Shadwell was born at Stanton Hall, Norfolk, and educated at Bury St Edmunds School, and at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, which he entered in 1656. He left the university without a degree, and joined the Middle Temple. At the Whig triumph in 1688, he superseded John Dryden as poet laureate and historiographer royal. He died at Chelsea on 19 November 1692.
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