Was Prince Charles Really In a Play at the University of Cambridge?

Move over, Meghan Markle.

Prince Charles Rehearsing
(Image credit: PA Images)

The depiction of a young Prince Charles in The Crown season three will likely involve his time at the University of Cambridge. He's on record as having loved his experience there, and he was the first royal to ever get a degree, ever. Charles has since returned to the university and spoken about his happy experience—which included his time at Dryden Society, the resident performing arts society at Trinity College. During his time there, Charles participated in sketches and reviews (and yes, there are pictures, and they're amazing).

Biographer Sally Bedell Smith calls his experience with the Dryden Society "his zenith at Cambridge," and in my mind it's just another thing for him and Meghan Markle to talk about. Based on the photos we can see, Charles had an active and impressive run, playing a number of different characters in witty scenes. He apparently wrote his own content for the society, and Queen Elizabeth apparently came to watch him perform!

Here's hamming it up during rehearsal of a scene with his classmates:

Prince Charles Performing with Students

(Image credit: Bettmann)

Why yes, that is the Prince of Wales sitting in a trash can (he's apparently a dustman in the sketch, which would have been hilarious and probably an unusual experience for the royal):

Charles As Dustman

(Image credit: Central Press)

This was a still from "Quiet Flows the Don," Dryden's annual revue (is he fishing for the crown?? Kidding!):

(Image credit: PA Images)

And Prince Charles as weatherman for the same show:

(Image credit: PA Images)

Cloudy with a chance of...bubbles!

Royalty - Prince Charles - Trinity College, Cambridge

(Image credit: PA Images)

Charles continues to have an active interest in the performing arts, including several official patronages. He obviously doesn't get a lot of time to act anymore, but he's strongly supportive of others doing creative things.

Spoilers for The CrownIn one memorable scene, Josh O'Connor as Prince Charles is seen in a lead role in a Shakespeare play, reciting a passage that seems very on the nose. The line: "For you have but mistook me all this while/ I live with bread like you, feel want/ Taste grief, need friends: subjected thus/ How can you say to me, I am a king?" In other words: I am just like you, and I have needs like you; why can't you see that?

That passage is from Richard II, and while there's no evidence that Charles ever starred in that play, there have been comparisons drawn between Charles and Richard II before...but not favorable ones. In a 2018 piece for The Guardian (which gets name-dropped in season three as a paper that causes grief for the royal family), Sian Cain writes: "Maybe he belongs in Richard II...Shakespeare’s Richard infuriates the people with his capriciousness and is accused by the nobility of blowing money on fripperies until his eventual usurpation." (Ouch.)

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(Image credit: Chris Jackson)
Katherine J. Igoe
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