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3 - Blackadder the Third

set during the Regency...

Blackadder The Third is set in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, a period known as the Regency. For much of this period, King George III was incapacitated due to poor mental health, and his son George, the Prince of Wales, acted as regent. From 1811 until his father's death in 1820, he was known as "the Prince Regent".

In the series, E. Blackadder Esquire is the butler to the Prince of Wales (played by Hugh Laurie as a complete fop and idiot). Despite Edmund's respected intelligence and abilities, he has no personal fortune to speak of. According to Edmund he has been serving the Prince Regent all their lives, since they were both breastfeeding (when he had to show the Prince which part of his mother was serving the drinks). There are three main sets: the Prince's quarters, which are large and lavish, the below-stairs kitchen hangout of Blackadder and Baldrick, which is dark and squalid, and finally Mrs. Miggins' coffee house (Mrs Miggins' pie shop was a never-seen running gag in Blackadder II; she — or, at least, a descendant of hers — was now finally shown).

As well as Rowan Atkinson and Tony Robinson in their usual roles, this series starred Hugh Laurie as the Prince Regent, and Helen Atkinson-Wood (no relation to Rowan) as Mrs. Miggins. The series features rotten boroughs, Dr. Johnson (played by Robbie Coltrane), the French Revolution (featuring Chris Barrie) and the Scarlet Pimpernel, over-the-top theatrical actors, highwaymen who hate squirrels, and duels.

The opening theme is this time played on a harpsichord, oboe and cello over close-ups of Blackadder searching a book-case, the credits and "Blackadder the Third" appearing on some of the books' spines (along with humorous titles such as "From Black Death to Blackadder" and "The Encyclopaedia Blackaddica"). Hidden inside a hollow book, he finds a romance novel, complete with steamy cover art, bearing the episode's title, which is always a noun paired with another noun derived from an adjective. Example: Sense and Senility (title based on the Jane Austen novel, Sense and Sensibility). The closing credits are presented in the style of a programme from a Regency-era play, and with an entirely new closing theme.


17 Sep 87   Dish and Dishonesty

The newly appointed Prime Minister, Pitt the Younger, wants to strike the Prince Regent from the Civil List. The Prince's butler, Mr. Blackadder, proceeds to rig an election in a rotten borough, choosing to instate Baldrick. Baldrick proceeds to vote the wrong way, but the fortunately, the bill is defeated at the House of Lords. The episode features a cameo by Vincent Hanna.


24 Sep 87   Ink and Incapability

Dr. Samuel Johnson (played by Robbie Coltrane) seeks the Prince's patronage for his new book, the Dictionary. Unfortunately, Blackadder accidentally instructs Baldrick to burn the book and so attempts to rewrite it in one night.


01 Oct 87   Nob and Nobility

After Blackadder disparages The Scarlet Pimpernel, two noblemen bet him a thousand guineas that he can't go to France, rescue an aristocrat and presents him at the French Embassy Ball. Blackadder accepts, but goes to Mrs. Miggins' coffee house to ask Le Comte de Frou Frou to pretend he was rescued. Meanwhile a revolutionary (played by Chris Barrie), seizes the Embassy.


08 Oct 87   Sense and Senility

An anarchist (played by Ben Elton) makes an attempt on the Prince's life. Blackadder suggests that the Prince should improve his public image and so two actors are hired to train him. Blackadder takes a dislike to them and frames them for conspiracy. This episode also features the MacBeth Ritual, which must be carried out when the Scottish Play is mentioned by name.


15 Oct 87   Amy and Amiability

Having spent vast amounts of money, the Prince Regent is searching for a rich wife. Amy Hardwood (played by Miranda Richardson), daughter of an industrialist, seems the only option, until Blackadder discovers that her father is broke. He turns to the life of a highwayman and soon discovers that Amy Hardwood is in fact herself the notorious highwayman, The Shadow. She pretends to be in love with Blackadder to steal the Prince's money, but he turns her in for a 10, 000 reward. This episode also contains a reference to the Prince's eventual bride, Caroline of Brunswick.


22 Oct 87   Duel and Duality

The Duke of Wellington (played by Stephen Fry) challenges the Prince to a duel. The Prince enlists Blackadder's help and so the two change places. Edmund hopes that his Scottish cousin MacAdder (also played by Rowan Atkinson) will take his place, but he declines. Fortunately, Blackadder survives the dual and the Prince, still in a butler's costume, is shot by Wellington. King George does not notice any difference between his late son and Blackadder in the Prince's clothes and so Blackadder becomes the new Prince Regent.


Edmund Blackadder, Esquire

It appears that the Blackadder dynasty has fallen upon hard times, as the Blackadder of this period is not royalty or nobility, but the butler to the Prince Regent, Prince George. Blackadder seems to make a living from stealing and selling the Prince's valuables (including, for some reason, socks). Indeed, George's wallet is often to be found in Blackadder's top pocket.

Throughout the centuries since his ancestor Lord Blackadder, the Blackadders seem to have maintained their rapier-like wit, and their penchant for theft, corruption, lies and insults. The Blackadder dynasty also seems to have maintained a close link with the Baldrick dynasty. Baldrick, by this stage, has lost whatever cunning his ancestors once had, and reached a level of childlike stupidity that is familiar to most viewers.

On the up side of things, somewhere between the Elizabethan period and the Regency period, Blackadder does seem to have managed to shake off Lord Percy's descendants. However, in his place stands the even stupider Prince George, whom Blackadder now has to serve. The relationship between the two is a fine example of how figure heads often act as puppets whose strings are pulled by those behind the scenes.

As butler to the royal household, Blackadder's jobs include announcing, supervising the linen maids, opening and closing doors and cleaning up the Prince's cock-ups. Most of his other duties appear to have been delegated to Baldrick. He also receives assistance from Mrs. Miggins, who appears to do much of the baking for the palace.

This Blackadder appears to have no real agenda other than helping the Prince make money so that he can steal it. As a result, he is often required to guide George so that he appears respectable to society. This includes speech writing, election rigging, wooing potential brides and advising the Prince on patronages. This often leads Blackadder into worse trouble, including having to re-write the dictionary in one night, being robbed by the elusive "Shadow" and being captured by an evil revolutionary.

Blackadder actually seems rather content to be middle class with "the toffs at the top, the plebs at the bottom, and me in the middle making a fat pile of cash out of both of them". He dreams of being young and wild, then middle aged and rich and then he wants to be old and annoy people by pretending to be deaf. Edmund was also an author. Under the pseudonym 'Gertrude Perkins' he wrote "Edmund: A Butler's Tale", a giant rollercoaster of a novel in 400 sizzling chapters. A searing indictment of domestic servitude in the eighteenth century with some hot gypsies thrown in. Samuel Johnson believed it to be the only book better than the Dictionary, and it looked like Edmund was going to be rich, until Baldrick mistakenly threw the book on the fire.

In the final episode, after a saga which involves Edmund and the Prince swapping coats and assuming each other's identity to protect the Prince from the vengeance of the Duke of Wellington, George is shot dead by the Duke, who believes him to be a 'tiresome butler' called Mr. Blackadder. Blackadder leaps on the opportunity to claim that he is Prince George, and supposedly went on to become George IV of the United Kingdom.



The Baldrick of Regency Britain works as a dogsbody to Mr. E. Blackadder esq., butler to Prince George. He lives in a pipe in the upstairs water closet of the Palace.

The third Baldrick is much more noticeably stupid and disgusting than those previous to him. Like his Elizabethan ancestor, he is known to eat dung occasionally. He is also more childlike. There is not the slightest sign of 'cunning' in any of his plans, which include:

    * escaping the guillotine by waiting until your head has been cut off, then 'springing into action' and running 'around and around the farmyard, and out the farmyard gate', in the style of a chicken, and

    * replacing the burnt first copy of the dictionary by taking the string, which has been salvaged, and putting in some new pages (Blackadder clarifies that Baldrick is suggesting that he re-write the entire dictionary in a single night).

Blackadder also claims that Baldrick has never changed his trousers, and implores him never to do so, for they are, Blackadder claims, akin to Pandora's Box.

Although he is now on a closer social standing to Blackadder than before, he still receives the same level of abuse as his Elizabethan ancestor. Edmund punches him; kicks him; breaks a milk-jug over his head; threatens to cut him up into strips and tell the prince that he walked over a very sharp cattle grid in an extremely heavy hat; and promises five minutes of hellish tortures involving a small pencil.

However, despite his noticeable disabilities, this Baldrick has more success than any of the others. In an election rigged by Blackadder, he is elected MP for Dunny-on-the-Wold, a rotten borough, although he was intended to be a puppet for Blackadder to manipulate. He is later made a Lord by Prince George, and is, therefore, eligible to sit in the House of Lords (although whether or not he ever does so is another matter, and as he is never again referred to by his title after episode 1, it seems plausible that Blackadder persuaded the Prince to attaint Baldrick of his peerage). He also succeeds where no Baldrick has succeeded before or since, in calling Blackadder a 'lazy, big nosed, rubber-faced bastard'.

Baldrick spends the 400,000 he received as a Lord on an enormous turnip: "well, I had to haggle." Blackadder later destroys it by hitting Baldrick with it.

Baldrick isn't given any sort of first name until the third series, when he speculates that it might be "Sodoff", since his childhood friends would say "Sod off, Baldrick!" A diplomatic Blackadder opts to record him as "S. Baldrick". The initial appears to have been adopted by his descendants.

His heroes are the highwayman 'The Shadow', and The Scarlet Pimpernel, both of whom were killed by Blackadder.


Amy Hardwood

Amy was chosen by Mr. E. Blackadder to be the bride of his master, the Prince Regent, due to his belief that her father, an industrialist, was extremely rich. However, upon the discovery that Mr. Hardwood wished his daughter to marry the Prince for his money, Blackadder called it off.

Amy appeared to be an extremely soppy and child-like person, somewhat like Queenie without the ruthlessness. Like Queenie she was proud of her nose, believing it to be "so wee I sometimes think the pixies must have given it to me."

It transpired that this was a front, and she was, in fact, the highly ruthless and practical (although squirrel-phobic) highwayman, the Shadow. Blackadder learnt this after taking up highway robbery himself, and believed she was attracted to him. However, their plan to rob the Prince of everything he had, then go to Barbados, was modified by Amy, to involve killing Edmund and going to Barbados on her own. With Baldrick's help, Blackadder turned the tables and the Shadow was hanged, without anyone learning of Blackadder's involvement.


Mrs. Miggins

She owns a coffee shop, Mr Blackadder is a regular visitor here and she in return regularly pops in to deliver buns to the royal kitchen. Mrs Miggins' coffee shop tends to move with the times and is generally inhabited by whichever group are 'in' at that moment in time, be it actors, poets etc. The customers tend to reflect the theme of the episode. In an episode revolving around the French revolution, the shop briefly stops selling coffee (or brown grit in hot water, as Blackadder suspects it may really be), and sells Chicken Pimpernel in a Scarlet sauce, Scarlet Chicken in a Pimpernel sauce or huge suspicious looking sausage in a Scarlet Pimpernel sauce. The Shop is also a favourite visiting spot for celebrities such as famous actors Mossop and Keanrick, Percy Shelley, Lord Byron, Samuel Johnson and Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

Mrs. Miggins displayed a level of affection for Blackadder, although it was often returned with cold hearted abuse. In one episode she sobs "I'd always hoped that you'd settle down and marry me, and that, together we might await the slither of tiny Adders" To this outpouring of emotion, Blackadder responds "If we were the last three humans on earth, I'd be trying to start a family with Baldrick!". In another scene where she jokingly calls Blackadder "only a little butler" Blackadder laughingly retorts "They do say, Mrs M, that verbal insults hurt more than physical pain.... They are, of course, wrong, as you will soon discover when I stick this toasting fork in your head." Prince George never visits the coffee shop during the series, and only sees her when he is disguised as Blackadder in the palace's kitchen, where she makes insulting remarks about his intelligence, or lack thereof.

Mrs Miggins left the coffee shop in the final episode of series three to pursue a relationship with Blackadder's mad Scottish cousin McAdder. She was impressed by his skill with his 'claymore' (which she later discovers is a type of sword) and his ability to make her a set of wooden teeth. Though her fate is not known, McAdder claimed that she would have to battle his wife Morag in the old highland way - bare breasted and each carrying an eight pound baby. However, McAdder added that he looked forward to burying her in the Highland manner - cynics would suggest this indicates that Morag would probably slay Mrs Miggins during the fight, while the more romantically inclined will prefer to believe McAdder referred to burying her after spending the rest of her life with him.


Prince George

the Prince of Wales was portrayed as a young and loud buffoon who spent money extravagantly (especially on fancy trousers). The fact that Hugh Laurie was young and thin, and the real Prince of Wales was, by this point, old and fat did not seem to bother writers Ben Elton and Richard Curtis, who still referred to him as "a fat, flatulent git." In the series, Prince George's butler was a certain Mr. E. Blackadder, assisted by his dogsbody, S. Baldrick.

George was created as a replacement for Blackadder's annoying idiot of a sidekick Lord Percy Percy, who had accompanied Blackadder and Baldrick in the first two series, after Tim McInnerny declined to appear in the role. If it is possible, George was even more stupid than Percy. He did not understand the concept of acting and at the end of a performance of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar demanded that someone arrest the actor playing Brutus, having shouted "Look behind you, Mr Caesar!" in the murder scene. It also took him a week to put on a pair of trousers by himself, and even then they were on his head.

While temperamental and priggish at times, George is helpful and loyal. He knows he is no bright spark (describing himself as "as thick as a whale omelette") but he is keen on self-improvement, and dreams of the day when people say "That George, why he's as clever as a stick in a bucket of pig swill." He also has a penchant for Blackadder's witty rejoinders, saying "Why, only the other day Prime Minister Pitt called me an idle scrounger. It wasn't until ages later that I thought how clever it could have been to have said, 'Oh bugger off, you old fart!' I need to improve my mind, Blackadder."

According to the show, George was shot dead around 1805 by the Duke of Wellington, who had mistaken him for the butler. The butler, Blackadder, was subsequently mistaken for the prince by his mad father and presumably went on to live what history records as the rest of Prince George's life.


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