Plays, Poems & New Writing Photo story

Crafting crowns

  We hear from actors, wardrobe and props about bringing royalty to the stage

2 minute read

With ten Histories and over a dozen Kings (not to mention Queens), Shakespeare’s plays certainly call for a crown or two. Discover how these are brought to life at Shakespeare’s Globe, as we speak to our teams backstage.

A collection of crowns sit upon the wooden stage of the Globe Theatre.

A collection of crowns from various Globe productions over the years. Photographer: Alex Jacobs

Sophie Russell as the titular monarch in Richard III (2019). Photographer: Marc Brenner

‘The potency inherent in wearing a crown is strong. You don’t move around fast, you must keep pretty upright and allow others to serve you. You are drawn like a magnet to the upstage centre of the stage (known as the ‘kingspot’ on the Globe outside stage) and other actors must speak upstage towards you.’

— Sophie Russell

‘One of my favourite [crowns] we’ve had recently are the solid brass crowns from Henry VIII (2022). I love the simplicity of them, yet they are still really striking. They’re actually really quite heavy, we had to drill tiny holes into the base of Catherine of Aragon’s crown so we could pin it into her hair to stop it falling off. Adam Gillen who played King Henry VIII had to use the sharp points of his crown to pop balloons in one of the scenes and on one show he popped it too hard and actually ended up cutting his hand on the sharp point, he carried on acting like a pro and I’m sure no one in the audience realised.’

— Emma Lucy Hughes, Head of Wardrobe

A man wearing a golden crown and a purple costume stares into the distance.

Adam Gillen as King Henry in Henry VIII (2022). Photographer: Marc Brenner

A woman wearing a golden crown and a purple dress sits with her back against a pillar.

Bea Segura as Queen Catherine of Aragon in Henry VIII (2022). Photographer: Marc Brenner

‘To bear the crown upon your brow is to truly recognise how weird heads are. The first time [Hamlet’s] was placed on mine it sat there teetering like some sort of poorly balanced spiky hollow cake on a plinth. Several times it was sent back down to props to be bent into the shape of my head. As it turns out, my head is (A) incredibly large – 59cm around, whopping, and (B) roughly the shape of a tic-tac, or a Velociraptor egg. The more you know, eh?’

— George Fouracres

An actor sits on a candlelit stage wearing a crown.

George Fouracres as Prince Hamlet in Hamlet (2022). Photographer: Johan Persson

‘It’s quite fun to wear a crown. It does make you stand up a bit straighter…

My favourite crowns [are the ones specially made] for Macbeth and Lady Macbeth [in our 2016 production]. And they were really nice, kind of like intricate brass rods, sort of bent into really funny shapes – and then a dark wire weave throughout. They were quite royal, but with a thorny twist.’

— Emma Hughes, Head of Props

A woman wearing an ornate crown stands upon the stage of the Globe Theatre, touching her temples.

Tara Fitzgerald as Lady Macbeth in Macbeth (2016). Photographer: Marc Brenner

An actor wearing a vivid red cloak, embroidered with golden lions, sits down, distraught, holding a crown out in their outstretched hand, as another actor looks on concerned behind them.

Philip Arditti (right) as King Henry IV and Sarah Amankwah (left) as Hal, later King Henry V, in Henry IV: Part 2 (2019).

A woman wearing a crown sitting on a gold throne

Kathryn Hunter as King Lear (2022). Photographer: Johan Persson

Three actors on a candlelit stage.

Adjoa Andoh as Richard II (2019). Photographer: Ingrid Pollard