By Karl F. Hollenbach

Thomas Bokenham’s cipher work on the Shakespeare Sonnets convinced him that they were written by Francis Bacon and then revived by him towards the end of Queen Elizabeth’s reign. In Bokenham’s opinion his findings on some thirty sonnets provide strong evidence for Francis Bacon’s authorship of the plays, his royal birth, and his affiliation with the Rosicrucian Fraternity.

Evidence of Bacon’s Rosicrucian affiliation, Bokenham believes, is
found in Ben Jonson’s masque “News from the New World Discovered in the Moon,” published in 1620. This masque concerns The Brethren of the Rosie Cross who had a castle in the air that stood on wheels. This castle in the air was illustrated by Dame Frances Yates in her book The Rosicrucian Enlightenment of 1972, and it was included in Speculum Sophicum Rodostauroticum, a book published in 1618 (See illustration 1).

On either side of the castle (“The temple of the Rosy Cross”) are two figures. One wears a tall hat and is being lifted out of a well by a pulley. The other figure is seen falling off a high rock. These two figures are similar to the two figures that appear in the 1616 Plempius Engraving. (See illustration 2).


In the Plempius engraving the figure being lifted up by Fortuna clearly represents Francis Bacon as revealed by the initial letters of the words in lines 9 and 10: 0 N C F B and A. Bokenham believes the figure being lifted from the well in the 1618 castle illumination also represents Bacon as suggested in the similarity of dress. With her left hand Fortuna pushes the other figure, who is falling off a pinnacle as is the figure in the castle illustration, who is falling off a high rock. Each is similarly dressed as an actor – Shakespere.

Several years ago the director of the Canadian corporation digging
the “Money Pit” in Oak Island off Nova Scotia wrote to Bokenham asking about a suggestion that this “treasure” concerned Bacon. Bokenham replied, stating that in examining Sonnet 52 he enciphered the message:

“New Scotland Isle, the treasure is in Mahone Bay.” In his letter to
the Director he added, “And if you can credit it, ‘Walter Raleigh’s jewels! which he may have stolen from the Spaniards in Guiana.” Bokenham fears this may have been too much for the Director, as he received no reply or acknowledgement of his letter.

Bokenham considers the treatment of Marie Palmer Hall by the authorities in Williamsburg during her initial discoveries at Bruton Church vault and her more recent attempt quite disgraceful. Bokenham suspects that this originally stemmed from local Freemasons, since he believes the secrets in the vault were probably Masonic. The more recent attempts to discredit Mrs. Hall was arranged so that her evidence was totally ignored, Bokenham wrote, and the pretense of searching for the vault was childish, since the authorities chose to look in a corner of the foundation some way from the spot originally located.

Bokenham is confident that no Shakespeare manuscripts were put into the Bruton Church vault since he found through a cipher discovery that Bacon’s “Plays and sonnet manuscripts” were removed from the St. Michael’s Church vault near St. Albans in 1681 and not transported to Virginia.

“I believe that Francis Bacon wished to reveal his secrets after some time had passed,” wrote Bokenham, “and that he used cipher to do this as the only effective way.” Bokenham had acquired a copy of the 1623 Crytomenytices et Cryptographiae published in Germany by Duke Augustus of Luneburg, who called hmself Gustavus Selenus. A study of this book led Bokenham and a colleague, Ewen MacDuff, to a number of important cipher messages in the 1623 Shakespeare Folio as well as
enciphered words in a demonstration of a cipher system in the book.

When Bokenham discovered a symmetrical group of letters which
spelled AUTHORS and another group in the shape of an inverted
arrowhead which spelled MANUSCRIPTS, he decided that the
Shakespeare monument at Stratford should be examined.
The Stratford monument was erected a short while after the actor
Shakespere’s death in 1616. The epitaph of the monument was squared in the same fourteen letters to each line as had been done in deciphering words in the Selenus book. “The words FRANCIS BACON AUTHOR appeared as if by magic,” wrote Bokenham (See illustration 3).


In 1991 Bokenham was asked to take part in a half-hour radio broadcast concerning the Shakespeare monument in Westminster Abbey. He had become curious about the strange inscription on the Shakespeare monument in Westminster Abbey, which was erected in 1741, and from the epitaph on the monument he had discovered the enciphered words “Francis Bacon.”

Bokenham had noticed that, like the Stratford monument, the Westminster monument contained some extraordinary spelling mistakes as well as a garbled version of the speech from Act IV of “The Tempest.” From the speech the words “The Clowd-capt Towres” is spelled “The Cloud cupt Tow’rs” and the word “racke” has been turned into “wreck.”

The most glaring mistake was the word “fabrick” in the seventh line spelled with an N: Fnbrick. It is this incorrect N that completes the name Francis. (See illustration 4).


Following a suggestion from a colleague, Bokenham looked for a
possible cipher message in the famous inscription at the top of Canonbury Tower. This ancient Manor in Islington in North London has been owned by  the Lords Northampton since the beginning of the seventeenth century and in 1616 had been leased by that family to Sir Francis Bacon. Part of the building is today used as the headquarters of the Francis Bacon Society.

The inscription gives the abbreviated names of the English monarchs from “Will Con” to “Charolus” (Charles I) in three long lines divided in the middle by small vertical lines. A word between the words “Elizabeth Soro Succedit” and “lacobus” (James I) has been gouged out by someone, probably in the nineteenth century. (See illustration 5).


However, Nelson’s History of Islington of 1811 reproduces an accurate version of this inscription showing the gouged out letters are FR–. Squaring this version, Bokenham found groups of letters spelling I FRA BACON HID A MANUSCRIPT BEHIND.

The wall above the door of the inscription room is hollow and is
constructed in lathe and plaster. It was examined by an expert using an endiscope (which sees into hollow walls) but found to be empty. However, a confirming encipherment had been found in the “Wall’s speech” in the Pyramus and Thisbe interlude in Midsummer Night’s Dream which gave the message; FRA BACON HID A MANUSCRIPT IN A WALL ON STAIR CANONBURY TOWER.

The investigation with the endiscope found that the side of that wall outside the inscription room at the top of the staircase consisted of plaster renewed after the wall was constructed. “This indicates that something had been removed,” wrote Bokenham, “almost certainly by a senior member of the Rosicrucian Fraternity.”

Bokenham investigated the inscription on Bacon’s monument in
St. Michael’s Church near St. Albans, where Bacon is said to have been buried in the Gohambury vault below. Gohambury is the estate near St. Albans which was Francis Bacon’s country home. In squaring the inscription on the monument Bokenham found that it contained letters in a symmetrical pattern which spelled MANUSCRIPTS, APSE, and VAULT: Manuscripts in apse vault. (See illustration 6).


These manuscripts, however, have been removed, as was the one at Canonbury Tower. Many of the cryptic engravings of this period, including Illustrations 1 and 2, were produced by foreign artists who seem to have been influenced by an informed Rosicrucian who may have been Bacon himself. Bacon passed through the “philosophical death” in 1626, but his actual death, Bokenham believes, took place in Germany in 1647 at the age of 86.

At the end of John Aubrey’s biography of Bacon of 1681, which was
published in the book Aubrey’s Brief Lives, Aubrey states:
“This October 1681, it rang over all St. Albans that Sir Harbottle
Grimson, Master of the Rolles (the then owner of Gorhambury estate) had removed the coffin of this most renowned Lord Chancellor to make roome for his owne to lye in the vault there at St. Michael’s Church.”

Harbottle Grimston had married the daughter of Sir Thomas Meautys, the former Secretary of Francis Bacon, who had erected the enciphered monument to Bacon and who almost certainly knew of his departure abroad. The Grimstons were probably aware of this fact and of this coffin with its manuscripts. Aubrey did not mention where that coffin was reburied. Bokenham feels it is extremely likely that Sir Harbottle was a member of the Rosicrucian Fraternity.

Besides his many articles that have appeared in Baconiana Bokenham has written two short books which give the details of the numerous ciphers he has discovered. Both A Brief History of the Bacon-Shakespeare Controversy and Bacon, Shakespeare and the Rosicrucians may be obtained by writing to The Francis Bacon Society Incorporated, Canonbury Tower, Islington, London N1 2NG, England.