The Cavalier Years

This sketch was performed as part of the BBC telethon Comic Relief. I have included the transcript on this site because it is not available in book form. The sketch appears on the Blackadder Back & Forth DVD and the Blackadder Remastered DVD Collection that is sold in the UK and USA. You can purchase those in the shop or by using the Amazon search boxes on the left.



The Cast:
Sir Edmund Blackadder – Rowan Atkinson
Baldrick – Tony Robinson
King Charles I – Stephen Fry
Cromwell – Warren Clarke

The Script:

Transcribed by Ron O’Dell
[revision 30 April 2002]

NARRATOR
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,
strokes the back of 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 while Baldrick has turned back to his kitchen table
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 Lord Protector of England!

KING
Fascinating! Absolutely fascinating.  Erm, tell me: Er, what exactly does a Lord 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
Pretty 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!
exits

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 into the fish’s gills. 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 straddle.

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 [Wolf?] 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.
exits

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 a 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 Harborough 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 a wig placed on top
I will balance it on the King’s head, like this.
demonstrates
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 up his arm 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

pause

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.
exits

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.
exits

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 More, 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 Earle 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 Earle 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, then his fake voice slips a little as he speaks
Right; should we go?

KING
Just a moment!
grabs Edmund’s arm
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 exit.  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. Voices are heard from outside:

EDMUND (vo)
This is the head of a traitor!

CROWD (vo)
No it’s not; it’s a huge pumpkin with a pathetic moustache drawn on it!

EDMUND (vo)
Oh yes — so it is!  Sorry!  I’ll try again.

There is a drum roll. It 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 with disgust
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:

ROUNDHEAD (vo)
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

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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