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  • Writer's pictureAndy Benn


Updated: Nov 11, 2023

Because of his unusually rich and full life, not only did Bacon know a lot of people but he also mixed in very diverse and rarified circles as well as being perfectly at home in the taverns, markets and playhouses of the busy London streets. People he knew were drawn from all areas of society; lawyers, judges, law clerks, Royality and the nobility, foreign ambassadors, politicians, administrators, courtiers, poets and writers, actors and men of the theatre, publishers and printers, philosophers, scientists, theologians and clergy, mathematicians, alchemists and astrologers. Just like the many and varied Shakespeare characters that inhabit his plays, Bacon’s circle was like his knowledge, vast and without limits. Here is just a small gallery of the many people that were fortunate enough to be in his life.

‘People must be projected from the writer’s assimilated experience, from his knowledge, from his head and from his heart and from all there is of him.’

Ernest Hemingway

Francis Bacon was born into secrecy as the concealed royal son of Queen Elizabeth and her childhood friend Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. They had married secretly so Bacon was born within wedlock but conceived out of it while Dudley was still married to Amy Robsart. She died in mysterious circumstances 4 months before Bacon’s birth which theoretically left Elizabeth and Dudley free to marry openly but such was the outcry from the people and her ministers regarding the death of Lady Amy and the suspicion it threw on them both, they chose to wait.

Speculation in the foreign courts among ambassadors and amongst the people had been rife ever since Elizabeth came to the throne and she had made Dudley Master of the Horse and installed him in apartments next to her own. Elizabeth’s principal adviser William Cecil tried many ways of halting the gossip including torture and imprisonment for people who dared to suggest any impropriety between the sovereign and her handsome childhood friend.

Between Elizabeth, Dudley, Sir Nicholas Bacon and Sir William Cecil a plan was agreed upon that following the birth Sir Nicholas Bacon and Lady Anne Bacon should foster the young infant until a time that might be right for acknowledgement. Lady Anne had also been pregnant but had miscarried so it was agreed that she should stay withdrawn until the time arrived. Lord Keeper Bacon’s residence neighboured Whitehall Palace (formerly York Place) the royal palace so it would be an easy enough course of action with Lady Anne attending the birth and then the Bacons taking Francis with them back to York House. How could this have been kept secret people will ask misunderstanding that the brutal regime that Elizabeth headed was every bit as vicious as her father’s reign. When the price for your life is secrecy, people quickly learnt to keep quiet.

And so the young Tudor prince began his life in the Bacon household with his older brother Anthony who he became bonded with for life. There were no finer foster parents than the loyal, learned and kind Bacons and he grew up in an environment of love, support and encouragement. Elizabeth kept a watchful eye on her son from afar and admired his great wit and precocity. At court, whilst a teenager, in a ferocious outburst instigated by his envious cousin Robert Cecil (son of William Cecil) Elizabeth reveals the true nature of Bacon’s parentage. A shocked Bacon confronts Lady Anne Bacon who confirms his true parents and he later learns that the friend he knew from court is actually his younger blood brother Robert, Earl of Essex who had similarly been brought up without acknowledgment with the Devereux family.

After the shocking revelation, Elizabeth and Dudley decided to send Bacon away to France in order to decide what was to be done about the situation. For many years, Dudley had begged Elizabeth to acknowledge him and his sons with all the obvious benefits that would accrue from such an announcement, but Elizabeth always prevaricated. It was indeed a complex situation and Dudley was almost universally hated, so it was never going to be easy decision.

As the years went by, Bacon became more and more disillusioned with the idea that he would ever be named her son and heir and decided to dedicate himself to his universal reformation of the whole world an idea that had taken hold of his heart, mind and soul when only a boy. His younger brother Essex had other ideas demanding his Tudor birthright and pushing Elizabeth to the limits which resulted eventually in his execution for treason.

These then were Bacon’s complex family arrangements, he had an open and a secret life, a Royal family and the Bacon family. Francis Bacon was the very epitome of a renaissance man with a most expansive and unusual mind. He was a lawyer, scientist, parliamentarian, philosopher, writer, poet and supreme head of the Rosicrucians, a fellowship dedicated to the raising of human’s estate by the advancement of learning. Bacon was the original rebel, the Spearshaker and a key part of his revolution (because that’s what it was) were the Shakespeare plays. Bacon realised from his time in France that England needed a language that would elevate and inspire and with language came knowledge and with knowledge came power.

And it is to Bacon’s works and to the works of his pseudonym Shakespeare that we need to look in order to really see what he was about. Yes, they are beautiful, spiritual, intellectual, full of classical learning, law, science, botany, truly masterful in all these areas, but they are also about people and their lives, loves, secrets, follies, tragedies, irrationalities, hatreds, angers, envies, passions, deep desires, sexuality. In short, Bacon is concerned with all that it is to be human written from the vast experiences and the many people in his extraordinary life. It’s all there in his words that he left written in his own name and his pseudonym Shakespeare. His intellectual and emotional range was boundless as was his great soul but he also had an innate ability to connect to people and their lives that meant he was also earthy, sensual, and full of humour. To deny this is to misunderstand what the man behind the Shakespeare works is all about and to not fully recognise that there could never be any limits with the enigma that is Francis Bacon.

Elizabeth was many things, but she was not a virgin.

She will be for always one of the most recognized women in all history. The cult of the Virgin Queen was promoted by the extraordinary propaganda machine surrounding her in this historical period. The establishing of a strong, powerful woman as the head of England was quite literally a matter of life and death and the magnificent iconography of Gloriana helped to reinforce this perception of strength and dominance. Elizabeth was an exceptionally intelligent and educated woman, fluent in several languages and knowledgeable and well-read on subjects like theology, philosophy, arithmetic and rhetoric. She loved theatre and entertainments often because they were produced in order to gain her patronage and flatter her not inconsiderable ego. But a virgin? Could a daughter of lusty Henry VIII and sensual Anne Boleyn really be a chaste virgin dedicated to her people? Surely she would desire the same things as anyone else; love, friendship, intimacy and sex. Secrecy and concealment became second nature to Elizabeth and she was both a supreme dissimulator and shrewd operator as the age she lived in undeniably demanded.

Early in her reign, she was secretly married to her childhood friend and confidante Robert Dudley and but for the vehement hatred of him by her advisers and the people, she would probably have acknowledged her childhood love.

Born into a very dangerous world, the passionate, tempestuous relationship produced two sons known to history as Francis Bacon and Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex; but would she ever acknowledge them? As the years went by there became little chance Elizabeth would start raking up uncomfortable truths and secrets pertaining to her honour. Besides, by now the cult of Gloriana, the Virgin Queen was powerfully consolidated in the eyes of the world and she was not going to damage that divine reputation, she was after all the great representation of Protestantism, the Catholics had the virgin Mary and the Protestants had the virgin Elizabeth.

Nevertheless, they were her two unacknowledged royal princes of Tudor blood and the two great figures destined to dominate the second half of her reign culminating in tragedy, the full story of which has never been told.

It is little wonder that the rakishly handsome and accomplished Robert Dudley was attractive to Elizabeth. Besides their obvious fascination for each other they had a lot of shared history. Known to each other from a young age and imprisoned later together in the Tower where they were secretly betrothed, Elizabeth and Robert always shared a strong bond and connection. They were in many ways remarkably well matched: cold, hard, and ambitiously calculating paired with a passionate and fiery disposition. Whilst he appeared a passionate advocate of the theatre and patron of the arts, these positions were almost certainly a self-serving vehicle for his political ambitions and were also embraced to stroke his considerable ego and ruthless pursuit of power and advancement. When their youthful passions had subsided, Dudley proved himself untrustworthy and he also possessed a rapacious appetite for bedding Elizabeth’s waiting women and marrying without her permission. Many of his enemies met mysterious deaths and Dudley kept in his household his own private poisoner whom he notoriously used to silence opposition and threats to his vast power base.

Elizabeth appointed and promoted Dudley to many prestigious positions including the Earl of Leicester, but the thing he desired most of all was to sit on the throne of England with or without Queen Elizabeth alongside him, who he was prepared to bloodily sacrifice along the way.

The ill-fated Earl was Francis Bacon’s younger brother and clearly the favourite of both his royal mother Elizabeth and father Robert Dudley. In a strange turn of events Dudley became Robert Devereux’s ‘step-father’ when he secretly married his mother Lettice Knollys the Countess of Essex, infuriating the Queen when she eventually found out. Essex inherited his father’s dark good looks, his buccaneering spirit and love of military prowess and aggrandisement which would eventually be his undoing. He was quick to anger and equally quick to forgive, hot headed, reckless but of a generous, loving nature particularly to Francis his concealed brother and Anthony Bacon. Elizabeth doted on him like a wayward child showering him with love, attention and preferments.

After the death of Water Devereux, Essex became a royal ward and at age 11 lived at Burghley House with Bacon’s uncle William Cecil. Essex would have been in regular contact with Francis Bacon and they may well have suspected very early their fraternal bonds. When Bacon discovered the truth of his and Essex’s royal birth they would have obviously discussed their birthrights and Essex would have petitioned Dudley to further their acknowledgement. This was a long running source of conflict between Elizabeth and Dudley and an issue that she had long decided would remain concealed. Essex’s wiser, older brother Francis constantly counselled him about how best to handle the Queen their mother who could be vindictive if she sensed any lack of respect. Essex resembled a young Dudley which both comforted and enraged her depending on her mood.

With Francis and Anthony Bacon, Essex ran the English Secret Service from Essex House on the Strand. They headed a vast network of spies, intelligencers, diplomats, and cryptographers in times that were extremely perilous and involved many attempts on their Royal mother’s life. A momentous power struggle began to emerge as Essex became more and more disillusioned in being a concealed Tudor and started to demand his birthright by pressurising Elizabeth into acknowledging her Tudor sons. Whilst Francis in order to follow his love of learning, was prepared to give up his claim to the throne, Essex was not and what followed was quite literally a fight to the death.

After an ill-conceived rebellion by Essex, Francis as a legal officer of the crown was forced by a raging Elizabeth to play a part in the legal proceedings against his own brother. He was aware that Elizabeth had always said to Essex that if ever in the darkest of times he asked for pardon from her she would grant it. An inconsolable Elizabeth died two years later after she became aware that Essex had indeed asked her forgiveness but by mischance she had not received the message.

Sir Nicholas Bacon was one of the so called new men that appeared in Elizabeth’s reign. His family were Ipswich sheep farmers and at 13 he won a Bible scholarship to Cambridge University followed by legal training at Gray’s Inn. Things may well have turned out differently as he was originally earmarked for the priesthood but decided to run away. He was a learned lawyer and an eloquent and witty speaker as well as being solid, dependable, loyal with a great love of learning and a dedication to the establishing of the Protestant faith in England. He was also kind, fair and generous and pursued moderation and tolerance. His family motto was mediocria firma or moderation is strength and these precepts he followed throughout his life.

The responsibility of fostering a royal Tudor prince with no certainty as to how long this would be for must have been immense, but he never flinched from the duty and he soon became completely enchanted with his young royal charge and was most happy and honoured to be called ‘father’ by Francis. The enmity between Lord Keeper Sir Nicholas Bacon together with his brother-in-law Principal Secretary of State Sir William Cecil and the favourite Robert Dudley, was set in motion from the outset of the Elizabethan reign. Both Bacon and Cecil knew of his secret marriage to Queen Elizabeth and his wish to be king and sit on the throne of England and that he posed the most dangerous threat to the security of the nation.

Their fears were intensified when in October 1562 Elizabeth suffered a near-fatal bout of small pox and for a time her death seemed inevitable. On what seemed to be her death-bed on briefly regaining consciousness she told her advisers if she did not survive she wanted the favourite Robert Dudley named Lord Protector of the Realm. Elizabeth slowly recovered but her wishes sent shockwaves around the Privy Council with many of them absolutely horrified at the possibility of Dudley being made protector or worse even ascending to the throne. In the parliament of 1563 the critical matter of the succession was debated at great length and a petition urging the queen to (publicly) marry and produce a legitimate heir was conveyed by Lord Keeper Bacon from the House of Lords but as with everything else Elizabeth proved evasive and resistant.

But while it was being publicly debated in parliament, the lords more clandestine moves were being secretly set in motion which were at least partly designed to thwart the possibility of Dudley reaching for the helm of the kingdom. There appeared an anonymous tract A Declaration of the Succession of the Crown Imperiall of Ingland which circulated surreptitiously and came to the attention of the queen in the spring of 1564 and she immediately suspected that Sir Nicholas Bacon was directly involved in gathering information and legal opinions for the succession tract and it was alleged by some he had actually written it with the full knowledge and assistance of his brother-in-law Cecil. Whether Bacon wrote the tract he certainly had knowledge of it and the full wrath of Queen Elizabeth fell on him when he was dismissed from the Privy Council and banned from her presence and the royal court. Only Leicester could have brought about Bacon’s disgrace, for few held his such sway over Elizabeth, and none had stronger motives. Leicester sought to strike out against whom he saw as his chief antagonists, William Cecil and Nicholas Bacon.

His banishment and exile hit Bacon very hard and caused him to suffer a long period of ill-health and much disquiet of mind. He thought he might never recover Elizabeth’s favour and feared for his political and private ruin not only for himself but the rest of his family with the memory of it living with him for the rest of his life. It would be the spring of 1565 before he was able to regain his position at court and then only slowly did he find himself back in full favour.

These had been dark and precarious times for Sir Nicholas Bacon and the rest of the Bacon family and while Francis was only a child he learned of the events and the dire potential consequences of even being associated with any political writings, whether through the medium of prose, poetry or drama, and how just the whiff of suspicion alone could lead to complete professional and private ruin. This important lesson proved a guiding principle for the young Francis and from a young age he took very great care to conceal himself behind the mask of anonymity and various pseudonyms, a method he adopted in composing the greatest literature, poetry and drama known to mankind.

When Francis was exiled to France after the catastrophic revelation about his royal birth the Bacons pleaded with Elizabeth that at 15 he was too young and could she re-consider with all pleas falling on royal deaf ears. When Francis was 18 and still in France he had a strange dream that his home Gorhambury was all plastered over with black mortar only to be told days later that Sir Nicholas had died unexpectedly. Francis wondered whether there had been any foul play involved, with his blood father and noted poisoner Dudley firmly in mind as a prime candidate. Francis made the journey across the channel back to England mourning the loss of his great supporter, teacher and true father Sir Nicholas Bacon.

Anne Bacon was the daughter of Anthony Cooke and one of nine children. Her father had a very enlightened attitude to his five daughters and ensured that they were taught Latin and Greek to a very high standard receiving an all-round excellent humanist education.

There is no doubt that Francis loved Lady Anne dearly even though she could be an incredibly formidable force to be reckoned with by all accounts. She had been tutor to King Edward VI and Lady in Waiting to Elizabeth so was a trusted, dutiful and discreet courtier and a natural choice as a foster mother following the birth of Francis to her royal mistress. A devout Puritan and extraordinary classics scholar, translator and a learned scholar of the scriptures her erudition was widely admired. She was a fluent speaker and writer of Greek, Latin, Hebrew, French and Italian, skills she passed on to her young sons. Much of Francis and Anthony’s early learning was undertaken by the best scholars of the day and would have been aided and encouraged by Lady Anne and Sir Nicholas.

There exists many letters between her and her young sons whilst they were at Cambridge and later at Gray’s Inn. These opinionated missives ranged across many subjects; from current political situations, complex theological arguments to her dislike for their man servants and companions and reprimanding them over their expenditure on stockings, beaver hats, books and lute strings. A particular preoccupation was with their poor health from which they both suffered, especially Anthony with gout and what would probably be recognized now as arthritis. She had a keen interest in plants and their medicinal properties and letters to her sons often contained detailed and prescient advice and recipes for their ailments. Francis and Anthony were actually very familiar with opiate usage and she would certainly not of approved of the many experiments they undertook with their ‘physic’ taking. In order to alleviate the constant pain he endured most of his life, Anthony was a regular opiate user.

When Nicholas died in 1579 Lady Anne greatly missed her husband’s solid support and practical amiability. Her increasing garrulous and meddlesome behaviour was no doubt born out of a deep love and concern for her fatherless sons. She petitioned constantly with Elizabeth and her brother in law William Cecil for advancements and preferments for them, largely with little success. Anthony inherited Gorhambury but for a decade was on the continent working for Queen and country leaving Lady Anne to run the estate whilst Francis was studying law at Gray’s Inn. Her tyrannical approach caused many issues with the staff and there was a steady stream of letters from Lady Anne to Anthony demanding his return.

The death of Elizabeth in 1603 and succession of James put paid to any slight hopes that Lady Anne had of Francis being acknowledged as a Tudor and she struggled to come to terms with an increasingly confused and lonely existence in a changing world she no longer understood. Unusually for the day, Lady Anne lived into her eighties, dying in 1610 at Gorhambury along with all her memories. With love and gratitude for a woman he was proud to call ‘Mother’ a letter from Francis invites a friend to 'the mournful occasion' of her funeral.

Anthony was described by Francis as his comfort and consort and the Bacon brothers although not biological brothers had a love and bond that far transcended blood. They shared the same philosophical beliefs and outlooks and together implemented the revolutionary vision of the advancement of learning that took hold of Francis while a young boy. All their early years were spent together learning, loving, laughing at York House in London amongst the hustle and bustle of court life and at the relative peace and freedom of Gorhambury which was an idyllic Academy of Learning. Both boys loved music and Anthony was apparently an accomplished lute player judging by the amount of lute strings that were purchased in later days at Cambridge. They soaked up the wide learning and many books that were housed in the amazing Gorhambury library. They would have been compelled to read many theological tracts as well as Lady Ann’s own scripture translations. Their Uncle Thomas Hoby had translated Castiglione’s The Courtier which was no doubt a racier read and would have been consumed surreptitiously by the young boys as it would certainly not have met with Lady Anne’s puritanical approval. Like his brother Francis, Anthony was accomplished in languages, cryptography and code breaking, the classics, mythology, rhetoric, oratory and loved poetry and drama. He was also very personable, solid and discreet as evidenced by his success as an intelligencer and his wide reaching and diverse correspondents which included the King of Navarre, James VI of Scotland, Theodore Beza and Michel de Montaigne.

The revelation of Francis’ true birth when they were teenagers could not break the ties they had, if anything it strengthened them with Anthony forming a deep hatred and suspicion of Elizabeth for her treatment of Francis and a determination to avoid her at all costs which he managed to do throughout his life. Through political and religious upheavals, Sir Nicholas’ death and their separation whilst they travelled abroad working for the crown and state, the brothers were in constant contact in letters through a complex code system that like their close enduring bond no one else could break. When Anthony returned from abroad and they were reunited they were for always in each other’s company and along with Essex they formed an unusual trio of brothers working closely together at Essex House on the Strand, Headquarters of the English Secret Service.

Aside from Francis, Essex was the one person in his life that Anthony was completely devoted to and Essex’s rebellion and subsequent execution caused heartbreak to an already ailing Anthony and he dies shortly after. Whilst Queen Elizabeth spared no expense on her magnificent clothes, jewels, sumptuous banquets, entertainments and progresses, she was notoriously mercenary when it came to funding the efforts of those who spent their lives in the pursuit of keeping her and the state safe. Anthony’s previous master Sir Francis Walsingham had died penniless and this now was the fate of Anthony who along with Francis had spent their own fortunes on state work and the publishing of works from their scriptorium at Twickenham Lodge. Bed bound and paralysed by pain, Anthony died in a shabby rented house in Crutched Friars by Tower Hill no doubt with a desolate Francis by his side.

William Cecil along with Nicholas Bacon were the grand architects of the Elizabethan Protestant Reformation and were the two most powerful and important figures of Elizabeth’s reign. Along with his brother in law Sir Nicholas Bacon, Cecil was a key conspirator to the secrecy of Bacon’s birth and the resulting aftermath. It was not just a case of an inconvenient pregnancy and birth, it was a huge state secret and one that had the most serious implications in the precarious world of Elizabethan politics where the Protestant religion was still new and there were enemies all around. Cecil or Burghley as he later became was a loyal and measured stateman with a strong sense of duty. Cecil was married to Lady Anne’s older sister Mildred who was like all her siblings educated to a very high standard by their father Anthony Cooke. Cecil appears to have married the more calm and measured sister compared to the opinionated Lady Anne Bacon and Elizabeth Hoby Russell. Mildred did much work with the underprivileged and was a kind, calm presence to her nephew Francis Bacon.

Along with Dr Dee, Walsingham and Sir Nicholas Bacon, Burghley masterminded the early intelligence service networks and was responsible for surreptitiously printing many propaganda pamphlets against the Catholic church. He was a shrewd and sharp operator with an intense eye for detail bordering on pedantry, attributes that Francis portrayed in Gertrude’s advisor Polonius in Hamlet.

Burghley’s relationship with his nominal nephew Francis Bacon was a complex one. Following his brother in law Sir Nicholas’ death he had promised he would be a supporting father figure but this posed problems. On the one hand he greatly admired his young witty, learned, charismatic and quite brilliant nephew. On the other hand his true identity caused a very real threat to the Protestant reformation and Robert Dudley was a very divisive figure although hated by the people and nobility alike, how would he be accepted? And the young prince, how could the conception out of wedlock be explained, how could the timing with Amy Robsart’s tragic death be presented. The whole situation was a monumental mess and tested even Burghley’s patience and loyalty. And then of course there was also his own son Robert Cecil’s future titles and preferments to consider, he must not be overlooked in any way.

It was to Burghley that Bacon finally renounced the crown and assured him that it was not something he any longer hoped for as his purpose in life had taken another turn. He was, he told Burghley to ‘take all knowledge to be his province’ as he had seen that the world was grossly deficient and ignorant in many areas and that he was to dedicate his life to a reformation of the whole world for the expressed betterment of humankind. Burghley was no doubt relieved as the awkward and dangerous ‘great issue’ had long being hanging in the air. Relief too for Elizabeth, as she had always been suspicious of Francis’ intentions regarding the Crown when in fact she should have paid more attention to her other son Essex in this regard. She had deliberately withheld all honours and legal positions from Francis, was this because she initially planned a higher honour for him or was she in fact just keeping him in check?

Besides dealing with ‘the great issue’, Burghley was a solid and dependable councillor who had worked tirelessly for Queen, country and the Protestant faith (and himself of course). Elizabeth repaid Burghley’s steadfast loyalty, dedication and discretion to her and England by rewarding him with extreme wealth, power and privileges that were to be passed down to his son Robert and his heirs.

Just a couple of years younger than his illustrious cousin Francis, Robert Cecil always resented the adoration and specialness of Francis and in his mind he represented his great adversary. By many accounts Robert was also very learned and witty but lacked the great warmth and philanthropic visions of his cousin. He also suffered from a curvature of the spine and was of low stature, and his physicality was cruelly mocked with Elizabeth referring to him as her ‘little pygmy’ and James as his ‘little beagle’. When Robert learnt the secret of Francis’ royal birth he hated him and feared him all the more and was an instigator in provoking the ferocious outburst by Elizabeth where she inadvertently revealed her great secret.

Years went by and Cecil with his father’s support was being tutored for the offices of great state whilst Bacon was left to study and practice the law without any elevation whatsoever aside from being created Elizabeth’s special legal advisor.

Elizabeth never quite trusted Robert the way she had his father, they were a different generation and she mistrusted his personal agendas and machinations. Apart from physical similarities, many of Richard III’s attributes can be traced to Bacon’s cousin Robert Cecil, parallels not lost on their contemporaries. Despite Elizabeth’s reservations, Cecil seamlessly filled his father’s position as Secretary of State after his death and attained huge preferments and privileges in James’ reign also. When Elizabeth was dying Cecil harangued her saying she must sign the document naming James as her heir.

‘Little man, little man, 'Must' is not a word to use to princes. Your father were he here durst never speak to me so’; but she added ironically ‘Ah, but ye know that I must die, and it makes you presumptuous.’

Cecil greatly feared her naming Francis and what that would mean for him. In reality Bacon didn’t have a vengeful bone in his body but fears make the mind irrational and Cecil ensured that if she did name Francis, no one else would know of it. After Elizabeth’s death, Cecil announced that she had named James who Cecil had long been in communication with, shoring up all the goodwill from the new monarch. James I was very grateful to Cecil for creating a smooth accession for him and rewarded him by raising him to the peerage and creating him Baron Cecil. There was to be a high price though. An able and astute politician, James loaded mountainous amounts of work upon Cecil’s slight shoulders and stress, ailing health and exhaustion meant he died aged 48.

As is the case with some long held grudges and enmities, with age revenge and hatreds cool and the participants forget what all the fuss was about, and so it was that Francis and Cecil were greatly reconciled during his illness and subsequent death. Bacon dedicated his Wisdom of the Ancients to Cecil asking him to ‘accept it as a pledge of my affection, observance, and devotion to yourself, and will accord it to the protection of your name.’

Elizabeth Cooke was an older sister of Lady Anne Bacon and like all the Cooke family had been educated to a very high standard with Elizabeth excelling in poetry and music and becoming a patron of the famous court musician and composer John Dowland. Bacon’s aunt was considered formidable, forthright in her opinions, and a great friend and confidante to Queen Elizabeth.

Her first marriage was to Sir Thomas Hoby owner of Bisham Abbey in Berkshire and renowned for his translation of the Elizabethan bestseller The Courtier by Castiglione. Following Hoby’s death she married Lord John Russell. She was a devout Puritan and vociferously objected to the building of Blackfriars theatre near her London residence. Through the sometimes weary support of her brother in law William Cecil, Elizabeth sought preferments and titles for her children and became involved in many litigious disputes and squabbles often turning to her nephew Bacon for advice.

She entertained the Queen at Bisham Abbey and hosted the six day Bisham entertainments in the Summer of 1592 written and produced by her nephew Francis Bacon. There are many resemblances between these masques and the Shakespeare plays. Apart from entertainments, the Privy Council were also known to meet at Bisham from time to time.

In London she lived in the wealthy area of Blackfriars. She lived next door to Richard Field the printer who printed anti-Catholic works for William Cecil some years before the Shakespeare poems appeared. Down the road was the mansion of Henry Carey Lord Hunsdon patron of the Lord Chamberlain’s men whose daughter Margaret married her son Edward Hoby.

Elizabeth was certainly a force to be reckoned with and her and her family exploits are recorded many times throughout the Shakespeare plays. She died in 1609 and is buried near Bisham Abbey at All Saint’s Church in the Hoby Chapel with a magnificent monument erected to her memory designed by her own good self. Bisham Abbey on the banks of the River Thames is standing today very much as it would have been in Elizabethan times. Legend has it that Elizabeth still haunts the old manor house and in the Great Hall her portrait still hangs imperiously watching over all she surveys.

Uncle to Francis Bacon following his marriage to his aunt Elizabeth Cooke, Thomas Hoby was Ambassador to France, widely travelled and an accomplished translator. In 1561 Hoby published the first English translation of the influential The Courtier from the Italian of Castiglione. This book was a hugely popular hit in Elizabethan England as it considered Italian values and the role and attributes of a perfect courtier by debating love, women, humour, nobility, fashions and etiquette. Queen Elizabeth's tutor Roger Ascham, observed that a young man who carefully studied The Book of The Courtier would benefit from it more than from three years travel in Italy.

The book became a must-read bestseller for all aspiring gentlemen and its influence has been traced to several of the Shakespeare plays including Hamlet, Henry V, Much Ado About Nothing, Love’s Labour’s Lost and Measure for Measure.

Sir Edward Hoby was born at Bisham Abbey the son of Sir Thomas Hoby and Elizabeth Cooke Hoby Russell, Bacon’s garrulous aunt, so he and Francis were cousins. They were both Members of Parliament and Edward was a trusted diplomat and soldier accompanying his friend (and Francis’ concealed younger royal brother) Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex on his Cadiz campaign in 1596. With the influence of his Uncle William Cecil, Hoby was advanced at court and often used on special confidential missions.

Edward’s prospects improved further by his marriage to Margaret Carey daughter of Henry Carey, Lord Hunsdon Patron of the Lord Chamberlain’s Men and cousin to Queen Elizabeth. The day after the marriage Queen Elizabeth knighted him.

In 1595, he invited his cousin Sir Robert Cecil to his home in Cannon Row for dining and a performance of King Richard. Whether this was Richard II or Richard III is unclear but this was two years before either were printed. If their other cousin Francis Bacon happened to be at the gathering then so was the play’s author.

Believed to be the portrait of Alice Barnham

Bacon’s marriage to Alice Barnham when she was almost 14 and he 45 was almost certainly a political marriage linked to his rightful claim to the English throne. Alice is first mentioned three years previously just after James I ascends the throne and would appear to have been part of an arrangement with King James and Bacon’s cousin Sir Robert Cecil in order to assure them that he no longer had any pretensions to the crown and to ensure the King did not excommunicate him from state offices. It was extremely rare and controversial for royalty to marry a commoner and Alice Barnham was a commoner and by marrying her Bacon effectively confirmed that he would never make a claim to the throne so ensuring peace of mind for James and his heirs.

Though of lively wit and a ‘handsome maiden’, the pair were completely unsuited in every way possible. The unlikely couple were married at Marylebone Chapel in May 1606 with Bacon clad top to toe in purple and his young bride in cloth of silver and gold. Bacon’s choice of colour was perhaps a final nod to his lost birthright as only royalty were usually permitted to wear purple. Bacon given his nature, was undoubtedly kind and generous to her and as Alice and her mother Dorothy (according to contemporaries) had very extravagant tastes and were socially aspiring she would have been very happy with the many preferments James I gave her husband. They had no children and it would seem likely that they had a marriage purely of political convenience and an arrangement that suited them both and perhaps they even developed a fondness for each other.

Things were to change though. Around 1620 Alice was rumoured to be having an ongoing affair with Bacon's gentleman usher at York House called John Underhill. Coincidentally John Underhill was a cousin of the William Underhill who sold New Place to William Shakspere of Stratford. Following Bacon’s fall resulting from politically motivated charges in 1621 he was commanded to stay away from London and fined heavily. It appears Alice pleaded on behalf of her husband to the Duke of Buckingham, and then soon began to complain that there was no longer the money to keep her in the comfort she had been accustomed to. In 1625 Alice and Bacon appear to be estranged from each other and he suspected that she was indeed having a relationship with Underhill. He revoked his earlier will ‘for just and great causes’ and less than a fortnight after Bacon’s death Alice married John Underhill.

Francis Bacon and Ben Jonson had a very close personal and professional friendship that lies at the very heart of the true concealed authorship of the Shakespeare works, which orthodox Stratfordian Shakespeare scholars have for centuries systematically ignored and suppressed.

In his own plays Ben Jonson through veiled references and allusions, anagrams and ciphers, repeatedly presents William Shakspere of Stratford as an uneducated, semi-illiterate clown and exposes him as a literary mask for his friend Francis Bacon, the secret true author of the Shakespeare plays.

For Bacon’s 60th birthday in 1621 at York House, Jonson was put in charge of the celebrations and for the occasion wrote a poem in which he calls Bacon a ‘Happy Genius’ and ‘his King’ and hints at Bacon’s concealed life, ‘thou stands’t as if some mysterie thou did’st’. Later, Jonson also reveals his personal feelings towards Bacon who he describes as ‘one of the greatest men, and most worthy of admiration’. He tells of Bacon’s famous wit and captivating oratory, ‘No man had their affections more in his power. The fear of every man that heard him was lest he should make an end’ as well as his estimation of Bacon’s supremacy as a poet and dramatist. ‘he may be named and stand as the mark and acme of our language.’

He mischievously uses very similar language for both Shakespeare and Bacon. In the First Folio:

Leave thee alone, for the comparison Of all,

that insolent Greece, or haughtie Rome

sent forth, or since did from their ashes come.

In his posthumously published meditations Jonson again writes of his king Bacon by repeating the wording he used for him in his verse prefixed to the Shakespeare First Folio:

‘He [Bacon], who hath fill’d up all numbers; and perform’d that in our tongue, which may be compar’d, or preferr’d either to insolent Greece, or haughty Rome.’

Following Bacon’s political fall in 1621, Jonson went to live with Bacon at his country estate in Gorhambury where he was one of Bacon’s ‘good pens’. As part of Bacon’s literary scriptorium he translated his Essays into Latin and was instrumental along with his Rosicrucian brother Bacon in bringing to fruition the monumental 1623 Shakespeare First Folio.

By definition the English secret state and what became the English Secret Service was governed by strict secrecy. The lifeblood of intelligence and information was the arcane art and science of codes and ciphers and other forms of secret writings. With this in mind in early 1563 Sir William Cecil directed Dr John Dee tutor and mentor at various times to Queen Elizabeth and Lord Robert Dudley, and afterwards mentor to a young Francis Bacon, to seek out a rare manuscript copy of Johannes Trithemius’s Steganographia. The spy, intelligencer and secret government agent Dr Dee, had a profound and extensive interest in cryptology and in a letter written to Cecil from Antwerp dated 16 February 1563 he informs him that he had eventually tracked down a prized manuscript of Steganographia and had spent the last ten days in continual labour making a copy of it.

The German Renaissance polymath Johannes Trithemius (1462-1516) was one of the founding fathers of modern cryptography. He wrote the first published work on the subject entitled Polygraphia which appeared in 1518. He had started his work on his Steganographia (‘Covered Writings’) in 1499. In addition, to the manuscript copy of the Steganographia Dr Dee owned several copies of Polygraphia. He also studied Jacques Gohorry’s De Usu et Mysteriis Notarum and Jacopo Silvestri’s Opus Novum which he used to practice writing in cipher.

With the copied manuscript of Trithemius’s Steganographia Dr Dee returned to England to show Principal Secretary of State Sir William Cecil and his brother-in-law Lord Keeper Sir Nicholas Bacon his prized possession. All three of them were aware that together with the Polygraphia these two works on cryptology (codes and ciphers) would prove to be important weapons in maintaining the national security of the kingdom.

The great mathematician and expert in codes and cipher Dr Dee came into contact with his young protégé Francis Bacon at a very early age with an entranced Bacon visiting his library and laboratory at his Mortlake home. Dr Dee knew Bacon was the secret royal son of Queen Elizabeth and Robert Dudley, with both of whom he had a long relationship and of course moved in the same government and court circles as his patron Sir William Cecil and his brother-in-law Sir Nicholas Bacon. The young Francis spent his youth growing up at York House the official residence of his father the Lord Keeper of the Great Seal which stood adjacent to the grounds of York Place (now known to us as the Palace of Whitehall containing government building including the Cabinet Office and Ministry of Defence, an arm of British Intelligence), Queen Elizabeth’s Palace, the residence of English monarchs from the early sixteenth century.

The prodigious Francis grew up at court with its throngs of foreign ambassadors, diplomats and intelligencers, the leading figures of the English establishment, its government, various secret agents and other members of the Tudor spy network overseen by his uncle Sir William Cecil, his father Sir Nicholas Bacon and spymaster Sir Francis Walsingham. Like everyone else at court, its senior spy and expert on codes and ciphers Dr Dee, was familiar with the precocious intellect of his young protégé described by Queen Elizabeth as her young Lord Keeper, whose dazzling intellect truly astonished all those who crossed his path. Dr Dee was almost certainly one of Bacon’s most early intellectual influences across a whole range of scientific disciplines.

Elizabeth was a Cecil, beautiful, spirited and learned, daughter of Thomas Cecil and granddaughter to William Cecil, she was Bacon’s second cousin. They would have known each other very well as unlike his brother Robert, Thomas Cecil and Francis had a good relationship and would have visited each other regularly. Elizabeth was married very young to Sir William Hatton a man much older than her and in poor health.

In 1597 Francis Bacon courted his cousin, the recently widowed Elizabeth Hatton. She declined his proposal and married Bacon’s arch enemy, the wealthy and ambitious Edward Coke instead, an act that she quickly came to bitterly regret as they lived separate lives from early in their marriage. She also famously refused to take his name, an act which both angered and embarrassed the arrogant Coke.

The bold and vivacious Elizabeth appeared in many masques and entertainments at court and her and Francis’ paths would often cross with their earlier fondness for each other seemingly unchanged. They were near neighbours with Hatton House being just a short walk from Bacon’s lodgings at Gray’s Inn where they would chat about court life, masques, plays and their love of gardens with Bacon advising her on the planting of a beautiful new garden at Hatton House. Elizabeth famously refused Coke access to the palatial Hatton House (formerly Ely Palace) which she had inherited from her first husband, with her and Coke quarrelling bitterly as Coke wanted a share of her estate. Elizabeth’s close links at court continued when she became a trusted and much loved Lady in Waiting to James I’s wife, the reserved Queen Anne of Denmark.

Eilzabeth's daughter Lady Frances Purbeck

Elizabeth and Coke had two daughters firstly Elizabeth and later Frances who was born in 1602. Fifteen years later, Elizabeth burst into Bacon’s bedroom at York House, demanding that he advise her and use his influence to rescue her youngest daughter Frances who had been "kidnapped" by her husband Coke in order to force her to marry the unstable John Villiers brother of the Duke of Buckingham. Bacon went to great lengths to attempt to help Elizabeth and very much to his own detriment as he angered the favourite Buckingham, King James and Coke. His long-held love for Elizabeth would partly have accounted for this but perhaps he had far more paternal reasons to become so involved in the young Frances’ welfare.

Sir Francis Walsingham was a principal secretary to Queen Elizabeth and most famously known as her spymaster. With William Cecil, Walsingham established an English Secret Service to deal with the many plots on Elizabeth’s life and the thwarting of Catholic conspiracies. During the 1580s Walsingham worked closely with Francis Bacon following his return from the continent on state business. Bacon alongside his former Trinity friend Thomas Phelippes the renowned linguist and cryptographer, assisted Walsingham in breaking codes and creating false letters as decoys at home whilst Anthony Bacon became the leading agent for the English secret service abroad where he maintained a wide network of agents and spies across the continent. Walsingham was a zealous Protestant and had a ruthless reputation when it came to the service and protection of the state. He was however of a very kind and supportive nature towards his young charges and often offered them practical advice. He had heard of Anthony’s proclivity for potion and ‘physic’ taking (opiates) and immediately dispensed some fatherly advice writing, ‘I have been informed you too easily and too often give yourself to the taking of physic, a thing which as I have by experience found hurtful in myself, when I was of your years.’ A better diet, exercise and abstinence were all highly recommended by Walsingham who needed his agents on top form.

At some stage Bacon’s concealed younger royal brother Robert, Earl of Essex joined the service and was compelled to marry Walsingham’s widowed daughter Frances when she became pregnant with his child. Her first husband was Sir Philip Sidney. Walsingham was not Essex’s father in law for long as a lifetime working with danger and secrecy had taken its toll. He died in 1590 leaving the Bacons and Essex with all the knowledge and networks needed to continue his work. Walsingham complained of ‘the greatness of my debts and the mean state I shall leave my wife and heirs in’. He spent much of his own money in the service of the Queen and the Protestant cause and he died in poverty being buried quickly in St Paul’s overnight in case his creditors should come and rip open his coffin. A sad end for a man who had given a lifetime’s service for Queen and country.

Don Diego Sarmiento de Acuña, Count of Gondomar was the Spanish ambassador to the Court of King James and was appointed from 1613 by the King of Spain to delicately negotiate Anglo-Spanish relations. His residence was close to the Barbican where the printer William Jaggard had his printing shop.

Beyond his diplomatic abilities he was a voracious collector of books and his famous library comprised of over 6000 volumes in nine different languages and a rather unusually large collection of plays with drama and theatre being a particular passion of his. He mixed with the English intellectuals and poets of the time and was acquainted with the courtier Tobie Matthew and Spanish translator James Mabbe and his network including Leonard Digges, Edward Blount and Ben Jonson – all connected to the Shakespeare First Folio. In fact, Ben Jonson mentioned Count Gondomar in a poem in The Underwood, writing of an ‘ordnance too; so much as from the Tower | T’have waked, if sleeping, Spain’s ambassador, Old Aesop Gondomar’.

As Spanish Ambassador Gondomar would naturally have been required to attend masques and entertainments, but his theatrical interests went far beyond politeness as shown in his correspondence where it’s clear he was immersed in the world of the English playwrights and actors. He was a regular attendee of the Twelfth Night Masques at court, the revels at the Inns of Court as well as attending public playhouses.

Gondomar and his entourage attended the Fortune playhouse on 16th July 1621 and afterwards shared a meal with the company of actors Palgrave’s Men. A letter from John Chamberlain to Sir Dudley Carleton records the event: ‘The Spanish ambassador. . .is growne so affable and familiar, that on Monday with his whole traine he went to a common play at the Fortune in Golding-lane, and the players (not to be overcome with curtesie) made him a banket when the play was don in the garden adjoining.’

Gondomar was a close friend of Francis Bacon, a friendship that lasted many years with Bacon writing ‘Your Excellency’s love towards me I have found ever warm and sincere alike in prosperity and adversity. For which I give you due thanks.’ What may have seemed an unlikely relationship becomes more understandable when considering their shared love of books, drama and the theatre.

In 1621 following his fall and exile from London, Francis Bacon along with Ben Jonson and other good pens, began preparing his great literary work the Shakespeare First Folio at Bacon’s country residence Gorhambury. On the 6th June Bacon wrote an astonishing letter to his friend and fellow drama lover Gondomar revealing that he intended to retire from: ‘the stage of civil action and betake myself to letters, and to the instruction of the actors themselves, and the service of posterity.’ A course of action Gondomar would no doubt have fully approved of.

Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton was widely considered to be one of the most beautiful youths in the kingdom and his charismatic nature was much admired. Both Southampton and Essex were wards of William Cecil, Lord Burghley at Burghley house from a young age so they knew each other very well and Southampton who had a longing for military adventures looked up to his older companion. Bacon would often have cause to visit his Uncle William on state matters and of course to see his concealed royal brother Essex. It was probably here that Bacon and Southampton first came into contact but they were later destined to have a close personal relationship that would last for many years.

In February 1588 Southampton was admitted to Gray’s Inn the month in which members of Gray’s Inn presented Bacon’s The Misfortunes of Arthur (his first unrecognised Shakespeare play) before Queen Elizabeth at Greenwich. Francis had been admitted to Gray’s inn nine years earlier and was the de facto Master of the Revels at the Inn organising dramatic entertainments, masques and plays, something loved by Southampton who it was said attended the London theatres on an almost daily basis.

From the point Southampton went to reside at Gray’s Inn with Lord Bacon over time the two of them formed an intimate relationship that resulted in Bacon dedicating to Southampton his two Shakespeare poems ‘the first heir of my invention’ Venus and Adonis and ‘The love I dedicate to your Lordship is without end’ The Rape of Lucrece. Bacon also immortalised his beautiful fair youth in the Sonnets, ‘A woman’s face with Nature’s own hand painted Hast thou, the master-mistress of my passion’. Southampton was obviously privy to the royal identity of Bacon and his brother Essex and it must have caused much amusement to them when in public Bacon had to bow to Lord Southampton.

Their close relationship continued through the 1590s in which the lives of Bacon and Southampton became further intertwined with that of Robert Devereux, second Earl of Essex Bacon’s younger concealed royal brother. The events leading up to the ill-fated Essex uprising turned their relationship sour. Essex was executed for treason but Southampton was to have his death sentence commuted with Bacon and others pleading for his life to be spared. On the accession of James I, Southampton was released from prison following Bacon’s intervention and after his release Bacon wrote to him pointedly referring to their previous close relationship ‘I may safely be now that which I was truly before’. Unfortunately things could never be the same as they were previously. Southampton mistakenly held Bacon responsible for the tragic Essex events and apparently took great delight in exacting revenge when Bacon was at the centre of politically motivated charges years later.

Love may fade, but the endurance of the written word is all powerful with the names of Southampton and Shakespeare forever intertwined and their love being immortalised in Bacon’s diary The Sonnets.

On account of Bacon’s secret authorship of the Shakespeare First Folio and their primary status as its patrons and dedicatees, the 'Incomparable Paire of Brethren’ William and Philip Herbert and their lifelong relationship with Francis Bacon has been effectively written out of the Bacon biographical canon. In fact the relationship between the Bacons and Herberts went back generations over a period of more than fifty years to at least the very beginning of the Elizabethan reign. Through his royal blood Bacon and the Herberts were also second cousins.

Their father was Henry Herbert Patron of The Pembroke’s Men who performed Shakespeare plays including The Taming of a Shrew, Titus Andronicus and Henry VI. Bacon would have been a regular visitor to Wilton House to meet with fellow writers under the patronage of Henry’s wife Mary Herbert who as niece to Robert Dudley was Bacon’s cousin.

The metaphysical poet and translator George Herbert who was living with Bacon at Gorhambury while the Shakespeare First Folio was working its way through the Jaggard printing house, was the cousin of its future dedicatees William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke and Philip Herbert, Earl of Montgomery. The two powerful cousins were great patrons of George Herbert who received numerous religious and political benefits before, during, and after the period he was living with Bacon at Gorhambury. George Herbert assisted Bacon in the translation of his Advancement of Learning into Latin which was published within days of the First Folio in 1623 and afterwards Bacon dedicated his 1625 Psalms to George Herbert from his ‘affectionate frend’.

It was in the aftermath of Bacon’s fall that William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke and Philip Herbert, Earl of Montgomery put their full support behind their lifelong friend and cousin acting in concert with Bacon’s private secretary and Rosicrucian brothers Dr William Rawley and Sir Thomas Meautys (both recipients of some of Bacon’s manuscripts) and Sir Tobie Matthew, who was also privy to the secret that Bacon wrote the Shakespeare works.

Both Herberts were members of the Virginia Council created in order to promote the settlement in North America and in 1623 when the Shakespeare First Folio was published William Herbert Earl of Pembroke was then Grand Master of England.

Francis Bacon had a secret, hidden and obscured relationship with the Jaggards over a period of several decades. From 1606 John Jaggard published a series of Bacon's Essays one of which was printed for him by his brother William Jaggard. The Shakespeare First Folio was printed and published by William and Isaac Jaggard in November or December 1623. Elizabeth Jaggard (John's wife) reprinted Bacon's Essays in 1624. At the time of Bacon's recorded death the Jaggards owned the copyright to his Essays and partly owned the copyright to his Shakespeare First Folio.

Sometime in 1576 Francis Bacon learnt the secret of his royal parentage in a ferocious and violent outburst at court from Queen Elizabeth his royal mother. Bitterly regretting the revelation of the long concealed secret, it was decided by Queen Elizabeth and Robert Dudley that Bacon was to be sent to France in the train of the ambassador Sir Amias Paulet whilst she decided what was to be done with him. In Autumn 1576 the 15 year old Bacon was originally supposed to be starting his legal training at Gray’s Inn, instead he found himself in Paris with all the considerable delights of the French Court and the 23 year old Marguerite de Valois, daughter of Catherine de Medici and reluctant wife of King Henry of Navarre.

The French court was vastly different to the English court with its harsh and course manners where learning was not held with the esteem that Bacon felt it warranted. By contrast the French court was libertarian in its outlook and honoured discussions of philosophy, poetry, art, science and literature. The Pleiades were a group of poets dedicated to the promoting and developing of the French language, their muse was Marguerite a brilliant and beautiful intellectual.

Bacon later spoke often of the profound effect that his time in France had on him in terms of his cryptography work at the Intelligence bureau and the realisation that England too needed a massive shake up in terms of its attitudes towards learning and the importance and power that language gave to its country. The elevation of the English language became one of Bacon’s major preoccupations which he largely accomplished through his Shakespeare works.

Central to the early plays Love’s Labour’s Lost set in Navarre, Romeo and Juliet and later Troilus and Cressida was his doomed love affair with Marguerite. Although a divorce and marriage were explored, the course of true love certainly didn’t run smooth especially when Marguerite was a married Catholic queen and Francis a Protestant concealed royal prince, a nigh on impossible situation in those days. Years later, Marguerite did divorce her husband but time had now moved on and there was to be no reunion for the star crossed lovers. Marguerite was Bacon’s first experience of love and would forever be part of one of the most influential times of his life and would become immortalised in his Shakespeare works.

As a young boy Francis Bacon took the Greek Goddess Pallas Athena for his Inspiration and Muse. She was the goddess of knowledge and wisdom and is depicted with an owl and a shield shaking her spear at the serpent of ignorance. She was Bacon’s first love, his enduring love, his Spearshaker, hence his pseudonym Shake-speare.

Bacon was often closely associated with his muse Pallas Athena. She appears on several of his acknowledged works including the frontispiece of Bacon’s La Sagesse Mysterieuse that depicts her with mottoes above her head and on her shield stating: ‘Obscuris Vera involvens’ (‘Truth is enveloped by obscurity’) and ‘Sic fulget in umbras’ (‘Thus it shines in the shadows). Verses commemorating his reported death in 1626 also mention her and refers to Bacon as a Spearshaker.

Thomas Meautys was a Member of Parliament and became the loyal and trusted private secretary to Francis Bacon in around 1616. On becoming Lord Chancellor in 1618 there were mountainous amounts of work to be undertaken and Meautys became a trusted scribe and messenger taking messages between Buckingham and the King and Bacon. A discreet and trustworthy man, and a member of Bacon’s Rosicrucian-Freemasonry Brotherhood, Meautys became familiar with the secrets of Bacon’s life and writings, including his authorship of the Shakespeare works, his cipher systems, as well as being privy to his royal birth.

When the politically trumped up charges against Bacon began to circulate Meautys was a passionate and vocal advocate for Bacon in the Houses of Parliament. When the charges were made he vigorously suggested that Bacon should defend them and researched far and wide to help his case. When the sentence was passed and his friend and patron disgraced, Meautys was one of only a few of Bacon’s circle who didn’t desert him. Bacon resolved to dedicate himself now to his writings and the preparation of the Shakespeare First Folio and went to his country estate Gorhambury with Meautys, his chaplain Dr Rawley, Ben Jonson and George Herbert.

Following Bacon’s supposed death in 1626 a monument of Bacon at St Michael’s Church was erected by Meautys replete with an epitaph written by his cousin Sir Henry Wotton, a member of the English Secret Service. Dr Tenison, a member of Bacon’s Rosicrucian-Freemasonry Brotherhood, provides a translation of the Latin epitaph as follows:

‘Francis Bacon, Baron of Verulam, Viscount of St. Albans: Or in more conspicuous Titles; The Light of the Sciences, the Law of Eloquence, state on this manner. Who, after he had unfolded all the Mysteries of Natural Science and Civil Wisdom obeyed the Decree of nature.

Let the Companions be parted, in the Year of our Lord 1626,and the sixty sixth year of his Age.

Thomas Meautys, a Reverencer of him whilst Alive, and an Admirer of him now Dead, hath set up this to the Memory of so great a Man.’

Bacon’s Gorhambury estate eventually passed to his former secretary, friend and confidante and Meautys went on to marry Anne Bacon (Francis Bacon’s great niece) ensuring that a Bacon still resided at Gorhambury, at least for a while. When Meautys died in 1649 he was also buried at St Michael’s near his former friend and patron.

Bacon’s biographer Spedding said of Meautys, ‘one of the noblest of the noble order of loyal servants loyal to the full extent of his means and abilities, in adversity as in prosperity, in disgrace as in honour loyal through life, and beyond it, the creditor who never ceased to be a friend. . .’.

Over a period of two decades Bacon had a very close relationship with the courtier and writer Sir Tobie Matthew, who was fully aware that Bacon was the concealed poet and dramatist Shakespeare. Such was their love and affection for each other, Bacon considered Tobie his alter ego and ‘other self’. While still only a young man Matthew played the part of the Squire in a dramatic device written by Bacon presented by Robert Devereux, the Earl of Essex before Elizabeth on her Anniversary Day on 17 November 1595.

He was admitted to Gray’s Inn in 1599 where Bacon was de facto Master of the Revels responsible for among other things the first unacknowledged Shakespeare play The Misfortunes of Arthur and the magnificent Gray’s Inn Christmas Revels of 1594-5 during which Bacon premiered his Shakespeare play The Comedy of Errors.

Matthew had a love of drama and regularly attended the play-houses taking in all the best plays London could offer, however evidently one dramatist in particular fired his imagination, Shakespeare whom he was fond of quoting in his correspondence.

Directly due to Bacon’s influence, Matthew was returned MP for St Albans for the 1604 parliament and later in the year on 3 July Matthew secured a licence to travel for three years. Whilst in Italy he fully converted to the Roman Catholic faith, a conversion which caused great consternation on his return to England in 1607. He was put in the Fleet but due to Bacon’s involvement was allowed out on parole with Bacon as his keeper.

After having obtained the king’s leave Matthew left England for the continent from where he did not return for another ten years. During this time Bacon and Matthew kept up a regular revealing correspondence in which they discussed Bacon’s acknowledged writings by their stated titles and those unnamed writings of his ‘recreation’, and ‘invention’, i.e., works of the imagination, code words for Bacon’s Shakespeare plays. In coded ambiguous exchanges they mention Julius Caesar and measure for measure.

In May 1617 Matthew was granted leave to return to England and following his arrival he immediately went to live with Bacon for an extended period at Gorhambury. In the following year Matthew translated 38 of Bacon’s essays into Italian. In the dedicatory letter prefixed to the edition addressed to the Grand Duke of Tuscany he paid testimony to Bacon’s intellectual power, his greatness, and his virtue. Matthew’s continual refusal to take the oath of allegiance brought an end to his stay in England when King James ordered him to leave the country.

Negotiations were in progress for the marriage of Princes Charles to the Spanish Infanta thus early in the Summer of 1623 King James despatched Matthew to Madrid to assist and advise Charles and Buckingham ‘and being in good favour with Buckingham, intimate both with Digby and Gondomar, and the more acceptable to the Spanish Court because he was a Roman Catholic’, became for Bacon a valuable channel of communication and poses the question whether Matthew was in fact a very useful double agent.

It was about this time Bacon writes to Matthew of his ‘great business, God conduct it well; mine own fortune hath taught me expectation.’ This was in the summer of 1623, a few months before the publication of the Shakespeare First Folio. As promised in the new and enlarged edition of his Essays Bacon added his essay Of Friendship ‘to his other self’ commemorating their shared intimacy and friendship.

In an undated controversial letter sent by Matthew to Bacon which has been dated from anywhere between 1619 and 1623 the year which saw the publication of the Shakespeare First Folio there is a postscipt: ‘The most prodigious wit, that ever I knew of my nation, and of this side of the sea, is of your Lordship's name, though he be known by another.’

William Boswell was a diplomat, politician and ambassador to the Netherlands. In December 1614 he was granted a pass to travel abroad for three years at the time the Rosicrucian manifestos the Fama Fraternitatis and the Confessio Fraternitatis were published at Cassel in Germany in 1614 and 1615. He remained absent from England for a total of eight years during which time he may well have been working for Bacon secretly liaising with members of his Rosicrucian Brotherhood on the continent. From sometime before April 1619 to July 1621 Boswell served as chief secretary to the English ambassador in Paris, Edward Herbert, Lord Herbert of Cherbury, cousin of William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke, then Grand Master of England one of the ‘Incomparable Paire Of Brethren’ to whom Bacon dedicated the 1623 Shakespeare First Folio.

In his last will and testament drawn up in December 1625 shortly before his supposed death, Bacon set out directions for his vast collection of papers:

‘For my name and memory, I leave it to men’s charitable speeches, and to foreign nations, and the next ages. But as to that durable part of my memory, which consisteth in my works and writings, I desire my executors, and especially Sir John Constable and my very good friend Mr. Bosvile [Sir William Boswell] to take care that of all my writings, both of English and Latin. . .Also, I desire my executors, especially my brother Constable, and also Mr. Bosvile, presently after my decease, to take into their hands all my papers whatsoever, which are either in cabinets, boxes, or presses, and them to seal up until they may at their leisure peruse them.’

The instruction by Bacon to Boswell to ‘take care of all my writings, both of English and Latin’, placed him in a position of great secrecy and trust some of which to use the words of Dr Rawley, were not communicable to the rest of the world.

In July 1632 Boswell was appointed Resident Agent in The Hague a hotbed of Rosicrucian-Freemasonry secret clandestine activity centred in and about the court of Elizabeth of Bohemia with Bacon’s manuscripts under his guard where he remained until his death eighteen years later. After his death some of Bacon’s manuscripts passed to the Dutch scholar and editor Isaac Gruter who issued several of them in the near five-hundred page work entitled Francisci Baconi De Verulamio Scripta In Natvrali et Vniversali Philosophia published under the imprint of Lodewijk Elzevier at Amsterdam in 1653. On its title page replete with Baconian-Rosicrucian ciphers appears an emblem depicting Pallas Athena, goddess of knowledge and wisdom usually seen shaking a spear from whence Bacon took his nom de plume Shakespeare, but in this instance bearing the inscription ‘Ne Extra Oleas’ (‘Nothing but the Olive’). The olive being a divine symbol of peace to the world that also features prominently on the Rosicrucian-Freemasonic seal of the United States of America.

The Church of England clergymen Dr William Rawley knew the truth and secrets of the concealed and hidden life of who the world and posterity knows as Francis Bacon. By 1616 Dr Rawley was Bacon’s chaplain and secretary saying ‘in the composing, of his Works, for many years together; Especially, in his writing Time; I conceived, that no Man, could pretend a better Interest, or Claim, to the ordering of them, after his Death, then my self.’ Following Bacon's fall Dr Rawley went to live with Bacon at Gorhambury and was one of his ‘good pens’ that didn’t leave him in his time of need. He was a witness to Bacon’s last will and testament and entrusted with a large number of his manuscripts.

In the months following Bacon’s supposed death to the world Dr Rawley compiled and published a commemorative work in his honour Memoriae honoratissimi Domini Francisci, Baronis de Verulumio, vice-comitis Sancti Albani sacrum, known as the Manes Verulamiani. These verses portray Bacon as a secret supreme poet and dramatist-writer of comedies and tragedies, under the pseudonym, Shakespeare. As revealing as these remarkable verses already are, in his address to the reader, Rawley, plainly states ‘very many poems, and the best too, I withhold from publication’. Around the emblem on the title-page of the Rosicrucian New Atlantis published by Dr Rawley appears the following inscription ‘TEMPORE PATET OCCVLTA VERITAS’ (In Time The Hidden Truth Will Be Revealed).

Dr Rawley continued to edit, translate and publish numerous editions of Bacon’s works culminating in the Resuscitatio to which he prefixed the first English Life of Lord Bacon. In his address to the reader, Rawley states ‘I shall not tread too near, upon the Heels of Truth; Or of the Passages, and Persons; then concerned’ conveying that in keeping with his Rosicrucian master Dr Rawley delivers as much of the truth as he is able via a Baconian method of delivery. This work was published in 1657 when many from Bacon’s life were dead so in the very first sentence of his Life of Bacon Rawley hints at the truth surrounding Bacon’s parentage.

‘FRANCIS BACON, the Glory, of his Age, and Nation; The Adorner, and Ornament, of Learning; Was born, in York House, or York Place, in the Strand

York House was the home of the Sir Nicholas and Lady Anne Bacon and York Place was the royal residence of Queen Elizabeth. This was no mistake, Dr Rawley knew perfectly well the difference between them and the implied meaning. He was deliberately leaving a clue to posterity.

Sir Edward Coke was considered a brilliant barrister, judge and politician and rose to Attorney General in Elizabeth’s reign. He was completely and zealously dedicated to the law and had little time or interest for anything else, aside from amassing money which he did from purchasing cut price land and properties exploiting his knowledge of legal property loopholes causing James I to comment that Coke, ‘had already as much land as it was proper a subject should possess’. He is best known for his legal writings, a 4 volume Institutes of the Lawes of England and 13 volumes of law reports. His writings though incredibly legally knowledgeable were characterised as having fine attention to detail that often tipped over into pedantry.

Bacon and Coke had a life long enmity probably fuelled by jealousy on Coke’s behalf and the fact that Coke was a friend of Bacon’s cousin Robert Cecil who also disliked Bacon. Bacon in almost every way was the complete antithesis of Coke and Coke was additionally infuriated that although he had managed to marry the wealthy widow Elizabeth Hatton it was Bacon that she really loved and made it her business to constantly remind him.

Coke was a high profile state prosecutor and prosecuted the Earl of Essex and later Sir Walter Raleigh and the Gunpowder conspirators and whilst Bacon was considered a fine speaker; persuasive, eloquent and witty, Coke was often criticised for his ranting, vicious, hectoring behaviour.

It was due to Coke’s hatred of Bacon that on the instigation of James I and Buckingham, he began his machinations into the monopolies scandal and engineered a situation that deflected attention from the King and his favourite who were deeply implicated in abuses and put the spotlight onto Bacon who was in charge of the Court of Chancery. He also coerced many people into giving evidence against Bacon.

One of the most brilliant legal minds of the era maybe, but probably the most telling epitaph to Coke’s character was his wife Elizabeth Hatton’s comment at his funeral when she remarked, ‘We shall never see his like again, thanks be to God’.

Buckingham was the son of a minor gentleman and his aspiring mother ensured her son learnt the attributes of a courtier like dancing and fencing that could be useful for advancement. He also had the good fortune to be a very beautiful sweet natured young man that attracted lots of admiration.

It’s not known exactly when Bacon became friends with Buckingham, but Bacon was to champion his cause for advancement in the court of James I. The KIng had a proclivity for the company of beautiful young men and in 1614 his current favourite was the hated Robert Carr the Earl of Somerset, that is until he saw Buckingham at a hunt when he immediately replaced Somerset in the King’s affections.

James called Buckingham his ‘Steenie’ after the angel St Stephen as he was reported as having the face of an angel and in letters James addressed him as ‘my sweet child’ and ‘my wife’. The Privy Council were somewhat alarmed by the close relationship and in 1617 James tried to clarify the situation with a sacred parallel: ‘You may be sure that I love the Earl of Buckingham more than anyone else, and more than you who are here assembled. I wish to speak in my own behalf and not to have it thought to be a defect, for Jesus Christ did the same, and therefore I cannot be blamed. Christ had John, and I have George.’

Buckingham’s advancement under James was meteoric and he was given every preferment and title possible culminating in him being created the Duke of Buckingham in 1623. Buckingham was the King’s closest advisor and companion no doubt encouraging him to elevate his friend Francis Bacon to legal offices of state. It appears Buckingham had not forgotten the close friendship they shared and the part Bacon played in his advancement.

Unfortunately power corrupts, and with his all-encompassing power a certain greed and invincibility took hold of Buckingham. He became increasingly reckless in promoting his relatives and plundering public funds. He became one of the most loathed men in the country and to save his and the King’s skin he sacrificed his friend Francis Bacon who was made a political scapegoat accused of corruption, briefly imprisoned, exiled from London, and heavily fined. Buckingham then went on to seize Bacon’s London home York House.

At just 35 the man who had shown so much early promise was assassinated by a disaffected army officer called John Felton who was immediately proclaimed a hero by many, such was the universal hatred for the Duke of Buckingham.

It is widely believed that Queen Elizabeth never named her heir but what if she did name her first born Tudor heir Francis Bacon? Sir Robert Cecil, Bacon’s cousin had a long held enmity for Bacon with him jostling for power especially since the death of his father William Cecil, Lord Burghley a few years earlier. Robert Cecil knew the secret of Bacon’s birth and was with Queen Elizabeth in her last hours as she heartbrokenly cried out for Dudley and bewailed the death of her youngest Tudor son Robert, Earl of Essex. It was Cecil’s word only that she named James I of Scotland as her heir and Cecil had every reason to not want Francis acknowledged.

When James succeeded the throne, he too knew of Bacon’s real identity and was concerned and suspicious regarding Bacon’s intentions. Bacon had long given up his claim to the throne and sought to reassure James that this was the case and he merely wanted to serve the King and state in any way he could. James recognised that as a brilliant writer, lawyer and Member of Parliament, Bacon could be a very useful ally in his quest to unite Scotland and England.

Bacon was knighted (along with hundreds of others) shortly after James’ accession. After Bacon’s marriage to a commoner Alice Barnham in 1606 he started to receive all the legal offices and titles that Queen Elizabeth had steadfastly denied him. This was seen as his recompense for ensuring that he never pursued his claim to the throne.

James was a most strange and contrary monarch. Bacon initially had high hopes that James would promote Bacon’s plans for his great advancement of learning but it soon transpired that his hatred of Parliament and his over indulgence of his favourites made him a weak and corrupt monarch. The union of Scotland and England and the colonisation of the United States of America were both conceived in his reign but it was Francis Bacon who was the guiding light and prime mover behind these far reaching initiatives.

King James and his great favourite the Duke of Buckingham were heavily involved in securing royal grants and monopolies for friends and family and Buckingham excessively squandered public funds for his own extravagant lifestyle, accepting gifts and bribes for preferments. Public opinion turned against Buckingham and by extension the King and there were public enquiries into corruption at the highest level. Bacon had long warned them both about their excessive behaviour but in the end it was he who was sacrificed in order to deflect the spotlight away from the King and his lover and favourite Buckingham.

In his Shakespeare works, Bacon’s preoccupation with bastardy, kingship, civil war, succession and history was a natural enough interest for the historical people he wrote of were actually his ancestors. When Bacon was about to be sacrificed politically to protect the King and his favourite Buckingham he reminded James ‘I wish that as I am the first, so I may be the last of sacrifices in your times.’ He was of course literally a political sacrifice but also Bacon alludes to the fact that he had already sacrificed his whole birthright as rightful Tudor heir to James. ‘I am the first’ is an allusion to the fact that he should have been Francis I of England.

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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