Robert Sidney, 1st earl of Leicester (q.v.); his daughter Mary married Henry Herbert, 2nd earl of Pembroke, and by reason of her association with her brother Philip was one of the most celebrated women of her time (see Pembroke, Earls of).
(R. J. M.)
SIDNEY, SIR PHILIP (1554-1586), English poet, statesman and soldier, eldest son of Sir Henry Sidney and his wife Mary Dudley, was born at Penshurst on the 30th of November 1554. His father, Sir Henry Sidney (1 529-1 586), was three times lord deputy of Ireland, and in 1560 became lord president of Wales. Philip Sidney's childhood was spent at Penshurst; and before he had completed his tenth year he was nominated by his father lay rector of Whitford, Flintshire. A deputy was appointed, and Philip enjoyed the revenue of the benefice for the rest of his life. On the 1 7th of October 1 564 he was entered at Shrewsbury school, not far from his father's official residence at Ludlow Castle, on the same day with his life-long friend and first biographer, Fulke Greville. An affectionate letter of advice from his father and mother, written about 1565, was preserved and printed in 1591 (A Very Godly Letter . . . ). In 1568 Sidney was sent to Christ Church, Oxford, where he formed lasting friendships with Richard Hakluyt and William Camden. But his chief companion was Fulke Greville, who had gone to Broadgates Hall (Pembroke College). Sir Henry Sidney was already anxious to arrange an advantageous marriage for his son, who was at that time heir to his uncle, the earl of Leicester; and Sir William Cecil agreed to a betrothal with his daughter Anne. But in 1571 the match was broken off, and Anne Cecil married Edward Vere, 17th earl of Oxford. In that year Philip left Oxford, and, after some months spent chiefly at court, received the queen's leave in 1572 to travel abroad " for his attaining the knowledge of foreign languages."
He was attached to the suite of the earl of Lincoln, who was sent to Paris in that year to negotiate a marriage between Queen Elizabeth and the due d'Alencon. He was in the house of Sir Francis Walsingham in Paris during the massacre of Saint Bartholomew, and the events he witnessed no doubt intensified his always militant Protestantism. In charge of Dr Watson, dean, and afterwards bishop, of Winchester, he left Paris for Lorraine, and in March of the next year had arrived in Frankfort on the Main. He lodged there in the house of the learned printer Andrew Wechel, among whose guests was also Hubert Languet. Fulke Greville describes Philip Sidney when a schoolboy as characterized by " such staidness of mind, lovely and familiar gravity, which carried grace and reverence far above greater years." " Though I lived with him, and knew him from a child," he says, " yet I never knew him other than a man." These qualities attracted to him the friendship of grave students of affairs, and in France he formed close connexions with the Huguenot leaders. Languet, who was an ardent supporter of the Protestant cause, conceived a great affection for the younger man, and travelled in his company to Vienna. In October Sidney left for Italy, having first of all entered into a compact with his friend to write every week. This arrangement was not strictly observed, but the extant letters, more numerous on Languet's side than on Sidney's, afford a considerable insight into Sidney's moral and political development. Languet's letters abound with sensible and affectionate advice on his studies and his affairs generally.
Sidney settled for some time in Venice, and in February 1574 he sat to Paolo Veronese for a portrait, destined for Languet. His friends seem to have feared that his zeal for Protestantism might be corrupted by his stay in Italy, and Languet exacted from him a promise that he would not go to Rome. In July he was seriously ill, and immediately on his recovery started for Vienna. From there he accompanied Languet to Poland, where he is said to have been asked to become a candidate for the vacant crown. On his return to Vienna he fulfilled vague diplomatic duties at the imperial court, perfecting himself meanwhile, in company with Edward Wotton, in the art of horsemanship under John Pietro Pugliano, whose skill and wit he celebrates in the opening paragraph of the Defence of Poesie. He addressed a letter from Vienna on the state of affairs to Lord Burghley, in December 1574. In the spring of 1575 he followed the court to Prague, where he received a summons to return home, appar- ently because Sir Francis Walsingham, who was now secretary of state, feared that Sidney had leanings to Catholicism.
His sister, Mary Sidney, was now at court, and he had an influential patron in his uncle, the earl of Leicester. He accom- panied the queen on one of her royal progresses to Kenilworth, and afterwards to Chartley Castle, the seat of Walter Devereux, earl of Essex. There he met Penelope Devereux, the " Stella " of the sonnets, then a child of twelve. Essex went to Ireland in 1576 to fill his' office as earl marshal, and in September occurred his mysterious death. Philip Sidney was in Ireland with his father at the time. Essex on his deathbed had desired a match between. Sidney and his daughter Penelope. Sidney was often harassed with debt, and seems to have given no serious thought to the question for some time, but Edward Waterhouse, an agent of Sir Henry Sidney, writing in November 1576, mentions "the treaty between Mr Philip and my Lady Penelope " (Sidney Papers, i. p. 147). In the spring of 1577 Sidney was sent to con- gratulate Louis, the new elector Palatine, and Rudolf II., who had become emperor of Germany. He received also general in- structions to discuss with various princes the advancement of the Protestant cause. ' '
After meeting Don John of Austria at Lou vain, March 1577, he proceeded to Heidelberg and Prague. He persuaded the elector's brother, John Casimir, to consider proposals for a league of Protestant princes, and also for a conference among the Protestant churches. At Prague he ventured on a harangue to the emperor, advocating a general league against Spain and Rome. This address naturally produced no effect, but does not seem to have been resented as much as might have been expected. On the return journey he visited William of Orange, who formed a high opinion of Sidney. In April 1577 Mary Sidney married Henry Herbert, 2nd earl of Pembroke, and in the summer Philip paid the first of many visits to her at her new home at Wilton. But later in the year he was at court defending his father's interests, particularly against the earl of Ormonde, who was doing all he could to prejudice Elizabeth against the lord deputy.
Sidney drew up a detailed defence of his father's Irish government, to be presented to the queen. A rough draft of four of the seven sections of this treatise is preserved in the British Museum (Cotton MS., Titus B, xii. pp. 557-559), and even in its frag- mentary condition it justifies the high estimate formed of it by Edward Waterhouse (Sidney Papers, p. 228). Sidney watched with interest the development of affairs in the Netherlands, but was fully occupied in defending his father's interests at court. He came also in close contact with many men of letters. In 1578 he met Edmund Spenser, who in the next year dedicated to him his Shepherdes Calendar. With Sir Edward Dyer he was a member of the Areopagus, a society which sought to introduce classical metres into English verse, and many strange experiments were the result. In 1578 the earl of Leicester entertained EHzabeth at Wanstead, Essex, with a masque, The Lady of the May, written for the occasion by Philip Sidney. But though Sidney enjoyed a high measure of the queen's favour, he was not permitted to gratify his desire for active employment. He was already more or less involved in the disgrace of his uncle Leicester, following on that nobleman's marriage with Lettice, countess of Essex, when, in 1579, he had a quarrel on the tennis-court at Whitehall with the earl of Oxford. Sidney proposed a duel, which was forbidden by Elizabeth. There was more in the quarrel than appeared on the surface. Oxford was one of the chief supporters of the queen's proposed marriage with Alencon,