The 17th Earl of Oxford was born on April 12, 1550. For some, he is the main contender of the true author of the plays and poetry commonly ascribed to William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon. He was a poet and patron of the arts, a favorite for a time at Elizabeth I's Court--and a secret Catholic after a trip to the Continent. According to the Luminarium website:
De Vere was, in his earlier years, a favourite at court, where he seems to have mostly lived when young. At 25, he undertook a tour of France, Germany and Italy in 1575 and was abroad for some sixteen months. The Earl flirted with Catholicism but in late 1580 he denounced a group of Catholic friends to the Queen, accusing them of treasonous activities and asking her mercy for his own, now repudiated, Catholicism. He was retained under house arrest for a short time and, following the birth to Anne Vavasour of an illegitimate child fathered by him in 1581 (Sir Edward Vere), was briefly in the Tower of London.
The three friends he denounced were Lord Henry Howard, the 1st Earl of Northampton, Charles Arundel, and Francis Southwell. I see a parallel between Oxford's career as a Catholic/Anglican and John Donne's--once Oxford got into some trouble or foresaw some trouble because of his extramarital activities, he had to shed his Catholicism rather dramatically. John Donne wrote anti-Jesuit pamphlets; Oxford denounced Catholic friends.
For someone like Lord Henry Howard, son of the Earl of Surrey executed by Henry VIII in 1547 and brother of Thomas Howard, the Duke of Norfolk executed by Elizabeth I in 1572 , such an accusation of treason was extremely dangerous. All three men managed to convince Elizabeth that they were not guilty of Oxford's charges, but Henry Howard continued to attract suspicion throughout her reign.