Philip had at least two younger siblings - Robert, who became a patron of the arts and later the Earl of Leicester, and Mary, who would become one of the first English women to achieve major success for her literary work and poetry. One of Philip Sidney's most famous works, titled "Arcadia" was dedicated to his beloved sister.
Philip was evidently quite a clever young man. He was educated at Shrewsbury School and Christ Church College, Oxford. In 1572, he was elected to Parliament as a member for Shrewsbury, and very quickly his political career took off. That same year, he found himself traveling to France to negotiate a marriage between Queen Elizabeth I and the Duc D'Alencon. Over the next several years, Philip spent his time in mainland Europe - in such countries as Germany, Italy, Poland, Hungary, etc., where he met many other politicians which could only have helped his career.
In 1575, Philip returned to England, and soon after that he met the beautiful golden-haired and dark-eyed court lady, Penelope Devereaux. It is unknown whether or not Philip and Penelope fell in love between her arrival at court in 1581 and Philip's own marriage in 1583, but in any case, her presence at court is popularly thought to have resulted in Philip's sonnet sequence "Astrophel and Stella" - which contains 108 sonnets and 11 songs. The name alone is a romantic title - "Astro" meaning "star," and "phel" (or "phil") meaning "love." "Stella" also means "star" - meaning that Astrophel is the star lover and Stella is the star. In these sonnets, Philip connects himself to Astrophel and Penelope to Stella, and the style of his writing follows the traditional romantic views of love and desire.
In 1583, twenty-nine-year-old Philip was knighted and married the sixteen-year-old daughter of Francis Walsingham, named Frances. In 1584 he was returned to court, and that same year Lady Penelope was married to Lord Rich against her will.
Evidence shows that Philip Sidney was a strict Protestant, and was keen in both the 1570's and the 1580's to organize a united Protestant effort against the Roman Catholic Church and Spain. Although these efforts were unsuccessful, he was finally given a chance to exercise his Protestant military ideas when he was made governor of Flushing in the Netherlands in 1585. In 1586, he conducted a successful raid on Spanish forces in Axel.
However, his military success was short-lived, because later that year while he was joining Sir John Norris in the Battle of Zutphen, Philip was mortally shot in the thigh. Apparently, as he lay wounded on the ground, he handed his water bottle to a fellow wounded soldier, saying, "Thy necessity is yet greater than mine." These, which are thought to be his final words, demonstrate Philip's noble character and furthered his good reputation after his death. On 17 October 1586 - twenty-six days after he had been shot - Philip died, and was brought back to London to be buried at St. Paul's Cathedral on 16 February 1587.
Although during his life Philip Sidney was considered one of the "ultimate" Elizabethan courtiers, his reputation was even improved after his noble battlefield death. After his passing, he was frequently spoken about, and was thought to be the epitome of the 16th-century courtier - intelligent, handsome, learned, passionate, generous, and noble. In 1590, Philip's wife Frances Sidney remarried Robert Devereaux, 2nd Earl of Essex - the man that would be beheaded for treason in 1601 after leading the Essex Rebellion against Queen Elizabeth I.
How can it be that I had never researched this fascinating Elizabethan man before?! I'm so glad that I stumbled upon his portrait at the National Gallery. I may have a new historical crush!