A large section of a tree trunk, varnished and polished to show the natural grain. The surface is scratched, and the initials "C. C." and "W. B." are visible carved into the surface.

Section Three: Martyrs and relics

As his position as 'the national poet' solidified, objects associated with Shakespeare began to acquire spiritual and mythic qualities - and the royal family were quick to seize upon them.

One of the most prized objects in the Royal Collection is a 'Second Folio' edition of Shakespeare's plays, first published in 1632. It contains handwritten annotations made by the deposed King Charles I in the final days before his execution on the orders of Parliament, during the English Civil War. The Second Folio therefore connects Shakespeare directly with the man many royalists came to consider a martyr king.

Several generations later, the Royal Collection acquired several 'relics' made of the wood of a tree traditionally identified as 'Herne's Oak', which is mentioned at the end of The Merry Wives of Windsor. Drawing on elements of the medieval 'trade' in relics associated with saints, these objects enshrined the four-way association between Shakespeare, nature, nation and royalty.

Rooms in this section