Richard III (1955)




Director:    Laurence Olivier

Starring:     Laurence Olivier (Richard III),  John Gielgud (George, Duke of Clarence),  Ralph Richardson (Duke of Buckingham),  Claire Bloom (The Lady Anne), Alec Clunes (The Lord Hastings), Cedric Hardwicke (King Edward IV of England), Stanley Baker (Henry, Earl of Richmond), Pamela Brown (Jane Shore), Michael Gough (Dighton, 1st murderer).

Country:     British.

A very good Richard III.  Shakespeare.  



Spoiler Warning:





Historical Background:




York Rule

1461-83 -- Edward IV

1483-85 -- Richard III, last of the Yorkist kings.


1452 -- born the eleventh child of Richard, Duke of York, and Cecily Neville.  Richard was short and slightly built with one shoulder lower than the other (but not hunchbacked as in Shakespeare). 

1460  --  brother Edmund and their father killed in battle at Wakefield fighting for the Yorkist cause.

1461  --  Henry VI deposed.

1461 -- at the age of eight, he becomes third Duke of Gloucester at the coronation of his brother, Edward IV.

1464  --  Edward IV married a Lancastrian, Elizabeth (five years his senior and widow of Sir John Grey).  She had two sons by her first husband and ten children by her second. 

The marriage to Elizabeth so upset Warwick "the King-Maker" that he switched allegiance to the Lancastrians and re-opened the civil war.

1469  --  Warwick defeated Edward IV near Banbury.   Warwick went to France to raise troops.  He returned to England and forced Edward to flee to France.

1469  --  Queen Elizabeth's elder sister Isabel married Richard's brother George, Duke of Clarence. 

1471  --  Edward returned.  Warwick was slain at the Battle of Barnet. 

1471  --  it has been alleged that the future Richard III himself stabbed Henry VI's son Edward, Prince of Wales at the Battle of Tewkesbury during the civil war.

1472  --  the future Richard III married Anne, the widow of Edward, Prince of Wales.

1478  --  Edward IV's brother George, Duke of Clarence, had sided with his father-in-law Warwick in the civil war.  He did change side again, but was convicted of high treason and locked up in the Tower of London.  He died, supposedly drowned in a butt of malmsey wine. 

1483  --  at age 40, Edward IV died, probably of pneumonia caught on a fishing trip, at Westminster.

1483 -- Richard's power is immense; upon the death of Edward IV, he seizes the throne from the young Edward V. With the help of the nobles, he has the succession of Edward V declared illegal, saying Edward IV's marriage to Elizabeth Woodville was bigamous, thereby rendering his sons illegitimate and ineligible. Edward V and his younger brother, Richard of York, are imprisoned in the Tower of London, never to again emerge alive. The belief at the time was that Sir James Tyrell killed the children at the behest of Richard III.

1483, July 6 -- Richard of Gloucester crowned Richard III.

1483 -- 4 months after the coronation he crushes a rebellion led by his former assistant Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, who sought the installation of Henry Tudor, a diluted Lancaster, to the throne.

1484  --  death of Richard III's only child, Edward, Prince of Wales. 

1485  --- never really recovering from the death of her son, Queen Anne dies at age 28. 

1485, August 22 -- Tudor gathers troops and attacks Richard's forces at the battle of Bosworth Field, the last major battle of the Wars of the Roses. Richard III dies in battle, the last English king to so die.  (The turning point of the battle came when Lord Stanley (Henry Tudor's stepfather) and his 7,00 men went over to the Tudor side.)

1486  --  Elizabeth reinstated as Queen Dowager.

1487  --  Elizabeth's lands were forfeited for her alleged perfidy in the court of Richard III.

1492  -- at about 55 years of age, death of Elizabeth at Bermondsey Abbey.  

1502  -- Sir James Tyrrell under torture confessed to the murder of Edward V and his brother and is beheaded.

Shakespeare portrays Richard III as a complete monster in his play, Richard III. He is credited with several murders: Henry VI , Henry's son Edward, his brother Clarence, and his nephews Edward and Richard.


Tudor Rule (1485-1603)

1485-1509 -- Henry VII. Avoids trouble with Parliament by seldom raising taxes. Centralized authority. He re-establishes law and order in an England weary of rebellion and civil war.


1674  --  bones of two children found beneath a staircase in the Tower. 

1933  --  Professor William Wright medically examined the bones of the children found beneath the staircase found that the bones were of corresponding age to those of the princes.   



David Williamson.  The National Portrait Gallery History of the Kings and Queens of England. Old Saybrook, CT: Konecky & Konecky.



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