Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, is often regarded as the epitome of the profligate Tudor Nobleman, whose riches to rags story provides a salutary warning of the dangers of conspicuous consumption.
Yet, as this book demonstrates, the story of the earl's fall is much more complicated than it is generally portrayed.
Some of the land he inherited was held from the crown under the feudal system of knight service which resulted in the young earl becoming a royal ward during his minority.
The crown had the grant of one-third of his lands and the Court of Wards and Liveries administered his estates until he was twenty-one, at which age he had to embark on the usual bureaucratic and expensive procedure to regain control of them.
In this study it is argued that the primary cause of the earl's misfortunes can be traced directly to this process of wardship.
Whilst his own personality and lack of financial acumen certainly added to his difficulties, the root cause of the earl's problems were the non-payment of livery fines imposed by the crown. More than simply a biography of one of the most colourful Elizabethan noblemen, this book provides a fascinating insight into the process of wardship and how this feudal survival could be exploited by the crown seeking to find extra sources of revenue.
It shows how financial and social pressures on the nobility forced many to resort to credit to maintain their lifestyles, and demonstrates the ruthless methods used by the crown as it pursued its prerogatives to extract fines and debts from the ruling classes.
Through an examination of the extraordinary life of Edward de Vere, much is revealed about the wider social stresses that existed in the relationship between the nobility and the crown.