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Bard 400: Prince Charles' visit to New Place

Prince Charles is escorted into New Place in Stratford-upon-Avon earlier by Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Chief Executive Diana Owen.
Prince Charles is escorted into New Place in Stratford-upon-Avon earlier by Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Chief Executive Diana Owen.

A LARGE enthusiastic crowd gathered outside New Place to cheer Prince Charles on his arrival at his first engagement during Stratford's memorable Shakespeare celebrations.

The Prince’s visited New Place in Chapel Street which was Shakespeare’s adult home in the town. The site has undergone a spectacular £5.25 million transformation and is scheduled to re-open to the public in July.

His forty minute tour included meeting members of staff from The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, volunteers, talking with actors from Shakespeare Aloud theatre troupe, who greeted him in traditional Tudor costume on his arrival, and, the Prince also watched a performance of an extract from Richard III by the Combat Veterans Players.

Inside New Place His Royal Highness was shown an exhibition relating to the Shakespeare family’s life at New Place. Artefacts included Tudor dress pins, dominoes, dice, marbles and a thimble all of which had been discovered during the extensive excavations at New Place and neighbouring Nash’s House which began last May.

The Prince’s entourage then moved outside into the new contemporary garden which occupies the footprint of Shakespeare’s original home at New Place.

Here he was shown an intricate scale model of how the visitor experience at New Place will look when the transformation is completed.

Among the many people he met was ten-year-old Beatrice Baldwin accompanied by her mother, Sarah.

Beatrice’s design of what Shakespeare’s New Place would have looked like in his day was chosen as the winning entry in a competition using a video game called Minecraft and it included the skull from the grave digging scene in Hamlet.

“Beatrice was a bit shy when she met The Prince and he admitted he not heard of the video game but congratulated her on her efforts,” Sarah said.

The Prince spent time talking with Professor Stanley Wells, CBE, Honorary President of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust (SBT), Will Mitchell, who led The Trust archaeological dig at New Place, and Rev Dr Paul Edmondson, Head of Research and Knowledge at the Trust.

“The Prince remarked to us that judging by the archaeological finds and the size of New Place, Shakespeare was obviously a man of some social standing. I personally think it is amazing that we are at the very place where Shakespeare died and on the day that celebrates his birthday, the 23rd April,” Dr Edmondson said.

In honour of the Bard, Dr Edmondson composed a sonnet titled William Shakespeare 1616 – 2016 which he read at The Shakespeare Service at Holy Trinity Church on Sunday and was broadcast live on Radio 4.

The Prince walked through the newly restored Knot Garden and after a performance featuring an extract from Richard III, The Prince then entered the heart of the New Place garden and was shown some of the sculptures that will feature in the garden for visitors to enjoy.

He also spent time standing at a bronze Shakespeare Chair and Desk which will allow people of all ages and from all walks of life to sit down, ponder about the Bard and possible transform into Shakespeare for a moment.

The Prince did not sit at the desk but he was obviously drawn to the whole concept of the sculpture.

The Prince learnt that the Trust’s transformation project is the biggest undertaken by the SBT in 50 years. It has been funded from the Heritage Lottery Fund and Historic England and through public donations raised from a host of initiatives headed by the Trust.

Prince Charles’ visit to New Place lasted 40 minutes – the exact time allocated – and was accompanied a by a significant number of members of the national press who had been in Stratford all day for the celebrations.

The Prince departed New Place for his next engagement at Holy Trinity Church.

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