William Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway
William Shakespeare (Copyright: Scanpix)
A lot of mystery surrounds the marriage in 1582 of England’s greatest writer and Miss Hathaway, but we are pretty sure of a few facts. Firstly, William was 18 years old and Anne was 26. At the time, an age difference of this type was very unusual. Secondly, William needed his father’s permission to get married, because he was under 21. Thirdly, the couple were married in church, because in sixteenth-century England there was no alternative. And fourthly – and most shockingly in those days! – Anne was pregnant.
Anne Hataway's cottage - her childhood home
Some time after 1595, Shakespeare left his home town of Stratford and went to London, where he wrote wonderful plays and poems and became famous. He visited his family regularly, and bought them a beautiful house in Stratford, but he and Anne suffered a lot: Hamnet died at the age of eleven and Judith married a man who caused a scandal because he made another girl pregnant. William died in April 1616, after 34 years of marriage. He and Anne may have been happily married, but we will never be sure. In those days divorce was impossible for ordinary people, so couples had to stay married whether they wanted to or not.