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Shakespeare's Family By C. C. Stopes Characters: 20070

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

In the later application to impale the Ardens' arms in 1599, the 1596 draft is repeated in only slightly altered terms. "Antecessors" is changed to "great-grandfather," and the dignity of Mary Arden's family further elucidated. Some writers consider that, following a custom of the day, John Shakespeare treated as his antecessors his wife's ancestors. The word "great-grandfather" tends to exclude this notion, as may be seen later, but the word "grandfather" would imply, if this had been intended, that Thomas Arden himself had had the grants. It has always been supposed that Brooke, York Herald, had exhibited some complaint against this grant also, as he very possibly did.[60] He was severely critical of the heraldic and genealogic matter in Camden's "Britannia," and very bitter at the slighting way the author speaks of heralds. He wrote a book called "The Discoveries of Certaine Errours in the edition of 1594," which he seems to have begun at once, as on page 14 he states, "If the making of gentlemen heretofore hath been greatly misliked by her Majestie in the Kinges of Armes; much more displeasing, I think, it will be to her, that you, being no Officer of Armes, should erect, make and put down Earles and Barons at your pleasure." It must have been peculiarly galling to him that by the influence of Sir Fulke Greville, afterwards Lord Brooke, Camden was advanced over his head to the dignity he himself desired. After being appointed, for form's sake, Richmond Herald for one day, Camden was made Clarenceux, October 23, 1597, between the first and second Shakespeare drafts. This probably decided Brooke to publish his "Pamphlet of Errors," which, as he dedicated it to the Earl of Essex, "Lord General of the Royal Forces in Ireland," must have appeared in 1599. He wrote another book against Camden, which was forbidden to be published.

The draft for the impalement is also heavily corrected, probably in comparison and discussion. Of the Shakespeare shield a note adds: "The person to whom it was granted hath borne magistracy in Stratford-on-Avon, was Justice of the Peace, married the daughter and heir of Arderne, and was able to maintain that estate." The Heralds first tricked the arms of the Ardens of Park Hall, Ermine a fesse chequy or and az., but scratched them out, and substituted a shield bearing three cross crosslets fitchée and a chief or, with a martlet for difference.

I put forward several suggestions concerning this question in an article in the Athen?um.[61]

The critical strictures against the Shakespeare-Arden claim are best summed up by Mr. Nichols:[62]

1. That the relation of Mary Arden to the Ardens of Park Hall was imaginary and impossible, and those who assert it in error. 2. That the Ardens were connected with nobility, while Robert Arden was a mere "husbandman." 3. That the Heralds knew the claim was unfounded when they scratched out the arms of Arden of Park Hall, and replaced them by the arms of the Ardens of Alvanley, of Cheshire. This was equally unjustifiable, but as the family lived further off, there was less likelihood of complaint.

Now we must work out the case step by step on the other side.

Robert Arden, of Park Hall, spent his substance during the Wars of the Roses, and was finally brought to the block (30 Henry VI.,[63] 1452). His son Walter was restored by Edward IV., but he would probably be encumbered by debts and "waste"; at least, he had but small portions to leave to his family when he made his will[64] (31 July, 17 Henry VII., 1502). Besides his heir, Sir John, Esquire of the Body to Henry VII., he had a second son,[65] Thomas, to whom he leaves ten marks annually; a third son, Martin, who was to have the manor of Natford; if not, then Martin and his other sons-Robert, Henry, William-should each of them have five marks annually. This is an income too small even for younger sons to live on in those days, so it is to be supposed the father had already either placed them, married them well, or otherwise provided for them during his life. Among the witnesses to the will are "Thomas Arden and John Charnells, Squires." Thomas, being the second son, might have had something from his mother Eleanor, daughter and coheir of John Hampden, of Great Hampden, county Bucks. This Thomas was alive in 1526, because Sir John Arden then willed that his brothers-Thomas, Martin, and Robert-should have their fees for life. Henry, and probably also William, had meanwhile died, though a William seems to have been established at Hawnes, in Bedfordshire. Seeing that Sir John was the Esquire of the Body to Henry VII., it seems very probable that his brother Robert was the Robert Arden, Yeoman of the Chamber, to whom Henry VII. granted three patents: First, on February 22, 17 Henry VII., as Keeper of the Park at Altcar,[66] Lancashire; and second, as Bailiff of Codmore, Derby,[67] and Keeper of the Royal Park there; the third[68] gave him Yoxall for life, at a rental of £42-afterwards confirmed. Indeed, Leland in his "Itinerary" mentions the relationship,[69] and the administration of Robert's goods proves it.

Martin's family became connected with the Easts and the Gibbons, and his name and arms appear in the "Visitations of Oxfordshire." Where meanwhile was Thomas? There is no record of any Thomas Arden in Warwickshire or elsewhere, ever supposed to be the son of Walter Arden, save the Thomas who, the year before Walter Arden's death, was living at Wilmecote, in the parish of Aston Cantlowe, on soil formerly owned by the Beauchamps. On May 16, 16 Henry VII., Mayowe transferred certain lands at Snitterfield to "Robert Throckmorton, Armiger, Thomas Trussell of Billesley, Roger Reynolds of Henley-in-Arden, William Wood of Woodhouse, Thomas Arden of Wilmecote, and Robert Arden, the son of this Thomas Arden." This list is worth noting. Thomas Trussell, of an old family, is identified by his residence.[70] He was Sheriff of the county in 23 Henry VII. No Throckmorton could take precedence of him save the Robert Throckmorton of Coughton, who was knighted six months later.[71]

These men were evidently acting as trustees for the young Robert Arden. Just in the same way this same Robert Throckmorton was appointed by Thomas's elder brother, Sir John Arden of Park Hall, as trustee for his children, in association with John Kingsmel, Sergeant-at-Law, Sir Richard Empson, and Sir Richard Knightley.[72] That a man of the same name, at the same time, in the same county, retaining the same family friends, in circumstances in every way suitable to the second son of Walter Arden, should be accepted for that man seems just and natural, especially when no other claimant has ever been brought forward.

But we know this Thomas Arden was Mary Arden's grandfather; this Robert was her father; this property, that tenanted afterwards by the Shakespeares, and left by Robert's will to his family.

As the deed of conveyance of the premises at Snitterfield from Mayowe to Arden has been often referred to, occasionally quoted, but never, so far as I know, printed in extenso, I should like to preserve the copy. It may save trouble to future investigators, and help to clear up the connection between the Shakespeares and the Ardens. It certainly strengthens very much Mary Arden's claim to connection with the Ardens of Park Hall, and her descent from "a gentleman of worship," a claim the heralds allowed.

"Sciant presentes et futuri quod ego Johannes Mayowe de Snytterfeld dedi, concessi, et hac presenti carta mea confirmavi, Roberto Throkmerton Armigero, Thome Trussell de Billesley, Rogero Reynoldes de Henley in Arden, Willelmo Wodde de Wodhouse, Thome Arderne de Wylmecote, et Roberto Arderne filio eiusdem Thome Arderne, unum mesuagium cum suis pertinenciis in Snytterfeld predicta, una cum omnibus et singulis terris toftis, croftis, pratis, pascuis et pasturis eidem mesuagio spectantibus sive pertinentibus in villa et in campis de Snytterfeld predicta cum omnibus suis pertinenciis; quod quidem mesuagium predictum quondam fuit Willelmi Mayowe et postea Johannis Mayowe et situatum est inter terram Johannis Palmer ex parte una et quandam venellam ibidem vocatam Merellane ex parte altera in latitudine et extendit se in longitudine a via Regia ibidem usque ad quendam Rivulum, secundum metas et divisas ibidem factas. Habendum et tenendum predictum mesuagium cum omnibus et singulis terris Toftis, Croftis, pratis, pascuis, et pasturis predictis, ac omnibus suis pertinenciis prefatis Roberto Throkmerton, Thome Trussell, Rogero Reynoldes, Willelmo Wodde, Thome Arderne et Roberto Ardern heredibus et assignatis suis de capitalibus dominis feodi illius per servicia inde debita et de jure consueta imperpetuum. Et ego vero predictus Johannes Mayowe et heredes mei mesuagium predictum cum omnibus et singulis terris Toftis Croftis, pratis, pascuis et pasturis supradictis ac omnibus suis pertinenciis prefatis Roberto Throckmerton, Thome Trussell, Rogero Reynoldes, Willelmo Wodde, Thome Arderne et Roberto Arderne heredibus et assignatis suis contra omnes gentes Warrantizabimus et defendemus imperpetuum.

"Et insuper sciatis me prefatum Johannem Mayowe assignasse, constituisse et in loco meo posuisse dilectos michi in Christo Thomam Clopton de Snytterfeld predicta gentilman et Johannem Porter de eadem meos veros et legitimos Attornatos conjunctim et divisim ad intrandum vice et nomine meo in predictum mesuagium cum omnibus et singulis premissis et pertinenciis suis quibuscunque et ad plenam et pacificam seisinam pro me ac vice et nomine meo inde capiendam et postquam hujusmodi seisina dicta capta fuerit ad deliberandam pro me ac vice et nomine meo prefatis Roberto Throkmerton, Thome Trussell, Rogero Reynoldes, Willelmo Wodde, Thome Arderne et Roberto Arderne plenam et pacificam possessionem et seisinam de et in eodem mesuagio ac omnibus et singulis premissis, secundum vim, formam et effectum huius presentis carte mee. Ratum et gratum habens et habiturus totum et quicqu

id dicti attornati mei vice et nomine meo fecerint seu eorum alter fecerit in premisses. In cuius rei testimonium huic presenti carte mee et scripto meo sigillum meum apposui. Hiis testibus Johanne Wagstaffe de Aston Cauntelowe Roberto Porter de Snytterfield predicta Ricardo Russheby de eadem, Ricardo Atkyns de Wylmecote predicta, Johanne Alcokkes de Newenham et aliis. Datum apud Snytterfield predictam die lune proximo post festum invencionis Sancte Crucis Anno Regni Regis Henrici Septimi post conquestum Sexto decimo."[73]

Mr. Nichols' second objection was that in records he is styled "husbandman"; but the word is an old English equivalent for a farmer, in which sense it is often used in old wills and records. And in the examination of John Somerville,[74] Edward Arden's son-in-law (also of high descent), he stated "that he had received no visitors of late, but certain 'husbandmen,' near neighbours." The Arden "husbandman" of Wilmecote in 1523 and 1546[75] paid the same amount to the subsidy as the Arden Esquire of Yoxall[76] in 1590, when money was of less value.

Mr. Nichols' third assertion, that the heralds scratched out the arms of the Ardens of Park Hall, because they dared not quarter them with those of the Shakespeares, shows that he omitted certain considerations. That family was under attainder then.

Drummond[77] exemplifies many arms of Arden, and traces them back to their derivation. He notices that the "elder branch of the Ardens took the arms of the old Earls of Warwick; the younger branches took the arms of the Beauchamps, with a difference. In this they followed the custom of the Earls of Warwick." The Ardens of Park Hall therefore bore ermine, a fesse chequy, or, and az., arms derived from the old Earls of Warwick; and this was the pattern scratched out in John Shakespeare's quartering. But the reason lay in no breach of connection, but in the fact that Mary Arden was an heiress, not in the eldest line, but through a second son. A possible pattern for a younger son was three cross crosslets fitchée and a chief or. As such they were borne by the Ardens of Alvanley, with a crescent for difference. They were borne without the crescent by Simon Arden of Longcroft,[78] the second son of the next generation, and full cousin of Mary Arden's father. It is true that among the tombs at Yoxall the fesse chequy appeared, but there is evident confusion in their use. Martin Arden of Euston was probably in the wrong to assume when he did the arms of his elder brother; William Arden of Hawnes, if the sixth son, county Bedford, bore the same arms as those proposed for Mary Arden, and it is implied that Thomas, her father, had borne them. In the Heralds' College is the draft: "Shakespere impaled with the Aunceyent armes of the said Arden of Willingcote" (volume marked R. 21 outside and G. XIII. inside).

If the three cross crosslets fitchée were the correct arms for Thomas Arden as the second son of an Arden, who might bear ermine, a fesse chequy or, and az., the crescent would have been the correct difference, but it had long been borne by the Ardens of Alvanley, in Cheshire, who branched off from the Warwickshire family early in the thirteenth century. The heralds therefore differenced the crosslets with a martlet, usually, but by no means universally, the mark of cadency for a fourth son at that time.[79] Thus, Glover[80] enumerates among the arms of Warwickshire and Bedfordshire: "Arden or Arderne gu., three cross crosslets fitchée or; on a chief of the second a martlet of the first. Crest, a plume of feathers charged with a martlet or." If heraldry has anything, therefore, to say to this dispute, it is to support the claim of Thomas Arden to being a cadet of the Park Hall family, and thereby to include Mary Arden and her son in the descent from Ailwin, Guy of Warwick, and the Saxon King Athelstan. Camden and the other heralds were only seeking correctness in their draft of the restitution of the Ardens' arms. The hesitation as to exactitude among the varieties of Arden arms was the cause of the notes. See "The Booke of Differ.," 61; see "Knights of E.I.," folios 2, 28, etc., on the draft.

It has been considered strange that, after the application and even after the grant (preserved in MS. "Coll. of Arms," R. 21), no use thereof can be proved, though the heralds added to the former grant: "and we have lykewise uppon an other escucheon impaled the same with the auncient arms of the said Arden of Wellyngcote, signifying thereby that it maye and shalbe lawfull, for the said John Shakespeare, gent., to beare and use the same shields of arms, single or impaled, as aforesaid, during his natural lyfe, and that it shalbe lawful for his children, issue, and posterity, to beare, use, quarter, and shewe the same with their dewe difference, in all lawfull warlyke faites and civill use" (Ibid., G. XIII.).

John Shakespeare did not live long after his application, dying in 1601.

Whether or not the grant of the impaled Arden arms was completed before his death, there is no record of his using them. Whether his son ever used the impalement we do not now know, but it does not appear on any of the tombs or seals that have been preserved. But the Shakespeare arms have been certainly used.

William Shakespeare was mercilessly satirized by his rivals, Ben Jonson and others,[81] about his coat of arms; but it was the recognition of his descent that secured him so universally the attribute of "gentle." As Davies, addressing Shakespeare and Burbage in 1603, says:

"And though the stage doth stain pure gentle blood,

Yet generous ye are in mind and mood."[82]

We must not forget there would be possible ill-feeling among the families of the Arden sisters, when the youngest, whom they had probably always pitied and looked down on, because of her comparatively unfortunate marriage, should have the audacity to think of using the arms of their father, to which they had never aspired.


To face p. 35.


[60] He tried in every way to prove Camden wrong, but his bitterness only hurt himself. His strictures were confuted before the highest authority.

[61] August 10, 1895, p. 202.

[62] "Herald and Genealogist," vol. i., p. 510, 1863; and Notes and Queries, Series III., vol. v., p. 493.

[63] Dugdale's "Warwickshire," p. 925.

[64] Preserved at Somerset House, 8 Porch.

[65] Dugdale places the sons in another order.

[66] Pat. Henry VII., second part, mem. 30, February 22.

[67] Same series, mem. 35, September 9.

[68] Pat. 23 Henry VIII., September 24, first part, mem. 12.

[69] "Arden of the court, brother to Sir John Arden of Park Hall." "Itinerary," vi. 20, about 1536-42.

[70] Sir Warine Trussell held Billesley 15 Edward III. The will of Sir William Trussell of Cublesdon, 1379, mentions a bequest to his cousin, "Sir Thomas d'Ardene" ("Testamenta Vetusta," Sir N. H. Nicolas, vol. i., p. 107). William Trussell was made a brother of the Guild of Knowle 1469, and there is an entry in 1504 of a donation "for Sir William Trussell and for his soul": "To Thomas Trussell, farmer of the said Bishop of Worcester; in Knowle for the Worke-silver 4/4" (37 Henry VIII., Report. "Register of the Guild of Knowle," Introduction, p. xxvi., by Mr. W. B. Bickley). Alured Trussell, born 1533, married Margaret, daughter of Robert Fulwood, and their daughter Dorothy married Adam Palmer, Robert Arden's friend. French thinks that the wife, either of Thomas or of Robert, was a Trussell.

[71] His son George succeeded him in 1520. Edward Arden, of Park Hall, was brought up in his care, and married Mary, his son Robert's daughter.

[72] See p. 184.

[73] Deed of Conveyance of Premises at Snytterfield. (Transcribed from the Miscellaneous Documents of Stratford-on-Avon), vol. ii., No. 83.

[74] State Papers, Domestic Series, Elizabeth, 1583, clxiii., 21.

[75] In the Subsidy Rolls 15 Henry VII., Thomas Arden was assessed on £12, and Robert Arden on £8 (192/128). Subsidy, Aston Cantlowe, March 10, 37 Henry VIII., 1546, Robert Arden, assessed on property valued at £10; Walter Edkyns, £10; John Jenks, £6; John Skarlett, £8; Thomas Dixson, £8; Roger Knight, £8; Richard Ingram, £6; Thomas Gretwyn, £5; Margaret Scarlet, £5; Richard Edkyns, £6; Robert Fulwood, £5; Nicholas Gibbes, £5; Richard Green, £5; William Hill, £5 (Mr. Hunter's "Prolusions," 37, note). Thomas Arden of Park Hall at the same time was assessed on £80; but Simon Arden was only assessed on £8 (192/179).

[76] French, "Genealogica Shakespeareana," p. 423; and Nichols' "History of Leicestershire."

[77] H. Drummond's "Noble British Families," vol. i. (2).

[78] See Fuller's "Worthies of Warwickshire."

[79] "The several marks of cadency which have of late years been made use of for the distinction of houses ... for the second son a crescent, the third a mullet, the fourth a martlet" (Glover's "Heraldry," vol. i., p. 168, ed. 1780).

[80] Ibid., vol. ii., ed. 1780.

[81] In the "Return from Parnassus," 1606, Studiosus says of the players:

"Vile world that lifts them up to high degree,

And treads us down in grovelling misery,

England affords these glorious vagabonds

That carried erst their fardels on their backs

Coursers to ride on through the gazing streets,

Sweeping it in their glaring satin suits,

And pages to attend their masterships.

With mouthing words that better wits have framed,

They purchase lands and now esquires are made."

Act V., Sc. 1.

The satire in "Ratsey's Ghost" also may refer to Shakespeare, though Alleyn and others might be intended.

Freeman, in his "Epigrams," 1614, asks:

"Why hath our age such new-found 'gentles' found

To give the 'master' to the farmer's son?"

But his high praise of Shakespeare elsewhere shows he does not refer to him.

[82] John Davies of Hereford's "Microcosmus, The Civil Warres of Death and Fortune."

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