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May 19,
1603

C 66/1608, membrane 4

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C 66/1608, membrane 4
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Images reproduced by permission of The National Archives, London, England.

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The National Archives give no warranty as to the accuracy, completeness or fitness for the purpose of the information provided.
Images may be used only for purposes of research, private study or education.  Applications for any other use should be made to The National Archives Image Library, Kew, Richmond, Surrey TW9 4DU, Tel: 020 8392 5225   Fax: 020 8392 5266.

Document-specific information
Creator: Chancery and Supreme Court of Judicature
Date: May 19, 1603
Repository: The National Archives, Kew, UK
Call number and opening: C 66/1608, membr. 4
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Item Creator
Chancery and Supreme Court of Judicature
Item Date
May 19, 1603
Repository
The National Archives, Kew, UK
Call Number
C 66/1608, membr. 4

Institution Rights and Document Citation

 

Images reproduced by permission of The National Archives, London, England.

Terms of use
The National Archives give no warranty as to the accuracy, completeness or fitness for the purpose of the information provided.
Images may be used only for purposes of research, private study or education.  Applications for any other use should be made to The National Archives Image Library, Kew, Richmond, Surrey TW9 4DU, Tel: 020 8392 5225   Fax: 020 8392 5266.

Document-specific information
Creator: Chancery and Supreme Court of Judicature
Date: May 19, 1603
Repository: The National Archives, Kew, UK
Call number and opening: C 66/1608, membr. 4
View online bibliographic record

 

Although James VI of Scotland was proclaimed king of England on March 24, 1603, it took him over a month to arrive in London. Within ten days of his arrival there, and despite the fact that the theaters were closed due to plague, he gave instructions for turning the Lord Chamberlain's Men, of which Shakespeare was a member, into the King's Men.

This enrollment on the rolls of Letters Patent is the third of three surviving administrative documents that eventually led to the issuing of Letters Patent under the Great Seal that formally created the King's Men, although they do not explicitly refer to the players as the King’s Men. The process began two days earlier on May 17, 1603, when the Signet Office produced a formal warrant known as a Signet Bill that both instructed the Privy Seal Office to draw up a further warrant, and provided the text for the formal Letters Patent. The next day, May 18, the Privy Seal Office, issued a warrant under the Privy Seal, instructing the Lord Keeper of the Great Seal of England to further issue the Letters Patent under the Great Seal.

Accordingly, on May 19, the warrant under the Privy Seal was presented to the Rolls Office in Chancery Lane, where it was enrolled in the current Patent Roll, as shown here. Further copies of the Letters Patent do not survive.

This enrollment abbreviates the opening part of the original text, but is in all other respects a faithful copy. The marginal flag characterizes the warrant as a “special commission.” The enrolled text adds, at the very end, “Witnesse our selfe at Westminster the nyntenth daye of May”. Though “our selfe” refers to King James, it may be questioned whether the warrant was conferred by the king in person, or by his administrators.

From the moment of enrollment, Shakespeare and the other players listed -- Lawrence Fletcher, Richard Burbage, Augustine Phillipps, John Hemings, Henry Condell, William Sly, Robert Armyn, Richard Cowley, "and the rest of their associates" -- were under the patronage of the king. According to the warrants and letters patent, after "the infection of the plague shall decrease," the players were free to perform at the Globe and throughout the country "for the recreation of our loving Subjects," as well as for the king's "solace and pleasure when we shall thinke good to see them." The Lord Chamberlain’s book, a roughly contemporary source, demonstrates that Shakespeare’s company was one of three companies patronized by the Crown: the King’s Men, the Queen’s Men, and the Prince’s Men, patronized by King James, Queen Anne of Denmark, and Prince Henry respectively.

Privy Seal records sent to the Lord Keeper or Lord Chancellor, including this warrant, were kept in Chancery from the time of their creation until 1884, when all such records were removed to the Public Record Office (now The National Archives).

Semi-diplomatic transcription

[This transcription is pending final vetting]

LM: Commissio specialis pro Laurencio ffletcher & Willielmo Shackespeare & aliis
James by the grace of god &c. To all Justices Maiors Sheriffes Constables
hedborowes and other our Officers and louinge Subiectes greetinge Knowe
yee that Wee of our Speciall grace certein knowledge & mere motion
haue licenced and aucthorized and by theise presentes doe licence and
aucthorize theise our Servauntes lawrence ffletcher William Shakespeare
Richard Burbage Augustyne Phillippes John Heninges Henrie Condell
William Sly Robert Armyn Richard Cowly and the rest of theire Assosiates
freely to vse and exercise the Arte and faculty of playinge Comedies
Tragedies Histories Enterludes Moralls Pastoralles Stageplaies and
suche others like as theie haue alreadie studied or hereafter shall vse
or studie aswell for the recreation of our lovinge Subjectes as for our
Solace and pleasure when wee shall thincke good to see them duringe
our pleasure And the said Commedies tragedies histories & interludes
Morralles Pastoralls Stageplayes and suche like to shewe and
exercise publiquely to theire best Commoditie when the infection of the
plague shall decrease aswell within theire nowe vsual howse called
the Globe within our County of Surrey, as alsoe within anie towne halls
or moute halls or other conveniente places within the liberties and
freedome of anie other Cittie vniversitie towne or Boroughe
whatsoever within our said Realmes and domynions Willinge and
Commaundinge you and everie of you as you tender our pleasure not
onelie to permitt and suffer them herein without anie your lettes hindrances
or molestacions during our said pleasure but alsoe to be aidinge and
assistinge to them yf anie wronge be to them offered And to allowe
them such former Curtesies as hath bene given to men of theire place
and quallitie and alsoe what further favour you shall shewe to theise
our Servauntes for our sake wee shall take kindlie at your handes In
wytnesse wherof &c Witnesse our selfe at Westminster the nyntenth daye of May
                                                        Per brevem de Priuato Sigillo &c

 

Written by Alan H. Nelson

Sources
B. Roland Lewis, The Shakespeare Documents (1940), ii, 363-6.
Samuel Schoenbaum, Documentary Life (1975), pp. 195-7.
David Thomas, Shakespeare in the Public Records (London: H.M.S.O., 1985), p. 14.

Last updated January 26, 2018