Mary Arden

The Mother of William Shakespeare

  • Mary Arden was the mother of William
  • What was her background? Was she well educated?
  • Was she rich? Was her family powerful?
  • Family approve of her marriage to John Shakespeare?
  • Interesting information about the family, life and times of William Shakespeare

Mary Arden - The Mother of William Shakespeare


  • Mary Arden Shakespeare was the mother of William Shakespeare the Great Bard
  • She lived between 1540 - 1608
  • Mary's father, Robert Arden, was a member of the noble Catholic family of the Ardens of Park Hall whose family forebears had been given land by William the Conqueror
  • Mary Arden was the youngest of eight daughters
  • Mary's wealthy family home was called Glebe Farm, a two-storey Wilmecote farmstead ( Wilmecote was situated about 8 miles from Stratford-upon-Avon )

Picture of Arden Forest
owned by the family of Mary Arden

William Shakespeare Index


  • Mary Arden, the heiress, and John Shakespeare, the Yeoman, married in 1557 presumably in the parish church of St John the Baptist, Aston Cantlow
  • Mary was 17 and John was 26 years old at the time of their marriage
  • Mary Arden's father left her his most valuable possession - the Arden estate in Wilmcote, which was called Asbies, so she was quite a catch for John Shakespeare
  • Mary was illiterate - she used a running horse as her signature!
  • As soon as she married Mary moved to the house owned by her husband John in Henley Street in Stratford-upon-Avon. The village of Stratford had a population of 1500 people, and only 200 houses at this time
  • Her husband was extremely ambitious and traded in wool and other farm produce and also as a Glover and Whittawer (making saddles, harnesses and fine leather gloves)
  • Mary's husband was also a money lender! He made enough money to purchase another house in Greenhill Street, Stratford in 1552


The exact Birthdays of the children are unknown as births were not registered, however, children were generally baptised 3 days after their birth

  • Mary Arden Shakespeare had eight children over a period of twenty years between 1558 - 1580 (four sons and four daughters)
  • On September 15 1558 the first child of John and Mary was baptised but she only survived for two months and died of the Bubonic Plague
  • On December 2 1562 Margaret was baptised - she died one year later. The cause of death was unknown but it is probable that she also died of the Bubonic Plague
  • 1564 April 26 William was baptised (he died in 1616 aged 52 )
  • 1566 October 13 Gilbert was baptised (he died 1612 aged 46)
  • 1569 Another daughter, also called Joan was born (she died in 1646 aged 77)
  • 1571 September 28 Anne was baptised (1579 she died aged 7 another victim of the plague)
  • 1574 March 11 Richard was baptised (he died 1613 aged 39)
  • 1580 May 3 Edmund was baptised (he died in London in 1607 aged 27)


The life of Mary Arden was determined by the success or failure of her husband John. Mary Arden's role was to bring up the Shakespeare family.

  • Between 1557 and 1570 her husband was extremely successful, building his businesses and increasing the wealth of the family
  • John assumed civic duties in Stratford and Mary Arden Shakespeare's standing in the community of Stratford-upon-Avon would have increased accordingly
  • In 1570 problems arose and the Shakespeare's application to bear a Coat-of-Arms fails. It is not known why the fortunes of the family plunged but is possible that this was associated with the Catholic relious beliefs of the family when the Protestant religion was favoured
  • In 1578 John became behind with his taxes
  • In 1579 John was forced to mortgage Mary's estate, Asbies
  • 1582 William marries Anne Hathaway and six months later on May 26 1583 John and Mary Arden Shakespeare become grandparents to Susanna Shakespeare. A scandal for Mary to cope with as Anne was pregnant when she married. The newlyweds and the new addition lived in Mary's house in Henley Street, Stratford-upon-Avon
  • In 1583 Edward Arden, the head of the Catholic Arden Family was executed for his beliefs and for plotting against the life of the Queen. Edward Arden's son-in-law, John Somerville, was also arrested, tortured on the rack and died in the Tower of London. Supporters of the Catholic Mary, Queen of Scots
  • 1585 February 2 and two more grandchildren when William's twins, Hamnet and Judith Shakespeare, were baptised
  • In 1586 John Shakespeare was removed from the Board of Aldermen and by 1590 John and Mary Arden Shakespeare's only possession was the house on Henley Street
  • By 1592 Mary Arden's son, William Shakespeare, was mixing with nobles and courtiers
  • In 1594 William Shakespeare would play before Queen Elizabeth. The name of Shakespeare was again accepted
  • 1596 August 11, Hamnet died, possibly from the plague, at the age of eleven. Another tragic event in Mary Arden Shakespeare's life
  • Mary Arden Shakespeare's thankfully fortunes rose, with those of her son William, and on October 20, 1596 the family was granted permission to display a Coat-of-Arms
  • On May 4th 1597 William Shakespeare purchased New Place in Stratford-upon-Avon and Anne Hathaway Shakespeare moved from the home of Mary and John Shakespeare after living with her in-laws for 15 years
  • By 1599 John Shakespeare was reinstated on the Town Council at Stratford-upon-Avon and Mary's high position in the Stratford-upon-Avon community was re-established
  • In 1601 Mary's husband John Shakespeare dies
  • 1607 June 5, the marriage of Mary Arden's granddaughter Susanna to Dr. John Hall
  • 1608 February 21, The baptism of Elizabeth Hall - Mary Arden Shakespeare's great-granddaughter
  • 1608 Shakespeare's mother Mary Arden Shakespeare dies - the cause is unknown but she achieved a good age of 68 years old
  • September 9, 1608 Burial of Mary Shakespeare - Shakespeare buried his mother at Holy Trinity Church

Mary Arden

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