What has Shakespeare done for the royal family - and what has the royal family done for Shakespeare?

This exhibition draws together objects from the Royal Collection, the British Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Folger Shakespeare Library and others, to explore the story of royal interest in Shakespeare from 1714-1945. It shows how Shakespeare has been used by royal individuals for personal, political, and performative reasons.

When we think of the connections between Shakespeare and the royal family, we tend to recall various depictions in art and film of Elizabeth I going to the Globe—sometimes in disguise—and being bowled over by her favourite playwright’s latest work.

Yet Elizabeth never actually went to the Globe, and she had limited interest in the stage. In fact, the most important connections between Shakespeare and the royals developed after Shakespeare’s lifetime. No other writer has ever determined royal history, or provided a model for royal behaviour and education, in the way Shakespeare has done for the British royal family.

The Act of Settlement of 1701 forbade any Catholic succeeding to the English throne. So, when Queen Anne died in 1714, the crown passed to the son of her deceased first cousin once removed, whose primary qualification was his Protestant faith. George I spoke no English but established the Hanoverian dynasty. Over the century to come, both the Hanoverians and Shakespeare became central parts of British cultural life.

The exhibition is divided into three sections and eight 'rooms' exploring the histories of specific works. Look out for Guided Tour icons to explore images up close; 3D models of historic performance spaces, and short videos exploring objects in more detail.