Dandies VI

The Man from the Hornet introduces our new semi-regular series on “Dandies” – as inspired by the Player’s cigarette card collection of 1932…

King Richard I was known as Richard the Lionheart. If one absolutely must labour under a nickname, then The Lionheart takes some beating.

Then there’s King Richard III, the greatest baddie in all of Shakespeare. When he’s offstage, one actually misses him and longs for the moment that he hirples back into view with further nastiness to wreak on his kingdom. It’s wrong: but that’s why we like it.

It’s always tough being the “middle one”. Just ask King Richard II. No dynamic nickname. No sexy Shakespeare characterisation. Instead, he’s famed for hoodwinking the leaders of the Peasants’ Revolt through sheer naked spinless treachery – or “politics” as we call it today – and then gets his comeuppance when that upstart Bolingbroke monkeys around with the Divine Right of Kings business and offs him in shady circumstances. What goes around comes around.

In his day, however, he was considered something of a Dandy – at least according to the people at Player’s cigarettes in 1932. “The greatest fop who ever occupied the English throne,” is their reading of the situation. One of his coats was embroidered with precious stones and gold and was valued at £20,000. A pretty penny in the late 1300’s.

In the picture seen here, the toes of his shoes are so outlandishly long that they are fastened to his knees with gold chains. An unusual look and not one we’d recommend you try at home, kids.

In a Royal Shakespeare Company production of Richard II a few years back, King Richard and his “favourites” (the great history book euphemism for those who occupied the King’s bed) swanned around the place in long leather trenchcoats – looking not unlike some sinister boyband in a pop video. An approprite look indeed.

Next time… “The Knave of Hearts”


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