Controversial film claims Hackney nobleman was ‘real Shakespeare’

A Hackney nobleman who lived during the reign of Elizabeth I was the true author of many of Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets, according to a controversial Hollywood film that will be released tomorrow (Friday).

‘Anonymous’ is about Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, who lived and died in Hackney.

The movie’s narrator, Shakespearian actor Sir Derek Jacobi, is patron of The de Vere Society, which is campaigning to have Hackney’s nobleman recognised as the ‘real’ playwright.

De Vere, played by Rhys Ifans, will be shown having an affair with the Virgin Queen, Elizabeth, and secretly penning many of the plays attributed to the Bard under the pseudonym ‘Shake-speare’.

De Vere lived in Stoke Newington from 1592, but moved to Clapton in 1596 with his second wife Elizabeth Trentham when he retired from court life. The couple lived on a pension from Queen Elizabeth in King’s Place, Upper Clapton Road, where Bsix College now stands.


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The 54-year-old nobleman was said to be grief-stricken when the Queen died in 1603 and he passed away the following year. Parish records show he was buried in the grounds of Hackney Church, but his tomb was lost when the building was demolished in the 1790s to make way for the new church of St John-at-Hackney.

De Vere was an accomplished poet, highly educated, well-travelled, played a prominent role at court, and ran theatre troupes. Advocates for the ‘Bard of Hackney’ say this proves only he had the knowledge required to write the masterpieces attributed to Shakespeare - who came from a lowly background and lived in relative obscurity.

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But Shakespeare continued to write for years after de Vere’s death in 1604. The Tempest is believed to have been written around 1610, while Henry VIII was written around 1613. Shakespeare died in 1616.

The authorship of Shakespeare’s work was not called into question until centuries after his death, and only a tiny minority of scholars believe the conspiracy theories.

But Julia Lafferty, a member of the Clapton Conservation Areas Advisory Committee, said: “As a Hackney resident I’m probably biased, but I think there’s sufficient evidence for De Vere to be taken very seriously.

“It’s all lost in the mists of time, but I’m absolutely looking forward to seeing the film.”

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