International Journal of Humanities and Social Science

ISSN 2220-8488 (Print), 2221-0989 (Online) 10.30845/ijhss

Staging the Prince Royal: Henry, Prince of Wales and the Theater of Royal Shipbuilding
Gregory Vaughn McNamara, Ph.D

Among the many and varied forms of political theatre characterizing the emergent court of Henry Frederick Stuart, the eldest son of King James I who was created Prince of Wales in June 1610, shipbuilding was in some ways the most elaborate. Scholarship has understandably tended to concentrate on the Prince’s interest in the court masque and his patronage of Ben Jonson, who built a distinctive mythos around the young man in such ceremonial works as Prince Henry’s Barriers and Oberon, the Faerie Prince. Prince Henry was influenced by the naval theories and practices of Sir Walter Ralegh and he patronized the controversial shipbuilder Phineas Pett—these men contributed to the political and nautical predilections that led to his adoption of the motto “He delights to go upon the deep.” This essay examines the construction of the three-master flagship Prince Royal as a significant expression of the highly theatrical early Stuart court, with Prince Henry’s childhood and adolescent involvement in maritime pursuits as the framing narrative to the analysis.

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