1486 went down in history as the year in which the egg replaced the worm as the lowest form of currency. It was also the year in which, with King Richard off crusading against the Turks, Edmund saw the chance to seize power.
In his absence, the King leaves Harry as Regent. Edmund relishes the prospect of some real influence, but instead ends up with effluence as he is given the job of sorting out the drains in preparation for St. Leonard’s Day. He also has to arrange the entertainment. This is no easy task when the eunuchs have cancelled, the only bearded woman has had a shave and morris dancers — ‘forty effeminate blacksmiths waving bits of cloth they’ve just wiped their noses on’ — are definitely out. Still, there’s always the Jumping Jews of Jerusalem who, according to Percy, ‘come in and jump — a lot.’
‘Why is Harry such a bastard?’ wails Edmund. ‘If only he were, my lord,’ says Baldrick, ‘then you would be Regent now.’ This gives Edmund the idea of discrediting Harry and his mother by reading out love letters from her to the Duke of Argyll. These contain the somewhat incriminating lines: ‘Dear Big Boy, sail south as you know your galleon is always assured a warm welcome in my harbour.’ But the cunning plan is destined to fail.
The Queen (played by Elspet Gray) is as loving to her sons as she can be when one of them is Edmund. She also deserves the sympathy of her subjects for having to satisfy the King’s sexual demands. Sometimes she feigns a headache; other times she chooses to lie back and think of England…with passing consideration for Wales and Scotland. Not that she is exactly virtuous and has had no shortage of admirers – or lovers – while the King has been away. But then, their idea of foreplay is not smearing her body with the entrails of an ox.
The then unknown Angus Deayton had one line in this episode as one of the Jumping Jews of Jerusalem. As he wandered off stage to minimal applause, he commented: ‘I don’t think the audience understood it.’ At that point in his career, Oxford University graduate Deayton had made a tentative breakthrough in shows like Tiswas while concentrating on writing for artists as diverse as Michael Aspel and singer/impressionist Karen Kay. The year after Black Adder, he appeared in the late-night comedy Who Dares Wins, one of the stars of which was Tony Robinson (alias Baldrick). It was not until KYTV some years later that Deayton took the first real steps towards becoming TV’s Mr. Sex.
UK / BBC One / 1×30 minute episode / Broadcast 22 June 1983
Series: The Black Adder Episode 2 of 6
Rowan Atkinson as Edmund
Tony Robinson as Baldrick
Tim McInnerny as Lord Percy
Elspet Gray as The Queen
Brian Blessed as The King, Richard IV
Robert East as Prince Harry