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VERE, AUBREY de, twentieth Earl of Oxford (1626–1703), born in 1626, was the eldest son of Robert de Vere, nineteenth earl, by Beatrice de Banck, daughter of Sjierck Hemmema of Nufen in Friesland.
Robert de Vere (1599?–1632) was the only son and heir of Hugh de Vere, grandson of John de Vere, fifteenth earl of Oxford [q. v.], by Eleanor, daughter of William Walsh. Hugh de Vere, who was first cousin of Sir Francis Vere [q. v.], and to Horace, lord Vere [q. v.], of Tilbury, served as a volunteer in Leicester's first campaign in the Netherlands. His son Robert followed in his footsteps, serving under Horace, lord Vere. In April 1625 Robert claimed the earldom of Oxford, and also the office of lord chamberlain in succession to Henry de Vere, eighteenth earl [q. v.] A rival claim was set up by Lord Willoughby de Eresby. After three days' debate the lords on 5 April 1626 adjudged the earldom to Vere, but awarded the chamberlaincy to his opponent. Sir Robert Cotton and Sir Simon D'Ewes had interested themselves in the claims of Robert, who was in narrow circumstances (D'Ewes, Autobiogr. 17 Jan. 1662; Hist. MSS. Comm. 13th Rep. ii. 117). Robert on 14 April 1626 took his seat in the House of Lords next below Arundel, the premier earl; but he passed the greater part of his remaining days abroad. Before his succession to the peerage he had received a commission (now in the possession of Mr. J. H. Round) as captain of foot in the service of the estates of Holland; and when his cousin, Sir Edward Vere, fell at the siege of Bois-le-Duc in August 1629, Oxford received the colonelcy of his regiment. Three years later he was serving under Lord Vere (who was congratulated on having diverted him from dissipation to a military life) at the siege of Maastricht. There, on 17 Aug. 1632, while bringing up reinforcements to the men in the trenches, he was mortally wounded. Clarendon's reference to the Duke of Buckingham's quarrels with ‘the Earl of Oxford’ is commonly assumed to apply to Earl Robert, but there is little doubt that Clarendon was referring to Earl Robert's predecessor in the title, Henry de Vere, eighteenth earl [q. v.] Evans mentions a rare print by Stent of a portrait of Oxford engraved by Richardson, and Doyle gives a portrait engraved after H. Vaughan.
Aubrey de Vere, who was between five and six years old at his father's death, was brought up by his mother's family in Friesland. He served in the regiment of English foot in the Dutch service till the peace of Westphalia. His name is attached to two protests in the House of Lords dated 24 Dec. 1641 and 24 and 26 Jan. 1642, while not yet of age (Rogers, i. 7, 10, 11). In April 1651, when in England, he quarrelled at play with Robert Sidney, the lieutenant-colonel of his regiment, and they were with difficulty prevented by friends from going to Flanders to fight a duel (Mercurius Politicus, pp. 749–93; Whitelocke, p. 467). In the same year the sequestration of his estates was ordered by the parliament, his ‘delinquencies’ having ‘been discovered’ (Cal. State Papers, Dom. p. 114). On 20 June 1654 he was committed to the Tower for conspiracy against the lord protector (Whitelocke, p. 574), but was never brought to trial, and was soon released, though strongly suspected of royalism (Thurloe, State Papers, vii. 83–84, 247). In September 1656 he was thought to be a fitting person to command the royalist forces which were to be ready when Charles II landed, ‘as being free from any former engagement;’ and as ‘Mr. Waller’ he was selected by the royalists as their chief when in the following year they contemplated seizing the city of London (Clarendon State Papers, ed. Macray, iii. 167, 220, 373). Oxford, who seems to have commanded ‘a regiment of scholars’ at Oxford (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1660–1, p. 88), was again arrested on 13 Aug. 1659 on suspicion of being concerned in Sir George Booth's rising, but was discharged by the committee of safety on 2 Nov. on security to live peaceably (Whitelocke, pp. 683, 688, 691).
Oxford was one of the six lords who, with twelve commoners, presented to Charles II at The Hague on 3 May 1660 the petition for his return to England. He came back with the king, who on 1 June gave him the Garter, and in the same year appointed him lord lieutenant of Essex and chief justice in eyre of the forests south of the Trent.
Oxford petitioned for the office of lord chamberlain, which had formerly been hereditary in his family; it was, however, granted on 9 May 1661 to the Earl of Lindsay, ‘but with the saving of the rights of the former’ (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1660–1, pp. 424, 584). At the coronation of Charles II Oxford bore the sword of state called the ‘curtana,’ as he did at that of the three succeeding sovereigns. On 16 Sept. 1660 Pepys records a false report of his death from smallpox, and on 15 May 1663 writes of a ‘ridiculous falling’ out at his house, including ‘high words and pulling off of perriwiggs’ by the noble guests, till Monck took away some of their swords and sent for soldiers to guard the house till the fray was ended. The affair was thought worthy of communication to M. de Lionne by the Comte de Comminges, the French ambassador (Pepys, Diary, ed. Lord Braybrooke, appendix). Pepys, in mentioning an early call which he made on Oxford in January 1665, speaks in very uncomplimentary terms of his family. He was much scandalised by his appearing in company with Monmouth in April 1667 in a hackney coach in the park with his Garter robes on.
On 29 Aug. 1661 Oxford received the colonelcy of a regiment which throughout his life was called after him ‘the Oxford blues,’ and which after his death became ‘the blues,’ or the royal regiment of horse guards blue. During the Dutch war he was very active in his own county of Essex making preparations against the threatened land-