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“The Welsh Ancestry of Shakespeare” from Shakespeare and the Welsh by Frederick James Harries, 1919.

Many prominent Shakespearian biographers have declared that Shakespeare's ancestry cannot be certainly determined, but Mr. Pym Yeatman, F.R.H.S. (of Lincoln's Inn, formerly of Emmanuel College, Cambridge), in his spirited essay, The Gentle Shakespeare Vindicated, claims to have discovered a link connecting the Shakespeare family with the Griffins, or Gryffyns, who were descendants of the old Welsh Kings. The author supports his case with a wealth of genealogical and testamentary detail, and explains that the clue which enabled him to complete the Griffin pedigree was found in Mr. Bickly's Register of the Guild of Knowle. "To Mr. Bickly, therefore," says Mr. Yeatman, "the world is indebted for this most remarkable and purely accidental discovery, a discovery which, it is perhaps not too much to say of it, utterly confounds the traducers of our Great Poet."

Of the Griffin pedigree Mr. Yeatman writes (Chapter XIV.): "The author was searching at Northampton Probate Registry for material to illustrate the history of the Griffin family of that county, and the first will he came to was that of one Francis Griffin of Braybrook, dated February 26th, 37 Henry VIII., in which he refers to his sister, Alys Shakespeare, and, curiously, this was the only will of the family which emanated from that place; nearly all the Griffin wills are to be found in London Registers. It would not appear from this will that Francis Griffin had any other connection with the county of Warwick, although he refers to his cousins, Sir Edward Griffin (afterwards Queen Mary's Attorney-General), who was closely connected with the county; and he also refers to Edmund Bacon, of a family with whom the Griffins were connected by marriage. In 29 Elizabeth Sir Robert Bacon was guardian for the children of Richard Griffin of Warwick, who probably settled there through the marriage of Sir Edward Griffin with the daughter of Sir John Smyth, one of the Barons of the Exchequer also a Warwickshire man, and allied by marriage to the great Lord Burleigh. There can be little doubt that Sir Edward Griffin mainly owed his advancement to that great man, Sir Nicholas Bacon, who held the Great Seal at this period, and under whom he held his office; and therefore there must have been a close connection between the Griffins, and their connections, the Shakespeares, even with Francis Bacon (Lord Verulam), his son, as well as with the Cecils. In all probability this connection, if worked out, will lead to the discovery that Alys Griffin (grandmother of the poet) was akin to the great Lord Bacon.”

The pedigree (which Mr. Yeatman publishes) commences with Griffith, King of South Wales, son of "Rise ap Tudor, King of South Wales, heir of King Kadwalider, who died tempe William Rufus, King of England, and Gwenlian, his wife, daughter of Griffith ap Kymme, King of North Wales," and is continued to Edward Griffin of Berkswell, 1500.

How Alys Griffin entered the Shakespeare family is shown by the following extract from Mr. Yeatman 's chart:

Shakespeare's immediate descent is set forth as follows:

The interest of this pedigree is obvious. The Celtic strain in Shakespeare's blood may be held to account for the sporadic appearance of genius in an unremarkable middle-class family, as it no doubt accounted for John Shakespeare's restless versatility and almost morbid sensitiveness under adversity. How far Alys Shakespeare was a Welshwoman in her mental habit we cannot know; but we do know that tradition dies hard with the Welsh, and would be more particularly likely to survive in a family proud of its Welsh lineage. Are we justified in picturing the boy Shakespeare as absorbing the folk and fairy lore of the Welsh at the knee of his Welsh grandmother?

That is another thing that we can never know. But we do know that he was to some extent familiar with the fairy lore of the Welsh, and interested in Celtic legend; indeed, there are not wanting in the plays little loving touches, as of one referring to cherished memories, which might lead us to believe that his knowledge was acquired in childhood, and that the glamour of childhood lay upon his recollections of Welsh lore and legend. The evidence is almost too tenuous to pursue, yet on reading the plays with the knowledge of the poet's Welsh descent we do actually seem to catch glimpses here and there of Alys Shakespeare telling her little grandson the tales that she herself had heard perhaps from an old Welsh nurse, or perhaps from her own Welsh grandmother.

Harries, Frederick James. Shakespeare and the Welsh. T. Fisher Unwin, 1919.

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