Monday, 22 February 2016
344 The Devil's Crown
First viewed : 30 April 1978
Having got their fingers sizzled with the infamous Churchill's People three years earlier , the Beeb stuck this new historical drama series safely away on BBC2 at 9pm on a Sunday night with a late night repeat on Fridays. The Devil's Crown followed the fortunes of the first three Plantagenet kings ( Henry II , Richard I , John ) from Henry's marriage to Eleanor of Aquitaine to the death of John. It strove to be historically accurate so it was helpful to have such larger than life characters centre stage.
We started watching it as a family- a pretty rare event - but my dad's participation didn't last long. What made him most difficult to live with was his mania about noise. Whether it was due to autism, particularly sensitive hearing or his earlier training to be a monk in Ireland ( needless to say he didn't make it ) he wanted to live in a very quiet house. His mortal fear was the next door neighbours hearing some noise from our house and deciding it was OK to blast pop music through the walls. And so he started watching this with us but every time someone raised their voice - which was pretty much every other line - he got up and adjusted the volume. After about ten minutes of this Mum protested that he was being ridiculous and ruining the programme upon which he left us to it.
We didn't last beyond the first episode. The programme had a decent script but it was hemmed in too much by the budget. The characters declaimed in front of painted backdrops that looked like they'd last been used on Sir Prance-A-Lot. At one point Henry plucks a peach from a metal tree. All the battles had to be covered by messengers arriving with news after the event. It was just too stage-y and claustrophobic for a commitment to watch thirteen 55 minute instalments.
Nevertheless it was a key series for some of its cast. Playing Henry was the breakthrough role for Brian Cox who's never looked back and John Duttine also scored as John although he's less prominent these days . Simon Gipps-Kent pops up again as the ill-fated Arthur of Brittany.
The series has never been re-broadcast or released on DVD but it was popular in France and at the time of writing can be viewed on YouTube as a result.