On Tuesday evening, the Duchess of Edinburgh, along with other royals, joined the King and Queen at a special reception held at Windsor Castle. During the event, Charles (age 74) and Camilla (age 76) enjoyed performances from Shakespeare's plays, commemorating the Bard's significant contributions to the nation's life and culture. The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester and several renowned actors, including Dame Judi Dench and Helena Bonham Carter, also attended the occasion. The celebrations were organized this year to honor the 400th anniversary of the first printed edition of Shakespeare's collection of plays, commonly known as the First Folio according to modern scholars.
The First Folio, containing 36 of Shakespeare's works, was published in 1623, seven years after the playwright's passing. It was compiled by his colleagues and fellow actors, John Heminges and Henry Condell. A rare manuscript of the First Folio is currently housed in the Royal Library at Windsor Castle. During the reception, the King and Queen had the opportunity to view this copy of the First Folio after the performance.
On Monday, Queen Camilla celebrated her birthday and appeared graceful in a cobalt blue dress featuring ruffled sleeves. Meanwhile, her sister-in-law, Sophie, wore a navy dress adorned with a gold patterned motif.
A group of actors, consisting of Ray Fearon, a former Coronation Street star, Lucy Phelps, Sir Simon Russell Beale, and Dame Harriet Walter, took the stage to read excerpts from various Shakespeare plays, including Macbeth, Julius Caesar, As You Like It, Twelfth Night, Antony And Cleopatra, and The Tempest.
After the performance, Lucy Phelps humorously remarked that the real “acting royalty” was seated in the first few rows, not referring to Charles and Camilla. She playfully imagined the experience to be somewhat akin to Strictly Come Dancing, with Judi Dench holding up a card with a number seven on it. The reason for her jest was the presence of numerous renowned actors in the room, many of whom had previously portrayed the same characters from the plays they were reading, making it a remarkable experience.
In 1991, Charles, as the Prince of Wales, assumed the role of President of the Royal Shakespeare Company, showcasing his strong fascination with Shakespeare. Even during his time at university, he actively participated in theatrical performances of the playwright's works. In 2016, he visited New Place, which was Shakespeare's final residence in Stratford-upon-Avon. Additionally, he collaborated with esteemed theater actors on stage in Stratford to present a performance of Hamlet as a part of Shakespeare Live! organized by the RSC.