Sir Philip Sydney was born on 30th November 1554 to Sir Henry Sydney and his wife Lady Mary Dudley at Penshurst, Kent. He was named after his godfather King Philip II of Spain. He entered the Shrewsbury School in 1564 at the age of ten years and then joined Christ Church, Oxford from 1568-1571.
Philip Sidney Sonnet
He however left without even taking his degree to complete his education by traveling the continent during which he visited Paris, Frankfurt, Venice and Vienna. He was an Elizabethan courtier, statesman, poet and soldier. After Shakespeare’s work, Sir Philip’s Astrophel and Stella published in 1591, was considered to be the finest English sonnet. It consisted of 108 sonnets and 11 songs.
Sir Philip went to France in 1572 as a part of the embassy to have talk regarding the marriage between Elizabeth I and Duc D’ Alencon. He came back to England in 1575 and met Penelope Devereux, the future Lady Rich. Her father wanted Penelope to marry, but he died before that.
Penelope married Lord Rich in 1581 and Sidney married Frances Walsingham, daughter of Sir Francis Walsingham. Together they had a daughter named Elizabeth. In 1577 he was sent to the German Emperor and the Prince of Orange as the English ambassador.
As per official records, Sidney was sent to console the princes who had lost their father’s but in reality he was testing the waters for creating a Protestant league there. Soon Elizabeth I found out about his approach and asked him to cautious. When he returned home, he attended the Queens’ court and was regarded as ‘the flower of chivalry’.
Sir Philip Sidney Arcadia
In 1580, he was dismissed from the court as he had opposed to the marriage between Elizabeth I and Duke of Anjou, Roman Catholic heir to the French throne. During this time he wrote his longest work Arcadia and dedicated it to his sister Mary Sidney. After his death, Mary re-worked Arcadia and was re-named as The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia. In 1581, Sidney returned to the Queen’s court and made the MP for Kent.
He was awarded knighthood in 1583. In 1585 he made an unfruitful attempt to go with Sir Francis Drake on his voyage to Cadiz without Queen’s consent. When Elizabeth I came to know about this, she summoned him to return to the court and was made the Governor of Flushing, Netherlands.
In 1586, Sir Philip Sidney with his younger sibling Robert Sidney participated in a battle against the Spaniards at Zutphen. During this fight, he was injured by a musket shot that hit him in the thigh. He was wounded for around 22 days but he succumbed to his unhealed wound on 17th October, 1586.
Sir Philip Sidney Arcadia
At the time of his death, he was barely 32 years old. On hearing the news of his death, the Queen and her subjects were in shock and mourned his death. His body was brought back to England and was buried in St. Paul’s Cathedral on 16th February, 1587. He gained more popularity and respect after his death than he got during his lifetime.
Sir Philip was regarded as the epitome courtier, and also was brave, generous and impulsive. A biography of Sidney was written by friend Fulke Greville. People paid him tribute by naming a street after him in Zutphen, Netherlands.
Throughout his life, Sir Philip Sidney was a Protestant. In 1570’s he encouraged John Casimir to have a combined Protestant campaign against the Roman Catholic Church and Spain. He was also successful in raiding the Spanish forces close to Axel in 1586.
Sir Philip Sidney Poems
Sir Philip’s works include poems like The Defense of Poesie, published in 1595 and which also introduced critical ideas of Renaissance theorists to England, The Lady of May(1598), Sonnets like The nightingale(1598), The seven Wonders of England, etc.