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Shakespeare Coat of Arms

What did Shakespeare's coat of arms look like?

In 1596 William Shakespeare’s father, John Shakespeare, was granted a coat-of-arms. During this time of increasing social mobility, a coat of arms was an essential symbol of respectability, and they were highly sought after. The Shakespeare family would have been able to display it over the doors of their home, and decorate their possessions with it. The coat of arms was granted because of the military service of William’s grandfather. They set forth the Shakespeare family name.

Shakespeare Family Crest

The document by which the grant was made includes a rough drawing and the following technical description: 'Gold, on a bend [diagonal bar] sable [black], a spear of the first [i.e. gold], steeled argent [with a silver tip]; and for his crest... a falcon his wings displayed argent [silver], standing on a wreath of his colours supporting a spear gold, steeled as aforesaid, [i.e. silver] set upon a helmet with mantles and tassles'. The motto which runs along the bottom reads, ‘Non Sans Droict’ which is Latin and translates to ‘Not without right.’ Using the rough drawing and this description, the coat of arms can be reconstructed as shown here.

Shakespeare coat of arms

On his father’s death in 1601, William continued to use the coat of arms and had the right to style himself a gentleman. The coat of arms can be seen on Shakespeare’s monument, above his grave in Holy Trinity Church, and versions of it can be seen on Shakespeare’s Birthplace, above the entrance to the Shakespeare Centre and at Shakespeare's New Place

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