Kate Maltby

Kate Maltby

Kate Maltby writes about the intersection of culture, politics and history. She is a theatre critic for The Times and is conducting academic research on the intellectual life of Elizabeth I.

Has George III been seriously maligned?

Every British historian has a story about the witlessness of Americans when it comes to our Georgian kings. The fate of Alan Bennett’s play The Madness of George III is notorious — Hollywood turned it into a film entitled The Madness of King George, in part lest American audiences assume it a tertiary sequel to

You be the judge

James I and VI liked to term himself Rex Pacificus. Like most politicians who talk a lot about working for peace, he was an appeaser. Inheriting the English throne after Elizabeth, whose foreign policy was defined by breaking Spanish dominance, James appears to have seen the purpose of his own Whitehall government as being to

The Stuart supremacy

Few twists of political fortune are as discombobulating as the youngest child making off with the family inheritance. Richard III, George W. Bush, Ed Miliband: monsters all three. Sophia, Electress of Hanover — bright, lively and self-indulgent — left a no less divisive legacy. The 12th child of an exiled Mittel Europa princeling, Sophia had

A gentle reproach to Shakespeare

A few years ago, I fell hopelessly in love with Harriet Walter. It only lasted an hour or two: she was playing Brutus in Phyllida Lloyd’s all-female production of Julius Caesar, and there she was, aloof, damaged, burning with pride and suppressed sorrow. The Donmar theatre’s production was set in a women’s prison, as if

Emma Rice was never as radical as she thought she was

Towards the end of Emma Rice’s recent production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, one of the mechanicals decides to give us a piece of her mind. ‘It’s a visual concept!’ screams Nandi Bhebhe’s Starveling (for it is She), as the young lords and ladies mock her costume in the play within a play. ‘Why is

Donald Trump’s sinister threat to jail Hillary should worry us all

In the autumn of 2008, a gaggle of American conservatives gathered for a conference at that most godless of progressive institutions, Yale University. The mood was sombre: four days beforehand, President Obama had swept to victory; the outgoing Republican President, George Bush, was shadowed by a Middle Eastern war gone disastrously wrong. The title of

Theresa May really is acting like a Tudor monarch over Brexit

Over the weekend, it emerged that Theresa May likes to compare herself to Elizabeth I (although as I argue in my Telegraph column today, she’s been behaving more like the young Queen Victoria lately). The PM clearly meant the association as a compliment to herself, but on Saturday, Labour MP Barry Gardiner went in for

France’s burkini ban was an own goal for secularism

I’ve always hated the beach. The water? Great. The sunshine? Terrible. It starts with the hot trek across the sands to find a square of free ground – loaded up with factor 60, several books, a comedy floppy hat, two towels, three bottles of water and the rusty family parasol. Then there’s the bodily anxiety.

Five phrases to ban from the Tory leadership race

The race is on to get out of the bottom, as the Spice Girls never quite sang about Liam Fox. And isn’t it depressing? I don’t just mean the Conservative leadership contest itself – unlike the Labour Party, the Tories seem to be able to organise a sack-race in a nursery playpen, which will prove

Elizabeth alone

If you’ve been watching Game of Thrones recently, you’ll have seen an old folkloric fantasy in which a bewitching young prophetess, a charismatic war leader, slips alone into her private chambers and removes an enchanted necklace. Beneath it, she’s just one more withered crone. We, the viewers, having happily feasted on her naked body, now


The feeding frenzy over the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death has reached its peak. Recently we’ve had Shakespeare’s complete works performed through the puppetry of kitchenware. On books pages, you can read about everything from Edward Wilson-Lee’s Shakespeare in Swahililand (surprisingly beguiling) to Simon Andrew Stirling’s Shakespeare’s Bastard: A Life of Sir William Davenant

Is the West ever going to stand up to Vladimir Putin?

If you walk down Holland Park Avenue, down the hill to Shepherd’s Bush, you’ll come across a statue wreathed with peonies, lit by a single candle. Two years ago, in February 2014, the flowers stretched almost to the street curb; the candles were myriad, ringing the statue in ever-widening concentric circles. This is the statue

There’s nothing patriotic about William Blake’s Jerusalem

In this week’s diary, Tristram Hunt puts his money behind Jerusalem as a new English National Anthem. ‘God Save the Queen’ isn’t going anywhere as the United Kingdom’s theme, but there’s room for a local melody when Team England take to the field (as the MP Toby Perkins pointed out, it’s hard to square English