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Lion in Winter, The (1968)

It is 1183, and Court intrigues develop around which of Henry II’s four sons will succeed him.

Henry favours his youngest son (Nigel Terry), while his wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine (Katharine Hepburn), has other plans for the oldest, Richard the Lionheart (Anthony Hopkins).

The action in The Lion In Winter is less violent than verbal, a matter more of royal skullduggery than set-piece sword fights.

The battlefield here is the English court of King Henry II at Christmas where, in the company of his sons and wife, the fifty year old King is deciding on his successor.

Adapted from James Goldman’s play, the film’s emphasis is on the intrigues, schemes and power-plays between the royal family and, in keeping with his theatrical source, director Anthony Harvey opted to cast leading stage performers for the supporting roles.

The film saw the screen debuts of Anthony Hopkins, Nigel Terry and Timothy Dalton as the child king of France.

Restricting the action largely to the castle confines, this is a waspish depiction of dynastic struggles where the themes of love, honour and loyalty are explored through poisonous repartee and cunning stratagems.

King Henry II
Peter O’Toole
Eleanor of Aquitaine
Katharine Hepburn
Princess Alais
Jane Merrow
Prince Geoffrey

John Castle
King Philip of France

Tim Dalton
Prince Richard the Lionhearted

Anthony Hopkins
William Marshall

Nigel Stock
Prince John

Nigel Terry

Director
Anthony Harvey