London, Nov. 24: A loveseat engraved with part of William Shakespeare’s coat of arms and his initials has resurfaced after 210 years.
The 17th century oak chair disappeared after it was removed from Anne Hathaway’s cottage in 1792. But experts from the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust attending an auction, in which the chair was for sale but advertised without reference to the bard, saw the engravings on the back. It was snapped up by the trust. Ann Donnelly, head of museums for the trust, said it was the “most important article we have acquired for a very long time”.
It was the author Samuel Ireland, a close friend of the family, who took the chair from the house of Hathaway, Shakespeare’s wife. It then vanished. Ireland made a record of it at the time, an engraving which later appeared in a book he published that featured the first known pictures of Hathaway’s house.
Local folklore says that when Ireland visited Shakespeare’s birthplace in the late 1700s, he was told by John Hart, a descendant of Shakespeare’s sister, Joan Hart, about an old oak chair that had “always in his remembrance been called Shakespeare’s courting chair”. Shakespeare lived from 1564 to 1616.
Who actually made the chair and when it was presented to the Shakespeare family remains a mystery. It features the initials WAS and a crude engraving of a shield and a falcon carrying a spear that make up the family’s coat of arms.
Donnelly added: “It was a stroke of luck that we found it. We had gone to the auction to sell some items that we no longer needed and just came across the chair. There was no reference to the engravings at all, which probably meant that whoever has had it never knew its history. Luckily our experts recognised the coat of arms.”