Louis Haghe, A Performance of Macbeth in the Rubens Room, Windsor Castle, watercolour over pencil, 1853 (RCIN 919794)


What has Shakespeare done for the royal family, and what has the royal family done for Shakespeare? This is the central research question of ‘Shakespeare in the Royal Collections’, a three-year AHRC funded project (launched in September 2018), which focuses on the Shakespeare-related holdings in the Royal Collections and the stories they have to tell, primarily during the period 1714-1945.

Shakespeare and the royal family have long had a close, interdependent relationship. Shakespeare addresses royal history in many of his plays; his works have also functioned across the centuries as a vehicle for the development of royal ideology and for the education of young royals. Equally, royal patronage has tangibly affected the nature of the Shakespearean afterlife. Each has, in key ways, legitimised the other.

A key dimension of this history has been the inclusion of Shakespeare-related items – manuscripts, paintings, prints, drawings, performance records, printed books, photographs, and other objects – in the Royal Collections. These objects, never systematically researched, will be the primary subject of investigation over the course of this project, which will produce:


Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, in partnership with the Royal Collection Trust.

William Shakespeare, Comedies, histories and tragedies (Charles I’s copy of Shakespeare’s complete works), 1632, folio bound in red goatskin (RCIN 1080415)
Victoria, Princess Royal, The Entry of Bolingbroke (scene from Richard II as performed by Charles Kean’s theatre company), watercolour over pencil, 1857 (RCIN 451134)
Box with inset miniature of George, Prince of Wales in ‘Prince Florizel’ costume, tortoiseshell, enamel, diamonds, watercolour on ivory, c.1787-95 (RCIN 4412)
Boxes made from the mulberry tree supposed to have been planted by William Shakespeare, early nineteenth century (RCIN 43894)
William Perry, A Treatise on the Identity of Herne’s Oak, book bound in the wood of Herne’s Oak, 1867 (RCIN 1047000)
Leonida Caldesi, Prince Arthur and Prince Leopold in the costume of the sons of King Henry IV, albumen print hand-coloured with watercolour, 1859 (RCIN 2914286)

Project Team

Gordon McMullan

(Principal Investigator)

Gordon is Professor of English at King’s College London and Director of the London Shakespeare Centre. His publications include The Politics of Unease in the Plays of John Fletcher (1994), the Arden Shakespeare edition of Henry VIII (2000), Shakespeare and the Idea of Late Writing (2007), Antipodal Shakespeare (2018) and several edited and co-edited collections, including Late Style and its Discontents (2017). He is a general textual editor of The Norton Shakespeare, 3rd edition (2016), for which he also edited Romeo and Juliet.

Kate Retford


Kate is Professor of the History of Art at Birkbeck, University of London. Her publications include The Art of Domestic Life: Family Portraiture in Eighteenth-Century England (2006), a co-authored monograph Advancing with the Army (2006) and The Conversation Piece: Making Modern Art in Eighteenth-Century Britain (2017); she has also co-edited two collections, Placing Faces: The Portrait and the English Country House in the Long Eighteenth Century (2013; with Gill Perry et al) and The Georgian London Town House (2019; with Susanna Avery-Quash).

Sally Barnden

(Postdoctoral Research Associate)

Sally has a PhD in Shakespeare studies from King’s College London. She did scoping work for the grant by way of an internal postdoctoral research associateship in 2016-17. Her monograph, Still Shakespeare and the Photography of Performance, is forthcoming from Cambridge University Press.

Kirsten Tambling

(Postdoctoral Research Associate)

Kirsten has a PhD from Birkbeck entitled ‘Making the Crossing: Seduction, Space and Time in the Art of William Hogarth and Jean-Antoine Watteau’. She previously studied at Cambridge (English and Eighteenth-Century Studies) and the Courtauld (Curating the Art Museum) and held a Curatorial Internship at the Royal Collection in 2014-15.

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