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Portrait of Fulke Greville, Lord Brooke

Fulke Greville, Lord Brooke  (1554-1628)

Perhaps it is not easy to find in all that generation
of high-thinking and brilliantly-writing men, anyone
who combines vivid expression with weighty thought
more notably than Brooke does.
—George Saintsbury1

Fulke Greville was born on Oct. 3, 1554 in Beauchamp Court, Warwickshire, to a wealthy noble family, as the only son of Sir Fulke Greville. He entered Shrewsbury School in the same year as Sir Philip Sidney, who was to become his close friend. After leaving Jesus College, Cambridge, he was offered a post by Sir Henry Sidney, Philip Sidney's father, but he gave it up in order to follow Sidney to the court of Queen Elizabeth I. At court, Greville fared well. He became part of the Areopagus club with Spenser and Sidney, and also counted among his friends Sir Edward Dyer, Samuel Daniel and Sir Francis Bacon.

Like many of their contemporaries—young courtiers yearning for adventure and eager to prove themselves in battle—Greville and Sidney tried to join Sir Francis Drake in his sail to capture Spanish cities in the West Indies in 1585. Queen Elizabeth expressly forbade Drake to take them along. In 1586, the Queen also refused Greville permission to join the Earl of Leicester in his campaign in the Netherlands. Sidney, however, was allowed to go; a decision all of England learned to regret, when he was killed by a musket shot at the battle of Zutphen in October, 1586. Greville was devastated by the loss of his childhood friend. He contributed an elegy on the death of Sidney to The Phoenix Nest (1593) and later authored a biography in his memory. Greville finally got a taste of war in 1591, when he served briefly in Normandy under Henry of Navarre.

Greville represented Warwickshire in Parliament for four terms, and had a distinguished career under both Queen Elizabeth I and King James I. He was Secretary to the Principality of Wales for forty-five years, was knighted by Elizabeth in 1597, served as Treasurer of the Navy (1589-1604), and was Chancellor of the Exchequer (1614-22). In 1621, King James created Greville Baron Brooke, a title which had been in the family of his paternal grandmother. Greville was endowed with Knowle Park and Warwick Castle, in the restoration of which, it is said, he spent over £20,000.

Greville was murdered by a servant, who believed he had been cheated in Greville's will, on 30 September 1628. After stabbing Greville, the murderer, Ralph Heywood, turned the knife on himself. Greville was buried after an agonizing death at St. Mary's Church in Warwick, where his tomb can still be found today. Greville himself had composed the epitaph, which reads: "Folk Grevill Servant to Queene Elizabeth Conceller to King James Frend to Sir Philip Sidney. Trophaeum Peccati."

All of his works were published posthumously, save for a few verses in anthologies, and the 1609 publishing of part of Mustapha. Greville's works were published in folio in Certain Learned and Elegant Works (1633). This included the sonnet cycle, Cælica, composed of love poems as well as verses on religious and philosophical themes, and the two tragedies Alaham and Mustapha. A third play, about Antony and Cleopatra, Greville had destroyed. In 1633 was also published A Treatie of Humane Learning, a philosophical verse treatise on knowledge. Greville's most famous work, The Life of the Renowned Sir Philip Sidney, probably written between 1610 and 1614, was not published until 1652.

1 In English Prose, Henry Craik, Ed. Macmillan, 1916. 425.


Greville, Fulke. Poems and Dramas of Fulke Greville Geoffrey Bullough, ed. (1939)
Larson, Charles Howard. Fulke Greville (1980)
Leo, Roder, and Sierhuis, eds. Fulke Greville and the Culture of the English Renaissance (2019)
Rees, Joan. Fulke Greville, Lord Brooke, 1554-1628: A Critical Biography (1971)
Rebholz, R. A. The Life of Fulke Greville, First Lord Brooke (1971)
Waswo, Richard. The Fatal Mirror; Themes and Techniques in the Poetry of Fulke Greville (1972)

   Article Citation:

   Jokinen, Anniina. "Life of Fulke Greville." Luminarium.
                4 Feb 2007. [Date you accessed this article].

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Created by Anniina Jokinen on June 12, 1996. Last updated on May 19, 2023.


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