The Third Leader: Bard-barney

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The Independent Online

Alarums: we have another excursion into Shakespeare's "real identity". It involves one of the usual suspects, Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, but rather more alarumingly than usual, argues, with the aid of our old friends, "the totality of the circumstantial evidence" and "the logic of the situation", that he was the secret love child of Elizabeth I.

Well. This presents immediate problems of, at the very least, taste and decency for those Oxfordians who believe that the Earl of Southampton was the secret love child of Elizabeth and Oxford. Other authorities will be scrutinising the academic background and interesting (right-wing, anti-immigration) politics of the claim's maker, Mr Paul Streitz, former US paratrooper and writer of a musical which seems to have succeeded where Max Bialystock failed with Springtime for Hitler, having opened and closed off Broadway on the same night.

While we stand back to avoid the rising dust and stray literary blow from another highly enjoyable bard-barney, it might be worth wondering if the world will ever be comfortable with the idea of this bloke from the sticks, who probably sounded like Jasper Carrott, being our great national poet and playwright. Not as long, I suspect, as it demands certainty while loving mystery and a lord.

And there is one singularly persuasive objection to the theory, which I mention even though it might seem disobliging on the Sovereign's 80th birthday: the lack of any artistic output of any merit from any member of any royal house of England ever.

Some might mention "Greensleeves" and Queen Elizabeth's dad: fanciful, I'm afraid. Although there is a theory, delightfully, that the song was written by... Shakespeare.