In May 1593, Christopher Marlowe had a very good motive for faking his own death - he was in deep trouble with the law. As Kenneth Muir, editor of the Arden (2) King Lear, said in an essay on Marlowe: "the only question was whether hanging, beheading, or being burnt at the stake was the most appropriate punishment". (1) By being allowed bail for ten days or so (whereas his fellow-playwright Thomas Kyd had been rushed straight to the Bridewell, was tortured and then kept there), he had been given an opportunity to plan his escape. And he had the contacts, both at a high level in government and at the less 'respectable' end of society, to pull it off.
Several of the more recent writers on Marlowe have dismissed the Coroner's report as a pack of lies, (2) but cannot bring themselves to doubt the identity of the victim, although the same Coroner was responsible for deciding what happened to another body - that of John Penry, a prisoner the same age as Marlowe - who was hanged only four miles from Deptford on the evening before Marlowe's death, and whose body then disappeared.
A.D. Wraight's hunch (3) - that a Monsieur Le Doux mentioned in the papers of Anthony Bacon a couple of years later might in fact be Marlowe - was an inspired one. Asked by Wraight in 1995 to search for and decipher some letters in numerical code, I also found a booklist, and details of some files apparently belonging to Monsieur Le Doux, the analysis of which supported this idea to the hilt. (4)
The 'profile' of Le Doux that these documents provided would have matched Christopher Marlowe perfectly, had he indeed survived his supposed death, but there was still nothing specifically to link the name Le Doux with Marlowe. Further discoveries, however, have revealed a clear connection.
LOIS LE DOULX
Our Monsieur Le Doux made his first appearance in the Bacon Papers in October 1595 and his last in June 1596. Having, I think, ensured that we had found every single mention of him in this collection, I started looking elsewhere. I examined the indexes of: The Acts of the Privy Council, The Calendar of State Papers (Domestic, Foreign and Scottish), The Historical Manuscripts Commission's calendars and reports, and the various collections of manuscripts in the British Library. In each case I covered years long before and long after 1595/6. Astonishingly, given the level at which he appears to have been operating in his intelligence work, there was no mention of the name Le Doux at all, other than in the following single case.
In the Manuscripts section of the British Library I found something quite extraordinary. It is a sixteenth century wax seal, (5) now separated from its original document, and bearing the picture of a man in Elizabethan clothing. He is normal in every way, except that he has the face of a baboon. The name around the edge of the seal is "LOIS LE DOULX". The apparent rarity of the name Le Doux (a point to which I will return) is in itself prima facie evidence that this seal is connected with our Le Doux, so what might be the meaning of the baboon's face?
An obvious interpretation is that it is simply a mask, and indicates that the person illustrated is concealed behind a false identity. This would of course fit in both with a surviving Christopher Marlowe, and with the Monsieur Le Doux profiled above.
I also found out, however, that a man with a baboon's head might represent the Egyptian god of wisdom, Thoth (6), who was the scribe of the gods, reputed to have been responsible for the invention of writing and, it is said, with his Book of Thoth, having originated the Hermetica. This was a collection of metaphysical treatises, in fact dating mainly from the first few centuries A.D., concerning alchemy, astrology and magic. Thoth also apparently figures in some ceremonies of the Freemasons, (7) so is some Hermetic or Masonic connection being indicated?
Another possibility appears in a drawing from the 16th-century manuscript De Tristibus Franciae, showing in allegorical form the harm allegedly being done to France by the Huguenots. In this picture, all of the Huguenots are shown as people with the heads of baboon-like monkeys. (8)
In an attempt to assess how common the name Le Doux was in England in the sixteenth century, I also examined the International Genealogical Index (IGI), the massive database created by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Details of the registration mainly of baptisms and marriages have been painstakingly transcribed, and now include nearly all English records from the early sixteenth century to the mid-nineteenth. The English records are sorted by county, of which there are 42, including the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. Of these:
39 counties have no mention of the name Le Doux (or equivalent) whatsoever.
London has a few, but none before 1635, and none with the name Louis.
Norfolk had two men named Le Doux at this time, Charle and Jan, together with various children of theirs. Norwich in fact had a huge population of Huguenots, approaching 5000 in the 1580s.
There is just one man called Louis (spelt Loys and Louys) Le Doux recorded over the whole of England in more than 300 years. He appears to have been an almost exact contemporary of Christopher Marlowe, and he was a Huguenot living in Marlowe's home-town, Canterbury.
The extensive records of the Huguenot Society confirm this to be the only instance of the name, other than his own father. The IGI gives details of the baptisms of his children from 1593 on. In the PRO, however, is the record of his marriage, (9) which says:
Loys le Doux fils de Loys natif de Thelu & Judith du Jardin fille de Piere natif(?) de Gamache (Louis Le Doux, son of Louis, originally from Thélus, and Judith du Jardin, daughter of Pierre, originally from Gamaches.)I can find no clue as to just when Louis the elder and his family arrived from Thélus, which was in Artois, just north of Arras on the road to Vimy. From Huguenot Ancestry, (10) however, we learn that "relatively few Huguenots fled to England in the 16th century, and the major influx only began after the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre in 1572 [when Marlowe was eight years old], and then was largely confined to those from ... the provinces nearest to the English Channel". And "The great majority settled in areas where the French-speaking communities were already established, such as London and Canterbury."
In Canterbury, these people worshipped at the Walloon (or Strangers') Church, which was in fact located in the crypt of the cathedral itself. Marlowe, of course, went to the King's School, which was attached to the cathedral. We may therefore, I think, reasonably ask what the probability by chance would be of it turning out that (other than his father) the only Louis Le Doux known to have lived in England in more than 300 years was in a perfect position to have been a boyhood friend of Christopher Marlowe.
Assuming therefore that Marlowe may have adopted a friend's name when he wanted to present himself as a 'French gentleman', is there any corroborating evidence? Yes, there is, and I stumbled across it mentioned - but until now lying quite unnoticed, even by her - in one of A.D. Wraight's earlier books. (11)
THE WHEEL OF FORTUNE
For Christmas 1599, the Lord Admiral's Men presented at Court a play by Thomas Dekker, called The Pleasant Comedy of Old Fortunatus, which was apparently an updated version of an earlier work by him. (12) A special prologue had been written for the occasion, and after two or three pages of Scene One, the following happens. Fortunatus, the main character, feels tired:
"He lies down and sleeps: Enter a Gardener, a Smith, a
Monk, a Shepherd all crown'd, a Nymph with a
Globe, another with Fortune's wheel, then Fortune:
After her four Kings with broken Crowns and Scep-
tres, chained in silver Gyves and led by her. The fore-
most come out singing. Fortune takes her Chair, the
Kings lying at her feet, she treading on them as she
Fortune wakes Fortunatus, and there is a certain amount of discussion with the first (happy) group, before she turns her attention to the four Kings and, addressing Fortunatus, says:
"Behold these four chain'd like Tartarian slaves,
These I created Emperors and Kings,
And these are now my basest underlings:
This sometimes was a German Emperor,
Henry the Fifth, who being first depos'd,
Was after thrust into a dungeon,
And thus in silver chains shall rot to death.
This Frederick Barbarossa Emperor
Of Almaine once: but by Pope Alexander
Now spurn'd and trod on when he takes his horse,
And in these fetters shall he die his slave.
This wretch once wore the diadem of France,
Lewis the Meek, but through his children's pride,
Thus have I caus'd him to be famished.
Here stands the very soul of misery
Poor Bajazeth old Turkish Emperor,
And once the greatest monarch in the East;
Fortune herself is said to view thy fall,
And grieves to see thee glad to lick up crumbs
At the proud feet of that great Scythian swain,
Fortune's best minion, warlike Tamberlaine:
Yet must thou in a cage of Iron be drawn
In triumph at his heels, and there in grief
Dash out thy brains."
To which "the third King" (sic, the Mermaid edition changed it to the fourth) cries
"Oh miserable me."
This whole passage is pure Marlowe. The four Kings as prisoners; their being used as footstools; Tartarian slaves; the specific mention of Bajazeth and, of course, Tamburlaine, are all linked with him. Furthermore, only a few lines later there is a direct reference to the opening of Marlowe's Dido, Queen of Carthage, the stage directions of which say:
"Here the curtains draw, there is discoveredIn Dekker's play, Fortune tells Fortunatus:
Jupiter dandling Ganymede upon his knee."
"Wish but for beauty, and within thine eyes,
Two naked Cupids amorously shall swim,
And on thy cheeks I'll mix such white and red,
That Jove shall turn away young Ganymede,
And with immortal arms shall circle thee."
The whole Marlovian context is inescapable, and certainly highly relevant, but
the most important item is perhaps less obvious. It is the name of the third
King: Lewis the Meek. The correct translation of this is Louis le
Debonnaire, (13) but the
word 'doux' can also be quite correctly translated as 'meek'. If, therefore, Marlowe
used the name Louis Le Doux, it is quite feasible for Dekker to have represented that
name by the character Lewes the Meeke. The fact that this name is given particular
emphasis is, I think, of great significance. (14)
Dekker was a very close friend of Edward Alleyn and possibly, therefore, also of Marlowe. The point being made by Dekker is crystal clear. As Tamburlaine - Marlowe's most famous role, and a name by which he had been known before - Marlowe was, as he puts it, "Fortune's best minion", but since then he has been cast down by her as one of her "basest underlings", the famished wretch Louis Le Doux.
Several totally separate pieces of evidence now link the name Le Doux with Marlowe.
1. The Le Doux books and papers yield a 'profile' that would fit a surviving Christopher Marlowe perfectly,
2. The wax seal gives us a reason for thinking that the first name of Monsieur Le Doux was Louis, and the only Louis Le Doux (other than his father) of whom we have a record was in an ideal position to have been a boyhood friend of Marlowe's.
3. Dekker's Old Fortunatus provides an unequivocal link between Marlowe and the name Lewis the Meek, which therefore seems almost certain to have been used by Dekker as a rendition of the name Louis Le Doux.
The only possible conclusions are:
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1 Kenneth Muir, Marlowe and Shakespeare, in A Poet And A Filthy Playmaker (1988) eds. K.Friedenreich, R.Gill & C.Kuriyama, A.M.S. Press, New York. p.4.
2 e.g. Charles Nicholl, op. cit. (pp 327-8) and Curtis C. Breight, Surveillance, Militarism and Drama in the Elizabethan Era (1996), Macmillan, London. p.114. I have examined Nicholl's findings in some detail in The Reckoning" Revisited (http://www2.prestel.co.uk/rey/recknyng.htm).
3 A.D. Wraight, The Story That the Sonnets Tell (1995), Adam Hart, p.375. "...further research is in progress following up the clues of this intriguing 'hunch', which is the most hopeful that we have to date."
4 A.D. Wraight, Shakespeare: New Evidence (1997), Adam Hart. This was the book Wraight and I developed from a paper on this subject that we had co-authored in 1995, called William Shakespeare: New Evidence.
5 BL Add. MS XLIX.163. Said by the British Library to be sixteenth century.
6 Patrick Boylan, Thoth, the Hermes of Egypt (1922). "The most familiar symbols of Thoth are the ibis and the ape. Sometimes the god appears simply as an ibis or as an ape: sometimes as an ibis-headed, or an ape-headed man".
7 Christopher Knight & Robert Lomas, The Hiram Key (1996), Arrow Books, p.142.
8 Noel Currer-Briggs & Royston Gambier, Huguenot Ancestry, frontispiece.
9 P.R.O. RG4 (FGN) / 4597, 9 July 1592.
10 Currer-Briggs & Gambier, op. cit., p.45.
11 A.D. Wraight, Christopher Marlowe and Edward Alleyn (1993), Adam Hart, p.52. Wraight's reason for quoting this was to show how much Marlowe was imitated by others, but the passage had clearly gone from her mind by the time that Monsieur Le Doux first appeared on the scene.
12 Ernest Rhys, ed. Thomas Dekker, Mermaid Series (1894), Fisher Unwin, London, p.288. "The play as it stands is an amplification and a recast of an earlier play, The First Part of Fortunatus, which had been performed at Henslowe's Theatre about four years previously."
13 The historical figure was Louis I, son of Charlemagne, and called 'the Meek', but probably better known as 'the Pious' or 'the Debonair'.
14 As well as having the 'Third King' saying "Oh miserable me", where one would have expected it to have been the fourth, the original publication (1600) has the name "Lewes the meeke", uniquely and for no obvious reason, enclosed in brackets. In fact, Lewis the Meek never actually "wore the diadem of France" either, being the Holy Roman Emperor. Yet another way of drawing attention to this king in particular?
15 The Bacon Papers have several spellings of the name, such as: 'Doulx', ' Dous', 'Doux', 'Douz' and 'Dux'. The only way he actually signs his name, however, is 'Le Doulx', as on the wax seal.
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