Blackadder: The Cavalier Years

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Blackadder: The Cavalier Years
Blackadder Cavalier Years.jpg
Title screen of Blackadder: The Cavalier Years
Genre Period, sitcom
Written by Ben Elton
Richard Curtis
Directed by Mandie Fletcher
Starring Rowan Atkinson
Tony Robinson
Stephen Fry
Warren Clarke
Theme music composer Howard Goodall
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original language(s) English
Production
Producer(s) John Lloyd
Camera setup Multi-camera
Running time 15 minutes
Broadcast
Original channel BBC
Picture format PAL (576i)
Audio format Monaural sound
First shown in 5 February 1988
Chronology
Preceded by Blackadder the Third
Followed by Blackadder's Christmas Carol

Blackadder: The Cavalier Years is a 15 minute one-off edition of Blackadder set during the English Civil War, shown as part of Comic Relief's Red Nose Day on Friday 5 February 1988. The show featured all series regulars except Tim McInnerny and Hugh Laurie with Warren Clarke as a guest star.

Production[edit]

Fry based his interpretation of King Charles on the modern-day Charles, Prince of Wales. In series chronology, this episode takes place between the second and third series of the show, although it was produced after the third series had aired. The kitchen set is a redress of the servants' quarters from the third series.

Plot[edit]

The episode begins in November 1648. King Charles I of England, Scotland and Ireland has already lost the Civil War. Only two men remain loyal to him: Sir Edmund Blackadder (Rowan Atkinson), the sole descendant of the Blackadder dynasty at the time, and his servant Baldrick Esq (Tony Robinson). They have given refuge to the King in Blackadder Hall, where he is hiding in a thorn bush, having assured him that he is as likely to be caught "as a fox being chased by a pack of one-legged hunting tortoises". Sir Edmund remains loyal because as a known royalist he sees the King's survival as his only hope of survival. He also fears the spread of Puritanism, full of moral prohibitions (as he describes it, the Puritans will "close all the theatres, lace handkerchiefs for men will be illegal, and I won't have a friendly face to sit on this side of Boulogne!"). During Sir Edmund's short absence, Oliver Cromwell (Warren Clarke) himself arrives at Blackadder Hall, accompanied by a number of his Roundheads — supporters of the Parliament of England. Baldrick attempts to deny knowing the King's whereabouts, but blows the gaff when he asks Cromwell later to put down a cup, "because it's the king's".

The second scene takes place in the Tower of London, two weeks later. King Charles's prayers are interrupted by two subsequent visits. The first is from Cromwell who warns him of his doom and the second by Sir Edmund, disguised as a priest. He informs the King that he is planning the King's escape. While Sir Edmund is still there, the King receives a notice that he has been sentenced to death. (This occurs in late November or early December 1648 within the context of this episode, though historically the death sentence came on 27 January 1649.)

As 29 January 1649 arrives and his execution approaches, King Charles is again visited by Sir Edmund. Though his plans for an escape haven't materialised, he informs the King that there is still some hope. The Parliament has yet to find a man willing to be the King's executioner. Charles, rather philosophically, proclaims that he isn't looking forward to his execution but "It's a question of balance, isn't it? Like so many other things" (Charles, played by Stephen Fry, is very much a pastiche of his modern day namesake the Prince of Wales). Sir Edmund proceeds to assure Charles that no one would dare to become the King's executioner. Just as he says that, the King receives a notice that they found his executioner.

Back at Blackadder Hall, Baldrick is singing happily as Sir Edmund proclaims his life to be in ruins. While Baldrick informs him that he has accepted a job, Sir Edmund wonders who could be so utterly without heart and soul, so low and degraded, as to behead the King of England. As his own words sink in, he questions Baldrick, who admits that it was he who accepted the position. (Historically King Charles' executioner was Richard Brandon.) Baldrick explains to the understandably enraged Blackadder that he has a cunning plan to save the King. He presents Sir Edmund with a huge pumpkin, poorly painted to represent a human face. He plans to place it on the King's head and chop it instead. Sir Edmund dismisses the plan, as Baldrick will have to hold the monarch's head in front of the crowd, and criticises Baldrick's stupidity ("Your head is as empty as a eunuch's underpants"). Baldrick, though saddened, says that at least the money, £1000, is good. At this, Sir Edmund's greed awakens, and he proceeds to take the money from Baldrick, announcing that he will replace him as the executioner, saying it needs somebody who actually has an axe. (From this point Sir Edmund, who has hitherto shown uncharacteristic touches of conscience, behaves like a typical Blackadder.)

30 January 1649, King Charles' day of execution, arrives. King Charles is left alone for a few minutes with his executioner (Sir Edmund in a hood and with a false voice). Sir Edmund takes advantage of these minutes to relieve the King of his remaining wealth: however, the King eventually recognises him, but mistakes Blackadder's intentions and congratulates him for trying to save him even at the last minute, before giving him custody of his infant son, the later King Charles II of England, Scotland and Ireland. (Historically he was 19 years old at the time of his father's death.) As he cannot explain his betrayal to the King, Sir Edmund panics and uses the plan that Baldrick had suggested earlier. The camera then focuses on Baldrick, who is listening to the sounds of the execution. Sir Edmund chops the pumpkin and proclaims that "This is the head of a traitor". Predictably enough, the crowd answers him, "No, it's not! It's a huge pumpkin with a pathetic moustache drawn on it!". Sir Edmund apologises and says he will try again. Baldrick continues to listen as Sir Edmund Blackadder beheads King Charles I and the crowd cheers.

As the last scene begins, Sir Edmund and Baldrick have returned to Blackadder Hall. A disgusted Blackadder cradles the infant Charles in his hands. Baldrick tries to console him by saying that at least he tried and that now the future of the British monarchy lies fast asleep in his arms in the person of this infant prince. He suggests to his master that he should be ready to escape to France, because as a known Royalist he is in danger of being arrested by the Roundheads and beheaded. Sir Edmund, who apparently had forgotten that he is in danger, immediately rises from his seat, ready to take action. But it is too late; Roundheads are already at the Hall's doors demanding his surrender. Sir Edmund explains to Baldrick that there is no choice for a man of honour but to stand and fight, and die in defence of his future sovereign. However, as a Blackadder, he was never a man of honour. Passing the prince to Baldrick, he proceeds to remove his long black hair (which was apparently a wig), his false moustache and beard, to reveal a Roundhead appearance – short blond hair and a clean-shaven face. Thus unrecognisable, when a Roundhead (likely to be Cromwell) enters the room he denounces Baldrick as "royalist scum". The episode ends with a hapless Baldrick, still holding the Prince in his arms, being approached by the Roundhead, sword drawn.

Cast[edit]

External links[edit]