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Thomas Killigrew
Detail from a portrait of Thomas Killigrew by Anthony van Dyck, circa 1635
Detail from a portrait of Thomas Killigrew by Anthony van Dyck, circa 1635
Born(1612-02-07)7 February 1612
Died19 March 1683(1683-03-19) (aged 71)
Whitehall, London, England

Thomas Killigrew (7 February 1612 – 19 March 1683) was an English dramatist and theatre manager. He was a witty, dissolute figure at the court of King Charles II of England.


Killigrew was one of twelve children of Sir Robert Killigrew of Hanworth, a courtier to James I, and his wife Mary née Woodhouse; he became a page to King Charles I at about the age of thirteen. According to Samuel Pepys, the boy Killigrew used to volunteer as an extra, or "devil," at the Red Bull Theatre, so that he could see the plays for free. The young Killigrew had limited formal education; the Court and the playhouse were his schoolroom.

Killigrew was present at the exorcism of the possessed nuns of Loudun. In 1635 he left a sceptical account of the proceedings.[1]

Before the English Civil War, Killigrew wrote several plays—tragicomedies like Claracilla and The Prisoners, as well as his most popular play, The Parson's Wedding (1637). The latter play has been criticized for its coarse humour; but it also contains prose readings of John Donne's poetry to pique a literate audience.[2]

A Royalist and Roman Catholic, Killigrew followed Prince Charles (the future Charles II) into exile in 1647. In the years 1649–51, he was in Paris, Geneva, and Rome, and in the later year was appointed Charles' representative in Venice. (It has been said that Killigrew wrote each of his plays in a different city; Thomaso, or the Wanderer was written in Madrid)

At the Restoration in 1660, Killigrew returned to England along with many other Royalist exiles. Charles rewarded his loyalty by making him Groom of the Bedchamber and Chamberlain to Queen Catherine. He had a reputation as a wit; in his famous Diary, Samuel Pepys wrote that Killigrew had the office of the King's fool and jester, with privilege to mock and revile even the most prominent without penalty Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday, 13 February 1668.

Along with Sir William Davenant, he was given a royal warrant to form a theatre company in 1660—which gave Killigrew a key role in the revival of English drama.[3] Killigrew beat Davenant to a debut, at Gibbon's Tennis Court in Clare Market, with the new King's Company. Its original members were Michael Mohun, William Wintershall, Robert Shatterell, William Cartwright, Walter Clun, Charles Hart and Nicholas Burt. They played for a time at the old Red Bull Theatre, but in 1663 the company moved to the new Theatre Royal in Drury Lane. (Unfortunately, Killigrew gained a reputation as an incompetent manager; he was constantly in disputes with his actors and had to bribe his stars to keep working for him.) Killigrew staged plays by Aphra Behn, John Dryden, William Wycherley...and Thomas Killigrew, as well as revivals of Beaumont and Fletcher. Having inherited the rights and repertory of the old King's Men, the King's Company performed many of Shakespeare's works, in the rewritten forms that were so popular at the time and so disparaged later. Two Killigrew productions of his own Parson's Wedding, in 1664 and 1672-3, were cast entirely with women.

In 1673, Killigrew was appointed Master of the Revels. He lost control of his theatre in a conflict with his son Charles in 1677. (Charles, in turn, went bust a year later.) Thomas Killigrew died at Whitehall on 19 March 1683.

Thomas Killigrew and (possibly) Lord William Crofts by Anthony van Dyck


Thomas Killigrew's dramas are:

In 1664,[4] Henry Herringman published a collected edition of Killigrew's dramas, titled Comedies and Tragedies (rather inaccurately, since the majority of the plays are tragicomedies). Only his two earliest plays had been printed previously. The collected edition identifies the city in which Killigrew supposedly wrote each play.

The Parson's Wedding and Claricilla were successful stage plays. Of his last three works, Thomaso is a broad comedy based on Killigrew's experiences in European exile, while Bellamira and Cicillia are heroic romances—but all three are closet dramas, ten-act double plays never intended for the stage. Yet oddly enough, Aphra Behn adapted Thomaso for her successful The Rover (1677).[5] The tragedy The Pilgrim, apparently never performed, borrows its plot from James Shirley's The Politician and reveals many allusions to Shakespeare.

Some critics have considered The Parson's Wedding to be a Restoration play written before the Restoration, an anticipation of what was to come—and Killigrew himself as a central figure in the transition from English Renaissance theatre to Restoration drama.


Print of Thomas Killigrew, after a portrait by William Sheppard

He married twice.

1 Cecilia Crofts (16?? –1638) in 1636, a maid of honour to Queen Henrietta Maria with a son:

  • Henry Killigrew (bapt 16 April 1637 St Martin's-in-the-Fields)

2 Charlotte de Hesse (1629 –1716) in 1655; with children:

  • Charles Killigrew (29 December 1655 – 1725)
  • Thomas Killigrew (the younger) (1657 –1719), who had one successful play, called Chit-Chat (1719)
  • Robert (Roger) Killigrew (born 17 September 1663)
  • Elizabeth Killigrew (born 3 July 1666)

His second wife and their 3 sons were naturalised in an Act of Parliament in 1683.

The other Killigrews

Among his 8 siblings known to have survived to adulthood, Thomas had two brothers who also wrote plays:

  • Sir William Killigrew (1606–1695), was a Court official (vice chamberlain to the Queen) who wrote four plays: Selindra; Pandora; and Ormasdes, or Love and Friendship—all printed in 1664; and The Siege of Urbin (1666), generally considered his best work.
  • Henry Killigrew (1613–1700), a clergyman, wrote only one play ... but he wrote it twice. His The Conspiracy was published in 1638, apparently pirated; he revised it into Pallantus and Eudora (1653). Henry was the father of the poet Anne Killigrew.

For the other six, see Robert Killigrew


  1. ^ Huxley, Aldous (1952) The Devils of Loudun. New York: Harper
  2. ^ Keast, William R. (1950) "Killigrew's Use of Donne in The Parson's Wedding" in: Modern Language Review, 45 (1950), pp. 512–15
  3. ^ Jenkins, Terry: The Royal Licensing of London Theatres in the Seventeenth Century – a history of the Killigrew and Davenant Patents granted by Charles II (Lewiston NY, Edwin Mellen Press, 2017).
  4. ^ In the collected edition, each play has a separate title page (common in seventeenth-century collections); and some of these title pages are dated 1663 instead of 1664, causing some confusion in Killigrew's bibliography. (This type of misdating is not unusual in the collections of the era.)
  5. ^ Margaret Lindon Whedon, Rogues, Rakes, and Lovers, dissertation, 1993.


  • Thomas Killigrew, Cavalier Dramatist, 1612–1683. Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press. 1930.
  • Harbage, Alfred (1936). "Cavalier Drama". A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature. New York, Modern Language Association of America.

External links

11 Annotations

First Reading

Derek  •  Link

Thomas Killigrew (1612-1683) was a dramatist and wit who played an important role in the re-establishment of the theatre following Charles' return. As a boy he had been page to Charles I and followed his son into exile. In 1660 Killigrew and Sir William Davenant were granted letters patent by the King to establish theatres. Two companies were formed: the King's Players, led by Killigrew, and the Duke's Players led by Davenant. Killigrew's company played first at Gibbon's Tennis-Court in Clare Market but in 1663 moved to the new Theatre Royal in what is now Drury Lane. Davenant's company, after a period at the old Salisbury Court theatre, moved to Lincoln's Inn Fields, and eventually in 1732 to the Theatre Royal in Covent Garden. These two theatres, subsequently rebuilt, were the only theatres in London licensed for dramatic performances until the mid 19th century and still survive as major performance venues today.

For more on Killigrew, see:……

See also Van Dyck's portrait of Killigrew at:…

vicente  •  Link

the Killigrews :.
KILLIGREW, THOMAS (1612-1683), English dramatist and wit, son of Sir Robert Killigrew,
The Prisoners and Claracilla, both of which had probably been produced before 1636.…

Anne KILLIGREW (F: 1660 - 1685 Jun 15) J Poems [p|1686] Henry KILLIGREW (M: 1613 - 1700) The Conspiracy [d|1638] Pallantus And Eudora [d|1653]
Thomas KILLIGREW, the elder (M: 1612 Feb 7 - 1683 Mar 19) The Parson's Wedding [d|1664] The Prisoners [d|?] Claracilla [d|?] The Princess [d|?] Cecilia And Clorinda [d|?]
Thomas KILLIGREW, the younger (M: 1657 - 1719) Chit Chat [d|1719]
Sir, William KILLIGREW (M: baptised 1606 May 28 - buried 1695 Oct 17) Pandora [d|1664] The Siege Of Urbin [d|1666] Selindra [d|?] Ormasdes [d|?]…

Pedro.  •  Link

Sam says on the 24th May 1660

Pedro  •  Link


Killigrew, the wit, has given his name to a court in Scotland Yard;

Michael Robinson  •  Link

In the Pepysian Library, PL 2157:-

Comedies, and tragedies. Written by Thomas Killigrew, Page of Honour to King Charles the First. And Groom of the Bed-Chamber to King Charles the Second.
London: printed [by John Macock] for Henry Herringman, at the sign of the Anchor in the lower walk of the New-Exchange, 1664.
[4], 576, 80 p., [1] leaf of plates : port of author by Faithorne; 4⁰.
Each play has separate title page, with printer's name or initials, dated 1663,
Wing (CD-ROM, 1996), K450

Pedro  •  Link

Killigrew's Sister.

Elizabeth Killigrew was a mistress of Charles II, and bore a child Charlotte Jemima. Nicknamed "Black Betty" and married to Francis Boyle, the brother of Robert Boyle.

Second Reading

Bill  •  Link

KILLIGREW, (Thomas) the son of Sir Robert Killigrew, born at Hanworth in Middlesex, in 1611, was distinguished by uncommon natural parts. He was page of honour to Charles I. and groom of the bed-chamber to Charles II. with whom he had been many years in exile. During his absence from his country, he wrote eleven plays, and died in 1692; his remains were interred in Westminster Abbey. Killigrew was a man of a grotesque figure, and infinite wit and humour in conversation, and consequently a favourite with that merry monarch Charles II. into whose presence he was always admitted, even when his favourite ministers were refused access. But though Killigrew was so fascinating in conversation, his writing was not beyond mediocrity.

---Eccentric biography; or, Sketches of remarkable characters, ancient and modern. 1801.

Bill  •  Link

Sometimes like Will Sommers before Henry VIII., Killigrew would appear in the presence of Charles in disguise. Once he came before the King in pilgrim's attire, "cockled hat and shoon." "Whither away?" asked Charles. "I am going to hell," boldly replied the jester, "to ask the devil to send back Oliver Cromwell to take charge of the affairs of England; for as to his successor, he is always employed in other business."
---The History of Court Fools. J. Doran, 1858.

Bill  •  Link

THOMAS KILLEGREW, groom of the bed-chamber to Charles II. was more admired for his ready wit than his writings. He was author of eleven plays, printed in one volume fol. 1664, with his portrait, by Faithorne, prefixed. Of these, "The Parson's Wedding" met with the most general approbation. It is remarkable, that no women appeared upon the stage before the Restoration, and that this comedy was acted by women only.
---A Biographical History of England. J. Granger, 1775.

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Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.






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