One of the early finds, a 1569 coroner’s report (TNA, KB9/625/241) describing the death of one Jane Shaxspere, who drowned aged two-and-a-half while picking marigolds in Upton Warren, only 20 miles from Shakespeare’s childhood home at Stratford-upon-Avon. Jane may well have been related to the playright and it is tempting to speculate that her death inspired the fate of the author’s character Ophelia.
Wigorn[ia]. Inquisicio indentat[a] capt[a] apud Droytwiche in Com[itatu] pred[ic]to xxix die Junij Anno regni d[omi]ne Elizabeth[e] dei gra[tia] Anglie ffranc[ie] et hibernie Regine fidei Defensor[is] &c. undecimo/ Coram henrico ffeelld generoso uno coron[atorium] D[ic]te D[omi]ne Regine Com[itatus] pred[ic]ti sup[er] vis[um] corporis Johanne Shaxspere etatis duor[um] et dimid[ii] Annor[um] apud vpton warren in Com[itatu] pred[ic]to nup[er] mort[e] invent[e] p[er] sacr[amentu]m Thome pooler Joh[ann]is p[ar]ker Thome Broke Will[el]mi Laken Ric[ard]i yate Ric[ard]i Norres Ric[ard]i Irelond Joh[ann]is horton Will[el]mi Wild Joh[ann]is Saunders Thome hancockes thome Davies thome p[ar]tridge Edwardi Barret et Joh[ann]is Baylies/ Qui dicunt sup[er] sacr[amentu]m eor[um] q[uo]d predict[a] Johanna xvj die Junij Anno regni d[ic]te D[omi]ne Regine sup[ra]dicte, apud vpton predi[cta] in Com[itatu] pred[icto] racione colligend[i] et porrigend[i] quo[run]dam floru[m] voc[antur] yelowe boddles, crescen[tium] sup[er] ripam cuiusd[e]m Rivuli apud vpton p[re]d[icta] voc[atur] vpton myll pond/ in eu[n]dem Rivul[um] eadem Johanna Shaxspere d[ic]to xvj die Junij circa horam octavam post meridiem eiusdem diei subit[o] ac infortunat[o] incidit et subm[er]s[a] fuit in Rivulo pred[icto]/ Et adtunc et ib[ide]m instanter obijt/ Et sic flores pred[icti] fuerunt causa morte predicte Johanne/ Et nichil val[eant]/ In cuius rei testimoniu[m] huic pr[ese]nti Inquisicioni tam coronat[or] pred[ictus] q[ua]m Jur[atores] pred[icti] Sigill[a] sua apposuer[unt]/ Dat[um] die et Anno sup[ra]dict[o]. p[er] infortuniu[m]
Worcestershire. Inquisition as indenture held at Droitwich in the aforesaid county the twenty-ninth day of June in the eleventh year of the reign of Elizabeth, by the grace of God queen of England, France and Ireland, Defender of the Faith etc, before Henry Feelld, gentleman, one of the coroners of the said lady queen in the aforesaid county, on the view of the body of Jane Shaxspere, of the age of two and a half years, lately found dead at Upton Warren in the aforesaid county; by the oath of Thomas Pooler, John Parker, Thomas Broke, William Laken, Richard Yate, Richard Norres, Richard Irelond, John Horton, William Wild, John Saunders, Thomas Hancockes, Thomas Davies, Thomas Partridge, Edward Barret and John Baylies. Who say upon their oath that the aforesaid Jane, on the sixteenth day of June in the abovesaid year of the reign of the said lady queen, at Upton aforesaid in the county aforesaid – by reason of collecting and holding out certain flowers called ‘yelowe boddles’ growing on the bank of a certain small channel at Upton aforesaid called Upton myll pond – the same Jane Shaxspere the said sixteenth day of June about the eighth hour after noon of the same day suddenly and by misfortune fell into the same small channel and was drowned in the aforesaid small channel; and then and there she instantly died. And thus the aforesaid flowers were the cause of the death of the aforesaid Jane; and they are worth nothing. In testimony of which the aforesaid coroner and the aforesaid jurors have affixed their seals to this present inquisition. Given the day and year abovesaid. [Annotated] By misfortune.