- NAME: Sir Philip Sidney
- OCCUPATION: Poet
- BIRTH DATE: November 30, 1554
- DEATH DATE: October 17, 1586
- Did You Know?: Part of Philip Sidney's sonnet is quoted by Joseph Fiennes—who plays Sidney's uncle, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester—in the 1998 film Elizabeth, starring Cate Blanchett.
- EDUCATION: Shrewsbury School, University of Oxford, Christ Church College
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Penshurst, Kent, England, United Kingdom
- PLACE OF DEATH: Arnhem, Netherlands
Best Known For
Elizabethan courtier Philip Sidney served as a Protestant political liaison for Queen Elizabeth I, but became famous for his poetry and death as a soldier during the English Renaissance.
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Philip Sidney was born on November 30, 1554, at his family's state at Penshurst in Kent, England. Beginning at a young age, Sidney was respected for his high-minded intelligence, and frequently provided diplomatic service to Queen Elizabeth I as a Protestant political liaison. His opposition to her French marriage earned her displeasure, however, and he later left court and began writing his poetical works. In 1586, Sidney accompanied his uncle,
"If you have so earth-creeping a mind that it cannot lift itself up to look to the sky of poetry ... thus much curse I must send you, in the behalf of all poets, that while you live, you live in love, and never get favour for lacking skill of a sonnet; and, when you die, your memory die from the earth for want of an epitaph."
"Thy necessity is yet greater than mine."
"... scoffing cometh not of wisdom ..."
Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, to the Lowlands to defend the Protestants and was wounded in battle, dying a few weeks later, on October 17. Considered a national hero, Sidney was given a lavish funeral. When his poetry was subsequently published, he became lauded as one of the great Elizabethan writers.
Philip Sidney was born on November 30, 1554, at the family estate at Penshurst in Kent, England. His father, Sir Henry Sidney, had been a close personal adviser to Edward VI (Henry VIII's son), but when the young king died, he managed to stay in favor with the Catholic Queen Mary, naming his first son after her husband, Philip II of Spain, who also agreed to be the child's godfather. Philip's mother was Lady Mary Dudley, sister to Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, who was for his lifetime a close confidant and personal favorite of Queen Elizabeth I.
Three more children were born to the couple, including Mary Sidney (later known as Countess of Pembroke), who adored her elder brother.
Young Philip began his education at the Shrewsbury School, where he proved an apt and eager student and forged a lifelong friendship with Fulke Greville (later Baron Brooke), who would write a laudatory epitaph and biography of his bosom buddy. At the age of 13, Sidney transferred to the University of Oxford's Christ Church College.
Three years later, Sidney was sent to the Continent to further his education, and in 1572, he was first enlisted in diplomatic service, functioning as an envoy to King Charles IX of France. While in Paris, Sidney witnessed the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre of Protestant Huguenots by Catholics. He also met Hubert Languet, a politically influential humanist who became a lifelong friend and adviser, in Europe.
Sidney, like his father before him, provided frequent diplomatic service in Europe for Queen Elizabeth. Among his actions, he formed an exploratory alliance with Protestant German princes, and visited his father in Ireland when Henry Sidney was lord deputy there.
Sidney joined the fad of Elizabethan courtier poets, penning a play, The Lady of May, that was performed at his uncle, Earl of Leicester's royal entertainment for the queen in 1578. The production included political undertones about Elizabeth's consideration of a Catholic marriage alliance with France.
In 1579, a heated fracas known as the "tennis-court quarrel" between Sidney and Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, was ostensibly about rank and the rights of play, but beneath the facade were tensions between factions for and against the queen's marriage.
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