Note: Cobbe Portrait of Southampton // Mary // Wriothesley southampton
Life under King James
On the accession of James I Southampton resumed his place at court and received numerous honours from the new king. On the eve of the abortive rebellion of Essex he had induced the players at the Globe Theatre to revive Richard II, and on his release from prison in 1603 he resumed his connection with the stage. In January 1605 he entertained Queen Anne with a performance of Love's Labour's Lost by Burbage and his company, to which Shakespeare belonged, at Southampton House.
He seems to have been a born fighter, and engaged in more than one serious quarrel at court, being imprisoned for a short time in 1603 following a heated argument with Lord Grey of Wilton in front of Queen Anne. Grey, an implacable opponent of the Essex faction, was later implicated in the Main Plot and Bye Plot. Southampton was in more serious disgrace in 1621 for his determined opposition to Buckingham. He was a volunteer on the Protestant side in Germany in 1614, and in 1617 he proposed to fit out an expedition against the Barbary pirates.
Southampton was a leader among the Jacobean aristocrats who turned to modern investment practices — "in industry, in modernizing their estates and in overseas trade and colonization." He financed the first tinplate mill in the country, and founded an ironworks at Titchfield. He developed his properties in London, in Bloomsbury and Holborn; he revamped his country estates, participated in the efforts of the East India Company and the New England Company, and backed Henry Hudson's search for the Northwest Passage.
A significant artistic patron in the Jacobean as well as the Elizabethan era, Southampton promoted the work of George Chapman, Samuel Daniel, Thomas Heywood, and the composer Alfonso Ferrabosco the younger. Heywood's popular, expansionist dramas were compatible with Southampton's maritime and colonial interests.
Henry Wriothesley, whose name is included in the 1605 panel of the New World Tapestry, took a considerable share in promoting the colonial enterprises of the time, and was an active member of the Virginia Company's governing council. Although profits proved elusive, his other visions for the Colony based at Jamestown were eventually accomplished. He was part of a faction within the company with Sir Edwin Sandys, who eventually became the Treasurer, and worked tirelessly to support the struggling venture. In addition to profits, Southampton's faction sought a permanent colony which would enlarge British territory, relieve the nation's overpopulation, and expand the market for English goods. Although profits largely eluded the Virginia Company, and it was dissolved in 1624, the other goals were accomplished.
His name is thought by many to be the origin of the naming of the harbour of Hampton Roads, and the Hampton River. Although named at later dates, similar attribution may involve the town (and later city) of Hampton, Virginia, as well as Southampton County, Virginia and Northampton County. However, the name Southampton was not uncommon in England, including an important port city and an entire region along the southern coast, which was originally part of Hampshire. There are also variations applied in other areas of the English colonies which were not part of the Virginia Company of London's efforts, making the origin of the word and derivations of it as applied in Virginia even more debatable.
Later life and death
In 1624 Southampton was one of four Englishmen appointed to command troops fighting in the Low Countries against the Spanish. Shortly after their arrival the earl's eldest son, James Wriothesley, succumbed to a fever at Rosendael. Five days later, on 10 November 1624, Southampton died of the same cause at Bergen-op-Zoom, aged 51. Both were buried in the parish church of Titchfield, Hampshire.
Marriage and issue
In August 1598 Southampton secretly married Elizabeth Vernon, the daughter of John Vernon of Hodnet, Shropshire, by his wife Elizabeth Devereux. Elizabeth Devereux's grandfathers were the Viscount Hereford and the Earl of Huntingdon; on her father John's side, Elizabeth's family were more obscure.
They had several children, including:
- Penelope Wriothesley, who married William Spencer, 2nd Baron Spencer of Wormleighton.
- James Wriothesley, Lord Wriothesley (1 March 1605 – 5 November 1624), who predeceased his father.
- Thomas Wriothesley, 4th Earl of Southampton (10 March 1607 – 16 May 1667).
- Anne Wriothesley, who married Robert Wallop (20 July 1601 – 19 November 1667) of Farley Wallop.
There exist numerous portraits of Southampton, in which he is depicted with dark auburn hair and blue eyes, compatible with Shakespeare's description of "a man right fair." Sir John Beaumont wrote a well-known elegy in his praise, and Gervase Markham wrote of him in a tract entitled Honor in his Perfection, or a Treatise in Commendation of ... Henry, Earl of Oxenford, Henry, Earle of Southampton, Robert, Earl of Essex (1624).
In 2002 a portrait in the Cobbe collection was identified as a portrait of the youthful Earl. Showing him as an androgynous-looking young man, it is now known as the Cobbe portrait of Southampton.
In April 2008, a further portrait believed to be of Southampton, hidden beneath a portrait of his wife Elizabeth Vernon, was discovered when the work was X-rayed in preparation for an exhibition.
In popular culture
The Earl has been played on screen by several different actors:
- Peter Egan in the BBC mini-series Elizabeth R, 1971.
- Nicholas Clay in the TV series Life of Shakespeare, 1978.
- Eddie Redmayne in the Channel 4 mini-series Elizabeth I, 2005.
- Shaun Evans in the mini-series The Virgin Queen, 2006.
- Xavier Samuel in the feature film Anonymous, 2011.
- Charles Willoughby, 2nd Baron Willoughby of Parham, is also mentioned in a letter of 17 June 1602 from John Chamberlain to Sir Dudley Carleton: "Gray Bridges hath hurt Ambrose Willoughby in the heade and body, for abusing his father and himself at a conference of arbiterment twixt them and Mistris Bridges"; The Fair Maid of the West, Fortune by Land and Sea, and The Travels of the Three English Brothers; Heinemann, pp. 142–7.
- The Observer. Retrieved 10 March 2009.