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Readers of the Shakespeare Oxford Newsletter will have noticed a facelift on the cover of the last edition involving a new font and new emblem in place of the Bulbeck crest depicting a lion brandishing a broken spear/[pen] (Figure 1). The Bulbeck crest had been part of the newsletter's masthead since the Winter 1996 issue when it ironically replaced the previous logo, a circular stamp containing the motto vero nihil verius. With the latest revision, the society has redoubled its efforts to represent "nothing truer than the truth." The design of the new masthead emblem, my own contribution, is based upon an image portraying Edward de Vere's illustrious ancestor, Aubrey de Vere, Lord Great Chamberlain of England (so granted by Henry I), who was father of Aubrey de Vere, first Earl of Oxford. (1) The banner bearing Oxford's motto and the 'dripping quill' were inspired by society president Matthew Cossolotto's use of the term "dripping quill" in lieu of "smoking gun". Although Oxfordians may not have an actual smoking gun (or dripping quill), the amount of circumstantial evidence that Edward de Vere was the author of the Shakespeare works is substantive enough to withstand the expulsion of the Bulbeck crest. Nevertheless, like many Oxfordians, I was enamored with the crest and its alleged symbolism and was therefore disappointed to learn that it was a fraud--or more likely an honest mistake. This article will take a brief look at how this may have come to pass, and why this crest does not, and never did, apply to Oxford.
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It is difficult to pin down precisely when and how the Bulbeck crest of the lion brandishing a broken spear came to be associated with Edward de Vere as Viscount Bulbeck (variously spelled Bulbeke, Bollbecke, Bollebec, Bolbec, Bolebec, etc.). The earliest reference I have found is in the 1923 Shakespeare Through Oxford Glasses, wherein H.H. Holland asks, "Why should the Bolebec crest turn out to be a lion shaking a spear?" (2) Whether or not Holland introduced the notion, it obviously followed hard on the heels of J.T. Looney's 1920 Shakespeare Identified; we can be reasonably confident that it did not come before. This handsome crest eventually became an appealing 'selling point' in the Oxfordian arsenal. By the time it appeared on the dust jacket of Eleanor Brewster's 1964 Oxford, Courtier to the Queen (if not before), the lion's spear had been cleverly transformed into a pen. The late Ruth Loyd Miller championed the crest in several of her publications, including one of her circulars titled "Abstract of Facts", with the following explanation:
Isabel Bolebec (Bulbeck), Countess of the 3rd Earl of Oxford, brought great wealth and the title of Viscount [Lord] Bolebeck to the de Veres. From thence the courtesy title of "Lord Bolebec" was bestowed at birth on the first-born son of each Earl of Oxford. (7)
Thus much is true, but Miller then asserts, "The crest of the Bolebecs was a lion shaking a broken spear, symbol of a disabled enemy, and of success in tournaments" (emphasis in original). Again true, but which Bolebecs, and when? The crest is also blazoned on the cover of Miller's 1974 edition of Eva Turner Clark's Hidden Allusions in …