The Future of History

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

The Round Table

When a question was raised in an online King Arthur forum about whether "England has the original Round Table", I read a few of the replies and felt moved to respond.

Back in August, this blog mentioned the news that researchers from Glasgow University, working alongside local historians and archaeologists, had surveyed the King's Knot near Stirling Castle ("Stop Press: Round Table Discovery").  A "circular feature" under the turf of the central mound - see above - was revealed by geophysicists.

I added that to the online discussion about the existence of the Round Table.  The exchange of ideas, views and information continued, but only one person referred, in passing, to what I had written:

"there is the recent news about the Stirling 'circular feature' tho I'm not convinced."

So that's that, then.  Another minor distraction safely buried.

Except that this wasn't "recent news".  I'd pointed out in my post that the French poet Beroul, writing his romance of Tristan in about 1200, had located the Round Table firmly at Stirling.  The Fair Yseut sends her squire with a message for King Arthur and is told that Arthur "is seated on his throne.  You will see the Round Table which turns like the world; his household sits upon it."  The squire makes his way to Stirling, where he finds Arthur "on the dais where all the knights were seated."

That was written 800 years ago.  Hardly recent news.

In the fourteenth century, the Scottish poet John Barbour composed his poem The Brus about the Battle of Bannockburn, fought a short distance south of Stirling in 1314.  The defeated English king Edward II rode desperately to Stirling, seeking shelter in the castle, but he was turned away by the castle's governor.  Edward and his followers galloped off; as John Barbour wrote:

And besouth the Castle went they thone,
Rychte by the Round Tabill away.

In 1478, one William of Worcester wrote that "King Arthur kept the Round Table at Stirling Castle".  A generation later, Sir David Lindsay bade a fond farewell to Stirling's Castle Rock:

Adew, fair Snawdoun, with thy towris hie,
Thy Chapell-royal, park, and Tabyll Round ...

As late as the sixteenth century, it was reported that the thousand-year old traditions were still being honoured at Stirling: "in a sport called 'Knights of the Round Table', the Institutions of King Arthur were commemorated."

King James VI of Scotland was christened at Stirling Castle in December 1566.  He was heralded as the new Arthur who would one day unite the thrones of England and Scotland, thereby recreating the Britain which had been divided by the Anglo-Saxon conquest.  Intriguingly, when he acceded to the throne of England in 1603, King James insisted on having exactly 24 counsellors to advise him.  Twenty-four was also the number of the 'horsemen' of Arthur's Court - the legendary Knights of the Round Table.

The stepped earthworks surrounding the central mound of the King's Knot were added for the benefit of King James's son, Charles I.  It is the central mound itself, which is about fifteen metres in diameter, which appears to have been the original "dais" upon which Arthur and his noble war-band met.  And it is this central mound which, as the archaelogical surveys carried out this summer showed, was topped by a "circular feature".

The relevance of the mound was partly strategic.  The River Forth, which curls round the Castle Rock at Stirling, was effectively the boundary of Britain.  Just two safe crossing places, the Fords of Frew, immediately to the west of Stirling, allowed Pictish warriors from the north cross into Britain.  The defence of those fords was integral to the security of North Britain.  For a while, that task was entrusted to Arthur's father Aedan, the 'Prince of the Forth'.  For several years, from about 575 until 584, the task fell to the "emperor" Arthur.  He fought at least one of his battles at the Fords of Frew on the River Forth.

But I also suspect that the Round Table mound was important to Arthur and his close-knit war-band for another reason.  It was the burial mound of their mutual ancestor, Brychan of Manau.

Manau Gododdin was the contemporary name for Stirling, the Gododdin people being the tribesmen of Lothian.  Brychan of Manau almost certainly had his own version of the Round Table - a "family" of twenty-four "sons" - which was replicated by Arthur.  After his death, according to a manuscript in the British Library (Cognatio de Brachan), the mighty Brychan was buried "in the island which is called Ynysbrachan and which is next to Manau".

The Welsh word ynys can refer to an island or a river-meadow.  The meadow on which the King's Knot stands, beside the River Forth, was next to Manau - that is, it lay immediately beneath the volcanic crag-and-tail rock of Stirling.

Brychan's remains might not have stayed in the King's Knot burial mound.  There is some evidence that one of Arthur's companions, St Cadog, exhumed them and carried them to the site of his new monastery, a little further to the north, near Doune (St Cadog is commemorated at Kilmadock).  But prior to that, it seems likely that Arthur's legendary band of inter-related warrior-princes met at the grave of their forefather, Brychan of Manau, and held their councils of war in the field beside the Castle Rock, on the very edge of Britain.

Not convinced?  That's up to you.  But you can't call it "recent news".

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Here You Go

This might seem a bit premature - but then, there might be some out there who want to book early to avoid disappointment.

The book isn't due out until next summer, but Amazon are ready to take advance orders:

An excellent stocking-filler ... for Christmas next year!!

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Twelve Hundred Words

Part of this week was spent trying to explain in 1,200 words why Artuir mac Aedain, the "Scottish Arthur", is worth considering as a candidate for the Real King Arthur.

Sometimes, you can say a lot with a thousand words.  But it's also a case of deciding what not to include.  So that, for example, there was no space to point out that Edinburgh has Arthur's Seat while the Trossachs have Beinn Artair ('Arthur Mountain') and there are many, many other Arthurian place-names in Scotland.

Nope, no room for that.

Other things could only be alluded to, such as the battles of Arthur, which ranged from the Borders region up to Aberdeenshire.

So what did make it into the piece?

Well, I began by explaining that when a certain long period comet appeared in the sky in 574 (it was the comet now known as McNaught-Russell, and its next visit came in 1993/4) it heralded a historic event.  This was the first recorded instance in the British Isles of a king being anointed by a Christian evangelist.  Adomnan of Iona told the story in his Life of St Columba.  Aedan mac Gabrain was ordained king of the Scots on the Isle of Iona by Columba, and several sons of King Aedan were present.  One of them was Arthur.  St Columba took the opportunity of predicting that Arthur would never become king but would die in battle.

Sixteen years later, the British Men of the North, along with their Irish allies, had the Angles of Northumbria pinned down in two coastal fortifications.  The "English", as they came to be known, were about to be driven back into the North Sea which had brought them over to Britain.  Then tragedy struck.  Treacherously, a British king named Morgan the Wealthy arranged for the assassination of another British chief, Urien of North Rheged, and the British alliance crumbled.

That was the end for the Britons.  Arthur's death came four years later in a battle fought in Angus.  After that, the Angles invaded much of the Old North.  Britain was finished.

One would hope that any historical Arthur could be placed at the very heart of the British resistance to the invasion of the Germanic tribes from Angeln, Saxony and Jutland.  And so it is rewarding to discover that Artuir mac Aedain was there.  Only the year before his father became King of the Scots, his friend Menw (later known as Myrddin Wyllt, later still as Merlin) had gone mad at a battle fought in the Scottish Borders.  Arthur's adulthood coincided with the concerted actions carried out by British and Irish allies to pacify the North and force the Germanic Angles out of Northumbria.  In their hour of triumph, the coalition partners were brought down by treachery.  And with the death of Artuir mac Aedain four years after the British disaster at Lindisfarne in 590, the battle for North Britain basically came to an end.

So that alone makes Artuir a promising candidate for having been the original Arthur - he was there during the crucial period of British resistance, the most effective counterattack yet mounted in Britain against the Germanic invaders.  And when he died, so too did the hopes of the Britons.

But that's just the start.  The early legends repeatedly associate Arthur with a group of historical individuals who can all be traced to North Britain in the late sixth century.  The same names appear in the Welsh romances and the early British poems of the time, as well as on medieval lists of the Four and Twenty Horsemen of the Court of Arthur and the Thirteen Treasures of the Island of Britain.

The Welsh romance of Owain, or the Lady of the Fountain opens with Arthur relaxing in his chamber with Owain son of Urien and Cynon son of Clydno.  Owain's father was the victim of the assassination plot carried out at Lindisfarne in 590.  Cynon is named as one of the few survivors of Arthur's last battle; he appears in a contemporary poem of Arthur's last battle (as does Owain), and his homeland was Lothian.

Both Owain and Clydno appear on the list of Arthur's twenty-four knights.

Other names keep recurring: Llywarch of South Rheged, for example, who carried the head of his cousin Urien away from the scene of his murder at Lindisfarne; Peredur, who ruled the military stronghold of York and went on to become the romantic hero Sir Perceval; Drystan, or 'Sir Tristan', whom the Scots knew as St Drostan ... the list goes on.

They were all contemporaries, near-neighbours and kinsmen of Arthur son of Aedan.

And then there was the Round Table, identified as early as circa 1200 as having stood at Stirling.  Earlier this year, local historians and archaeologists, along with researchers from the University of Glasgow, ran geophysical surveys of the King's Knot earthwork in the meadow below Stirling Castle - the place known for centuries as the Round Table - and found evidence of a "circular feature" beneath the turf of the mound.

The first reference to the Round Table at Stirling came in the romance of Tristan by Beroul, a French poet.  The Fair Yseut had sent her squire with a message for Arthur.  Before he was directed to Stirling, the squire had gone to Caerleon, expecting to find Arthur there.

Caerleon - the 'City of the Legion' - was not far from the Round Table at Stirling: about nine miles, by the old Roman road.  It was a massive military encampment which had been built on the banks of the River Carron, just north of the Antonine Wall.  The place is known as Camelon, near Falkirk.

Camelon has just two syllables - 'came-lon'.  In Gaelic, it is Camlan.

In 1695, Edward Gibson, Bishop of London, was revising William Camden's Britannia.  He wrote of what remained of the Camelon fortifications:

"There is yet a confused appearance of a little ancient city, where the common people believe there was formerly a road for ships.  They call it Camelot."

A historical "Camelot", just nine miles south of a historical "Round Table" ... a prince named Arthur (the first on record to bear that name) who commanded the Britons and their allies in the front line region of Britain (Stirling and the River Forth) ... whose kinsmen and contemporaries joined him in the legends ... whose lifetime saw the counterattack which nearly chased the English out of Britain, and whose death opened the floodgates of the Anglian conquest of the North ...

Can we really pretend that Artuir mac Aedain - the "Scottish Arthur" - isn't a promising candidate?

Thursday, 10 November 2011

The Road Less Travelled

It is a problem which affects both Arthur and William Shakespeare.  Let's call it the "Don't Look There!" syndrome.

One way of imagining how this problem works is to compare it with a police investigation.  There undoubtedly was a time when certain detectives, faced with the task of solving a crime, would make up their minds who did it and then go flat out to convict on the basis of their assumptions and/or prejudice.  This led to countless miscarriages of justice, of course.  Basically, if you take that approach then you are obliged to ignore all evidence which disproves your theory and, where necessary, cover it up.

This happens all the time in Arthurian studies.  The debate goes round and round in circles until somebody raises a question along the lines of, "You know, after x-number of years looking into Arthur, I've begun to wonder whether he might not have been northern, perhaps even Scottish?"  This triggers a mini frenzy of condemnation ("No, of course he couldn't have been northern, let alone Scottish; we've looked into it time and time again and there's simply no evidence whatsoever to suggest that he was!!!")  And then the discussion returns to "We don't know who he was, he must have been in the south, or maybe Roman, or maybe he didn't exist, we just don't know!"

As you can imagine, that means that the discussion goes nowhere.  The Arthurian thought-police have ruled out any inquiries focussing on the North or Scotland, so we're stuck with a resounding "We don't know!"  For the record, evidence that they really have looked into the possibility of Arthur having been northern or Scottish is practically non-existent.  Like the detective who made his mind up right at the start of the investigation, they simply have no intention of examining any historical candidates - including the first Arthur on record - because that would spoil the game.  Better to cling to the (hugely unlikely) possibility that a Roman-ish Arthur will suddenly turn up in southern Britain than to admit that he might have been - urgh! - a Scot!

Shakespeare has suffered from the same narrow focus.  A new Shakespeare biography seems to come out every year - perhaps more often than that even.  I say a "new" biography, when what I mean is that somebody has taken the opportunity of slightly rearranging what everybody else has said on the subject.  But the Smithsonian magazine blog has come up with an interesting, if rather long, piece about one of the lesser-written-about facts of Shakespeare's life:

The fact that Will Shakespeare was the subject of a legal document known as a "surety of the peace" is not exactly news, and it certainly didn't make him a "gangster", as the blogpost likes to suggest.  But it is a nugget of Shakespearean history which most biographers avoid, principally because we don't really know what was going on and the idea that somebody took out legal protection against Shakespeare and a few others "for fear of death, and so forth" doesn't really square with our image of cosy Mr Shakespeare, gent.

The blog piece does have a point, though.  So many biographies, but so few facts.

Well, as the Arthur book - now beautifully titled THE KING ARTHUR CONSPIRACY - How a Scottish Prince Became a Mythical Hero - winds its way towards the printing presses, I have been gravitating towards my next project, which, as you might have gathered by now, will concern Mr William Shakespeare.  And I'm seriously inclined to concentrate on a host of facts and anecdotes which are kept as far away from the standard Shakespeare biography as possible.

After all, I have the experience of my Arthur research to guide me.  If I'd listened to the vast majority of Arthur experts, I'd have stayed staring into space hoping that one day somebody would find an Arthur who never existed (Roman background, English mannerisms, busy in the south).  But I went where they told me not to go - "No, no, we've looked, there's nothing there!" - and found out so much about the historical Arthur that I had to decide what merited going into a 125,000 word book and what would have to be left out.

In other words, I left the path, went where I was told not to go, and found more, much more, than I was looking for.

The same, I suspect, will happen with Shakespeare.  Read the usual biographical stuff and you'll end up absolutely none the wiser.  I should know - I've read dozens, and none of them told me anything particularly useful or interesting about our national poet.

But I happen to know that there is an awful lot of stuff which has been swept under the carpet by these people (look back a few posts and you'll find out that the first woman to whom Shakespeare was betrothed - Anne Whately - really did exist; you won't find that in any of the biographies).  Some of it is fantastic stuff, like the story of Shakespeare's skull, and the work done by German forensic scientists on his death-mask, and why his mulberry tree was chopped down by a fanatical parson (who then completely destroyed Shakespeare's house), and how the "lost" play of Cardenio probably led to his murder after a "merry meeting" with two of his fellow poets.

Only by following those leads which the Arthur experts insist don't exist was it possible for me to find Arthur (and his comrades).  Only by following those leads which the Shakespeare experts ignore will it be possible to get to grips with the man and his works.

And then we can start to make up for yet another historical miscarriage of justice.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Divided, We Fell

According to Gildas the Wise, writing in the first half of the sixth century AD, the Britons were a stubborn and stiff-necked people.  Even when their "foreign wars" (against Saxon invaders) had come to a temporary end, they continued to be plagued by "civil troubles".

Gildas did not elaborate on the causes or nature of those "civil troubles", but there has been a tacit assumption among many historians ever since that the Britons were simply too chaotic, too petty-minded and too disorganised to mount a proper defence of their island.

Which brings us to Arthur.  Under his military leadership, the Britons, along with their Irish allies, did join forces successfully, and came close to wiping out the Germanic settlers in North Britain.  Was Arthur, then, the exception that proved the rule?  Was he remembered as a great British hero because he unified the fractious tribes against a common enemy?

Up to a point, yes.  But he fell victim to the "civil troubles" referred to by St Gildas.  And because of those civil troubles, we have been denied a clear view of Arthur for hundreds of years.

There are those in the Arthurian community who seem to think of Arthur as, essentially, a sort of prototype "Englishman".  Peter Ackroyd was quoted in the Radio Times earlier this year, saying that Sir Thomas Malory's epic Le Morte d'Arthur (published in 1485) is a "tale of Englishness".  Now, that's a bit odd, really, because Arthur fought against the people who came to be known as the English.  Indeed, it was the Angles of North Britain who gave their name to England, and it was those very Angles who Arthur and his confederates came very close to driving back into the sea.

There's something decidedly imperialistic about the claim that Arthur represents a kind of English ideal.  Those who were his enemies have adopted him as their national hero - not because he fought so bravely against them, but because they want to think of him as one of their own.  Hence the enduring myths of Tintagel, Glastonbury, and other supposedly "Arthurian" places in the south.  Those myths help to bolster the image of Arthur as someone who, whether he realised it or not, was to all intents and purposes English.

Of course, most students of the Arthurian legends know deep down in their hearts of hearts that Arthur was not English at all.  So they plump for Plan B.  If he wasn't English (shame!) then he must have been Roman.

After all, what did the Britons ever do for us?  They just sat around contemplating their own navels and quarrelling so much that pretty much anybody - Roman, Saxon - could steal their country from them.

The notion that Arthur must have had a Roman pedigree, and was no doubt a Romanised Briton of sorts, maintains a kind of continuity of mindset which goes all the way back to St Gildas.  Christianity had been introduced in Britain under the Roman occupation.  Pretty soon, Christianity came to be identified with Rome, so that, even with the Roman Empire crumbling in the West, the Eternal City remained as a symbol of order and discipline.

What St Gildas found so disgusting was that, left to their own devices, the Britons tended to go back to their old gods.  It was this that led to the "civil troubles" which ultimately ruined Britain.  Gildas the Wise spoke on behalf of the Romanised Britons, who looked to Rome as the source of power and Christianity as the Empire reborn.  Because of that, he simply did not have a good word to say about those Britons who preferred their native traditions and felt, rightly or wrongly, that Britain should be responsible for her own destiny.

Under Arthur, the latter faction - the "Ourselves Alone" side of Britain, true to its native ways - might have prevailed against those Anglian invaders who became the English.  But their efforts were undermined by the Romanised faction, spearheaded by the so-called saints of the early Church.  It was not so much the case that the Britons were just too useless as a people to withstand the English onslaught, but that the Britons were destroyed by their own enemies within: the admirers of Rome, the preachers of the Word.

The fiction that Arthur must have been of Roman stock ties in with the affectation that Arthur was quintessentially an Englishman.  It shows a patronising - one might even say "racist" - attitude towards the native Britons.  It also perpetuates a profound injustice.  Arthur was betrayed by the Christians who were closest to him.  He stood in the way of their plans for a uniform Church.  He and his family represented a kind of tolerant, inclusive spirituality - not Christians themselves, they were prepared to accept Christians in their midst, just as long as those Christians weren't actively plotting against them.  Sadly, though, some of those Christians just wouldn't stop plotting, and the outcome was the death of Arthur and the loss of Britain to her enemies.

Those same enemies now claim Arthur as their own.  That is, they try to make him "English".  But, realising that they'd never get away with that, they go to the next best thing: he was Roman.  From there, it is a short step to making him a Christian king, which is what happened to his legends in the Middle Ages.

The idea that only the Romans were capable of doing anything constructive - at least until the English were properly settled - is in keeping with the prejudices expressed by St Gildas shortly before Arthur was born.  It is prejudice, pure and simple, which tries to make out that Arthur was sort of English, probably Roman, and dominated southern Britain at a time when there are no traces whatsoever of an Arthur.

The same prejudice refuses to acknowledge the historical Arthur of the North.  That Arthur wasn't Roman.  Which means he wasn't English.  Which means he can't have been Arthur.  QED.

The old divisions which were created and exploited by the early Church continue to this day.  They are what caused Britain to fall in the first place.  The same treachery which betrayed Arthur and his warriors still keeps him resolutely hidden from view and promotes a myth of an English, Roman, southern, Christian Arthur.

The Arthur, that is, who was invented by his enemies - not the Arthur who was so fondly remembered by his own beleagured people.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

A Cover Up

Last week, all over Warwickshire, people covered up the name of Shakespeare.  On signs here and there, the name of William Shakespeare was masked by black tape.  This, apparently, was a form of protest against the new "Anonymous" film which rehashes the rather daft theory that Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, was actually responsible for writing Shakespeare's plays.  Although it could, of course, have been a clever marketing ploy to raise awareness of an indifferent movie.  These days, it's hard to tell.

But it got me thinking.  One of the problems with Will Shakespeare - and one of the reasons why conspiracy theories like the Oxfordian authorship nonsense are able to flourish - is that, now and then, his name did disappear.

Consider this: humble Will Shakespeare, a grammar school lad (probably) from a Warwickshire market town, made enough money to buy and renovate the second grandest house in his hometown.  He entertained kings and queens, earls and apprentices.  He left a body of creative work that is second to none.  Students at Oxford slept with his poems under their pillows.  He was quoted left, right and centre.  For more than twenty years he dominated the London stage.

He died rather suddenly on St George's Day in 1616 and was buried two days later in his local parish church.  Being a gentleman and the owner of what had once been church land, he was buried inside the church, immediately before the altar (which had also been buried, there having been a Reformation of the Church, let's not forget).

Naturally, most of England mourned the passing of her finest poet-dramatist.  You'd think so, wouldn't you?  Shakespeare is dead.  Somebody, you'd suppose, would have mentioned the fact.

No.  There are no surviving written references to the death of William Shakespeare.  None.  He died - and everyone was looking the other way.

It took more than seven years for anything acknowledging his death to appear in print.  This, of course, was the famous First Folio of Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies, for which we have two of Will's colleagues - John Heminges and Henry Condell - to thank.

William Basse, a minor poet from Oxfordshire, had written a sixteen-line poem in Will's honour.  It began by calling on some of England's most famous dead poets to make room for Shakespeare in the Poet's Corner section of Westminster Abbey:

Renowned Spenser, lie a thought more nigh
To learned Chaucer; and rare Beaumont, lie
A little nearer Spenser, to make room
For Shakespeare in your threefold, fourfold tomb.

Basse's poem was not included among those which prefaced the plays printed in the First Folio.  Ben Jonson, it would seem, had seen to that.  Jonson went so far as to sneer at Basse in his own prefatory poem:

My Shakespeare, rise.  I will not lodge thee by
Chaucer or Spenser, or bid Beaumont lie
A little further to make thee a room.

One has to feel a little sorry for William Basse - not only was his poem omitted, but the bullish Ben Jonson openly mocked his sentiments.  Jonson in fact preferred to group Shakespeare with three less fortunate dead poets - John Lyly, Thomas Kyd and Christopher Marlowe - one of whom (Kyd) had never recovered from having been tortured by government agents, while another (Marlowe) had been murdered in strange circumstances.

It would seem that poor, neglected William Basse was one of the first in the kingdom to mention Will Shakespeare's demise on paper.  Still, years had passed since Shakespeare's death.  Had no one else made any written remarks about it?

There are two poems in the First Folio which seem slightly odd, in that they appear to have been inserted at a very late stage in the printing process.  Ben Jonson, we can assume, had vetoed the inclusion of Basse's short eulogy.  But Jonson's library had been destroyed by a fire just a month before the First Folio was published in December 1623, and so he might have been otherwise occupied.  At the last minute, two extra poems were smuggled into the publication by Shakespeare's theatrical friends.

One of these poems was written by Leonard Digges, whose step-father, Thomas Russell, was one of Will Shakespeare's close friends and neighbours in Stratford (Will named Russell as one of the two overseers of his will in 1616).  Digges's poem alluded to the fire which had damaged Ben Jonson's library, and a few years later he would supply another poem which sharply contrasted Jonson and Shakespeare.  The other poem was written by Digges's friend James Mabbe, a Fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford.  Mabbe's short poem in the First Folio opens with the intriguing words:

We wondered, Shakespeare, that thou went'st so soon
From the world's stage to the grave's tiring-room.

These two poems, written by men who knew each other well and had a personal connection (via Digges's step-father) to William Shakespeare, and which were added to the First Folio at the last minute, suggest that Ben Jonson had lost his editorial stranglehold on the project as a result of his devastating fire.  This had allowed Will Shakespeare's long-term friends Heminges and Condell to slip two adulatory poems into the publication which, the chances are, Jonson would have kept out of it.  Let's face it, with his own long prefatory poem and his dedication 'To the Reader' of the famous Droeshout engraving of Will Shakespeare at the front of the First Folio, the whole thing had the feel of a Ben Jonson Production.  But then, Digges and Mabbe got their poems in, thankfully.  Digges, it would seem, did not think much of Ben Jonson.  And Mabbe really did let the cat out of the bag.

We wondered, Shakespeare, that thou went'st so soon
From the world's stage to the grave's tiring-room.

Who 'wondered'?  Presumably, those who knew Will Shakespeare.  And why were they so stunned and surprised by Shakespeare's sudden exit from the world?

Will Shakespeare died in April 1616.  Then, everything went quiet.  Until the last months of 1623, when somebody let slip that certain people had 'wondered' about Shakespeare's sudden death.  Presumably, they had 'wondered' about it quietly, refraining from committing anything to paper, because no reference to Shakespeare's death survives.  He died, and nobody said anything about it, although they 'wondered'.

It's this sort of thing that makes the story of Shakespeare so intriguing.  Sadly, it also allows a few weirdos to claim that William Shakespeare was just a cardboard cut-out, a front man for a more illustrious author.

More likely, it was widely known that Shakespeare had died, suddenly, and had been buried, quickly, and that was that.  Best not to talk about it.

Even though they 'wondered'.