Shakespeare and the Character of Kingship

Dramatic Readings from Shakespeare’s History Plays

Performed by Simon Russell Beale CBE

We held a launch to support the campaign for the development of our Library on Sunday, 29 January. It was a sold-out show, raising more than £8,000 towards improving access to the Society’s archives, and drawings collection. By their very nature our archives are unique as are our collections of original drawings, and at present they can only be studied by making a visit to the Library. We aim to make these remarkable materials available to a wider range of scholars and people interested in the past by creating a free searchable catalogue and digital resources which can be used by anyone anywhere in the world.

We will do this by:

  • cataloguing our archives, which have never been catalogued, and the drawings which are only partially catalogued;
  • conservation to ensure the preservation and survival of originals for future generations;
  • digitisation of the Minute Books and drawings.

We will need to buy a specialist archives cataloguing system, employ an archivist and cataloguer, and pay for digitisation.  

Actor Simon Russell Beale CBE, Professor Maurice Howard OBE Hon VPSA and medieval musician Jez Smith vividly brought to life the ‘character’ of the Society’s portraits of medieval and Tudor monarchs through Shakespeare’s history plays, music and scholarly insight. Simon gave a performance of extraordinary power and dexterity, acting Henry V’s rage at the Southampton plotters, Henry VI’s fragile reconciliation of the warring houses of York and Lancaster, Queen Margaret’s disillusionment with her King, Edward IV’s single-minded pursuit of a wife, Richard III’s craving for power at any price and Henry VII’s magnanimity in victory. Jez played music of the period and Maurice explained how the Society’s portraits were imagined by audiences in Shakespeare’s day.

Thanks to the generous support of Graham and Joanna Barker, we have produced a high-quality HD recording of the event, which is now available for pre-order at a special price: Purchase as a digital download for £5 or a limited-edition DVD at £5.00* (+ £2.00 p&p).    

simon russell beale Collage

A donation of any size can help. For example:

  • £500 would pay for one day’s scanning of original documents;
  • £250 would enable us to re-bind a Minute Book;
  • £50 would allow us to provide a new protective box for a collection of drawings.

We are grateful to Edward Harris MBE FSA for his kind gift of £1,000.   All donations will go towards creating a free searchable electronic resource that will transform access to the Library’s unique materials. We are looking to raise £500,000.

If you would like to support our Campaign please contact Head of  Development Dominic Wallis (020 7479 7092 or 

*The recording and DVD should be available for distribution by the end of February, when the price of the DVD will go up to £8.00 (+ £2.00 p&p). Order today and save!