Richard Crispin Armitage was born in Leicester, to Margaret (Hendey) and John. He studied at Pattison College in Coventry, where he discovered his love for acting. In later years he took part in many theatre productions all over the UK, from musical to classical theatre.
Armitage enrolled at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art in 1995 and starred in The Cherry Orchard and The Normal Heart, among other plays. He started working in cinema in 1999 with some small roles in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, Cleopatra and This Year's Love.
In 2000, he took part in the Royal Shakespeare Company's touring production of Macbeth (starring Sir Antony Sher) in the USA and Japan.
In 2002, he had a breakthrough with his role as John Standring in Sparkhouse, a BBC Miniseries in three parts. In 2004, he achieved fame throughout the United Kingdom for his role of mill-owner John Thornton in BBC's North And South, and added to that fame from 2006-2009 as the dark and evil Guy of Gisborne in Robin Hood, and as Lucas North in the successful series Spooks (released as MI-5 in the United states), from 2008-2010.
He kept working on British TV (Strike Back: Origins in 2010) and had a small but pivotal role in Captain America: The First Avenger, until he became known worldwide for his role of Thorin Oakenshield in Peter Jackson's The Hobbit film trilogy (2012-2014), for which he received a Saturn Award. Graham McTavish appeared in the same trilogy as Thorin's cousin and close friend, Dwalin.
In 2014, he was the protagonist of Yael Farber's acclaimed version of Arthur Miller's The Crucible at the Old Vic in London, for which role he was nominated for an Olivier Award.
He starred in the third season of Hannibal (2015) in the role of serial killer Francis Dolarhyde, which won him another Saturn Award.
In 2016, he starred in the Epix original series Berlin Station in the lead role of Daniel Miller, and in the same year he received many positive reviews for his role of Kenneth in Mike Bartlett's Love, love, love for the Roundabout Theatre in New York City.
In 2017, he worked on Ocean's Eight and on the second season of Berlin Station. In July 2017, his film Pilgrimage was released, garnering many positive reviews.