Portrait of Edward Kynaston

Portrait of Edward Kynaston

Edward Kynaston was one of the last Restoration actors to play women's roles. As the picture shows, he was a good looking young man and made a convincing woman. Samuel Pepys called him 'the loveliest lady that ever I saw', though he added 'only her [sic] voice not very good'. Part of Kynaston's appeal was his ambiguous sexuality. Colley Cibber recalled that 'the Ladies of Quality prided themselves in taking him with them in their Coaches to Hyde-Park in his Theatrical Habit, after the Play'. Cibber also reported that a performance of a tragedy attended by Charles II was once delayed because, as someone explained, Kynaston, who was playing the Queen, 'was not shav'd'.

In the 1660s women were permitted to appear on stage and the day of the boy player was over. Kynaston went on to make a successful career in male roles. He was noted for his portrayal of Shakespeare's Henry IV.