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Examination of Sir Gelly Meyrick, 1601

Examination of Sir Gelly Meyrick, 1601

On 8 February 1601 the Earl of Essex staged an uprising against the Queen in London. His supporters commissioned a performance of a play ‘of King Richard II’, in all likelihood Shakespeare’s; it was performed at the Globe theatre by the King’s men the day before the uprising.

In Shakespeare’s play, Richard’s increasingly autocratic behaviour drives his cousin, Henry Bolingbroke (the future Henry IV), to lead a rebellion, forcing Richard to renounce the throne. By choosing to request a performance of this play, supporters of Essex could have been accused of drawing parallels between the two monarchs.

The performance at the Globe was investigated by the Queen’s advisors. Here you can see the examination of Essex’s steward Sir Gelly Meyrick, believed to have been involved in organising the performance.

The rebellion failed, and both Essex and Meyrick were executed.

(The National Archives: SP 12/278)

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