The constitutional ambiguity of Dukes of Brittany as vassals of both France (in right of Brittany) and England (in right of Richmond) was the source of much tension in Breton and Northern English history, particularly during the great Breton War of Succession and Wars of the Roses. Richmond was eventually willed by Francis II, Duke of Brittany to Henry VII of England, whose grandson Henry FitzRoy, 1st Duke of Richmond and Somerset was Richmond's first ruler independent of Brittany. A now lengthy line of dukes has existed since then, from the House of Stuart.
The prosperity of the medieval market town and centre of the Swaledale wool industry greatly increased in the late 17th and 18th centuries with the burgeoning lead mining industry in nearby Arkengarthdale. It is from this period that the town's attractive Georgian architecture originates, the most notable examples of which are to be found on Newbiggin and in Frenchgate.
Richmond Castle situated in the town centre overlooking the River Swale is a major tourist attraction. The Green Howards Regimental Museum is based in the old Trinity Church in the centre of the town's market place; the town is also home to the Richmondshire Museum.
The Georgian Theatre, founded in 1788 by the actor, Samuel Butler, is just off the market place. A decline in the fortunes of theatre led to its closure in 1848 and it was used as a warehouse for many years. In 1963 the theatre was restored and reopened, with a theatre museum added in 1979. More recently, the theatre has become the Georgian Theatre Royal and was extended in 2003 with the addition of a new block providing services and access next to the original auditorium.
There have been many places around the world named Richmond after this town.
A town as old as Richmond has two famous legends attached to it.
The Drummer Boy - nearly 200 years ago some soldiers found an entrance to a tunnel near the castle keep. They could not fit into the tunnel so they elected to send a regimental drummer boy. The boy was asked to walk along the tunnel and beat his drum so that above ground the soldiers could follow the noise. They did this for 3 miles before the sound stopped unexpectedly. This was never explained and today a stone marks the spot the noise stopped. More confusingly the entrance can also not be found. Today schools celebrate this local legend with children marching through town annually. Legend claims that on some cold nights you can hear the faint sound of the drummer boy still.
King Arthur - Some believe that King Arthur is under the mound of Richmond and will rise again to save England when she needs him.