William Shakespeare had three children with his wife, Anne (Hathaway).
The couple’s first child was Susanna, born in May 1583, just six months after William and Anne got married. Suzanne was christened on 26 May 1583. William and Anne then had twins – named Hamnet and Judity in January 1585. The twins were baptized on 2 February 1589 named after two very close friends of William: the Stratford baker, Hamnet Sadler and his wife, Judith Sadler. Tragically, William’s only son, Hamnet Shakespeare, died of an unknown cause in August 1596, when he was just eleven years old.
Susanna Shakespeare (Hall)
On 5 June 1607, Susanna married Dr John Hall, a well known and prosperous Stratford physician. Susanna’s marriage to John Hall likely pleased Shakespeare tremendously, for Shakespeare appointed John and Susanna executors of his will. Susanna moved into Hall’s Croft – John Hall’s family home – after the wedding, and on 21 February 1608 gave birth to William Shakespeare’s first grandchild, a baby girl named Elizabeth Hall. Elizabeth was baptized at Holy Trinity Church in Stratford, where William Shakespeare was also baptized, married and buried.
William Shakespeare left Susanna most of his property upon his death in 1616, and she and John left Hall’s Croft on Shakespeare’s death to move into New Place, which had been Willian Shakespeare’s home. From New Place Susanna oversaw the affairs of Susanna’s mother Mary Shakespeare. Susanna had a reputation as a business-savvy and intelligent lady. We know that Susanna could sign her own name and it was likely she could also read – meaning it’s possible that she could have enjoyed the printed work of the two most celebrated men in Stratford – her father and husband,
Dr John Hall died suddenly in 1635 and was buried close to Shakespeare at Holy Trinity Church. Susanna died in 1649, at the relatively old age of sixty-six, in the knowledge that her only child Elizabeth had made a success of her life.
Elizabeth Hall lived a very noteworthy life. John and Susanna gave Elizabeth a good education, and there is evidence that “her handwriting was well formed and clear like that of her father”. Her first husband was Thomas Nash, a wealthy barrister and son of Shakespeare’s good friend, Anthony Nash. Elizabeth and Thomas were married in 1626 and moved into New Place. Thomas Nash died in 1645, and four years later Elizabeth married her second husband, John Barnard. Barnard was knighted in 1661 by King Charles II, after which Sir and Lady Bernard (Thomas and Elizabeth) took up their primary residence at a sprawling estate in Northamptonshire, Abington Manor, with Thomas; eight children from a previous marriage. Elizabeth herself had no children and was Shakespeare’s last descendant. She died in 1670, just days short of her sixty-second birthday.
Judith Shakespeare (Quiney)
Unlike Susanna, Shakespeare’s daughter Judith appears to have led something of a less upstanding life. Judith married a vintner called Thomas Quiney in February 1616 which brought scandal onto William Shakespeare. Thomas Quiney did not receive the necessary license for a wedding during Lent before he and Judith got married, and so the couple were excommunicated a month later. In addition to this bad start to married life, Thomas Quiney was subsequently prosecuted for ‘carnal copulation’ with Margaret Wheeler, a local woman who had died, along with her baby by Quiney. After confessing to this crime, Quiney was sentenced to perform public penance. Eventually, his penalty was commuted to a small fine and private penance. A few weeks later Shakespeare died, after updating his will to protect Judith’s inheritance from Quiney.
Thomas and Judith Quiney had three children named Shakespeare, Richard, and Thomas. Shakespeare Quiney died in infancy and was buried in 1617; Richard and Thomas died within weeks of each other (aged twenty-one and nineteen) and were buried in 1639. With the death of her husband sometime around 1652, Judith was alone. She lived on to the incredible age of 77, and was buried on 9 February 1662.
Little is known about Hamnet Shakespeare. He was probably raised principally by his mother Anne in the Henley Street house belonging to his grandfather.
By the time Hamnet was four, his father was already a London playwright, and as William Shakespeare’s popularity grew over the years, he was likely not regularly at home in Stratford with his family. Hamnet died when he was eleven years old due to unknown causes, though possibly from the Bubonic Plague. At that time in England, around one-third of all children died by the age of ten,
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