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Who was Shakespeare’s wife?

An introduction to Mrs Anne Shakespeare.

Anne Hathaway's Cottage
Anne Hathaway's Cottage

Shakespeare’s wife was born Anne Hathaway. The pair were married towards the end of 1582, when William was 18 years old.  Anne's exact date of birth is not known, but she is thought to have been 26 when they married.

Anne was the daughter of Richard Hathaway, a well-to-do yeoman farmer. When he died in 1581 he left his 25 year old daughter a dowry of £6 13s 4d, which was a considerable sum.

It’s possible that William and Anne ‘plighted their troth’ in a hand-fasting ceremony. This was traditionally undertaken on Lammas Day (1 August) where an exchange of vows was witnessed and the couple bedded, prior to the official church wedding.

What we do know is that Anne was three months pregnant at the time of their marriage. To avoid scandal it was important for the wedding to take place before signs of the pregnancy became too obvious, so William sped up proceedings by applying to the Bishop’s Court in Worcester. Two Shottery farmers accompanied William to the court to act as guarantors of the huge sum of £40, which they would be required to pay if the marriage proved to invalid.

Following their wedding, it’s believed that Anne would have moved in with Shakespeare’s parents to live in the family home on Henley Street.

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