With the 400th anniversary of playwrighter William Shakespeare’s death, Queen Elizabeth is marking the occasion with a display at Windsor Castle.
The event that starts Saturday will display treasures demonstrating the link between her family and Shakespeare, such as a copy of his second folio, annotated by both Charles I and George III.
Other family heirlooms include Queen Mary’s copy of The Merry Wives of Windsor that she was given in 1917 and a Romeo and Juliet drawing by the future Queen Victoria when she was 15-years-old. The picture made in pen, pencil and ink shows the star-crossed lovers embracing as Romeo climbs out of a window.
Titled ‘Shakespeare in the Royal Library’, the exhibition hosts an array of maps, prints, books and works of art demonstrating how monarchs since Elizabeth I have loved Britain’s greatest dramatist.
The annotated copy of the Bard’s second folio, the 1632 collection of his plays, is a highlight of the exhibition. Charles I is said to have read it when imprisoned at Carisbrooke Castle on the Isle of Wight for 14 months before his death in 1649.
Charles I wrote the words ‘Dum Spiro Spero’ (While I Breathe, I Hope) on the flyleaf of the book, as well as adding the names of some of Shakespeare’s comedic characters on the contents page.
Many others owned the book before 1800 when the Royal Library by George III reacquired it. George made a correction on a note in the book that said Sir Thomas Herbert was the King’s Master of the Revels, to that Herbert was, in fact, Groom of the Bedchamber to Charles I.
Queen Victoria and her family took in many of Shakespeare’s plays at Windsor Castle. During one performance Louis Haghe recorded the event in watercolour showing the Queen, Prince Albert and the children watching Macbeth in the Rubens Room (now King’s Drawing Room) on February 4, 1853.
A journal entry from Victoria describes that day as “most interesting, thrilling and heartrending play” and said the performance was “extremely well given”.
Prince Charles is president of the Royal Shakespeare Company and published a selection of his favourite work by Shakespeare in 1995.
Elizabeth Clark, exhibition curator of Royal Collection Trust said: “This exhibition commemorating 400 years since Shakespeare’s death is a wonderful opportunity to show through many of the Royal Library’s greatest treasures the Royal Family’s lasting interest in Shakespeare and his plays.”
Photo Credit: By William Sartain – Folger Shakespeare Library Digital Image Collection http://luna.folger.edu/luna/servlet/s/3k773i, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=40983557