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A murder in Thame

William Knell murder scene, Thame, Oxfordshire
Scene of the murder of one
William Knell
Mid June 1587, and one of the biggest draws of the age is on its way to Stratford. Performing first in Thame in Oxfordshire, The Queen's Men were put together by Francis Walsingham in 1583 as a roving propaganda machine. Featuring former Earl of Leicester's Men like James Burbage, who will go on to become a key player in William Shakespeare's career, what began as a tool of the State has metamorphosed into a crowd-pulling popular entertainment.

A young hothead, and recognizable talent, called William Knell is one of the company's most noteworthy actors, and on the night of the Thame performance gets into a fight with a fellow actor, John Towne. Passions are such that Knell has his sword drawn, and, according to the contemporary coroner's report, has intent to kill. Towne backs off and tries to elude Knell, but in self defense, desperate to save his life, draws his own sword. Towne makes a lucky strike straight into Knell's neck, and the young hothead is stone cold dead soon after.

Therefore, by the time the company reaches its next venue, it is an actor short.


William Knell murder Coroner's reportWilliam Knell coroner's report

Report on the murder of one of the Queens' Men players


portrait not availableRobert Dudley, The Earl of Leicester

Sir Francis Walsingham portraitSir Francis Walsingham

portrait not availableJames Burbage


William Knell murder scene, Thame, OxfordshireThame, Oxfordshire

Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-AvonStratford upon Avon, Warwickshire

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