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An Age Of Kings
BBC 1960
RICHARD II (PART 1): THE HOLLOW CROWN
TX : 28th April 1960

Cast : David William (King Richard II), Edgar Wreford (John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster), Tom Fleming (Henry Bolingbroke, Duke of Hereford), Noel Johnson (Thomas Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk), David Andrews (Sir John Bushy), Terence Lodge (Sir William Bagot), Jerome Willis (Sir Henry Green), Julian Glover (Lord Marshal), John Greenwood (Duke of Aumerie), Geoffrey Bayldon (Edmund of Langley, Duke of York), Juliet Cooke (Queen to King Richard), George A Cooper (Earl of Northumberland), Alan Rowe (Lord Ross), Gordon Gostelow (Lord Willoughby), Brian Smith (Servant to the Duke of York), Sean Connery (Harry Percy), John Ringham (Lord Berkeley), Frank Windsor (Bishop of Carlisle), Leon Shepperdson (Earl of Salisbury) and Patrick Garland (Sir Stephen Scroop).

Publicity : An Age Of Kings: Television history was made in 1960 with An Age Of Kings - eight Shakespearean dramas presented as one continuous pageant for the first time in any medium. The project was an outstanding success, acclaimed by the critics and some three million of you who looked in, and it won for producer Peter Dews the top award for dramatic production given by the Guild of Television Producers and Directors. It made many fine actors taking part into stars. Now it is to be repeated, at a time and on a day when all the family can watch what was described by the Sunday Times during the original late-evening showing as "a venture bold and plausible … as well managed and creatively pictured as anything we shall see". An Age Of Kings begins this afternoon with Richard II, and continues with Henry IV parts one and two, Henry V, Henry VI parts one, two and three, and Richard III - forming a fifteen-episode continuous serial with instalments ranging in length from an hour to seventy-five-minutes, in which the fates of seven kings of England are traced in historical order. Last year, the series was shown in Australia, New Zealand, and America - where it was seen twice weekly over the New York and Washington commercial channels, as well as sixty-one other commercial and educational networks, and brought in thirty-six-thousand congratulatory letters from viewers. Typical of the praise it received in American newspapers was this comment from Sid Bakal in the New York Herald Tribune: "An Age Of Kings impresses me as easily one of the most exciting and magnificent efforts of the current television season … one of the nicest things that has happened to television in recent years". And now, in 1962, it becomes one of the nicest things that could happen on a winter Sunday afternoon. (Radio Times, January 4, 1962).

Synopsis :
The Duke of Gloucester, the King's uncle and arch-enemy, has been murdered. Most people suspect Thomas Mowbray did it at the King's command. Henry Bolingbroke, the King's cousin, has accused Mowbray to his face. Together they are summoned before Richard II.

Notes :
The series was originally transmitted 9:00pm to 10:00pm.


RICHARD II (PART 2): THE DEPOSING OF A KING
TX : 12th May 1960

Cast : Tom Fleming (Henry Bolingbroke, Duke of Hereford, afterwards King Henry the Fourth), George A Cooper (Earl of Northumberland), Geoffrey Bayldon (Edmund of Langley, Duke of York), Sean Connery (Harry Percy), David William (King Richard II), John Greenwood (Duke of Aumerie), Juliet Cooke (Queen to King Richard), Maggie Barton and Eileen Atkins (Ladies Attending The Queen), Gordon Gostelow (A Gardener), Terence Lodge (A Servant), Frank Windsor (Bishop of Carlisle), Michael Graham Cox (Abbot of Westminster / Keeper), Mary Law (Duchess of York), Robert Lang (Sir Pierce of Exton), Anthony Valentine (Servant To Exton), Julian Glover (Groom), David Andrews, Jeremy Bisley, Barry Cawtheray, Pamela Craig, Kenneth Farrington, Patrick Garland, Timothy Harley, Peter Holmes, John Levitt, Brian McIrvin, John H Moore, John Murray Scott, William Patenail, John Ringham, Alan Rowe, Terry Scully, Tony Selby, Leon Shepperdson, Brian Smith, Terry Wale, Derek Ware, Jerome Willis, Edgar Wreford and Julian Yardley.

HENRY IV (PART 1): REBELLION FROM THE NORTH
TX : 26th May 1960

Cast : Tom Fleming (King Henry the Fourth), Julian Glover (Earl of Westmoreland), Frank Windsor (Sir Walter Blunt), Patrick Garland (John of Lancaster), Robert Hardy (Henry, Prince of Wales), Frank Pettingell (Sir John Falstaff), Brian Smith (Poins), Geoffrey Bayldon (Thomas Percy, Earl of Worcester), George A Cooper (Henry Percy, Earl of Nothumberland), Sean Connery (Henry Percy), Jerome Willis and Michael Graham Cox (Carriers), Kenneth Farrington (Gadshill), Gordon Gostelow (Bardolph), Terence Lodge (Peto), Patricia Heneghan (Lady Percy), Derek Ware (Servant to Hotspur), Timothy Harley (Francis), John Ringham (Vintner), Angela Baddeley (Mistress Quickly), Robert Lang (Sherriff), David Andrews, Alan Rowe, Jeremy Bisley, Terry Scully, John Greenwood, Leon Shepperdson, Edgar Wreford and Anthony Valentine.

Synopsis :
In the play Richard II we saw Henry Bolingbroke, Duke of Lancaster, aided by the Earl of Northumberland and his son Harry Percy (Hotspur) depose the rightful King, Richard II, and Bolingbroke ascend the throne as King Henry IV. Richard was imprisoned and later murdered in Pomfret Castle. Henry, in remorse, vows a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Northumberland and Hotspur become dissatisfied with the King's lack of favour. Henry is worried about the behaviour of his son, the Prince of Wales.


HENRY IV (PART 2): THE ROAD TO SHREWSBURY
TX : 9th June 1960

Cast : David Andrews (Edmund Mortimer, Earl of March), Sean Connery (Harry Percy), William Squire (Owen Glendower), Geoffrey Bayldon (Thomas Percy, Earl of Worcester), Valerie Gearon (Lady Mortimer), Patricia Heneghan (Lady Percy), Tom Fleming (King Henry the Fourth), Robert Hardy (Henry, Prince of Wales), Frank Windsor (Sir Walter Blunt), Frank Pettingell (Sir John Falstaff), Gordon Gostelow (Bardolph), Angela Baddeley (Mistress Quickly), Andrew Faulds (Archibald, Earl of Douglas), Anthony Valentine (The Messenger), Alan Rowe (Sir Richard Vernon), Julian Glover (Earl of Westmoreland), Edgar Wreford (Richard Scoop, Archibishop of York), Kenneth Farrington (Sir Michael), Patrick Garland (John of Lancaster), Jeremy Bisley, Terry Scully, Michael Graham Cox, Leon Shepperdson, John Greenwood, Brian Smith, Timothy Harley, Terry Wale, Terence Lodge, Derek Ware, John Murray Scott and Jerome Willis.

Synopsis :
The Percy family, Henry Bolingbroke's chief allies in deposing and murdering Richard II, have been cheated of their just rewards and now plot to overthrow the King. Worcester, the architect of their rebellion, arranges a meeting in Wales to decide how Great Britain will be divided among them. The King's army, part of it commanded by Prince Hal, marches westward to encounter the rebels. Even Sir John Falstaff receives a commission and marches off to join the battle at Shrewsbury.

HENRY IV (PART 3): THE NEW CONSPIRACY
TX : 23rd June 1960

Cast : David Andrews (Lord Bardolph), John Ringham (Porter), George A Cooper (Earl of Northumberland), Terence Lodge (Travers), Jerome Willis (Morton), Frank Pettingell (Sir John Falstaff), Dane Howell (Page to Falstaff), Geoffrey Bayldon (Lord Chief Justice), John Greenwood (Servant), Edgar Wreford (The Archbishop of York), Noel Johnson (Thomas Mowbray, the Earl Marshal), Robert Lang (Lord Hastings), Angela Baddeley (Mistress Quickly), John Ringham (Fang), Alan Rowe (Gower), Margaret Courtenay (Wife to Northumberland), Patricia Heneghan (Lady Percy), Robert Hardy (Henry, Prince of Wales), Brian Smith (Poins), Gordon Gostelow (Bardolph), Timothy Harley and Michael Graham Cox (Drawers), Hermione Baddeley (Doll Tearsheet), George A Cooper (Ancient Pistol), Terence Lodge (Peto), Kenneth Farrington, Adrian Brine, John Murray Scott and Terry Wale.

Synopsis :
The rebellion promoted by the Percy family against their former ally King Henry IV has been heavily crushed at Shrewsbury. The rebels were weakened by the defection of the armies promised them by Northumberland and Owen Glendower and greatly outnumbered by the King's forces. Their leader, the gallant Hotspur, has been killed in single combat with Prince Hal. Conflicting rumours reach Warkworth in Northumberland, where the Earl is eagerly waiting for news of the battle and of his son.

HENRY IV (PART 4): UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
TX : 7th July 1960

Cast : Tom Fleming (King Henry the Fourth), Kenneth Farrington (Earl of Warlock), William Squire (Shallow), John Warner (Silence), Gordon Gostelow (Bardolph), Dane Howell (Page to Falstaff), Frank Pettingell (Sir John Falstaff), Terence Lodge (Mouldy), Leon Shepperdson (Shadow), Terry Wale (Wart), Brian Smith (Feeble), Frank Windsor (Bullcalf), Patrick Garland (Earl of Westmoreland), Edgar Wreford (The Archbishop of York), Noel Johnson (Thomas Mowbray, Earl Marshal), Robert Lang (Lord Hastings), John Ringham (Humphrey of Gloucester), John Greenwood (Thomas of Clarence), Alan Rowe (Harcourt), Robert Hardy (Henry, Prince of Wales, afterwards Henry the Fifth), Geoffrey Bayldon (The Lord Chief Justice), Michael Graham Cox (Davy), George A Cooper (Ancient Pistol), Derek Ware and Anthony Valentine (Grooms), William Squire (Epilogue), Adrian Brine, Timothy Harley, Tony Garnett and John Murray Scott.

Synopsis :
The burdens of kingship and of failing health weigh heavily upon Henry IV. After his victory at Shrewsbury he has to organise a new campaign against the Northern rebels. Disappointed in Prince Hal, who returns to his customary low haunts in London, the King sends his younger son, Prince John of Lancaster, to negotiate with the rebel leaders. Falstaff goes off to Glouchestershire to muster recruits, and there falls in with a former acquaintance, a simple country Justice, Master Shallow.

HENRY V (PART 1): SIGNS OF WAR
TX : 21st July 1960

Cast : William Squire (Chorus), Robert Hardy (King Henry the Fifth), Noel Johnson (Duke of Exeter), Julian Glover (Earl of Westmoreland), Cyril Luckham (Archbishop of Canterbury), Leon Shepperdson (Rambures), Frank Windsor (Earl of Cambridge), Brian Smith (Lord Scroop), Tony Garnett (Sir Thomas Grey), Anthony Valentine (English Herald), Gordon Gostelow (Bardolph), David Andrews (Nym), George A Cooper (Pistol), Angela Baddeley (Mistress Quickly), Timothy Harley (The Boy), Patrick Garland (John, Duke of Bedford), John Ringham (Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester), Alan Rowe (Charles the Sixth, King of France), John Warner (Lewis, the Dauphin), George Selway (Constable of France), Terence Lodge (The Messenger), Jerome Willis (The Duke of Orleans), Adrian Brine (The Duke of Bourbon), Stephanie Bidmead (Isabel, Queen of France), Judi Dench (Katherine, Princess of France), Yvonne Coulette (Alice), Kenneth Farrington (Fluellen), Jeremy Bisley (Gower), Joby Blanshard (Jamy), Michael Graham Cox (Macmorris), Robert Lang (Montjoy), Dane Howell, Terry Wale, John Murray Scott and Derek Ware.

Synopsis :
With the accession of Henry V a new age has begun. Falstaff and his riotous companions have been banished from Court. The first public act of the young King has been to summon Parliament and consider ways of distracting his subjects from civil strife. Being advised of his right by succession, Henry now resolves to lay claim to the French throne.


HENRY V (PART 2): THE BAND OF BROTHERS
TX : 4th August 1960

Cast : Squire (Chorus), Robert Hardy (King Henry the Fifth), John Ringham (Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester), Patrick Garland (John, Duke of Bedford), Gordon Gostelow (Sir Thomas Erpingham), George A Cooper (Pistol), Jeremy Bisley (Captain Gower), Kenneth Farrington (Captain Fluellen), Terry Wale (Court), Tony Garnett (Bates), Frank Windsor (Williams), Joby Blanshard (Captain Jamy), Michael Graham Cox (Captain Macmorris), Jerome Willis (The Duke of Orleans), John Warner (Lewis, the Dauphin), George Selway (Constable of France), Leon Shepperdson (Rambures), Terence Lodge (Le Far, a French Soldier), Adrian Brine (The Duke of Bourbon), Julian Glover (Earl of Westmoreland), Noel Johnson (The Duke of Exeter), David Andrews (The Earl of Salisbury), Robert Lang (Montjoy, the French Herald), John Greenwood (The Duke of York), Timothy Harley (The Boy), Anthony Valentine (The English Herald), Alan Rowe (Charles the Sixth, King of France), Stephanie Bidmead (Isabel, Queen of France), Edgar Wreford (The Duke of Burgundy), Judi Dench (Katherine, Princess of France), Yvonne Coulette (Alice, a Waiting Gentlewoman), Dane Howell, John Murray Scott and Derek Ware.

Synopsis :
Henry V's first public act after his accession was to lay claim to the French throne and to the hand of the French princess. When the Dauphin scornfully rejected these claims the King and his army embarked at Southampton for France and captured the port of Hartfleur. Now, marching inland on the road from Calais, they are confronted by an army that heavily outnumbers their own sick and weary forces. Both armies have encamped for the night near Agincourt. The French leaders feel confident of victory in the coming battle.


HENRY VI (PART 1): THE RED ROSE AND THE WHITE
TX : 25th August 1960

Cast : Patrick Garland (John, Duke of Bedford), John Ringham (Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester), Noel Johnson (Thomas Beaufort, Duke of Exeter), Robert Lang (Henry Beaufort, Bishop of Winchester, afterwards Cardinal), John Greenwood, Terry Wale and John Murray Scott (The Messengers), Jerome Willis (Charles the Dauphin), Anthony Valentine (The Duke of Alanson), John Warner (Regnier, Duke of Anjou, titular King of Naples), David Andrews (Bastard of Orleans), Eileen Atkins (Joan la Pucelle, sometimes called Joan of Arc), Julian Glover and Jeremy Bisley (The Warders), Timothy Harley, Derek Ware and Kenneth Farrington (The Serving-Men), Leon Shepperdson (Woodville, Lieutenant of the Tower), Michael Graham Cox (Lord Mayor of London), Jack May (Richard Plantagenet, afterwards Duke of York), Edgar Wreford (The Earl of Suffolk), Alan Rowe (John Beaufort, Earl, afterwards Duke of Somerset), Frank Windsor (Earl of Warwick), Tony Garnett (Vernon), Terry Scully (King Henry the Sixth), Mary Morris (Margaret, daughter to Regnier) and Michael Graham Cox (Shepherd, father to Joan la Pucelle).

Publicity : Enter Henry VI: With the demise of Henry V in the last episode of An Age Of Kings - and the departure from the cast of Robert Hardy who appeared in the first six episodes - this Thursday sees the beginning of another "marathon" performance, this time by Terry Scully, who plays Henry VI. It was less than a year ago that Terry made his first television appearance in a memorable production of The Case Of Private Hamp, and he has since added to his television laurels in Justice and a production of Androcles And The Lion for schools. But apart from appearing in the recent Ludlow Festival as Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream, An Age Of Kings will be his first real test as a Shakespearian actor. "Peter Dews, the producer, included me in one or two earlier episodes," he told us, "just to let me get the feel of the series. From this week I shall be in every part until the end". This makes seven in all, in the course of which Terry will have to age from a youth to a man of fifty, and eventually appear as a ghost. (Radio Times, August 19, 1960).

Synopsis :
The English victory at Agincourt confirmed Henry V as an outstanding military leader and a greatly loved King. The ensuing treaty with France and Henry's marriage to Princess Katherine promised both kingdoms a long period of peace and prosperty. But Henry V died young, leaving an infant son behind him in the protectorship of his brothers Bedford and Gloucester. War now flares up again in France: and at home, leaderless nobles revive their disastrous quarrel about the rightful succession.


HENRY VI (PART 2): THE FALL OF A PROTECTOR
TX : 8th September 1960

Cast : Edgar Wreford (The Duke of Suffolk), Terry Scully (King Henry the Sixth), Mary Morris (Margaret), John Ringham (Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester), Robert Lang (Cardinal Beaufort, Bishop of Winchester), Gordon Gostelow (Earl of Salisbury), Frank Windsor (The Earl of Warwick), Jack May (Richard, Duke of York), Kenneth Farrington (Duke of Buckingham), Alan Rowe (The Duke of Somerset), Nancie Jackson (Eleanor, Duchess of Gloucester), John Jackson (The Messenger), Patrick Garland (John Hume, a Priest), David Andrews and Anthony Valentine (The Petitioners), Derek Ware (Peter, an Armourer's Man), Julian Glover (Thomas Horner, an Armourer), Terence Lodge (Bollingbroke, a Conjuror), Jeremy Bisley (John Southwell, a Priest), Nan Marriott Watson (Mother Jordan, a Witch), John Murray Scott (A Sprit), Timothy Harley (A Citizen), John Warner (Saunder Simpcox, an Imposter), Audrey Noble (The Wife to Simpcox), Jerome Willis (The Mayor of Saint Albans), Leon Shepperdson (Beadle), Tony Garnett, Anthony Valentine and Terry Wale (The Neighbours), Timothy Harley and John Greenwood (The Prentices), Jeffry Wickham (The Sheriff), Jerome Willis (Sir John Stanley) and Tony Garnett (A Post).

Synopsis :
After Henry V's death his French conquests were soon lost. His brothers, Bedford and Gloucester, were appointed Protectors of the baby Henry VI. The leaderless nobles revived their old quarrels, siding with Lancaster or York, and choosing red and white roses as their emblems. In France, Joan of Arc defeated the English, but was captured and burned as a witch. After the conclusion of a shoddy peace Suffolk arrange the King's marriage to Margaret of Anjou, intending to become her lover and so rule England.


HENRY VI (PART 3): THE RABBLE FROM KENT
TX : 22nd September 1960

Cast : John Ringham (Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester), Terence Lodge, Adrian Brine and Patrick Garland (The Murderers), Edgar Wreford (The Duke of Suffolk), Terry Scully (King Henry the Sixth), Mary Morris (Margaret), Robert Lang (Cardinal Beaufort, Bishop of Winchester), Alan Rowe (The Duke of Somerset), Frank Windsor (The Earl of Warwick), Gordon Gostelow (The Earl of Salisbury), John Murray Scott (Vaux), David Andrews (A Sea-Captain), John Ringham (The Master), Derek Ware (The Master's Mate), John Greenwood and Jeremy Bisley (The Two Gentlemen, Prisoners With Suffolk), Adrian Brine (Walter Whitmore), Timothy Harley (George Bevis), Tony Garnett (John Holland), Esmond Knight (Jack Cade, A Rebel), Anthony Valentine (Dick The Butcher), Terence Lodge (Smith The Weaver), Terry Wale (The Clerk of Chatham), Barry Jackson (Michael), Leon Shepperdson (Sir Humphrey Stafford), John Murray Scott (Brother to Stafford), Kenneth Farrington (The Duke of Buckingham), John Warner (Lord Say), John Greenwood and Jeremy Bisley (The Messengers), Derek Ware (The Soldier), John Barcroft (Lord Clifford), Jerome Willis (Young Clifford), Jeffrey Wikcham (Alexander Iden), Jack May (Richard, Duke of York), Julian Glover (Edward), Patrick Garland (George) and Paul Daneman (Richard).

Synopsis :
The marriage of Margaret of Anjou to King Henry VI added the Queen's party, led by Suffolk, to the existing factions dividing the court. Richard, Duke of York, has begun his ascent to power. The nobles unite to rid themselves of the Protector, Duke Humphrey of Gloucester, by using his wife's follies to disgrace him. Despite Henry VI's protests, Gloucester is arrested and his murder arranged. York plans to use Jack Cade to stir up trouble at home.


HENRY VI (PART 4): THE MORNING'S WAR
TX : 6th October 1960

Synopsis :
After the murder of Humphrey of Gloucester, the Duke of Suffolk, banished for his part in the crime, was executed by pirates during his journey into exile. Soon afterwards a murderous rabble from Kent invaded London, at the instigation of the Duke of York. Their rebellion was defeated, and the leader, Jack Cade, killed. The armies of the Duke of York and Queen Margaret have recently fought a battle at Saint Albans. York and his sons won the day; but Margaret managed to escape, taking King Henry with her.


HENRY VI (PART 5): THE SUN IN SPLENDOUR
TX : 20th October 1960

Cast : Jane Wenham (Elizabeth, Queen to King Edward) and Hennie Scott (Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond).

Synopsis :
The Duke of York was killed by Queen Margaret at Wakefield, but the Yorkists, under their dead leader's son, Edward, smashed the Lancastrians in the snow at Towton. Queen Margaret and her son have fled to France, Henry VI is Edward's prisoner. Warwick proclaims the new Duke of York King Edward IV and goes to France to arrange a royal wedding, unaware that Edward IV has decided to marry the widowed Lady Elizabeth Gray.


RICHARD III (PART 1): THE DANGEROUS BROTHER
TX : 3rd November 1960

Synopsis :
The fortunes of the House of Lancaster have now reached their lowest point. The young Prince of Wales, heir to Henry VI, has been brutally murdered before his mother's eyes at Tewkesbury, and in the Tower of London the pathetic Henry VI himself has been killed by Richard, Duke of Gloucester. Edward IV, recently crowned in London, foresees a period of general peace and prosperity for the country under Yorkist rule - but his own security is threatened by Gloucester's implacable determination to win the crown.


RICHARD III (PART 2): THE BOAR HUNT
TX : 17th November 1960

Cast : Paul Daneman (Richard III) and Violet Carson (The Duchess Of York).

Publicity : The End Of An Age - Philip Purser looks back over An Age Of Kings: Already we're wearing our Agincourt Star and red-and-white ribbon from the Wars Of The Roses. On Bosworth Field tonight we'll add the final Victory Medal, veterans of a triumphant campaign. We're the faithful followers of An Age Of Kings. Fifteen consecutive instalments of Shakespeare was a prospect to daunt anyone. Who could survive the unmapped acres of Henry VI, accounting for a fifth of the whole thing? In the event we got through nicely, aided by such attention-arresters as Eileen Atkins' "weirdie" Joan of Arc. This was a performance and a piece of production to put beside David Williams' ritually-slain Richard II, or Robert Hardy's ruthless Henry V, (the best I have ever seen). Visually the series (or serial, I should say) has been wonderfully inventive all the way. But of course the whole aim of the venture was to try to get away from the idea of Shakespeare as a pageant of Famous Set Pieces and Unforgettable Characters; and I think it has succeeded. A strong unifying theme has emerged to link the individual histories together - the power and mystery and frailty of the medieval crown. When early on an episode stood aside from this main issue to indulge the roisterings of Falstaff and Company, we wanted to get back to our kings and kingship. Much of the emphasis has been due to Peter Dews' production, which attempted neither picture-postcard realism nor elaborate stylisation, but achieved a sustained and vigorous make-believe. Now An Age has been sold in America and I cannot think of a better antidote to some of the other British television products hawked over there. (Radio Times, November 10, 1960 - Article by Philip Purser).

Synopsis :
Nothing can now check Gloucester's devious and ruthless struggle to possess himself of the Crown. His brothers are dead, the Queen's party has been destroyed, and Richard, in his new guise as Lord Protector, has seized his two young nephews, Edward V and his small brother Richard of York, and imprisoned them in the Tower. With the powerful aide of the Duke of Buckingham, Richard is ready to overthrow the last obstacles between himself and his Coronation.


Robert Hardy as Henry V

Based on William Shakespeare's cycle of History Plays, An Age Of Kings was a powerful serial consisting of fifteen sixty-minute and seventy-five-minute performances featuring some of the most notable actors in British film and television of the period, and reaping critical and audience acclaim both in the United Kingdom and in the other sixty-one countries to which the programme was successfully exported.


Eileen Atkins as Joan Of Arc

The series, which spanned eighty-six years of British history chronicling the rise and fall of seven pivotal monarchs, featured the first half of Shakespeare's Richard II, Henry IV (Parts One and Two), Henry V, Henry VI (Parts One, Two and Three) and Richard III. The actual transmission of Richard II marked BBC Television's sixtieth production of a Shakespeare play (the first appearance of which had been a fifteen-minute scene from Henry V in 1937), and from the first episode, subtitled The Hollow Crown, the programme was played out at fortnightly intervals.


Terry Scully as Henry VI

The series was of such a high standard in terms of its visual presentation and the performances it elicited from its cast that producer Peter Dews would eventually attain the crowning achievement of the top drama award from the Guild of Television Producers and Directors. Accompanied by music from the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Christopher Whelan, the programme became "appointment-making" television of the early 1960s, popular in the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States of America in particular.


Sean Connery and Robert Hardy


The cast is nothing short of a Hollywood-esque roll-call, with the likes of Sean Connery, Judi Dench, Julian Glover, Robert Hardy, Edgar Wreford, Terence Lodge, Geoffrey Bayldon, George A Cooper, Frank Windsor, John Ringham, Anthony Valentine, Paul Daneman and Tony Garnett. The series succeeded in playing on the strengths of Shakespeare's content, with the lust for the power and majesty of the crown driving pretenders into the open, juxtaposed with the demands placed on the reigning monarchs and the difficult decisions they were forced to make during their time on the throne.

An Age Of Kings was an undeniable success in terms of turning Shakespeare's plays into attractive, viewer-accessible material as opposed to dusty old tales drummed into children at school. The serial is often considered the best realisation of the Bard's work, and has often featured prominently on DVD wish lists across the Internet. Thankfully, owing to the fact that this programme escaped the knife during the BBC's culling of archive material during the 1960s and 1970s, a commercial release on this medium is certainly a possibility rather than a pipe-dream.



The series was produced by Peter Dews and directed by Michael Hayes.

The signature tune for the series was composed by Sir Arthur Bliss and was performed by The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

Text © Matthew Lee, 2006.