Fulke Greville, 1st Baron Brooke, was a courtier, statesman, sailor, soldier, spy, literary patron, dramatist, and poet. Educated at Cambridge University, he also worked for Francis Walsingham as a spy traveling throughout Europe. He served as Clerk of the Council of Wales, Treasurer of the Navy, and Chancellor of the Exchequer.
For more than 30 years, he and Sir Francis Bacon, another authorship candidate, were close literary collaborators. He was a lifelong friend of both Sir Philip Sidney and Sidney’s sister Mary, Countess of Pembroke, arguably the greatest patron of literature in the Shakespearean period. Greville himself was a patron of writers such as Christopher Marlowe, Thomas Nashe, Samuel Daniel, Edmund Spenser, William Davenant, and especially Ben Jonson.
He was a friend of John Florio, whom many scholars see as having profoundly influenced Love’s Labor’s Lost. Greville was also extremely close to the Earl of Southampton, the person to whom Shakespeare dedicated both Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece.
Greville’s father was the Recorder of Stratford-upon-Avon and upon his death in 1606, Fulke Greville succeeded to that post until his own death in 1628. He and his father were effectively the chief magistrates and primary family of Stratford-upon-Avon for the entire life of their famous playwright citizen. Greville was connected to virtually everyone of importance in the world of literature. And yet there has never been a shred of evidence for any contact between the man from Stratford and Fulke Greville.
Greville was elevated to the peerage as 1st Baron Brooke, his family crest prominently features a swan, and he is buried in St. Mary’s church in Warwick, on the banks of the Avon. His fellow patron, Mary Sidney, is buried on the banks of the Wiltshire River Avon, and both Greville and Sidney are viable candidate for the title “Sweet Swan of Avon,” the phrase that their protégé, Ben Jonson, used to identify the author of the Shakespearean works.
He was murdered by a servant in 1628 at the age of seventy-four.