Queen Katherine : Henry VIII
Height: 16 .4cm
Framed size 25x21.8
"ELLEN TERRY / as Queen Katherine in Henry VIII / This was taken on the stage at / the Lyceum by Audrey Campbell / & given by her to Florence Baus [? name illegible]. It / is probably unique." (inscr. pen & ink on label on verso of frame)
Given by Audrey Campbell to Florence Baus [?]; at some point to Sybil Thorndike, given to the donor; presented to the Garrick Club by an anonymous donor, 2003
There are several photographs which depict Ellen Terry in Henry Irving's production of “Henry VIII”, which opened at the Lyceum Theatre on January 5th 1892, showing her as Queen Katherine in her throne. This photograph is however subtly different in composition, and shows her in a relaxed and intimate pose, for her friend and confidante Audrey Campbell.
Campbell has on occasion been identified as Ellen Terry’s understudy, and was indeed in Terry’s touring company in 1903-04, but is usually described as not having been a professional actress. The correspondence between the two, who shared a life-long friendship, is revealing in its intimacy, for example Terry would often write, “I send you a kiss on the tip of your small nose, and a blessing on your soul and body”, or “with a kiss upon yr darling duck of a peach-cheek”, and “blessings on your fuzzy-wuzzy head.” In these letters we discover an echo of the youthful Ellen Terry who dreamed that love was art and her body was art’s source: “Good night my sweet little Audrey – Enjoy your beautiful self beautifully, & be sure I love to hear from you.”
In the Lyceum production of “Henry VIII”, Henry Irving played Cardinal Wolsey with William Terris playing King Henry. A long article published the following day [January 6th] in the Pall Mall Gazette, describes the whole performance. The performance was most enthusiastically received: “Last night’s audience at the Lyceum insisted upon the curtain being raised three times at the end of this act, cheering the performers vociferously all the while.” This was only the first act. At the close of the play, Henry Irving, Ellen Terry, William Terriss and Johnstone Forbes Robertson, were all repeatedly called back onto the stage, and a speech demanded from Irving:
“Ladies and gentlemen (so he spoke when the cheering had subsided), I really have no speech to make. I have only to say it is a very great delight to us all to be back with you again, and I thank you in the name of one and all for the hearty, splendid welcome which you have given us. I have to thank all my friends behind the curtain for the manner in which they have assisted me to present this play of Shakspeare’s to you, and I have no words but thanks and the deepest gratitude to express to you for the manner in which you have received our work.” The performance over, Irving and Terry held a reception on the stage, with Ellen still wearing the white dress in which she had just died as Queen Katherine.
Much was written in the press about the spectacle and pageantry of the piece leading one paper to comment, “A splendid pageant. What next? A splendid pageant. And next? A splendid pageant.” The same writer concluded that “the play ends as it began in spectacle; in fact, ‘King Henry the Eighth’ should be re-named not ‘A Pair of Spectacles,’ but ‘A Round Dozen of Spectacles.’”