20th December 1583. Shakespeare and Catholicism.
William Shakespeare was a distant relative of the Catholic, Edward Arden, and seeing the persecution of his kinsman by the State, when he was 19, must have had a traumatic affect on the youth and his writings, and his attitude to tyranny.
It was Today in 1583 that Edward Arden was executed, despite the lack of any direct evidence against him or his wife Mary, (a Throckmorton), who had also been sentenced to death. In the event Mary was reprieved, thus escaping a women’s fate of hanging and burning.(1)
It would not be surprising then that brought up a Catholic William would continue to have secret affiliations to the ‘Old Faith’, though he couldn’t give vent to overt political or religious persuasions on stage as these were banned at that time.
Edward Arden was head of the Arden’s an old prosperous Warwickshire family of Park Hall, Castle Bromwich, 20 miles north of Stratford, who kept a priest disguised as a gardener, and was thought to have harboured the Catholic Edmund Campion.
He also had dangerous relatives: his son-in-Law John Somerville, with accomplices, planned to assassinate Elizabeth as did his brother in law Sir Francis Throckmorton in the 1583 Plot. Thus were the Ardens to be tainted by association.
Thus was more or less signed Edward’s death warrant, as he had acquired many enemies amongst the followers of the Queen’s new Protestantism, and he was investigated by the Queen’s favourite Earl of Leicester, Robert Dudley.
The Arden family according to James Lees-Milne was one of three able to trace ancestry back to Saxon times to the ancient Forest of Arden: Longcroft Hall, Staffordshire, now demolished, was long held by the Arden Family from 1576.(2)
(1) Edward’s father William was 2nd cousin to Mary Arden mother of William Shakespeare.
(2a) Many in the Forest of Arden had resisted the Reformation including the Shakespeare Family.
(2b) A Robert Arden was executed 1452 after supporting uprisings of Richmond III Duke of York.
(2c) The other two families cited are the Swintons and Berkeleys.
(2d) Thorkell of Arden was a descendant of the ruling court of Mercia and one of the few to retain land after the Conquest possibly because the Forest was impenetrable.
The Forest was even skirted by the Roman’s Icknield Street, Watling Street and Fosse Way, as well as the ancient salt track from Droitwich, Worcestershire.
Ref: Googlebooks/The Quest for Shakespeare.
Ref: wikipedia.org.robert_dudley and wikipedia.org/francis_throckmorton.