exhibition reveals how Shakespeare’s Hal has excused royal heirs for centuries | Books
From Frederick in the early 18th century to Charles in ours, a series of Princes of Wales have partnered with Shakespeare’s Prince Hal as a way to excuse youthful excesses and promise strong future leadership, according to a new exhibit exploring the relationship between the works of Shakespeare and the royal family.
Prince Hal is the favored companion of the dissolute Falstaff in Shakespeare’s plays Henry IV Parts I and II, but achieves military victory in Henry V. His own debauchery behavior, Hal reveals, was a trick to making his eventual character more dramatic. : “Here I will imitate the sun, / Which allows vile contagious clouds / To stifle its beauty from the world, / That, when it pleases him again to be himself, / To be wanted, he can be more amazed at. “
The new digital exhibition, Making History: Shakespeare and the Royal Family, draws on paintings, books, drawings, prints, letters, essays, furniture and photographs from the Royal Collection and the Royal Archives to explore how the actual Princes of Wales – the title given to the heir apparent – actively sought comparison with Hal.
Charles, points out the exhibition, asked those who questioned his behavior in 2018 to “look at the plays of Shakespeare, Henry V or Henry IV parts I and II, to see the change that can take place”. Charles also played Hal in a scene from Henry IV Part I in a 1990s audiobook.
An 18th century painting from the Royal Collection shows Frederick, Prince of Wales, putting his head around a door and in a group portrait of the “Henry V club”. “The club’s name invites comparison with Prince Hal, although the promise of a corresponding transformation into a martial hero-king was aborted by Frederick’s untimely death,” the exhibit notes, adding that the grandson by Frederick, George (also Prince of Wales) hung the painting for many years in his London home, Carlton House.
“There is something very useful about this tale of being a heartbreaking one who will eventually become a great war hero, or a famous leader, so we have cases of Princes of Wales appearing to invite this tale,” said Dr Sally Barnden, one of the academics behind the exhibit. “In some cases, it is also something that is imposed on these princes by satirists. Frederick is the first we have found and then the five oldest Princes of Wales since then have all either strategically referenced or had a reference made on their behalf.
Items featured in the exhibit include an image of the carved oak cradle in which Prince Henry, later Henry V, was shaken, and which was purchased by Edward VII in 1908. “This was a relatively unusual purchase for Edward VII, and one which may suggest a certain sense of friendship with “Prince Hal” on the part of the man who, until his coronation in 1901, had been the longest-serving Prince of Wales in history. », Notes the exhibition.
“It is a very clear tradition, that the Princes of Wales make this association quite consciously in order to project the idea that if someone shoots them when they are young, look at what they are going to be when they are one. little older and make you become king, “said lead researcher Professor Gordon McMullan of the London Shakespeare Center at King’s College London.” When you read the play, Hal’s behavior leaves the audience to make up their minds, that’s therefore a risky model in some respects, but it is clearly a model which has won over the Princes of Wales over and over again. “
The exhibition, in eight sections, draws on new archival research to explore the links between Shakespeare and the royal family through the centuries, from a Shakespeare Folio containing handwritten annotations made by Charles I shortly before his execution in 1649, to a painting by Thomas Gainsborough depicting the affair of actress and poet Mary Robinson with George IV then Prince of Wales. The prince noticed Robinson during a performance of The Winter’s Tale in 1779, when she played Perdita, and he signed several of her letters to her under the name of Florizel, the name of Perdita’s lover.
It also explores how George III read King Lear in 1788-89, during his first episode of mental illness, and was disturbed by it – and how his son George IV, while Prince Regent, had it altered an imprint to minimize the physical condition of his father. resemblance to a Lear with wild hair and a white beard.
“The exhibit asks, ‘What did Shakespeare do for the royal family, and what did the royal family do for Shakespeare?’ ”McMullan said. “Shakespeare deals with royal history in his plays; his works taught members of the royal family how to perform in front of an audience, helped shape royal ideology, and exerted a crucial influence in the education of young royals.
The free exhibition is part of a three-year project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council at the London Shakespeare Center at King’s, in collaboration with the Royal Collection Trust.