Died: 1563

Father: Cranmer BROOKE de Ashford

Mother: Abell FOGG

Who was? Strange to say, until now, Arthur Brooke's place in the Brooke family tree has never been satisfactorily established. However, various records show that he was the son of a first cousin of William Brooke, the Lord Cobham of Shakespeare's day.

William Brooke, Lord Cobham, was the son of George Brooke, Lord Cobham (1497-1558), who had a younger brother, Thomas Brooke (d.1547). According to a new biography of Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, this Thomas Brooke was a servant of Archibishop Cranmer's and married Cranmer's niece, Susan Cranmer.

David McKeen's exhaustive researches into the life of William Brooke, Lord Cobham, confirm the foregoing information. A genealogical chart at the end of McKeen's two-volume life of Cobham shows Thomas Brooke (d.1547) married to Susan (Cranmer) Clarke, whose second (or third?) husband was Antony Vaughan.

These family relationships are also confirmed in a pedigree on page 16 in Harleian Society's The Visitation of Kent, 1619. The pedigree includes the Cobham coat of arms ('Gules, on a chevron argent a lion rampant sable, ducally crowned or') and shows 'Thomas Brooke, fil 2dus Tho. fil. Joh'is Baronis de Cobham' married to 'Susanna, filia . . . Cramner [sic], vidua Glearke'. According to the pedigree, Thomas Brooke and Susan Cramner [sic] had two sons -- 'Cramner [sic] Brooke de Ashford', who married 'Abell filia Joh'is Fogg Militis', and 'Edwardus Brooke'. The pedigree shows no descendants of 'Edwardus Brooke'. However, it shows a son of Cranmer Brooke and his wife Abell Fogg: 'Willielmus Brooke de Hartlipp, Ar. hodiernus escanter comit' Cantii.', who married 'Jana filia et cohaeres Joh'is Tenacre de Boughton subtus de Blene'. They had a daughter 'Maria', with whom the pedigree ends in the year 1619. At the end of the pedigree are the words 'Ex fidei confessione istius W. Brooke', indicating that it was William Brooke de Hartlipp, son of Cranmer Brooke, who provided the heralds with the information contained in this pedigree.

There is more, however. A note directly under the name 'Cramner Brooke'. reads 'Ar. fil. et haeres' ('Arthur, son and heir'). There is no line drawn to show that this 'Ar. fil. et haeres' is a son of Cramner Brooke and Abell Fogg, and a brother of William Brooke, as would be usual in a pedigree. However, even in the absence of the usual line showing a father/son relationship, it's clear from this note that Cranmer Brooke had an eldest son and heir, Arthur Brooke, who apparently died unmarried and without heirs. This individual must be Arthur Brooke, the author of Romeus and Juliet. The author of Romeus and Juliet was therefore the eldest son of Cranmer Brooke and Abell Fogg, and the grandson of Thomas Brooke (d.1547) and Archbishop Cranmer's niece, Susan Cranmer.

This new information squares with everything else we know about Arthur Brooke. As a young man, Arthur Brooke was drowned in the wreck of the Queen's ship Greyhound on Mar 19th, 1563, along with other young English gentlemen who were heading to the relief of the English forces at Le Havre.

Arthur Brooke's death was commemorated in verses published in 1563 by Thomas Brooke the younger, a brother of William Brooke, Lord Cobham:

Example, lo, in Broke before thine eye,
Whose praised gifts in him did late abound,
By shipwrack forced, alas, too soon to die,
Helpless of all intombed lies underground.

Arthur Brooke's death was also commemorated in "An Epitaph on the death of Master Arthur Brooke, drowned in passing to Newhaven" in George Turbervile's Epitaphs, Epigrams, Songs and Sonnets, published in 1567 as "newly corrected with additions" (indicating the existence of an earlier, but now unknown, first edition).

Turbervile's Epitaph provides important facts about the circumstances of Arthur Brooke's death, including the fact that the shipwreck occurred in the course of a voyage to Le Havre:
("as he to foreign realm was bound/ With others moe his sovereign queen to serve").

The Epitaph also adds other details, speaking of Brookešs relative youth ("his years in number few"), and confirming his authorship of the Tragicall Historye ("Juliet and her mate").

Arthur Brooke's death is also noticed in a letter of May 14th, 1563 from another of Lord Cobham's brothers, Henry, to Sir Thomas Chaloner:

"Sir Thomas Finch was drowned going over to Newhaven as knight marshall in Sir Adrian Poynings' place, who is come over. James Wentworth and his brother John were cast away in the same vessel, on the sands near Rye, and little Brook and some other petty gentlemen."

A final contemporary notice of Arthur Brooke's death is an entry in Machyn's diary:

"The xxj day of Marche tydynges cam to the cowrt that on off the quen's shypes callyd tthe Grahond was lost gohyng to Nuwhavyn; the captayn was Ser Thomas Fynche knyghtt of Kent, and ys broder and on of my lord Cobham(Œs) brodur and ij of my lord Whentforth(Œs) bredurne and mony gentyll men and mynstorels; [one] of my lord of Warwyke(Œs) newys [nephews], and a good mastur; and mony marenars and sawgears [soldiers] to the nombur of (blank)."

Arthur Brooke is here referred to as a 'brother' of William Brooke, Lord Cobham. But as we have seen, Arthur Brooke was not Lord Cobham's brother. However, in Elizabethan times the word 'brother' could be used to refer to male kinsmen of varying degrees of proximity. The Oxford English Dictionary has:
"brother. b. Including more distant kin: A kinsman, as uncle, nephew, cousin. (Chiefly a Hebraism of the Bible.)"

It may be that Machyn used the word 'brother' in this loose sense. Or it may be that Machyn was uninformed. There is some reason to suppose that Arthur Brooke was a member of Lord Cobham's household. When George Brooke, Lord Cobham, died, he mentioned three 'nephews' in his will. These 'nephews' were the sons of George Brooke's late brother, Thomas Brooke (d.1547). If Cranmer and Edward Brooke were placed in Lord Cobham's household in their youth, it is not unreasonable to suppose that Arthur Brooke was later placed there as well. If Arthur Brooke was a member of Lord Cobham's household, it would have been easy for Machyn to mistake him for Lord Cobham's 'brother' when, in reality, Arthur Brooke was the son of Lord Cobham's first cousin, Cranmer Brooke.

Much of this information about Arthur Brooke (including the epitaphs by Brooke and Turbervile, the Chaloner letter and the entry in Machyn's diary) has been available since J.J. Munro published his edition of Arthur Brooke's ŒRomeus and Juliet' in 1908. However, the information placing Arthur Brooke in the family tree of William Brooke, Lord Cobham, has not heretofore been noticed, nor has the fact heretofore been noticed that Arthur Brooke was a great-nephew of the Protestant martyr, Archbishop Thomas Cranmer.


Green, Nina: Who was Arthur Brooke? - The Oxfordian Volume III (2000)

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