(It is closing time on Christmas Eve at Debenhams department store in Salisbury. As the last customer leaves the Mens department, the staff mills around, tidying up, counting the day’s receipts, chatting idly, and so forth. The employees leave in several groups, until at last, two employees shut off the lights in the department and head toward the exit.)
Employee 1: Well, see you on Boxing Day! Merry Christmas!
Employee 2: Merry Christmas! (Turns to look at the men’s department, now empty of workers.) And Merry Christmas, Duke Harry!
(Sounds of locking doors and disappearing footsteps are heard in the distance. Finally, all falls silent. A ghostly shape, dressed in 15th-century clothing, comes into view, turns on a light, and looks around him.)
Buckingham: At last. Left in peace for another Christmas. (Walks around the department and fingers the merchandise on the racks.) So shall it be sporty casual or a suit? Well. It’s a festive occasion. A suit might be too stuffy. But definitely not jeans. Trousers and-- Here we go! A cashmere jumper. Perfect. Now for some fragrance. (A floorboard creaks.) What? Who comes here? Security? Oh, what a nuisance. I’ll move something through the air and scare them off.
Richard III: It’s not security.
Buckingham: That voice! I recognize it.
Richard III: So. You do recognize your rightful king after all this time.
Richard III: “Your grace” to you.
Buckingham: Well--all right. Your grace. What brings you here?
Richard III: My spirit grows restless at times. Just as yours does, it seems. (Looks around him.) Ready to wear? Not quite your style, I would have thought.
Buckingham: Obviously you haven’t seen the designer items here. Very upmarket.
Richard III: (Frowning at a polyester blend.) If you say so. And so this is where your spirit wanders?
Buckingham: Since 1483 when you executed me on this site. Oh, it’s changed over the years, of course. But it’s been a department store here for many years, and I couldn’t be happier. Very comfortable surroundings. (Grins maliciously.) And your gravesite is now covered by a car park, I understand.
Richard III: Thanks to faithless creatures like yourself.
Buckingham: Richard, it would be lovely to spend the evening reminiscing about old times with you, but the truth is, I’m expecting a friend tonight. A very special friend.
Richard III: One of your slimy Woodville in-laws?
Buckingham: Oh, no, they wouldn’t be caught dead with me now. (Laughs eerily.) Get it?
Richard III: I see you haven’t lost that irritating habit of laughing at your own jokes.
Buckingham: Well, at least I can make one.
Richard III: So who is it, then?
Buckingham: A lady friend. Other than that, I’m not saying. Oh, well, I’ll tell you this much. She’s French.
Richard III: Margaret of Anjou! I knew you were always a Lancastrian deep down. Why, that viper! How dare you--
Buckingham: It is not Margaret of Anjou, for God’s sake. Don’t get your knickers in a twist. Speaking of knickers, there’s some lovely bra-and-knicker sets over in Lingerie. They were just flying off the shelves today.
Richard III: So, not Margaret of Anjou. But who?
Buckingham: (Coyly) I’m not telling!
Richard III: Maybe she’d like to spend an evening with a king. Have you ever thought of that?
Buckingham: No. This lady has had quite enough of kings. (Aside) And so have I. (To Richard) Now, your grace. I’m sure you must be lonely. But you do have the Richard III Society to console yourself with, you know. There’s no Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham Society, after all.
Richard III: I know. But sometimes that just isn’t enough. (Fiddles nervously with neckties hanging on a rack.) Harry, there’s something I’ve always wanted to know. What did you mean to tell me before I executed you? I’ve always wondered.
Buckingham: (Sulkily) Well, you could have let me speak with you then and found out, couldn’t you? But no. You had to get up on your high horse, didn’t you?
Richard III: Can’t you tell me now?
Buckingham: Well, I just don’t know. It’s hard to think back that far--
Richard III: Please, Harry? For old times’ sake? If you do, I’ll leave you and your lady friend alone. And I’ll never come back. I promise.
Buckingham: Oh, very well. What I wanted to say was--
Richard III: Yes? Yes?
Buckingham: What I meant to say was—
Richard III: Oh, do not prolong my agony!
Buckingham: That I was truly, truly sorry, and that I thought you were going to make a great king, and that I wished you an early Merry Christmas. That’s all.
Richard III: Truly?
Buckingham: Truly. Now if you’ll excuse me, I really must go to Home and get some champagne and flutes.
Richard III: Thank you, Harry! I feel much better now. Merry Christmas!
Buckingham: Merry Christmas, your grace. Good night! (Aside, as Richard exits) First he and his stupid Society try to pin the murder of the Princes on me and dear aunt Maggie, then he tries to ruin my perfect evening.
(Buckingham exits. When he returns, he has changed into a cashmere jumper and trousers and is carrying champagne and two flutes. Then a rustling sound comes from offstage. Queen Isabella, widow of Edward II, enters. She does not look a day over twenty-five.)
Buckingham: Isabella, dearest! You came! All the way from Castle Rising!
Isabella: Why, of course, Harry! (Runs and embraces him, then looks around.) Oh, my. This certainly is much nicer than that dreary old castle.
Buckingham: Didn’t I tell you so, your grace, when my spirit was abroad in Norfolk the other day? Yes, this is the life. So to speak.
Isabella: Oh, Harry. Such a card you are. (Looks around some more.) Look at all these clothes. Harry. Tell me. Is there a Womens department?
Buckingham: Why, of course. You could find yourself something more comfortable to slip into in Lingerie. And there’s a Home department, with--er--bedding. But I’ll show you that later, your grace. Why don’t we just have some champagne now?
Isabella: Harry, not with all of those clothes to look at! You just wait here. I’ll be back soon. (Hurries away. The stage grows dark for a few minutes, and then Isabella returns. She has been to Luggage as well as to Womens. Her suitcases are bulging and her hands are flashing with rings from Jewellery.) Harry, I’ve never had such a wonderful Christmas Eve in my life, not even since dear Mortimer and I were an item! Thank you so much for bringing me here!
Buckingham: You don’t mean you’re leaving now?
Isabella: Why, dear, I must go home and try on all of these clothes and jewels! But we’ll get together soon. Toodles, dearie!
Buckingham: Toodles. (Sits down dejectedly.) Someone warned me that she was a she-wolf. Well, another Christmas Eve by myself. It’s going to be a long one. (Gulps some champagne.)
Gaveston: Oh, I wouldn’t be so sure about that.
Buckingham: Piers Gaveston? From Scarborough Castle?
Gaveston: The one and the same. (Picks up champagne.) Nice champers you’ve got here. May I join you?
Buckingham: Well--of course. (Moves away a little bit.)
Gaveston: Oh, don’t be shy.
Buckingham: It’s just that my tastes don’t run in that direction, you know.
Gaveston: Oh, I know. I understand the fair Isabella spurned you. Consider yourself lucky. After what she had them do to poor dear Ned--
Buckingham: (Shuddering) You know, I think you’re right. It is good that she left. Good for Debenhams too. Why, the workers in Womens couldn’t stock the shelves fast enough for her. Me, I’m much more restrained. That’s why I get along here so well. (Confidingly) I really like it here, you know.
Gaveston: Indeed? (Buckingham nods, a bit too enthusiastically.) Harry, I’m beginning to think you don’t have a very good head for champagne.
Buckingham: Well, no. (Giggles.) Of course, that could be because I lost my head. And so did you. (Thoughtfully) You know, we have a lot in common, it seems.
Gaveston: We certainly do. Harry, why don’t you put down the champers and change into one of those robes I see? It’d be much more comfortable now that it’s so late. (Buckingham nods.) And I’ll slip into something more relaxing too.
(The stage goes dim for a few minutes. When the lights go on again, Gaveston and Buckingham enter from opposite sides, both wearing robes. Gaveston is carrying a small wrapped package.)
Buckingham: For me? Oh, you shouldn’t have. (The clock strikes midnight.) It’s Christmas Day! Can I open it?
Gaveston: Why, of course.
Gaveston: Brown, just like your beautiful eyes.
Buckingham: Why--thank you. That’s the loveliest thing anyone ever said to me, and that includes Richard III when he said he was going to give me the Bohun lands. (Steps closer, as does Gaveston.) Merry Christmas, Piers.
Gaveston: Merry Christmas, Harry.
(The curtain falls as they embrace passionately)