wider audience and open them up to scrutiny. Any valid criticism or contribution is welcome.

Here is a brief summary of what has emerged from my study.

  1. The use of the swallow as a muse links to the unknown poet in Sir John Davies’ poem Orchestra. Almost certainly Edward de Vere. It may link at a deeper level to the myth of Philomela and Procne. The former rendered mute explained herself by art, and both transformed into a swallow and nightingale respectively found expression in new ways. A swallow and a songbird almost certainly a nightingale is found in the painting.
  2. I have explained the importance of numbers in the minds of Tudor cryptologists such as John Dee and his followers such as Edward de Vere. In particular the concept of each individual having numbers which relate them to the Trinity. The so called quaternary within the tertiary.
  3. The secret numbers of 17 and 40, associated with Edward de Vere appear several times within the frame and poem as I believe does the chi rho christogram.
  4. The triangular number 153 appears in the ring on Elizabeth’s thumb. 153 is the triangular number based on 17.
  5. The signature of John Dee appears hidden in the geometry of the cartouche frame, suggesting that he was involved with the encryption process.
  6. The cartouche frame has three flowers each with 4 petals. I believe these to be from the plant Daphne. The Greek of Daphne translated by Ovid describes the water nymph being pursued by Apollo, an identity assumed by Edward de Vere, changing into a laurel tree to escape him.
  7. The words “Wriothesley ” can be derived from lines 1, 7 and 9 of the poem (line total 17, words repeated 3 times). Referring to Henry Wriothesley 3rd Earl of Southampton.
  8. A vertical line based on the 17th word “on” crosses or touches the words “That fruite of my love” The combination being “Wriothesley is that fruite of my love”
  9. Within the last line the two words “Love Tree’ contain the name E. Vere and a T which is similar to Tau another symbol used a symbol by de Vere.
  10. The last line is a perfect anagram of “E. VERE IS THE TRUE FATHER O’ MY STILL LIFE BABE”.

Whoever designed the allegory of the painting had a very deep understanding of the works of Ovid and was well aware of the relationship of Elizabeth to the Goddess Diana as demonstrated in the Grove of Diana at Nonsuch.

So what can we draw from all of this? Well I think that more has emerged from my analysis than I hoped to find. I believe it all adds weight to my proposal that the stag is Edward de Vere 17th Earl of Oxford and also that the design of the painting and poem was at least assisted by John Dee.

The conviction forming in my mind is that the painting was executed to set the record straight, to tell future generations what really happened at the end of Elizabeth’s reign. This had to be done in a way that would bypass the censors. Unfortunately it has taken 400 years before we have begun to understand the message. The painting which may well have been a pair with the Rainbow portrait showing Elizabeth in two different guises as Astraea and Diana, is loaded with coded information.

As I said at the very beginning of my work on this painting. The issues resolve into three questions

  1. Is the subject of the painting Elizabeth 1st? I believe so.
  2. Is she depicted as being pregnant? I believe so.
  3. If so, who was the father and who was the son?

I believe that we are now closing in on the answers to question 3.

Unless all of my findings are just chance they point towards Henry Wriothesley being the heir to Elizabeth 1 and that his father was Edward de Vere 17th Earl of Oxford. Not a new assertion, it is one version of the so called Prince Tudor theory.

Could this possibly be true? There seems to be very strong evidence against it. That my friends will be the subject of my next video.

Thank you very much for getting this far!


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