Dr. Michael Delahoyde
Washington State University
The 25-year-old Oxford was permitted an extensive tour of the continent: France, Germany, and especially Italy over the course of sixteen months. In Italy, he visited almost all of the Italian locations that later would provide the settings for Shakespeare's Italian plays. Mantua seems especially key to a number of Shakespeare/Oxford connections (esp. Lucrece and The Winter's Tale) and to Oxford's musical life.
January 7, 1575 -- Possibly this early, Oxford may have left Court with Paris as his first destination; he took 8 men with him (two gentlemen, two grooms, a housekeeper, etc.).
"By February 7, de Vere had left the country." Nathaniel Baxter was one retainer known to have accompanied him from the start. Ralph Hopton and William Lewyn joined later. Oxford probably travelled from Dover to Calais, then would have undertaken a five- or six-day journey to Paris, Henri III's royal court at the Louvre, where he likely met Catherine de Medici, Henri of Navarre, sonneteer Ronsard, and Jacques Amyot (translator of Plutarch and French ambassador to Venice). Oxford stayed a month in Paris.
March 7, 1575 -- An ambassador wrote to Burghley, indicating Oxford had
been in Paris for some time.
The following week, notice arrived confirming the attaining of all passports and letters including from the ambassador of Venice.
(Calendar of State Papers and Manuscripts):
March 12, 1575 -- Giovanni Francesco Morosini, the Venetian Ambassador in Paris to the Signory: "An English gentleman, whose name is the Earl of Oxford, has arrived in this city; he is a young man of about twenty or twenty-two years of age. It is said that he fled England on account of his inclination to the Catholic religion; but having returned he received great favour from the Queen, who gave him full licence to travel and see the world, when she ascertained that he had resolved to depart under any circumstances."
March 15, 1575 -- Approx., Oxford left Paris for Strasbourg.
(Ward 102; Anderson 78):
March 17, 1575 -- According to a letter from Paris to Burghley, Oxford is jubilant at the news that his wife is pregnant, and he is looking forward to Venice, with the Venetian ambassador having given letters of introduction for Oxford to the Venetian duke and his kinsmen.
(Ward 104; Anderson 79):
That day or a few days later, Oxford travelled from Paris to Strasburg. He visited the 68-year-old Johan Sturmius, whose teaching at the university there "became the basis for that of the Jesuits, and through them of the public school instruction of England" (Ward).
(Ward 105; Anderson 79-80):
April 26, 1575 -- When spring allowed for a crossing of the Alps, Oxford left Strasburg; he either stopped near Milan or avoided it, entering Italy through the Brenner Pass, and then by canal and rivers to Verona, and later in the month he reached Padua.
Mid-May he reached Venice (a letter by Richard Shelley), whose theatrical season lasted to July.
A letter-writer detached from Oxford's group doesn't now know if he went to Greece or is still in Italy. "No ... records have been discovered detailing de Vere's movements during the summer of 1575." So Anderson suspects he did go to Greece in the summer (Anderson 85ff).
Coleen Moriarty and I, exploring the Venice archives in June 2015, discovered de Vere's signature in Italian and Latin, and a document showing that in late June 1575 he is in Venice seeking access to the secret chambers in the Doge's palace where the Consiglio dei Dieci (Council of Ten) met. We can surmise that he wanted to see the glorious Italian Renaissance artwork covering the walls and ceilings.
The plays offer evidence that de Vere travelled to Sicily, Palermo, and Messina. He was certainly in Genoa at some point in 1575 (Anderson 92).
(Ward 106; Anderson 93):
By September 23rd, he was in Venice again, just returned from Genoa, according to Clemente Paretti, who also reported that Oxford had earlier hurt his knee in a Venetian galley.
September 24, 1575 -- Oxford received letters reporting that his wife had given birth on July 2nd. He reports that he wants to see more of Italy and Germany, and that hopes for Spain seem currently unwise. He had been sick with fever and was prevented from travel for some time. Fall 1575 was a time of bubonic plague in Venice, but Titian was a celebrity, relevant to Venus and Adonis (Anderson 95-96).
October 6, 1575 -- Pasquino Spinola congratulated Burghley on Oxford's safe return to Venice from Milan.
(Ward 109; Anderson 97):
November 1575 -- Oxford had reached Padua again, writing Burghley on the 27th ("make no stay of the sales of my land"). Mantua is just a day's journey from there.
December 11, 1575 -- Oxford received money from Pasquino Spinola at Venice and left for Florence the next day. Near Christmas, Oxford left Florence for the south (Anderson 100).
(Ward 110; Anderson 101f):
January 3, 1576 -- Oxford wrote Burghley from Siena amid a time of revelry.
The next three months, we don't know. Oxford seems to have visited Sicily, via Rome? And/or a January voyage back to Venice (Anderson 104)? By the end of February, Oxford had planned to leave his Venetian home for England (Anderson 105).
(Ward 112; Anderson 105-107ff):
March 5, 1576 -- He and his train left Venice. He passed again near Milan. Some time later he is at Lyons.
March 21, 1576 -- By this day, he had arrived in Paris from Venice according to Ambassador Valentine Dale's report to Burghley.
March 23, 1576 -- Benedetto Spinola reported to Burghley that he had received a letter from his brother Pasquino at Venice on February 26th: that Oxford would be traveling home through Lyons and would leave Venice after Carnival. Orazio Cogno reported that Oxford's party left Venice on the Monday before Lent, March 5th.
March 31, 1576 -- Francis Peyto wrote to Burghley saying that Oxford had passed through Milan.
(Calendar of State Papers and Manuscripts):
April 3, 1576 -- From the Venetian ambassador in Paris: "The Earl of Oxford, an English gentleman has arrived here. He has come from Venice, and, according to what has been said to me by the English ambassador here resident [Dale], speaks in great praise of the numerous courtesies which he has received in that city; and he reported that on his departure from Venice your Serenity had already elected an Ambassador to be sent to the Queen, and the English Ambassador expressed the greatest satisfaction at the intelligence. I myself, not having received any information from your Serenity or from any of my correspondents, did not know what answer to give concerning this matter."
(Ward 118; Anderson 113):
April 3, 1576 -- Oxford seems to be in good spirits as he looks towards his journey home, although rumors about his wife may soon be erosive.
April 20, 1576 -- Approximately on Good Friday, Oxford boarded ship for home. After encountering pirates who ransacked his luggage, he refused to land in Dover where various Cecils had gone to meet him. He refused to speak to them at all and went straight to the Queen.
Anderson, Mark. "Shakespeare" by Another Name. NY: Gotham/Penguin, 2005.
Calendar of State Papers and Manuscripts. Venice. Vol. VII. 1558-1580. London, 1890.
Nelson, Alan H. Monstrous Adversary. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2003.
Ogburn, Charlton. The Mysterious William Shakespeare: The Myth and the Reality. 2nd ed. McLean, VA: EPM Pub., 1992. Probably the most influential Oxfordian book currently.
Ogburn, Dorothy and Charlton Ogburn. This Star of England. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, Pub., 1952. Nearly 1300 pages.
Ward, Bernard M. The Seventeenth Earl of Oxford (1550-1604) from Contemporary Documents. London: John Murray, 1928.