Christopher Beeston and the Caroline Office of Theatrical ‘Governor’

  • Christopher Matusiak University of Toronto


In February 1637, playhouse manager Christopher Beeston was appointed Governor of the Kingand Queen’s Young Company. For theatre historians, this unusual office represents the culmination of a theatrical career that spanned four decades, yet the circumstances of its creation and its relation to other striking professional developments in 1636 and 1637 remain obscure. This article presents new evidence of Beeston’s non-theatrical activity in the 1630s in order to reconstruct the patronage conditions that apparently gave rise to the post. I argue that Beeston’s financial investments in two landmarks of Caroline London, Covent Garden and Shaver’s Hall, help to situate him among the clientele of the aristocratic Herbert family, particularly of Philip Herbert, the fourth earl of Pembroke. As the Lord Chamberlain of the king’s household and one of the most politically-influential figures at the Stuart court, Pembroke was uniquely positioned to devise the office of theatrical Governor and bestow it upon his servant.