William Shakespeare’s resting place in Stratford-upon-Avon
Posted By Claire on February 21, 2018
A couple of years ago, I made a video as one of my “Claire Chats” weekly talks for the Tudor Society on Holy Trinity Church. I had just been to visit this church, specifically to visit the resting places of William Shakespeare, his wife Anne Hathaway, his daughter Susannah and other members of the family. It’s a lovely church and well worth a visit.
I’ll be visiting there again (yay!) when Philippa and I lead the Discover the Tudors tour in September and I’m so looking forward to going home (I grew up 12 miles from Stratford). If you’d like to join us on the tour then you can find out more at https://www.britishhistorytours.com/history-tours/discover-the-tudors. We’re visiting 12 historic venues!
But for now, here is the talk I did and photos that Tim and I took.
43 thoughts on “William Shakespeare’s resting place in Stratford-upon-Avon”
I’m unable to make the tour but thank you for sharing your video of Holy Trinity.
Thanks for sharing, very interesting.
I enjoyed the video thought it was lovely, thanks Claire, I do love old churches cathedrals abbeys etc, iv never been quite sure but I find them restful and serene, I love the old flagstones and the beautiful stained glass windows, somehow iv always felt safe in them, I visited Stratford once on a coach trip and went in Anne Hathaways cottage, it was very charming and the garden was wild, what you would expect from a cottage garden, it was a beautiful day out but I never visited the church, Stratford is a charming town and very popular with Americans and the Japanese, who as we all know absolutely revere Shakespeare, also went inside Harvard House where the American university gets its name, I read once that Shakespeare’s signature would fetch more money than any other, worth about one million, thanks for a great video.
I have a thing for old Churches and Cathedrals and of course Abbey remains for a number of reasons
Our Christian heritage can be traced in these islands to the days just after the apostles and there are stories that Joseph of Aeramathia (excuse spelling) who was related to Jesus through his grandmother brought the young Jesus with him to Cornwall on trading expeditions. Glastonbury is one of the places said to be associated with their visit as well as being the place that King Arthur was laid to rest, as the Isle of the Blest is here, known as Avalon. Forget about the twelfth century tomb, that does not date from the fourth century. The Isle of the Blest can’t be seen by human eyes according to the legend and the Mists hide it. Therefore no human eyes have seen the real tomb of King Arthur which is a mystery. However, we do know that many early places of worship exist from the second century A.D. in Britain, that a PaterNoster was dated to that period and the British or Celtic Church was strong before Augustine came.
I love the architecture of these buildings and so much of a places history can be found in the old parish church, especially if the tombs still exist. (Of course you can also find the odd King or two under the carpark of your local pub or social services building lol). You don’t know who you might come across in an old religious building. Even older you may find caves used as churches as in Turkey or as hiding places during times of persecution as in Wales. I love the beautiful paintings and the simple bared chapels of the Presbyterian Christian Churches. There is a place of peace for everyone.
Our more wider history can be found in beautiful old Cathedrals with the burials and baptism or wedding of our long line of nobles and royalty and famous historical people. There are very few important towns and cities who do not have some historical connections and they are there to be visited in one of the main parish churches or Cathedral. Even some of the most obscure looking places have had a Royal visitor on pilgrimage and built a chapel for the souls of the dead. Katherine of Aragon paid for an anchorage in an obscure village in Yorkshire she had never been to called Thirsk because he was one of her chaplains. Katherine and Henry came to a Church outside of London several times because there was a holy shrine there and Katherine came many times alone. Occum Castle in Rutland, a busy but odd place was associated with the Cromwell family and both Thomas and Oliver have horse shoes there to mark their connection. Peterborough Cathedral in the Midlands is the burial place of Queen Katherine, rather than the Royal Tombs at Westminster Abbey and Canterbury hosts Henry Iv and Joanna of Navarre while Worcester hosts King John and Prince Arthur. Not necessarily the most expected places for a Royal burial but the history behind them is what brings them into the light.
Then there are the mysterious elements in graves of the past. Are the people still down there? If not who is in the grave? What happened to the tomb if it was destroyed? Will DNA solve some great historical mystery? The burial of William Shakespeare has even raised a lot of questions. When a documentary was done about Shakespeare questions were asked about some odd things to do with his grave stone. It is too short and may not even mark the correct place. He could be under another stone. Even though he is listed in the registration, some people believe Shakespeare may be buried elsewhere but of course this is guessing. Whatever the mystery of the stone, there is no permissions to examine the burials so it remains a mystery.
I believe the hymn ‘Jerusalem’ by William Blake refers to the visit by the young Jesus, not sure if my spellings correct also, in the first line, ‘and did those feet in ancient time’ etc but were not the so called graves of Arthur and Guinevere found in Cornwall many years ago, at least they found two skeletons buried together man and a woman and they said the woman had long golden hair which disintegrated when it came into contact with the air, which doesn’t make sense to me as hair doesn’t dissolve, apparantly the bones were found near where archaeologists and historians believed Arthur and his queen to be buried, at least that’s what I read quite a long time ago, but I don’t know what became of them and havnt heard anything else about this find as surely they would be on display in a Cornish museum somewhere, it’s probably all nonsense and just part of the myths and legends of Cornwall, Arthur is said to be merely sleeping and him and his knights will arise once more when England needs him, Merlin himself sleeps the sleep of enchantment, by a spell cast on him by a fairy, I just adore the Arthurian legends and own a copy of Mallory’s King Arthur, Lancelot however did not exist in the tales but is believed to be a later edition by the French, in fact all this talk of Arthur makes me want to dig out my old book and start reading it again, it really has the most beautiful illustrations, paintings by the pre raephalite artists of the Victorian era, a proper coffee table book.
Yes, Gerald of Wales reported that the monks at Saint Dunston’s Abbey in Glastonbury were commissioned by Henry ii in 1178 to look for the graves. The tombs were found as you describe and they were moved to the new Lady Chapel. They had been described by Geoffrey of Monmouth and Thomas Malloy wrote of the graves but all was not as it seems. The Abbey needed money and the graves were a little too convenient. However, they were opened and honoured and given a fine tomb which was reconstructed in a documentary on the Archaeological dig a few years ago, when Edward I visited in 1278. Several Medieval Manuscripts illustrate the find. The Glastonbury Project reviewed 75 years of archaeology and their findings were published in various journals and they concluded the graves were most probably a convenient find and fake. The Monastery was one of the last to be destroyed by the Dissolution in 1539 and the Abbot was taken to the borders of the lands and hung, drawn and quartered. Another victim of ruthlessness.
It does make an interesting tale and adds to our very rich cultural heritage.
Regarding Shakespeare’s tomb I remember the documentary you mentioned. It was with Helen Castor and they did a ground penetrating radar over the pavements. If I remember correctly the conclusion reached for the shortened length of his grave was due to a line of brick cutting across his burial as reenforcement to hold up the sagging floor above. I haven’t seen this in years so I can’t swear to this. I really enjoyed the other info you gave. Thank you.
Yes, they probably debunked the idea that the tomb was disturbed and his head stolen. The floor is over 400 years old, of course it’s moved, but the grave was opened in the 19th century and some repairs done. The radar showed the graves appear to be in order so the floor explained perfectly why the stones are not flat. I don’t know that many grave stones inside a Church or Abbey which are even and don’t look odd. If his head was removed, it would have been studied at some fancy University as that was the pseudoscience of the day, the study of genius. It would have been pickled and mummified. My hunch is the body of William and Anne are in one piece and he even has his feet. I hope they are left alone, although a camera being put down would be interesting as radar doesn’t always work. Radar was used to find Richard iii and showed nothing. It was further investigation and luck that worked. Helen Castor does some great docs. The rest of this one was interesting but when people start going into myth and legend that’s were I turn off. Myth had Richard iii dug up and thrown into the Soar, which as a River dried up years ago. Others have bones fed to dogs. Very rarely someone finds the real bones and their story is quite remarkable.
We have mummified heads in University jars, saints heads in odd tombs, Henry IV of France was in a cubboard in a box, but still well preserved and Cromwell had his head on show for centuries before it was anonymously reburied two decades ago. Claire has given a talk today on the mummified head of Henry Grey, father of Jane Grey which I will be watching. Unless there is a good reason, such as to give someone a proper burial as the original one has been built over, I believe the dead should be left alone. I don’t want Shakespeare examined and I am sure one of those cameras can look instead.
Something I do remember about that program is that the skull you speak of belonged to a woman.
I must watch it again, Michael. I think I have a link. Thanks for sharing, that sounds interesting.
Hi Michael, yes the skull turned out to be a woman in her 70s. The media the day after the documentary said the Archaeological team said that Shakespeare skull is missing after all, which was completely untrue. I have just watched some bits on YouTube and they did the radar and quote “found a strange anomaly at the head end” where there had been some disturbances since his grave was closed. So of course that means the head is missing. Uh, no. The team then said that a number of possible reasons could explain it and the floor movement and work done are more likely reasons and the body could have moved. If you notice also, his name is not on the gravestone. His name is close by as is his alleged curse telling you not to move him, because at that time, moving people was apparently quite common. You could get moved to allow for other people. The British Archaeologists want to dig him up as this is the only way to be certain and there is speculation that this may not be his grave, but it may be close by. Of course, if you wanted to ensure you were not dug up, then you probably may not put your name on the stone and in an age that believed the dead could and did walk around at times, especially if disturbed, a curse would certainly do the trick.
Back to the video, by Claire, first of all thanks for taking the time to share your photos and video. The ancient alter stone is a remarkable find and takes us back to the old faith Shakespeare’s ancestors may have remained part of for some years. I was fascinated by the American window and how grateful people are to Shakespeare that they have given such a beautiful gift. The famous bust puts William Shakespeare back in the hearts and centre of his grieving wife and son and shows he must have had some affection for Anne, even if he was an absent playwright. Holy Trinity was clearly the centre of the religious life of the entire family. I would recommend if it’s still available on BBC i player the wonderful documentary by Michael Woods on Mary Arden, our Bards Mother from whom he learned so much.
Cheers and thanks.
Who’s going to go on your tour? What a joke! I have been on many of Alison Weir’s tours and let me tell you that they are SPLENDID. You will NEVER compare. Stop kidding yourself. How delusional. Give me a break! And I recently read one of your books on Anne Boleyn – it was contrary to everything I thought I knew and I immediately took it to my local charity shop!
Good morning Silvia and thank you for your comment.
I’m not trying to compare. I was running my tours before Alison Weir, we did our first Anne Boleyn experience in May 2010. Alison actually asked my advice about running tours and I was happy to share my experiences with her. I’m not sure why you’re trying to draw comparisons. Many people booked on our 2018 tours are people who have done several previous tours with us and who enjoyed them. I’m sure those who do Alison’s tours enjoy them too. “Who’s going to go on your tour?” Well, plenty of people have come on them in the past and our May 2018 Anne Boleyn Experience is fully booked.
My books are based on what the contemporary records say about the period and the people, and are fully referenced so that readers can also check sources for themselves. If they are “contrary to everything I thought I knew” then I’m not sure what your knowledge is based on. Many of the primary sources have been digitised and are available online so you can read them yourself. I can give you some links if you’d find them helpful. There’s nothing better than reading the documents for yourself.
Charity shops are wonderful and I’m glad you were able to pass my book onto one as that way someone else can enjoy it.
Who asked you Christine? I am ENTITLED to my opinion. I personally did not think the book was as good as other books I had read about dear Anne, I also feel that this tour will not compare with Ms Weir’s, I had a fabulous time and enjoyed traveling to a range of wonderful residences. I simply do not see how Claire can compare. You may hate my opinion or regard me as rambunctious but I am entitled to MY opinion and you will accept it. I am sorry I ever stumbled upon this website and I am sorry I ever had the misfortune of reading such a book. Utter nonsense.
Everyone is welcome to leave comments here, it’s a public site, and people are entitled to replies to others’ comments so Christine is entitled to reply to you and share her opinion, as are we all. You are entitled to your opinion and others are entitled to theirs, but Christine does not have to “accept” your opinion and we also do not have to accept your rudeness.
I’m glad you had a fabulous time on Alison’s tours and I know people have had fabulous times on ours too, I don’t understand why you feel it has to be a competition. I’m not trying to compare or compete, we do things differently and go to different places. I was doing my tours first and, as I said, I was able to offer advice to Alison and Siobhan when we met and they asked for my advice. Now I’m working with British History tours on these 2018 tours and Philippa from British History tours has a long track record and is a wonderfully knowledgeable lady. I’m not sure that Alison Weir would thank you for behaving offensively on another site in the name of her tours, it’s not a great advert.
If you don’t like what you read here why are you wanting your time? I certainly don’t visit sites I don’t agree with but even if I did and felt compelled to comment being rude is not the first place I’d go. Many of us don’t agree with everything but we are always civilized. If you don’t tihink something is right on this site bring it up and let the community discuss it. That’s one of the many things that make the ‘Anne Boleyn Files’ so enjoyable
We are all entitled to our opinions but you can do that without being obnoxious, it’s all about being diplomatic, and furthermore as Claire says I do not have to accept any of your opinions as neither does anyone on this site, besides what do you know about writing biographies or history tours? Anyone would think you were a professor of history or a well known historian who always has acclaim for her books, even if you were there is no excuse for rudeness, Alison Weir herself would think your comments aren’t justified, it’s a pity you cannot see that.
Blimey what’s the matter with you, having a bad hair day – boyfriend dumped you ? I for one would love to find some of Claire’s books in my local charity shops but there never seems to be any, quite possibly because the owners find them too precious to give away, and why say ‘stop kidding yourself’ and that she’s delusional? Claire is a respected author and historian and works extremely hard, ‘give us all a break’ and spare us your ignorant comments because no one here is interested in what you have to say!
Thank you, Christine, for your kind words. I just let things go over my head these days, life is too short. I’ve been lucky to have some wonderful people come on our past tours and many of them have become valued friends of mine. I’ve even met up with some of them when I’ve been on holiday in the UK and the US. I don’t think I’d want someone who leaves comments like that on websites to come on a tour anyway, so I won’t worry about it.
Your very welcome Claire, you will always get the odd person who finds it clever to post rude remarks, their the sort of people who likes to nit pick, but in fact it just shows their immaturity and ignorance and they soon crawl back under their stone.
Yes, some people just like to stir and cause trouble. I feel sorry for Alison Weir and her team if she has people like that attending her tours. We’ve always had lovely people and I’ve enjoyed every minute of chatting with them and getting to know them.
I agree with you. I have all of Claire’s books on the subject and I will NOT part with a single one. They are the most accurate titles on the subject I’ve read. Claire deals with facts, not popular opinion or sensationalism like some.
Thank you, Michael, I try!
Be honest I love all my books especially the biographies and I could never part with any of them, there great for reference, I have a bible my uncle bought my mum back from the war, he wrote 1945 in it and its from Jerusalem, it’s made of wood possibly acacia and has the word Jerusalem carved on the back, it’s so lovely only tiny but it’s seventy three years old, it’s very precious to me and I could never part with it.
Silvia, I am not going on the tour but I would do without any hesitation if I was able. Anne Boleyn is very controversial and causes different opinions but I think you are very rude. Alison Weir is excellent but she is only one of many historians who have evaluated Anne Boleyn. I heard her talk last year and yes she was very good. However, maybe the reason you find Claire’s books and site to be different to how you see Anne is because she uses the original sources which she has studied now for at least the last ten years. A different Anne from that of the movies comes out. I believe her tour is almost sold out so clearly many people are going on it. I appreciate both ladies, so please don’t be rude. I can appreciate that Weir can be colourful and so entertaining but if you want education, then please enjoy the many good articles on this site which is excellent.
Thank you, BQ! I’ve heard Alison speak, too, and she is a very engaging speaker. Yes, historians and authors have different views and the history world would be a boring place if everyone agreed. What I love about running this site and engaging with Tudor history lovers is that on the whole people can share their views in a respectful and friendly manner even if they are disagreeing with another person. Even if I hated a book, I would never write a public comment aimed at the author and being rude, and I know that most people would feel the same. You might critique it, talk about what you didn’t agree with, but not be offensive. I think social media can cause people to behave in very odd ways!
Give me a break Claire. I think Alison would be delighted that she has such a loyal fan who has whole heartedly adored every one of her scrupulously researched books. Wouldn’t you be grateful to have kind fans who treasure your loving words by a candle at night in the darkness of winter?
As for you Bandit queen, I couldn’t give a rat’s arse about your opinion of me – I’ve seen your absurdly long essays on other articles, as if the world and his wife cares about your deductions of history. This isn’t a university project, or an anonymous chatroom, it’s a place for learned discussion of history, and I have come to the conclusion that I am simply wasted on this so-called resource.
Alison may be delighted in your enjoyment of her books and tours but I know that she would not agree with your behaviour one iota.
“Wouldn’t you be grateful to have kind fans who treasure your loving words by a candle at night in the darkness of winter?” Yes, I do treasure that, there is nothing better than knowing readers have enjoyed your work, but I’d be horrified to know that any of my readers were using my name, books or tours to be offensive to others.
Your comments are getting ruder and are not acceptable. You are being downright spiteful and I will not tolerate it. Bandit Queen’s comments are welcome here and they are enjoyed by other users. She is a valued contributor to our discussions here and how dare you attack other users in this manner. You are 100% right, this is “a place for learned discussion of history” and your comments show that you are incapable of that.
Silvia, I am glad you have read my analytical and learned comments and hope you benefit from them. Everyone is welcome and this site encourages discussions and debate. I hope like others that as a historian I can share my knowledge and research with others. Claire has studied the original texts for many years and I have enjoyed learning much from discussions from people of many different levels of knowledge, because everyone has something to offer, no matter what their background. Not everyone here is a professional, thank goodness, but there are others who are and they have offered that knowledge freely. I am not certain why you feel the need all of a sudden to go on the attack, but I feel you are being both disrespectful to Alison Weir who would not approve of your behaviour in her name, and to Claire and others, just for the sake of it. I am sure you did enjoy the experience and am pleased for you but this is not a competition. There is no need for you to act like an infant and have a tantrum just because you don’t think a Tour run by someone else will compare with the one you enjoyed. I am certain Ms Weir enjoys honest praise from all of her fans, but to be honest, you sound a little crazy and I would be seriously worried if you were a fan. I love her books as they make history accessible, although I don’t always agree with her conclusions. I love this blog and many others, and although your comments are welcome, your rudeness is not.
I would just like to give a shout out for the book The Fall of Anne Boleyn A Countdown if anyone hasn’t as yet read it because it really is a valuable resource. I don’t know of any other which does more or less a a day by day countdown towards the terrible events of May 1536 and afterwards. Others do a good account, yes, but this book takes you from the Summer 1535 and the events of that disaster in January, the loss of Anne’s baby and vulnerable times, through from March to May, leading up to her trial and execution as they are happening. It is very accessible, not full of heavy theory, has many original sources all in one place and is like sharing the time with Anne and her contemporary players. You get an introduction to the chief people, to the men accused with Anne, her enemies and then for each event in chronological order, a description, the best sources that give us the evidence and some background. It’s like someone kept a diary of events. We are given more events as we count down through those tense last 19 days and you really feel you are there watching. Some days are stand alone, but others interlink as people about the country and court are doing different things connected to Anne’s fall at the same time. More than one source may also illustrate what happened, sometimes they contradict each other, because not all sources are totally reliable, but may be our only source of information. Finally Claire examines the various theories around who was responsible for Anne’s fall. There is a link in the Kindle version to an excellent website with full references, interactive time line, additional information and so on. This is a great resource and it especially a good source book for anyone who wants to follow the last few months of Anne’s life and evaluate the evidence without looking through many books. It’s all there and is very easy to read and follow. It’s also available in paperback and at the moment is on Unlimited if you have Prime or is very reasonable for a treat for yourself.
Hope that gets you all buying and it really is worth it.
Personally I love BQ and Christine’s comments. I have learned so much from both of them and if you don’t learn something there’s no reason to visit this site. Alison may do a lot of research but many of her conclusions are not backed up by the contemporary documentation.
Me too, Michael! We can always learn from each other. I love debate and discussion.
Thank you Michael that’s very nice of you.
Thanks Claire, Christine and Michael, your comments are also appreciated. Trolls are wasted here, but still they come. I know I ramble on at times, but that is when I am feeling passionate. Unfortunately, I have an endless supply when it comes to history lol.
Do not apologize for your ‘ramblings’. I love them and I am sure many others do and I always look forward to anything you post.
Bq you do not ramble and besides I know I post rather long pieces but that’s because we are passionate about the subjects, also I’d like to add that Silvia herself doesn’t seem to post much on here, in fact I havnt seen her name come up till this afternoon, and then it was a load of vitriol, for her to say she’s wasted on here is laughable, she’s obviously the sort of person who stands moaning in the queue at the supermarket and makes snide remarks about other people when she doesn’t even know them, well there’s one in every family and the workplace, and unfortunatly on websites to, however hopefully we’ve heard the last of her.
Ramble away! I do!
I think Silvia obviously has some issues. Normal people do not go on the website of a tour company that is different to one they had used, one they have no experience of, and vent such vitriol, and normal people don’t approach an author directly if they have not enjoyed their book and speak to them like that. Normal people act very differently to that!
Thanks Claire, she may be a troll or even a staulker, definitely not normal. Poor Alison Weir, having her as a fan. I love her books and I am sure I would love her tour as I would love your tour. Unfortunately it falls in the middle of upcoming radium treatment for Steve and I just couldn’t leave him in case he wasn’t well. I do wish you all a very good time and you can enjoy it for me. I must admit it sounds very luxurious and well planned. I will have to make sure we go to Hever next year and maybe stay somewhere close by. I hope you all enjoy and take no notice of trolls (sorry to insult trolls).
Shes obviously very young and immature and thinks it’s clever to be rude to people, you know a hell of a lot more than she ever will, I pity Alison too having her as a fan, imagine having to sit next to her on a tour, I bet she moans about everything.
Silvia, the misfortune is having someone as vicious as YOU posting here. Are you for real?!!!
You say you are ‘wasted here’. We all agree on that! You are wasting your time and OUR time. Good riddance to you.
In view of the somewhat surprising discourse here, I looked up a review of a tour with Alison Weir. Written by Susan Breen, an author, who went on one of Alison’s tours, which is described as phenomenal. It was a 10 day trip, accompanied by authors Sarah Gristwood and Nicola Tallis, and it sounds indeed like the trip of a lifetime for anyone remotely interested in Queen Anne Boleyn and all things Tudor. It is a review which AW herself must feel very satisfied with, I’m sure. And I am truly happy about that. I am all the more saddened, disappointed, that such a lovely and enchanting trip should be , for goodness knows what reason, used as a sort of battering ram against Claire. It really beggars belief. It’s so not necessary. Comparisons are odious, and here, they are just weird and unnecessary. And as for insulting BQ … it just doesn’t make any sense! Anyway, it has snowed in Bournemouth today – which is also unusual.
Thanks for those kind words, Globerose, we had snow over night and in the morning but it went by afternoon, sigh, love snow. It’s those athletes, they had such a good time at the Winter Olympics they decided to bring the weather home with them lol. Just seen a footballer in a lower division game having to brush the snow off before he could see the marks for a free kick. It’s sad these lovely trips which people put such hard work into organising and giving talks on have been used by this nasty troll. The woman obviously has a personal problem at the moment, but nothing makes much sense, people react to things and stuff happens. Even Anne had bad days. That’s not Claire’s fault and Silvia might have been better off having a glass of wine and an early night. I am sure everyone will enjoy the trip with Claire and her group and all this silliness will be forgotten. I know William Shakespeare has brought much debate over the years but he would laugh at this one. Take care, Globerose and be careful in the snow.