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Warrant under the privy seal for the issue of letters patent authorizing Shakespeare and his companions to perform plays throughout the realm under royal patronage
May 18,
1603

C 82/1690, no. 78 recto

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C 82/1690, no. 78 recto
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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: Records of the Lord Chancellor
Title: Warrant under the privy seal for the issue of letters patent authorizing Shakespeare and his companions to perform plays throughout the realm under royal patronage
Date: May 18, 1603
Repository: The National Archives, Kew, UK
Call number and opening: C 82/1690, no. 78
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Item Creator
Records of the Lord Chancellor
Item Date
May 18, 1603
Repository
The National Archives, Kew, UK
Call Number
C 82/1690, no. 78

C 82/1690, no. 78 verso

View Image Assets
C 82/1690, no. 78 verso
Click image to enlarge

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: Records of the Lord Chancellor
Title: Warrant under the privy seal for the issue of letters patent authorizing Shakespeare and his companions to perform plays throughout the realm under royal patronage
Date: May 18, 1603
Repository: The National Archives, Kew, UK
Call number and opening: C 82/1690, no. 78
View online bibliographic record

 

 
Item Creator
Records of the Lord Chancellor
Item Date
May 18, 1603
Repository
The National Archives, Kew, UK
Call Number
C 82/1690, no. 78

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: Records of the Lord Chancellor
Title: Warrant under the privy seal for the issue of letters patent authorizing Shakespeare and his companions to perform plays throughout the realm under royal patronage
Date: May 18, 1603
Repository: The National Archives, Kew, UK
Call number and opening: C 82/1690, no. 78
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 Privy Seal warrant is one in a series of administrative documents that eventually led to the issuing of Letters Patent under the Great Seal that formally created the King's Men (although the men are not explicitly referred to as the King’s Men in these documents). In response to an instruction from the king (these instructions would have been in the form of either a Signed Bill or a King’s Bill, but these bills do not survive prior to 1609), on May 17, 1603 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 the Privy Seal Office, in accordance with instructions, issued this 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. Both documents (Signet Bill and Warrant for the Great Seal) supply the same text for the final document, the Letters Patent under the Great Seal delivered to Shakespeare’s company. The Letters Patent do not survive, but before their delivery, they were copied onto another document, the Patent Roll for the year, which was kept in Chancery. The Letters Patent are dated May 19, the day the Privy Seal warrant was delivered to the Lord Keeper. From that moment, 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," they were to freely 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."

If you look at the parchment document closely, you will see three pairs of slits, cut through the fifth-to-last line of text. When the warrant was folded into a square, these three pairs become a single slit, which would have held the parchment tag to which the privy seal was attached. The off-setting of the impression of the wax seal is visible in two places on the back of the document, where it was tucked between the folds for protection. The seal itself is gone, as are all the other seals in this file of privy seal warrants, and it is not known when they were removed. The string emerging from the hole in the upper-left-hand corner of the document indicates that the warrant is “filed,” or strung together with, a series of other warrants for letters patent issued in the month of May 1603. It is the seventy-eighth warrant in this file. The diagonal swatch of parchment cut from the bottom-left-hand corner was used to make a tag to wrap around the folded and closed warrant.

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).

 

 

Modernized/Translated transcription

[recto]

It is to be remembered that this writ was delivered by the undersigned on the 19th of May to be executed by the Lord Keeper of the Great Seal of England at Westminster.

James, by the grace of God, King of England, Scotland, France, and Ireland, defender of the faith, etc.

To our right trusty and well-beloved counsellor Sir Thomas Egerton, knight, keeper of our great seal of England, Greeting. We will and command you that under our said great seal, being in your custody, you cause our letters patents to be made forth, in form following:

James, by the grace of God, King of England, Scotland, France, and Ireland, defender of the faith, etc.

To all Justices, Mayors, Sheriffs, Constables, Headboroughs, and other our officers and loving subjects, Greeting. Know ye that we of our special grace, certain knowledge, and mere motion, have licensed and authorized, and by these present do license and authorize, these our servants Lawrence Fletcher, William Shakespeare, Richard Burbage, Augustine Phillipps, John Hennings, Henry Condell, William Sly, Robert Armyn, Richard Cowley, and the rest of their associates freely to use and exercise the art and faculty of playing comedies, tragedies, histories, interludes, morals, pastorals, stage plays, and such other like as they have already studied or hereafter shall use or study, as well for the recreation of our loving subjects as for our solace and pleasure when we shall think good to see them during our pleasure. And the said comedies, tragedies, histories, interludes, morals, pastorals, stage plays and such like to show and exercise publicly to their best commodity, when the infection of the plague shall decrease, as well when their now usual house called the Globe, within our County of Surrey, as also within any town, hall, or moot halls, or other convenient places within the liberties and freedom of any other city, university, town, or borough whatsoever within our said realms and dominions. Willing and commanding you and every of you, as you tender our pleasure, not only to permit and suffer them herein without any your lets, hinderances, or molestations during our said pleasure, but also to be aiding and assisting to them if any wrong be to them offered, and to allow them such former courtesies as hath been given to men of their place and quality, and also what further favour you shall show to these our servants, for our sake, we shall take kindly at your hands. In witness whereof, etc.

Given under our privy seal at our Manor of Greenwich the eighteenth day of May in the first year of our reign in England, France, and Ireland, and in Scotland, the six and thirtieth.

                                                                                                                                          Ex. by Mylles

 

                                                                                                                                       Received 19 May 1603

Semi-diplomatic transcription

[recto]

Memorandum quod xixmo die Maij Anno infrascripto istud breve deliberatum fuit domino Custodi magni Sigilli Angliae apud Westmonasterium

exequendum

James by the grace of God kinge of England Scotland ffraunce and Ireland defendor of the faith. &c. To our right Trusty and welbeloved Counsellor Sir Thomas

Egerton knight keeper of our great Seale of England. greeting. Wee will and Commaund you that vnder our said great Seale being in your Custody you cause our lettres patentes

to be made forth in forme following. James by the grace of God kinge of England Scotland ffraunce and Ireland defendor of the faith &c. To all

Iustices Maiors, Sheriffes, Constables, Hedborowes, and other our officers and loving Subiectesgreeting. Knowe yee that wee of our speciall grace certeine

knowledge and mere motion haue licensed and authorized, and by these present doe licence and authorize these our Servauntes Lawrence ffletcher,

William Shakespeare, Richard Burbage, Augustine P[h]illippes, John Henninges, Henry Condell, William Sly, Robert Armyn, Richard

Cowlye, and the rest of their associates freely to vse and exercise the Art and Facultie of playinge Comedies, Tragedies, Histories, Enterludes,

Moralles, Pastoralles, Stageplaies, and such other like as they haue alreadie studied or hereafter shall vse or studye as well for the recreation

of our loving Subiectes as for our solace and pleasure when wee shall thinke good to see them during our pleasure. And the said Comedies, Tragedies,

Histories, Enterludes, Moralles, Pastoralles, Stageplayes and such like to shew and exercise publiquely to their best commoditie, when the

infection of the plague shall decrease aswell when their now vsuall howse called the Globe within our County of Surrey, as alsoe within

any Towne, Halles, or Moutehalles, or other convenient places within the liberties and freedome of any other Citie, Vniversitie, Towne, or Borough

whatsoever within our said Realmes and dominions Willinge and Commaunding you and every of you as you tender our pleasure not only to permitt

and suffer them herein without any your lettes, hinderaunces, or molestacions during our said pleasure, but alsoe to be aiding and assisting to them

if any wronge be to them offered, And to allowe them such former courtesies as hath bene given to men of their place and qualety, and alsoe what further

favour you shall shewe to theise our Servauntes for our sake wee shall take kindely at your handes. In wittnesse whereof &c. Given vnder our

privie Seale at our Mannor of Grenewich the Eighteenth daie of May in the first yeare of our Raigne in England ffraunce and

Ireland, and in Scotland the sixe and Thirtieth.

                                                                                                                              Ex. per Mylles

 

                                                                                                                              Rec .19. Maij .1603./