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Sir Philip Sidney Biography

From his youth, Sidney was valued for his high minded intellect, and often supplied diplomatic service to Queen Elizabeth I as a Protestant political liaison. His resistance to her French union earned her displeasure, yet, and he afterwards left court and started composing his poetical works. In 1586, Sidney followed his uncle, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, to the Lowlands to defend the Protestants and was wounded in battle, expiring several weeks after, on October 17. Considered a national hero, Sidney was given a lavish funeral. When his poetry was later printed, he became lauded as among the great Elizabethan writers. Philip Sidney was born on November 30, 1554, in your family estate at Penshurst in Kent, England. Three more children were born to the couple, including Mary Sidney (afterwards known as Countess of Pembroke), who adored her elder brother.

Youthful Philip started his schooling in the Shrewsbury School, where he proved an apt and enthusiastic pupil and invented a lifelong friendship with Fulke Greville (afterwards Baron Brooke), who compose a laudatory epitaph and biography of his bosom pal. In the age of 13, Sidney transferred to the University of Oxford’s Christ Church College. While in Paris, Sidney seen the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre of Protestant Huguenots by Catholics. He also met Hubert Languet, a politically powerful humanist who became a lifelong friend and advisor, in Europe.

Sidney, like his dad before him, supplied regular diplomatic service in Europe for Queen Elizabeth. Among his activities, he formed an exploratory alliance with Protestant German princes, and seen his dad in Ireland when Henry Sidney was lord deputy there. Sidney joined the fad of Elizabethan courtier poets, writing a play, The Lady of May, that was performed at his uncle, Earl of Leicester’s royal amusement for the queen in 1578. The creation contained political undertones about Elizabeth’s concern of a Catholic union alliance with France.

In 1579, a heated fracas called the “tennis court quarrel” between Sidney and Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, was apparently about status as well as the rights of play, but beneath the facade were tensions between factions for and from the queen’s union. (The two had also been competitors for the hand of Anne Cecil William Cecil, Baron Burghley’s daughter and Oxford had wed her.)

The queen sternly admonished Sidney for his conduct, and he later left court because of his sister Mary’s estate at Wilton, where he took up composing an extended narrative poem, The Arcadia, for her amusement. In this period, he also composed a sonnet cycle, Astrophil and Stella, and his critical treatise, An Apologie for Poetry (also called A Defence of Poesy). Sidney’s compatriots in poetry contained Edmund Spenser, Edward Dyer, Samuel Daniel and Gabriel Harvey.

Philip Sidney expired at Arnhem in the Netherlands on October 17, 1586, following a gunshot he’d endured in a conflict at Zutphen against the Spanish Catholic forces turned gangrenous. His extravagant state funeral, which nearly broken his father in law, Sir Francis Walsingham, the queen’s spymaster, was delayed until February of the next year just eight days after the beheading of Mary Queen of Scots, drawing focus away from that political powder keg. He’s buried at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. His biography of Sidney was released in 1652.

Sir Philip Sidney Biography