Thomas Nash

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Thomas Nash
Thomas Nash, husband of Shakespeare's granddaughter, Elizabeth Hall.jpg
Portrait of Thomas Nash
Baptised20 June 1593
Died4 April 1647(1647-04-04) (aged 53)
OccupationPossibly an assistant to the High Sheriff of Warwickshire
Spouse(s)Elizabeth Hall

Thomas Nash (baptised 20 June 1593 – died 4 April 1647)[1] was the first husband of William Shakespeare's granddaughter Elizabeth Barnard. He lived most of his life in Stratford-upon-Avon, and was the dominant male figure amongst Shakespeare's senior family line after the death of Dr. John Hall, Shakespeare's son-in-law, in 1635.[2]

Early life[edit]

Nash was baptised at the parish church of the Holy Trinity in Stratford-upon-Avon and entered in the register as "Thomas filius Anthonij Nash generosi", i.e. "Thomas, son of Anthony Nash gentleman". His mother's maiden name was Mary Baugh and she came from Twyning, near Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire.[3] His father Anthony, a friend of Shakespeare and farmer of his tithes, was born in Old Stratford. Nash entered Lincoln's Inn, one of the four Inns of Court in London, on 15 May 1616 at the age of 22.[4]

Career of Nash[edit]

Nash was called to the bar on 25 November 1623, but there is no evidence that he ever went on to practice law.[4] The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography says that he may however have taken over a rôle that his father held in being an agent for Sir John Hubaud, a High Sheriff of Warwickshire; but Sir John Hubaud died in 1583, ten years before Thomas was born.[4]

When Nash's father died in 1622, he was bequeathed properties in Stratford: the Bear Inn (opposite the Swan) and a house in Bridge Street, and a piece of land called “the Butt Close by the Avon” where burghers used to shoot at archery butts.[5][6] Thomas was an executor to his father's will. It appears that Thomas held on to the Bear Inn: his father-in-law, Dr. John Hall, once treated someone that he called one of Thomas's servants “lying at the Bear”, presumably indicating that he was a publican or worker at that inn. Hall's first treatment for the poor heavily jaundiced servant elicited “seven Vomits”, and this and a series of further treatments “cured him perfectly”.[7]

Nash was part of the 1633 triumvirate, along with John Hall and the vicar of Harbury Richard Watts, that was to oversee the wranglings associated with Thomas Quiney and his lease on a house called The Cage.[8] Nash apparently lived in the house now known as Nash's House, before moving in with his mother-in-law next door at New Place after the death of Dr. Hall in 1635. Nash is known to have been a declared royalist, a supporter of Charles I and indeed a donor to the king's cause to the tune of £100,[9] which may have led to Queen Henrietta Maria and the king's entourage staying with Thomas and his family at New Place in July 1643.[10]

According to Charlotte Carmichael Stopes, Nash's coat of arms was emblazoned "double quarterly of four, First, 1 and 4 argent on a chevron between three ravens' heads erased azure, a pellet between 4 cross-crosslets sable, for Nash; 2 and 3 sable a buck's head caboshed argent attired or, between his horns a cross patée, and across his mouth an arrow, Bulstrode. Second, 1 and 4, for Hall, 2 and 3 Shakespeare".[11]

Personal life[edit]


Portrait of Elizabeth Hall, Thomas Nash's wife

Nash married Elizabeth Hall, Shakespeare's granddaughter, on 22 April 1626 at Holy Trinity church in Stratford-upon-Avon. Thomas de Quincey conjectured that this date was chosen to celebrate the birthday of Elizabeth's famous grandfather, who was baptised on 26 April, and whose birthday is traditionally celebrated on 23 April.[12] Being 32 years old at the time of the marriage, Nash was 14 years older than his 18-year-old bride.[13] They had no children, and Elizabeth was the last direct descendant of Shakespeare.[14]


Thomas Nash died in 1647, at the age of 53. In the will that he made on 20 August 1642 he bequeathed memorial rings (a common practice at the time) to Thomas and Judith Quiney, Shakespeare's son-in-law and daughter.[15] Less straightforwardly, he also bequeathed property that did not belong to him, for example leaving New Place, the property of his mother-in-law Susanna Hall, to his cousin Edward Nash.[15] Indeed, Nash even refers to Susanna in a letter as "Mrs. Hall, my mother-in-law, who lives with me".[2] Susanna successfully retained the house, which Shakespeare had bought in 1597, after some legal wrangling.

Information board placed on Nash's grave.

Nash was buried in the chancel of Holy Trinity, immediately to the left of Shakespeare's as one faces the altar. To be accorded this honour required some kind of position recognised by the church as fitting, such as holding parish tithes. His burial inscription and epitaph reads:[16]

HE DIED APRIL 4. A. 1647, AGED 53.

Fata manent omnes, hunc non virtute carentum
vt ncque diuitiis, abstulit atra dies;
Abstulit, at referet lux ultima; siste viator,
si peritura paras per male parta peris.

His widow Elizabeth remarried two years later.


  1. ^ Halliday, F. E. (1952). A Shakespeare Companion: 1550–1950. Aylesbury and London: Hazell Watson and Viney Ltd. p. 432. Nash, Thomas (1593–1647), the eldest son of Anthony Nash, was christened at Stratford parish church on 20 June 1593: 'Thomas filius Anthonij Nash generosi'.
  2. ^ a b Stopes, Charlotte Carmichael (1901). Shakespeare's Family. p. 97. After his death his son-in-law, Thomas Nash, came to reside at New Place, and took the position of head of the family. Indeed, in one of his letters he speaks of "Mrs. Hall, my mother-in-law, who lives with me."
  3. ^ Halliday, F. E. (1952). A Shakespeare Companion: 1550–1950. Aylesbury and London: Hazell Watson and Viney Ltd. p. 432. Anthony, described as of Welcombe and Old Stratford, married Mary Baugh, of Twyning, near Twekesbury, their eldest son being Thomas
  4. ^ a b c Matthew, Henry Colin Gray; et al. (2004). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 233. Nash was admitted to Lincoln's Inn on 15 May 1616 and called to the bar on 25 November 1623. There is no evidence of his ever having practised as a lawyer but he seems to have taken over his father's role as agent for Hubaud, being described in interrogatories as 'sometime servant to said Sir John Hubaud' (records of corporation of Stratford upon Avon, BRU 15/5/159).
  5. ^ Eccles, Mark (1961). Shakespeare in Warwickshire. Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press. p. 122. When he [Anthony Nash] died in 1622 he left six hundred pounds and plate to his wife Mary, five hundred pounds to his younger son John, and "that little land I have," the Bear Inn and another house in Bridge Street and the Butt Close by the Avon, to his son Thomas (1593–1647), who studied at Lincoln's Inn and married Shakespeare's granddaughter in 1626.
  6. ^ Fraser, Russell A. (1991). Shakespeare: The Later Years. Columbia University Press. p. 263. Dying rich, he left his son Thomas the Butt Close by the Avon where patriotic burghers used to shoot at butts or targets.
  7. ^ Hall, John (1679). Select Observations on English Bodies of Eminent Persons in desperate Diseases. Under the dial of St. Dunstan's Church in Fleet Street [in London]: J. D. for Benjamin Shirley. p. 8.
  8. ^ Schoenbaum, Samuel (1977). William Shakespeare: A Compact Documentary Life. Oxford: Clarendon Press. p. 295. Around 1630 he tried to sell the lease of The Cage, but his kinsmen stopped him, and in 1633 assigned the lease in trust to a triumvirate consisting of Dr. Hall, Hall's son-in-law Thomas Nash, and Richard Watts, now Quiney's brother-in-law and the vicar of Harbury.
  9. ^ Halliwell-Phillipps, James Orchard (1885). Outlines of the Life of Shakespeare. London: Mssrs. Longmans, Green, and Co. pp. Volume II, p. 324. It may be mentioned that amongst "the names of such persons within the burrough of Stratford-upon-Avon who by way of laone have sent in money and plate to the King and Parliament," 24 Sept., 1642, is found as by far the largest contributor, —"Thomas Nashe esqr., in plate or money paid in at Warr:, 100li.”
  10. ^ Joseph, Harriet (1976). Shakespeare's Son-in-law: John Hall, Man and Physician. United States of America. p. 8. In July 1643, eight years after Hall's death, Susanna, living at New Place, was called upon to act as hostess to the Catholic Queen, Henrietta Maria, wife of King Charles I. [...] Thomas Nash, Susanna's son-in-law, was a known supporter of Charles I, and New Place may have been singled out for the royal entourage for that reason.
  11. ^ Stopes, Charlotte Carmichael (1901). Shakespeare's Family. p. 101.
  12. ^ "Halliwell...adopted a suggestion of De Quincey that the marriage of Elizabeth Hall on 22 April may indicate her grandfather's birthday."
  13. ^ Honan, Park (2000). Shakespeare: A Life. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 399. Elizabeth (who for her health had eaten 'Nutmegs often') in 1626 at the age of 18 married a man almost twice her age, Thomas Nash, the son of Anthony Nash whom the poet had remembered in his will with a ring.
  14. ^ Joseph, Harriet (1976). Shakespeare's Son-in-law: John Hall, Man and Physician. United States of America. p. 15. Elizabeth and Thomas apparently had a happy life together though no children were born to them.
  15. ^ a b Honan, Park (2000). Shakespeare: A Life. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 399. His own will, made on 20 August 1642, about five years before he died, caused much difficulty. It disposed of Mrs Hall's property as if it were his own, and left New Place itself to his cousin, Edward Nash.
  16. ^ Chambers, Edmund Kerchever (1930). William Shakespeare: A Study of Facts and Problems. Oxford: Clarendon Press. pp. Volume II, p. 12.