On 16 April 1594 -- Ferdinando Stanley, Lord Strange, 5th Earl of Derby died.
|Ferdinando Stanley, Lord Strange, 5th Earl of Derby|
It was suspected that he had been poisoned, perhaps by mushrooms.
|Henry Stanley, 4th Earl of Derby|
Derby’s father Henry had kept players in his household for years. Derby had his own company of players, Lord Strange’s Men by the late 1580’s -- the same period of time that Shakespeare arrived in London.
I think they were very close, and the mysterious death of his patron changed who Shakespeare was and radically changed the direction of his life.
However, the character of Hamlet was also written to remember men like Derby.
But the story doesn't end there.
There is a very interesting story about Derby’s daughter, Anne.
|Grey Bridges, 5th Baron Chandos|
His father, the 4th Earl Chandos, had been friends with Essex.
He had in fact visited Essex House (on the Strand) the morning of the Rebellion, but in the following government investigation into the Rebellion, he was cleared of any involvement.
Shakespeare would arguably have met and perhaps known both Grey Brydges and his father.
King James showed leniency towards those who had participated in the Essex Rebellion. For example, Southampton is released from the Tower, where he had been imprisoned since the Rebellion.
|The "Chandos" Portrait of Shakespeare|
Shakespeare gave the painting to them as a wedding gift.
This painting, now known as the Chandos Portrait, was painted between 1600 and 1610, so the timing fits.
The other theories don’t make much sense to me.
The theory that William Davenant received it from Shakespeare doesn't make sense. Shakespeare is believed to have been Davenant's godfather. I don't think it would have been the kind of gift to give a godson, especially if this was the one and only time that Shakespeare is believed to have been painted during his lifetime.
I also don't believe the theory that Davenant was Shakespeare's illegitimate son, but that's another story.
I think it is very likely that Shakespeare would have this painting made as a significant and unique gift to a new bride and groom.
The groom was a man who had been very close with Shakespeare's friend and patron Essex.
The bride was the daughter of one of Shakespeare's closest friends, Derby -- arguably the man who gave Shakespeare his first break in theatre.
The bride was also a young woman who had every right to be queen -- she could have been queen, she should have been queen -- but she was denied it.
This version of events surrounding the origin of the Chandos Portrait makes much more sense to me.
David B. Schajer
P.S. I can't find any pictures of Anne. If you know of any, please let me know. I would be very grateful. Thank you!