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Shakespeare & Beyond

Five Folger Finds: Coronations, jubilees, and royal processions

Queen Elizabeth II in the Folger Reading Room
Queen Elizabeth II in the Folger Reading Room
Queen Elizabeth II in the Folger Reading Room

Queen Elizabeth II tours the Folger with director Werner Gundersheimer, 1991. Photo by Julie Ainsworth. Folger Shakespeare Library.

As the United Kingdom celebrates the Platinum Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, marking her 70 years on the throne, we remember her visit to the Folger in 1991, the first reigning British monarch to do so. In honor of the Platinum Jubilee and all the festivities taking place, we’ve gathered these five Folger collection items related to jubilees, coronations, and royal processions.

Elizabeth I

The Platinum Jubilee is all about Elizabeth II, but let’s take things back a few centuries to Elizabeth I. While this image of a royal procession is not from the queen’s coronation (and is not contemporary with Elizabeth herself), it does provide a nice visual of the queen being carried on a chair through the city streets, glittering in her jewels and surrounded by members of her court. Created in the mid-18th century, the print has a strong whiff of nostalgia about it.

A James II coronation book

Francis Sandford’s 1687 book, The history of the coronation of the most high, most mighty, and most excellent monarch, James II, makes you almost feel as if you witnessed this spectacular event thanks to the fine details it records, whether it be a diagram of the place settings at dinner, a map of the procession route, or the intricate drawings of royal regalia arrayed for the occasion.

Anne Boleyn’s coronation

Coronations are not just historical events; they can be literary ones as well. This watercolor by James Stephanoff shows the coronation procession of Anne Boleyn from Shakespeare’s Henry VIII, Act 4, Scene 1.

The Shakespeare Jubilee

If you’re searching for jubilees in the Folger collection, you’re bound to come across the Shakespeare Jubilee of September 1769, organized by actor and big-time Shakespeare promoter David Garrick. This printed sheet lists the horses competing in a race in a meadow near Stratford-upon-Avon, as part of the festivities. The prize? A Jubilee cup! “…whereon will be engraved Shakespeare’s Arms, with other proper Decorations”.

Shakespeare stamps

Let’s bring it all together with these early 20th-century Shakespeare stamps, including a “Special Coronation issue.” That would be for the coronation of Edward VII and his wife, Alexandra, in 1902. Do you recognize the image depicted on the stamp? It’s the bust of Shakespeare that is over his grave in Holy Trinity Church; a replica resides in the Folger Reading Room.

And as a bonus item, here’s Shakespeare with Queen Elizabeth II in 1964 for a special commemorative stamp series celebrating the 400th anniversary of his birth.

With special thanks to Abbie Weinberg, the Folger’s Research and Reference Librarian