I expect many of you are watching the BBC's new series Gunpowder.
I've watched all three episodes, but many of you will still be waiting to watch the final show this weekend so I will refrain from writing about it in full until this episode has been aired. However, I will say that I thought that it has brought a breath of fresh air to historical dramas - and about time too. No sex, no sanitized sets and no distorting of the facts - only the merging of related events during the terrible persecution of Catholics as an aid help us understand how and why Robert Catesby acted as he did.
Because Catesby story and that of John Gerard and Henry Garnet is not just related to the Gunpowder Plot it would have proved difficult to include it in the story, likewise it would prove difficult to include the stories of the other members of the plot, however I do not think this adaption of such a sad tale lost any of its impact because of it.
Apart from the escape scene from the Tower of London, I thought Gunpowder was a job well done.
What's your opinion on the show so far?
Ambrose Rookwoode, one of the eight gunpowder plotters whose face was burned and who was injured in the shootout at Holbeche House, story was not told has links to my home county of Lincolnshire - here's a little bit about him.
Last Sunday, in the latest episode of Victoria, ITV's new historical series, Victoria and Albert finally said "I do" and what a lovely moment it was as well.
Previously, Baroness Lehzen, on seeing Victoria and Albert walking hand in hand turned to Lord Melbourne and stated "We've been replaced."
An even sadder moment for us, and probably Lord Melbourne was the end of their 'romance' when Victoria bid him a heartfelt farewell, telling him he had been right when he'd said one day “she would give her heart without hesitation" with a smile, he asked to kiss the bride.
The TV wedding was beautifully done, and the wedding dress lovely, but it was not an exact copy of Victoria's wedding dress. The dress the queen wore, at the Chapel Royal of St James's Palace on the 10th February in 1840, was made of silk satin and Honiton lace.
Victoria, in the final scene, all unbridled curls and smoldering with passion, waited in her bedroom for Albert, but in reality Victoria had developed a headache after the ceremony and had to lie down, but of her day she wrote the following in her diary.
'I NEVER, NEVER spent such an evening!!! MY DEAREST DEAREST DEAR Albert ... his excessive love & affection gave me feelings of heavenly love & happiness I never could have hoped to have felt before! He clasped me in his arms, & we kissed each other again & again! His beauty, his sweetness & gentleness – really how can I ever be thankful enough to have such a Husband! ... to be called by names of tenderness, I have never yet heard used to me before – was bliss beyond belief! Oh! This was the happiest day of my life!'
Isn't love grand ?
How many of you are watching the new television drama Victoria, and how many of you feel sorry for or have fallen a bit in love with Lord Melbourne?
Many viewers it seems are so besotted by Rufus Sewell, who portrays Melbourne, that Twitter has been alive with such statements as
" I don't want Albert to arrive on the scene, can't we please rewrite history?"
If you are watching or you know your history you will remember that the newly crowned Queen Victoria relied on her Prime Minister for advice and support until her marriage to Prince Albert. In real life Lord Melbourne was fifty-nine in 1837 (ten years older than Sewell) and looked nothing like him, however you could argue that there was a bit of a likeness to him in his early years. By the time of the first episode, Melbourne was already separated from his wife, Lady Caroline Lamb, although this was not mentioned. Sewell played Melbourne without any strong political convictions, which was correct and was quite rightly quoted as saying, when it came to change "Why not leave it alone?" Melbourne's reputation suffered from a number of personal scandals, a number involving 'corporal punishment' on ladies within his circle, but the one he is mostly remember for is the scandal of his wife, Lady Caroline Lamb's affair with Lord Bryon. Caroline was precocious and fragile, and both her and Melbourne suffered emotionally from the sad loss of their two children. Inevitably, Caroline's actions left Melbourne embarrassed and disgraced.
If you want to know what poor Lord Melbourne had to put up with you can do no better that read these two biographies of Lady Caroline Lamb.
Caro, The Fatal Passion: The Life of Lady Caroline Lamb by Henry Blyth
Lady Caroline Lamb, That Infernal Woman by Susan Normington
On the 2nd August in 1894, Sir William George Granville Venables Vernon Harcourt, Chancellor of the Exchequer and Home Secretary introduced the tax of Death Duty, we know it as Inheritance Tax.
This new law was introduced to raise money to pay off a four million pound government shortfall.
In the story of Downton Abbey, it was taxes and a medieval inheritance system that was the real root of the families troubles. Both together, these two things threatened to ruin the life that Earl of Grantham's ancestors had built up over many years.
Robert Crawley and his wife had daughters and no sons and because of the laws of primogeniture, none of them could inherit their father's title, house, or land. It was Robert's first cousin James and his son Patrick who stood to inherit, but when they died on the Titanic, it was Matthew Crawley, Robert's third cousin once removed, who became heir presumptive.
Primogeniture is centuries old however the taxation of a person's wealth at the time of their death dates from the the
end of the 17th century.
It's a good job a person wasn't taxed on the amount of names he had isn't it?
Versailles, which aired last night on BBC2, was jam packed with intrigue, there were nobles of the court with their huge lace collars, trying their very best to avoid paying tax while working to convince the king that the best course of action was to catch the next coach back to Paris. There was a French version of Thomas Walsingham, opening everyone’s letters and brandishing assorted lethal weapons that he was not a bit scared to use, and then there was the obligatory sex scene two minutes into the watershed (not thirty two as I mentioned to someone yesterday.) Not shocking at all, I don't know what yesterday's papers were going on about! There was also a touch of the Pride and Prejudice, a female character emerging from the lake in something so clingy she might not be wearing anything at all, she was very pretty but I prefer Mr Darcy myself. Anyway......
If you don't know too much about French history (I know a little of Louis XIV and a bit about Versailles) you may be a bit confused with the shows characters. If you can remember their names, its difficult, you might spend the whole hour, like me, frantically typing on your ipad trying to find out if they really existed. A swot up on 17th century French history for me this week I think, or at least, a who's who to accompany my Cabernet Sauvignon and packet of Bonbons for the next viewing.
Apart from constantly thinking who is he? Checking more than once to see if Johnny Depp was a cast member, wanting to brush all that beautiful hair and polish all those mirrors, I did enjoy the programme.
History is so interesting isn't it? Do you love the story of King Alfred's unsuccessful afternoon in the kitchen or King Cnut unsuccessful attempt not to get his feet wet? Maybe you're interested in when the Normans landing on our shores or the stories of an era closer to our time?