Last year Country Life magazine revealed an astonishing new image of William Shakespeare, the first and only known demonstrably authentic portrait of the world’s greatest writer made in his lifetime.

**This article was first published in Country Life magazine on May 20 2015

WORLD EXCLUSIVE: The true face of Shakespeare revealed

Until now, the only authentic likenesses of William Shakespeare were found in the First Folio and his monument at Holy Trinity Church, Stratford, both created posthumously. The new image shows Shakespeare with a film star’s good looks, in the company of Lord Burghley, the most powerful man in the land.

Botanist and historian Mark Griffiths reveals in this week’s issue of Country Life magazine, out today (May 20), how he cracked a many-layered Tudor code and revealed the living face of Shakespeare for the first time, on the title page of The Herball by John Gerard, a 16th century book on plants, 400 years after it was first published.

face of shakespeare revealed

From left to right: Mark Griffiths and Mark Hedges study a first edition of The Herball by John Gerard.

Mark Hedges, editor of Country Life magazine hails it as: “The literary discovery of the century. We have a new portrait of Shakespeare, the first ever that is identified as him by the artist and made in his lifetime. Mark Griffiths’ unrivalled specialist knowledge as an expert in the role of flora in the literature of the English Renaissance made him uniquely qualified to discover the greatest Elizabethan of all.”

As a result of this discovery, Country Life will reveal a new play by Shakespeare and how his career was launched in the May 27 issue of Country Life.

The May 20 and May 27 issue of Country Life are available to purchase. To download the digital edition visit


true face of shakespeare

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