The Courting Chair
Did Shakespeare court Anne Hathaway on this chair?
The Courting Chair, Mid-17th Century
An oak and walnut panel-back armchair. Carved onto the panel are Shakespeare’s Coat of Arms and the initials ‘W A S’ for ‘William and Anne Shakespeare’. The initials were carved at a later date than the Coat of Arms.
The chair is traditionally thought to have belonged to William Shakespeare. It was purchased by Samuel Ireland in 1792. According to Ireland, he bought the chair from Anne Hathaway’s cottage. He spoke to a member of the Hathaway family still living in the cottage who said that it had been given to them by Lady Elizabeth Barnard, Shakespeare granddaughter.
In his book Confessions, Ireland’s son William Henry, recalled his visit with his father to Shottery. He remembered the ‘old oak chair, wherein it was stated our bard was used to sit, during his courtship, with his Anne upon his knee’. Henry himself was doubtful about the authenticity of the chair. The carved initials may have been his handiwork.