A Cup of Tea and a Biscuit with William Shakespeare

Hello, William! How nice to see you for a visit! Yes, yes I know we are just married but I’m still trying to sort out what to bring with me when I leave my cottage (and its 90 acres, let’s not forget that) and besides, we haven’t paid for the marriage license bond yet and the fellow standing over there is waiting for me to give him 40 pounds. What? You say you forgot to pay it? Well, that’s fine. Just let me toddle over here to find a bit of old silver to give him.

Do sit down on one of my nice hard uncomfortable chairs there and we’ll have some tea. I’m sorry it may take some time – the microwave hasn’t been invented yet and I’ve got to get the girl to boil the water over the fire in the fireplace in the other room, but in the meanwhile you can enjoy the sunshine and cold draft on your neck coming from the window! There’s a book there. You might enjoy reading it. I know you like words.

Let me see what we have to eat today! I’m not feeling all that perky – you know, being three months pregnant can make one that way, but I’m sure we’ll come up with something tasty. Ah, here we are! You’d like to see the recipe? Why of course. Here it is!

To make Banbury Cakes
Make a Posset of Sack and Cream, then take a Peck of fine Flour, half an Ounce of Mace, as much of Nutmeg, as much of Cinamon, beat them and searce them, two pounds of Butter, ten Eggs, leaving out half their Whites, one Pint and half of Ale-Yest, beat your Eggs very well, and strain them, then put your Yest, and some of the Posset to the Flour, stir them together, and put in your Butter cold in little pieces, but your Posset must be scalding hot; make it into a Paste, and let it lie one hour in a warm Cloth to rise, then put in ten pounds of Currans washed and dried very well, a little Musk and Ambergreece dissolved in Rosewater, put in a little Sugar among your Currans break your Paste into little pieces, when you go to put in your Currans, then lay a Lay of broken Paste, and then a Lay of Currans till all be in, then mingle your Paste and Currans well together, and keep out a little of your Paste in a warm Cloth to cover the top and bottom of your Cake, you must rowl the Cover very thin, and also the Bottom, and close them together over the Cake with a little Rosewater; prick the top and bottom with a small Pin or Needle, and when it is ready to go into the Oven, cut in the sides round about, let it stand two hours, then Ice it over with Rosewater or Orange Flour and Sugar, and the White of an Egg, and harden it in the Oven

I’ll be right back, dear. Must go get another shawl. It’s rather chilly in this house!


On this day in 1582:

On 28 November, 1582, two husbandmen of Stratford, named Sandells and Richardson, became sureties for £40 in the consistory court of Worcester to free the bishop from liability in case of lawful impediment, by pre-contract or consanguinity, to the marriage of “William Shagspeare and Anne Hathwey” which might proceed hereupon with only one publication of banns. The episcopal register records the marriage bond granted to one Wm Shakespeare stating that the condition of this obligation is such that if hereafter there shall not appear any lawful let, or impediment by reason, of any precontract, consanguinity, affinity or by any other lawful means whatsoever, that William Shagspere and Anne Hathwey may lawfully solemnize matrimony together…

The documents apparently refer to two different women; Anne Whateley of Temple Grafton and Anne Hathwey of Stratford. The interpretation of these documents have led to all sorts of speculation. Was Shakespeare involved with two women, both called by the same first name? Did he intend to marry Miss Whateley but as soon as the license was issued did Anne Hathaway intervene saying that she was pregnant? Did he really love Miss Whateley but was forced to marry Miss Hathwey due to her pregnancy? Or was the name simply entered incorrectly on the first document? Or was she in fact a widow and therefore known by either Whateley or Hathwey ( Hathaway ) by local people?

The postcard shown above appears to be from the 1950’s – 1960’s, printed in England. There was no writing on the back, so it may have been bought as a souvenir on a trip to Anne’s ‘cottage’.

For a modern-day look at Banbury Cakes, which are often now called tarts (and which of course are not a biscuit) take a look at this wonderful post at Baking for Britain. Delightful!


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