Henry VI storms St Albans Cathedral

Scenes from Henry VI

Scenes from Henry VI - Credit: Archant

FROM EARLY afternoon through to dusk, a sell-out audience at St Albans Cathedral watched as performers from Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre staged Henry VI.

The three plays that make up Henry VI were staged outside the West End of the cathedral as part of a series of open-air performances at Wars of the Roses battlefields.

A leading character in the plays is Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, uncle of King Henry VI, Lord Protector during Henry’s minority and a close friend of the Abbot of St Albans, John Wheathampstead.

Duke Humphrey requested to be buried in St Albans Cathedral near the shrine of St Albans and his sudden death in mysterious circumstances in 1447 is recorded in the play.

Other scenes in St Albans vividly describe the first battle of the Wars of the Roses which took place in the city in 1455. The dead were buried in the Lady Chapel of the Cathedral and St Peter’s Churchyard.

Richard Watson, Sub Dean of St Albans Cathedral, said: “It has been an incredibly busy weekend, with sold out ‘battlefield performances’ of Henry VI outside the West End of the Cathedral as well as hundreds of visitors coming to see Magna Carta.

“The performances by the The Globe were fantastic but a very special moment was when I was able to show Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester (played by Garry Cooper) his own tomb in the Cathedral. And of course as well as the weekend’s special events there was the usual routine of prayers, visitors, pilgrimages, and a wedding!

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“It was a great example of how we can engage creatively with our past heritage and at the same time be a living Christian community today.”

A spokesperson for The Globe said: “Performing Henry VI in the shadows of St Albans Cathedral was a spectacular and moving experience.

“The relationship between history, literature and landscape ever-evident as the plays unfolded and referenced the Battle of St Albans and the people who fought there.

He added: “We were delighted about the enthusiasm of the audience whose excitement and energy was tangible throughout the day.”