In researching Shakespeare I have gathered quite a bit of odd data. Some of this I have put into a chronology of sorts. Let me warn you that while I have made every effort to be accurate, I cannot with all honesty say that original sources from the time of Shakespeare are all that accurate. Time is an odd thing, and in his lifetime, it was odder than most.
It is easily possible for these dates to be correct and still off by as much as a year and ten days. England stayed on the Julian calendar while most Catholic countries changed over to the Gregorian calendar on Oct 5, 1582. So for Rome, Spain, Prussia, Luxumberg, Portugal and Texas, Oct 5, 1582 was now Oct 15. A lot of countries had mixed conversions including France and Italy. Some switched over later, a few missed Christmas by skipping to the new year on December 21, 1582.
This means that shortly after Shakespeare gets married, you can’t trust dates. Not even diaries because they might switch with the town’s date or the writer’s religion. To make things worse, in England, the year started in Spring. New Years Day was March 25 until 1751. Though this seems logical, that means that in England, March 10, 1588 is 11 months after April 10, 1588, not one month before.
Most scholars seem to either keep the date listed on the document, or correct the year to the Gregorian, and keep the month and day Julian. Some try to list things with both years separated by a slash. The day recorded as March 24, 1588 in England could be the same day as the one recorded as April 3, 1589 in Rome. When we read it, it looks like A year and ten days later. To make it worse, a lot of our references are contemporary histories. It is quite likely that they were confused too. On the Julian calendar, winter is the end of the year. So a person from a Protestant city in France might assume that a reference to the winter of 90 was the end of the year, when in a Catholic city it could be either.
So with that in mind here is the chronology from 1542 to the birth of Shakespeare. Sadly much of it is religious intolerance and violence. A men responded in kind to the violence and intolerance, it fed further violence and intolerance.
1542 The first burning of Protestants is started by the Spanish Inquisition.
1542 James V of Scotland passes away. He leaves behind his wife, Mary of Guise, the Queen Mother and his newborn daughter, Mary Stuart, now Queen of Scotland.
1543 July 12, The Lovely Catherine Parr, 21, becomes the last wife of Henry the Eighth. She had been planning to be the wife of Thomas Seymour, the Uncle of Henry the Eighth’s son, Edward.
1544 Mary of Guise, assumes the regency of Scotland, replacing the Earl of Arran.
1544 Parliament realizing that Henry the Eighth is getting old and his heir Edward might not live, so they put Elizabeth in line after Edward. Besides she is a cute, smart 11 year-old with no love for the Catholic Church. Parliament doesn’t want to go back to being Catholic, the Pope might take back the land they split up amongst themselves.
1545 the twelve-year-old Elizabeth presents her father with her own translation, in French, Italian and Latin, of the queen’s exemplary Prayers and Meditations. He recognizes her as his child. How else could she be so cute and so smart.
1546 March, (Must be after the 24th due to the chronology of events.) George Wishart, a reformer is put to death for heresy, by the Scottish Cardinal Beaton. Heresy of course meaning that he disagreed with the Catholic Church. Wishart’s clothing was stuffed with packets of gunpowder and he was wrapped in chains, and then blown-up, burned and hung. Or maybe hung, burned and blown-up, the histories disagree with each other and themselves. Wishart a reportedly forgiving and meek man was the teacher and hero of the much less forgiving and meek, John Knox.
1546 May 29, Cardinal Beaton, the last Bishop of St. Andrews is slain in his own castle. Knox pleads innocent to having been involved. The castle continues to be held by the Lords who slew Beaton.
1547 July 31, Scotch and French troups take the castle of St. Andrews and Knox is put on board a French galley.
1547 King Henry the Eighth of England dies. His heir, Edward VI, becomes King.
1547 The Duke of Summerset, Edward Seymour, Edward VI’s uncle, Thomas Seymour’s more ethical brother, gains control of England.
1547 Thomas Seymour now Lord High Admiral tries to marry Elizabeth. When the Royal Council says no he then Marries Catherine Parr, his old flame, Henry the Eight’s last wife.
1547 Summerset wants to unite England and Scotland. He tries to enforce a marriage treaty arranged by Henry VIII and James V between the young Edward VI and Mary Queen of Scots. Mary of Guise thinks that Edward VI won’t last long. Besides her daughter has a better claim to the throne than all the rest. If her daughter marries the heir to France, then her daughter will one day be Queen of Scotland, Ireland, England and France. In an attempt to secure the marriage, Sommerset invades Scotland, crushes the Scottish troups at Pinkie, and lays waste to South East Scotland. The Scots in their odd humor called this, ‘The Rough Wooing’. The Roman army never got so far. Sommerset is one fine general.
1547 Thomas Seymour pays Lady Jane Grey’s father 2000 pounds so he could raise her. He had the money since the first thing he did as Lord High Admiral was to set up a deal on the side with pirates.
1547 Ivan IV alias Ivan the Terrible, crowns himself Tsar of Russia. This is the first use of the title, “Tsar,” in Russian History.
1548 August 7, Mary, Queen of Scots, now 5, is sent to marry the heir of France. This further cements the French-Scotch alliance that annoys the political strategists of England.
1548 Elizabeth who is fifteen is staying with Catherine Parr at Sudeley Castle, Gloucestershire, when Thomas Seymore starts come into her bedchamber early in the morning ‘before she were ready’ dressed ‘only in his nightgown…bare-legged’. If she were up he would bid her good morrow and ask her how she did, and strike her upon the back or the buttocks familiarly…And if she were in her bed he would put open the curtains…and make as though he would come at her. And she would go further into the bed so that he could not come at her. And one morning he strave [sic] to have kissed her in bed and her chambermaid bade him go away for shame. For a while, Catherine Parr herself joined in the fun, restraining Elizabeth while her husband slashed a black dress she was wearing to ribbons. Catherine was quite pregnant with Thomas’s child when she walked in on Thomas, holding Elizabeth in his arms. She caught on suddenly and expressed reasonable anger with both of them. Catherine Parr died after childbirth just a few weeks later. May she rest in peace.
1549 Thomas tries again to marry Elizabeth. His brother, Summerset forbids it outright. So Thomas looks over all of his plans; kidnap Edward VI, Marry Edward VI to Lady Jane Grey, Marry Elizabeth without the consent of council, or even take over the position as Lord Protector from his brother.
We have no records of such but I suspect the rest of his plans included; taking over England, becoming Pope, and ruling the world, Mwa, Ha, Ha, Ha.
Slightly drunk, he decides to kidnap Edward VI, he got as far as the king’s bedroom door before Edward’s loyal spaniel barked and spoiled the plot. Seymour was arrested, taken to the Tower and charged with thirty-three offenses. When he was beheaded Elizabeth said, “This day died a man of much wit and very little judgment.”
1549 The Book of Common Prayer, a work devised by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, is instituted. This starts the reformation of the English Church.
1549 John Dudley, earl of Warwick (later duke of Northumberland) took advantage of Summerset’s misfortunes. Joining with Thomas Wriothesley, earl of Southampton, and others, he deprived Summerset of the protectorate and imprisoned him in the Tower of London.
1549 The Catholic Church condemns the use of concubines, (female sex slaves) by the clergy. Before this time bishops could collect fees to permit priests and monks to keep concubines. A man who kept two concubines could be ordained while a man with two legal marriages could not.
1550 English Act orders defacing images in books of Old Service, and all images in the church. They feel that the icons smack of idolatry.
1550 September 10, a letter is sent from France to England’s governing Council, Sir John Masone recorded the arrival, for sale in France, of undefaced images from England, giving rise to unwelcome local gossip about the state of religion at home. `Three or four ships have lately arrived from England, ‘ he wrote, `laden with images . . .
1551-1555 Dr. Dee, the respected scientist and conjuror, receives patronage from Northuberland for his research. Dee was tutor to the Northumberland children, including Robert Dudley, the future Earl of Leicester (pronounced like Lester). Leicester was his major patron.
1552 Sommerset, because he is a great general and popular with the people, is beheaded by the band that just took over England’s administration.
1552 Second Prayer Book of Edward VI eliminates exorcism prayer at Baptism and a whole lot of other ceremonies that couldn’t be found in the bible and thus were obviously made up by man. The altar is replaced by a table and attendance at Sunday service is made compulsory.
1552 John Shakespeare, our hero William’s father to be, is fined for an unauthorized dunghill in Stratford.
1552 Christmas Day, John Knox, who had recently refused to be made Bishop of Rochester, makes a bold sermon about the impending horror of Catholicism returning after the sickly King Edward VI’s soon likely death.
1553 May 25. Lady Jane Grey is wed to Northumberland’s son Lord Guilford Dudley. Northumberland having already eliminated Summerset, wanted to cement his power. So he persuades King Edward VI to make Lady Jane Gray heir to the throne.
1553 July 6, King Edward VI dies. May he rest in peace. Our best theory for the cause of death; congenital syphilis. Henry the Eighth gave his son more than just royal blood.
1553 July 6, Against her wishes, Lady Jane Grey is made Queen Jane of England. After a spell of faintness she announced “The crown is not my right, and pleaseth me not. The Lady Mary is the rightful heir.” Lady Jane Grey is a very humble Christian Protestant and doesn’t like dressing in expensive clothing. When Northumberland forces her to put on the Crown Jewels she realizes what Northumberland really is and declares that her Husband, Northumberland’s son, will never be made king. Suddenly Northumberland realizes his plan for taking over England and ruling the world, Mwa, Ha, Ha, Ha, is over.
1553 July 19, Mary Tudor takes over and becomes Queen Mary. Lady Jane Gray is relieved when she is told by her father that she is no longer Queen. Queen Mary assures everyone that she knows that Lady Jane Gray is innocent of any wrong doings.
1553 October 1, Queen Mary has her coronation.
1553 October 5, first act of Queen Mary’s Parliament is to repeal the divorce of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon, Mary’s mum.
1554 February 12, (Remember that February 12 is late in the year in the English calendar.) Queen Mary, alias Bloody Mary, ‘reluctantly,’ has Lady Jane Grey Executed.
1554 Some two hundred English Protestant divines flee England to Germany and Switzerland. There, they become exposed to the radical ideas of Calvin and Zwingli.
1554 Church lands are not restored to the church and Bloody Mary is still head of the church. Yes, she may be Catholic, but power is hard to let go of. . Parliament refuses to revive heresy laws. Bloody Mary is for a moment denied the right to order Protestants to be burned.
1554 Elizabeth committed to the Tower, but later removed to Woodstock.
1554 Parliament denies Bloody Mary the right to alter the succession.
1554 Nov 30, Phillip Sidney Born in Kent, named after Phillip of Spain.
1554 Catholics and Lutherans accept the fact of religious division with the “Peace of Augsburg,” agreement.
1554 December, Parliament revives the heresy laws.
1554 February, The first burnings of Protestants by Bloody Mary. In less than 3 years 300 Protestants will be burned to death. Many of them are those radical and scary Anabaptists. The Anabaptists believed that killing was forbidden by the bible. The one thing that Catholics, Lutherans and Calvinists agreed on was that these people were dangerous.
1555 Cardinal Marcello Cervini Delgi Spannochi becomes Pope Marcellus II and dies soon afterward without completing any of the reforms that he had planned.
1555 All chance of peace, between those who differ in their expression of their love of Christ, is destroyed by one event. Cardinal Giovanni Caraffa the Grand Inquisitor becomes Pope Paul IV. Pope Paul IV once expressed the sentiments “Even if my own father was a heretic, I would gather the wood to burn him” and “No man must debase himself by showing toleration toward heretics of any kind, above all toward Calvinists.”
1555 The burning of Protestants in England is viewed quite favorably by Rome.
1555 March 26, (This is the 2nd day of the new year.) John Knox becomes pastor a refugee English congregation in Geneva. This event is considered by some as the birth of English Puritanism.
1555 or 1556 Anne Hathaway enters this world.
1556 Conspirators (Including Northumberland) aiming to dethrone Mary are executed. Cranmer and others are burned.
1556 John Shakespeare appointed Taster of bread and ale.
1556 October 2, John Shakespeare buys Henley Street house.
1556 November 24, Robert Arden, who is the father of Mary Arden, who will later be Shakespeare’s Mum, favors Mary Arden by making her executor of his will and giving her the most valuable property.
1557 July 7, Bloody Mary declares war on France to support her husband, the King of Spain, who is at war with France. Spain wins the war, but England looses Calais to France.
1558 John Shakespeare listed as one of four Stratford constables.
1558 John Shakespeare fined for failing to keep gutters clean. Is this guy a pig or what?
1558 April 24, Mary, Queen of Scots, married French Dauphin, Francis Valois at Notre Dame in Paris.
1558 September 15, John and Mary Shakespeare christen their first child, Joan, the curate was Roger Dyos. She probably died within a year or two.
1558 November 17, Bloody Mary, Queen of England died. May she rest in peace. Elizabeth is now the ruler of England.
1559 Edwardian injunctions reinstated: Now those hidden Catholic idols are to be hunted out.
1559 The town of Perth, Scotland, became protestant. Mary of Guise, the Queen Regent, wasn’t feeling good to begin with and this really ticked her off. She didn’t want a repeat of St. Andrews. So Mary summoned all the Protestant preachers to appear before her in Sterling on May 10. The Protestant Lords, decided that as Christians they should respond peacefully and march together unarmed, as army of nobles and gentry in support of their reformed preachers. They sent Erskine of Dun ahead to speak with the Queen Regent and warn her of their peaceful show of solidarity.
1559 May 2, John Knox returned to Scotland. When Knox arrived in Perth, he immediately takes over the movement. Knox, always dramatic, makes a lot of extremely provocative statements.
1559 May 4, The Queen Regent of Scotland, declares Knox a rebel. The Protestants decide not to go visit her after all.
1559 May 10, The Queen Regent, realizing that the Protestant preachers are not going to show up, declares them rebels. Erskine hurries back to Perth to warn his brethren.
1559 May 11, Knox preached about idolatry in the Mass. Afterward, An unaware priest preparing to perform mass erects an alter with an image on it. A young boy who had attended Knox’s sermon starts to yell about how intolerable idol worship is. The priest strikes the boy. The boy throws a rock and breaks the image. A riot called the ‘Rascal Multitude’ by Knox, starts. They destroy the alter and then destroy all the monasteries in the area.
1559 May 31, the protestant lords, fearing for their safety create the Perth Covenant, “The whole congregation shall consider, assist, and convene together to the defense of the said congregation or person troubled, or shall not spare labor, goods, substance, bodies, and lives in maintaining the liberties of the whole congregation…” The Scottish protestant rebellion is now official.
1559 June 24, The Acts of Uniformity were established in England. This suppresses the celebration of Latin Mass. Defending Papal authority becomes a punishable offense. The Acts put a twelve pence fine on not going the church on Sunday and Holy Days. The Book of Common Prayer becomes enforced by law. This Book of Common Prayer is a modified version of second Prayer Book of Edward VI.
It is more like Henry the Eighth’s primer and less political than the previous prayer books. It omits litany against papal tyranny, as well as the Black rubric denying any form of real presence of God in the church. It also reintroduces prayers for the dead. The Catholic Bishops of Bloody Mary are replaced as they refuse to take Replacement of Marian bishops refusing to take oath (all refused except one; but nearly all inferior clergy accepted). Defending Papal authority is made punishable by loss of all goods for first offense, second by life imprisonment, third by traitor’s death. These penalties not consistently applied, and are used at discretion of Queen and ministers in part, or in full.
1559 July 10, King Henri of France died. Mary Queen of Scots’ husband, Francis, becomes King of France. Catherine de Medici is the queen regent.
1559 Lord Montague gives a House of Lords speech, arguing against the anti-papist legislation: “What man is there so without courage and stomach, or void of all honour, that can consent . . . to receive an opinion and new religion by force and compulsion?”
1559 Sir Nicholas Bacon gave moderating speech, bidding his audience banish “all contentious, contumelious, or opprobrious words, as heretic, schismatic, Papist, and such like names and nurses of sedition, factions, and sects”.
1559 Elizabeth refuses marriage with Philip II (dashing reunion hopes? her successive suitors periodically arouse hopes).
1559 John Jewel preaches “Challenge Sermon,” challenging Catholics to justify their belief in Purgatory, papal primacy, veneration of saints, the mass, as being in the early church.
1559 Plays in England become restricted to the upper classes, “common interludes in the English tongue . . . to be played wherein either matters of religion or of the governance of the estate of the common weal shall be handled or treated upon but by men of authority, learning and wisdom, nor to be handled before any audience, but of grave and discrete persons.”
1559 John Shakespeare recorded as assessor of fines at Stratford court.
1559 Queen Elizabeth has her Coronation.
1559 In Stratford, Dyos, the catholic curate is forced to retire because he is not being paid. Sir Robert Throckmorton writes a letter to the corporation to protest Roger Dyos’s poor treatment. Dyos retires to Little Bedwyn in Wiltshire.
1560 Ivan the Terrible is one of Elizabeth’s suitors.
1560 Early, 1560 Amy Robsart, wife of Queen Elizabeth’s favorite Robert Dudley, was removed to Cumnor Place, Berkshire, the house of Anthony Forster, a creature of her husband’s She had a terminal illness — or so it was given out.
1560 April, English troops assist the Scottish protestant rebels against Mary of Guise and the French troops that are supporting her.
1560 June 11, Mary of Guise passes from the Earth. May she rest in peace.
1560 August 13, A report is made to Lord Burleigh as to the open assertions of Mother Anne Dowe of Brentwood, concerning the condition of the Queen. She said that the Queen was with child by Robert Dudley. Anne Dowe is sent to prison.)
1560 September 8, Robert Dudley’s wife is found lying dead with neck broken at the foot of a staircase. It is generally believed that Dudley or Elizabeth was an accessory to the crime.
1560 November, The Queen’s “looks” are quite consistent with a pregnant woman.
1560 December 31, Throckmorton (English Ambassador to French Court) concerned with the bruits and rumors. His letter to Cecil suggests that he was aware that the Queen was married secretly. . . .He was asked point blank by the Spanish Ambassador (at the French Court) if the Queen was not secretly married to Lord Robert. The bruits of her doings, be very strange in all courts and countries.” A secret despatch of the Spanish Envoy advises that the Queen is expecting a child by Dudley.” (Escurial Papers.)
1560 January 21, Queen Elizabeth was secretly married to Robert Dudley in the House of Lord Pembroke before a number of witnesses.” This is one day off from the date Francis Bacon is assumed to have been born.
1560 Geneva Bible published, to be used (along with Bishop’s Bible) by Shakespeare; first to divide into verses, is influenced by Calvin, Beza, and the French, coined “vanity of vanities, except a man be born again.”
1560 Vicar of Stratford ejected for popery.
1560 Catholics arrested at French embassy in London for attending Latin Mass.
1560 February 27, Treaty of Berwick between England and Scotland.
1560 June 11, Marie d’Guise, Reagent of Scotland, Mary’s Mother, died of dropsy, an accumulation of fluid in the body.
1560 July 6, Treaty of Edinburgh concluded the Anglo/Scottish pact The Treaty of Edinburgh is signed. The purpose that French and English troops would withdraw from Scotland but Mary and François were to agree to give up claim to the English crown and recognize Elizabeth as rightful Queen. Mary Queen of Scots did not ratify this treaty.
1560 August 11, Latin Mass was prohibited in Scotland.
1560 December 5, Francis II, King of France, Husband of Mary, Queen of Scots, died. May he rest in peace. The always tactful Knox cheers the death of “Our Jezebel’s husband.”
1561 Mary, Queen of Scots, returns to Scotland, after death of husband Francis II, and clashes with Knox.
1561 Spanish ambassadors play matchmakers between Elizabeth and Leicester, under notion that if Spain supported this, England would return to Catholicism (see Eliot’s The Waste Land).
1561 Chaucer, Works, ed. Stow, with “The Knight’s Tale” (source for Two Noble Kinsmen and MNDream), “Legend of Good Women” (Lucece), “Troilus and Criseyde” (TCressida).
1561 Hoby translates Castiglione’s Courtier, a probable source for Much Ado.
1561 John Shakespeare elected one of two chamberlains of Stratford Corporation, where he administers the boroughs properties and revenues.
1561 19 August, Mary returned to Scotland, landing at Leith.
1561 Christmas, Stratford’s Lord of the Manner, Ambrose Dudley is made Earl of Warwick. Ambrose Dudley’s Dad John Duke of Northumberland was executed for trying to put his daughter in law Jane Grey on the throne.
1561 in Stratford Vicar posted to Stratford. Master Hohn Bretchgirdle, from Witton Northwich, he had a M.A. of Christ Church Oxford, and held to Church of England Principles. Unmarried and Scholarly.
1561 August 19 Mary returned to Scotland, landing at Leith.
1562 February, James Stuart half-brother to Mary is given the title, Earl of Moray.
1562 Don Carlos of Spain sought as a husband for Mary.
1562 Oct, the battle of Corrichie. Mary Queen of Scotts and the Earl of Moray defeat Huntly. Probably in order to regain the lands of Moray for the new Earl of Moray. Huntly was the strongest defender of the Catholic faith in Scotland.
1562 December 2. In Stratford, Margaret Shakespeare is born and then dies a few months later.
1562 March 1, 1200 Huguenots were slain at Vassy, France, by the Guises, (pronounce as geez,) the most powerful family in France. The Guises, from eastern France, are very Catholic. This is the start of the French Religious Wars.
1563 January, in Stratford, a Willam Bott, gets New Place from William Clopton. Bott does not make himself popular.
1563 Elizabeth keeps the succession vague, so as not to alienate Scotland, while the Puritan Parliament pushes to establish the Protestant succession, and disallow Mary.
1563 July Ambrose Earl of Warwick, was seriously wounded in the thigh by an arquebus shot at the siege of Le Havre.
1563 Plague in London.
1563 First notice of Lord Strange’s players, active in provinces till 1570.
1563 Foxe’s Acts and Monuments, or Book of Martyrs: making effective use of Marian martyrs, established influential thesis that England was elected by God to restore the Church: source for “miracle of St. Alban’s” in 2 HVI, Cranmer’s trial in Henry VIII, probably for Sir Thomas More, possible source for King John.
1564 Christopher Marlowe enters this world.
1564 John Hawkins, Francis Drake’s Mentor makes his second voyage to New World.
1564 Galileo Galilei enters this world.
1564 John Calvin passes from this world. May he rest in peace.
1564 Phillip Sidney and Fulk Greville enter Shrewsbury School.
1564 Willam Bott accused the Corporation of Stratford’s Council of not having an honest man amongst them. He was expelled from the council. John Shakespeare took his place.
1564 Dudley is created Earl of Leicester.
1564 Thomas Harding writes, “Because of government spies… the evil lies in the universal distrust, for a father dares not trust his own son.”
1564 John Shakespeare listed among “capital burgesses” of Stratford. gives money for relief of plague victims.
1564 April 22 Shakespeare Enters this world. his Father John Shakespeare son of Richard Shakespeare. His Mother Mary, daughter of Robert Arden. It is generally accepted that Shakespeare was born on the 23rd, St Georges day. While it is romantic to think that Shakespeare was born and died on the same day of the year, St Georges day, there is good reason to suspect that the 22nd is the correct day. In the manner of the record he was born on the 21st, 22nd or 23rd. My reason for date of April 22 is that it would be more logical for him to be visited on his birthday by Ben Johnson and Michael Drayton than on the day before his birthday. Shakespeare’s granddaughter Elizabeth married on 22 April 1626, perhaps out of respect for her famous and wealthy grandfather.
This sets the tone and gives a bit of feel for the pressures of the day. Plague, suspicion and religious intolerance reign supreme.