Royal Collection Trust

Royal collection trust logo.pngThe Royal Collection Trust marked Shakespeare400 at Windsor Castle with an exhibition celebrating the playwright's longstanding association with the town of Windsor and the royal court. The exhibition, Shakespeare in the Royal Library demonstrated how generations of monarchs since Elizabeth I had enjoyed Shakespeare's work.


Shakespeare at the royal Library

The exhibition drew from the Royal Collection to bring together for the first time, prints, maps, and books acquired by monarchs, and works of art created by members of the royal family.

Among the highlights on display was a copy of Shakespeare's Second Folio, annotated by two monarchs, Charles I and George III.  It is thought that Charles I read the folio, published in 1632, while imprisoned at Windsor Castle before his execution in 1649.  The King inscribed the words 'Dum Spiro Spero' (While I Breathe, I Hope) on the fly-leaf of the book and wrote the names of some of the characters from Shakespeare's comedies onto the contents page.  The book subsequently passed to Sir Thomas Herbert and changed hands a number of times before being acquired for the Royal Library by George III in 1800.  George III corrected a note in the book that identifies Sir Thomas Herbert as the King's Master of the Revels, stating that Herbert was in fact the Groom of the Bedchamber to Charles I.

The Royal Library's copy of Shakespeare's First Folio acquired by George IV when Prince of Wales was also displayed.  Published seven years after Shakespeare's death by his friends and fellow actors, John Heminges and Henry Condell, it brought his plays together in a single volume for the first time and included a number of previously unpublished works.

Some of Shakespeare's plays were written with performance at the royal court in mind.  The comedy 'The Merry Wives of Windsor', which directly links the playwright to the historic town and the Castle, was performed in front of Elizabeth I in around 1600.  There are a number of copies of 'The Merry Wives of Windsor' in the Royal Collection, including a second quarto of the play published in 1619, and a colourfully bound edition of the play presented to Queen Mary in 1917, which features an embroidered image of Windsor Castle on the front cover.

Another highlight of the exhibition was a drawing of Romeo and Juliet by Princess Victoria, the future Queen Victoria, when aged around 15. Made in pencil, pen and ink, the drawing, which was on display for the first time, shows a scene from Shakespeare's popular play, with the two lovers embracing as Romeo climbs hastily out of a window.  Also displayed for the first time was a watercolour by Princess Alice, Queen Victoria's second daughter.  Depicting a scene from Shakespeare's Hamlet, the colourful watercolour was made as a birthday gift to her mother on 24 May 1859.

The exhibition took place at the Drawings Gallery, Windsor Castle from the 13 February – 11 December 2016.

The trust also presented several talks, performances and courses to accompany the exhibition. Below is an overview of the events that took place:

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