You may have heard of the famous author William Edward William (better known as Will) Shakespeare. Did you know that his descendants are still famous today? We’ll tell you more about the Shakespeare family and how their legacy lives on.
The Famous English Bard
William Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon in the early 15th century. He went on to become one of English literature’s most influential authors, famous for his comedies and tragedies. Some of his greatest works include Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, and The Merchant of Venice. He died in 1616, leaving behind a legacy that lives on to this day.
Shakespeare’s most famous play, Macbeth, introduced the world to the titular character, a thane (a member of the Scottish nobility) who is described as ‘a grim king’. Although he begins life as a good-humored person, Macbeth is described as growing increasingly tyrannical as the story progresses. He is eventually crowned king of Scotland after murdering his predecessor, Duncan, and marries his opposite number, Lady Macbeth. It is said that Macbeth murdered his entire family, including his wife, in order to secure the throne, and that he ordered the murders as he was getting bored of ruling Scotland!
Macbeth had one direct descendant who became King James I of England (James VI of Scotland). This line of succession led to further confusion when King James VI of Scotland (a Catholic) married his first cousin, Queen Mary (a Protestant). As a result, James was crowned King James I of England, Bohemia, and Ireland, but was considered to be a subordinate king of Scotland. The union was an unhappy one and produced only one daughter, Queen Elizabeth I. While James lived, he and his descendants were referred to as the House of Tudor, which became known as the Tudean Dynasty. (For more information on this, check out our blog post on the House of Tudor or dive into our Crown Prince George biography.)
The Tudean Dynasty ruled England for more than a century, making it one of the longest-reigning monarchies in history. Queen Elizabeth I, who was known for her love of literature, encouraged her subjects to read, and it is largely thanks to her that Shakespeare’s works remain so popular today. She was the last monarch of the House of Tudor, and her descendants, the House of Hanover, subsequently ruled Great Britain for more than two centuries.
The Modern Day Shakespeares
It’s been a while since we’ve done a post on Shakespeare’s famous descendants, but we couldn’t resist the opportunity to talk about them once again. As we mentioned above, Shakespeare’s most famous play was named after him. Since then, the name ‘Shakespeare’ has become synonymous with the Bard himself and all his works. (For more information on this, check out our blog post on the History of Shakespeare.)
But what is the Pattinson surname? We couldn’t find any records of a Will Shakespeare or a William Edward William Shakespeare, so we had to look further afield. For the answer, we need to go back to the 19th century. The Shakespeares were a family of English musicians that played in bands during the 1800s. (So they were a little like the Beatles, but without all the fame.) The bands were named after members of the family, and the most notable of these was probably ‘Shakespeare’s Children’, which contained some of his great-grandchildren. But why pay homage to Shakespeare when you’re not even related to him? It’s an excellent question, and one that we think about often when we think about the Shakespeare name. (For more information on this, check out our blog post on the Many Legends Associated with the Name ‘Shakespeare’.)
The Real Meaning of the Shakespeares’ Last Name
What Is the Pattinson Surname? The answer is complicated, and it comes from a family history that is rich with drama. As you may imagine, finding the root of the surname ‘Shakespeares’ is not easy. In fact, it’s been more than a century since anyone in the family has dared ask the question, “What is the Pattinson surname?”
The answer is rooted in a combination of genetics and semantics. In 1848, a Reverend Simon Stewart published a book that contained a groundbreaking theory regarding surnames. In his book, Church Social Aides: Their Ministry and Characteristics, he states: “It is a common error to suppose that a surname denotes its bearer’s place of origin. Many families have assumed that their surname denoted that they were from someplace other than England…This is a mistake. The name ‘Shakespeare’ does not stand for the Bard’s place of origin but for members of the family who were playwrights.”
Well, that certainly puts a different spin on things. It’s no longer enough to just pay homage to the great William Shakespeare and deny anything else. Now you have to prove that you’re a member of a prestigious family descended from the Bard. How exciting is that?
Where Do the Shakespeares Fit In Today?
Let’s take a walk down memory lane and revisit some of the things we’ve discussed in previous posts. First, we’ll start with William Shakespeare. As we mentioned above, he was born in Stratford-upon-Avon in April 1564. This is the same town where his most famous works are set, and it is here that he lived and died in 1616, leaving a legacy that will never be forgotten. (For more information on this, check out our blog post on the History of Stratford-upon-Avon.)
Stratford-upon-Avon was a city that took great pride in its connection to Shakespeare. It was built at the intersection of the Avon River and the Stratford Canal. (For more information on these, check out our blog post on the Industriousness of the People of Stratford-upon-Avon.)
Stratford-upon-Avon continues to celebrate its incredible connection to the world-famous playwright, and each year on April 23rd, the anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth, an extra curricular program is held in his honor. A parade is hosted through the streets of the city, and fireworks light up the night’s sky.
Shakespeare’s most famous play, Macbeth, had a great impact on Scottish culture and set a precedent for future monarchs. It had far-reaching consequences. The most famous line from the play is: “If chance should meet us while we’re playing, bid me good luck, out-of-doors!” This was said by Lady Macbeth as she and her husband were about to be murdered by Macbeth. The expression ‘outsiders’ is still used in reference to members of the royal family whom the public doesn’t recognize.)
Where Do the Hanoverians Fit In Today?
In a similar fashion to the Shakespeares, the Hanoverians have also tried to assert their lineage in recent years. (As we mentioned above, Shakespeare’s most famous descendant was King James I of England. The House of Hanover is still considered to be one of the most important families in England, and many of its members still live in the country.)
In the early days, it was difficult for a non-royal to claim the throne of Great Britain. In such cases, the descendants of George II (the King’s great-grandson, who reigned from 1727 to 1760) would reign instead. This meant that if you weren’t a member of the House of Hanover, you couldn’t sit on the throne of Great Britain. (This was even the case when the monarchy was considered to be in abeyance, which is a fancy way of saying that nobody was officially in charge at the time.) But these restrictions didn’t last long, and in 1801, George III was persuaded to abolish the rule. The Hanoverians still continue to fight for the throne of Great Britain, though without any of the restrictive parameters that once applied. (For more information on this, check out our blog post on the House of Hanover.)