1 9 6 0 (UK)
15 x 60 minute episodes
A linking together of Shakespeare’s five history plays chronicling the rise and fall of monarchs over the 86 years between Richard II and Richard III.
The first instalment was shown on 28 April 1960 and the series was spread over 15 episodes, a fortnight apart. The plays were dramatised in sequence to give the overall effect of depicting a continuous stretch of British history, featuring (in order) Richard II, Henry IV, Henry V, Henry VI and Richard III.
Always as a backdrop was the lust for the throne and the burdens of wearing the crown.
Michael Hayes directed the plays and the theme music was composed by Sir Arthur Bliss, the Master of the Queen’s Music. By the standards of the time, the series was a highly prestigious undertaking, with each episode costing £4,000 (a big budget in 1960), 600 speaking parts, and thirty weeks of rehearsal prior to shooting.
Among the six hundred speaking parts was an unknown Sean Connery – two years before Bond – and a young Judi Dench as Princess Katherine.
Unlike many BBC productions of the time, An Age of Kings has been preserved in its entirety.
Joan la Pucelle
Margaret of Anjou