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Shakespeare & Beyond

Henry VIII and herbals: Prince Charles and Camilla's visit to the Folger Shakespeare Library

Prince Charles and Camilla
Prince Charles and Camilla
Prince Charles and Camilla

(l-r) Gail Kern Paster, Prince Charles, Camilla, Georgianna Ziegler. 2005.

To mark the occasion of Charles III acceding to the British throne, we’ve been recalling his visit to the Folger Shakespeare Library in 2005, with his wife, Camilla, then the Duchess of Cornwall, and now Queen Consort.

King Charles is the President of the Royal Shakespeare Company and has also founded charities related to young people and to the arts, among other causes. During the couple’s visit, they attended a Folger Education workshop with local public school children.

Charles and Camilla also took the time to see rare items from the Folger collection, some of which are linked to the British royal families of centuries ago.

Georgianna Ziegler, Louis B. Thalheimer Associate Librarian and Head of Reference Emerita (pictured above), remembers the royal party’s security team preparing for the couple to enter the Folger Reading Room. All of the readers working there that day were asked to temporarily move to a different room, although, as she recalls, one of the security dogs bonded with a Folger fellow who had been working in the balcony area, and so she was allowed to stay.

The following excerpts from a 2016 interview with Ziegler shed light on some of the items that the royal couple examined that day—including an early modern, but definitely non-royal, book on plants that got Prince Charles’s attention.

What was the visit like with Prince Charles and Camilla?

The Prince Charles day was fun. We had chosen a group of books, and we had them all lined up along tables in the Old Reading Room, things like Henry VIII’s copy of Cicero. That’s the book he had as a boy, in which he wrote, “This book is mine, Prince Henry.”