James Robinson Planché, son of Jacques Planché, a watchmaker, and Catherine Emily Planché (his father’s cousin), was born in London on February 27, 1796. In his youth, Planché studied geometry and perspective—arts he later applied to his stagecraft. His apprenticeship to a bookseller also enabled him to read widely.
Planché began his theatrical career as an amateur actor at several private theaters. At twenty-two, he wrote his first play, Amoroso, King of Little Britain, which was staged successfully at Drury Lane on April 21, 1818. From that date until 1872, one or more new entertainments by Planché appeared on the London stage nearly every year.
Planché’s diverse talents led to his supervising the music at Vauxhall Gardens during the 1826-1827 season. In 1830, he managed the Adelphi Theatre, and in 1831, he began his long association with Madame Vestris, first at the Olympic Theatre and later at the Lyceum. Planché not only wrote for her theaters but also designed and decorated their sets. In addition, he wrote and staged entertainments for many other theaters, including the Haymarket.
Although Planché’s first love was the theater, his second was antiquarianism. He was elected to the Society of Antiquaries in 1829 and also helped found the British Archaeological Association in 1843. From 1866 to 1871, he held the post of Somerset Herald. Indeed, Planché’s expertise eventually led to his being permitted to arrange chronologically the collection of armor in the Tower of London.
In 1821, Planché married Elizabeth St. George, who was also a dramatist. The couple had two daughters, Katherine Frances and Matilda Anne. Planché died on May 30, 1880.