Worcestershire Archives invites you to delve into their treasure trove: Shakespeare’s Marriage Bond

  • 18th November 2013

As part of the Explore Your Archive campaign, which began on Saturday 16 November, Worcestershire Archive Service is encouraging people to take the time to visit The Hive to find out more about the wonders that can be found amongst our collections.  

The Explore Your Archive campaign is encouraging people to discover the stories, the facts, the places and the people that are at the heart of our communities. Archives across the UK and Ireland are taking part to raise awareness of the value of archives to society and of the rich variety of content that is held, preserved and made available to users.  

We have pulled together five of the treasures from our collections, to highlight the range of records that can be found. Each day this week we will bring you a new treasure to explore. To find out more about the campaign and how you can start your own adventure visit

For today’s treasure we bring you Shakespeare’s marriage bond:

In 1582 a marriage certificate as we know it today did not exist. The normal wedding procedure involved the calling of banns, however, William Shakespeare was under the age of 21 and Anne Hathway was pregnant so they applied for a licence which would enable them to marry straightaway.  As Stratford-upon-Avon was in the Diocese of Worcester, Shakespeare would have had to travel to Worcester to obtain a licence from the Bishop. The fee was paid, and the issue of the licence was recorded in the Bishop’s register.  As Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service is the designated Record Office for the Diocese of Worcester, the bond and register are held in our archives.

The Bond, dated 28th November 1582, states that ‘William Shagspere and Anne Hathway of Stratford maiden’ may lawfully solemnise matrimony after asking of the banns. Should the validity of the marriage be questioned then the sum of £40 posted by the sureties, who were farmers from Shottery in the parish of Stratford, friends of the bride’s father, would be forfeit.

One of the mysteries associated with Shakespeare’s marriage is where it took place.  For many of the possible parishes the registers have not survived and where registers do exist no entry has been found. One theory is that they married in St Martin’s Church which  married many couples by licence. The register for this period does exist, but the page for the year of 1582 has been carefully cut out, leaving only a tiny sliver of parchment. How long it has been missing no one is sure, but it has added to the mystery surrounding William Shakespeare’s marriage.

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