THIS STAR OF ENGLAND
Man of the Renaissance
by Dorothy and Charlton Ogburn
THE facts regarding the birth of Anne’s child were complicated, contradictory, mystifying.
It is patent from Oxford’s letters—first, of March 17, when he received the news which made him “a glad man” and later, of September 24, when he thanks Burghley for “your good news of my wife’s delivery”—that he had felt not the slightest mistrust. No word of the speculations and computations which had taken place at home had been relayed to him. But these had been numerous and confusing.
On March 7, Elizabeth had a conversation at Richmond with one of her physicians, Dr. Masters, in what he described as “the chamber at the gallery and next to the Green.” That same evening Dr. Masters wrote Burghley an account of it:
I said, “Seeing it hath pleased your Majesty oftentimes to enquire tenderly after my Lady of Oxford’s health, it is now fallen out so (God be thanked) that she is with child evidently.” Here with she arose, or rather sprang up from the cushion, and said these words: “Indeed it is a matter that concerneth my Lord’s joy chiefly; ‘yet I protest to God that next to them that have interest in it, there is nobody that can be more joyous of it than I am.” Then I … told her that your Lordship had a privy likelihood of it upon your coming from the Court after Shrovetide, (1) but you concealed it.
Her Majesty asked me how the young lady did bear the matter. I answered that she kept it secret four or five days from all persons and that her face was much fallen and thin with little colour, and that when she was comforted and counselled to be gladsome and so rejoice, she would cry: “Alas, alas, how should I rejoice seeing that he that should rejoice with me is not here; and to say truth (I) stand in doubt whether he pass on me and it or not” ; and bemoaning her case would lament that after so long sickness of body she should enter a new grief and sorrow of mind. At this Her Majesty showed great compassion…. And repeated my Lord of Oxford’s answer to me, which he made openly in the presence of Her Majesty, viz., that if she were with child it was not his. I answered that it was the common answer of lusty courtiers everywhere, so to say…. Then she asking and being answered of me [who] was in the next chamber, she calleth my Lord of Leicester and telleth him all. And here I told her that though your Lordship had concealed it awhile from her, yet you left it to her discretion either to reveal it or keep it and lose. And here an end was made… . [She said] that she would be with you for concealing it so long from her. And severally she showed herself unfeignedly to rejoice, and in great offence with my Lord of Oxford, repeating the same to my Lord of Leicester after he came to her. Thus much rather to show my good will than otherwise desiring your Lordship that there may be a note taken from the day of the first quickening, for thereof somewhat may be known noteworthy. (2)
Since Lord Oxford had raised no question when he heard, late in September, that the child had been born in July, he had evidently had intercourse with his wife at Hampton Court in October. And when he had declared to Dr. Masters and the Queen, at some unspecified time before he went away, that if Anne had a child it would not be his, either he had been jesting or he had referred to a date when this would have been true. But if the child were indeed born in July, why had Anne not known before Shrovetide—that is, the middle of February—when her father had “had a privy likelihood of it”? She says she had been ill: “after so long sickness of body,” she puts it, “that she should enter a new grief and sorrow of mind.” But surely her physician would have known if conception had taken place and been the cause of her sickness. Dr. Masters had, however, learned of the prospect only in early March, at which time she had “kept it secret four or five days,” and “her face was much fallen and thin,” etc. And in regard to her husband’s attitude, she stood “in doubt whether he pass on me and it or not.” Clearly the doctor was not thoroughly satisfied with the state of things, for he enjoins Burghley to take note of “the day of the first quickening, for thereof somewhat may be known noteworthy.”
If an inkling of this peculiar situation had got through to Henry Howard, it would have been enough, assuming that he had no knowledge of any possible infidelity on the part of the Countess of Oxford—it would have been more than enough to serve his purpose, which was to separate Oxford from the Protestant faction and reclaim him for the Catholic nobles. One thing is certain: there was no subterfuge, no trick, no crime too heinous for Howard to attribute to Burghley. He had taken the older man’s measure and well knew he would stop at nothing where his ambition for wealth and distinction were involved.
That Henry Howard was concerning himself with the matter is attested by the following memorandum made by Burghley, January 3, 1576:
He [Oxford] confessed to my Lord Henry Howard that he lay not with his wife but at Hampton Court, and that then the child could not be his, because the child was born in July, which was not the space of twelve months. (3)
The word “twelve” must have been a slip of the perturbed Lord Treasurer’s pen, for neither Oxford nor Howard could have been so ignorant as to say this seriously. It is a witless kind of note altogether, for between the birth of the child and the date of this note, Oxford had not talked with Lord Howard, and even if he had could not have foreseen that the child would be born in July. Was Burghley, when he wrote “July” thinking “September”? Obviously, the Lord Treasurer was badly upset.
Oxford had for years been thrown intimately with Henry Howard, and may for a time have had leanings toward the church to which his cousin was so deeply attached. Howard, as son of the poet Earl of Surrey, had inherited a love of literature and learning that constituted a bond with Oxford; they belonged to a literary set of which Ralegh was afterward a member, dined together, and held discussions upon philosophical questions. But it was said that Lord Oxford had been heard to “affirm to divers that the Howards were the most treacherous race under heaven,” and “my Lord Henry Howard the worst villain that lived in this earth.” Whether he ever made these statements or not, events were to prove them true beyond all cavil.
(He probably did make them; for in 1 Henry IV, he was to have Worcester say to his fellow-conspirators: V.2.9-11:
For treason is but trusted like the fox,
Who, ne’er so tame, so cherish’d, and lock’d up,
Will have a wild trick of his ancestors.
And he surely had the Howards in mind then, as will be seen. In fact, he had learned about treason from the Howards.)
It is a signal tribute to Henry Howard’s masterly powers of deception that the shrewd and vigilant Burghley seems not at this time to have suspected him of spreading the scandal. Few plotters succeeded in outwitting this weathered old conspirator, “whose racks and gibbets bore witness to his cruelty,” and of whom de Spes wrote that he was “a crafty fox, a man of mean sort, but very astute, false, lying, and full of artifice.” In studying the numerous memoranda Burghley left, one encounters repeated evidence that he was ever mindful of the record he wished to leave. He would have found it very easy to destroy whatever he preferred not to have preserved.
One historian has written as follows:
The fact that Robert Cecil, while his father was still Elizabeth’s principal minister, was knighted and made Secretary of State and so assured of succeeding his father as chief of the Queen’s Cabinet does not signify that his father had anything to do with these promotions: such an example of nepotism would not occur to William Burghley of course… . “We know of no historian who has ever suggested such a thing; but … the younger Cecil contrived to gather into his hands all the preferments of the Crown and none could hope for promotion except by his favour.” (4)
There is no doubt that Robert Cecil carried on his father’s policy of editing the record. It is fundamentally through their combined machinations that the story of the greatest genius England ever produced has been so shamefully and shamelessly falsified.
Burghley’s memorandum continues:
Anno XVI Eliz. (1574) 29th July. Lord Burghley went to London with his daughter, the Countess of Oxford.
30th July. Earl of Oxford went to Theobalds with his wife.
3rd Aug. Earl of Oxford at the hunting of the stag.
1574. 16th Sept. Earl of Oxford at Theobalds when the Progress from farm ties. [sic.]
19th Sept. Sunday. Lady Lennox, Earl of Oxford, Lord Northumberland, Lady Northumberland.
20th Sept. Monday. Lady Margaret Lennox, Earl of Oxford, Lady Lennox, Lady Hunsdon.
21st Sept. Lady Lennox, Lord Northumberland, and my Lady.
October at Hampton Court. The Countess fell sick at Hampton Court. (Afore November.)
7th Jan. The Earl departed overseas.
6th March. The Earl presented to the French King.
17th March. The Earl departed from Paris and wrote to his wife and sent her his picture and two horses.
26th April. The Earl of Oxford departed from Strasburg.
2nd July. The Countess delivered of a daughter.
24th Sept. The letter of the Earl by which he gives thanks for his wife’s delivery. Mark well this letter.
3rd Jan. The Earl wrote me. (5)
Here, at least, we have Burghley’s statement for the record.
The whole problem would seem to hinge upon the question of whether the baby was really born on July 2, as he scrupulously notes. But if so, why the discrepancies cited above? Why does Dr. Masters say on March 7 that Anne is “evidently” with child? Why the young Countess’s perturbations? And why the decision put up to the Queen of whether to “reveal it or keep it and lose”? (Does this mean lose the child, by keeping the secret and putting the child away? Who can tell?) If Lord Oxford lay not with his wife but in October and the baby was born in July, everything was certainly regular enough, as to dates, in any case.
But what if the baby had not been born until the middle of September? What if Burghley’s long delay in transmitting the news had been caused, not by “the plague being in the passages,” but by the necessity of waiting until the baby had been born before notifying the Earl in September of its arrival (in July, as he said)? If the baby had actually arrived near the middle of September, then Anne’s suspicions of her pregnancy might have been confirmed only by Shrovetide (about February 15) when her father had his “privy likelihood,” and possibly her confidence assured not before March, when she informed Dr. Masters. Though this seems somewhat late even for a September birth, still it could be thus.
There is another point. Why does Burghley, in his artless-seeming memorandum, make no mention whatever of “the day of the first quickening,” which Dr. Masters said would be so significant? Perhaps his omission is doubly significant. From the meticulous care with which he recorded every other detail, we are entitled to believe that if the quickening had occurred at a date which suited his book, he would have recorded the fact with considerable emphasis. If the child had been conceived in October (with birth to follow July 2), quickening would certainly have occurred by the time Anne spoke of her distress to Dr. Masters in March, or very soon thereafter.
We are obliged to assume that Burghley did, as Masters put it, have a note taken from the day of the first quickening”—he was very close to his daughter: she was markedly subservient to him—and that the knowledge resulting was certainly not “noteworthy” for Burghley’s purpose. If everything had been regular, there would have been no necessity for comment or all this anxiety and justification.
Now, regarding Burghley’s notation of Jan. 3, 1576, to the effect that Oxford had “confessed to my Lord Howard that he lay not with his wife but at Hampton Court” (i.e., in October)—if he had learned this only during the crucial days of March 1575, then he was indeed in a predicament (assuming the child had been conceived in December and born in September 1575). He might possibly have taken it for granted that the Earl had lain with his wife shortly before leaving England, so that a September birth, following a December conception, would have appeared altogether normal.
After he had heard Lord Howard’s statement, however, it was absolutely necessary to give out that the birth had occurred in July.
To Burghley nothing was more desirable than that Anne should have a child who would be heir to the Vere estates and the great Vere name. If Lord Oxford had gone abroad without having begotten an heir, and if he should not return, both his name and his estates would be lost to the house of Cecil. That must be avoided at any cost. So he went round to work.
Let us return for a moment to the letter Anne had written to Lord Chamberlain Sussex on September 16, 1574, while her husband was still, after more than five weeks, on progress with the Queen. She was requesting an allotment of rooms at Hampton Court for herself and her husband, in October, “Because I think it is long since I saw Her Majesty, and would be glad to do my duty to her after Her Majesty’s coming to Hampton Court,” etc.; by which of course she meant that it was long since Her Majesty had allowed her to see her husband, and if he were to be kept where Her Majesty was, then Anne would like to pay her duty at Hampton Court and be there too. Or at least her father had ordered her to say so.
Burghley was growing anxious. There had undoubtedly been talk of Oxford’s forthcoming trip abroad, and he must see to it that the Earl and his wife spent some time together before he departed. There can be little doubt that Burghley had instructed Anne to write this letter. The signature is utterly characteristic of his method: “Your Lordship’s poor friend, Anne Oxenforde.”
It is not we who shall accuse the Lord Treasurer. The story—and the suspicion—will take form as soon as the Earl of Oxford begins to write about it; for in the end he would tell everything, whether it were favorable to himself or quite the reverse. Meanwhile, Henry Howard had sent him a piece of shocking information.
Gossip was rife at court, and the story of the Countess of Oxford’s unfaithfulness would have leaked out, certainly if the Queen had confided the suspicious circumstances to Hatton, who would have been overjoyed to see his rival disgraced, or it might indeed have been through Leicester, who was also inimical to Oxford, partly through jealousy arising from the Queen’s extreme fondness for him, partly because his enemy Sussex was Oxford’s great friend.
Whether the child was born in September, rather than July, or whether the Howards only said it was, this was the story the wily steward had conveyed to Lord Oxford, with certain revolting insinuations. And this was the situation with which Burghley found himself faced.
So what did he do? What he may well have done was to arrange for the dissemination of the anecdote, which is still extant, that he had contrived for Lord Oxford to sleep with his wife (in December) in the belief that he was keeping an assignation with another woman.
In this Burghley would have been protected by a very peculiar state of things. Lord Oxford had used that very incident in a play, an early version of which internal evidence shows he had written before this time: the play now called All’s Well that Ends Well. He had taken the incident from Boccaccio’s Decameron. Of course Burghley could have read the Decameron Tales—he liked spicy stories—or he would certainly have heard about the play, which at that time had not yet been recorded as presented at court but which had probably been given privately, either at Oxford’s own home or at the home of some other nobleman who maintained a company of players—Lord Pembroke, for example, whose wife was a good friend of Oxford’s. It would have been very easy for Burghley to disclaim any part in spreading the story by protesting that Lord Oxford had started it himself, since everyone knew he was always using the incidents of his own life in his plays, and Bertram was recognizably Oxford, as Helena was Anne.
Or he could have said that Oxford’s play had in fact given him the idea, and he had actually done this deed, in the interests of his poor daughter. In which event, he would naturally have had to secure Anne’s complicity—to exact her oath that she would never divulge the truth. Of course she would not have dared do so, in any case. But all this would account for Anne’s uncertainty as to whether her husband would “pass on me and it.” Whether it was true or not, her husband would have found it all but impossible to forgive her for conniving with her father against him.
If Burghley really wished Oxford to believe the story and Oxford had scouted it, Burghley could have said he was drunk at the time. Oxford did drink rather freely upon occasion, as he admits in the plays. Burghley would have had no trouble suborning some light young lady of the court. And in any event, he knew that Lord Oxford would shrink from having such a thing gossiped and argued about by the “reptilia.” This would have been far indeed from the first time that Burghley had lied himself out of a dangerous predicament. But Lord Oxford had no such weapons, would stoop to no such guilt. (6)
The thunderclap had come out of a clear sky. The proud young aristocrat whose good name meant more to him than power or riches, was beside himself with rage. He straightway embarked for England to consult the Queen.
Then another strange thing happened, or seemingly strange. On the way across the Channel pirates attacked his vessel. (It was curiously like what was to happen to Hamlet.) He must have speculated grimly as to who had tipped them off and have felt an access of bitterness for the scurvy ways of men.
Refusing to land at Dover, where Thomas Cecil had gone to meet him, he left the ship in the Thames, accompanied by Rowland Yorke, Gascoigne’s old companion-in-arms. Here the Countess of Oxford and her father were awaiting him. But he passed them without a glance and made his way directly to the Queen.
The impasse was now overt.
Burghley’s state of mind, or certainly his perturbation, was revealed in a letter characteristically long-winded, which he wrote on April 23 to Elizabeth. Nicknamed “Pondus” at court—perhaps because of his ponderous circumlocution—the artful old schemer must at times have been a trial to the Queen, who would have longed to bring him to the point.
At the risk of a measure of reiteration on our own part, we must, however, assert again that Burghley’s pious protestations are not to be taken at their face value. Much as we may sympathize with the father’s palpable distress, we must not be deceived by the “tricks,” as de Spes called them, of the man “who thereby thinks to cheat everyone, in which to a certain extent he succeeds.” Lord Burghley has been extraordinarily favored by history: the story of his daughter’s separation from her husband, like many others, has been presented solely from his point of view—his own version has been slavishly accepted-and it is only fair to examine, for a change, the other side.
To do this, one must remind oneself that Pondus’s oaths and invocations of the Deity are mere figures of speech, for Burghley was anything but a religious man, in the true sense. As G. W. Phillips says:
He posed as an ardent and pious reformer under Edward: under Mary as a good and devout Catholic, ostentatiously “frequenting masses, said litanies with the priest, laboured a great pair of beads … preached to his parishioners in Stamford … received the sacrament” [with humility and unction]. Under Elizabeth this no longer served; so instead he larded his speech and writing with pious cant, and made a great show of religious observances in his stately homes. Yet when he was plotting the death of Mary Stuart, he did not scruple to deny it with an oath: “If I have any such malicious and malignant spirit, God presently so confound my body to ashes, and my soul to perpetual torment in hell.” (7)
After this necessary preamble, a digest of his letter follows. We shall have to quote from it more fully later.
Most sovereign lady, As I was accustomed from the beginning of my service to your Majesty until of late by the permission of your goodness and by occasion of the place wherein I serve your Majesty, to be fre-quency an intercessor for others to your Majesty, and therein did find your Majesty always inclinable to give me gracious audience; so now do I find in the latter end of my years [he lived 22 years after this] a necessary occasion to be an intercessor for another next to myself, in a cause godly, honest, and just; and therefore having had proof of your Majesty for most favours … etc., etc.
To enter to trouble your Majesty with the circumstances of my cause … the one is that I am very loth to be more cumbersome to your Majesty than need shall compel me; the other is for that I hope in God’s goodness, and for reverence borne to your Majesty … it is true that the nature of my cause is such as I … had rather seek means to shut it up for them to lay it open … but for the wickedness of others from whom the ground work proceedeth.
With incredible verbosity he informs Her Majesty that whereas he is, “by God’s visitation with some infirmity and yet not great stayed from coming to do my—duty to your Majesty as this time”—it was said that Burghley could always have a convenient attack of gout when things were difficult at court
and my daughter, the Countess of Oxford, also occasioned to her great grief to be absent from your Majesty’s Court, etc… . [ad infinitum; the point being that whatever report has reached Her Majesty, he himself is] an old worn servant that dare compare with the best, the greatest, the oldest and the youngest for loyalty and devotion . and … my daughter, your Majesty’s most humble young servant is towards your Majesty in dutiful love and fear, yea, in fervent admiration of your graces … and in the cause betwixt my Lord of Oxford and her, whether it be for respect in me or misdeeming of hers wherefore I cannot yet know the certainty, I do avow in the presence of God and of his angels whom I do call as ministers of his ire, if in this I do utter any untruth.
I have not in his absence on my part omitted any occasion to do him good for himself and his causes, no, I have not in thought imagined anything offensive to him … if I should be suspected, I should receive great injury for my daughter… . yet now I have taken God and his angels to be witnesses of my writing, I renounce nature, and protest simply to your Majesty. I did never see in her behaviour in word or deed, nor ever could perceive by any other means, but that she hath always used herself honestly, chastely, and lovingly towards him: and now upon expectation of his coming so filled with joy thereof … as in my judgment no young lover rooted and sotted in love of any person could more excessively show the same with all comely tokens; and when at his arrival, some doubts were cast of his acceptance of her true innocency, seemed to make her so bold as she never cast any care of things but wholly reposed herself with assurance to be well used by him … . And … she went to him … and there missed of her expectation ….
After another paragraph of protestations lest he trouble Her Majesty, he winds up:
I do end with this humble request … whereof I may have wrong with dishonesty offered me, I may have your Majesty’s princely favour … not meaning for respect of my old service, nor the place whereunto your Majesty hath called me (though unworthily) to challenge any extraordinary favour, for my service hath been but a piece of my duty… . And so I do remain constant to serve your Majesty in what place so ever your Majesty shall command, even in as base as 1 have done in great. (8)
Two days after dispatching this letter Burghley made three pages of notes on the subject, setting forth the facts which have been given and concluding with the statements that the Earl had expressed pleasure upon the news of his daughter’s birth, had suddenly changed in Paris on April 4, had refused to speak to any of his wife’s family, and—a really startling one—that Lord Howard was keeping him, Burghley, in touch with Lord Oxford’s actions.
If he were relying upon Henry Howard for even a tenuous liaison with Oxford, Burghley would seem to have been far less astute than was his custom. Could it have been that he pretended to take Lord Howard into his confidence for the purpose of disarming-him, on the theory that trust would beget trust? If we cannot believe in the Lord Treasurer’s ingenuousness, it is because he himself has made the terms on which he must be judged.
There was certainly no subterfuge on the part of his son-in-law, who wrote on April 27:
My Lord, Although I have foreborne in some respect, which should [be] private to myself, either to write or come unto your Lordship, yet I had determined, as opportunity should have served me, to have accomplished the same in compass of a few days. But now, urged thereto by your letters, to satisfy you the sooner, I must let your Lordship understand this much: that is, until I can better satisfy or advertise myself of some mislikes, I am not determined, as touching my wife, to accompany her. What they are—because some are not to be spoken of or written upon as imperfections—I will not deal withal. Some that otherwise discontented me I will not blaze or publish until it please me. And last of all I mean not to weary my life any more with such troubles or molestations as I have endured; nor will I, to please your Lordship only, discontent myself.
One of the features of the affair which had especially galled the Earl was the publicity it had received. He was a man of great personal dignity. To have the courtiers, among whom he had for so long held first place, laughing at him as soon as his back was turned, calling him a cuckold, making the Elizabethan jest about his “wearing the horns” of a deceived husband-this put him into a passion of fury. (He undoubtedly felt as Leontes would one day feel
They’re here with me already, whispering, rounding,
Sicilia is a so-forth.—W. T.: I.2.217-18.)
It becomes apparent in his letters and elsewhere that this was a humiliating, an intolerable, an unforgivable thing. His vulnerable spot had been found out and the wound rankled beyond all healing. He may have been unreasonable, ‘even harsh, but he had been reared in the tradition of knighthood, of which personal integrity and honor were the salient tenets. He was the first earl of the realm, virtually a prince, and he would not suffer bungling fools or slanderous knaves to play fast and loose with his wife’s chastity and the Vere name. There was more than one “imperfection” that “discontented” him, he says. He felt he had put up with quite enough Cecilian deviousness. He was bitter, he was outraged, he was rebellious, and above all, young.
The letter makes no secret of his revulsion against Anne:
Wherefore—as your Lordship very well writeth unto me—that you mean, if it standeth to my liking, to receive her into your house, these are likewise to let your Lordship understand that it doth very well content me; for there, as your daughter or her mother’s, more than my wife, you may take comfort of her; and 1, rid of the cumber thereby, shall remain well eased of many griefs.
It had undoubtedly been one of the young husband’s “griefs” that, from the beginning, Anne was completely under the domination of her father, if not of her mother; and at times like the present, all grievances came to the surface.
I do not doubt [he adds] but that she hath sufficient proportion for her being to live upon and to maintain herself.
This [and here he goes again] might have been done through private conference before, and had not needed to have been made the fable of the world if you would have had the patience to have understood me; but I do not know by whom, or whose advice it was to run that course so contrary to my will or meaning, that made her so disgraced to the world [and] raised suspicions openly that, with private conference, might have been more silently handled, and [this] hath given me more greater cause to mislike.
Wherefore I desire your Lordship in these causes—now you shall understand me—not to urge me any further; and so I write unto your Lordship, as you have done unto me, this Friday, 27th April. Your Lordship’s to be used in all things reasonable,
EDWARD OXEFORD (9)
Another letter followed on April 29, but all we know of it is the synopsis Burghley made; perhaps the letter itself was too pointed, or too eloquent, to be preserved. Under the heading, “The communication I had from my Lord of Oxford,” Burghley notes that the writer stipulated that he had not been provided with sufficient money; he blames Burghley for ill-treating his followers, and purposely rousing the Queen’s indignation against him (Oxford). Further, Lady Burghley is accused of “having declared she wished him dead; of undermining his wife’s affection for him; and of slandering him.” But regarding the Countess of Oxford, Burghley notes that the Earl “meaneth not to discover anything of the cause of his misliking,” and “until he understand further of it … meaneth not to visit her.”
After this Lord Burghley wrote again, memoranda and letters alike, but Oxford had spoken his last word for the time being, and there was no response. However, on July 12 he consented to confer with his father-in-law, and on the 13th wrote him in confirmation of the agreement they had reached:
My very good Lord, Yesterday, at your Lordship’s earnest request, I had some conference with you about your daughter. Wherein for that Her Majesty had so often moved me, and that you dealt so earnestly with me, to content her as much as I could, I did agree that you could eft bring her to the Court, with condition that she should not come when I was present, nor at any time have speech with me, and further that your Lordship should not urge further in her cause….
But he has heard that Burghley means to try to confront him with his wife, in the hope of making all well between them, and he will have none of that.
Wherefore I shall desire your Lordship not to take advantage of my promise till you have given me your honourable assurance by letter or word of your performance of the condition; which being observed, I could yield, as it is my duty, to Her Majesty’s request, and I will bear with your fatherly desire towards her… .
From my lodging at Charing Cross this morning.
Your Lordship’s to employ,
EDWARD OXEFORD (10)
All things considered, it seems clear that Lord Oxford had not come to a positive conclusion as to how much truth there was in the reports he had received. He was to be plagued with doubts for a long time. Perhaps, as we have said, the doubts were never entirely resolved. But he attained to a charity of spirit which was one day to make the facts seem less important to him than the pain the suspicion had caused.
Burghley knew that slanderers were at work and wrote Oxford to this effect, though he mentioned no names save, in one of his private memoranda, that of Lord Henry Howard.
The rift which had been caused between the two men was never entirely mended. Never again did Oxford—though friendly and courteous—write to his father-in-law with the old spontaneous affection and trust. It was to be a long time before he was reunited with his wife. Before that happened, he had been through such a devastating love-affair that he could have had very little rapture left to share with her.
6. Our source of the anecdote is Wright’s History of Essex. If Wright got his information from Camden, then it was Burghley himself who perpetuated the story, for Camden’s material was provided by Burghley.