Crown of Weeds

Image by K. K Dundas

Image by K. K Dundas

Before Christmas I was approached by the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland with a commission to create a floral crown for a photoshoot they were organising to publicise their March performance of King Lear. In the play, Lear is driven mad by the cruelty of his children and wanders the countryside wearing a crown of weeds.

As mad as the vexed sea, singing aloud, Crowned with rank fumiter and furrow-weeds, With burdocks, hemlock, nettles, cuckoo-flowers, Darnel, and all the idle weeds that grow In our sustaining corn
— Coredlia describing her father, King Lear

It was a really interesting piece to create because I wanted to use dried or dying materials to mirror Lear’s mental decline. The idea being that what was on top of his head (wild and decaying materials) would represent what was going on inside his head. I love using foraged items in my work, but it was novel to be using dying materials rather than the lush blousy blooms of retro flower crowns, or pretty blossoms of circlets that I’m used to.

In doing a little research into the symbolism of the crown in Lear, I came across a blog by Jennifer Hamilton where she says: “It is usually considered an indicator of Lear’s madness or the chaos in the kingdom. But I think the weedy crown represents the promise of an alternative political order. Taken out of its dramatic context, I think a weedy crown can be worn by anyone (of the 99%!) to represent an alternative way of imaging and living in the world.” This is particularly interesting given that the RCS production of the play will take the unusual step of featuring an all-female cast.

Thanks to the talented KK Dundas for these photos. King Lear will be performed on Fri 6 & Sat 7 March at 7.30pm and Mon 9 - Wed 11 March 7.30pm. To book tickets visit