How many godchildren did Shakespeare have?
In October 1608, Shakespeare stood as godfather to William Walker, the son of one of the bailiffs in Stratford-upon-Avon. Earlier that year, Henry Walker had presided over a court case in which Shakespeare sued John Addenbrooke for the sum of £6. Shakespeare became his son’s godfather during a ceremony at Holy Trinity Church a few months later when William Walker was baptised. When Shakespeare died in 1616, he left his seven-year-old godson twenty shillings in his will. Years later, William Walker himself served as bailiff in Stratford-upon-Avon, following in his father’s footsteps and in the footsteps of his godfather’s father, John Shakespeare.
It is thought that Shakespeare was also godfather to another child, William Davenant, who was baptised in March 1606. The antiquary and biographer John Aubrey recorded some gossip that suggested that William Davenant was not only Shakespeare’s godson, but also his natural son. In his travels to and from London and Stratford-upon-Avon, Shakespeare stayed at the Crown Tavern which was run by John Davenant and his wife Jane. According to Aubrey, when the younger William Davenant grew up and became one of the leading playwrights of the Restoration, he liked to consider himself the natural son of William Shakespeare and Jane Davenant:
Mr William Shakespeare was wont to go into Warwickshire once a year, and did commonly in his journey lie at this house [the Crown] in Oxon, where he was exceedingly respected…Now Sir William [Davenant] would sometimes, when he was pleasant over a glass of wine with his most intimate friends…say that it seemed to him that he writ with the very spirit that did Shakespeare, and seemed contented enough to be thought his Son.
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