Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Queen Elizabeth’s Magician

This is a searching look at John Dee and we see a meaningful apprenticeship for shakesphere.  That had to exist.  Dee likely inspired the whole opus of shakesphere's oevre.  

We find a body of men known for some level of skills.  For Shakesphere we have a natural poet liklely with a photographic memory as well.  It was not just those two but many others working and also socializing.  Think of 150 good friends with a dozen or so acknowledged leaders.

All having through eachother the ear of the queen.

Queen Elizabeth’s Magician


In 1921, The Occult Review, a British illustrated monthly journal, ran an insightful article entitled “Shakespeare and the Occult” that quite plausibly concluded that many of his plays were unintelligible without an understanding of the esoteric subjects they featured. Today, if you Google the words Shakespeare plus occult, you’ll find over half a million hits. Included are modern Rosicrucian claims that: “No one familiar with esoteric doctrines can have any question as to Shakespeare’s familiarity with the wisdom of the Illuminati.” You’ll also find Jewish community groups studying “Shakespeare, Kabbalah and the Occult.” Dozens of books explore similar connections. From this, we can be fairly safe in concluding that the consensus on Shakespeare’s knowledge of esoteric wisdom is almost unanimous, from scholars to the public.

But that agreement raises the vexing question of how did even a well-educated young provincial with a definite gift for language come by such a wealth of occult knowledge? This question opens the door to the issue of Shake­speare’s identity; and, while it doesn’t prove that the Bard was really someone else (Bacon, or de Vere or even Mar­lowe), it does suggest that Shakespeare had some kind of secret life, one that brought him into contact with a mentor who could provide him with sources from Holinshead to Aggripa. If we follow the trail of Shakespeare’s esoteric themes and their sources, we come to the conclusion that only one library, one knowledgeable teacher, existed for the necessary range of subjects: that of Dr. John Dee.

John Dee was the Einstein of the era, a mathematician, astronomer, astrologer, geographer, and occultist, who collected the largest library in England and one of the best in Europe. Dee occupied that middle ground in the histo­ry of science where mathematics and magic had not yet split into widely different disciplines, and much of his life was devoted to alchemy, angelic communication and Hermetic philosophy. Beginning in the early 1580s, Dee, along with his “scryer” or clairvoyant Edward Kelley, conducted a years long series of communications with angelic intelligenc­es. In 1583, Dee, Kelley and their families embarked on a kind of apocalyptic missionary journey in which they at­tempted to enlist both Stephen I and Rudolph II, the rulers of Poland and The Holy Roman Empire. Dee returned to England in 1589, leaving Edward Kelley behind in Prague, and found his library ransacked and his reputation wrecked. Elizabeth I eventually made him Warden of Christ College, Manchester, where he lived until a few years be­fore his death in 1609. Kelley apparently died in Prague sometimes during the mid 1590s while attempting to escape from one of Rudolph II’s prisons.

From the work of Joy Hancox, who concluded that Dee was the most likely channel for the sophisticated geometry of the original Elizabethan theatres, we can place Dee and Shakespeare roughly in the same milieu, that of the Bur­bages and the Globe Theatre. However, even though Dee was in London during Shakespeare’s meteoric rise to fame in the early 1590s, and kept many journals and diaries of visitors and events, there is no mention of the name Shake­speare. If Dee knew Shakespeare, then he knew him under another name and from very different circumstances.

Curiously, some kind of oral or family tradition connecting Edward Kelley and Shakespeare seems to have sur­vived long enough for Elias Ashmole, in the mid 17th century, to pick up on it and in his 1652 anthology dedicate Ed­ward Kelley’s poem “Concerning the Philosopher’s Stone” (Ashmole’s title as well) to Kelley’s “especiall good Friend, G.S. Gent.” Calling William Shakespeare “G.S.” would not be much of a stretch; especially since Shakespeare’s bap­tism records in Stratford-upon Avon, from April 26, 1564, list his name as “Gulielmus Shaksper.” But if Shakespeare was the “G. S.” of Ashmole’s dedication, how did he become the “especiall” friend of Edward Kelley?

The original title of the 1589 poem was simply: “The praise of vnity for frendship’s sake made by a stranger/ to fur­ther his frende his Conceyts.” Since the poem itself is an instructional piece, designed to give insight into a kind of al­chemical theatre, then we suppose that the “conceyts,” or conceits in the sense of personal creative endeavors, in­volve both the theatre and alchemy. Clearly, Kelley is writing to someone who knows the secret, has perhaps actually witnessed the art of transmutation; and just as clearly, that someone is a poet, “nature’s sower,” and a member of the “schoole” mentioned in the poem’s last line.

In Theatrum Chemicum Britannicum, the same collection that includes Kelley’s poem, we find an important clue. Ashmole’s commentary on Dee and Kelley’s continental adventures contains a description of Kelley’s transmu­tation, performed to “gratifie Master Edward Garland and his Brother Francis.” Garland is a name that appears in the same collection of Danish documents that contains the original of Kelley’s Philosopher’s Stone poem. And both brothers turn up in Dee’s diary; indeed Dee refers to several “Garland” brothers; Francis, Edward and Robert, and a fourth, “Garland,” Henry. None have ever been positively identified, even though they’re most frequently described acting as couriers. No archival records in England have ever been found that show a payment to or letter from any of these men; no civic record of any kind lists their names.

Given their roles as couriers, it is quite likely that “Garland” is a code word, and “brothers” meant in the sense of members of an exclusive organization, such as a fraternity or a secret society. So these Brothers of the Garland are lumped together by Dee in his diary as a generic way to refer to these agents, and possibly students. Edward Garland is perhaps the easiest to identify, because his name disappears quickly from Dee’s diary entries to be replaced in the same context with the name of a person we can trace, Edward Dyer.

Dyer was a member of a “schoole,” the “Areopagus” circle around Sir Philip Sidney—whose uncle, Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester, had been tutored in his youth by Dr. Dee—and as such was certainly known to Dee before he ar­rived. The transition from Edward Garland, in the early diary entries, to Edward Dyer just over a year later shows how Dee used the concept of the Brothers Garland. They were the couriers, spies, and students who were part of a larger group, or school, of poets and playwrights.

Francis Garland continued to appear in Dee’s diaries, including six mentions along with Edward Dyer. In fact a group that included Francis Garland, Joan Kelley’s brother, Edward Dyer, and Dyer’s “man” Rowles left for England just ahead of Dee and his family. If Dyer, an informant for Lord Treasurer Burghley, was indeed one of the witnesses of Kelley’s transmutation, then Burghley’s insistence on getting the now-knighted Sir Edward Kelley away from Ru­dolph II’s court and back to England becomes clearer. Dyer had seen that the trick worked and had persuaded his su­periors so convincingly that when Kelley wouldn’t return, Dyer was dispatched back to Prague to become his student.

But what of Francis Garland? Here’s a man who apparently doesn’t exist outside of his connections to the circle around Dee and Kelley and mainly appears in Dee’s diary connected with Edward Dyer. As with his “brother” Edward, we can safely assume that his real name wasn’t “Francis Garland.” Could this person be the G. S. or “Gulielmus Shak­sper” to whom Ashmole thought Kelley had dedicated his poem on the Philosopher’s Stone? Could Francis Garland, confidant of Dee and Kelley and a witness to an alchemical transmutation, actually be William Shakespeare?

The simple answer seems to be yes.

Comparing the dates when Dee notes Francis Garland in his diaries with the known dates of Shakespeare’s life shows clearly that the idea is impossible to disprove. Most of the dates for Francis Garland fall in what is known as the “Lost Years” of Shakespeare. We know that Shakespeare left Avon around 1585, probably soon after the birth of the twins Hamnet and Judith, and we know nothing of what he was doing until the early 1590s when some of his plays were produced. The next firm date we have is April 18, 1593, when his poem Venus and Adonis was registered in London. Francis Garland appears in Dee’s diary from December 1586 through March of 1595, and in all that time we find not a single instance of Shakespeare being somewhere else when Francis Garland was visiting Dee.

In fact, if we assume that Garland is Shakespeare, it appears that he visited Dee before the registration and publi­cation of both Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece. Francis Garland visits Dee on March 17, 1593, and Venus and Adonis is registered on April 18. Garland visits Dee on March 28, 1594, and The Rape of Lucrece is registered on May 19. It is tempting to think that the young pupil, Garland/Shakespeare, was showing his mentor his latest works of alchemical poetry; Venus and Adonis in particular is filled with alchemical symbolism. By Garland’s last visit in 1595 it is possible that both Romeo and Juliet, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream were finished and read with approv­al by Dee.

If we make the identification of Dee’s “Francis Garland” with the rising playwright William Shakespeare, then most of the mysteries surrounding Shakespeare’s life disappear like actors at the end of a play. A sudden light is thrown on the so-called lost years, and a real person, not a cipher or a mask, emerges. The young Will didn’t waste his time holding horses in front of playhouses and apprentice as an actor; he went directly to the source of the na­tional literary Renaissance—the Sidney group. And in that circle he met Dyer, who was perhaps in need of another bright young poet who could write quickly and cleanly. And so, off to Prague as Francis Garland…

Garland, or Shakespeare, was likely a member of Dee’s inner circle for close to nine years. In the later years, he was Dee’s main point of contact with Kelley; and he was, in light of Kelley’s poem, perhaps even closer to Kelley than Dee. During those years, full of adventure and marvels, we can easily see Shakespeare, or Garland, maturing and learning, absorbing everything—from politics and court protocol to intrigue and esoteric insights—that he would later turn to such good use in his plays.

And what of those plays? If we see Shakespeare as a poet who was also a spy and an occultist, then where did the theatre come from? Perhaps he was already interested in acting and playwriting when he met Dyer, Dee and Kelley; or perhaps the idea came from Dee, who was known from his youth for being interested in the mechanics of stage­craft. Indeed, many of the standard theatrical devices of the Elizabethan stage, such as ending a show with a curtain drop, apparently have their origins in Dee and Kelley’s angelic workings. It is even likely that Dee designed the “sa­cred geometry” of the theatre space itself.

When Dee returned to England in December 1589, he found that much had changed. But he still had the Queen’s ear and lost no time in heading to Richmond and her court. Elizabeth would stay in touch, including a private visit to Mortlake in December 1590, where Dee apparently wanted permission, and money, for some unnamed venture. Two days later, a visitor, Richard Cavendish, confirmed her agreement with Dee’s venture in “philosophie and alchemie.”

Early versions of both Spenser’s Fairie Queen and Sidney’s Arcadia had been published since Dee’s return, and young playwrights such as Christopher Marlowe were inventing a new form of literature down in Shoreditch and on Bankside. Even Garland/Shakespeare was at work on a play, Henry VI part one. Perhaps part of Dee’s “philosphie” en­deavor was the encouragement of the new theatrical art form, which was indeed allowed to flourish over the next few years until the plague closed the theatres. Dee’s role was of necessity behind the scenes, but Shakespeare/Garland took up front and center stage. By 1594, he was a member of The Lord Chamberlain’s Men and one of the most popu­lar of the rising playwrights.

The rise of Shakespeare’s popularity in the mid-1590s represents a watershed for art, politics, and occultism. In the best sense of turning the wheel, this was truly revolutionary. Suddenly, very deep and powerful ideas were turned loose in the public consciousness without the control and interference of the Church. The Elizabethan theatre was essentially a magical theatre, from the sacred geometry of the space in which they were presented to the subject mat­ter and language of the plays themselves. And because of Dr. Dee’s influence, this was a Hermetic revolution.

This Hermetic revolution in the theatrical arts served as the starting point for further revolutions, both political and scientific. The Tempest, whose main character Prospero, is thought by some scholars to be based on Dee, and by others on Shakespeare himself, was performed for the marriage of Princess Elizabeth to Frederick V, the Elector Pala­tine of the Rhine in 1613. Frederick V would go on to become the King of Bohemia and the leader of the Protestant revolution in central Europe until he was deposed in 1622. This was also the years when the Rosicrucian manifestos were circulating, attracting minds such as that of Liebnitz and leading the way toward the Royal Societies in England and France.

Dee’s work, particularly his Monas Hieroglyphica from 1564, was a major influence on Rosicrucian philosophy, and there are echoes of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream in The Alchemical Wedding of Christian Rosen­crutz. Dee and Kelley’s alchemical work and the work of their followers can be seen as the origins of modern chemis­try and physics. In the same way, Shakespeare’s plays are the origin point of modern psychology.

Once we begin to see Shakespeare in the light of his years as Francis Garland, and begin to appreciate the deep and long lasting influence of Dee on Shakespeare’s life and development, the outlines of a larger plan emerges. Dr. Dee had lost none of his missionary fervor, which had launched the long exodus to begin with, after his return in 1589. It was simply channeled in a different direction, toward perhaps the growing hermetic revolution in the Eliza­bethan theatre, spearheaded by his old pupil Garland, or William Shakespeare.

One last point: The 1623 collection of Shakespeare’s works opens with The Tempest. His friends who published it must have known his connection to John Dee and gave the pride of place to the play that makes the point most clear­ly. From Shakespeare’s point of view, the play can be seen both as a nod toward his old mentor, and as a salute and elegy to his own career as a magician and hermetic revolutionary. Dee could expect no less from a friend like Francis Garland.

© 2009 by Vincent Bridges and Teresa Burns. Vincent Bridges is an author and esoteric historian best known as the co-author of Mysteries of the Great Cross at Hendaye: Alchemy and the End of Time and for his work on Nostrad­amus for the History Channel. Teresa Burns is a professor of English at the University of Wisconsin at Platteville and is the author, along with Vincent Bridges, of Shakespeare, John Dee and the Hermetic Revolution: Alchemy and Espionage in the Magickal Theatre of Elizabethan England.

What do the mystical Dr. John Dee and the spy James Bond have in common? A lot more than meets the eye.

Dr. John Dee was a sixteenth century alchemist, magician, and Christian cabalist who so entranced Queen Eliza­beth that she even had Dee run her astrological chart to pick the most propitious day and time for her coronation. His home at Mortlake contained more books than any private library in England as well as a magic mirror that, it was said, would astound all who dared look at their reflection. When he wasn’t in England he traveled the continent to the courts of emperors and princes. He was also a spy.

England was a hotbed of political intrigue when Elizabeth took the throne. Plots and counterplots, assassinations, and threats of war were constant. She needed those she could count on to keep her on the throne. Francis Walsing­ham was Elizabeth’s chief spymaster. He seemed the right man for the job as his motto was Video et taceo, “See and be Silent.” The Queen trusted very few individuals and wanted her intelligence reported directly. Dee reported only to the Queen and Walsingham. The Queen would sign her dispatches to Dr. Dee as “M,” just as James Bond’s boss. Dee referred to himself as agent “007” preceding James Bond’s code name by nearly four centuries. The Earl of Leicester, a very important member of the court, who had been tutored by Dr. Dee as a child, would use a similar code. He marked his secret correspondence with two dots, or two number “0”s representing eyes. Dee would address his corre­spondence to the Queen with a heading “For Your Eye’s Only.”

John Dee had a great influence on his world. It was he who convinced the Queen she had rights in the Americas. It was he whose texts on navigation went beyond science and envisioned a British world ruled by a British navy long before the age of Imperialism. He made strides in the sciences but never received the credit for his work as he had also delved into the black arts and alchemy.

Dee, along with Sir Francis Bacon, is considered at least the inspiration for, if not the co-founder of, the Rosicru­cian brotherhood. Because the brotherhood was not an organization in Dee’s time, there was no established organiza­tion or rules, officers, or even members. It was what it claimed to be, a brotherhood of “Invisibles,” and for good rea­son. To be a visible proponent of any science condemned by the Church could shorten one’s life expectancy considerably. Many of the texts of the Rosicrucians were written anonymously or with pen names like the famous Christian Rosenkreutz. A coded device Dee used on his writings called the “Monas hieroglyphica” is shared by one of the earliest known Rosicrucian writings, Confessio Fraternitatis.

There is a considerable amount of certainty that the Rosicrucian brotherhood played a great part in Dee’s role as Elizabeth’s spy. His position of court mystic, his connection to the “Invisibles” and his gifts that bordered on the su­pernatural, at least in appearance, would help in admitting him to the esoteric circles of Europe. He left for the conti­nent at age twenty, and his travels included a stint working for the Muscovy Company advancing Anglo-Russian trade.

Ian Fleming’s biography has numerous similarities, including considerable evidence that the same esoteric stud­ies and connection to the Rosicrucian brotherhood played a role in the life of James Bond’s creator.

Fleming was born into an immensely wealthy Scottish family. His grandfather, Robert Fleming, had started man­aging money as a sideline to his mercantile business, then in 1873 he created a family bank. The bank would survive a century and eventually be sold to Chase Manhattan Bank (now J.P. Morgan Chase) for $7.7 billion dollars. Grandfa­ther Robert’s fortune might have relieved his heirs from needing an occupation, but Ian went to work for Reuters while his brother Peter became a well-known travel writer. From an early age Ian was inspired by the mystical arts. His father had been killed in the First World War and his mother, Evelyn St. Croix-Rose (Rosy Cross?) was not close to him.

His education started at the Durnford School near the estate of the Fleming family, whose motto was “The World is Not Enough.”

After a less than stellar performance at Eton and Sandhurst, Fleming’s mother sent him to the continent at about the same age as John Dee. There, in Austria, he studied Jung’s works on both alchemy and psychology with the Adler­ian disciple Forbes Dennis.

Alfred Adler was an Austrian doctor who broke with Freud and split the science of psychology in half. Freud boot­ed out anyone who had agreed with Adler. Adler favored feminism and introduced the concept that the dynamics as­sociated with masculine and feminine principles were the key to understanding human psychology. This theme, as well as Fleming’s association with semi-occult circles, would find its way into his spy novels.

Fleming’s circle also included England’s Bloomsbury Set, a group of writers, intellectuals, and artists whose works greatly influenced the twentieth century: economist Maynard Keynes, author E.M. Forster, feminist writer Vir­ginia Woolf, and scholar Lytton Strachney of Cambridge. Several were also members of the “Cambridge Apostles,” a group of twelve men that included Keynes, Forster, and Strachney as well as the spy Anthony Blunt. Their influence on Fleming might have been strong, but it ended as the war exposed two of them, Anthony Blunt and Lewis Daly, as spies against their own country during the First World War. Later the London Morning Post broke the story of the Bloomsbury Set celebrating the Black Mass. Soon after, their ranks were reduced by two suicides and otherwise pre­mature deaths. Fleming’s reputation was unscathed by his connections.

He soon left England and traveled the world for Reuters and the Times. At nearly the same age, again, as Dr. Dee, Fleming went to Russia. It is certain that by 1939 when he was sent to Moscow he was acting officially as part of Brit­ish intelligence. He was soon given the title Lieutenant Commander in the Royal Navy, as would his avatar James Bond. Dee of course had been instrumental in setting up the Royal Navy.

One of Fleming’s most important roles was in coming up with a defense plan for Gibraltar. His secret code name was Operation Goldeneye. It had an occult meaning referring to the third or inner eye that was necessary to achieve the higher plane of understanding, gnosis. The name of the operation would later serve as the name for his home on the lush island of Jamaica and of the Bond movie of that name.

He played a role in tricking Rudolf Hess into flying to England. He knew Hess was a student of astrology and could be lured to England through the mystical arts. He consulted with the most renowned of Europe’s occultists, the Great Beast himself, Aleister Crowley. A plan was devised to lure Hess through a bogus horoscope. In January of 1941 an astrologer who was secretly a British intelligence agent convinced Hess of the need to meet the Duke of Hamilton. As a result of trickery and astrology, Hess parachuted into the hands of the RAF and was captured. This be­gan a purge of occultists in Nazi Germany which was no small matter as the Nazi party was full of those who es­poused neo-paganism, theosophical occultism mixed with a mystical desire for racial purity.

Crowley’s role was limited as he was not trusted in the mission, but he would anyway be resurrected in Casino Royale as Chiffre, a word implying Cipher.

Fleming was not the only spy interested in magic and the occult. Even the logo of the MI5 contained a pyramid and an “all-seeing eye.”

Possibly Fleming’s most important work was in being sent to the United States to participate in setting up a joint American-British intelligence network. America was not looking to get into the war against Germany. Parties like America First advocated isolationism while others even leaned towards the Fascists. British intelligence was on a mis­sion to change all that. They took an active role in courting the politicians and the media and on occasion worked against those who worked against Roosevelt’s aid policies. The role was more often diplomatic than physical, but there were occasions that sparked Fleming’s interest that led to the creation of James Bond.

The British MI6 and the early OSS (then known as the COI) were housed in Rockefeller Center. Also housed there was the Japanese consul general’s office. Fleming participated in a late night break-in with a safecracker. They opened the offices, opened the safe, copied all the Japanese codebooks, and relocked the offices just in time. Fleming would also use this adventure in Casino Royale, and his role would earn Bond his “00” designation.

Thanks to his role as a spy, he became enamored by the odd gadgets used in spycraft and always carried a com­mando knife and a trick fountain pen that fired tear gas. He also was fond of the adventure.

After the war Fleming went back to journalism. He also wanted to write, and his contract as a journalist gave him two to three months each year to work on his fiction writing. One of his fellow spies had been Ivar Bryce, who had bought a home in Red Hills, Jamaica, and would find Fleming a property there as well. His fellow boss Bill Stephen­son who had headed British intelligence in the United States along with author Noel Coward were regular visitors. Coward described the décor as temple-like with numerous snakes depicted on the walls. There for at least two or three months each year, Fleming settled down to write.

There are numerous theories for much of what has gone into or influenced Fleming’s work. His main character shares initials with the two pillars of Freemasonry, Joachim and Boaz. Such pillars have appeared in Masonic temples everywhere, and for centuries.

His tales can be read on two levels. Author Umberto Eco would remark that all of Fleming’s novels had a similar formula plot. “M” would give Bond a mission. The villain would appear to Bond or Bond to the villain. Next, a woman would appear to Bond. Bond would possess her. Later the villain would take Bond. Finally Bond would be victorious and unite again with the woman. Philip Gardiner in The Bond Code would compare this to the alchemist’s true goal of finding or transforming himself.

In many of Bond’s adventures, he finds the codes behind many of the characters created by Fleming. Often they translate into a loosely coded story of good overcoming evil, the light overcoming the darkness, and only after gnosis is achieved. Fleming even made a statement that James Bond was a Manichean. This refers to the followers of Mani whose “heresy” of dualism so disturbed the Church. Mani’s influence would last until the purge of the Cathars in the thirteenth century and beyond.

In Mani’s dualistic world, it is a constant battle of Evil and Good. Evil in the Bond novels is personified as Le Chif­fre, Mr. Big, Hugo Drax, Kanaga, and Baron Samedi. The last refers to a Voodoo cult figure, an “Invisible,” or a dark angel. The evil characters are eventually defeated by Bond with the help of his female companions. The female names have an occult theme as well but represent knowledge or the search for gnosis. Solitaire (the tarot reader and fortune teller), Gala Brand (merry fire), Vesper Lynd (night born), and Vivienne (a life-giving goddess) take the role of the feminine side, along with those of more comical names, the lighter side of Bond created characters like Pussy Galore from people he knew. “Pussy” was the nickname of his neighbor and occasional lover Blanche Blackwell.

After a heart attack, he declared “I have always smoked and drank and loved too much….Then I shall have died of living too much.” A second heart attack made his prediction come true, claiming his life on August 12, 1964. He was only 56.

While he lived as a man of the world, he is buried in Sevenhampton, a small English village two miles from a bus stop. His grave is marked by an obelisk atop four stones.

Between 1582 and 1589, two men—Dr. John Dee, a mathematician and scientific adviser to Elizabeth I, and Edward Kelly, an itinerant psychic—claimed that they held regular conversations with angels.

These angels explained the true origins of humanity and delivered the original language spoken by mankind before the Fall. This language, along with a mathematically complex system for making further contact with the angels, was to be used by Dee and Kelly to advance the world toward the Apocalypse.

This was not a marginal event. Indeed, it has been central to the last five hundred years of Western civilization. Through Dee—who invented the phrase “British Empire” and worked to manifest a new Christian religion uniting all humanity in preparation for the Second Coming—we can find the genesis of not only the British Empire, but also the American, and in the utterances of the angels we can find the spiritual blueprint that has driven them both. This tremendous (albeit occulted) impact on history did not end with Dee. The influence of Dee and the angelic system he and Kelly delivered to the world can be found in an astonishing number of the major turning points of Western history since Dee’s death—in the birth of modern science; in the creation of the secret societies that liberalized Europe and gave America its spiritual calling; in the creation of the state of Israel and its subsequent centrality to American foreign policy; and even in the genesis of the United States space program.

In studying Dee and his work, we are studying the secret history of the world. John Dee was a Doctor of the sublunary world who sought to reverse the Fall of mankind and return all of nature to God—to create a new Eden by prompting the Apocalypse. His angelic system influenced the men of such movements as Rosicrucianism, Freemasonry, the Royal Society, the Golden Dawn, Aleister Crowley, and Jack Parsons—and it not only changed the world but also in many ways created the world we now inhabit. Indeed, just as the work of St. Paul is responsible for turning the ideas of a Jewish messianic sect into a Holy Roman Empire, so is the work of Dr. Dee responsible for turning those of the Protestant dissenters into a global Empire of Angels.

Born into a humble family with minor court connections in 1527, John Dee quickly distinguished himself as a brilliant student, and soon rose to the heights of European intellectual life, becoming one of the great scientific minds of Europe during the time of Copernicus, Bruno, and Tycho Brahe, and a great popularizer and teacher of mathematics. Yet Dee sought not to master one subject but the totality of the sciences then available. This, for Dee, was a spiritual quest to know the mind of God; and like many of the intellectuals of his day, he extended his studies into occult philosophy, seeking direct contact with higher spiritual beings that he hoped would continue his education.

Reviewing his case in 1967, the National Security Agency summed up “our man Dee” as “a principal adviser to most of the Tudor monarchs of England, and to certain European rulers as well, including the Emperor Rudolph II. As government consultant, he excelled in mathematics, cryptography, natural science, navigation, and library science, and above all in the really rewarding sciences of those days—astrology, alchemy, and psychic phenomena. He was, all by himself, a Rand Corporation for the Tudor government of Elizabeth.”

Because of Dee’s vast range of interests, he has remained opaque to popular history. His occult activities have long been considered an embarrassment and have been used as a cautionary tale of how even great geniuses can fall victim to their own wishful thinking. Many commentators and biographers on Dee, likely wary of undermining their own careers, bracket their writing on his angelic conversations with disdain, downplaying the importance of Dee’s occult interests to his overall work. This means that most of the assessment of Dee’s occult work has been done by occult writers, where his system of communication with angels—often dubbed “Enochian magic,” a phrase not used by Dee—is discussed on its own merits, divorced from the overall context of Dee’s life and work. Writers who downplay Dee’s occult activities make the error of assessing him from a sterilized modern viewpoint, instead of summoning the bravery to interact with Dee on his own terms. Those who focus solely on Dee’s occultism make the converse error, extracting his angelic conversations from his other work, depriving them of critical context, over-romanticizing them, or conflating them with later New Age or Theosophical ideas. Both of these compartmentalizations of Dee’s legacy do him a disservice.

Dee’s belief in the existence of a spiritual realm, inhabited by both good and evil beings, interpenetrating both daily life and history, was standard in the Elizabethan period. However, those who engaged with this spirit world outside of the official bounds of the Anglican or Roman churches—whether Hermetic “magicians” among the academic elite, street-level “cunning men” and scryers, or, indeed, non-Anglican Protestants—were often criminalized, imprisoned, or killed for their troubles. Dee is remarkable not for his occult interests but for the unprecedented level of intellectual and scientific rigor he brought to them, for the fact that a man of his social position took such remarkable personal and professional risks in pursuing them, and for the phenomenal corpus of records he left behind.

In our own time, the doors to the intoxicating and hallucinatory world of magic and alchemy have long since been closed by science; and the experimental techniques once used by men like Dee, Bruno, and Newton to investigate the subtleties of the human spirit have been left to wither in the twilight of the New Age. This makes the active exploration of the invisible world as unacceptable today as it was in Dee’s time—with the main advance being that those who breach such taboo territory are economically and socially marginalized, rather than imprisoned or killed.

Yet stories like Dee’s are not without precedent in the modern world—especially among mathematicians (like Dee), some of whom have recorded similar experiences. John Nash, for instance, the Nobel Prize-winning American mathematician and economist who did critical work on game theory in the 1940s and ’50s and gave us the Nash equilibrium, believed that he had been recruited by aliens to save the world, that they were assisting him by sending him mathematical equations, and that they later acted to end his career; when asked how he could believe in such an outlandish scenario, Nash replied, “Because the ideas I had about supernatural beings came to me the same way that my mathematical ideas did. So I took them seriously.”

The brilliant, self-taught Indian mathematician Srinavasa Ramanujan attributed his early twentieth century achievements in higher mathematics to his family deity, the goddess Mahalakshmi, and received visions of scrolls of mathematical equations opening before his eyes; he is quoted as saying, “An equation has no meaning to me, unless it expresses a thought of God”—the quote could have come from Dee himself.

Carl Sagan’s 1985 novel Contact also assesses the idea of higher intelligences contacting humanity through the language of advanced math. The science fiction writer Philip K. Dick, who famously recorded his contact experience with an intelligence he called VALIS in his final novels, also spoke of language, the logos, as a living entity and medium of transmission from a higher dimension; the reality-puncturing ferocity of the Gnostic Christ of Dick’s Exegesis and the apocalyptic vitriol of the angels of Dee and Kelly’s spirit diaries are not far away in tone and content.

Nash was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, institutionalized, and experienced severe career issues as a result; Philip K. Dick also contextualized his experience as traumatic, profoundly alienating him from those around him. Ramanujan, on the other hand, experienced no such friction. While the seriousness of particularly Nash’s illness should not be downplayed or trivialized, it is also worth noting that Ramanujan differed from Nash in that his claim of visions was considered acceptable within the general cultural narrative of Hinduism, in which reports of divine inspiration or contact are routine.

This reading of Nash, Dick, Ramanujan, and even Dee and Kelly’s differing experiences is supported by an interview-based study conducted by Stanford anthropologist Tanya Luhrmann in 2014 that suggested that the voices heard by individuals with serious psychotic disorder are shaped by culture. Luhrmann found that Americans reported violent, warlike, demonic, and overwhelmingly negative voices occasionally punctuated by the voice of God, which were perceived as traumatic and pathological. Individuals from India and Africa, on the other hand, reported experiencing voices as helpful spirits or family relationships and felt them to be generally positive and to conform with cultural expectations about reality. Luhrmann’s description of the voices heard by Americans closely fits the angelic apparitions reported by Dee’s unstable English scryer Edward Kelly, and perhaps can tell us something about the cultural context of Protestant Christianity. However, like Ramanujan, and unlike modern Westerners, Dee and Kelly existed in a cultural context that supported the validity of their experiences; while not generally well regarded, magic, scrying, and angel contact were nevertheless widespread in Elizabethan England.

These contact experiences, whatever their provenance, are not confined to the margins of society; they are, in fact, woven into the very fabric of world culture. Many mainstream religions incorporate or are even founded on claims of contact with angels that are far less documented than Dee’s—with notable examples being the Revelation of John and the Prophet Muhammad’s reception of the Qu’ran from the archangel Gabriel, a being that also appears in Dee’s spirit diaries. The Kabbalistic practices of Judaism, the parent tradition of Christianity and Islam, form a tightly knit system of mathematical interpretation of scripture and even, according to some readings, two-way communication with angels, making mathematical contact with spiritual entities an established, if closely guarded, religious tradition. That these claims of supernatural contact exist purely in the realm of subjectivity and faith has not, of course, impeded their ability to shape world cultures.

Since these angelic revelations are at the root of the three primary monotheist religions in the world, as of 2010 they made up the lived mythology of 2.17 billion Christians, 1.6 billion Muslims, and 13.9 million Jews. This means that over half of the world’s population—54.8 percent—draws their model of the world from what they believe to be messages from angels. Due in part to the rapid growth of Islam, that figure will rise to 61.1 percent of the world’s 9.3 billion population by 2050. Of course, the “big three” are not the only religions that claim to rest on direct revelation—only the largest ones that claim descent from angels (as a specific class of mythological being).

Such communication between individuals and higher intelligences via math, Qabalism, and secret languages is also a running trope in the occult subculture, notably within groups that draw their inspiration from Dee. The occult occupies a treacherous liminal zone between the competing discourses of science and religion, both of which reject it. It is tiny, decentralized, largely overlooked by modern culture, not policed by the processes of licensing or peer review, and concerned with entirely subjective aspects of the human experience, making it a no-man’s land where scientists, if not angels, fear to tread. Partly because he explored this perilous territory between objective science and subjective magic, Dee’s name was occluded from history by the religious and scientific reformers that followed him.

However, Dee’s magic has as little to do with modern notions of the occult as it does with modern notions of science; rather than grimoire sorcery or woolly New Age mysticism, Dee and Kelly’s scrying sessions were an outgrowth of Christian piety and the scriptural tradition of received wisdom granted to worthy individuals by angelic beings. Likewise, the protoscience of Dee’s time was fundamentally different from what we think of as science today. While modern science is forward-looking, seeking to continually test and refine what we know about the universe through experiment, the protoscience that existed before the scientific revolution was backward looking. Europe was still crawling out of the Dark Ages and deeply concerned with recovering the knowledge it had lost. After the sack of Constantinople by the Ottoman Turks in 1453, Orthodox priests had fled to the Italian city-states, bringing with them Greek and Latin manuscripts that Western Europe had lacked access to, which scholars quickly seized upon. This meant that the prevailing intellectual climate during Dee’s life was humanism, the study of the classics. Western Europe had lost so much during the long night between the fall of Rome and the Renaissance that its scholars and early scientists saw their task as the recovery of the lost knowledge of antiquity—Greek and Roman philosophy and the Bible itself.

While the narrative of progress now leads us to think of humanity’s knowledge increasing as history advances, Renaissance thinkers believed that knowledge was naturally degrading over time and had to be recovered and preserved. The ultimate source of knowledge was not in the future, but in following the trail of history back through the ancient world—even toward rediscovering what humanity had known before the fall of the Tower of Babel and the Fall from Eden itself. The true source of knowledge, wisdom, and understanding was God, and God had progressively distanced himself from human affairs—therefore, the enterprising scientist or magician was tasked with chasing him backward through time. This quest to restore mankind’s knowledge, and even its original pre-Fall spiritual condition, was the primary goal of many of Europe’s intellectual elite during Dee’s time, and Dee’s work is the high-water mark.

To make sense of Dee’s work, we must not only make the difficult leap of taking on the Renaissance worldview, but also juggle two narratives and intersecting levels of reality. One is the story of England’s growth, its split from the Catholic Church, and its subsequent transition into a global empire. The second is the spiritual narrative of Christianity itself, beginning with the Fall and ending with the Apocalypse and Second Coming of Christ. Modern readers should easily be able to compartmentalize these stories as facets of European history. This was not at all the case for Dee or his contemporaries, for whom these mythic narratives were indistinguishable, forming the fabric of Elizabethan reality.

Just as Dee sought to restore the fallen world by divine aid, I have attempted, in my new book, to restore and reconstitute Dee’s life, work, and ongoing historical impact as a coherent narrative, and to tell the story of one of the most improbable and quietly influential figures in European history, who stood at the crossroads of the Renaissance and Enlightenment and, perhaps with the aid of the host of heaven, delivered the blueprint for humanity’s final days.

The above is from the introduction to the author’s new book, John Dee and the Empire of Angels (Inner Traditons, 2018), reprinted here with the permission of the publisher.

CAPTION: John Dee performing an experiment before Elizabeth I (Henry Gillard Glindoni, late nineteenth or early twentieth century. Courtesy of Wellcome Images)

Lost History

The mystery of Shakespearean authorship is back in the news. No longer is anyone who questions the authenticity of the notion that the plays were written by a man from Avon considered to be a crank. Even the BBC is now discussing the matter seriously. In Cracking the Shakespeare Code, a recent, four-part documentary on the Timeline series, historian Dr. Robert Crumpton joins forces with Norwegian code breaker Petter Amundsen to investigate the secrets buried in Shakespeare’s first folio and to decipher a coded map that may lead to one of history’s greatest treasures, perhaps on America’s mysterious Oak Island. As fantastic as the story may sound, it is not because there is any shortage of intriguing evidence, and not because the subject is in any way a new one.

One hundred and fifty years after the death of Shakespeare, England’s greatest secret was first exposed. William Shakespeare did not write the works attributed to him. Instead, strong evidence now indicates that a handful of much more educated men and at least one woman penned the sonnets and plays. It shouldn’t have come as a surprise for several reasons. The first was that Shakespeare could not write.

His parents were illiterate, he was illiterate, his children were illiterate, and even his granddaughter could not write. When he died, not a single book was found in his possession, no notes, no correspondence, no copies of the plays attributed to him and only six signatures were ever uncovered, all different from one another. The author of The Tempest had included the line: “Knowing I lov’d my books,” but apparently Will Shakespeare hadn’t much love for them.

The true author, or authors, of the works were versed in English, French, Italian, and Latin; understood Greek and Roman history. They read works in Italian and French and incorporated plots from these works in the plays. They were educated in law, in medicine, in military tactics. They were adept in falconry and horsemanship. They used insider terms found only in Cambridge. A Cambridge educated student might have a vocabulary of four thousand words. The genius behind the pen of the plays displayed a vocabulary of over twenty thousand words and even invented many words and phrases that still exist today.

Shakespeare himself started life as a butcher’s apprentice, graduated to poaching, and was most likely forced into a marriage. He abandoned his family for years, not even returning for his young son’s funeral. He returned as a businessman who was fined for hoarding grain in a time of famine, who collected taxes, and, according to one writer, was a loan shark as well. How did this man get credit for the works attributed to him?

Writing for the stage in Elizabethan England was considered beneath the dignity of Dukes and Earls. Poets and playwrights were regularly arrested for satire and possibly treasonous works. It was actually against the law for women to publish. This presented no small problem for those who wished to write.

Sir Francis Bacon was one such writer. In Gray’s Inn he formed a secret society dedicated to the goddess Athena. She wore a helmet that allowed her to be invisible and she shook her spear, which allowed her to be invincible. When the poet and playwright Christopher Marlowe met the man named Shakespeare, he introduced him to his literary circle. He may have thought it would get a laugh from Bacon, but, it is now clear, the man was used instead to act as a shill for the true writers.

When the Earl of Southampton, Henry Wriothesley (one of Francis Bacon’s close associates), became a patron of the works that would be staged at the Globe Theatre, he paid the man Shakespeare to present the works as his own.

When Oxford-trained scholar, James Wilmot, decided (in the 1780s) to write a biography on one of his two favorite authors, William Shakespeare, he moved to Warwickshire, near Shakespeare’s home, and traveled to Stratford-upon-Avon to collect stories about his subject, only to discover that none were to be found. Wilmot ultimately came to the conclusion that the true author was Sir Francis Bacon. Well versed in languages, Bacon had studied law and was educated at Gray’s Inn at Cambridge. He was capable of writing the histories and, indeed, he wrote other plays as moral lessons against ambition, crime, and greed. While Shakespeare possessed no copies of the plays, Bacon did.

Ben Jonson, a contemporary of the playwright, who became England’s first poet lureate, referred to Shakespeare as “a Poet-Ape.” One of the first important scholars to challenge the standard Shakespeare narrative, was French author François-Marie Arouet (aka, Voltaire, a leader of The Enlightenment) who bluntly called the supposed author of the plays a ‘drunken savage.’ The first important English scholar to challenge the conventional Shakespearean wisdom was Wilmot. Later, in America, nineteenth century American school teacher Delia Bacon was a pioneer on the subject of alternative authorship. Born in a log cabin, she became, nevertheless, well read and well connected. One of her friends Samuel Morse, inventor of the Morse code, discovered that there were certain codes in Shakespeare that he believed could have been created only by Sir Francis Bacon. Mark Twain subsequently picked up the banner, publishing a book by Ignatius Donnelly on the coded language within Shakespearean texts.

Baconians, as the believers in the conclusions of Wilmot (and others), point to The Promus by Bacon. It is a collection of notes and phrases that are found in the plays. His ideas, expressions, metaphors and writing characteristics are cited as proof. In the plays, St. Albans, Bacon’s home, is mentioned several times, while Stratford is never mentioned. Bacon’s possessions included some of the plays attributed to Shakespeare. Bacon’s motto was Occulta Veritas Tempore Patet meaning “Hidden truth comes to light in time.” A contemporary of Bacon’s referred to him as “a concealed poet.”

The Earl of Oxford

Another faction in the debate is called the Oxfordian. The seventeenth Earl of Oxford was Edward de Vere, who also studied at Gray’s Inn at Cambridge. He, like Bacon, was adept at statecraft, traveling extensively in France and Italy, which was the setting for six of the plays including Two Gentlemen from Verona and Romeo and Juliet. He spoke and read French and Italian. He had both military and naval experience. He was active in aristocratic sports. Following his death King James I had eight of “Shakespeare’s” plays performed.

De Vere had another title—he was the Viscount Bolebec and his coat of arms for that title was a rampant lion shaking a spear.

Sigmund Freud was in the Oxford-as-author camp. Challengers say he could not have written The Tempest because it was based on a shipwreck that happened in 1611, years after the Earl died. This might simply mean he didn’t write all the plays.

The Earl of Rutland

Another candidate is Roger Manners, the Earl of Rutland. He was well educated and spent seven years at Cambridge. He would have been aware of those Cambridge terms. He also traveled extensively. For five years he lived in Europe, mostly in Italy, where he continued his studies at the University of Padua. He played tennis and would have been aware of the tennis terms in Henry V. He was an active hunter and engaged in falconry. He was a friend of both the Earl of Southampton (which might explain the dedication in Venus and Adonis and the Rape of Lucrece to Southampton) and the Earl of Pembroke (William Herbert) who might have been the “W.H.” in the dedication of the Sonnets. His family home held a copy of Corregio’s Io and Jupiter, a painting referred to in The Taming of the Shrew. He served as an ambassador to Denmark and visited the castle at Helsingor that became Elsinore in Hamlet. Rutlanders, as those who propose that the Earl wrote Shakespeare, point out that he died in 1612—the same year Shakespeare left London and retired from the playwriting business. Was Will simply a front for Rutland?

Christopher Marlowe

A fourth faction is the Marlovian. Christopher Marlowe was born the same year as Shakespeare. He was a leading literary figure of his day and acquainted with many of England’s poets and playwrights. Many of his own works were picked up in Shakespeare. The Passionate Shepherd to his Love has some of the exact lines as Merry Wives of Windsor, written seven years later. His The Jew of Malta was later mirrored in the Shakespeare text The Merchant of Venice. Marlowe and two close friends were accused of heresy. One was tortured to death and Marlowe was arrested but, eventually, allowed to go free. At a lunch with two others, there was a fight over the bill. Marlowe was stabbed and killed. Or was he?

The theory is that Marlowe’s death was faked to stop his threat of exposing others. The ‘others’ included members of Sir Walter Raleigh’s so-called School of Night that was also accused of atheism. It is believed that Marlowe was shipped off to Italy where another man claimed that he nursed an aging Marlowe at the time of his real death. Another theory is that Marlowe hid out closer to home. That home was the estate of Mary Sidney Herbert.

The Countess of Pembroke

Until recently, arguments that a woman could be an author of the Shakespeare plays were not considered. There is, however, no small amount of evidence pointing to Mary Sidney Herbert, the second Countess of Pembroke, whose marriage to Henry Herbert had been arranged by Robert Dudley and Sir Henry Sidney. She was only thirteen at the time so the couple waited until she was fifteen to marry. The Earl was forty-three. The 14,000-acre property owned by Henry Herbert was called Wilton House, and it served as a college to some of England’s most important writers of the day. It was a time when women would not be admitted into universities. Cambridge finally allowed women in the late nineteenth century. So Mary had her own literary network. Ben Jonson, Samuel Daniel, Michael Drayton, Fulke Greville, Edmund Spenser, and Sir Philip Sidney all met at her home, and Mary instructed all on the art of writing. She was devoted to writing and was fluent in several languages, was involved in politics, and sponsored an acting troupe. She was involved in the aristocratic sports and hunted, rode horses, hawked, and played musical instruments. She was trained in medicine, and she maintained an interest in alchemy. Her assistant was Adrian Gilbert, Sir Walter Raleigh’s half brother.

Like the Queen’s wizard, Dr. John Dee, she was very interested in musical codes and invisible ink. She sponsored other writers and had her own literary endeavors as well. One of her works was uncovered in 2010. What role might she have played in Shakespeare’s “works”? A letter found in the archives of her home that she sent to her son in 1606 declared “we have the man Shakespeare here.” Was it Will Shakespeare or was she referring to another who might have penned work attributed to him?

It is estimated that at least two hundred books had characters, plots and phrases found in “Shakespeare.” Shakespeare had no books; Mary had five thousand.

The First Folio (of Shakespeare) was published years after Will Shakespeare was dead. It was dedicated to her sons William and Phillip. They had never been acquainted with Shakespeare. Ben Jonson would be involved with publishing the First Folio and would write a eulogy: “To the memory of the Beloved, the AUTHOR.” Jonson refers to her as the Sweet Swan of Avon. Her symbol was the Swan, and she had an estate on the Avon. Legend has it that Marlowe lived at her home, after his so-called “death.”

The Wilton House of Mary Sidney Herbert may have been the center of the collaboration of writers that could have worked privately or in tandem with each other.


The one idea that might tie all of these theories together is that the plays were actually a group effort. After all, most Hollywood screenplays today are collaborations, where many contribute to create the final product. Bertram Fields wrote Players—The Mysterious Identity of William Shakespeare and covered the possibilities of Bacon, Oxford, Roger Manners, and Marlowe. He even examined the possibility of Queen Elizabeth playing a role. In the end, though, he dismissed the possibility of a group collaboration arguing that a group can’t keep a secret. Maybe not in the twenty first century, but things were very different when the plays were written.

There is little doubt that secret societies, such as the Masons and the Rosicrucians, kept many secrets that remain hidden to this day. Of course, we do not know what we do not know; but in Shakespeare’s day, it was considered beneath the dignity of Dukes and Earls to write for the stage, and it could, doubtless, be very dangerous. One would have had to keep the secrets, or die.

Francis Bacon was one of the most powerful agents of change the world has ever known. A true Renaissance man, versed in science, the arts, literature, government, and politics, he possessed an immense vocabulary and even coined new words. In the modern vernacular we might say his day job was in government, in one form or another. His real life and work, however, was in writing, in philosophy, and as a founder and member of various intensely secretive groups. He was a private person and kept his secrets well.

One of Bacon’s secrets was that he personally launched the Rosicrucian Society, which is credited with bringing about the enlightenment. It was not the only secret organization that he formed, but possibly the only one that still survives today. In about 1580, it is believed, he founded the Rosicrosse Literary Society at Grays Inn. By 1596, he had made his older Order of the Helmet, a secret order of knighthood, into a separate degree of the Rosy Cross. The Rosy Cross was nearly invisible until 1613, when Frederick, Elector of the Palatine of the Rhine, married the daughter of James I of England. A culture subsequently formed in the Palatine (in Germany) that can only be described as Rosicrucian, although it took on numerous forms. Later, many sects from the Palatine would settle in New York and Pennsylvania where they were known as Pietists, Moravians, Brethren of the Spirit, and later, Amish and Mennonite.

Another of Bacon’s secrets—for the many convinced an illiterate butcher’s apprentice could not have written the Shakespearean plays—it is believed that he was the real author of the works attributed to the “bard.” Bacon, after all, as a law student at Grays Inn, had been the driving force behind the Order of the Helmet, whose members dedicated themselves to an ancient goddess, Pallas Athena. Athena was said to have sprung from the forehead of Zeus, fully armed and shaking her spear. She was often depicted with helmet and spear. Her epithet was “the Shaker-of-the-Spear.”

So, though it is not clear when, or if, he may have actually met a country bumpkin by the name of Shakes-Spear, the result may well have amounted to something like divine intervention. Bacon’s motto was Occulta Veritas Tempore Patet, meaning: “Hidden truth comes to light in time.” In the last five years of his life, notably after the death of Elizabeth I, he could be more open in his writings; but until then, if it had been known that he had authored such works as Richard II, he could not have survived.

The “hidden truth” is that circa 1592, Bacon’s circle intersected with that of William Shakespeare. Bacon’s friend Christopher Marlowe, who some credit with contributing to the works of the “Bard,” might have been the first to meet young Will. He in turn introduced Shakespeare into the select group around Bacon. It was in 1592 that Henry Wriothesley became a patron of the “bard,” and in that same year Shakespeare received a large amount of money and bought the second largest house in Stratford. A deal between Shakespeare and members of Bacon’s circle could have served them all well. Plays written for the stage might be sold for five to ten pounds, so the “gift” of a large amount of money from Southampton to Shakespeare could not have been to purchase his writings. More likely, it was to purchase his silence. The so-called bard might better be called the “Beard,” thus disguising the true author (or authors).

From James Wilmot to Delia Bacon, from Mark Twain to Ralph Waldo Emerson, and beyond, the group of those convinced that Francis Bacon wrote the works attributed to Shakespeare remains to this day large indeed. Unlike the Stratford man, Bacon, with all the credentials to write the works of Shakespeare but also many reasons not to, needed such a patsy. Marlowe, Henry Wriothesley and Bacon, all highly educated, might have been amused at the irony of crediting the ignorant Shakespeare with such high literary endeavors. Shakespeare enjoyed the money.

Francis Bacon was born in 1561 in a place called St. Albans. This home is referred to 23 times in the texts attributed to Shakespeare, while Stratford is not even mentioned in any of the 37 plays and sonnets. From childhood Bacon was considered a prodigy; as an adult he would become versed in science, politics, languages and law, having studied at Cambridge and Gray’s Inn. He also enjoyed drama, although he may have regarded it more as an amusement and a diversion, in contrast to Henry Wriothesley who would not miss a performance.

Born into prominent circles (indeed much higher than noted) he spent much time in the company of the highborn. At age 21, he visited Dr. John Dee’s home at Mortlake and was very much influenced by the magician. Ironically, such high circles did not always protect Bacon, as more than once he was sentenced to the workhouse to pay off debts. His family would usually come to the rescue, but Bacon was often in competition for patronage from the wealthy.

In the meantime, Lord Burghley (William Cecil), the prime minister, had served until age 70. When the queen’s secretary Francis Walsingham died in 1590, Elizabeth had handed the duties of his office to Robert Cecil, Burghley’s son, who was to play an important role in Bacon’s fortunes.

His Mother, the Queen

Francis Bacon’s darkest secret is that he was actually the child of Queen Elizabeth and the Earl of Leicester. The Earl, Robert Dudley, was born on June 24, 1532, a year before Elizabeth. The two grew up together and shared a tutor. Both were born into lives of danger and intrigue. Elizabeth may have learned early that because of her father’s many marriages, heads often rolled, and the fearsome Tower of London could be but a small step from marital bliss. At eight years of age she confided to Robert that she would never marry. The two had already spent time in the Tower together: she for suspicion of planning to get the throne into the hands of Protestants, he for helping in another plot involving his family. They were not badly treated, but Lady Jane Grey and Guilford Dudley were executed. For Elizabeth it was an intolerably dangerous position to be in, and the lesson was never forgotten. Childhood sweethearts, Elizabeth and Robert were forced to keep their love a secret. Elizabeth was taken by his wit and charm, but the relationship would not be tolerated.

It appears that even before Elizabeth became Queen, most of Robert Dudley’s time was spent in court. When he married one Amy Robsart, Elizabeth attended the wedding. They also shared the friendship of the astrologer Dr. Dee, whom Dudley consulted when it came time to choose Elizabeth’s coronation date. One of her first official acts as Queen was to appoint Dudley as Master of the Horse, thus keeping him at court and nearby. His marriage, notwithstanding, Dudley and the Queen remained conspicuously close, and in 1559, their affection led to considerable gossip. Throughout it all, the Spanish court of King Philip never ceased keeping a close eye on Elizabeth, and more than one letter sent back to Spain reported that Dudley was in the Queen’s quarters, day and night.

Despite the inconvenient fact that his wife yet lived, Dudley still wanted to marry the Queen and become King. The hope was that, ultimately, England would sanction their marriage, and it is clear that the purposes of the would-be royal spouses would not have been served if the current Mrs. Dudley were to survive into the coming year. Ostensibly a victim of serious illness, she was sent to live in the home of Anthony Forster. On September 8, 1560, she fell down a staircase and died. Even though Sir Robert had not been present, court gossips whispered that the Queen herself was implicated. On September 12, four days later, it was said, the couple was secretly married at Lord Pembroke’s House. The English Ambassador would later declare she was secretly married to Dudley.

Robert Cecil himself informed an agent for the King of Spain, Count de Feria, that Dudley had wanted his wife dead. While such talk might seem out of character for the Queen’s most trusted advisor, clearly Cecil had reason to be concerned about the preservation of his personal influence. A husband for the Queen might prove to be unwelcome competition. In a letter dated Sept 11 the Bishop de Quadra, an Italian spy, tells the Duchess of Parma that Cecil (Lord Burghley) was upset over the actions of the Queen. The bishop said that Cecil had been told by Dudley, himself, that he was thinking of killing his wife. Indeed, the Queen herself, upon returning from a hunting outing, had told Cecil that Amy was “dead or nearly so.” If Cecil was truthful, then there can be little doubt—Amy was murdered for convenience sake.

Amy’s body, found at the bottom of a stone staircase, cast further suspicion on the Queen, who had quipped to Cecil in Italian: Si ha rotto il collo. “She must have fallen down a staircase.” However, with no other firm evidence of foul play, and Cecil afraid to go against either the Queen or Robert’s influence with her, there was little to prove that, indeed, a crime had been committed. A jury was soon convened which ruled that the death was accidental.

While Amy Robsart’s death technically had left the Queen and Robert free to marry, many impediments remained. For one thing, Dudley was not considered royalty. The Spanish agent de Quadra reported that Dudley had confided that the Queen had said yes to his marriage proposal. If they were so naïve about their marriage opportunities, then perhaps the two were truly unprepared for the storm that followed. The English public, the English court, and the courts of England’s allies and enemies all reacted in horror to a Robert Dudley-Queen Elizabeth marriage. And, if the reaction of her subjects was not bad enough, a dispatch by the Spanish envoy threatened that if she married Lord Leicester, France and Spain would unite to remove her from the throne. One might guess that the couple had never anticipated such a reaction. At the least, the furor postponed indefinitely plans to make their marriage public.

One thing that could not be postponed though was her pregnancy.

Despite official accounts to the contrary, there were those who doubted that Elizabeth was the virgin queen she claimed be. Many commented, at the time, on her appearance as being consistent with that of a pregnant woman. A Mother Anne Dowd of Brentwood reported in her writing that the Queen was pregnant with Robert Dudley’s child, and for that offense Dowd was imprisoned. Amy Robsart had died on September 8, 1560, and Francis Bacon was born on January 21, the next year. This would suggest that when Amy had her fatal ‘accident,’ his mother was possibly in her fifth month of pregnancy. When young Francis was born, the Queen, as it happened, was in residence at York House, the home of Nicholas Bacon, yet had no official reason for being there. Francis’s mother and father realized they could never acknowledge him, so they decided to give the child to Sir Nicholas and his wife Lady Ann. Nicholas was Lord Keeper of the Great Seal of England, but young Francis would not be a member of England’s royalty. He would, instead, be a commoner.

How were the Bacons chosen? Lord Burghley (Cecil), the Queen’s chief advisor, had married Mildred Cooke who’s sister Anne became Anne Bacon when she married Nicholas. So Burghley simply picked his sister-in-law as guardian and “mother” of Francis. Cecil had again insured his position at the center of Elizabeth’s world. He knew where the bodies were buried and he knew secrets that could threaten the Queen.

The Queen and Leicester (Dudley) both feared that public reaction from both Catholics and Protestants would be harsh. Nevertheless, the child spent his days at court and was said to be affectionately called “Little Lord Keeper” by the Queen. Nicholas Bacon, for his helpful role, was given a new home where he raised young Francis. The Queen was a frequent visitor. Sir Edward Coke, said to be the greatest barrister of the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods, called Sir Francis “The Queen’s Bastard.”

The Scottish ambassador said the Queen called Leicester “My Lord,” and others corroborated the Queen’s relationship with her secret husband as well as the evidence of a child. It was noted by some that Francis resembled Dudley and not Sir Nicholas Bacon. In 1562, Robert Brooks was sent to prison while another man had his ears cut off. The crime was saying Elizabeth gave birth to a child. Anne Dowe was imprisoned for the same crime and Robert Gardner and Dionysia Deryck were pilloried. In 1571, Parliament passed a law declaring Elizabeth’s natural issue to be the only ones to be considered as a successor. Was the law more concerned with putting to an end the incessant question of who would rule next, or did the wording, “natural issue” set the stage for a surprise? The law notably did not use the phrase “legal” heir, which might have excluded Bacon.

Sir Francis was given the finest education, starting school at Trinity College at Cambridge. Indeed, Elizabeth visited the new home at Gorhambury, that she had given to Nicholas Bacon, the month before Francis started school. In 1576, Francis and his brother Anthony were admitted at Gray’s Inn to study law. Notably, in a letter to Anthony, Elizabeth said, “It is not my meaning to treat him as a ward.” In other words, it was her intention to treat him as her son, rather than a ward.

In 1579, Sir Nicholas died. His will left a great deal to all of his children except Francis. This is the most telling sign that he was only the caretaker of Francis, not the father. Most likely he expected the Queen herself would make provisions for her son.

It may have been at this point in his life that Francis discovered who his true parents were and took issue with being raised as a Bacon and not as a Tudor. This might be reflected in the use of many puns applied to his name. In one, a design of his creation, he connected the two pillars of wisdom with the letters SoW meaning Sun of Wisdom or Son of Wisdom. The “sow” being a tongue-in-cheek reference to Bacon.

By now he had begun his career in law but railed in private that he would not be recognized by his true mother. It might have been in appreciation of his unique situation, or perhaps his intellect, that turned him into something of a rebel against the unlimited powers of the monarchy. Except for an allowance from the Queen, he had no money of his own, and so he wrote others to intercede with Elizabeth on his behalf.

Bacon’s chaplain and secretary Dr. William Rawley wrote that Bacon was born in York House indicating that he was a royal. Late in life Bacon decided to get married. His bride was 14-year-old Alice Burnham. At the wedding the great lawyer and groom was clad from head to toe in royal purple, violating an English law dating from 1464, that no commoner wear purple. He was not prosecuted.

The last Bacon secret concerns his death. There is no account of a funeral or burial. There is, however, a monument to him in St. Michael’s Church in St. Albans. The vault beneath is sealed. The depiction on the monument shows him wearing a hat. A hat in church? Some believe he kept a secret under his hat and that he took passage to Leiden in Holland, a hotbed of religious dissension. Others claim he boarded a ship for Virginia where he lived to a ripe old age.

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