|It's possible William Shakespeare may have died on his birthday in 1616.|
In Tudor times, one of my favourite historical periods, people did not tend to celebrate birthdays in any overt way. They did not say, 'Happy Birthday!' to each other, they did not present gifts, they did not appear to have a special meal associated with the day, nor even a gathering of friends and family to mark an important birthday like 'coming of age'.
Famously, William Shakespeare appears to have died on his 52nd birthday, 23rd April 1616. But we cannot say for sure if he died quietly in his bed or suffered a heart attack while performing an ill-advised jig at a riotous birthday party!
This may seem strange to us, when birthdays have become such commercial - and often very expensive - family events for us in the twenty-first century. But historians have found no evidence to suggest that gifts were given in Tudor times as birthday presents, even among noble families and royalty - though often lavish gifts were exchanged by all ranks of society at New Year.
|"Here's my gift, sire ... My own severed head!"|
So it's possible some Tudors celebrated birthdays. It's just we have no record of what they might have done. Perhaps a nice meal in the evening, or a sing-song, or just a quiet acknowledgement that another year had gone by. Perhaps they thought it bad luck to point out someone's birthday! Who knows?
Personally, I shall be hoping for a more modern celebration of my birthday today, as it would be rather dreary not to get any gifts at all!