Richard III: Historically Speaking

As Richard III begins rehearsals, Resident Director Emma Butler takes us inside some of the early creative conversations:

I’ve spent much of my first few days at the Almeida starting sentences with, “Well, historically…” so here is a précis of our conversations:

15th-century England is a fascinating period in British history. Much as in the play, I can only imagine how the nobles of the day felt the ground rocking and rearing under their feet: brother fought brother, father fought son and lords from the lowly to the lofty were constantly switching sides. No one was safe.

It began with King Edward III, who had many sons. His first, Edward the Black Prince, predeceased him, but his son became Richard II. Richard II, unpopular with English nobility, was overthrown by his cousin, Henry Bolingbroke, who became Henry IV. Bolingbroke was the son of Edward III’s fourth son, John of Gaunt, and founded the Lancastrian Royal line. The Lancastrian line continued with Henry IV → Henry V → Henry VI, while the York line stemmed from Edward III’s third son, Lionel, Duke of Clarence, and fifth son Edmund, Duke of York, whose decendents married and had Richard, Duke of York. When Richard, Duke of York challenged Henry VI for the throne, the house of York was pitted against Lancaster: The Wars of the Roses ensued, and the English royal family imploded.

The House of York was lead a charge of “old nobility” who, frustrated by Henry VI’s constant snubbing in favour of his friends and wife, Margaret of Anjou, were determined to eradicate the Lancastrians and put a member of their own line on the throne. These factions met repeatedly in battles from The First Battle of St Albans in 1455 to The Battle of Bosworth in 1485.

Richard III picks up the story as the Yorkists rule following the Lancastrian defeat at Tewksbury (1471). Henry VI’s body is on its way to burial and his wife, Queen Margaret, curses those that killed him.

Is England now stable? Can bitter feuds be buried? Can glorious summer now entertain idle pleasures?

Enter: Richard, Duke of Gloucester.

Richard III | 7 June - 6 Aug | Info & Tickets

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