Theatre Royal

On the evening of Sunday, 6 August 1564, Queen Elizabeth I entered King’s College Chapel for the first of four plays. She walked down the choir, through the screen doorway, and across a temporary wooden bridge to the stage in the ante-chapel, where she sat on the south side of the stage.

The second play she saw, Dido, was produced and acted entirely by Kingsmen and it was spectacular, including the construction of the walls of Carthage and probably producing the sound of artificial thunder.

For costumes, they had old religious vestments. By the end of the reign of Henry VIII the Catholic Church was out of favour in England and Papist religious items were frowned upon. Vestments were prohibited under Edward VI and so were turned to other uses such as costumes for theatre. With Mary’s accession they could be turned back into vestments, but the process had by no means been completed by the time of Elizabeth’s accession.

The list below, made in 1554 (ten years before Elizabeth I’s visit) describes vestments that had been turned into costumes. The costumes marked with a    were transformed back to vestments but the others were probably used in at least two of the performances she saw.


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