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Sir William Davenant

The poet Sir William Davenant (or D'Avenant) is buried in Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey. He was buried in the grave from which his Roundhead rival Thomas May had been ejected at the Restoration. His small white gravestone is now rather cracked and the inscription reads:

O RARE S. WILLIAM DAVENANT

The inscription mimics that on Ben Jonson's grave in the nave which also includes the words 'O Rare'. William succeeded Jonson as Poet Laureate and was known as the 'Sweet Swan of Isis'.

He was a son of John Davenant of Oxford and his wife Jane (Sheppard) and was baptised on 3rd March 1606. Educated in Oxford he moved to London after his father's death and was a page at Ely House. By his first wife Mary he had several sons. His second wife Anne Cademan died in 1655. By his third wife Henrietta Maria du Tremblay he left nine sons including Charles and William. His first play was put on by the King's Men in 1627. After an illness he became a servant to queen Henrietta Maria and wrote works for the Court and staged masques. He was a Royalist during the English Civil War and was knighted at the siege of Gloucester in 1643. He took exile in France during Cromwell's rule and was on his way to America when his ship was captured by Cromwell's men. He was imprisoned on the Isle of Wight and was then moved to the Tower of London. After the king's restoration he put on what was the first English opera and became manager of the Duke's Theatre. He also staged plays of Shakespeare and collaborated with John Dryden. He was buried on 9th April 1668.

Further reading

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

Funeral

9th April 1668

Occupation

Poet

Location

South Transept; Poets' Corner

Memorial Type

Grave

Sir William Davenant
William Davenant grave

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2021 Dean and Chapter of Westminster

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