The Cavalier Years


Cast :
Sir Edmund Blackadder – ROWAN ATKINSON
King Charles I – STEPHEN FRY

In 1648, King Charles was in flight from the wrath of Cromwell & his Roundheads. Only two men remained faithful, risking certain death by their fidelity to the crown. One was the sole descendent of a great historical English dynasty — his name, Sir Edmund Blackadder. The other was the sole descendent of an unfortunate meeting between a pig-farmer & bearded lady. History has, quite rightly, forgotten his name.

[Blackadder Hall; November 1648]

Edmund: [coming into the hall (same set as Blackadder’s quarters in BA3)] Baldrick!

Baldrick: [cutting heads off fish] Yes, sir?

Edmund:  [throws his hat down; rubs his hands together] Get me some mulled ale, will you? I’m freezing.

Baldrick: How’s the King, sir?

Edmund: Erm, about as comfortable as can be expected for a man who’s spending the winter in a blackcurrant bush.

Baldrick: [dropping spices into an ale goblet] Do you think the Roundheads will find him? [gives ale goblet to Edmund]

Edmund: Certainly not. I’ve assured him that he is as likely to be caught as fox being chased by a pack of one-legged hunting tortoises.[drinks]

Baldrick: [challengingly] Is that true?

Edmund: Yes, of course it’s true. Have you ever known me to lie to the King?

Baldrick: Yes.

[Edmund quickly puts down his ale, grabs Baldrick from across the table, picks up a knife and holds it to him.]

Baldrick: No.

Edmund: Exactly. He is absolutely safe as long as you keep your fat mouth shut.

Baldrick: You can trust me, sir.

Edmund: [laughs; lets go; puts down knife] Right, Baldrick; I’m off to answer the call of nature. [heads for stairs] If, by any freak chance, Oliver Cromwell drops in here for a cup of milk in the next ninety seconds, remember:  [points at Baldrick from the top of the stairs; speaks insistently] The King is not hiding here.

Baldrick: Yes, sir. [goes back to chopping fish heads; begins to sing] "Greensleeves is–"

[Oliver Cromwell drops in. He is accompanied by a Roundhead.]

Cromwell: Good evening, citizen! I am Oliver Cromwell. My men have surrounded your house, and I am looking for royalist scum. [draws his sword; points it at Baldrick] Is the King hiding here?

Baldrick: Erm… [thinks … thinks … thinks …] No.

Cromwell: [points sword up to Baldrick’s throat] On pain of death and damnation, are you absolutely sure?

Baldrick: Yes, I am.

Cromwell: I see. [sheaths sword] Well then, my proud beauty [puts his hand behind Baldrick’s head], you won’t mind if my men come in from the cold, will you…

Roundhead: [shouts out the door] Men! Come in from the cold, will you!

Cromwell: [picks up a purple cup and the milk jug] Now; we shall all have a cup of milk by your fireside.

Baldrick: All right, but don’t touch the purple cup.

Cromwell: Why not?

Baldrick: That’s the King’s.

[Two Weeks Later. The Tower of London.]

[King Charles is praying at the foot of the bed. The door opens, and he stands and turns as Cromwell and a guard enter.]

Cromwell: [to guard] Thank you, citizen. You may leave me alone with King Charles.

[The guard bows and exits.]

King: Ah, Mr Cromwell! How delightful to see you again. [shakes Cromwell’s hand] Um, don’t get up?. Tell me:  Er, have you come far?

Cromwell: I have, sir! from country squire to Law Protector of England!

King: Fascinating! Absolutely fascinating. Erm, tell me:  Er, what exactly does a Law Protector do, as it were?

Cromwell: He spells your doom, sir!

King: He spells my doom? Wonderful! Well, that’s particularly exciting, because so many people these days can’t spell at all! er, particularly, as you know, in the inner cities, which is my area of interest.

Cromwell: [?] speech, sir! But all your fine words won’t save you from the scaffold!

[A cowled priest has entered]

King: [to Cromwell] Jolly good! Fascinating! Carry on…

Cromwell: A priest, sir, to help you make your peace with God before you die!


King: [to priest] Ah, hello!

Edmund: [for the priest is he] Your Majesty, I can arrange for certain monies to be paid, to allow you to escape. [removes cowl]

King: Blackadder! You’re dressed as a priest! How dangerous and stupid and perverted! It’s just like school! [mumbles something]

Edmund: Sire, this is a matter of life and death.

King: Nonsense, Blackadder — I don’t think there’s a jury in England that would bring in a verdict of `guilty’ against >me<.

[There’s a knock on the door, and the guard returns, delivering a piece of paper to Edmund.]

Guard: Your Majesty — the verdict of the jury. [exits]

King: So, what does it say? Er, `Guilty’, or `Not Guilty’?

Edmund:  [looks at it] I’ll give you two guesses.

King: Er, `Not Guilty’?

Edmund: One more guess.

[Blackadder Hall. Baldrick is holding a fish in his right hand, and whacking at its head with a wooden rod. He then puts the rod down and inserts a knife down the fish’s `neck’. Edmund enters.]

Edmund: Oh, damn — one measly civil war in the entire history of England, and I’m on the wrong bloody side!

Baldrick: Something wrong, sir?

Edmund: Yes, Baldrick, yes, there is. Don’t you realise that, if the King dies, we royalists are doomed? We will enter a hideous age of puritanism — they’ll close all the theatres; lace handkerchiefs for men will be illegal; and I won’t be able to find a friendly face to sit on this side of Boulogne. If they so much as suspect our loyalties, our property will be forfeit and we’ll be for the chop.

Baldrick: Ooh, I love chops…

Edmund: Baldrick, your brain is like the four-headed man-eating haddock fish-beast of Aberdeen.

Baldrick: In what way?

Edmund: It doesn’t exist. Oh god, what are we going to do?

Baldrick: Don’t despair, sir — something will pop up.

Edmund: Not under puritanism, it won’t. We must do something, otherwise the Blackadders are as doomed as that ant.

Baldrick: What ant?

Edmund: [picks up a meat tenderiser, bangs it against the table, then holds up the tenderiser for Baldrick to see] That one.

[January 30th. The day of the Execution of King Charles the First.]

[The Tower of London. King Charles sits on the bed.]

King: So this is the day of the execution of Charles the First…

Edmund: [tossing an orange from the fruit basket to himself] Absolutely not, Your Majesty! Those Roundhead traitors have one final hurdle that they will never str addle.

King: How fascinating! Erm, what is that, exactly?

Edmund: They will never find a man to behead you. They’d have hundreds of volunteers to cut Cromwell’s head off — he’s such an ugly devil. He’s got so many warts on his face that it’s only when he sneezes that you find out which one is his nose. But they will never find a man to execute you.

King: [stands] Well, you see, I find that absolutely tragic! You know, there are so many young people who would leap at a chance like this. Oh, I don’t know … all they need is the initiative, somehow. I suppose, in a sense, that’s what my [?] Scheme is all about.

Edmund: Really…

King: Yes. On the other hand, of course, I don’t >want< my head cut off… Er, it’s a question of balance, isn’t it? like with so many things.

Edmund: Shut up — with the greatest respect — Your Majesty.

King: Thank you.

Edmund: They will never find an executioner; and if they do, may my conjugal dipstick turn into a tennis racket.

[There is a knock on the door. Edmund puts the cowl over his head as the guard enters with a message, giving it to Edmund.]

Guard: A message for the King. [leaves]

Edmund: [reads the message] Ah… [He drops his orange; it bounces back up as though hit by a tennis racket. He looks a bit confused, and casts his eyes downward.]

[Blackadder Hall. Baldrick is singing while chopping heads off fish.]

Baldrick: "There’s a tavern in the town — IN THE TOWN!"

Edmund: For God’s sake, stop that, Baldrick! It’s bad enough having one’s life in utter ruins without being serenaded by a moron with all the entertainment value of tap-dancing oyster.

Baldrick: I’m sorry, sir — I can’t help it. See, I’ve just had a little windfall.

Edmund: Baldrick, I’ve told you before:  If you’re going to do that, go into the garden.

Baldrick: No — I mean I’ve come into some money.

Edmund: Really… Family inheritance?

Baldrick: No. I ate that ages ago.

Edmund: Oh yes, of course; your thoughtful father bequeathed you a turnip.

Baldrick: No, it was fifty pounds, actually — it was delicious. But this is just a little something that fell in my lap.

Edmund: Not the first time that there’s been a little something in your lap, Baldrick.

Baldrick: No… But this one is a job.

Edmund: Really… [paying more attention to the message delivered in the previous scene] I just don’t understand it. Where on Earth did they find a man so utterly without heart and soul, so low and degraded as to accept the job of beheading the King of England? [He pauses, looks into the camera, and turns to Baldrick.] Baldrick…

Baldrick: Yeah?

Edmund: That little job that fell into your lap…

Baldrick: Yes?

Edmund: It wasn’t, by any chance, something to do with an axe, a basket, a little black mask, and the King of England…?

Baldrick: Nah…

Edmund: Go on.

Baldrick: I couldn’t find a basket…

Edmund: You very small total bastard! [grabs him and picks up the axe from the table]

Baldrick: Oh, please, sir! Don’t kill me! I have a cunning plan to save the King!

Edmund: Well, you’ll forgive me if I don’t do a cartwheel of joy — your family’s record in the department of cunning planning is about as impressive as Stumpy O’Leg McNoleg’s personal best in the Market Harbour Marathon. All right… What’s the plan? [puts down axe]

[Baldrick picks up a pumpkin, and smiles.]

Edmund: A pumpkin is going to save the King…

Baldrick: Aah! [puts down pumpkin] But, over here, I have one that I prepared earlier. [picks up another pumpkin; one with eyes, nose, moustache and beard painted on, and with some hair placed on top] I will balance it on the King’s head, like this. [demonstrating] Then, I will cover his real head with a cloak, and then, when I execute him, instead of cutting off his real head, I will cut off the pumpkin, and the King survives!

Edmund: I’m not sure it’s going to work, Balders.

Baldrick: Why not?

Edmund: Because, once you cut it off, you have to hold it up in front of the crowd and say, "This is the head of a traitor," at which point, they will shout back, "No it’s not — it’s large pumpkin with a pathetic moustache drawn on it."

Baldrick: I suppose it’s not one hundred percent convincing.

Edmund: It’s not >one< percent convincing, Baldrick. However, I’m a busy man, and I can’t be bothered to punch you at the moment. [he holds his arm up with his hand clenched] Here is my fist. Kindly run towards it as fast as you can.

Baldrick: Yes, sir. [He does so.]

Edmund: I just don’t understand it! What possessed you to take the job?

Baldrick: Oh, I’m sorry, sir — it was just a wild, silly, foolish plan. I thought, with the money I got from executing the King, I could sneak out and buy a brand-new king when no-one was looking, and pop him back on the throne without anyone noticing.

Edmund: Your head is as empty as a eunuch’s underpants. You’d do anything for thirty pieces of silver, wouldn’t you…

Baldrick: It was a thousand pounds, actually, sir — plus tip! [holds up bag of money]


Edmund: [takes bag] Well, I suppose somebody’s got to do it, hadn’t they! And if it’s going to be done, it’s got to be done in a single stroke by someone who actually owns an axe. We don’t want you hacking away at it all afternoon with that cheap pen-knife of yours. It would be so embarrassing to have King Charles staggering around Hampton Court tomorrow morning with his neck flapping like a fish’s gills.

Baldrick: Sir, you don’t mean…?

Edmund: Yep — >I’m< doing it. Lend me your costume, then go immediately to the King and inform him that Sir Edmund Blackadder cannot be with him tomorrow. [points at Baldrick] And make sure you think up a bloody good excuse.

[The Tower of London]

Baldrick:  …so that’s why he can’t be here. Sorry. [leaves]

King: I see. Well, I quite understand, yes…

[Cromwell and the executioner (Edmund, hooded) enter.]

Cromwell: Sir, the moment has arrived! Are you ready to meet your maker?

King: Well, I’m always absolutely fascinated to meet people from all walks of life, but, er, yes, particularly manufacturing industries…

Cromwell: Well then, have a quick walk and talk with your executioner, and let’s get on with it. [leaves]

King: Right. [He buzzes a bit, then slaps his hands together as though squashing a fly. Meanwhile, Edmund has closed the door behind Cromwell.] Well, I’m sorry, my friend, I’m alone here today — I had hoped that my good, loyal chum, Sir Edmund Blackadder, would be here with me, but, unfortunately, his wife’s sister’s puppy fell into the strawberry patch, so, naturally, he can’t be with us.

Edmund: [disguising his voice] Uh huh…

King: All I can do is bid you do your duty well.

Edmund: Well, thank you, Your Majesty. And may I say how much I mourn for your lot, and bid you remember others before you who have died unjustly…

King: Thank you. I take great solace from that.

Edmund: Sir Thomas Moore, for instance:  A great, generous man to the last. He apparently tipped his executioner handsomely… [turns up a palm]

King: Oh, I’m so sorry — I thought service was included. I beg your pardon. [reaches in a bag of money] Um, here you are. [places a coin in Edmund’s palm]

Edmund: [looks at coin] Hmm. And then there was the Earl of Essex…

King: Was there…

Edmund: A truly great man — they still sing his famous ballad down the Chepstow Arms.

King: What ballad is that?

Edmund: [sings] "The Earl he had a thousand sovereigns, hey nonny no! He gave them all away to the man with the axe … oh!"

King: [looking at his bag] A thousand sovereigns?

Edmund: Well, you can’t take it with you, Your Majesty…

King: Very true. Well, there you are. [gives bag to Edmund] Do keep the change.

Edmund: Thank you, Your Majesty. [puts coin back into bag] [fake voice slips a bit] Right; should we go?

King: Just a moment! [stops Edmund from leaving] That voice has a strangely familiar ring … and so does that finger! [he removes the hood] Blackadder!

Edmund: [acts surprised] Hello, Your Majesty!

King: You cunning swine!

Edmund: Er, yes, well, er, er, er…

King: Marvelous! Splendid! You duped Cromwell and you’ve concocted a cunning plan to help me and my infant son escape to France!

Edmund: [as though he’d forgotten] Ah yes! That’s right, yes…

King: So, let’s put your cunning plan into operation straight away!

Edmund: Yes, let’s… Er… Well… You start the ball rolling.

King: No, no — after you.

Edmund: Er, yeah, right, yes… [thinks; remembers something] Er, oh yes! Yes, right! and it’s a very good plan! It’s a staggering, bowel- shatteringly good plan!

[Ten Minutes Later]

[Edmund is hooded. Baldrick stands next to him. Cromwell enters.]

Cromwell: Is the King ready?

Edmund: [fake voice again] He is. [calls to the back of the room] Come, Your Majesty!

[King walks forward. He has a hood over his head, and is balancing a pumpkin with a face drawn on it. Cromwell, King and Edmund leave. Baldrick listens to the goings on … ]

[There is a drum roll. It ends with the sound of a chop. The crowd cheers. Baldrick smiles. The crowd suddenly sounds disappointed. Baldrick suddenly stops smiling.]

(from outside)

Edmund: This is the head of a traitor!

Crowd: No it’s not — it’s a huge pumpkin with a pathetic moustache drawn on it!

Edmund: Oh yes — so it is! Sorry! I’ll try again.

[There is a drum roll. In ends with the sound of a chop. The crowd cheers.]

[Blackadder Hall. Edmund is cradling a baby boy.]

Baldrick: Well, sir, they can’t say you didn’t try. Now the future of the British monarchy lies fast asleep in your arms, in the person of this infant prince. And, with the money you’ve earned, you and he can escape to France.

Edmund: [wiping a hand on his shirt] Well, quite.

Baldrick: On the other hand, you can stay here, and, as a known loyalist, the Roundheads will come and cut your head off.

Edmund: [stands] Exactly, Baldrick!

[There is a pounding on the door.]

Edmund:  Oh my god!

[A voice outside shouts. (Sounds like "Do you want the house burned?")]

Baldrick: Oh no! We’re surrounded! What’ll we do?

Edmund: Well, at times like this, Baldrick, there is no choice for a man of honour. He must stand and fight, and die in defence of his [looks at baby] future sovereign.

[More pounding on the door.]

Edmund: Fortunately, I’m not a man of honour… [tosses baby to Baldrick; pulls off his long black hair to reveal short blond hair; removes his moustache and beard, too]

[a Roundhead breaks in and enters.]

Edmund: [to Roundhead] Thank God you’ve come! [points at Baldrick] Seize the royalist scum!!!

[The Roundhead, sword drawn, approaches Baldrick, who looks hopeless, dangling the baby from its swaddling clothes.]



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