Richard Buckle

(Christopher) Richard Sandford Buckle, CBE (6 August 1916 – 12 October 2001), was a lifelong devotee of ballet, and a well-known ballet critic. He founded the magazine Ballet in 1939.

Richard Buckle
Born6 August 1916
Warcop, Westmorland, United Kingdom
Died12 October 2001
Salisbury, United Kingdom
OccupationBallet critic, author, editor, playwright

Early life

Buckle was the only son of Lieutenant-Colonel Christopher Galbraith Buckle, D.S.O., M.C., of the Northamptonshire Regiment,[1][2][3] and his wife Rose, daughter of Francis Marmaduke Henry Sandford (descended from the Dukes of Portland and Barons Brooke) and his wife Constance Georgina (née Craven), great-granddaughter of the soldier William Craven, 1st Earl of Craven and maternal granddaughter of the naval commander and politician Charles Philip Yorke, 4th Earl of Hardwicke.[4] They lived at the Old Cottage, Warcop, Cumberland.[5]

The Buckle family were minor gentry descended from Sir Cuthbert Buckle, Lord Mayor of London in 1593–1594. Buckle's uncle (married to his father's sister) was the clergyman Eric Graham.[6][7] His father was killed in 1918, and Buckle was raised (and doted upon) by his mother and a number of female relations, including his paternal grandmother, Lily Buckle of Eden Gate, Warcop.[5] Though raised in "genteel poverty", Buckle was interested in his extensive network of relations (some of them high aristocracy) and formed some close relationships with them. He contributed some genealogy to "U and Non-U Revisited" in 1978.[5] He was educated at Marlborough College, then Balliol College, Oxford to read modern languages, where he failed to attain a scholarship and left after a year.[8][9] He then attended the Heatherley School of Fine Art in London for a short time, having developed an interest in ballet,[8] to which he dedicated himself, although his family had hoped he would pursue a stable career in banking – or even in the stage design he had studied.[10]


Buckle founded the magazine Ballet in 1939, and revived it after the war (in which he served with the Scots Guards, being mentioned in despatches in 1944 during the Italy campaign). Between 1948 and 1955 he was ballet critic for The Observer. He organised a number of highly successful exhibitions, notably one in 1954 on the life and work of Diaghilev, first at the Edinburgh Festival and then at Forbes House in London, and the quatercentenary Shakespeare exhibition at Stratford-upon-Avon in 1964–1965. His publications include the most comprehensive biographies of Nijinsky (1971) and Diaghilev (1979). He edited several books, including the autobiography of Lydia Sokolova and the selected diaries of Cecil Beaton. Richard Buckle was appointed CBE in 1979.

Later life

Having begun to suffer from poor health (yet producing some of his best work – the biographies of Nijinsky and Diaghilev – during this period),[8] Buckle left London in 1976 and settled in Wiltshire in an isolated cottage, made more so by the fact that he did not drive. After recovering from a heart attack in 1979, he focused on his autobiographical works. He regularly visited his home village of Warcop, Cumbria, in the 1980s, sharing his recollections of the place fifty years earlier.[5]

Selected writings

  • John Innocent at Oxford, Chatto & Windus (1939)
  • Ballet, Ballet Publications Ltd (magazine 1939-1952)
  • Katherine Dunham: her dancers, singers and musicians, Ballet Publications (1949)
  • The Adventures of a Ballet Critic, Cresset Press (1953)
  • Epstein: An Autobiography by Richard Buckle, Art Treasures Book Club (1955)
  • In Search of Daighilev, Sidgwick & Jackson (1955)
  • Modern ballet Design, Macmillan (1955)
  • The Prettiest Girl in England: the love story of Mrs Fitzherbert's Niece, John Murray (1958)
  • Harewood: a new guide to the Yorkshire seat of the Earls of Harewood, English Life Publications (1965)
  • Nijinsky, Weidenfeld & Nicolson (1971), ISBN 0-297-00452-2
  • U & Non-U Revisited, Debrett's Peerage (1978), ISBN 0-905649-17-6
  • Diaghilev, Weidenfeld & Nicolson (1979), ISBN 0-297-77506-5
  • Buckle at the Ballet: Selected Criticism, Dance Books (1980), ISBN 0-903102-53-6; reviewed in New York Times, 21 August 1981[11]
  • The Most Upsetting Woman (Autobiography 1), Collins (1981), ISBN 0-00-216326-8
  • In the Wake of Diaghilev (Autobiography 2), Collins (1982), ISBN 0-00-216544-9
  • George Balanchine: Ballet Master (with John Taras), Hamish Hamilton (1988), ISBN 0-241-12180-9


  1. Aisne 1918, David Blanchard, Pen and Sword Military, 2015, p. 199
  4. Burke's Peerage, Baronetage and Knightage 2003, vol. 1, p. 948.
  5. Fox-Davies, Arthur Charles (1929–30). Armorial Families 1 (7th ed.). London: Hurst & Blackett. p. 251.
  6. A Genealogical and Heraldic Dictionary of the Landed Gentry of Great Britain and Ireland, 1st edition, vol. I, John Burke and John Bernard Burke, pp. 154–155.
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