Agincourt, Waterloo, Normandy: Screening Henry V and re-organising British history for the royal family

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Abstract

In 1944, members of the British royal family attended a private screening of Laurence Olivier’s film adaptation of Henry V in the Waterloo Chamber at Windsor Castle. Henry V has a long history of appropriation for patriotic and monarchist purposes, particularly in times of war. Olivier’s film was dedicated to the ‘Commandos and Airborne Troops of Great Britain, the spirit of whose ancestors it has been humbly attempted to recapture,’ inviting the viewer to read Henry’s English army as a celebratory remediation of British troops in action in 1944. The private screening invites an even more ideologically-loaded telescoping of history, asserting continuity from Agincourt to Waterloo and on to the D-Day landings, and allowing Laurence Olivier’s Henry to become haunted by other historical figures, including the Duke of Wellington. This paper reads Henry V against the space of the Waterloo Chamber, which was decorated by George IV to celebrate victory at Waterloo, and against the wartime popularity of George VI and his family.
Original languageEnglish
JournalShakespeare Bulletin
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 11 Sept 2020

Keywords

  • Henry V
  • Laurence Olivier
  • Waterloo
  • monarchy
  • George VI
  • George IV

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