A descendant of mysterious 17th century spy and man of letters Fulke Greville has won an extraordinary battle to reclaim a sword that once belonged to his forebear, amid claims it had been ‘stolen’ from his tomb by the Earls of Warwick.
British writer and historian Rene Greville has won possession of the sword after a protracted legal battle with the owners of Warwick Castle, where it had been displayed for several decades.
And now he claims that, thanks to Fulke Greville’s colourful past, the sword could be worth more than £7million, which would make it one of the most valuable antique weapons in the world.
Rene Greville, the descendant of 17th century spy Fulke Greville has won a court battle to have his sword returned from Warwick Castle where it has been on display for several decades
It is claimed the sword, which was on display at Warwick Castle, pictured, could be worth £7million
A noted courtier in his day, Greville has been credited as real author of some Shakespeare plays, including Antony and Cleopatra.
But it is his links with the Rosicrucian order, an ancient society of mystics and forerunner of today’s Freemasons, which gives the sword its potentially astronomic value, thanks to world-wide interest in masonic memorabilia.
‘I have carried out decades of research on him and written in my book The Master of Shakespeare about how I believe he was in fact the true Bard,’ said Rene, 73.
‘Fulke is an incredible, loveable character and holds an important place in our history.
‘I was researching Fulke’s tomb in St Mary’s Church in Warwick and became frustrated with how the sarcophagus had lost the flags and heraldic armour and swords that once surrounded it,
‘I persuaded the church to agree that I should be the custodian of the tomb and set about regaining the missing artefacts, including a Rosicrucian sword.’
Fulke’s sword, dagger and two helmets had been on display in Warwick since – it is claimed – the 5th Earl of Warwick improperly removed them from Fulke’s sarcophagus in St Mary’s in the early 1900s and placed them in the castle.
Rene, who writes under the pen name AWL Saunders, began a year-long legal battle with Merlin Entertainment, the owners of Warwick Castle, Alton Tower and Thorpe Park before a last minute settlement brought him victory earlier this year.
Rene had even made a petition to the Queen as her mother was also a descendant of Fulke Greville.
‘Merlin held out and held out until 24 hours before a hearing was to be brought and they caved,’ Rene continued. ‘In legally-binding emails they agreed to return the items to the church.
‘I love the sword but it’s a bit of pain to me as my family have spent thousands on this whole thing.
Rene Greville, pictured, won a long-running legal battle against Warwick Castle to return the sword of Fulke Greville
Many tens of thousands of Freemasons hold the belief that Fulke was the first Grand Master of the Rosicrucian order – an esoteric society of mystics whose symbol is a cross of roses. And the sword appears to bear the Rosicrucian order’s Rose Cross symbol.
‘My own research into the monument, the sword and the remains of the stained-glass windows of the Chapter House, make it almost certain that Greville was a very high-ranking member of the Rosicrucians,’ Rene concludes.
‘Once Freemasons and Rosicrucians understand what that sword is it could be like the Mona Lisa. Millions of people could turn up at the church wanting to see the sword which would bring the church to a halt.
‘As it stands I have to make an application to the Chancellor of the Diocese of Coventry and he will decide what happens.’
However, the historian – Rene Greville – ‘But I am delighted that Merlin Entertainments have been so gracious in taking this honourable course of
action in returning the armoury.’
Despite this, a new battle may now arise over how to return the artefacts to the monument at St Mary’s Church.
‘The situation at the moment is how exactly the sword will be displayed in the church because if they are put it back on the monument they will be stolen,’ Rene added.
‘The most expensive sword ever sold went for £7.7million and I believe this would go for something similar as there’s nothing like it in the whole world.’
There is further mystery in the manuscripts that Rene believes were also taken from Fulke’s ornate memorial – which might finally prove Fulke is responsible for writing a number of Shakespeare’s works.
‘I’m very happy that the sword is going back but now my interest is what else the Earl of Warwick took from Fulke’s sarcophagus,’ Rene said.
‘I believe that boxes full of letters and documents came out and they will answer questions on the Essex Rebellion, the Armada, Elizabeth I’s death.
‘They could reveal Fulke wrote Anthony And Cleopatra and other works of Shakespeare. My dream is to find those documents before I die.
‘Fulke was at the centre of everything and what he says could change history as we know – even at my age it’s so fascinating.’
In an exhaustive book, The Master Of Shakespeare, Rene identified 177 profile matches between the life and works of Fulke and Shakespeare.
These include that they lived in the same street, had the same friends, among them Christopher Marlowe and Francis Bacon, the same enemies and moved in the same literary circles.
Pointing out that Stratford-upon-Avon at the time had an adult male population of just 600, Rene argues that the chances of two men matching the same precise profile to such a degree are ‘infinitesimally small’.