The Black Seal


The Black Seal

Infobox Television episode
Title = The Black Seal
Series = Blackadder


Caption = The Hawk
Airdate = 13/7/1983
Writer = Rowan Atkinson
Richard Curtis
Director =
Guests = Patrick Allen; Rik Mayall (uncredited)
Episode list = List of Blackadder episodes
Season = 1
Episode = 6
Prev = "Witchsmeller Pursuivant"
Next = "Bells"

"The Black Seal" is the final of six episodes of the first season of the BBC One sitcom "Blackadder" ("The Black Adder").

Plot

Disgruntled Prince

According to the introduction many were the tales told of the Black Adder and his faithful henchmen Lord Percy and Baldrick, son of Robin the Dung-Gatherer. However the last and most exciting part would unfold in 1498.

On Saint Juniper's Day, 29 January 1498, King Richard IV followed tradition in lavishing new honours upon his kinfolk. He started by giving a short speech: "Saint Juniper once said, 'By his loins shall ye know him and by the length of his rod shall he be measured.' The length of my rod is a mystery to all but the Queen, and a thousand Turkish whores, but the fruits of my loins are here for all to see. I have two sons, Harry and ... another one."

Harry, Prince of Wales, was called forth and Titled Captain of the Guard, Grand Warden of the Northern and Eastern Marches, Chief Lunatic of the Duchy of Gloucester, Viceroy of Wales, Sheriff of Nottingham, Marquis of the Midlands, Lord Hoe-Maker extraordinary and Harbinger of the Doomed Rat.

The other one, Edmund, was also called forth. He was thanked of his work as the Duke of Edinburgh. But was relieved of this "heavy task" and replaced by Richard's loyal cousin Thomas, Lord Hastings, apparently as a birthday present (The King, as he handed the scroll of office to Hastings, casually remarked "many happy returns, Tom." Historically the Lord Hastings at the time was John Hastings, 11th Baron Hastings.) The King then left the court to ride against the rebellious city of Stoke-on-Trent. His sworn intent was to approach the city walls, bare his buttocks and shout "Behold. I honour thee most highly".

Prince Edmund was thus left with the single title of Lord Warden of the Royal Privies. He was reasonably angered by the removal of his duchy. Percy and Baldrick attempted to console their Lord by pointing that it could be worse--he could have lost the privies. A suddenly determined Edmund however declared his new mission: "I must clear away the chaff from my life and let shine forth the true wheat of greatness." He started by dismissing Percy from his service. A shocked Percy asked for a reason. The Black Adder gave him several: "Because Percy, far from being a fit for a Prince of the Realm, you would bore the leggings off a village idiot. You ride a horse rather less well than another horse would, your brain would make a grain of sand look large and ungainly and the part of you that cannot be mentioned, I am reliably informed by women around the court, would not be worth mentioning even if it could be. If you put on a floppy hat and a furry codpiece you might just get by as a fool, but, since you would not know a joke if it got up and gave you a haircut, I doubt it. That is why you are dismissed." Baldrick was also unceremoniously thrown out. Thus, according to the narration, Edmund spurned his friends and began his quest for glory.

The disgruntled Prince expected Baldrick to return to shovelling dung in the gutter as before entering his service. Baldrick, however, pointed that it had taken him years to get that job. He expected to work his way up again, but would have to start by milking pigs and mucking out lepers. Edmund was unmoved and rode away on his black horse. Baldrick was replaced as a horse attendant by an aging, retired Morris Dancer.

Recruiting conspirators

Edmund set forth into England in search of the six other "Most Evil Men in the Kingdom," intending to recruit them in an effort to take over the Kingdom. By order of recruitment, the men were:

*Sir Wilfred Death (played by John Hallam), a skilled duellist.
*Three-Fingered Pete (played by Roger Sloman), an archer.
*Guy de Glastonbury (played by Patrick Malahide), a crossbowman and highwayman, with some proficiency with the sword.
*Sean the Irish Bastard (played by Ron Cook), a daggerman who preyed on beggars.
*Friar Bellows (played by Paul Brooke), who took advantage of misplaced trust given to him, and had an apparent preference for virgin girls.
*Jack Large (played by Big Mick), a dwarf with an apparent hatred for giants, described as, "unspeakably violent Jack, a bull-buggering, beast killer of no fixed abode."

Candidates for recruitment suggested but rejected were:

*"Mad Bully-boy" Jack, the grave robbing assassin of Aldwych.
*"Crazed animal" Jack, the cattle rustling cannibal from Sutton Coldfield.
*"Sane" Jack O'Hooligan, the man-hating goat-murderer of Dingle Bay.
*"Canon" Jack Smollett, senior archdeacon of the diocese of Saint Bothar, the entrail-eating heretic of Bath and Wells.

Conspiracy plans

The seven men were soon discussing their plans in an inn while emptying goblets of beer. Friar Bellows suggested the motto of the Black Seal, their enterprise: "Blessed are the meek, for they shall be slaughtered." The conspirators called for chaos, slaughter and flowers (although Three-Fingered Pete hastily added for the flowers to be mercilessly crushed under foot).

Edmund had a more coherent plan, which he described as cunning in its simplicity: He would ride home and then send for them all through a black-haired messenger. They would gather in the tavern of the recently deceased old Jasper (slain by Friar Bellows), before heading out to seize the royal courts and thus the kingdom. Edmund had no intentions to murder his family and had instead opted to exile them; however, after Guy de Glastonbury suggested they could just kill them, Edmund grudgingly agreed.

The Hawk

After his comrades dispersed, Edmund's plan hit a severe setback. His supposed new friend the Morris Dancer cast off his disguise of an elderly man to reveal himself as Edmund's old enemy, Philip of Burgundy, nicknamed The Hawk (played by Patrick Allen). Philip (who had no resemblance whatsoever to a historical Philip of Burgundy) had just arrived in England after 15 years of exile in France, an exile for which Edmund was apparently responsible.

In revenge, Philip incarcerated Edmund in a prison cell, to be fed on snails. There was another inmate in the cell, a mad man named Gerald (played by Rik Mayall), who had been incarcerated for 20 years and whose best friend was a rat. After eleven months of rambling insanely to a bored Edmund, in late December Gerald showed the Prince a key he had made from his own teeth. Edmund seized the key, successfully opened the cell door and escaped. Gerald opted not to follow him, instead complaining that Edmund had not closed the door behind him.

Treachery

The first person Edmund met after escaping from prison was a man seeking to sell five black homing pigeons and one black homing chicken. While the seller's initial asking price was six shillings, he generously invited Edmund to beat him up, tie him to a tree and steal the pigeons, an offer the Prince gratefully accepted. Edmund promptly sent the pigeons to fly to his fellow conspirators.

Philip of Burgundy, however, beat the Black Seal to the royal castle, and, when they arrived, promptly persuaded them to abandon Edmund and adopt him as their leader. Edmund's protestations that Philip was twisted by unbridled ambition, haunted by insatiable greed, the most evil man in the world and a mindless killer, and that he murdered his own parents, only increased Philip's standing in the eyes of the Black Seal members. Sir Wilfred and Pete had also killed their parents, and Friar Bellows had killed those of Sean the Irish Bastard--a fact Previously unknown to Sean, who was delighted to learn of it and congratulated the Friar for his efforts.

Philip had presumably fully expected to capture Edmund at the castle, as he had already installed a torture chair there, into which he now forced Edmund. He activated the chair, then he and the Black Seal members planned to go in pursuit of the rest of the Royal Family. However, when two apparent serving wenches appeared bearing several goblets of wine, they paused to drink the wine.

Poisoned

The maids were in fact Percy and Baldrick in disguise, and they had poisoned the wine to foil the Black Seal's plot. Just after drinking the wine, Philip and the Black Seal members dropped dead on the spot (except for Sean the Irish Bastard who went for a second swig before dropping dead like a fly, saying "It's got a bit of a sting in its tail!").

The torture chair, however, had already been activated, leaving Edmund severely crippled, having his anus spiked, his ears cut off with shears, his nose Skewered, his sides of his head cracked by mini morning-stars, the top of his head fractured, his hands cut off with axes, his genitalia pulverized by a device called a 'codling-grinder' and although other horrible things happened to him but weren't mentioned, his armpits were also tickled by feathers (probably to drive him hysterical as he dies)

As Edmund lay on his deathbed, his father, apparently having changed his opinion, declared a toast "To my son Edmund." Edmund, surprised that his father had, for the first time, got his name right, muttered "Father, you called me Edmund." Richard answers "Oh, sorry, to Edgar!" Asked by Edmund to call him by his nom de guerre, Richard called a further toast, to The Black Dagger.

Baldrick, who had come up with the idea of poisoning the wine, had instructed Percy to poison only the goblets of the Black Seal conspirators excluding Edmund, but Percy, being the idiot he is, had poisoned the whole batch.

Edmund watched as his family and the courtiers all drank the poisoned wine and fell dead on the floor, sending them down to a quick death. Edmund, realising he was now King, tested the wine to see what was wrong with it, declared that it was all right and then began to proclaim himself to be King of England. Mid-sentence, he died a quick and painless death, going down in history as the first one to bear the name...

The Blackadder.

After the credits, Percy and Baldrick ran in to stop the court drinking the wine, only to find it was too late.

Continuity errors

* In the first episode The Foretelling, the beginning narration states that Richard IV reigned from 1485 to 1498. However, this episodes starts on Saint Juniper's Day (29 January) 1498 and later, Edmund is imprisoned in the cell with Mad Gerald for at least 12 months. Therefore, King Richard IV's reign would have lasted until at least January "1499".

Trivia

* Patrick Allen who starred as Phillip of Burgundy (aka 'The Hawk) in this episode was also the series narrator.


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