Of course Shakespearean London is post Ricardian but most of the streets and buildings covered in this interesting article would have been there in Richard’s time.
For anyone visiting London, this article would be an excellent referral point especially for covering the lesser known parts. Starting at St Pauls station, via Bankside, a thoroughfare since the 13th century, ending back at St Pauls, the walk covers much including Borough Market, the church of St Magnus Martyr, where two stones from the original Medieval bridge are still in situ, Eastcheap, the London Stone, close to Cannon Street Station where once Warwick the Kingmaker’s London house, the Erber, stood and St Pauls, rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren after the disastrous Fire of London 1666.
I’ve posted some photos here of places covered on the walk although I’m not sure these are in the book, see below, from which this article is an extract.
We have already shown how Shakespeare was inadvertently influenced by contemporary or earlier events in setting details – names, events, badges or physical resemblance – for his Hamlet, King Lear and Richard III. What of Romeo and Juliet, thought to have been written between 1591-5 and first published, in quarto form, in 1597?
The most notable point is that Romeo’s family name is Montague. The barony of Montagu was a courtesy title of the Earldoms of Salisbury and Warwick and Henry Pole, the last holder, was executed in 1538-9, as we have shown. His grandson, Henry Hastings, Earl of Huntingdon and a prominent figure for two thirds of Elizabeth I’s reign, died in 1595. Is that why Shakespeare chose a particular surname for the male lead character that doesn’t sound very Italian?
Paul Darrow was an excellent actor, and often on our screens a few decades back. He died on 3rd June 2019 after a short illness, and I am sad he has gone. I don’t remember him playing a part in Dr Who as if he were Richard III, but I remember him particularly in Blake’s 7. His Avon was a wonderful character, played to perfection.
The boys in the Tower were drowned in champagne? And they were twins????
Quote: “…His [actor Ben Stevens] first role ever as the youthful characters Fleance and Young Duff in Macbeth, and later, as one of the twins drowned in champagne in Richard III, set Stevens on the path to a much-loved career…”
My, this is clearly inspired by Clarence’s fate. As for the “twins” bit…ah, well it IS theatre…..
Well, it seems that women playing the Bard’s Richard III go back further than I realized. It’s not a new thing, by any means. This article is about Elizabeth Winstanley, who died in December 1864 at the age of 64.
She originated in Wigan, Lancs, and her family emigrated to Sydney in 1833. An interest in acting soon led to her becoming a star of the Australian stage, and she raised quite a storm when she elected to play Richard III.
Hers is an interesting story, and more can be read at the above link.
I don’t know what your reaction would be to reading the following, but my Ricardian heart plummeted:-
“….There have been many versions of Shakespeare’s Richard III over the years. But King Richard and His Women may be the first to focus on the title character and his relationships with the women in his life….”
Firstly that this new play is based upon the Bard’s Richard, and secondly because this means, inevitably, that the women in question are bound to loathe him. Looking at the above photograph, I feel they can’t wait to tear him to shreds.
But the Bard’s Richard III and the real man are worlds apart, and I will cheer the day when the theatrical world does the actual Richard a centuries-overdue favour, and creates something around the TRUTH. But that, I fear, would be too much to ask.
To read more about King Richard and His Women, go to this article
Well, here is an article that manages to blend my two favourite kings, Richards II and III, although overwhelmingly Richard II. It concerns actor Mark Burghagen (BBC, Opera North, York Mystery Plays), who has produced a short film based around Richard’s plight after being usurped by his first cousin, Henry IV. Richard is pictured in his prison cell in Pontefract Castle, pondering his fall from power, and coming to terms with his own humanity.
“…Although Richard is frequently maligned in history books as a tyrant with inflated ideas of his own majesty, Burhagen takes a more sympathetic approach, believing that Richard was simply ‘the wrong man at the wrong time, pushed into the role of king too young (he came to the throne aged just 10 in 1377) and pressured by a gang of powerful, ambitious uncles’….”
I confess to sympathising with Richard II. Like Richard III, I think he was a man ahead of his times. Certainly he was out of place in 14th-century England, when the nobility always thought in terms of financial gain through war and fighting. He preferred peace, making a monumental clash inevitable.
I never really know quite what to say when it comes to the private life of Edward II. I know he is generally regarded as being homosexual, but what we consider to be that now may not be quite the same as what was believed in the late 13th – early 14th century. Edward has always been something of an enigma to me, and his relationship with his wife seems at one point to have been loving. Certainly there are letters that imply as much. But yes, he did have very intense relationships with several favourites.
Anyway, my musings aside, questions are raised in this article , which opens with “….The simultaneous running of Shakespeare’s Richard II and Marlowe’s Edward II, both at the Globe’s Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, throws up some interesting comparisons….”. There is also this opera.
The link is to an in-depth review that considers the nature of Edward’s relationships with his “favourites”. As for Richard II, I do not believe he was homosexual, but then, what do I know?
On 16th September 1398, at Gosford Green near Coventry, there was a tournament involving a trial by combat between Henry of Bolingbroke, Duke of Hereford and Thomas Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk. Almost the entire nobility of England attended this event, including the king, Richard II, who had ordered the trial to settle a dispute (concerning treason) between the two magnates. It was to be a glittering occasion, everything our modern minds think of when it comes to medieval pageantry and jousting.
The two lords would appear in their most dazzling armour and colours. Mowbray’s armour was German, and his horse was “barded with crimson velvet embroidered richly with silver lions and mulberry trees”. His shield was the white lion of Mowbray on red ground. Bolingbroke’s armour was from Milan, and he was “mounted on a white courser, barded with green and blue velvet embroidered sumptuously with golden swan and antelopes. But all this glamour was beside the point, because danger was the order of the day, and death was to be the arbiter.
But first, some background. Thomas Mowbray, 1st Duke of Norfolk, died in Venice in 1399. His full clutch of titles was 1st Duke of Norfolk, 1st Earl of Nottingham, 3rd Earl of Norfolk, 6th Baron Mowbray, 7th Baron Segrave, Knight of the Garter and Earl Marshal (I know of no more) and he was born on 22 March 1366, making him 32 in 1398. His activities during the later years of the reign of RII contributed to the eventual downfall of that unfortunate king.
Mowbray had once been close to Richard, a favourite, but became estranged, even going over to mix with the king’s enemies, known as the Lords Appellant. It is thought that his defection was born of jealousy over Richard’s clear preference for another favourite, Robert de Vere, Duke of Ireland, Marquess of Dublin, and 9th Earl of Oxford, also a Knight of the Garter. De Vere raised an army for Richard against the Appellants, and was trounced at the Battle of Radcot Bridge. He fled into exile, and died on 22nd November 1392, in Leuven in what is now Belgium. Richard was distraught.
Mowbray had found himself on thinner and thinner ice, and then a quarrel arose between him and the king’s first cousin, Henry Bolingbroke, Duke of Hereford, son and heir of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, the greatest magnate in the realm.
Bolingbroke (once a Lord Appellant himself) was 31, and would, of course, eventually see to Richard II’s downfall (and probably his demise as well). He would usurp Richard’s throne for himself, as Henry IV.
The two men accused each other in the King’s presence, and Richard ordered a trial by combat. Bolingbroke was generally reckoned to be the innocent party, and received more support than Mowbray. The protagonists were to meet in single combat on Monday, 16th September, 1398, at Gosford Green, near Caludon Castle, which was Mowbray’s Coventry residence.
Richard II was generally frowned upon for allowing the matter to reach such a point, and his closest advisers felt that great ill could result if it went ahead. But, it seemed, the king was determined to let the two lords slug it out in the lists.
The following is paraphrased from the Chronique De La Traison Et Mort De Richart Deux, Roy Dengleterre, 1846 translation by Benjamin Williams:-
At daybreak on the 16th September, Mowbray took leave of the king and after hearing three masses at the Carthusian monastery of St Anne’s, near Coventry, rode to his tent, near the lists at Gosford Green.,
The world and his wife would be present, for it was an amazing occasion, news of which had been proclaimed far and wide.
At the tent, his esquire, Jacques Felm of Bohemia, began dress him in his armour.
The Constable and Marshal, with 20 followers, all armed and wearing livery of short doublets of red Kendal cloth, with silver girdles bearing the motto: “Honniz soit celluy qui mal pense”. They entered the lists at eight o’clock, together with many who can come from overseas to witness the duel.
At nine o’clock, Bolingbroke arrived, with followers on six chargers. He presented himself at the barrier of the lists, and the Constable and Marshal went to meet him, to formally request that he identify himself. He replied that he was the Duke of Hereford, come to prosecute his appeal in combatting the Duke of Norfolk, who ‘is a traitor, false and recreant to God, the King, his realm, and me’.
The Constable and Marshal required him to swear an oath, and asked if he would enter the lists at that point. He said he would and ‘placed forward’ his shield, silver with a red cross, like that of St George. Then he closed his visor, crossed himself, called for his lance, and rode through the opened barrier to his pavilion, which was covered with red roses. Then, as was the custom, he alighted and went inside to await his opponent’s appearance.
Next, Richard II arrived, accompanied by all the nobles of England, Archbishop Walden of Canterbury, and the Count of St Pol. The king had with him full 20,000 archers and men-at-arms in great number.
The king ascended to the royal stand, which was very handsomely adorned in royal array, and once he was seated, the king of the heralds cried out, ‘Oyez, oyez, oyez! Behold here Henry of Lancaster, Duke of Hereford, appellant, who is come to the lists to do his duty against Thomas Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk, defendant; let him come to the lists to do his duty, upon pain of being declared false.’ This proclamation was called out three times.
When this was done, the Constable and Marshal went to Mowbray, who had made his appearance before the barrier of the lists. He was sworn to his oath, they opened the barrier and he entered the list, saying ‘God speed the right!’
It was ordered that the contestants’ lances be brought and checked, to be sure they were the same length. When the lances had been returned, it was announced that the men’s chargers should be loosed, and that each man should perform his duty. Bolingbroke advanced seven or eight paces, but Mowbray remained motionless.
At that breathless, heart-stopping moment, the King rose and cried a halt. This amazing snapshot-in-time is a favourite subject for artists.
The crowds cried out in astonishment as he ordered the bemused contestants to their seats. There they remained for two hours, until it was decreed that although both men had appeared valiantly, prepared to defend their honour, the King had decided that Bolingbroke should quit the realm for ten years. There was uproar, but eventually it was also announced that Mowbray was to be banished from England for the rest of his life.
Unlike the above illustration, the two men were not permitted to meet, but had to come separately into the King’s presence, where they swore to obey his command. And obey they did, which is how Mowbray came to die in Venice. Bolingbroke hadn’t long left the country when his father, John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster died, and Richard seized all Lancastrian property lands. Thus he gave Bolingbroke a cast-iron reason to come back to England and demand the return of his heritage. Then he, Bolingbroke, took all Richard’s lands…and his crown, throne and life as well.
So, those far-off events on 16th September 1398 had far-reaching consequences, and led to the usurpation of the House of Lancaster.
We all know the amazing reconstruction of the head of Richard III, and the confirmation it gave of how he really had looked. Forget Shakespeare’s Richard III, the real man had been young, good-looking and altogether normal, except for scoliosis that affected his spine. But when he was dressed, it wouldn’t have shown, especially in the sumptuous clothes of the 15th century. So, no murderous, hump-backed monster he. Ricardians always knew it, but the reconstruction from his skull was final, undeniable proof.
I have always been fascinated by the actual appearance of great figures from the past, and want to know if my imagination is creating something even remotely close to the truth. Take Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick. I can imagine so much about him, but all I really know of his physical appearance is from his stone likeness of the tomb of his Beauchamp father-in-law in Warwick. There he is, one of many hooded weepers around the tomb, but does that rather grim face really bear any resemblance? Frustratingly, we will probably never know.
Now, while Richard III was the first king I could ever have called my favourite, he now has a companion, his predecessor with the same name, Richard II. And for Richard II, we have what is reckoned to be the first true painted likeness of a King of England – the full-length portrait that now hangs in Westminster Abbey.
Richard II’s looks would seem to have been almost oriental, with heavy-lidded, almond-shaped eyes, but his complexion is pale and his curling hair a tumble of auburn curls that is decidedly not oriental. There is another likeness of him, as an older man, taken from his tomb, which bears a marked resemblance to the Westminster Abbey portrait.
Richard III’s portraits were eventually proved to be very like the real man. But would the same be said of Richard II’s portraits, if we were to be fortunate enough to see a reconstruction of his head?
To me, Richard II is visually unlike any other king, but then, we don’t actually know what his predecessors (and some of his successors) really looked like. I think we can be sure from Richard III, Henry VII and onward, but before then, the likenesses we have are rather standard, as if selected from a pattern book.
For instance, we have no true portrait of Richard’s father, the “Black Prince”, unless we count his tomb effigy in Canterbury Cathedral. But as this depicts him in full armour, with close-fitting headwear that rather confines and squashes his features, it’s hard to say what he was really like.
However, we surely have a credible image of Richard’s grandfather, the great Edward III, because his tomb effigy is based upon this death mask. And so we see a handsome old man with long hair and matching beard, and a slight droop of the mouth that is reckoned to be proof of a stroke. But we still do not have an actual portrait of him. His grandson’s likeness in Westminster Abbey holds the honour of being the first.
So, did Richard II look like his Westminster Abbey portrait and effigy?
In the case of Richard III, we had his skull and sufficient advance in scientific and artistic knowledge to recreate his head. We may not have the skull of Richard II, but we do have the next best thing, because his tomb was opened in 1871, and very detailed drawings were made of his skull, complete with measurements.
Thought to have been lost, those drawings have been rediscovered in the basement in the National Portrait Gallery, together with a cigarette box containing what are believed to be relics from Richard’s tomb—fragments of wood, probably from the coffin, and a piece of leather thought to have been part of the king’s glove.
The find was made by archivists who were cataloguing the papers of the Gallery’s first director, Sir George Scharf, who had been invited to witness the opening of royal tombs (Richard II, Edward VI, Henry VII, James I and Elizabeth of York) and the date on the cigarette box containing the relics matches that of Sir George’s visit—31st August 1871.
One thing the drawings prove is that Richard was not bludgeoned to death, for there is no sign of damage to the skull. So Shakespeare was wrong about that! He’s wrong about a lot of things when it comes to kings by the name of Richard.