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Shakespeare Coat of Arms

What did Shakespeare's coat of arms look like?

Did Shakespeare Receive a Coat of Arms?

Shakespeare Family Crest. The wreath referred to appears as a black and gold diagonal strip, while the mantles and tassels are leaf-like shapes in black and gold flowing from a grey steel helmet.

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. It has been estimated that William might have paid as much as £20 for it.

Between 1570 and 1630, there were 45 'gentlemen' in Stratford-upon-Avon out of a population of around 2,200 (in 1595). 28 had been born into the title; the other 17 were tradesmen who, like Shakespeare, successfully applied for the status. Like all of them, the Shakespeare family were entitled to display their coat of arms above the entrance to their homes, to have it set into windows, and carved into their furniture. 

Two of the first, like coats in heraldry/ Due but to one and crowned with one crest.

— A Midsummer Night's Dream, Act 3, Scene 2

A High Privilege

The grant document includes a rough drawing and the following technical description of the coat of arms: 

'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 that runs along the bottom reads, ‘Non Sans Droict’ which is old French and translates to ‘Not without right.’ Using the rough drawing and this description, the coat of arms can be reconstructed as shown above.

The Gable over the door of Shakespeare's Birthplace, with the shield from his coat of arms mounted with a wooden border centrally in the triangle of the gable.

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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