Earl of Oxford

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Woodcut of the Earls of Oxford coat of arms, 1574

Earl of Oxford is a dormant title in the Peerage of England, held for more than five and a half centuries by the De Vere family from 1141 until the death of the 20th Earl in 1703. The Earls of Oxford were also hereditary holders of the office of Lord Great Chamberlain from 1133 until the death of the 18th Earl in 1625. Their primary seat was Castle Hedingham in Essex, but they held lands across England, particularly in eastern England.

Earls of Oxford (1141)[edit]

Castle Hedingham in Essex, primary seat of the Earls of Oxford

The 3rd Earl was one of the 25 barons of Magna Carta. The 9th Earl was a favorite of King Richard II and was created Duke of Ireland. The 13th Earl was a Lancastrian during the War of the Roses and Henry Tudor's commander at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485.[1] The 17th Earl has become the most famous of the line because of his emergence as a popular alternative candidate as the actual author of the works of William Shakespeare (see Oxfordian theory of Shakespeare authorship). The 17th Earl was a ward and later son-in-law of Lord Burghley, Queen Elizabeth I's Secretary of State. On the death of the 20th Earl, without identifiable heirs male, the title became dormant.

The Earls of Oxford held no subsidiary titles, and so their heirs apparent were styled by invented courtesy titles: initially Lord Vere, and later Viscount Bolebec (sometimes spelled Viscount Bulbeck).

List of title holders[edit]

Earls of Oxford and Earl Mortimer (1711)[edit]

The title Earl of Oxford and Earl Mortimer was created in the Peerage of Great Britain for Robert Harley in 1711. In the 20th century the title Earl of Oxford and Asquith was created in the Peerage of the United Kingdom for the former Prime Minister H. H. Asquith, whose descendant still bears that title. These later creations bear the double title because it is not certain knowledge that the original earldom is extinct: the first de Vere earl may still have living legitimate descendants in the male line.

Earls of Oxford and Asquith (1925)[edit]

After the extinction of the Earls of Oxford and Earls Mortimer, Asquith was keen to choose "Earl of Oxford" for his own title. As an earldom was then traditional for former Prime Ministers, and Asquith had a number of connections with the city of Oxford, it seemed a logical choice and had the King's support. The proposal greatly offended the relatives of the dormant Earldom, however, and, in the face of their opposition, another title had to be chosen — "Earl of Oxford and Asquith". For information on this creation, see Earl of Oxford and Asquith.


  1. ^ G. E. Cokayne, et al., eds., The Complete Peerage, 2nd ed., vol. 10.

Further reading[edit]

  • Anderson, Verily. The De Veres of Castle Hedingham. Lavenham, Suffolk: Terence Dalton, 1993.
  • Sir Clements R . Markham "The Fighting Veres" Lives of Sir Francis & Lord Horace Vere, Generals of the Queen's Forces(1888)The Fighting Veres (CSV/Text)

External links[edit]

Media related to Earls of Oxford at Wikimedia Commons