What’s the future for the 17th Century on screen?

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The English Civil War was one of the most turbulent periods of British history.

Between 1642 and 1651, the population of the British Isles would suffer a proportionally greater loss of life than it did during the First World War and the nine years of war would result in the deaths of over a quarter of a million. The destruction and devastating loss of life would eventually lead to the entrenching of Parliament as the primary source of government, the radically reduced power of the monarchy, and the formation of the first permanent and professional army in England.

But for all the monuments and plaques across the country, the film and television industry has largely overlooked the period. There have been a few exceptions — perhaps most notably the Richard Harris film, Cromwell — but why, compared to other periods of British history, has the English Civil War not generated the same level of interest, and what does the future hold for the 17th Century on screen? In the second part of his look at portrayals of the period on screen (part one is here), Earl of Manchester’s member David Rowlinson takes a look…

Money, Money, Money

Every film and television series, regardless of its budget, needs investment. The British film industry has always struggled when it comes to raising funds, and historical dramas are notoriously expensive, so it’s no surprise that the English Civil War, and perhaps the genre of the historical drama as a whole, has been somewhat overlooked by the film and TV industry. While there’s always the chance of a good performance at the box office or high ratings, studios are only likely to give the green light if they think a production is going to appeal to a wide audience, which brings us to…

Global Appeal

Before a production can hope for any investment, it needs to know that if it were to be made, there would be enough people wanting to see it to justify the studio putting their time and money into it. Other historical films and series that have proved successful, particularly those set in ancient Rome or the Tudor dynasty, have done well because the periods of history they portray are well known to an international audience. The English Civil War on the other hand, has not had the focus its importance deserves, to the point where there are now many misconceptions that simplify the war. There are not many examples of the English Civil War in film or TV, and those that exist are littered with damaging inaccuracies.

Films such as the 2003, To Kill A King, which flopped with both audiences and critics alike, discourage other filmmakers from examining the period and attempting to rectify the inaccuracies that have gone before. Until productions begin to portray the English Civil War accurately, its importance in British, and global, history will not be recognised to the extent it should. However, this may not be too far from happening…

A Renaissance?

While it may be a while before the English Civil War appears again on screen, the 17th Century as a whole is beginning to show signs of a resurgence in film and TV. Since 2008 there have been several notable productions, each with their own take on the 17th century.  The 2008 mini-series, The Devil’s Whore, was successful enough to warrant a sequel, The New World, and indeed the European settling of the Americas and the establishment of the colonies looks to be a setting new productions are eager to explore.

Films like the chilling horror, The Witch, and the English Civil War film, A Field In England, suggest that the 17th Century can be a setting for all kinds of genres and not just the traditional historical drama, and studios are beginning to show signs of faith in the era once again.

Sky 1’s Jamestown, which tells the story of women’s arrival at the colony of the same name, was commissioned for a second series before the first episode had even been broadcast, so for the decades of uncertainty surrounding the 17th Century on screen, its future is now beginning to look far more promising.

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From swashbucklers and witchfinders to radicals and whores – the best of the 17th Century on the screen

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From continental wars and revolutions to major advances in science and political ideas, the upheaval and conflict of the 17th Century produced many stories that filmmakers have attempted to retell on the big and small screen.

While ancient Rome and Edwardian country manors have always been more popular settings with audiences, the era of Cavaliers and Roundheads has not been without its own collection of films and television serials.

In the first of a two-part feature about the 17th Century on the screen, our member David Rowlinson takes a look at ten of the very best…

1) The Moonraker (1958)

Very much a part of the height of the swashbuckler era of filmmaking, The Moonraker tells the story of a mysterious Royalist hero on a mission to smuggle Prince Charles out of England after his defeat at the Battle of Worcester before Oliver Cromwell (played by Dad’s Army’s John Le Mesurier) can capture him.

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2) Witchfinder General (1968)

Heavily censored in the UK on its initial release, Witchfinder General is a fictionalised account of the infamous witch hunter, Matthew Hopkins as he sweeps a reign of terror across East Anglia. Vincent Price would go on to rate his performance as Hopkins as his best, and the film is now regarded as one of the best horrors in the history of cinema.

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3) Cromwell (1970)

Richard Harris plays the eponymous figure in one of the most famous and simplistic depictions of the English Civil War. The film is noted for its almost endless amount of historical inaccuracies – not only producing a near-libellous depiction of the Earl of Manchester but also having him, a lord, sitting in the House of Commons – but it has developed a cult following thanks to its spectacular battle sequences and stirring performances, particularly from Richard Harris and also Alec Guinness as King Charles I.

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4) Winstanley (1975)

Winstanley tells the story of social and religious reformer Gerard Winstanley who, along with a small band of followers known as the Diggers or True Levellers, occupied privatised lands and attempted to establish self-sufficient farming communities. The film went to great lengths to maintain a high level of historical accuracy, even going as far as to use genuine armour borrowed from the Tower of London, and Miles Halliwell as Winstanley reading the words of actual pamphlets of the time.

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5) By the Sword Divided (1983-85)

This series ran on the BBC for two years and followed the struggles of two noble families, the Laceys and the Fletchers, as they found themselves on opposing sides during the English Civil War. The show was not without its critics, earning the phrase “by the sword defeated” by one reviewer, but it ran long enough to cover the history from the outbreak of the civil war to the restoration of the monarchy in 1660.

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6) The Three Musketeers (1993)

Not an accurate in its portrayal of 17th Century France by any means, but the 1993 adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’s novel did bring an infectious excitement to it that is hard to not enjoy. Featuring a cast including the scene-stealing Tim Curry as Cardinal Richelieu, The Three Musketeers simplifies its source material into an enjoyable action comedy – provided you can look past French musketeers speaking with American accents.

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7) Alatriste (2006)

Viggo Mortensen stars as Captain Alatriste, a soldier in the Spanish army during the Thirty Years War. The film, the second most expensive in Spanish film history, culminates in the battle of Rocroi with one of the best depictions of 17th Century warfare ever made for film or television.

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8) The Devil’s Whore (2008)

A four-part series set between 1642-1660 that follows the events of the English Civil War and years of the republic through the eyes of fictional heroine Angelica Fanshawe. Among the cast were well-known stars such as John Simm, Michael Fassbender and Peter Capaldi. A sequel, New Worlds, followed in 2014.

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9) A Field in England (2013)

Set in the aftermath of a civil war battle, A Field In England tells of a group of deserters who descend into madness when they eat from a field of hallucinogenic mushrooms. Unique and bold, director Ben Wheatley offers a new take on the historical drama genre.

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10) The Witch (2015)

The debut feature from writer-director Robert Eggers, The Witch tells the story of a Puritan family in colonial America who are tormented by an unknown evil lurking in the woods surrounding their home. The film received wide critical acclaim for its suspenseful atmosphere and accurate depiction of a 17th Century God-fearing populace.

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375 years later, the English Civil War returns to Manchester

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Nantwich 02 - Photo by Ammgramm on Flickr.jpgAlmost 375 years to the day since Manchester witnessed the first casualty of the English Civil War, the conflict is to be brought to life in Chadderton.
Foxdenton Park in Chadderton will go back in time to the 17th Century this weekend as The Earl of Manchester’s Regiment of Foote, part of the Sealed Knot reenactment society, reveals what life was like during the English Civil Wars of the 1640s in an event that is ideal for the whole family.
From 10am on Saturday and Sunday, visitors will be able to visit an authentic encampment in the park and meet the army on campaign, before Roundhead and Cavalier take part in two deadly skirmishes! 
With muskets, drums, and pike, costumed reenactors will recreate one of the many battles between the two competing sides. Who will be victorious in this battle for control of the nation – the King? Or Parliament?
At 10.30am, the armies will march from Kingfisher School on Foxdenton Lane before taking part in skirmishes at 11.45am and 2pm in Foxdenton Park. As well as the battles, there will be fascinating displays explaining 17th Century life and what it was like to take up arms in this so-called ‘war without an enemy’.
Manchester has the dubious distinction of being the site of the first casualty of the English Civil War: on 15th July 1642, weaver Richard Perceval died during a street fight in Manchester when Royalists tried to force the Parliamentarian town to hand over its gunpowder stores.
Perceval, from Levenshulme, was allegedly killed by Thomas Tyldesley of Astley – the first death in a conflict that would claim a greater proportion of lives than World War One.
The event will take place next to Foxdenton Hall, which reuses features and stonework from an earlier building of 1620, which was built for lord of the manor William Radclyffe. Radclyffe died along with his oldest son, Robert, at the Battle of Edgehill in 1642, the first pitched battle of the English Civil War.
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About the Earl of Manchester’s Regiment of Foote:
Part of the Sealed Knot, the world’s oldest and Europe’s largest re-enactment society, the members of Earl of Manchester’s Regiment of Foote re-enacts a regiment from the English Civil Wars period from 1642-1660. They portray the lifeguard of Edward Montagu, the second Earl of Manchester, who was one of the leading generals in the First English Civil War of 1642-5. For more information, go to www.earlofmanchesters.co.uk
About The Sealed Knot:
Europe’s oldest and largest re-enactment society, The Sealed Knot was formed in Oxford in 1968 and has thousands of members across the UK, Europe, and the world. It stages dozens of events every year from commemorative marches and village fetes to massed battles. A registered educational charity, the Society aims not to glorify war but to honour those that died in the many battles of the English Civil War, and to educate the public about those wars, and also about the lives and times of people in that period.
The name of the Society derives from a group, which, during the Protectorate, plotted for the restoration of the monarchy; here the similarity ends though as the present society is a non-political charity that has both Parliamentarian and Royalist armies.
About the English Civil War:
The English Civil War was actually a series of armed conflicts between 1642 and 1652, culminating with the Restoration of King Charles II in 1660. Far more complex than simply ‘Roundheads versus Cavaliers’, the English Civil Wars was a tumultuous period when our modern nation state was first formed. Arguments between King Charles I and his Parliament over taxation, religion and control of the country boiled over into open conflict in 1642, with the country dividing into those who supported the King and those who supported Parliament. After the second Civil War, Oliver Cromwell rose to prominence and following Charles II’s failed invasion of England, Cromwell became head of the English Commonwealth and then king in all but name as Lord Protector. He died in 1658, but his son and successor Richard Cromwell quickly abdicated. Charles II returned and was restored as King of England in 1660.

This weekend: the Roundheads march into Wiltshire!

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6723477_origChoose your side this Spring Bank Holiday weekend as we celebrate the 375th anniversary of the start of the English Civil War!

Amidst the glorious setting of Charlton Park, the Sealed Knot will bring this pivotal moment to life with a living history encampment across the weekend, plus dramatic cameos commemorating the history of the Howard family.

Set piece battles will take place on the Sunday and Monday showcasing the talents of musket, pike, cavalry and artillery!

Buy tickets here >>

Built by Lord Thomas Howard, 1st Earl of Suffolk, for his wife Catherine, Charlton Park House was ready for occupation by 1607. After Catherine’s death it was inherited by her second son, Thomas, who in 1626 was created the first Earl of Berkshire.

Malmesbury was held by the Royalists during the First Civil War but DAlghfNW0AAErMp.jpgsurrendered to Parliamentarian Colonel Massie in 1644, a Presbyterian officer who fought tirelessly against Royalists in the region. Massie eventually became commander of the Western Association army and, after the formation of the New Model Army, was given his own independent command. But after Charles I’s execution he switched sides to the Royalists, participating in the failed Scottish invasion of England in 1651 and fleeing with Charles II after the Battle of Worcester. He was captured but  escaped from the Tower of London by climbing out of a chimney. He later returned to try and spark a Royalist uprising but was again captured, again escaping and fleeing to the Continent. He returned to England in January 1660 and caused a riot in Gloucester when he stood for election to the Convention Parliament. But, after being duly elected, he supported the Restoration and was rewarded by Charles II for his services with a knighthood and a grant of money and lands in Ireland, where he died in 1674.

This event is being organised and run by Hopton’s Tercio of the Royalist army of the Sealed Knot Society.17504395_1656918467727426_53025364880548108_o.jpg

TOMORROW: Civil War soldiers will escort King Charles through Oxford!

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18404022_1702258246526781_1913620980335891942_o.jpgTo celebrate the 400th birthday of Elias Ashmole, founder of the world-famous Ashmolean Museum, King Charles I will parade through the streets of Oxford – with us as his guard!

This Friday from 6.30pm, with standards advanced and drums beating, a parade of Civil War soldiers and officers will escort King Charles from Broad Street to the Ashmolean Museum.

A special LiveFriday event at the museum then runs from 7pm to 10.30pm – and tickets are FREE!

Find out more about the fascinating history of Oxford during the English Civil War, meet the troops, see the King sat in state, meet the townspeople, sign your own oath of allegiance to His Majesty and much, much more! Immerse yourself in the 1600s with period dancing, music and quizzes.

Members of the Earl of Manchester’s Regiment of Foote, along with friends from the Sealed Knot and English Civil War Society, will be on hand to introduce you to one of the most turbulent periods in Oxford’s history – when it became the other capital city of England!

This promises to be a very special evening at one of the most prestigious venues in the country. Tickets are FREE but booking is essential. (£1 booking fee) Book here >>

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Find out where we’re battling this summer!

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Fancy stepping back in time to one of the most tumultuous periods in British history?

Do you want to hear drums call ranks of musketeers and pikemen to order, cannons roaring besides them as preachers and officers exhort them into battle? Do you want to see how life was lived by ordinary people during the 17th Century?

We have a full schedule of events this summer where we’ll be heading back to the English Civil Wars and bringing this important period of history to life across the UK!

Here’s a list of where the Earl of Manchester’s Regiment of Foote will be appearing this year, check out the further details below or click on our interactive map!

  • Charlton Park, Wiltshire: Sat 27 May 2017 – Mon 29 May 2017
  • Newark, Nottinghamshire: Sat 22 Jul 2017 – Sun 23 Jul 2017
  • Tattershall Castle, Lincolnshire: Sat 05 Aug 2017 – Sun 06 Aug 2017
  • Scampston Hall, North Yorkshire: 25 August – 28 August
  • Lancaster Castle, Lancashire: 9 September – 10 September
  • Edgehill 375th Anniversary, Warwickshire: Sat 23 Sep 2017 – Sun 24 Sep 2017

Charlton Park, Wiltshire
Saturday 27 May – Monday 29 May

Buy your tickets in advance!

A major event at a stunning location in the Wiltshire countryside! The Sealed knot will bring to you the excitement of a battle with cannons roaring, cavalry charging, muskets volleying alongside a large living history camp which will be of interest to all ages. Have a word with the 17th Century suppliers of equipment and arms, see the work of the lace makers of the period alongside many more disciplines. Something for everyone, young and the young of heart.

ENTRANCE £15 PER CAR // £10 CAR SINGLE OCCUPANT // DISCOUNT WITH SCHOOL VOUCHER £10 PER CAR

Newark, Nottinghamshire
Saturday 22 July – Sunday 23 July

This July, the Sealed Knot will be returning to Newark to stage a battle reenactment on the sconce, one of the best-preserved English Civil War defences in the country.

On Saturday 22 July and Sunday 23 July, we will be helping stage spectacular English Civil War battles and providing an insight into how people lived and died at Newark in the 1640s.

Home to the National Civil War Museum, Newark is the ideal place to discover more about this important period in British history. From thunderous battles featuring cannons, muskets, pike, and cavalry, to the encampment showing you the life and times of the English Civil War, this is something not to be missed.

Children can take part in specially-organised pike drills on the camp, where there will be an assortment of trades and crafts of the period.

Tattershall Castle, Lincolnshire
Saturday 5 August – Sunday 6 August

Once again the Royalist forces of the Duke of Newcastle lay siege to the Parliamentarian garrison in the stunning castle, now run by the National Trust. Come and see the skirmish and wander through the living history village. Discover more >>

Scampston Hall, North Yorkshire
Saturday 26 August – Monday 28 August

Sealed Knot members from around the country will flock to North Yorkshire for the largest Civil War event in the UK!

A spectacular battle featuring hundreds of reenactors will crown a huge Bank Holiday weekend event – cannon, muskets, and drums will sound across the parkland surrounding this magnificent house.

This is the perfect chance to see the Sealed Knot at its best. Just 40 minutes from York and half an hour from Scarborough, this great location is an ideal Bank Holiday treat for the whole family!

Lancaster Castle
Saturday 9 September – Sunday 10 September

To arms! Step back to a turbulent time in Lancaster’s history as the English Civil War returns – from the town’s brave defenders to the castle’s stout walls keeping plundering Royalists at bay! The Earl of Manchester’s Regiment of Foote will be garrisoning the castle and giving the family the chance to experience what life was like in 1643 as King Charles and Parliament fought for control of the country. Witness live weapons demonstrations, talk to the soldiers, and see how people lived in the 17th Century in a superb educational day out for young and old alike. In this war without an enemy – which side will YOU choose?

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Edgehill 375th Anniversary, Warwickshire
Saturday 23 September – Sunday 24 September

The Sealed Knot end their reenactment season with a special event marking 375 years since the Battle of Edgehill, the first major engagement of the English Civil Wars.

Both sides hoped that the battle next to the sleepy village of Kineton would decisively end the squabbles between King Charles and his Parliament, yet the mixed outcome merely heralded almost a decade of warfare across the British Isles.

Come and mark the occasion with us as we take part in a huge battle reenactment at this historical location!

Besiege Newark! This July, the Sealed Knot returns!

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The Queen’s Sconce has stood next to the town of Newark since 1644, when it formed part of the vast network of defences thrown up to protect this Royalist bastion from Parliamentarian forces.

This July, the Sealed Knot will be returning to Newark to stage a battle reenactment on the sconce, one of the best-preserved English Civil War defences in the country.

On Saturday 22 July and Sunday 23 July, we will be helping stage spectacular English Civil War battles and providing an insight into how people lived and died at Newark in the 1640s.

Home to the National Civil War Museum, Newark is the ideal place to discover more about this important period in British history. From thunderous battles featuring cannons, muskets, pike, and cavalry, to the encampment showing you the life and times of the English Civil War, this is something not to be missed.

Children can take part in specially-organised pike drills on the camp, where there will be an assortment of trades and crafts of the period.

Keep an eye on our blog for more information as we get closer to this fantastic event!