Woodcut illustration depicting the vengance taken upon the
Earl of Leicester, the bear chained to a ragged staff.

Queen Elizabeth's favourite, the Earl of Leicester, was given control of Oxford's lands while Oxford was under-age, resulting in Oxford's financial ruin. For this and other reasons there seems to have been a lifelong enmity between the two men, although on the surface their relations may, for the most part, have appeared cordial.

Two tracts written in 1584, during Leicester's lifetime, Leicester's Commonwealth and A Letter of Estate, exposed Leicester's many crimes and faults, including his ambition for the crown. In 1585, Leicester's Commonwealth was published in France, translated by the original author and supplemented with additional material. These publications were followed, after Leicester's death in 1588, by another tract, News From Heaven And Hell (1588), and a long poem, Leicester's Ghost (1603). The style of all five works is similar, and it is likely they were all of Oxford's authorship, particularly when they are compared with charges Oxford is alleged to have made against Leicester in the late 1570s.

It seems likely that Oxford’s lifelong use of pen-names came about primarily because of the need to keep his literary activities secret from Leicester and the Queen.

Another early tract written by Oxford which is similar in theme to Leicester's Commonwealth is A Treatise of Treasons (1572).

A later tract written by Oxford in which the succession to the English crown is handled very similarly to the manner in which it is handled in Leicester's Commonwealth is A Conference About the Next Succession to the Crown of England (1594).