In The Foretelling, after oversleeping, Edmund, Duke of Edinburgh (no relation), arrives half-way through the Battle of Bosworth. Surveying the battlefield, he suggests hopefully to his servant Baldrick: ‘Perhaps we’re not needed after all. They seem to be getting along perfectly well without us, clearly having the time of their lives. Some are even lying down.’ ‘They’re dead, my lord,’ replies Baldrick. The lethal and slippery Black Adder
Just then, Edmund spots someone trying to steal his horse and swiftly decapitates him. He is mortified to discover that he has just sliced the head off his great uncle, Richard III. When attempts to stick his head back on fail, Edmund tries resuscitation. However Richard’s heavy armour plus the absence of any bodily parts above the neck render this mission futile.
Edmund’s father is crowned Richard IV. He doesn’t know that Edmund killed the previous monarch, nor that ‘the horrid little scabby reptile’ (in the words of Richard III’s ghost) also managed to let their arch enemy, Henry Tudor, escape. As Edmund adopts a change of name and image — to the Black Adder — his past indiscretions will have to remain a little secret between him and Lord Percy.
Blustering, bloodthirsty, bullish and bearded — four adjectives beginning with B. By a happy coincidence, they also happen to describe Richard IV, played with customary gusto by Brian Blessed. The King is one of the old school. You wouldn’t catch him talking to plants or bemoaning the state of architecture – not when there are throats to be slit and limbs to be severed.
Nor is he one for quiet diplomacy if there’s a sharp axe handy. The King’s appetite for food (he eats a whole ox using his sword as a fork) is matched only by his appetite for sex. His libido is such that he makes the average rabbit seem celibate. Prince Harry is indisputably his favourite son but with Edmund as the only competition, it’s not difficult to see why.
Guest Star: Peter Cook
The Daily Mail wrote that Peter Cook gave a ‘barking mad performance’ as Richard III. His appearance in The Black Adder came nearly 20 years after his heyday as one of the pioneers of British satire, a period highlighted by his partnership with Dudley Moore in Not Only…But Also and in films such as The Wrong Box. By 1983, his TV spots were mainly restricted to raucous chat show appearances although in 1981 he did star in a forgettable American series The Two of Us, based on ITV’s Two’s Company. Also, look out at the end of this episode for Gretchen Franklin (Ethel from EastEnders) as one of the witches.
UK / BBC One / 1×30 minute episode / Broadcast 15 June 1983
Series: The Black Adder Episode 1 of 6
Peter Cook as Richard III
Peter Benson as Henry VII
Kathleen St. John