1 9 6 0 (UK)
15 x 60 minute episodes
A linking together of all Shakespeare’s 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 parts one and two, Henry V, Henry VI parts one, two and three, 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.
The project was an outstanding success, acclaimed by critics and some three million British viewers. The series was also 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.
Unlike many BBC productions of the time, An Age of Kings has been preserved in its entirety.
Joan la Pucelle
Margaret of Anjou