Some Shakespeare deniers attribute the Bard's works to a man named Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford. Whether or not the noble actually penned his plays is up for debate, but what seemingly isn't: de Vere's flatulence problems, which he most nobly displayed in front of his sovereign.
In his chronicle of important people, the aptly titled Aubrey's Brief Lives, seventeenth-century writer John Aubrey recalled (not first-hand, of course) an instance where de Vere embarrassed himself. Once, when the earl went to go bow before his monarch, he accidentally farted, which was so mortifying that he ran away from Court, staying away for a long time. "The Earle of Oxford, making of his low obeisance to Queen Elizabeth, let out a Fart," Aubrey quips, "at which he was so abashed that he went to Travell, 7 years." When he eventually made his way back to Court, witty Elizabeth told him, "My Lord, I had forgott the Fart."
Edward de Vere, farting nobleman and playboy.
Aubrey presents an engaging case, but was this story real? A modern biographer of de Vere dismisses the tale as apocryphal, but this earl was no angel. He secretly converted to Catholicism, a slap in the face of the Protestant queen who barely survived her Catholic sister's reign; de Vere was put in prison, but ratted out a bunch of other men in exchange for his freedom. He also returned home to his poor wife after traveling abroad and decided their newborn baby was a bastard based on malicious gossip; everyone from his father-in-law to the Queen herself dismissed the claims as baseless, but de Vere still stayed out of his wife's bed for a time.
In the ultimate act of hypocrisy, Eddie went on to have an affair of his own. He impregnated one of Elizabeth's maids of honor, Anne Vavasour, and wounded his mistress's uncle badly in a duel. After his affair, Oxford attempted to flee the country, but was put in the Tower temporarily.
Feature image of Armada Portrait via Wikimedia Commons Public Domain.