This is a long post. Please, get a cup of coffee or glass of wine (personally I would get the wine) and enjoy. I was reading Katherine Longshore’s blog post, 10 Reasons Why I Love British History and found myself in agreement. With her kind permission, I’ve used her post as a framework and added my comments. Before we go on to the post I’d like to congratulate Katherine. Her book Tarnished released mid-June to rave reviews.
I started to look for videos and pictures to study the 10 items she mentioned. I’ll share them with you just get something to drink and relax. This is a long post.
Here are Katherine’s reasons:
10. Blackadder. History and quirky, irreverent British humor all rolled up into a sneering anti-hero, written by some of the funniest writers working today (Richard Curtis of Four Weddings and a Funeral, Rowan Atkinson, Ben Elton) and Britain’s best comedic actors (Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, and the fabulous Tony Robinson of Time Team). I have a cunning plan to write a book starring Elizabeth I, just so I can have her say, “Who’s Queen?”
Blackadder is one, if not the best British comedy shows ever produced. It’s a “historical sitcom”, taking place during the Middle Ages, Elizabethan England, the early 19th century, and the 1st World War. It ran on BBC TV from 1983 until 1989.
BBC production, Horrible History is also wonderful. Horrible Histories is a British children’s television series based on the Terry Deary book series of the same name. The first series was thirteen episodes long, and was broadcast from April 16 to July 9, 2009 on CBBC on BBC One.
9. Errol Flynn. I know he’s Australian. But my first introduction to history was through Robin Hood and Captain Blood and for years I expected history to be populated by handsome rogues.
I can clearly remember Robin Hood, Captain Blood, Prisoner of Zendar, Scaramouche. Ah, the swashbuckler. I love every thrust and parry, every stolen kiss, evil villain. The actors, while US matinee idols in their day, were not necessarily US born. This video is a great overview of the swashbuckler. Sit back and enjoy.
8. Castles. Crenellated walls, stone towers, clammy dungeons. From motte and bailey structures of Norman England to the pretty, showy palaces of the Tudors. I especially love the ruins—like Corfe Castle, destroyed by Parliament during the English Civil War. There’s real history in those walls, my friends.
Castles hold a special magic for me. I associate them with knights and chivalry, the code of honor and of course saving damsels in distress. I had never seen a real castle until I traveled overseas for business. I was not disappointed. Hampton Court, Versailles, and Eilean Donan were all wonderful. I, however, live in outside of New York City. We don’t have any castles. We do have The Cloisters.
7. British television costume dramas. Pride and Prejudice, Downton Abbey, Vanity Fair, Call the Midwife…I could go on and on and on. But that will have to be a blog post of its own.
I have to agree with Katherine. The British are the master of the costume drama. I loved the dramas of the later periods too, like Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot, another British drama.
6. Archaeology. After seeing Raiders of the Lost Ark as a kid, I wanted to be an archaeologist (but ended up studying cultural anthropology instead). I totally dig Time Team. And the recent discovery of Richard III’s bones in a Leicester car park? Made. My. Year.
Not too long after King Richard’s bones were found archaeologists unearthed the grave of a young couple holding hands and looking at each other. My active imagination started plotting a story before I finished the article.
5. Costumes. I spent part of my college career studying costume design for the theater. I love those flat Renaissance bodices, 1920’s dropped-waist dresses, the elegant lines of Edwardian fashions (think Mary in Downton Abbey), Marie Antoinette’s hair, Joan of Arc’s armor…
Yes, yes, I totally agree but wait! The Renaissance bodices on book covers aren’t flat! They’re very well… er… rounded, if they’re on at all.
4. Shakespeare. Richard III is my favorite history play, though old Will put a lot of fiction into his historical fiction.
I like Shakespeare’s sonnets.
3. Murder and mayhem. Why does this entice us so? The Gunpowder Plot. The execution of Anne Boleyn and all of the men accused of treason with her. The Blitz. I think it’s because in the midst of all the violence and injustice, we see who we really are and what side we’d take.
Nothing can match murder and mayhem in a costume drama like Game of Thrones.
2. Romance. Not necessarily in the Romeo and Juliet, boy-meets-girl sense, though I love that, too. But in the chivalry of King Arthur, the beauty and humanism of the Renaissance, the way Windsor Castle looks from the far end of the Great Park. Blake’s vision of romance.
The code of chivalry has defined romance for hundreds of years. It is only within the last 75 years that romance has found a new path. I, for one, prefer the romance of the past.
1. Characters. Kings and queens and commoners. Matilda, Henry V, Francis Drake, T. E. Lawrence, Emmeline Pankhurst, Oliver Cromwell, and, of course, Anne Boleyn. Fascinating people who lived in fascinating times. I love to find the story in history, and story is all about the characters.
Hear, hear! You are so right. The story is all about the characters handling situations, overcoming their fears and, in a happily ever after story, gaining their goal. History is about the real people who inspire the fiction we write.