Shakespeare’s Beaulieu

Falconry in action

Celebrating Shakespeare’s legacy and and exploring the connections between Beaulieu and the Bard.


Montagu ancestor Henry Wriothesley, the 3rd Earl of Southampton, was Shakespeare’s only acknowledged patron – and a close friend of the playwright.

Shakespeare’s narrative poems Venus & Adonis (1593) and The Rape of Lucrece (1594) were both dedicated to the Earl, who many scholars believe was the ‘Fair Youth’ of Shakespeare’s sonnets.

The current Lord Montagu is a direct descendant of the Earl.

“The love I dedicate to your lordship is without end … What I have done is yours; what I have to do is yours; being part in all I have, devoted yours”
– The Rape of Lucrece dedication

Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton


  • One of the feuding families in Romeo & Juliet is the Montagues. Anthony, Viscount Montagu (the Earl’s grandfather) may have inspired Shakespeare’s choice of name.
  • Shakespeare is thought to have written plays for private performances for the young Earl’s social circle, including Love’s Labour’s Lost.
  • The Earl was a major shareholder in the Virginia Company and it is thought that the loss of the company’s flagship off Bermuda may have inspired The Tempest.
  • It has been said that A Midsummer Night’s Dream was written to celebrate the marriage of the Earl’s mother to Sir Thomas Heneage in 1594.

You might be interested in…

  • Palace House – The Earl’s hunting lodge later became known as Palace House.
  • Beaulieu Abbey – it’s possible that some of Shakespeare’s plays may have been performed for the first time at the Beaulieu Abbey Domus.
  • Mayflower 400 – Discover the role the 3rd Earl of Southampton played in the Mayflower’s pioneering voyage.