Fulke Greville Biography


(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

Fulke Greville, First Lord Brooke, supplied a structure for his own biography by having an epitaph engraved on his tomb at Warwick Castle that sums up his life in exemplary brevity: “Fulke Greville/ Servant to Queen Elizabeth,/ Councillor to King James,/ And Friend to Sir Philip Sidney,/ Trophaeum Peccati [Trophy of Sin].” His father, also named Fulke, married Anne Neville, who came from a family with landed wealth and a titled past. The relationship to which Greville gave most prominence on his tombstone, his friendship with Sidney, began when they entered Shrewsbury grammar school on the same day, October 17, 1564. Before he was fourteen, Greville matriculated at Jesus College, Cambridge. Sidney went to Oxford, but they were reunited when they were introduced to Elizabeth’s court in the late 1570’s. Both young men joined the political party of Robert Dudley, the earl of Leicester, Sidney’s uncle and an old friend of the Greville family.

Leicester’s radical Protestant party thought that religion should determine domestic and foreign policy and opposed the more conservative faction led by William Cecil, Baron Burghley, and his son Robert Cecil. Both Sidney and Greville wanted to engage in more adventurous activities than Elizabeth was willing to sanction. In their early thirties, they ran away from court to join Sir Francis Drake on a voyage to the West Indies, but the Queen sent after them. After Sidney ignored the first messenger, the second messenger brought with him an offer of employment for Sidney under Leicester in the Low Countries. Greville remained in England, and Sidney’s appointment ended tragically.

Sidney was wounded at Zutphen on October 12, 1586, and died three weeks later. The entire court went into mourning. Greville was overwhelmed. Later, he took upon himself the task of protecting his friend’s reputation as an author. Rather than let an inferior version of Arcadia be made public, Greville interested himself in which manuscript was to serve as the source for William Ponsonby’s 1590 quarto edition of the first two books and a part of the third. The chapter divisions, chapter...

(The entire section is 878 words.)