“Welcome, Sweet Prince” – the Shakespearean Ball and Pageant

Guest blogger - Rebecca Clarke 

During 1920 Edward, Prince of Wales conducted a highly successful tour of Australia, visiting 110 towns and cities between May and August. As part of the Queensland leg of the tour, on 30 July 1920 the Brisbane Shakespeare Society hosted a Shakespearean Ball and Pageant attended by the Prince, officers of the Fleet, leading Commonwealth and State officials, and British journalists. The event, held at John Bridge and Co.’s wool store in Bulimba, comprised a dinner, dance, and pageant with the guests numbering over 2000. In the lead up to the event, the Brisbane Courier claimed that “nothing on the same scale, so far as a ball is concerned, has ever before been attempted in Brisbane.”

Shakespeare Ball held in Brisbane to commemorate the Prince of Wales' visit to Queensland,1920. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 196983

Shakespeare Ball held in Brisbane to commemorate the Prince of Wales' visit to Queensland,1920. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 196983

The Queenslander provided a detailed description of the decoration of the wool store for the ball. The supper room was walled with “as near a reproduction of English hedges as this country could supply – gum boughs, breathing the perfume of the wonderful Queensland bush.” The wool chutes in the store were transformed for the event, becoming “two charming little Elizabethan cottages,” and replicas of Shakespeare’s cottage and Anne Hathaway’s cottage were also on show. Additionally, the room also featured a miniature of the Elizabethan maze at Hampton Court, a Tudor chair on which the Prince of Wales would sit to watch the pageant, and a bust of Shakespeare on a pedestal nearby. The “characteristic aroma of the Australian shearing shed,” provided by the bales of wool packed into the lower floors of the building infused the event.

Welcome sweet prince, Shakespeare Ball and Pageant in Brisbane, 30 July 1920 (SLQ collection)

Welcome sweet prince, Shakespeare Ball and Pageant in Brisbane, 30 July 1920 (SLQ collection)

Fan 2 Midsummer Night's Dream compressed

The Ball’s fan-shaped souvenir programme emphasised the link between Shakespeare and monarchy, adorned with quotations such as “Welcome, Sweet Prince” from Richard III, “He is the Prince of the World” from All’s Well that Ends Well, and “Good Night, Sweet Prince” from Hamlet. Along with a dance programme, scenes were performed from an extensive number of Shakespeare’s plays, including Hamlet, Antony and Cleopatra, and Romeo and Juliet. In the words of the Prince himself, it was deemed “the most magnificent spectacle of the whole of my tour. I have never seen anything like this before.”

News articles used:

The Shakespearean Ball,’ Brisbane Courier, July 12, 1920.

Shakespeare Ball and Pageant,’ Queenslander, August 7, 1920.

Most Magnificent Spectacle – Prince’s Comment on Shakespeare Pageant,’ Brisbane Courier, August 2, 1920.

 

Rebecca Clarke

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