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Shakespeares in whose eternal welfare the brothers and sisters were led to concern themselves, there was a Prioress Isabella, whose soul was prayed for in 1505 (did player William know it when he wrote Measure for Measure ?), and a Lady (“Domina") Joan, who seems to have been living in 1527; but these trifling distinctions are the highest which have been discovered in connection with the name.
Little need we care, however, what was the condition of those Shakespeares who were mouldering in the earth before he without whom they would never have been heard of appeared upon it. Who his paternal grandfather was, we do not surely know; but there is hardly a doubt that he was one Richard Shakespeare, farmer, of Snitterfield, a village near Stratford on Avon. This Richard Shakespeare was a tenant of Robert Arden, a gentleman of ancient family but moderate estate, who lived at Wilmecote, three miles from Stratford, and who tilled a part of his patrimonial fields, and let a part to humbler husbandmen. The Ardens had been high among the gentry of Warwickshire since a time long before the Conquest, at which period Turchill de Arden was military governer, vice-comes (or viscount, then not an hereditary dignity) of Warwick Castle. The family took its name from the wooded country, called Arden or Ardern, which lay in the northern and western part of that county, of which at one time
they had no small part in their possession.* Robert Arden's branch of this family held lands in Snitterfield as far back, at least, as the early part of the fifteenth century; and he inherited his property there in direct succession. Two of the family had held places of some honor and responsibility in the household of King Henry VII., — Sir John Arden, who was squire of the body, and his nephew Robert, who was page of the bedchamber, to that shrewd and thrifty monarch, in whose service they both prospered. This John Arden did not escape great peril of marriage in his youth. For when he was about eighteen years old he was carried off bodily by a certain Richard Bracebridge of Kingsbury, who threatened him with his daughter Alice. As to which proposition, indeed, the lad's father had no small difference with the lady's. “Howbeit,” says Dugdale, who tells the story, “at length, by a reference to Sir Simon Mountfort of Colshill, Knight, and Sir Richard Bingham (the Judge who then lived at Middleton), it was determined that the marriage should be solemnized betwixt them, and, in consideration of two hundred marks portion, a convenient jointure settled ; and also that, for the trespass done by the same Richard Brace
* The name Ardern, or Wood, was given at first to a forestcovered tract, which extended from the Avon to the Trent on the north, and the Severn on the west ; but it was retained at a very early period by that part only which lay within Warwickshire.
bridge in so taking away the young gentleman, he should give to the before specified Walter Arden the best horse that could by him be chosen in Kingsbury Park.” *
Robert Arden, the page of the bedchamber, was grandfather to the Robert Arden who let his land to Richard Shakespeare, - a fact in which we may be sure that landlord and tenant took some pride, because, as we shall see, it was so well remembered by their grandson. Of the family affairs and fortunes of Richard Shakespeare, nothing of interest is known; but among the Shakespeares of Snitterfield were two, John and Henry, who were of the age which his sons might be, and who were brothers. There appears to have been but one family of the name in the place, and there is hardly room for doubt that they called him father. Henry Shakespeare's name will come up again but our concern is with the fortunes of his brother' John, who appears to have been a man of thrift and capacity, and withal, as such men are apt to be, somewhat ambitious. Robert Arden had no son to inherit his name, his property, and his bedchamber honors; but he had seven daughters. The youngest of these, Mary, who seems to have been her father's favorite, John Shakespeare won to look on him with liking; and so he married into the landlord's family, and allied his blood to that of the Ardens, with their high old English
• Dugdale's Antiquities of Warwickshire, (fol., 1656,) p. 678.
pedigree, stretching past the Conqueror away beyond the reign of the Confessor. And to us of English race it is a matter of some interest to know that Shakespeare came of pure English blood, and not upon his mother's side of Norman,, as some have concluded, because of her gentle and ancient lineage, and because, to use the words of one of them, Arden "sounds like a Norman name." But Ardern, which became Arden, is Celtic, and the name was given to the northern part of Warwickshire by the ancient Britons. And as there has even been a book written to show that Shakespeare was a Celt, it may be well to say here, that the Turchill * de Arden who is above mentioned was the first of his family who assumed a surname.
His father's name was Alwin, which, like his own, was common enough of old among the English. He called himself, from the place in which he lived, Turchill de Ardern; but the Normans called him Turchill de Warwick, because of the office which he held under Edward the Confessor, and which the Conqueror allowed him to retain in spite of his English, or possibly Danish blood, because, like many other powerful Englishmen, he had not helped Harold, and did not oppose Duke William's title. For it should
* The ch is hard in this name, which was often written Tur. kill.
+ “This Turchill resided here at Warwick, and had great pos*sessions in this county when William Duke of Normandy invaded
always be remembered that, according to the loose dynastic notions of that day, the Norman bastard had some claim to the throne of England, and that it was the land of a divided people that he successfully invaded. From this people, who swallowed up their conquerors (like themselves, of Teutonic family), and imposed upon them their language, their customs, and their very mental traits, came the man in whose origin we have so great an interest; and, to all intents and purposes, from this people only, even on the mother's side ; for the Ardens, in spite of their position, seem to have intermarried almost altogether with English families.*
But to return to the humbler members of the Arden family, with whom we have more immediate concern. Whether Robert Arden consented to the marriage of the daughter who has given
England and vanquisht King Harold; and though he were then a man of especial note and power, yet did he give no assistance to Harold in that battail, as may be easily seen from the favor he received at the hands of the Conqueror. .... And though he had so much respect from the victorious Norman as to possess these during his life, yet is it most clear that his son (Siward] enjoyed none of them as his heir, but by the favor of the Conqueror. .... By which instance we may partly see how hardly the native English were dealt with ; viz., not to enjoy their in. heritances though they did not at all oppose the Conqueror's title, as by that trust committed to this Turchill for enlarging of Warwick Castle may be inferred.” — Dugdale's Antiquities of Warwickshire, pp. 302, 303.
* See Dugdale's Antiquities of Warwickshire, passim.