Was Jane Grey Dudley the “real” William Shakespeare?

An analysis of one individual’s astonishing claim that Jane Grey Dudley was not executed but instead lived on to write the works attributed to William Shakespeare.

I have recently been engaged in email correspondence with a gentleman by the name of Michael Bayus. Mr Bayus first contacted me some weeks ago after visiting this website, wishing to ask a series of questions on the subject of Jane Grey Dudley. I was, of course, happy to try to answer those questions. In the course of the discussion, he alerted me to a particular webpage that he had come across, Shakespeare Unearthed. Mr Bayus asked me to assess a document downloadable from the single-page site. To my absolute gob-smacked astonishment, the document makes the claim that the “real” author of the works of William Shakespeare was none other than Jane Grey Dudley! My first reaction was to grab my head in both hands in an effort to keep it from exploding! Thankfully, I succeeded. But my brain is still spinning within my skull.

The author chose not to attach his name to the document, but I was able to discover that his name is Andrew Golding. Mr Golding claims to be a librarian in the UK, though he has not disclosed the nature or precise location of the library. When asked about the nature of his education, training, and qualifications as a researcher in history, he did not offer a direct response. It is therefore assumed that he is a self-taught amateur-enthusiast. Certainly he has a strong presence on the many various websites and blogs devoted to questioning the authorship of the works attributed to William Shakespeare, indicating that he is quite passionate about the subject.

Mr Golding proposes in his pamphlet, in an argument that is rather difficult to follow, that Jane was secretly spared execution and allowed to leave the Tower. Even as authorities publicly reported her death, those same authorities allowed her to flee overseas and to assume a new identity. Then, according to the pamphleteer (and if I correctly understand the disjointed text), Jane eventually returned to England following the death of Queen Mary and came under the direct protection of Queen Elizabeth (despite, apparently, the latter’s well-documented negative attitude toward and treatment of Katherine and Mary Grey!). Elizabeth placed Jane in the household of none other than William Cecil, her chief minister. While supposedly in his household, Jane used her extensive education to write the plays and poems now assigned to Shakespeare. Eventually, Edward de Vere became her patron and aided her in publishing “her” works under a carefully chosen encoded pseudonym. It is worth noting that the last work written by “Shakespeare,” The Two Noble Kinsmen, dates to 1613 or 1614, by which time Jane Grey Dudley would have been at least 76 years old.

Elements of the author’s evidence and argument include such gems as:

  • Shakespeare was referred to as “the Bard,” and bard spelled backwards is drab; drab is defined by Encarta as “a gray fabric;” gray = Grey.
  • The twelfth night referred to in the Shakespearean play Twelfth Night is a coded reference to the date of Jane’s “supposed” execution, 12 February 1554, while the execution within the play of a father and brother somehow references the execution of Jane’s own father Henry and his brother Thomas.
  • Wilton House was, according to the author, the residence of Edward de Vere’s daughter and grandchildren, and the name of the house, “Wilton,” is itself “associated with the Grey family name” through William Grey, 13th Baron Grey de Wilton, an ally of John Dudley in the succession dispute of 1553.[1]
  • A ghost (yes, a ghost!) reportedly haunting the Theater Royal (London) since the 17th century was supposedly spotted in seat A13; the A13 is a major roadway in the English county of Essex; Edward de Vere was born in Essex.
  • The same ghost was reportedly seen in the modern era during performances of Oklahoma, Carousel, and South Pacific. The word Oklahoma is derived from the Choctaw Indian words for “red” and “people.” Red was the color of the Lancastrian rose, and the Tudors were predominantly redheaded people. Carousel is set in New England, emphasis on England. South Pacific includes the iconic character Bloody Mary (she sings the classic song Bali Ha’i).

Mr Golding asserts that these choice bits of “evidence” are, in his own words, “undeniable.”

I am sorely tempted at this juncture to descend into sarcasm and facetiousness (e.g.: With such concrete and unassailable evidence, how can anyone possibly doubt the author’s claims?), but I will resist the temptation. Instead, I will blame Dan Brown and his runaway best-seller The Da Vinci Code. It seems that subsequent to the publication of that book and its translation into a Hollywood blockbuster, there has been an explosion of “discoveries” involving all manner of secret codes hidden deep within works of literature and art created in the sixteenth century. Most recently, the botanist Mark Griffiths claimed in May 2015 to have discovered a secret code embedded in the engraved frontispiece of a book printed in 1597 that definitively identifies one of the figures depicted in the engraving as an authentic life portrait of William Shakespeare.[2] These discoverers all claim that the knowledge required to decode these embedded secrets has deliberately been concealed from all but a select, privileged, and intellectually elite few. Of course, those uncovering the secret codes naturally transform themselves through the discovery process from “normal” and “average” into members of the privileged and intellectually elite. It is all a bit too self-serving for my taste.

If I may utilize Mr Golding’s own rhetoric for a moment, which seems more believable: that Lady Jane Grey Dudley was beheaded before numerous witnesses on 12 February 1554; or that she was secretly spirited out of the Tower and that dozens, if not hundreds, of people, ranging from Queen Mary to Jane’s mother and two sisters to William Cecil and his entire massive household, engaged in an elaborate conspiracy that was never once even hinted at over the sixty years that Jane supposedly lived after her “escape” from execution?

The claims by Mr Golding in Shakespeare Unearthed are nothing more, in my opinion, than the frivolous and irresponsible fantasies of a person with a very vivid imagination and a bizarre delusion on the subjects of Jane Grey Dudley and William Shakespeare. I believe Mr Golding to be among those unfortunates who, for whatever reason, see conspiracies behind every curtain, similar to those who find “absolute truth” in the evidence-less and ludicrous assertions that Barack Obama is a crypto-Muslim who was born in Africa, that the attacks of September 11, 2001 were actually orchestrated by George Bush and Dick Cheney in order to justify a war in the Middle East, or that the world was created by a supreme being in seven literal days just 6000 years ago. Certainly he is free to believe as he wishes, but the objective evidence to support his belief is simply not there.


J. Stephan Edwards, Ph.D.
2 June 2015


My sincerest thanks to Mr Michael Bayus for bringing this very odd subject to my attention.


  1. William Grey, Baron Grey de Wilton, did indeed bear the same surname as Henry Grey and Jane Grey. But so did a multitude of other people in England in the sixteenth century, Grey being a very common surname. In both sixteenth-century and modern terms, William Grey of Wilton was not a kinsman of Henry Grey of Dorset and Bradgate. They did share a common ancestor in the early fourteenth century, but that was fully six generations earlier. The two Grey lines were only extremely distantly related in the sixteenth century. And like Grey as a surname, Wilton is similarly a very common place name. The Barons Grey de Wilton take their title from Wilton Castle, Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire, while the Wilton House occupied by Edward de Vere’s descendants is near Salisbury in Wiltshire and more properly associated with the Herbert Earls of Pembroke. Mr Golding seems to have found critical importance in what is, in reality, nothing more than a coincidence resulting from the English propensity for multiple and unrelated uses of the same proper names.
  2. See “Shakespeare: His true likeness revealed at last,” Country Life, “Special Historic Edition,” 20 May 2015. For the reception that greeted this particular “discovery,” see Bendor Grosvenor, “Much ado about nothing,” Art History News, 21 May 2015 and 27 May 2015. For a similar relatively recent “discovery” involving an artist, see Jack Leslau, Holbein, Sir Thomas More, & The Princes in the Tower, in which the author claims to have discovered secret codes hidden in the works of the celebrated sixteenth-century artist Hans Holbein.