[Note: It’s best to read: How Coleridge got ‘All’s Well that Ends Well’ right AND wrong!

….and: How John Dover Wilson got ‘All’s Well that Ends Well’ NEARLY right! (Part One) first.]



The following Post, by Code Chief Agent, Stewart Trotter……

Stewart Trotter as The Chorus in 'The Making of a King' - his compilation of Henry IV parts One and Two and Henry V.

Stewart Trotter as The Chorus in ‘The Making of a King’ – his compilation of Henry IV parts One and Two and Henry V.

Click HERE to read the script.

…….is……(how shall I put it?)

…….a tad scholarly….

……BUT it IS short…….

……and Your Cat will liven it up with Osbert Lancaster’s designs for the 1953 Old Vic production of the play…..

Here, for a start, is his backcloth of Florence….


Yes! They had backcloths in those grim Post War days to cheer everyone up!

Now over to Stewart…..

‘Bye now!

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Thanks a lot for that – Trixie the Cat!!!

Brothers and Sisters of The Shakespeare Code……

There are at least…..


…… which are used in All’s Well that Ends Well ….


However, they DO appear ONCE, TWICE and even THREE times…..

….. in the works of A. N. OTHER WRITER…..

FIRST WORD: ‘linsey-wolsey’

In All’s Well that Ends Well, The Second Lord…….

French Lords - designs by Osbert Lancaster.

French Lords – designs by Osbert Lancaster.

….. says to the other Lords:

But what linsey-woolsey hast thou to speak to us again?

( ‘linsey-woolsey’ is a mixture of flax and wool)

Shakespeare NEVER uses ‘linsey-wolsey’ anywhere else…..

…..but A. N. OTHER WRITER uses it THREE TIMES!!!

Example 1.

A man that will entertain them must not pollute his body with any gross carnal copulation or inordinate beastly desires, but love pure beauty, pure virtue, and not have his affections linsey-wolsey, intermingled with lust and things worthy of liking.

Example 2.

Neither are these parts severally distinguished in his order of handling, but like a Dutch stewed-pot, jumbled together, jumbled together and linsey-wolsey woven one within another.

Example 3.

I had as lieve have no sun, as have it shine faintly, no fire as a smothering fire of small coals, no clothes, rather than wear linsey-wolsey.

SECOND WORD: ‘custard’

In All’s Well that Ends Well, the grizzled old truth-speaking courtier, Lafeu, insults the corrupt captain Parolles…..

Parolles - design by Osbert Lancaster.

Parolles – design by Osbert Lancaster.

……by saying to him:

You have made shift to run into ‘t, boots and spurs
and all, like him that leaped into the custard.

Shakespeare NEVER uses ‘custard’ anywhere else….


Example 1:

…..to provide him of strange birds, China mustard and odd patterns to make custards by…

Example 2:

She might have piled off the scale like the skin of a custard….

Example 3:

…..the houses here are not such flat custard crowns at the top as they are.

THIRD WORD: ‘fore-horse’

In All’s Well that Ends Well,  the ‘doughy youth’ Bertram…….

Bertram - designs NOT by Osbert Lancaster.

Bertram – designs NOT by Osbert Lancaster.

……frustrated that he is too young to go to war…….

…..says to his captain, Parolles, and the courtiers at the French court:

I shall stay here the fore-horse to a smock

Creaking my shoes on the plain masonry

Till honour be bought up and no sword won

But one to dance with! By heaven I’ll steal away…

( ‘Forehorse’ is the leading horse of a team).

Shakespeare NEVER uses ‘fore-horse’ anywhere else…..

…..but A. N. OTHER WRITER uses it TWICE!!!

Example 1:

….and wear a feather of her rain-beaten face for a fore-horse.

Example 2:

…but in verity did nothing else but gather a flaunting, unsavoury fore-horse nosegay out of his well-furnished garland.

FOURTH WORD: ‘ames-ace’

In All’s Well that Ends Well, the apothecary’s daughter, Helena…..

Helena - design by Osbert Lancaster.

Helena – design by Osbert Lancaster.

……cures a life-threatening fistula on the King of France…..

King of France and his entourage. Design by Osbert Lancaster.

King of France and his entourage. Design by Osbert Lancaster.

As a reward she has asked the King to give her the courtier of her choice to be her husband…..

….and the Old Courtier Lafeu says….

I had rather be in this choice than throw ames-ace
for my life.

(Ames-ace was the lowest possible throw at dice.)

Shakespeare NEVER uses ‘ames-ace’ anywhere else….

..but A. N. OTHER WRITER uses it TWICE!!!

Example 1:

But as you love good-fellowship and ames ace

Example 2:

Have at you for ames ace and the dice.

FIFTH PHRASE: ‘jades’ tricks’

In All’s Well that Ends Well,  Lavache, the ‘shrewd and unhappy’ Clown…..


Lavache the Clown - design by Osbert Lancaster.

Lavache the Clown – design by Osbert Lancaster.

…..says to Lafeu:

If I put any tricks upon ’em, [horses] sir, they shall be
jades’ tricks..

Shakespeare NEVER uses the phrase jades’ tricks’ anywhere else….


….jades’ tricks which are their own right by the law of nature.

SIXTH PHRASE: ‘swine-drunk’

In All’s Well that Ends Well, the treacherous Parolles says of his master, Bertram:

…he will lie, sir, with such volubility, that you would think truth were a fool: drunkenness is his best virtue, for he will be swine-drunk

Shakespeare NEVER uses the phrase ‘swine-drunk’ anywhere else…

But A. N. OTHER WRITER does ONCE!!!:

The third is swine-drunk, heavy, lumpish and sleepy

SEVENTH PHRASE: ‘blazing star’

In All’s Well that Ends Well, Lavache says to the old Countess:

An we might have a good woman born but one every blazing star, or at an earthquake, t’would mend the lottery well.

Shakespeare NEVER uses the phrase ‘blazing star’ again…


The blazing star, the earthquake, the dearth and famine some few years since, may nothing affright us.

EIGHTH WORD: ‘chape’

In All’s Well that Ends Well, the First Lord says to Bertram:

You’re deceived, my lord: this is Monsieur Parolles, the gallant militarist, that was his own phrase, that had the whole theoric of war in the knot of his scarf, and the practise in the chape of his dagger.

( ‘Chape’ = the tip of a scabbard)

Shakespeare NEVER uses the word ‘chape’ anywhere else…

But A. N. OTHER WRITER does ONCE!!!:

A swapping ale-dagger at his back, containing by estimation some two or three pounds of iron in the hilts and chape

NINTH PHRASE: ‘the Devil drives’

In All’s Well that Ends Well, Lavache banters with the old Countess:

My poor body, madam, requires it: I am driven on by the flesh; and he must needs go that the Devil drives.

Shakespeare NEVER uses the idea that the Devil is a driver anywhere else.


Fie, fie, the Devil a driver in Westminster Hall? It can never be.

So who exactly is this  A.N. OTHER WRITER?……

A writer who seems more ‘Shakespearean’ than Shakespeare himself….?

To find out, click: HERE!







[Note: It’s best to read How Coleridge got ‘All’s Well that Ends Well’ right AND wrong first.]

A Trixie Special.


Brothers and Sisters of The Shakespeare Code….

Why ARE academics so vicious when they argue with each other?

Is it really because……

……as Your Cat was once told by Adolf Wood….

….an editor of the Times Literary Supplement  –



……the stakes are so small?

The financial stakes in Academe certainly are!

But, for whatever reason, five years ago the columns of the mighty T.L.S…..


…..shook to…..


(and their Seconds…)

The Background was this:

The great Shakespearean scholar and editor, John Dover Wilson…

dover wilson

…..believed that William Shakespeare worked with a collaborator on All’s Well that Ends Well.

He stated this in his edition of the play (with Arthur Quiller-Couch) for the Cambridge University Press in 1929:

To sum up, the editing of this play leaves us with the strong impression that the Folio text is the product of a Jacobean revision (c. 1605) of an Elizabethan play perhaps by Shakespeare but if so probably containing pre-Shakespearean elements, and that this revision was undertaken by Shakespeare and a collaborator, the bulk of the work devolving upon the latter who was indeed left to carry out the final shaping of the play and to finish off many scenes begun by his great fellow-worker.

Dover Wilson repeated this idea three years later in his ground-breaking book The Essential Shakespeare:


And neither All’s Well nor Measure for Measure, I am convinced, is wholly Shakespeare’s; even for this kind of comedy he had no inclination, and left a torso for Wilkins or some other hack to provide with arms and legs.

Nearly five years ago Laurie Maguire (Professor of English at Oxford University)……


……and her colleague Emma Smith (an Oxford English Faculty teacher)…..


……named Thomas Middleton as Shakespeare’s collaborator……


……in an article in the T.L.S. (20th April, 2012)

They acknowledged that Dover Wilson had arrived at the idea first:

We have been anticipated by only one previous critic, John Dover Wilson….

….and quoted his belief that the play had been produced by….

A process of expansion by some inferior dramatist


…..had a passion for sententious couplets and a mind running on sexual disease.

This article ignited the wrath of computer whizz…

Prof. Brian Vickers……

vickers, prof. brian

….Emeritus Professor at ETH Zurich….

….and HIS colleague, Marcus Dahl ….


…of the Institute of English Studies….

(Academics, it seems, go round in pairs these days…..

…..probably for protection from other Academics..…)

In the Commentary Section of the T.L.S.  for 11th May (2012)…..

…..Vickers and Dahl rubbished not only the work of Maguire and Smith


They had the cheek to describe him as….

The Great Disintegrator

…as though he were something out of Star Wars


They warned the Oxford Girls that to follow Dover Wilson’s path…

…..so many years after his methods have been discredited is to risk a similar fate….

And concluded boldly:

There is absolutely no evidence for another hand in this play….

[Sir Brian Vickers, author of the much-mocked The Artistry of Shakespeare’s Prose, has form……

He recently engaged in an unknightly punch-up in the T.L.S. with fellow octogenarian Sir Stanley Wells…

stanley wells 2

…..on Shakespeare’s Sonnets….

Sir Brian argued, preposterously in The Code’s view, that they were fictional.

Sir Stanley argued, correctly in The Code’s view, that Shakespeare’s Sonnets were about real people……]

Maguire and Evans hand-bagged back….

…in a letter to the T.L.S. on 8th June, 2012….

They derided Vickers and Dahl as….

Flat Earthers….


Canutes trying to stem the oncoming tide…

canute and waves

They defended Dover Wilson…..

…..who frankly needs no defending by Maguire and Evans….

…..and who could eat Vickers and Dahl for breakfast –

……by writing that….

…..he [Dover Wilson] got some things spectacularly right.

The Code believes that Dover Wilson was not ‘spectacularly right’ on this occasion  ….

He was, NEARLY right….

Shakespeare DID work with another collaborator on All’s Well that Ends Well…


I’ll leave it to our Chief Agent, Stewart Trotter…..

…..who himself once worked on the T.L.S……

….. to explain this in the next, dazzling, Shakespeare Code Post…..

‘Bye now!

Paw-Print smallest

[It’s best now to read: How John Dover Wilson got ‘All’s Well that Ends Well’ NEARLY right. (Part Two).]


Samuel Taylor Coleridge….


……was a brilliant poet and a brilliant critic…..

The Shakespeare Code will demonstrate in future posts that he was correct about All’s Well that Ends Well when, in lectures given in 1813 and 1818, he said that…..

[the play] as it has come down to us, was written at two different and rather distant points of the poet’s life.

……and pointed out there were….

…..very clearly two distinct styles, not only of thought but of expression…..


…..this Post will demonstrate that….


To elaborate….

In the play, Helena……

….the daughter of an accomplished apothecary who has recently died….


…..is in love with Bertram, Count of Rossillion……



…..a nobleman way above her in social class.

However, using the skills her father taught her, Helena manages to cure the King of France of his fistula…..


…..and as a reward he grants her request that Bertram should be her husband.


But Bertram doesn’t want to know!


He flees the court before the marriage is consummated…..

…and Helena, disguised as a Pilgrim……


….chases after him to Florence……

She meets a Widow and her daughter Diana……

….waiting to see the army march past……

…..with Bertram in its ranks…..



Here you shall see a countryman of yours

That has done worthy service.


His name, I pray you.


The Count Rousillon: know you such a one?


But by the ear, that hears most nobly of him:

His face I know not.

Helena DOES of course know her husband’s face…..

But she has to keep up the pretence that she is not married to him.

Coleridge was ‘in love’ with the character of Helena….

….and this lie disturbs him.

As he writes in his Lectures on Shakespeare….

Shall we say here that Shakespeare has unnecessarily made his loveliest character utter a lie? Or shall we dare think that where to deceive was necessary, he thought a pretended verbal verity a double crime, equally with the other a lie to the hearer, and at the same time a lie to one’s own conscience?


Well, at worst ‘equivocating’….

To explain why we must first look at Shakespeare’s Sonnet 7.

This was written in a sequence of seventeen sonnets…..

…..commissioned by Mary Browne, Second Countess of Southampton….

Mary Browne

……for the seventeenth birthday of her son, Henry Wriothesley….

tomb henry wriothesley

……aka ‘Harry Southampton’….

……to persuade him to marry Elizabeth de Vere…..

lady elizabeth de vere

…..the grand-daughter of his guardian, Lord Burghley….

burghley gerard (2)

See: Trixie the Cat’s Guide to the Birthday Sonnets.

The trouble was that Harry was only interested in sex with other young men….

……often lower class…..

……or in masturbating alone.

Sonnet 7 predicts what will happen to Harry if he continues with this life-style….

The Code believes there is an ‘ostensible’ meaning to this Sonnet – and a ‘coded’ one.

First, the ostensible meaning……

Sonnet 7

Lo in the Orient when the gracious light,

Lifts up his burning head, each under eye

Doth homage to his new appearing sight,

Serving with looks his sacred majesty….

Ostensible Meaning:

When the flaming sun rises in the east, everyone worships it like a king by turning to look at it….

And having climb’d the steep up heavenly hill,

Resembling strong youth in his middle age,

Yet mortal looks adore his beauty still,

Attending on his golden pilgrimage:

Ostensible Meaning:

When the sun climbs to the midpoint in the sky – looking young and lusty even though he is at the midpoint of his journey – he still has worshippers who admire and follow him like a king….

But when from high-most pitch with weary car,

Like feeble age he reeleth from the day,

The eyes (fore duteous) now converted are

From his low tract and look an other way:

Ostensible Meaning:

But when from this exalted position he starts to decline like an old man, no one looks at him any more and all turn their eyes away to gaze at something else…

So thou, thy self out-going in thy noon:

Unlook’d, on diest unless thou get a son.

Ostensible Meaning:

In the same way when you start to lose strength in the twilight of your life people will neglect you and ignore your death unless you have borne a son….

Shakespeare is issuing the same warning to Harry that others were issuing to Queen Elizabeth….

Queen Elizabeth.

Because you have no son, courtiers will shun you as you approach death…..

…..and spend their time cultivating the new monarch…..

This is indeed what happened.

The court cold-shouldered the dying Queen while they were paying court to the new monarch-in-waiting, James VI of Scotland….


At Christmas, 1602,  Queen Elizabeth’s godson, Sir John Harington…..

NPG 3121,Sir John Harington,attributed to Hieronimo Custodis

…..sent to James the gift of a dark lantern with the sun and moon and the stars….

…..and told James he was the new sun rising up.

William Camden – the contemporary historian – 

camden, william

….suggests that the Queen’s final melancholy might partly have been the result of rumours she had heard….

…..and the direct report of King Henri IV of France…..



…..many of the nobility did by underhand letters and messengers seek to curry favour with the king of Scots, that they adored him as the rising sun, and neglected her as now being ready to set.

Shakespeare, in Sonnet 7, is doubtless having his own dig at Elizabeth.

His Roman Catholic family had been persecuted by Elizabeth’s henchmen…

….as had the family of his Catholic patron, Mary Countess of Southampton.

He has another dig at Elizabeth in Sonnet 11:

Herein [parenthood] lives wisdom, beauty, and increase,

Without this folly, age, and cold decay:

If all were minded so, the times should cease

And threescore year would make the world away:

Let those whom nature hath not made for store,

Harsh, featureless, and rude, barrenly perish,

Look whom she best endow’d, she gave the more;

Which bounteous gift thou shouldst in bounty cherish.

Shakespeare is here obliquely referring to the Queen’s barreness and ugliness…..

She was also hurtling towards…..

…..three-score year…….

…..when the Birthday Sonnets were written in 1590.

But the second, CODED meaning to Sonnet 7 – as we shall see – throws complete light onto Helena’s line….

His face I know not

Shakespeare’s sonnets make continual reference to Harry’s masturbation.

In his very first sonnet Shakespeare writes:

But thou [Harry] contracted to thine own bright eyes,

Feed’st thy light’s flame with self substantial fuel,

Making a famine where abundance lies,

Thy self thy foe, to thy sweet self too cruel:

Thou that art now the world’s fresh ornament,

And only herald to the gaudy spring,

Within thine own bud buriest thy content,

And tender churl mak’st waste in niggarding…


self-substantial fuel…..

……is a reference to the seminal fluid that Harry produces when he masturbates…..

…..semen that he won’t share with a woman and consequently creates….

…a famine where abundance lies…

The ‘bud’ where Harry ‘buries’ his ‘content’ is clearly a reference to Harry’s penis.

Reference to masturbation is made even more obvious in Sonnet 4….

Unthrifty loveliness, why dost thou spend,

Upon thy self thy beauty’s legacy?

Nature’s bequest gives nothing but doth lend,

And being frank she lends to those are free:

Then beauteous niggard, why dost thou abuse,

The bounteous largesse given thee to give?

Profitless usurer [money-lender]why dost thou use

So great a sum of sums yet can’st not live?

Shakespeare often uses money as an image for semen…..

…..so ‘spending’ here clearly implies seminal emission.

The ‘bounteous largesse given thee to give’ is a bantering reference to Harry’s massive sex drive……

…… and the size of his penis itself….

‘So great a sum of sums’ is a witty reference to the frequency of Harry’s ‘self-abuse’….

So when Shakespeare refers to Harry being ‘contracted’ to his own ‘bright eyes’ in Sonnet 1, ‘eyes’ can have a sexual connotation as well…

Eyes are round and there are two of them……

…..just like testicles…

So, with all this in mind, The Code will now reveal the coded meaning of Sonnet 7…..

Lo in the Orient when the gracious light,

Lifts up his burning head, each under eye

Doth homage to his new appearing sight,

Serving with looks his sacred majesty….

Coded Meaning:

At dawn, when you a have a morning erection and your penis rises, each of your testicles is drawn up around its shaft…

And having climb’d the steep up heavenly hill,

Resembling strong youth in his middle age,

Yet mortal looks adore his beauty still,

Attending on his golden pilgrimage:

Coded Meaning:

When your powerful throbbing penis has climbed the mons Veneris and stands erect, your testicles are still drawn up with it.

But when from high-most pitch with weary car,

Like feeble age he reeleth from the day,

The eyes (fore duteous) now converted are

From his low tract and look an other way:

Coded Meaning:

But when, after seminal emission, the penis grows flaccid again, the testicles swing loose from it.

So thou, thy self out-going in thy noon:

Unlook’d, on diest unless thou get a son.

Coded Meaning

So when you come by yourself – when your penis is erect like the hands of a clock at noon – there will be no-one there to share the sex act with you…

‘To die’ often meant to come in Elizabethan and Jacobean times.

Leontes in The Winter’s Tale,  in a fit of sexual jealousy of his wife Hermione, describes her and her supposed lover Polixenes as…

paddling palms and pinching fingers

…and sighing

as ’twere
The mort o’ the deer…..

And the Princess of France in Love’s Labour’s Lost, when she prepares to go hunting…..

loves deer hunt old photo

….talks about spilling ‘the poor deer’s [dear’s] blood’ in a sexually ambiguous way…

See: The Princess of France IS Queen Elizabeth.

This ambiguity fills Shakespeare’s work…..

All the features of the face – the eyes, the beard, the nose – can have sexual connotations….

‘The eyes’ as we have seen can be the testicles…..

…as they are in Sonnet 56, written after Shakespeare and Harry have satiated themselves sexually.

Shakespeare invites Harry to pause and recover his potency…..

Otherwise people will say that his appetite for food is stronger than his appetite for sex....

Sweet love, renew thy force: be it not said

Thy edge should blunter be than appetite,

Which but to-day by feeding is allay’d,

To-morrow sharpen’d in his former might.

So love be thou: although to-day thou fill

Thy hungry eyes even till they wink with fulness,

To-morrow see again, and do not kill

The spirit of Love with a perpetual dullness…

‘Perpetual dullness’ = ‘long-lasting lack of sex drive.’

‘Eye’ singular can also be the penis itself……

…..as it is in Love’s Labour’s Lost when Boyet – the gay old gossip – describes the King of Navarre’s erection on seeing the beautiful Princess of France…

Why, all his [Navarre’s] behaviours did make their retire

To the court of his eye, peeping thorough desire:

His heart, like an agate, with your print impress’d,

Proud [erect] with his form, in his eye pride [sexual drive] express’d:

Methought all his senses were lock’d in his eye,

As jewels in crystal for some prince to buy;

Who, tendering their own worth from where they were glass’d,

Did point you to buy them, along as you pass’d:

There is even a bawdy implication in Shakespeare’s first meeting with the young Harry in Sonnet 104:

To me fair friend you never can be old,

For as you were when first your eye I eyde,

Such seems your beauty still….

‘Beards’ can be the pubic hair of both men and women….

In Twelfth Night Feste says to Viola – who is in disguise as a boy –

Ricky Sharpe as Feste and Karen Gledhill as Viola/Caesario in Stewart Trotter's production of 'Twelfth Night' at the Northcott Theatre.

Ricky Sharpe as Feste and Karen Gledhill as Viola/Caesario in Stewart Trotter’s production of ‘Twelfth Night’ at the Northcott Theatre.

Now Jove, in his next commodity of hair, send thee a beard!

And Viola/Caesario, who is in love with Count Orsino, replies:

By my troth, I’ll tell thee, I am almost sick for
one: though I would not have it grow on my chin.

In All’s Well that Ends Well old Lafeu makes a direct comparison with the nose and the penis of Parolles….

Why dost thou garter up thy arms o’ this fashion? dost make hose of sleeves? do other servants so? Thou wert best set thy lower part where thy nose stands..

And indeed, the word ‘face’ itself can represent the genital area…..

….as it does in King Lear when the demented King says:

Stewart Trotter playing King Lear at Titchfield.

Stewart Trotter playing King Lear at Titchfield.

Behold yond simpering dame,
Whose face between her forks [legs] presages snow;
That minces virtue, and does shake the head
To hear of pleasure’s name….

And in Sonnet 3 – when Shakespeare exhorts Harry to look in his mirror…

Look in thy glass, and tell the face thou viewest

The face that Harry sees is both his ‘ostensible’ one….

…AND his ‘coded’ one….

Now is the time that face should form another….

It’s the genitals that reproduce, not the literal face! 

Shakespeare is imagining Harry standing naked in front of his looking glass….

[Pauline Kiernan in her excellent book Filthy Shakespeare (2006) even argues that ‘face’ can mean ‘arse’ as well (her word!) ‘punning on the French fesses, buttocks.]

So, when Helena in All’s Well that Ends Well claims….

His [Betram’s] face I know not….

Coleridge can relax…..

She is not lying as such….

She has not been to bed with her husband so hasn’t ‘known’ his genital area.

She is equivocating…..

….as she has to do many times in the play to get her man.


As a Roman Catholic, Shakespeare would have identified with her completely.

Catholics under Queen Elizabeth became expert at saying one thing but meaning another….

…. so that their souls would not be harmed by a lie…

But there were other reasons that Shakespeare empathised with Helena…..

These  we shall explore in subsequent posts….

(It’s best now to read: How John Dover Wilson got ‘All’s Well that Ends Well’ NEARLY right.)

dover wilson




Brothers and Sisters of The Shakespeare Code…..

We are thrilled – and humbled – to announce that on at Sunset on Wednesday, 1st February, 2017…..

The Code  received its…..

250,000th View!

Everything began back in 2002 with the publication of Stewart Trotter’s game-changing book….

book cover

…which was made in the same year into a dazzling television documentary  for Meridian  by Carol White….

(Carol was later to direct an item on Stewart’s theories for BBC TV’s The One Show)

Stewart has been fascinated by Love’s Labour’s Lost since he played Berowne as a teenager in the grounds of a garden at Thaxted in Essex.

He then directed the play in Clare Gardens, Cambridge, when he was an undergraduate…..


….and then professionally in the Northcott Theatre in Exeter in 1982 where he was Artistic Director from 1980-85.


He became convinced that Shakespeare was writing about a ‘real’ place – and took his daughter Amy on a picnic to the ruins of Titchfield Abbey. 

There he was astonished to find himself on the ‘set’ of Love’s Labour’s Lost.

Here were the remains of…..

the curious knotted garden

…..mentioned in the play and

the steep uprising of the hill

Later  in the London Library he was to find a reference (in the Victoria County History for Hampshire)  to…

the place where….

(Place House)

place house 2


…..the park….

……in a copy of an old map of the area…..

A 1610 Map of Titchfield, showing the 'The Place' and 'The Parke' - both mentioned in 'Love's Labour's Lost'.

See: How these articles came to be written.

He and Amy took an old friend from Cambridge, Prof. Andrew Saunders of Durham University……


……on another picnic trip to Titchfield on Whitmonday, 2000 –

……and explained his whole theory on the way down on the train.

He showed Andrew the Old Schoolhouse….

old schoolhouse

…..also mentioned in the play as….

……the Charge House…..

(The school doubled as a toll house – and has the remains of a secure room)

….and as they were leaving it Andrew offered Stewart the direct challenge….

Prove it!

Love’s Labour’s Found was the result.

In the book Stewart argued that Love’s Labour’s Lost was first performed in the grounds of Titchfield Abbey in 1592……


 …….by a mixed cast of professional actors and aristocrats….


(It was quite usual for Elizabethan women to perform in private entertainments.)

Stewart believes the play is a ‘romantic satire’ on Queen Elizabeth’s Progress to Cowdray and Titchfield the previous year……

…. when she had shot rounded up deer from specially erected ‘standings’….

princess 4

(In reality, the Queen used a cross-bow.)

The play was written to a commission from Mary, Second Countess of Southampton……

Mary Browne

……to encourage her gay teenage son, Henry Wriothesley (aka ‘Harry Southampton’)

tomb henry wriothesley

….. to fall in love and marry a woman.


‘Love’s Labour’s Lost’ Revisited


Why did Shakespeare write ‘Love’s Labour’s Lost’?

Melvyn Bragg wrote of Love’s Labour’s Found…. 

melvyn bragg

What great ideas! Wonderfully interesting! Intriguing! Watch out Stratford-upon-Avon!

Greg Doran wrote….


The book is exquisite. Thank you.

Nicholas Hytner wrote….


Your theory is fascinating and seductive. It rings of truth. I never understand those who say they are uninterested in Shakespeare’s life; the creation of life for the writer of the plays seems an emotional necessity to me. Yours moves me and convinces me. I hope you have a huge success.

…..and Jane Howell….

It’s got such verve, excitement and gusto in it. It just races along and pulls you with it. It’s light, exciting, fascinating and interesting. You somehow get soaked up into the life of those times. It’s a wonderful piece of work. I hope it gets people stirred up and arguing. It’s brilliant!

The ideas in Love’s Labour’s Found were then developed in three talks that Stewart was invited to give at the Grosvenor Chapel, Mayfair, London W.1. in 2009

grosvenor chapel with Peter Pan house


Shakespeare, Love and Religion

….which later became…

Shakespeare the Movie


The talks formed the basis of this blog, The Shakespeare Code, which now has….

….. 250 Posts…..

….. and is read in over……

200 Countries!!!

Here are the TOP TWENTY POSTS  for 2016:

In First Place

Just How Gay was Henry Wriothesley, the Third Earl of Southampton?

henry wriothesley new miniature

Harry Southampton had a love affair with William Shakespeare…..

Chandos portrait

…. which lasted, off and on, from 1592 to 1605…..

Harry had a taste for lower class young men…..

……as his mother Mary did….

 But this did not stop him from loving and marrying the beautiful Elizabeth Vernon….

vernon elizabeth comb

……..and having children with her….

Note: This Post was mentioned in a tweet by Stephen Fry…….

Stephen Fry 1

…. and received 4000 Views on one day alone!

In Second Place

Why did William Shakespeare Write the Sonnets?


Shakespeare’s Sonnets lie at the heart of The Code’s studies.

They are highly complex and highly coded, but give us searing insight into Shakespeare’s life, love and thought.

They sometimes make uncomfortable reading…

…..because they are torn from the fibre of life itself.

See also: Shakespeare’s Sonnets Decoded.

In Third Place
Viola’s ‘Willow Cabin’ speech decoded.

tilbury, elizabeth in armour woodcut 001

Viola’s ravishing, but mysterious, Willow Cabin references a romantic, patriotic incident that occurred at Tilbury during the Spanish Armada scare…..

…..when Elizabeth visited her troops in armour and on horseback.

In Fourth Place

Shakespeare in Titchfield. A Summary of the Evidence.


Shakespeare joined the Roman Catholic Southampton family in 1590 as a ‘fac totum’, entertainer, tutor, teacher…..

shakespeare 1588

…. and generally ‘nice-person-to-have-around’.

His plays – some of which had their first performances at Titchfield – deal with the political, moral and religious pre-occupations of the Southampton family…..

….and those of Southampton’s intimate friend, the dashing Robert Devereux, Second Earl of Essex….

essex young beardeless

In Fifth Place

 A Midsummer Night’s Dream Decoded

oberon large starry (2)

Mary Southampton commissioned Shakespeare to write A Midsummer Night’s Dream to celebrate her marriage to Sir Thomas Heneage at Copt Hall in Essex in 1594……

copped hall

Written for an aristocratic audience of both Roman Catholics and Protestants, the play contains coded praise for BOTH the late Mary, Queen of Scots……

mary stuart hat feather

 ….AND the aging Queen Elizabeth I! 

Queen Elizabeth.

Using Fairy Magic as a symbol of the Old Faith, Shakespeare attempts to lay to rest the troubled spirit of Mary’s first husband, the Second Earl of Southampton.

Photo by Ross Underwood

Photo by Ross Underwood

See also: Faire Lore and Magic in ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ – a Grosvenor Chapel talk.

In Sixth Place

 The Appointment of Maggie Ollerenshaw as a Fellow of the Shakespeare Code

maggie o. 2.

The Shakespeare Code will, from time to time, bestow Fellowships on outstanding individuals.

In 2011 it made the fabulous actress and writer Maggie Ollerenshaw – currently starring in Open All Hours – a Fellow of The Shakespeare Code.

Maggie now has the inalienable right to affix the letters F.S.C. to her name. 

Read Your Cat’s now classic interview with Maggie in  which she reveals ALL!

See also: The Literary World toasts Eddie Linden, F.S.C., on his Eightieth Birthday!

The photograph of the distinguished Glaswegian poet, Eddie Linden, F.S.C. now hanging in the National Portrait Gallery.

The photograph of the distinguished Glaswegian poet, Eddie Linden, F.S.C. now hanging in the National Portrait Gallery.

Other Fellows include Karen Gledhill F.S.C., Michael Hentges F.S.C.,  Charles Sharman-Cox F.S.C. and John Lyall F.S.C.

In Seventh Place

Trixie the Cat’s Guide to the Birthday Sonnets


Mary, Countess of Southampton, commissioned Shakespeare to write seventeen sonnets for her son, Harry’s, seventeenth birthday in 1590….

….. to persuade him to marry Elizabeth de Vere…..


….the granddaughter of Harry’s guardian, Lord Burghley…..

burghley on donkey 001

But the scheme backfired when Shakespeare and Harry fell in love with each other.

See also: Shakespeare’s Sonnets Decoded.

In Eighth Place

‘Twelfth Night’ Decoded.


Twelfth Night was written to appease the Queen Elizabeth, furious after the Earl of Essex burst into her bedroom unannounced……

…..and saw her without her wig or make-up. 

Still from Benjamin Britten's opera 'Gloriana'.

Still from Benjamin Britten’s opera ‘Gloriana’.

The love-sick Orsino represents Essex, pining for the love of his Queen….

The love-sick Orsino/Essex...

….and Olivia an idealised Elizabeth, left with the daunting task of running her ‘household’ – England – after the death of her father and her brother.

Malvolio – who wants to wrest power from Olivia….

malvolio tree portrait photo

…… represents the ruthlessly ambitious Sir Walter Raleigh…..

raleigh hilliard

And the boistrous Sir Toby Belch….


…….Sir George Carey, the Second Lord Hunsdon…..

…..the debauched, bon viveur cousin of Elizabeth….


……who provoked a furious row with Elizabeth when he told her she was too old to ride a horse…

To read B.A. Young’s review in the Financial Times of Stewart’s production of Twelfth Night at The Northcott Theatre in Exeter in 1985….

twelfth night

….click: HERE!

In Ninth Place

Shakespeare in Scotland. ‘Macbeth’ Decoded.

macbeths bloody

Macbeth was NOT, as most scholars believe, written in the reign of King James….

It was written in the reign of  Queen Elizabeth and first performed in Scotland in 1599 at Holyrood House……

….the site of King James’s witch trials.

north berwick witches (3)

It was an attempt to get King James to join in with the Essex rebellion against Queen Elizabeth. 

She had ‘murdered’ James’s mother – Mary Queen of Scots – when she was her ‘guest’ in England….

….. in the same way the Macbeths murder Duncan when he is a guest at their castle.

It was James’s duty and his destiny to invade England to destroy the tyrant Elizabeth….

James, however, declined….

See also: ‘Something Wicked this Way Comes’. New Light on the Witches in ‘Macbeth’. A Grosvenor Chapel talk.

Macbeth and the Weird Sisters

In Tenth Place
The Earl of Southampton and his Cat

Trixie 2.

Harry Southampton, jailed in the Tower of London for his part in the Essex rebellion against the Queen, hoped to become King James’s new boyfriend when Elizabeth died. 

He sent this painting – with a couple of commissioned sonnets by Shakespeare – to ‘woo’ the King by offering his hand.

But the King didn’t want to know.

He was much more interested in younger men….

The cat on  the window-sill, by the way, plays a highly symbolic role….

tower without Trixie

In Eleventh Place

The Dedication to Shakespeare’s Sonnets Decoded.

sonnets frontispiece

Harry Southampton ‘dropped’ his lover Shakespeare when his wife, Elizabeth, had a baby boy in 1605. 

Shakespeare’s response was the poisonous Sonnet 126…..

…..and four years later he took his revenge by making public all his private love-sonnets.

This Dedication to the Sonnets indicates, in code, who his lover was….

Southampton in armour

See also: Sonnet 126 Decoded.

In Twelfth Place

Queen Elizabeth, Essex and the Ring – proving an old, romantic myth is true!

essex ring

Queen Elizabeth gave the Earl of Essex a ring with the promise that, if he sent it to her, she would forgive him, no matter what he had done.

Essex rebelled against the Queen and was sentenced to death. As he was awaiting execution in the Tower he sent the ring, via a likely lad, to Philadelphia Scrope – his supporter at Court and a friend of the Queen.

But the lad gave it to Scrope’s sister, Katherine – who was married to one of Essex’s mortal enemies – Charles Howard, First Earl of Nottingham. 


So the Queen never got the ring…..

….and Essex was beheaded.

essex execution

Lytton Strachey….

lyttton strachey

….pooh-poohed this story in his Elizabeth and Essex…..


Historians have followed Strachey like sheep….

But The Code argues that the story is COMPLETELY TRUE!!!

In Thirteenth Place

Feste the Clown as Thomas Nashe

Thomas Nashe, The Code believes, collaborated with Shakespeare on his plays……

…..just as he collaborated with Ben Jonson and Christopher Marlowe…..

dido frontispiece small

…..and often wrote and performed the ‘stand-up’ parts at their premieres.

'Ricky Sharpe' as Feste and Karen Gledhill F.S.C. as Viola.

‘Ricky Sharpe’ as Feste and Karen Gledhill F.S.C. as Viola.

Nashe was basically Shakespeare’s ‘gag-writer’….

……and was in fierce competition with him for Harry Southampton’s patronage. 

 It was Nashe, The Code argues, who actually attacked Shakespeare for being…..

…..an upstart crow……

….posing as Robert Greene who had just died….

robert greene

See also: Shakespeare as Berowne and Thomas Nashe as Moth in ‘Love’s Labour’s Lost’.

In Fourteenth Place

The Biography of Stewart Trotter

Stewart, The Code’s Chief Agent, won an Open Exhibition to study English at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge and  then worked for many years in the professional theatre as a director, producer, artistic director and writer. He won the Hugh Beaumont Award for Best Director of 1976 for his production of The Browning Version at the King’s Head Theatre in Islington which re-established the reputation of Sir Terence Rattigan. He worked with Sir Peter Hall at the National Theatre – then ran his own company at the Northcott Theatre in Exeter for five years. He also started Opera 80 – now English Touring Opera – and was its Artistic Director, also for five years. He has directed in the West End and Chichester Festival and his rock version of the opera Carmen – Carmen Latina – was commissioned by the Kammeroper in Vienna and has played in six different countries.

Carmen Latina in Denmark

Carmen Latina in Denmark

See: http://www.carmenlatina.com

Stewart brings a practical knowledge of the theatre to the subject of Shakespeare.

In Fifteenth Place

Shakespeare in Italy.

Venus and Adonis

Shakespeare, Harry Southampton and Thomas Nashe paid a secret visit to Europe in the spring of 1593.

They called on King Philip II of Spain – a great friend of the Southampton family – at Madrid where Shakespeare saw Titian’s paintings of Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece.

He recreated them in verse –  using the same colours that Titian did…..

Titian's 'Rape of Lucrece' which The Shakespeare Code believes inspired Shakespeare's poem. The use of colours is identical. See 'Shakespeare in Italy'.

Shakespeare also visited Rome and saw the famous obelisk, recently re-erected in front of St. Peter’s Cathedral.

obelisk tudor

It was a sacred object to Roman Catholics as it was believed to be the last thing St. Peter saw before he was crucified.

Shakespeare used the obelisk in his Sonnets as a symbol of his eternal love for Southampton.

Note: It is often said that Shakespeare gets the geography of Italy wrong: he has a ship sail to Milan from Verona.

In fact Shakespeare got the geography of Italy exactly right: in his day Italy was studded with canals…


See also: Shakespeare’s Italian ‘Mistakes’.

In Sixteenth Place

The Original Ending to ‘King Lear’.

Stewart Trotter playing King Lear at Titchfield.

Stewart Trotter playing King Lear at Titchfield.

The ending to King Lear in the 1604 Quarto version is not, as most scholars believe, a printer’s error…

…. it is Shakespeare’s original conclusion to the drama when, stripped of all illusion, the King wills his own death.

This Post also deals in detail with the symptoms of the King’s disease – the Mother.

Is it a physical disease – the Jacobeans asked – or is it possession by demons?

Stewart Trotter playing King Lear at Southend High School for Boys - with John Lyall, F.S.C. as Gloucester.

Stewart Trotter playing King Lear at Southend High School for Boys – with John Lyall, F.S.C. as Gloucester.

See also: The Background to ‘King Lear’ – A Grosvenor Chapel Talk.

In Seventeenth Place

Willobie his Avisa Decoded

Willobie his Avisa frontispiece 001

Willobie his Avisa is an anonymous satire on the relationship between Shakespeare and Harry Southampton…..

……and their blundering attempts to seduce the chaste Avisa.

The Code argues that the author was none other than the mixed race musician, poet, courtesan and coquette, Amelia Bassano/Lanyer – the Dark Lady of the Sonnets….

….who prick-teased Shakespeare, bedded young Harry…..

….. and performed the dark-skinned parts – in private performances – in many of Shakespeare’s plays.

See also: How Shakespeare’s Dark Lady found God – a Grosvenor Chapel talk.

In Eighteenth Place

Why Falstaff is Fat

falstaff 4

The antiquarian John Aubrey believed that Shakespeare and Ben Jonson often based the characters in their plays on people they knew.

The Code puts the case for a Titchfield man as the original of Falstaff….

See also:

The Strange Case of Mr. Apis Lapis

…..an essay which the great Shakespeare scholar, Prof Jonathan Bate……


….described as

a terrific article and very persuasive……

simon callow doublet


I have read your blog. I entirely accept the Titchfield connection with Shakespeare and equally buy your association of Beeston with Falstaff. I much enjoyed Love’s Labour’s Found. Warmest and best.

In Nineteenth Place

Richard III’ Decoded

olivier richard III

The position adopted by many scholars – that Richard III is a piece of Tudor Propaganda – is complete nonsense!

It is a satire on Queen Elizabeth’s lover who had died a few years earlier….

dudley youngish

These early history plays were joint commissions from the Countess of Southampton, and Mary Sidney, Countess of Pembroke at nearby Wilton…..

…and were played out in the grounds of their estates….

Both women had reason to hate Elizabeth – and feared a civil war – like the one Shakespeare wrote about so often – would follow her death if she did not name a successor.

And in Twentieth Place

‘Julius Caesar’ Decoded

julius caesar assassination

After Essex had been placed under house arrest, half his followers wanted him to rebel against Elizabeth – the other half to seek appeasement with her.

Shakespeare was definitely an appeaser.

He shows in the play just how wrong a rebellion can go…

And how Essex was being misled by his secretary Henry Cuffe…..

…..just as Brutus was misled by Cassius…..



So, Brothers and Sisters of The Code –  these are the twenty most popular Posts over the past year……

But can Your Cat mention a few of her own favourites?

‘Tales from the Palace Theatre: Paul’s Tale’

Tales cover

Tales from The Palace Theatre is a book about the Palace Theatre in Westcliff which Charles Sharman-Cox F.S.C.

charles sharman cox 1

…and Stewart compiled. 

In it is ‘Paul’s Tale’ – Paul Greenhalgh’s  hilarious account of working in a gay rep company in the 60’s…

paul greenhalgh as alexander the great

The Seven Ages of Shakespeare

Photo by Ross Underwood

Photo by Ross Underwood

Stewart’s brilliant entertainment about Shakespeare was staged in Titchfield itself last autumn.

The Authorities have allowed Shakespeare out of Purgatory for a single day to ‘fess up’ about his life. 

You the audience decide whether he should go on to Heaven, stay in Purgatory…..

…or worse!

The Southampton Family Tomb Decoded


This is a talk Stewart and Your Cat gave to a packed audience at St. Peter’s Church in Titchfield last Autumn…. 

It shows how the stunningly beautiful tomb is PACKED with secret Roman Catholic imagery….

Jane, First Countess of Southampton. Photo by Ross Underwood.

Jane, First Countess of Southampton. Photo by Ross Underwood.



The Sonnets arranged in Chronological Order.

When Shakespeare published his Sonnets, he did so in basically two piles…..

……’His’ (large) and ‘Hers’ (small).

They are NOT in chronological order…..

Stewart has been working on the mammoth task of working out what that order was…..

An order that Shakespeare deliberately kept secret….

This will give us even more insight into the life of Shakespeare. 

The results will be Posted over the year….


All’s Well that Ends Well = Love’s Labour’s Won.

The Code will set out to prove that the mysterious Love’s Labour’s Won that Francis Meeres mentions in 1588 was the ORIGINAL version of All’s Well that Ends Well and was played at Titchfield as a companion piece to Love’s Labour’s Lost.


This thing of darkness I acknowledge mine…

Members of the congregation at the Grosvenor Chapel have asked Stewart to decode The Tempest….

…and he has agreed to do a dramatised talk on a Sunday afternoon after Easter on a date to be announced…..

…..with the fabulous ‘Trotter Players’…

prospero and spirits


Brothers and Sisters of The Code….

……thank you for all your support over the years……

……..and all your kind praise.

It means a lot to us….

And thanks particularly to…

 …’the onlie begetter’ of The Shakespeare Code.

Michael Hentges, F.S.C.

He wrote about our first Post with encouragement from Canada…

…and so the blog was born…..

‘Bye now…

Paw-Print smallest

A Statement from The Shakespeare Code’s Chief Agent….


Photo by Ross Underwood

Photo by Ross Underwood

Seconds before Trixie the Cat……


……and I gave our talk……

‘The Southampton Family ‘Tomb’ Decoded’

 ……before the Southampton Memorial in St. Peter’s, Titchfield, on Sunday 23rd October, 2016….

wriothesley tomb - colour

……Trixie made an amazing discovery!!!

The three arches in the memorial are covered in roses….

Photo by Ross Underwood

Photo by Ross Underwood

This is in honour of the famous Southampton rose….

southampton rose crest 2.

But it is also a reference to the way in which the aristocratic branch of the Wriothesley family sometimes pronounced it’s name….


……the form in which it is recorded in the Titchfield Parish Register….

William Shakespeare……

Chandos portrait

…. referred to his Patron and Lover, Henry Wriothesley, Third Earl of Southampton…..

Henry Wriothesley, Third Earl of Southampton.

…. as….

Beauty’s Rose…


my Rose….

…in Sonnets 1 and 109….

The Southampton memorial was funded by the Third Earl’s father……

…..the Second Earl, also called Henry.

Photo by Ross Underwood

Photo by Ross Underwood

He had wanted two tombs – one for his father and mother and one for himself….

His motive was to humiliate his wife – the beautiful Mary Browne……

Mary Browne…because he believed she had been unfaithful to him…..

When the Second Earl died in 1581 Mary overturned his will…..

….. and ‘forgot’ about his request for two separate tombs….

However, in 1594, the year her son the Third Earl was to come of age, she ordered a SINGLE memorial from Garett Johnson of Southwark….

This depicted her mother-in-law Jane Southampton….

Photo by Ross Underwood

Photo by Ross Underwood

…….her father-in-law, Thomas Wriothesley, the First Earl of Southampton…..

Photo by Ross Underwood.

Photo by Ross Underwood.

……and her husband, Henry, the Second Earl, resplendent in armour, curly hair and moustache…

Photo by Ross Underwood.

Photo by Ross Underwood.

The inscription to him on the memorial states that he died….

….in the 36 year of his age…..

When Henry had died, Mary had claimed to hate her husband…..

….but it seems that by 1594 she had started to soften towards him…..

She has certainly instructed Garrett Johnson to depict him on the memorial as a dashing and handsome man…..

And there is another sign of love and affection…..

Trixie the Cat noticed – just before our talk began – that there were twelve roses in each of the three arches in the memorial…..

Photo by Ross Underwood

Photo by Ross Underwood

…..making thirty-six roses altogether…..


To read the First Part of the Talk, click: HERE!

To read the Second Part of the Talk, click:HERE



The Second Part of the talk Stewart Trotter and Karen Little gave in front of the Southampton Family Memorial in St. Peter’s Church, Titchfield, to a packed house Saturday 22nd October and Sunday 23rd October.

(It’s best to read Part One first.)

Lady Mary married an old family friend, Sir Thomas Heneage……

Sir Thomas Heneage funeral effigy

…….with extensive property in London……

savoy palace

……. and Essex……

copped hall

……..on 2nd May, 1594.

Four days later she ordered, via the executors of her husband’s will, a SINGLE monument…..

….the one you see before you…….



…..from Garrett Johnson of Southwark – for £300.[£150,000]

The executors made no provision for the ‘new alteration’ of the Chapel that Henry had ordered in his will. So this means that £700 [£350,000] of the £1,000 pounds Henry left never made it to St. Peter’s….

Well, Mary did have a massive £5,000 fine to pay Burghley in October…

Harry had become interested in girls by then – but NOT Elizabeth de Vere….

The decorated chapel might have looked wonderful with its plaster coats of arms and pendants and marble-slabbed floor: but the killer direction was for the chapel to be….

….divided with iron grate from the church

…….to keep peasants like us out!

The design of this Titchfield memorial was very similar to the memorial to Sir Anthony Browne, Lord Montague, Lady Mary’s father, at Midhurst in Sussex. Montague had died of a long and lingering illness at the end of 1592 and experts are convinced that the same builders and sculptors – Garret Johnson and his son Nicholas – were employed for his memorial as well as the Southampton one.

Lord Montague was depicted in armour,  kneeling in prayer on a raised central slab – while either side of him, lower down, lie effigies of his wives. His first wife, Jane Ratcliffe, the daughter of Robert, Earl of Sussex, had died giving birth to Mary Browne and her twin brother Anthony – but his second wife, Magdalen Dacre, was still alive – so her effigy would have been added later when she died.

The Montague memorial also gives us yet another spelling of the Southampton family name…..


Originally there were four obelisks round the memorial, just like those we see in Titchfield: but in 1851 the tomb was mutilated, sliced, moved to another church, left out in the rain for six months, shoved against a wall and the obelisks removed….


Mary clearly asked Johnson to use the same basic design for St. Peter’s, but to shuffle the bodies – and the sexes – around.

Ironically this resulted in Lady Jane – who had done all she could to prevent Mary marrying her son – ending up as King of the Castle.

jane on top

Even Lady Mary wasn’t brazen enough to include herself as an effigy in the memorial: but she is mentioned bold as brass – or rather bold as marble – at the back of the tomb:

Here lyeth the body of the right honourable Henry Wryothesley, Baron of Titchfield and Earl of Southampton, who took to wife Mary Browne, daughter of Sir Anthony Browne Viscount Montague and of the Lady Jane Ratclyff his wife, one of the daughters of Robert Earl of Sussex. By which Mary he had issue the right honourable Henry Earl of Southampton now living, Mary married unto Thomas Arundell Esquire son and heir of Sir Matthew Arundell of Warder Castle in the county of Wiltshire: Knight. The Henry Earl of Southampton his life at his house at Itchell the Fourth day of October in the 36th year of his age and in the [blank] year of the reign of our Sovereign Lady Queen Elizabeth in the year of our Lord God [Blank]

Johnson hasn’t chiselled in the dates. Perhaps no-one could remember the year….

The obelisks are made of red marble – from Sussex or Devonshire……

wriothesley tomb - colour

…..and though we don’t know what colour the Midhurst obelisks were, there is a good chance they were red as well.

Red obelisks were highly significant to Roman Catholics. Lord Montague’s memorial states….

This honourable man in the year 1553 was implored by Queen Mary in an honourable ambassage to Rome with Doctor Thirley Bishop of Ely which he performed to his great honour and commendation…

They remembered the year this time – but they got it wrong. It was 1555.

Lord Montague would have seen in person the famous red granite obelisk that originally stood in the centre of the Circus of Caligula……


– the only obelisk in the city that hadn’t collapsed….


It was said to be the last thing St. Peter saw before he was crucified by Nero……


…..so was an object of veneration to Catholics.

It had a bronze orb and spike at its top – rumoured, falsely, to contain the ashes of Julius Caesar – and had been peppered with bullets by Protestant soldiers during the Sack of Rome in 1527.

The Titchfield obelisks have marble balls and spikes at their summit – but the ones we see today are replacements…

In 1888 a photograph was taken that shows the obelisks cut short – and there is an old illustration of this as well…


We have a drawing by Grimm of the Montague Tomb in 1780 which shows the orbs and spikes complete….



…and they are thinner and longer than the Titchfield orbs and spikes…..


…..especially those  drawn from the north side of the tomb….


A monumental mason I consulted at Kensal Green Cemetery…..



….. told me that he would never attempt to carve these shapes in marble – but would use metal instead, particularly as it was an indoor monument.

So if the orbs and spikes on both monuments were originally made of brass or bronze, they would resemble the obelisk St. Peter saw even more…

Pope Sixtus V – famous for re-erecting fallen obelisks….


….had undertaken the perilous project of moving the St. Peter obelisk in 1585/6…….


……..the orb replaced with a cross containing portions of the True Cross……..

obelisk tudor

……..to stand in front of St. Peter’s Cathedral itself.

It was a tremendous tourist attraction: people actually ran from the harbour to see it when their ships docked.

So it would have been very much in the minds of English Catholics in the 1590’s.

It was certainly very much in Shakespeare’s mind.

There is growing evidence that Shakespeare visited Italy…..

…… and I believe, along with Prof. Roger Pryor, that he did so in 1593.

I also believe he went to Rome, in secret, with Harry.

He writes about its ruins……

The ruins of Rome

…. in his Sonnets….

When I have seen by Time’s fell hand defaced

The rich proud cost of outworn buried age;

….and about the fallen obelisks….

When sometime lofty towers I see down-razed….

 …..and about the desecrated orb…..

And brass eternal slave to mortal rage…

……on display in Rome to this day…..

orb on obelisk

Shakespeare was to return to this obelisk theme ten years later…..

Pasteboard obelisks – then called ‘pyramids’ – were erected for the Coronation Procession of King James in 1603…..

obelisk at coronation 2

– but the winds blew them away.

They reminded Shakespeare of the real obelisk he had seen in Rome….

No, Time, thou shalt not boast that I do change:

Thy pyramids built up with newer might

To me are nothing novel, nothing strange;

They are but dressings of a former sight.

The contrast between the flimsiness of the ceremonial obelisks….

….. and the solidity of the Roman one…..

…. became for Shakespeare a symbol of the contrast between the fickle, feigned love of the Royal Court…..

……. and the deep, eternal love he felt for Harry, which….

…..was builded far from accident;

It suffers not in smiling pomp, nor falls

Under the blow of thralled discontent,

Whereto th’ inviting time our fashion calls:

It fears not policy, that heretic,

Which works on leases of short-number’d hours,

But all alone stands hugely politic,

That it nor grows with heat nor drowns with showers.

So there is every possibility that Shakespeare and Harry recounted their experience in Rome to Lady Mary…..

…..and so influenced the design of both memorials.

I believe there are other coded Roman Catholic references in the Titchfield memorial…

Beneath the recumbent effigies of the First and Second Earls, on the north and south sides of the memorial, are the alabaster figures of their children, holding up their hands in prayer.

Mary and Harry beneath the figure of their father Henry, the Second Earl of Southampton.

Mary and Harry beneath the figure of their father Henry, the Second Earl of Southampton.

They have books on lecterns in front of them – so they COULD be reciting prayers from the Anglican prayer book.

But it is much more likely that they are praying for the souls of their dead parents lying directly above them……


After all, Henry had left thousands of pounds in his will for people to do just that…

The parallel praying figures in the Montague memorial had been smashed up by 1780 – probably by Oliver Cromwell’s soldiers billeted in Midhurst – and probably because of these Catholic associations.

Henry lies in polished armour, sword by his side…..


……but unlike his father-in-law, Lord Montague, he had never fought a battle in his life.

I believe his armour represents his fight for the Roman Catholic faith.

Photo by Ross Underwood.

Photo by Ross Underwood.

It is a replica of the famous, gilded armour worn by Henri of Navarre who converted to Catholicism in 1593.


So in 1594 his conversion would be fresh in everybody’s mind.

To Catholics – if not to Queen Elizabeth – he would have been a hero.

But are there any DIRECT links between the Southampton memorial and Shakespeare himself?

I believe there are four…

  1. The Writh, Risley,Wriothesley, Ryosely, Wrytheostley Coat of Arms.

On the front of the memorial, to the left, are Henry’s Family Arms shown impaled with his wife Mary’s Montague Arms….


The most ancient part of Henry’s Arms are four silver falcons – wings closed – with a cross of gold – in reference to a Writh ancestor who was appointed the Falcon Herald….


When the Shakespeare family were granted a coat of arms two years later in 1596, Shakespeare also chose a silver falcon – with its wings outstretched – holding a spear of gold.

garter crest of Shakespeare

This is clearly an acknowledgement of his closeness to Harry – who would have had to have given his consent for the use of a silver falcon  – and the silver and gold colours – for Shakespeare’s crest.

2. The Southampton Family Motto.

On the front of the memorial, in the centre, is shown Henry’s crest as a Peer of the Realm.

At the bottom is his family’s motto:

Une par tout….


 …though it was more often spelt in the Old French…

Ung par tout …..

All for One and One for All.


All is One and One is All.

Shakespeare plays with this motto time and time again in his Sonnets…..

…such as in Sonnet 8 where he writes about musical chords:

Mark how one string, sweet husband to another,

Strikes each in each by mutual ordering,

Resembling sire and child and happy mother

Who all in one, one pleasing note do sing….

[Also see Sonnets 39, 42, 62, 76, 105, 109 and 135]

He uses the motto even more directly in The Rape of Lucrece….

The aim of all is but to nurse the life

With honour, wealth, and ease, in waning age;

And in this aim there is such thwarting strife,

That one for all, or all for one we gage….

But perhaps Shakespeare’s most striking use of the Family Motto is a mystic one. The Phoenix and the Turtle is a poem Shakespeare wrote shortly after Harry was imprisoned in the Tower for his part in the Essex Rebellion.

The great Shakespearean….Prof. Wilson Knight……


….. thought that the fabulous Phoenix Bird represented Harry and the work-a-day Turtle Dove Shakespeare.

They are two separate birds but become magically united as one in a mutual flame of love:

So they lov’d, as love in twain

Had the essence but in one;

Two distincts, division none:

Number there in love was slain…

3. The whole idea of a Memorial itself….

The building of the Memorial was a direct challenge to Shakespeare’s status.

It made him acutely aware that, unlike Harry, he was not an aristocrat and that….

The earth can yield me but a common grave,

When you entombed in men’s eyes shall lie.

However, the year before the design and construction of the Memorial, he and Harry had been to Rome where they had seen the tombs of the famous and the powerful reduced to rubble.

Shakespeare boasts that his verse will give the immortality to Harry that a tomb could never do…..

His verse, unlike a tomb, will live for ever….

Not marble, nor the gilded monuments

Of princes, shall outlive this powerful rhyme;

But you shall shine more bright in these contents

Than unswept stone, besmear’d with sluttish time.

By Victorian times this ‘gilded monument’ had become a vandalised ruin…..

…..just as Shakespeare predicted…

Even Lady Jane’s golden coronet had been broken…..


But as you can see it has been lovingly restored in the last century….

There is now no reason to doubt it will last as long as Shakespeare’s verse…..

And as we know, Shakespeare DID get his own memorial in the Parish Church of Stratford-upon-Avon…..

…..also designed by the Garrett family….

shakespeare church bust

…whereas the only memorial to Harry is this one on the north side of the tomb…..

tomb henry wriothesley


….which keeps him forever at the age of twenty one.

4. The Crypt to the Memorial.

1594  was also the year Shakespeare wrote A Midsummer Night’s Dream – to celebrate the marriage of Lady Mary and Sir Thomas Heneage.

It was also the year when the summer was so appalling people sat by their fires in July.

Shakespeare refers to this in the play.

Titania says:

titania close up

The ox hath therefore stretch’d his yoke in vain,

The ploughman lost his sweat, and the green corn

Hath rotted ere his youth attain’d a beard;

The fold stands empty in the drowned field,

And crows are fatted with the murrion flock;

The nine men’s morris is fill’d up with mud,

And the quaint mazes in the wanton green

For lack of tread are undistinguishable….

The major discord in the play comes from the fight between Oberon…..

Victor Jory as Oberon.

….. and Titania …..

titania confronts oberon

…..for possession of …..

….a little changeling boy…..

Anita Louise as Titania.

…..the son of a mortal friend of Titania who died giving birth to him…..

….as Mary Browne’s mother had died giving birth to her and her twin brother.

oberon and changeling boy on chariot

Shakespeare in the play was obliquely referring to the fight between Mary and Henry over possession of little Harry.

He shows, in the disturbance of nature, the spiritual repercussions on all concerned of such a bitter conflict.

Titania and Oberon are finally reconciled in the play….

oberon titania flying in

…..Shakespeare in the play is attempting to resolve the old marriage so that the new one can begin….

But did Shakespeare’s magic work in real life?

Mary was to go through yet one more marriage before her death – to a much younger man.

But when she finally wrote her will, on 22nd April 1607, she expressed a wish that she might be interred….

as near as may be to the body of my dearly loved husband Henry late Earl of Southampton in the Church at Titchfield.

It is my hope that if the crypt were ever to be re-opened we would see the two coffins side by side….

….the souls of the husband and wife healed by Shakespeare’s poetry.

© Stewart Trotter 20th October, 2016.

These beautiful photographs – by Ross Underwood – have been added to the talk.

They are:

1. Jane, Lady Southampton….

Photo by Ross Underwood.

Photo by Ross Underwood.

2. Thomas Wriothesley, First Earl of Southampton…..

Photo by Ross Underwood.

Photo by Ross Underwood.

3. Henry Wriothesley, Third Earl of Southampton….

Photo by Ross Underwood.

Photo by Ross Underwood.



Stewart Trotter and Karen Little gave this  talk to a packed audience in front of the Southampton Family ‘Tomb’ at St. Peter’s Church, Titchfield, on Saturday, 22nd October and Sunday 23rd October.

wriothesley tomb - colour

Beautiful as it is, there’s a lot that’s strange about this tomb.

For a start it is not a tomb – it’s a memorial. The bodies are in a sealed crypt below – preserved, it is said, in the purest honey.

It has a woman taking complete precedence above two men…..

jane wriothesley

– one of them to her right wearing the Order of the Garter – the highest honour a man could achieve at the time –

Photo by Ross Underwood.

Photo by Ross Underwood.

….and the other to her left, resplendent with curly hair, moustache……

Photo by Ross Underwood.

Photo by Ross Underwood.

…. and gilded, polished armour.

tomb 2nd earl southampton

Admittedly the woman wears a golden coronet and a scarlet robe of state lined with ermine.


Elizabethan women were notorious for the power they wielded – not least of all Queen Elizabeth herself….

elizabeth red

But most women were happy to exercise their influence under their husband’s name and title. Few – apart from the Queen – would expect this elevation over men in death….

Tomb of Queen Elizabeth

So what was going on? All three people, locked in eternal prayer, seem utterly at peace. But peace was the last thing they were at when they were alive.

This is one of the most dysfunctional, vindictive, spiteful, warring families that has ever lived.

So who were they?

The good thing about this memorial is that carved on it you get a potted life of each of the protagonists….

Let’s start with the gentleman on the lady’s right…..

Here lieth the body of the Rt. Honourable Sr. Thomas Wryothesley, son of William Wryothesley, Esquire…..

And we are immediately into problems.

How do you pronounce the surname?

Is it ‘Risley’ as one member of the family signed his name?

Is it ‘Wryothesly’ as on the memorial?

Or is it – as the Titchfield Parish Register has it – ‘Ryosely’?

I would suggest that it’s all three!

The Risley-Wriothesley-Ryoselies started off as plain old…


…..but one of them became Garter King of Arms and it went to his head.

As the family got richer, more powerful and more aristocratic their surname got longer, more elaborate and more preposterous…

But back to Sir Thomas….

…….who for his virtue and worthiness was created knight of the honourable order of the garter, Baron of Titchfield, Earl of Southampton: Chancellor of England and one of the honourable Privy Council unto King Henry the 8 and King Edward the 6 and one of the especially chosen and trusted executors of the Last Will and Testament of King Henry the 8……

What the memorial doesn’t tell you is that Thomas was a civilised brute with a taste for racking women. He was driven by a lust for power and became Henry VIII’s right hand man…..

henry viii drawing

– happy to smash up the sacred shrine of St. Swithin at a nod from the king.

The sculptor of the memorial has flattered him……

thomas wriothesley tomb

In real life he was so fat neither the Abbots of Titchfield or Beaulieu could find a horse strong enough to carry him.

But it was not always thus….he was once a handsome young undergraduate at Cambridge with a fondness for amateur theatricals. His friend John Leland described how….

Your beauty so shone upon your brow, your head of golden hair so glistened , the light of your keen mind was so effulgent, and your winning virtue so adorned you, that, one amongst many, you were seen to be a pattern for all.

As a reward for his services, Henry created Thomas Baron of Titchfield in 1544……

Phot by Ross Underwood.

Phot by Ross Underwood.

…. and gave him Titchfield Abbey – once a glorious gateway to Europe but by then completely run down with a handful of disillusioned monks and an Abott who was happy to be pensioned off.

Thomas turned it into…..

…a right stately house….

place house 1733

……and horrified his wife, Lady Jane, a devout Roman Catholic, when he told her he planned to convert the Abbey Chapel into a master bedroom.

She is the woman who lies on the upper, central slab of marble….

…….the right honourable Lady Jane, Countess of Southampton, Daughter of William Chenie of Chessamboyes in the County of Buckingham, Esq. wife unto the right honourable Sir Thomas Wryothesley Knight of the most honourable Order of the Garter, Baron of Titchfield, Earl of Southampton and Lord Chancellor of England….

Jane was placated when Thomas promised to turn the Chapter House of the Abbey into a private Chapel for her…

Jane was full of fun, highly literate and got on famously with the Titchfield farmers and their wives.

She had her own copy of the Works of Chaucer – in which she wrote her name ‘Jane Southampton’ several times – and was reported as being…

…….as merry as can be with Christmas plays and masques…..

But, like her husband, she had a will of iron…..

Photo by Ross Underwood.

Photo by Ross Underwood.

After the death of Henry VIII, Thomas carried the Sword of State at the coronation of the boy-King Edward VI……

edward vi

….semaphoring his intention to take over the running of England.

thomas wriothesley close-up

Other people had the same idea.

On the instructions of King Henry’s will, Thomas was created Earl of Southampton in 1647 – but in a coup he was sacked as Lord Chancellor a month later.

Bereft of power, he languished and died three years later at the age of 45 in 1550 – though the memorial puts the date at 1551.

Don’t believe all you read on tombstones…

Jane was left in charge of his estates, his five daughters and his five year old son, Henry, the new Second Earl of Southampton, who lies in armour to Jane’s left….



King Edward introduced compulsory Protestantism to England – but Jane defied him by bringing up her children as strict Roman Catholics.

Edward visited Jane at Titchfield in person in 1552 – so all the candles, rosaries and statues in her private chapel must have been hurriedly packed away.

But then Catholic Mary Tudor – ‘Bloody Mary’ – became Queen of England…..

Mary Tudor

….and out they came again.

Jane was one of the first people in England to ride in a carriage – introduced from Europe for the first time – in Mary’s Coronation Procession.

But five years later Protestant Elizabeth came to the throne…..

elizabeth as virgin

…..so they all went back into the cupboard.

Jane hid her teenage son Henry away from the Court but in 1564 the Privy Council ordered them both to attend the Queen’s Christmas celebrations at Richmond.

Henry wasn’t entirely under his mother’s thumb. He fell in love with the beautiful, vivacious, Mary Browne……

Mary Browne, 2nd Countess of Southampton.

…..daughter of Anthony Browne, Viscount Montague…….


…..one of the country’s leading Catholics.

When Henry was twenty and Mary was thirteen, he married her in her father’s house in London.

Mother Jane did not approve – and time was to prove her right.

On religion and politics, the couple were at one.

Both, like their families, were committed recusants who harboured Catholic priests and plotted to put Mary Queen of Scots on the throne.

Henry was even imprisoned in the Tower of London from October 1571 to May 1573.

Mary must have had visiting rights: her son Harry was born 6th October 1573…..

He and his older sister, Mary, were the only children the couple had.

It was their private life that was the problem. Three years after Lady Jane’s death in 1574, Mary was seen with a man called Donesome….

…a common person…

Henry went wild with jealousy and forbad his wife to see him.

However, three years later Mary was spotted again with Donsome at Dogmersfield – a new stately home that Henry was building – by Henry’s sinister Gentleman of the Bedchamber, one Thomas Dymmock…

Henry banished Mary from his presence and denied her all access to Harry. But before he could snatch the boy away from her, she gave her six year old son a letter for her husband to read….

But as she explained in a heart-breaking post-script in a letter to her father, Lord Montague….

….his heart was too great to bestow the reading of it, coming from me. Yet will I do my part so long as I am with him, but good my lord, procure so soon as conveniently you may, some end to this misery for I am tired with this life.

In the same letter to her father she predicted that Henry….

….will mix up old matters, repented and forgotten long since…..

….and declares:

….he may blame me of folly, but never justly condemn me of a fault….

Henry believed otherwise – and it led to war between the House of Southampton and the House of Montague: just like in Romeo and Juliet, their servants fought with each other in the streets….

street fight romeo and juliet

Henry, according to Mary, turned…

….his manservant into his wife….

…and, according to Gervase Markham, surrounded young Harry with…..

a whole troop of at least a hundred well-mounted gentlemen and yeomen and tall good fellows that kept a constant pace.

Mary observed grimly…..

This house is not for them who will not honour Dymmock as a God.

But soon an event was to take place that would eclipse all these domestic squabbles – the arrival in England of the Jesuit missionary priest, Edmund Campion….

St. Edmund Campion

Campion provides the first link between William Shakespeare and the Southampton family….

Many scholars now believe that the teenage Shakespeare was at Hoghton Hall in Lancashire when Campion visited the old Catholic family there.

Hoghton Tower, Lancashire

Henry – via Dymmock – also tried to arrange a meeting with Campion. But Campion was arrested and racked so violently he lost the use of his arm. In his agony he named names – and Henry’s was one of them.

The same day Henry was arrested and taken to the Tower.

The Privy Council resolved to ‘examine’ him…..

…..what Jesuits or Priests he had known, where they have been harboured, and by whom relieved, what letters or messages he hath received or sent unto them, and where they remain.

Whether they tortured Henry the way they had tortured Campion we do not know.

What we do know is that, two months later, he was dead at the age of 36.

He had written his will just before he arranged to meet Campion – so he must have known his life was in danger.

In it he leaves nothing to his wife, but £2,000 to his daughter Mary – the equivalent of £1million pounds today – on condition she is brought up by one of Henry’s sisters or aunts and is never ‘in house’ with her mother.

He gives Dymmock custody of his son Harry, charge of his stately home at Dogmersfield and income from rents of £1,000 [£500,000] a year.

But what is of particular interest to us is the clause in the will about St. Peter’s…

st. peter's titchfield

I bequest my body to be buried in the parish church of Titchell, county Southampton, where my mother lies interred; which chapel I will and direct to be new altered and finished by my executors within five years after my decease [i.e. 1586] in form and following, that is to say – New side windows of stone to be made, the roof plastered with pendants being set full of my arms and all the walls plastered like my house at Dogmersfield and the same fair paved and divided with iron grate from the church.

Also two fair monuments there to be made, the one for my lord my father (whose body I would have thither to be brought and there buried) and my lady my mother : the other for me, with portraitures of white alabaster or such like upon the said monuments; and I will to be bestowed thereupon one thousand pound[£500,000] alms by my foresaid executors. And I will such funeral charges and obsequies to be done and bestowed upon my said burial as shall seem meet and convenient to my executors for mine estate and degree, so that the same exceed not a thousand pounds. And I will to be given 100 marks [£30,000] at the time of my burial in charitable according to the executors’ discretion. Also to the needy poor within my several lordships the sum of £200 [£100,000] to pray for the good estate of my soul, the souls of my ancestors and all Christian souls. Also for the same purpose £3 [£1,500] to every Almshouse in the City of London and County of Southampton.

Henry is leaving an extraordinary amount of money for the poor to do something which by Queen Elizabeth’s reign was illegal – pray for the souls of the dead.

Calvinists believed that a soul was either in heaven or hell – and there was nothing people on earth could do about it.

Henry asks for a joint monument for his mother and father and a single one for himself.

This was to serve one purpose only: to humiliate his wife….

His solitary statue of white alabaster would be an eternal reminder to the world of Mary’s infidelity.

Mary was having none of it.

She pulled aristocratic strings and overturned her husband’s will.

Her eight year old son Harry – whom she had not seen for two years – and her daughter Mary were returned to her by order of Queen Elizabeth and her husband’s estate placed in her hands till Harry came of age…

As for the two monuments and chapel alterations…..

She quietly forgot about them…

Fast forward eight years to 1590…..

Harry has become a Ward of Court and his guardian Lord Burghley…..

burghley on donkey 001

…… wants sixteen year old Harry to marry his grand-daughter, Elizabeth de Vere….


……otherwise the Southampton family will have to pay an enormous £5,000 fine – the equivalent today of £2 and half million….

Harry however, has imbibed his father’s hatred and suspicion of women….

Henry Wriothesley, Third Earl of Southampton.

Enter William Shakespeare…..

shakespeare 1588

The Armada in 1588 had not been kind to the acting profession….

Performers and writers had been viewed as unpatriotic and unmanly – and their costumes had been ripped from their backs to provide clothing for soldiers and sailors – the ‘real men.’

Christopher Marlowe had gone to work for Bess of Hardwick, Thomas Kyd for the Earl of Sussex at Portsmouth and William Shakespeare – as I argued in my 2002 book, Love’s Labour’s Found…..

book cover

…….and subsequent blog The Shakespeare Code – for the Southampton family in Titchfield.

Not only was Shakespeare part of the recusant network – he came from a committed Catholic family on both sides – his mother Mary Arden was also distantly related to Lady Mary.

She commissioned Shakespeare to write seventeen sonnets for Harry’s seventeenth birthday – to convince him of the joys of heterosexual love and fatherhood….

Shakespeare in the poems refers to Harry’s dead father, Henry….

You had a father, let your son say so

….and to his living, beautiful mother, Mary….

Thou art thy mother’s glass and she is thee

Calls back the lovely April of her prime…

Shakespeare also refers to Harry as…

…beauty’s Rose….

…with the word ‘rose’ italicised and the ‘R’ made a capital.

…a reference both to the Southampton rose (which can be seen in abundance in the arches of the memorial)

southampton rose crest 2.

….and to the way Harry by then was pronouncing his surname…..


Cut now to 1594…..

That was the year Harry was to came of age – on October 6th…

Mary’s fear was that Harry – who had never liked her – would banish her to some remote dower house.

She also worried that Harry might activate his father’s desire for two memorials in the Church.

So Mary, as usual, took extraordinary action…..

(To read Part Two click: HERE )