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  • Writer's pictureAndy Benn


Updated: Nov 7, 2023

‘I like this place and could willingly waste my time in it’ As You Like It

The following are short snapshots of some of the locations that formed the rich backdrop of the life of Francis Bacon. It is hoped they will re-capture the atmosphere of his homes and haunts and a far off time in which he lived and give a better understanding of the man.

Bisham Abbey, Marlow, Berkshire

Bisham Abbey is a manor house situated on the banks of the River Thames near the town of Marlow in Berkshire and dates back to the 13th century when it occupied the site of the now lost monastery. It was owned by Henry VIII who gave it to Anne of Cleves in her divorce settlement. The Hoby family later bought the house and following her marriage it became the country residence of Elizabeth Cooke Hoby, Anne Bacon’s sister and Francis Bacon’s aunt. Elizabeth Hoby (later Russell) was a courtier and good friend of Queen Elizabeth I and The Queen visited Bisham Abbey often to enjoy masques and entertainments as did the Bacon Family.

In 1592 Queen Elizabeth visited Bisham Abbey for what is now known as the Bisham Entertainment which was written and produced by Francis Bacon at a date prior to the pseudonym of William Shakespeare first appearing beneath dedications to the poems Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece. The little known but important Bisham Entertainment contains language, themes and subject matter echoed in a wide range of Shakespeare plays including The Taming of the Shrew, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, As You Like It, Cymbeline and The Tempest, as well as many others.

Sign of the Boar's Head Inn

This was the setting for the famous revelry of Falstaff and friends, Prince Hal and Mistriss Quickly in Shakespeare's Henry IV. Whilst there’s no evidence that the tavern existed at the time the play was set, the Boar’s Head Inn at Eastcheap very much existed and was almost certainly a popular and well frequented tavern being in the hustle and bustle market area of central London. The Inns of Court were just over a mile away so the Boar’s Head Inn would have been a lively and favoured destination for young lawyers including Francis Bacon who resided for many years at Gray’s Inn. The tavern perished in the great Fire of London 1666 but was rebuilt before being finally demolished in 1831. The family crest of Francis Bacon featured a boar and ironically the Boar’s Head sign that was retrieved from the doomed tavern now resides at the Shakespeare Globe theatre.

The Blackfriars Area

Blackfriars was a wealthy neighbourhood which hosted the mansions of Lord Hunsdon, Lord Cobham and the formidable Lady Elizabeth Cooke Hoby Russell. Elizabeth was Lady Anne Bacon’s sister and Anthony and Francis Bacon’s aunt. Along with her sisters, Elizabeth had had an unusually wide and learned education for a woman in that day and age, largely thanks to their enlightened father Sir Anthony Cooke. A poet, linguist and designer of Puritan persuasion she was a fierce advocate for women’s rights and those less fortunate than herself. She was also extremely combative and litigious and was often in legal disputes asking her nephew Francis for legal counsel and advice.

In 1596 James Burbage began to construct the second Blackfriars theatre, unfortunately for him, just a few doors away from the mansion and gardens of Elizabeth Russell. She immediately mobilised the local neighbourhood in opposing the Blackfriars theatre and a petition was sent to the Privy Council signed by many from the neighbourhood including Lord Hunsdon patron of the Lord Chamberlain’s men (Burbage’s company) and the printer of Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece, Richard Field whose printing press ‘Timber House’ was next door to Elizabeth’s mansion. The petition was successful and companies were forbidden from performing at the Blackfriars theatre leading to the building of The Globe just across the Thames in Southwark.

The Globe across the Thames from Blackfriars

Because of Shakespeare’s supposed involvement with the theatre enterprise, confusion has been expressed as to why Lord Hunsdon and Richard Field should oppose a venture which would ostensibly be against their own interests. However, Elizabeth Russell exercised huge power with the Queen as she was one of her most favoured courtiers. Similarly, Henry Carey Lord Hunsdon was well connected as he was the son of Mary Boleyn, so cousin to Queen Elizabeth and his daughter Margaret married Edward Hoby, Elizabeth Russell’s son. As a printer, Richard Field became an important agent of William Cecil Lord Burghley (Elizabeth Russell’s brother in law and Francis’ uncle) who entrusted Field with printing early Anti-Spanish tracts several years before he came to print Venus and Adonis in 1593 and The Rape of Lucrece in 1594.

It is widely agreed in orthodox circles that the exploits of Elizabeth Russell her husband John, Lord Russell and her offspring from her first marriage were named and alluded to in several Shakespeare plays; Henry IV, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Twelfth Night and in All’s Well That Ends Well she is very obviously the inspiration behind Dowager Countess of Roussillon.

As well as visits to her country estate Bisham Abbey, her many litigious activities meant Bacon would have been a regular visitor to his aunt in Blackfriars, no doubt popping next door to visit Richard Field’s printing press to oversee his early outrageously sensual poems that somehow managed to evade all the censors no doubt due to Bacon’s connections.

York House and Burghley House from the Agas Map

Burghley House built on the north side of the Strand was previously known as Cecil House and became Burghley House in 1571. Built as part of an expansion of an existing house William Cecil, Queen Elizabeth’s chief adviser and uncle of Francis Bacon moved there in 1560 and records show how Elizabeth came to dine with him at what he understatedly called his ‘rude, new cottage’. The impressive residence was in fact a huge 3 storeyed mansion with double courtyards, turrets, orchards, a bowling alley and tennis courts.

William Cecil and Nicholas Bacon were Elizabeth’s pillars of state and their wives being sisters would mean the Bacon children Anthony and Francis would often visit their Uncle William and Aunt Mildred as their houses were very close to each other.

It was at Burghley House that Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford from the age of 12 stayed when he became a royal ward put under the charge of Burghley Master of the Court of Wards who attempted to control the haughty and arrogant Earl’s worse excesses. At 17 Oxford killed an unarmed servant whilst practicing fencing. Burghley got him off a murder charge by claiming the servant was drunk and ran deliberately onto Oxford’s blade. As a suicide all the servant’s earthly possessions were confiscated and he could not be buried in consecrated ground leaving his widow destitute. The ever pragmatic Burghley agreed to Oxford marrying his daughter Anne and the wealthy but squandering earl hoped Burghley would pay off his debts. It was a very unhappy marriage which produced five children with Oxford claiming the first child was not his. His cruel and unfounded assertions meant they were estranged for many years. An exhausted Anne died aged only 31 from unknown causes and a distraught Burghley must have rued the day he let his daughter marry Oxford.

It was at Burghley House that Francis Bacon’s royal brother Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex aged 11, also became a ward. Sometime after he was joined by the 8 year old Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton who was to later become immortalised in Bacon’s dedications of Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece and the main protagonist in his Sonnets.

In 1616 Bacon leased Canonbury Tower the oldest building in Islington, London, which still survives intact to the present day. This mysterious building has a long (and much of it) secret history stretching back to before the Norman Conquest. In the earlier Tudor period when the monasteries were dissolved, Henry VIII first granted it to Thomas Cromwell the year before his execution and then to John Dudley, Earl of Warwick (afterwards Duke of Northumberland), father of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, on whose execution in 1553 it reverted back to the crown.

Canonbury Tower from an old postcard

Queen Elizabeth granted it to Lord Wentworth who leased and then sold it to Sir John ‘Rich’ Spencer who amassed one of the largest private fortunes of the period. On his death in 1610, Canonbury passed to his daughter Elizabeth and her husband William, Lord Compton, later first Earl of Northampton. It was Lord and Lady Compton who leased Canonbury to Bacon from 1616 which he used for very secretive purposes during the last decade of his life. Both the Compton Room and Spencer Room in Canonbury Tower are carefully constructed Rosicrucian Temples replete with RC symbols and emblems. This special building is the oldest surviving Rosicrucian-Freemasonic Lodge in the world.

Throughout the last decade of his life regular meetings were held at Canonbury Tower by Bacon and his Rosicrucian Brotherhood in the utmost secrecy where plans were discussed for a Universal Reformation of the Whole World.

The Tower has many emblems, symbols and signs of a Rosicrucian nature including the figure of a Jester linked to Pan tailpieces in the Shakespeare First Folio and other Baconian works. There are also roses, crosses, acorns, oak leaves and pillars and the sunburst face known to Freemasons as the sun in splendour which appeared on headpieces of the Shakespeare poems and Sonnets and on the memorial verses to Francis Bacon published by his fellow Rosicrucian Brother Dr Rawley containing 32 Latin poems, many of them, alluding to his concealed authorship of the Shakespeare works.

It the twentieth century Canonbury Tower was home to the Francis Bacon Society and until recently to the Canonbury Masonic Research Centre. For more than four hundred years it has remained in the ownership of the same family and today is owned by the Marquess Spencer Compton of Northampton.

Inscription of the Kings and Queens of England, Canonbury Tower, Islington, London

In the highest room of the Tower painted above the door is a three line list of the Kings and Queens of England from William the Conqueror to Charles I which has been many times restored and re-painted. On the third line following Elizabeth I and before James I there is a section that is missing and has been obliterated but begins with what appears to be according to local historian John Nelson back in 1811 an 'Fr'. This points to Francis who as the eldest son of Elizabeth I was the rightful Tudor heir.

Agas Map showing Cannon Row, Westminster

On Cannon Row in Westminster was the home of Sir Edward Hoby son of Elizabeth Cooke Hoby and cousin to Francis Bacon and Robert Cecil. On the 7th of December 1595 Sir Edward Hoby invites his cousin Sir Robert Cecil to his home in Cannon Row for dining and entertainment. ‘I am bold to know whether Tuesday 9 December may be any more in your grace to visit poor Cannon Row where as late as it shall please you a gate for your supper shall be open and K Richard present himself to your view.’ Both Richard II and Richard III were not printed until 1597 but were clearly in dramatic circulation. It would seem likely that Sir Robert Cecil and Sir Edward Hoby's other cousin (and secret Shakespeare) Francis Bacon was also in attendance for drinks and drama at the Cannon Row soiree.

Built around 1575 for Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, Essex House was originally called Leicester House. It was situated on the Strand and was a large impressive house with chapel, extensive gardens and around 42 bedrooms. When Francis Bacon returned home from the continent in 1579 he lived here for a short while with his blood father Robert Dudley, along with Dudley’s nephew and Bacon’s blood cousin Sir Philip Sidney. Here the young cousins along with others held meetings of a group called The Areopagus for discussions about philosophy, poetry, drama and literature.

Essex House, The Strand, London

Following the death of Robert Dudley in 1588, his younger favourite royal son Robert Devereux, second Earl of Essex inherited the grand stately residence and it became known as Essex House. After a twelve year absence abroad working closely with spymaster Walsingham, Anthony Bacon returned to England in February 1592. With Walsingham dead, the headquarters of the English Secret Service was transferred to Essex House on the Strand, where Francis personally introduced Anthony to Essex, interlocking their destinies for the next decade. Under the roof of Essex House, Francis and Anthony Bacon ran a vast domestic and foreign intelligence network of spies and intelligencers operating across the European continent. Working out of Gray’s Inn, Twickenham Lodge and Essex House, Francis and Anthony also set up a literary workshop with established connections to English printers and publishers employing writers, translators, scribes and copyists for distribution of private manuscripts, books, plays, masques and other entertainments.

Gidea Hall, Romford 1500s

Gidea Hall was the home of Lady Anne Bacon’s father Anthony Cooke, tutor to Elizabeth’s brother Edward VI. A manor house in Gidea Park East Romford, Gidea Hall was historically in the county of Essex and it was here that Lady Anne and her brothers and sisters would receive their excellent and progressive education. In 1568 Queen Elizabeth visited on one of her famed progresses and it would have been a place that young Anthony and Francis would visit to see their well-connected and forward thinking grandfather. The house underwent many re-builds and changes and was finally demolished in 1930.

The old ruins of Gorhambury House

Lord Keeper Nicholas Bacon decided he needed a country residence closer to London than Redgrave in Suffolk and chose St Albans in Hertfordshire for his new mansion Gorhambury. Work began in 1563 which meant his young sons Anthony and Francis' very early years were spent at York House in London. By 1568 Gorhambury was complete. A very extensive country house built of flint and stone, it had a magnificent porch, cloisters, chapel, buttery, kitchens, ballroom and gardens and an innovative pumping system to bring water through lead pipes.

Sir Nicholas Bacon intended Gorhambury to be an academy of learning and his young sons Anthony and Francis had an unsurpassed and expansive education with tutors and overseen by Lady Anne Bacon who was a renowned classics scholar and could translate and speak Latin, Greek, Hebrew, French and Italian. Sometime before 1574 a long gallery was constructed which depicted many strikingly visual representations of the wise sayings of their favourite classic authors Seneca and Cicero.

In 1572 it was Sir Nicholas Bacon’s turn to welcome Queen Elizabeth to Gorhambury for three days of feasting and entertainments. You can only imagine the excitement of the young Bacon boys at this spectacular event. Her visits were always a mixed blessing for the hosts, there was a necessity to please and a large financial burden as Elizabeth travelled with a huge entourage. A Royal visit was socially prestigious though and Elizabeth was apparently ’merry. . .at Gorhambury’, so all's well that ends well. Elizabeth and Nicholas were both of lively wit and Elizabeth was said to have commented ‘My Lord Keeper, what a little house you have gotten.’ To which the large framed Nicholas Bacon replied ‘My house is well Madam, but you have made me too great for my house.’ Nicholas took the royal hint and extended Gorhambury for the next majestic extravanganza.

Artist's Impression of Bacon's Gorhambury

Queen Elizabeth dined at Gorhambury when in the area and in 1577 there was another four day visit. Nicholas and Anne Bacon must have taken a deep breath on contemplating the costs. The bells rang out once more and players and musicians came to entertain. Elizabeth was presented with many gifts from the hosts including an emerald, ruby and pearl encrusted cup. On top of this extravagance, the visit was reported to have cost around £120,000 in today’s money and unfortunately there was almost £2,000 worth of linen and pewter reported missing or damaged presumably by deviant courtiers.

On Sir Nicholas’ death in 1579, Gorhambury was left to Anthony Bacon with Lady Anne still living there and effectively running the household as Anthony spent over a decade abroad working for the English Secret Service. Following the death of Lady Bacon in 1610, Gorhambury was left to Francis Bacon who on his recorded death in 1626 it passed to his former secretary, friend and confidante Sir Thomas Meautys. Meautys married Anne Bacon (Francis Bacon’s great niece) ensuring that a Bacon still resided at Gorhambury, at least for a while. Anne’s second husband was Sir Harbottle Grimston and to this day Gorhambury is still owned by the Grimston family. In the 18th century the house sadly fell into disrepair and New Gorhambury House was built. The Bacon’s Gorhambury ‘The Academy of Learning’ was left to crumble in the parkland that surrounds it, ruins of what must have been a truly magnificent and inspiring place to live.

A Gorhambury quarto

In 1909 eight Shakespeare quartos were discovered at Gorhambury most likely transferred from Bacon’s personal library in the old Gorhambury House, which were transferred for safe-keeping into the care of the Bodleian Library, where they still remain to the present day: Romeo and Juliet 1599, Richard III 1602, Hamlet 1605, King Lear 1608, Titus Andronicus 1611, King John 1611, King Henry IV 1613 and Richard II 1615.

Imagine the headlines around the world if eight Shakespeare quartos were discovered in the house of William Shakspere of Stratford or one of his relatives or descendants!

Gray's Inn, Hall, Chapel & Library

Gray’s Inn was one of the four Inns of Court to which students attended to study the Law. In reality for many young noblemen who attended the Inns they were more of a gentlemen’s club where they could meet and network with the benefit of being in close proximity to theatres, brothels and gambling clubs. Surveillance was lax and many members took advantage of this freedom.

Lord Keeper Sir Nicholas Bacon and William Cecil had been prominent Grayans and Francis Bacon had been admitted to Gray’s Inn in June 1576 aged 15 but didn’t take up his place until 1579 when he returned from the Continent working on state business. Both Anthony and Francis were installed in the Bacon family chambers which were located next to the library opposite the gateway in the hope that they

Bacon family chambers are Z on the map

would follow in Sir Nicholas’ footsteps. Like the elder brothers Nicholas, Nathanial and Edward, Anthony had little or no interest in the law but saw the Gray’s Inn family chambers as a convenient London base to expand his social network that would become important for his work as an agent for the crown. Similarly Francis Bacon intimated his dislike for law as it ‘drank up too much of his time’ which he had dedicated to other matters namely the universal reformation of the whole world and the establishing and elevating of the English language through the writing of his Shakespeare works. With little state help, and out of necessity for furthering his vision, he was forced to study the law and eventually became the pre-eminent lawyer of the age elevated to the position of Lord Chancellor in 1618 like Sir Nicholas before him, meaning at least one son followed his legal example.

Law aside, there were compensations to be had at Gray’s Inn as it had a very fine reputation for producing masques, interludes and entertainments with Francis Bacon assuming the role of de facto Master of the Revels for these occasions. Puritan Lady Anne Bacon immediately fired off a missive communicating her disapproval, ‘I trust you will not mum nor masque nor sinfully revel at Gray’s Inn’.

The Hall, Gray's Inn

In 1588 Bacon and Gray’s Inn produced The Misfortunes of Arthur for the entertainment of Queen Elizabeth at Greenwich Palace. At the famous Christmas Revels at Gray’s Inn 1594-5, Bacon organised a mock meeting of the Privy Council presided over by the Prince of Purpoole, Lord of Misrule, a cipher for Bacon himself-a Tudor Prince who was later married dressed head to toe in purple-the colour of royalty. It was during these revels that the first known performance of his Shakespeare play The Comedy of Errors was performed, a play about errors, confusion and mistaken themes prominent in his later acknowledged works.

As with many of the Gray’s Inn entertainments, the revels were attended by the most influential people of the day all within Bacon’s circle of family and friends, including his uncle Lord Burghley, his concealed royal brother the Earl of Essex, and his intimate friend the Earl of Southampton.

Later in the reign of King James, Bacon produced a masque to celebrate the marriage of his daughter Elizabeth to the Count Palatine and the following year The Masque of Flowers to celebrate the marriage of the Earl of Somerset to Lady Frances Howard.

The Francis Bacon Statue, South Square, Gray's Inn

Bacon’s many theatrical involvements confutes the common false opinion (based on errors and confusion) that Bacon was not interested in drama and the theatre, when just a little look behind the curtain reveals exactly the opposite.

For many years of his life, Bacon spent much of his time at Gray’s Inn. Aside from his vast legal and dramatic contributions, he had been its treasurer and also involved in laying out the expansive walks and gardens of the Inn which can still be seen today. In celebration and commemoration of his vast contributions to Gray’s Inn, a statue was erected in honour of its favourite son in 1912, by F W Pomeroy which stands in South Square.

Agas map showing close proximity of Gray's Inn to Hatton House

Ely Place or Palace was the London residence of the bishops of Ely dating from around 1290. The estate was granted to Sir Christopher Hatton in 1577 and it became known as Hatton House. Following the death of Sir William Hatton it was left to Elizabeth Cecil Hatton, granddaughter of Sir William Cecil and second cousin to Francis Bacon. Francis had long wanted to marry his attractive and witty cousin but even when this didn’t materialise, they remained close friends and confidantes and she enlisted his help in extending and improving the famous Hatton House gardens. As Gray’s Inn was just a short walk over the fields from Hatton House they were near neighbours and the place as well as its vivacious occupant, obviously held fond memories for Bacon.

Bacon references Ely Place in his Shakespeare plays. In Richard II, old John of Gaunt who lived for a time at Ely Place delivers his royal throne of Kings speech from there. In Richard III Gloucester tells the Bishop of Ely, ‘My Lord of Ely, when I was last in Holborn, I saw good strawberries in your garden there. I do beseech you, send for some of them’. Apparently the Ely gardens were historically famed for producing the best strawberries in London, gardens that were a mere 5 minute walk from Bacon at Gray’s Inn in Holborn.

Nothing remains today of Hatton House but the Hatton Garden area was named after its original occupant Sir Christopher Hatton.

The Strand frontage of Northumberland House by Canaletto 1752

During the 1640s Northumberland House was the London residence of the Percy family, the earls and dukes of Northumberland along with their country seat at Alnwick Castle in Northumberland. Bacon and Henry Percy, the ninth Earl of Northumberland knew each other very well and shared many common interests. Northumberland was known as the ‘Wizard Earl’ because of his love for alchemy and scientific experiments as well as owning a large impressive library in his London residence Syon House. In 1594 Northumberland married Dorothy Devereux, sister of Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, Bacon’s secret royal brother.

Northumberland MS. transcription held at Alnwick

In 1867 at Northumberland House then still in the possession of the Percy family there was discovered a truly unique and most remarkable Elizabethan manuscript (c. 1596) of the utmost historical importance. The manuscript belonging to Francis Bacon contained copies of his early writings and originally housed his Shakespeare plays Richard II and Richard III. The contents page reveals explosive information with the names of Francis Bacon and William Shakespeare scribbled repeatedly all over its outer cover. This is the only contemporary Elizabethan document in the world that features the names of Bacon and Shakespeare. The critically important Bacon-Shakespeare manuscript is now held at the Northumberland’s country seat at Alnwick Castle.

Queen Elizabeth’s favourite palace stood on the banks of the River Thames in the 16th and 17th centuries in what was then rural Surrey. It was erected around 1501 by

Richmond Palace, Elizabeth's Favourite Royal Residence

Elizabeth’s grandfather Henry VII and it was where both Elizabeth and her grand father Henry VII died. Nine miles south of the Palace of Westminster, Elizabeth favoured the clean, healthy air and quiet environment of Richmond and just across the river at Twickenham Park was the residence of her concealed son Francis Bacon.

In A.D. 303 St. Alban became the first Christian Martyr in England and St Albans became heavily associated with the birthplace of Freemasonry. According to the central legend, the craft was introduced into England in the time of St Alban from whom the town of St Albans takes its name, and from whom Francis Bacon took his title Viscount St Alban. Old Verulam is the site of the old Roman town of Verulamium and within the city walls of the old city of Verulam, Bacon built Verulam House, within the grounds of his Gorhambury estate, that may have been used as an early Rosicrucian-Freemasonry Lodge.

According to another later legend, following Alban's execution his head was said to have rolled downhill and on stopping, a well sprang up now known as Holywell Hill site of The White Hart Inn. On his believed execution site now stands St Albans Cathedral.

St Albans Cathedral

In 1618 Bacon was created Baron Verulam of Verulam and became known as Francis, Lord Verulam and in 1621 Viscount St Alban.

Elizabeth’s extravagant Summer progresses around the country were legendary with a mile long procession consisting of a 1000 horses and her 300 strong court. She stayed at her royal estates and courtier’s homes which was a mixed blessing to them as the costs were extortionate. In the early part of her reign when Francis Bacon was a young boy, St Albans received more visits from Queen Elizabeth than Cambridge, Oxford, Bristol and Gloucester and her stays at the Bacon’s house at Gorhambury are well documented. Clearly Elizabeth had more personal reasons to come to the area on a regular basis, almost certainly to watch over the progress of her secret son.

In the Shakespeare plays St Albans is mentioned 17 times and in some references there was no more reason for it to be mentioned than any other town.

St Michael’s Church is in St Albans, Hertfordshire and dates from the 10th and 11th century making it a most significant Anglo-Saxon building. It is near the centre of the old Roman city of Verulamium and just over 2 miles from Gorhambury so would have been the local parish church of the Bacons.

There is a letter to Francis' friend Michael Hicks just after Lady Anne Bacon’s death in 1610 asking him to come to 'the mournful occasion' of her funeral. When Francis drew up his own last will, its second clause ran, ‘For my burial, I desire it may be in St. Michael’s Church, near St. Albans-there my mother was buried'. If Lady Anne was indeed buried there, it unfortunately shows no sign of her burial place and the same goes for Francis where there is a monument but likewise no recorded burial place. There is no documentation, nor account or report of his funeral or burial and the register for the entry for burials at St Michael’s Church prior to 1643 are missing. Transcripts of them are preserved in the Archdeaconry Court of St Albans Abbey from 1572 to 1600 and from 1629 to 1630 which omits the year Bacon is said to have been buried at St Michael’s Church. Nor is there any item for funeral expenses in the Accounts of Administration of Bacon’s Estate. There is also no mention of his funeral in any contemporary works, documents, letters, diaries, or a single report from any one whatsoever who attended the funeral of the greatest and arguably the most famous man of the period. Very strange indeed!

The Bacon Monument in St Michael's Church

St Michael’s present day alter table, tester and pulpit date from the 16th and early 17th centuries with its most important feature being the life-sized monument of Francis Bacon in a recess in the north wall of the chancel. The monument of Bacon is in reflective pose and was erected by his private secretary and member of his Rosicrucian-Freemasonry Brotherhood Sir Thomas Meautys replete with an epitaph written by his cousin Sir Henry Wotton, a member of the English Secret Service and Rosicrucian-Freemasonry Brotherhood. The name of the sculptor is not known but was quite possibly Nicholas Stone master-mason to both King James I and King Charles I.

In times of plague and severe physical debilitation Anthony Bacon would stay at Redbourne one of his leasehold properties a few miles away from Gorhambury. When the Earl of Essex and Francis were inundated with intelligence coming in from Spain, Italy and Scotland they asked if Anthony could come to London to assist them. Anthony leased a house in the area of Bishopsgate, well known for its theatres and specifically The Bull Inn which was an Inn Playhouse that put on plays in the coaching courtyard outside and a regular venue for The Queen’s Men.

The Bull Inn home to 'pernicious and obscene plays'

Anthony’s house in Bishopsgate Street was almost next door to The Bull Inn and within easy reach of Shoreditch, home to Burbage’s playhouses The Theatre and Curtain. It was a very convenient residence for theatre visits with his brother Francis but seen as a scandalous abode to their puritan mother Lady Anne which she communicated to Anthony in no uncertain terms, ‘touching your house taken in Bishopsgate Street. . . people there given to voluptuousness. . .and the Bull Inn there with continual interludes had even infected the inhabitants with corrupt and lewd dispositions. . .to live so near a place haunted with such pernicious and obscene plays and theatres able to poison the very godly.’

The Tower of London still looms large on the London landscape but it was not always the dark and foreboding place of common perception.

The Tower of London

It was originally a castle and royal palace on the North bank of the River Thames built in 1078 by William the Conqueror. Throughout the ages it became synonymous with torture, incarcerations and executions of its unfortunate occupants which included Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard, Lady Jane Gray and Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex. Despite its grisly reputation only a handful of high status detainees were actually executed in the Tower grounds, most prisoners were executed publicly on nearby Tower Hill. Many were incarcerated here though including Princess Elizabeth Tudor and her childhood friend Robert Dudley.

Unsurprisingly the foreboding London landmark is incorporated by Bacon several times in the Shakespeare plays noticeably in Henry VI part 1 and also in Richard III with the incarceration of the young princes and the drowning of Richard’s brother George in a butt of Malmsey wine.

Beauchamp Tower, The Tower of London

In a rather dark and heartbreaking coincidence there was a macabre Tudor parallel. Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, Francis Bacon’s younger concealed royal brother was incarcerated here in the Beauchamp Tower following the ill-fated Essex rebellion. In an ironical twist his blood father Robert Dudley was also incarcerated at the Beauchamp Tower many years earlier. The Beauchamp Tower is famous for the carvings and graffiti made by frightened prisoners leaving us connections and remembrances of their lives. According to The Tower of London, the Earl of Arundel, Thomas Abel (chaplain to Queen Katherine of Aragon) and Robert Dudley and his brothers all made carvings whilst there, which can be seen to this day. Not mentioned is the carving made by Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex the secret younger son of Queen Elizabeth and Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester.

Years earlier it is said that Queen Elizabeth had given Essex a ring which if he ever forfeited her favour, if he sent it back to her, its return would ensure his pardon and forgiveness. His royal brother Francis knew that Essex had only to return the ring and all would be forgiven. He may also have been informed that Essex had sent it. But the Queen never received the ring. Elizabeth was incredulous that Essex even at his lowest point and with his life in imminent danger did not possess the humility

Robart Tidir, youngest son of Queen Elizabeth I

to send the ring it to her. It reinforced her deeply held fears that her concealed son would forever remain unruly and dangerous and she finally signed his death warrant. In those last days before his execution and in the face of imminent death, Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex carved into the stone wall his true name over the door way which can still be seen to this present day ‘ROBART TIDIR’, an old way of spelling ROBERT TUDOR, conveying his status as a concealed royal prince of England.

Trinity College, Cambridge University

In April 1573 Anthony and Francis were sent by Sir Nicholas Bacon to Trinity College, Cambridge. Francis was barely 12 years old but Sir Nicholas knew how devoted to each other they were and felt they would be suitable companions. The Master of Trinity John Whitgift, later to be Archbishop of Canterbury, was entrusted with their safe keeping and the boys were lodged in his apartments supervising not only their studies but also their domestic arrangements. There were large book purchases, including Livy, Homer, Cicero, Aristotle and Plato alongside lute strings, arrows, desks, candles, hats and repairs to stockings. There were rounds of prayers, disputations, studying and exercises all overseen by a rigorously exacting but fair Whitgift. The brothers spent almost three years at Trinity, a period twice interrupted by outbreaks of the plague which closed the university down.

Whilst at Trinity, Bacon read widely and took all that he felt was useful as well as indulging his love for drama and performance. It was here that Bacon developed a dislike for Aristotle mainly because he felt that philosophy should have a more beneficial and practical application to people’s lives. But it was here that Bacon first had a sudden vision for his future to make plans for the universal reformation of the whole world in order for the betterment of humankind. It was evident that Cambridge could teach him no more so Francis left without taking his degree in 1576 but was later awarded an MA in 1594.

In later times, he did however remember his former university and college with affection and gratitude. In 1609 he jointly dedicated The Wisdom of The Ancients to his cousin Robert Cecil, Earl of Salisbury and ‘To His Nursing-Mother The Famous University of Cambridge’ signed ‘Your most loving pupil FRA. BACON’. When he sent presentation copies of his De Augmentis Scientiarum, accompanying letters to the university said, ‘The debts of a son, such as I can, I discharge’ and to Trinity College, ‘All things and their fruits belong to their beginnings.’

There are four commemorations at Trinity College, Cambridge of their most famous son. A copy of the statue at St Michael’s Church was commissioned by the Master of Trinity College Cambridge William Whewell, sculpted by Henry Weekes and was erected in the ante-chapel of Trinty College in 1845 in honour of their most famous and illustrious alumni. Lord Bacon is also commemorated in a stained glass window on the chapel south side. He features in another painted window by Cipriani in the Wren library alongside Isaac Newton, Britannia, Fame and King George III. Also in the library sculpted by Roubiliac is a marble bust of Bacon.

Twickenham over the water from Richmond Palace

Twickenham Lodge was part of Twickenham Park a crown property in south-west London (then rural Surrey) that Queen Elizabeth leased to Edward Bacon (Francis Bacon’s elder half-brother) in 1574, so Bacon would almost certainly have visited it from an early age. In 1581 Edward married and went to live at Shrubland Hall with his wife. Provided that he carried on his law studies at Gray’s Inn, Bacon was allowed by the Queen to use Twickenham (out of term time) as his base for his scientific studies, his literary scriptorium and of course the writing of his Shakespeare plays. Twickenham had advantages in that the air was clean and healthy, it was leafy and quiet and far away from prying eyes, important when engaged in secret endeavours. It was used for his scientific works and had laboratories for experimentation and the most amazing gardens full of exotic imported plants that were used for the study of poisons and medicines in finding cures for diseases. As well as botany Bacon also closely studied minerals and undertook other experiments for his universal reformation of the whole wide world for the betterment of humankind.

Twickenham was directly over the river Thames from Queen Elizabeth’s favourite Palace of Richmond so there would be many opportunities for them to spend time together privately. Bacon writes many letters from here and mentions ‘Merry Tales at Twickenham’ in his private notebook known as the Promus referring to the composition of his Shakespeare plays. Many of the Shakespeare plays and poems before 1608 were likely written here in the place he considered ‘my pleasure and my dwelling'.

By 1608 following mounting debts partly amassed due to him privately having to fund his research and works, Bacon left Twickenham and would eventually, after Lady Anne Bacon’s death in 1610, use Gorhambury as his country residence.

There is nothing left now of Twickenham Lodge except the lake that would have been on the land and also some huge cedar trees in this area thought to have been planted by Bacon.

Westminster Palace showing the Abbey and Westminster Hall

Westminster Palace was originally Henry VIII’s official and principal residence until he seized York Place on the Strand from Wolsey renaming it Whitehall Palace. Although Westminster remained a royal palace, it was still used by the two Houses of Parliament, the Commons and the Lords and by the various royal law courts. The magnificent Westminster Hall built in 1097 by King William II was often used for judicial proceedings and state banquets and is now the oldest and last remaining part of the Palace of Westminster.

Westminster Hall

As an experienced Parliamentarian for 36 years before he was elevated to the Lords as well as being made Lord Chancellor from 1618, Bacon had extensive knowledge of the two Houses of Parliaments as well as the law courts and spent much of his time at the Palace of Westminster.

It is the location of many scenes in his Shakespeare plays including Henry VI Part III, Henry IV Part II and Richard II. Westminster Hall is also the setting of the controversial deposition scene in Richard II when Richard gives up his crown to his cousin Bolingbroke in Act IV, Scene 1 ‘My crown I am; but still my griefs are mine:/You may my glories and my state depose,/But not my griefs; still am I king of those’. Here, Bacon echoes his own life and his renouncement of his birthright as first born Tudor son of Queen Elizabeth.

The Palace of Whitehall was the main residence of English monarchs from the early sixteenth century. Originally called York Place it was the official residence of the Archbishops of York from the middle of the thirteenth century. It was rebuilt and extensively expanded in the fifteenth century by Cardinal Wolsey and rivalled Lambeth Palace and surpassed the king’s royal palaces as the greatest house in London.

Whitehall Palace formerly York Place

When Henry VIII removed Wolsey from power in 1530 he acquired York Place as a replacement for the broken-down fire-ravaged Palace of Westminster as his main London residence, and afterwards re-named it Whitehall. He spent a vast fortune on redesigning and greatly extending York Place during his lifetime turning it into the largest palace in Europe with somewhere in the region of one thousand five hundred rooms. After their first secret wedding which took place on 14 November 1532 Henry VIII formally married his second wife Anne Boleyn on 25 January 1533 at the Palace and died there in 1547.

In his Shakespeare play Henry VIII Act IV Scene 1, Bacon mentions the removal of Wolsey and the change of name: 'You must no more call it York Place: that is past; For since the Cardinal fell that title's lost. 'Tis now the King's, and called Whitehall.'’

Located at the edge of the Bacon family estate at Gorhambury on Holywell Hill is the White Hart Inn at St Albans, Francis Bacon's local tavern.

The White Hart Inn, Holywell Hill, St Albans

Parts of the building dates back to the fifteenth or sixteenth century and much of its architecture has been preserved. The ground floor is now occupied by a pottery shop. In 1985 during renovations undertaken at the White Hart Inn by Benskins the brewers who owned the building, a mural of 20ft x 10ft was discovered over one wall known as the Venus and Adonis Mural depicting the death of Adonis killed by a Boar dating around or before 1600, about the time or shortly after the publication of Bacon’s Shakespeare poem Venus and Adonis. The medieval archaeologist Dr Clive Rouse together with experts from the Warburg Institute at London University confirmed that the mural depicted the Death of Adonis, the theme of the Shakespeare poem Venus and Adonis.

The White Hart Inn is believed to have been a sixteenth/seventeenth century Rosicrucian Lodge, with the mural probably commissioned for its meetings, which contains Rosicrucian symbolism. Next to Adonis in the mural is the Boar which is striking similar to the boar depicted in Bacon’s crest. Above the boar in the mural stands a large house that presumably represents Bacon’s house at Gorhambury.

Section of the The Venus and Adonis Mural c. 1600

The red rose seen in the mouth of the horse is the central symbol of his Rosicrucian Brotherhood. The word Rosicrucian is derived from ‘Rose Cross’ and Christian Rosencreutz in the Rosicrucian Chemical Wedding wears a red cross and roses as symbols of the Rosicrucian Brotherhood. The invisible order is often referred to as the Brotherhood of the Rosy Cross and title pages of its works depict the symbol of the rose. The phrase sub rosa which means to communicate or done in secret is a central tenet of the Rosicrucian Brotherhood who to the present day jealously guard and watch over Bacon’s secret life and writings including his authorship of the Shakespeare works.

The Earl and Countess of Pembroke Henry Herbert and Mary Sidney and their two children William and Philip (future dedicatees of the Shakespeare First Folio) lived

primarily at Wilton their country estate near Salisbury an idyllic location often visited in the early 1580s by Mary’s brother Sir Philip Sidney with most probably on occasions his cousin Francis Bacon with whom he spent so much time with at Leicester House.

Wilton House, Wiltshire, Home of the Pembrokes

Following the death of Sir Philip Sidney at Zutphen on 17 October 1586 his heartbroken sister Mary, Countess of Pembroke retired to Wilton for two years of mourning before emerging in the 1590s as the most renowned gentlewoman literary patron of the period. She turned Wilton House into a paradise for poets and dramatists which attracted the likes of Samuel Daniel, Michael Drayton and Ben Jonson and a whole host of other well-known members of the Elizabethan literati who all benefitted from her literary patronage.

However her most important relationship was with the greatest poet and dramatist of the period her cousin Francis Bacon whose concealed relationship with the Countess of Pembroke has remained hidden to the present day primarily because she was part of the secrecy surrounding the works set forth in the name of Bacon’s early literary mask her brother Sir Philip Sidney and his other early literary mask Sir Edmund Spenser, a secret relationship that extended to her husband Henry Herbert, second Earl of Pembroke.

In 1592 an acting company sponsored by Henry Herbert, second Earl of Pembroke performed at the Elizabethan court and in the following years when the London theatres were closed by the plague the company toured England. We know from the title pages of the quarto editions that The Pembroke’s Men performed the first three printed Shakespeare plays.

Title Page of The taming of a Shrew 1594

One of two in 1594 was the anonymous A Pleasant Conceited Historie, called The taming of a Shrew. As it was sundry times acted by the Right honourable the Earle of Pembrooke his seruants. 1594 also saw the publication of the only known surviving quarto edition of the anonymous The Most Lamentable Romaine Tragedie of Titus Andronicus: As it was Plaide by the Right Honourable the Earle of Darbie, Earle of Pembrooke, and Earle of Sussex their Seruants. At the time of its writing Bacon was residing at Gray’s Inn and the central theme of Titus Andronicus a legal play of law, justice and revenge is reflected in his essay Of Revenge which structures the play at every level permeating all its symbolism, imagery and language.

It is widely believed that the Henry VI trilogy was written during the period of the late 1580s and early 1590s and it is likely that all three plays were part of the repertoire of The Pembroke’s Men. The play known by its shorter title of 3 Henry VI was published anonymously as The true Tragedie of Richard Duke of Yorke, and the death of good King Henrie the Sixt…as it was sundrie times acted by the Right Honourable the Earle of Pembrooke his seruants in 1595.

York House originated in the 13th century and was occupied by the Bishops of Norwich and was originally called Norwich Palace.

Left of York House are the rambling buildings of Whitehall Palace

The mansion was on the Strand and neighboured Whitehall Palace formerly known as York Place. These palatial buildings along the Strand had access to the River Thames which was essential as a mode of transport in those days. In 1556 the mansion was granted to the Archbishop of York and from then on retained its name York House. In Elizabethan England the mansion York House on the Strand was the official residence of the Lord Keeper of the Great Seal of England. On her accession in 1558 Elizabeth inherited York Palace and on appointing Sir Nicholas Bacon as her Lord Keeper of the Great Seal he moved into the adjacent York House in the following year and occupied it for some twenty years until his death in 1579. It was here that the Anthony and Francis spent some of their early years before their country estate Gorhambury in St Albans was completed in 1568.

York House from the Thames

In 1618 when Bacon became Lord Chancellor he made a return to his boyhood home and in 1621 on his 60th birthday a special lavish banquet was held there attended by Bacon’s friend Ben Jonson. The guest list likely included nobility from the city and the country with the Dukes and Earls in all their finery, the courtiers, and the gentlemen of the court, members of his Rosicrucian-Freemasonry Brotherhood among them Inigo Jones, the Earl of Arundel and William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke to whom Bacon two years later dedicated his Shakespeare First Folio. For a great writer like Bacon the printers and publishers of the Worshipful Stationers’ Company would doubtless have attended with many of whom he had enjoyed long relationships going back years and even decades. Also a glittering array of poets and playwrights among them George Herbert, Thomas Randolph, and of course, the poet and playwright Ben Jonson who for his sixtieth birthday celebrations wrote an ode entitled ‘Lord Bacon’s Birthday’, in which Jonson describes Bacon as his King, and about whom, he says, there is some kind of mystery surrounding him.

Bacon's Chaplain and Biographer hints at a mystery

His first English biographer, chaplain and private secretary Dr William Rawley pointedly states that Francis Bacon ‘was born in York House, or York Place, in the Strand’. Dr Rawley was obviously perfectly aware they were two completely different buildings and that they carried absolutely different meanings and implications for Bacon’s parentage. Dr Rawley, who lived and spent several years with Bacon at York House when he was Lord Keeper and Lord Chancellor of England knew the difference between York House the Bacon residence and York Place, the royal residence of Queen Elizabeth, and was privy to the secret of his royal birth. He had gone as close to the heels of truth as he might dare by directly suggesting there was some kind of mystery regarding Bacon’s birth by signalling York Place, the royal palace of Queen Elizabeth, secret royal mother of Francis Bacon.

The vast majority of images are in the public domain or under commons licence from the National Portrait Gallery or from the author’s own collection.


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