England, My England
Pepys notes that Cromwell's body has been dug
up - denied a proper burial.
Young Harry at the Chapel Royal - the boys' master
discovers that Harry is already composing above his age expectation.
His father (or uncle?), the King's Composer, will present his composition
to the King.
Despite his youth, Harry already wants to make
variants on the musical styles he is taught.
1960s - Charles and Nell
in bed - Charles wakes bemoaning the state of England.
In the same dressing gown, Charles walks through
the cloisters of his royal residence, for a meeting with his Treasurer.
Mirroring his modern day concerns, he is in debt, with the national debt
amounting to £3m. Regardless of lack of money, the King is
eager to maintain the royal musicians.
1960s - Charles plays a
Purcell recording while Bill suggests he write a play about his life and
times. He would make a good subject for a play as few facts are known
about his life.
Charles and Nell visit
Purcell's tomb in Westminster Abbey,
as he begins his research.
Heated debate at a meeting of the Privy Council.
Charles agrees with his advisers that a war with the Dutch is inevitable
- but how will it be funded?
Catherine of Braganza is presented to Charles,
as he stands beside his current mistress. A marriage contract with
the Portuguese princess, despite her Catholic faith, will bring political
and business opportunities, as well as a much needed dowry, and the possibility
Harry joins his father at court.
Theatres open for the first time since enforced
enclosure at the beginning of the Commonwealth. Dryden's plays are
performed. Charles watches Nell from the royal box.
Again mirroring the two
time periods, Barbara (Lady Castlemaine) is overthrown as Nell becomes
Charles's next mistress.
of London - Charles tags onto a tour to
look at the crown jewels. Charles II's gunsmith and jeweller informs him
that the King never paid for the crown, which was specially created for
Tavern - young Harry and Pelham witness the singing
Stark change of mood - Dryden and Pepys
inform us that the plague struck hard in 1665. Half of the population
of London died. Charles, masked, rides through the streets to witness
the devastation. Harry's father was (probably) one of the victims.
Betterton, Locke, Cooke and Pepys discuss the tragedy.
Modern day - Nell and Charles
join a CND demonstration in London. Scenes of the march are interspersed
with news footage and musicians
in seventeenth-century dress.
The Fire of London - Harry is rowed away to safety.
Rumours spread about the cause of the fire.
Charles is once more beset by creditors.
All can be ignored as private funds enables Charles to prorogue Parliament.
The aftermath of the fire - Charles knows that
Christopher Wren's plans for rebuilding London will have political advantages
which outweigh the cost.
Maritime Museum- Charles and Nell carry
out more research on Purcell's time.
Charles bluffs his way out of a Church Court
trial, answering claims made against his character.
1960s - Charles in tirade
against modern England. No place for heroes, unlike Purcell's day.
British Library - Charles pour over the
original manuscript of The Faerie Queene.
Nell, now the King's mistress, joins him at court.
They dance together as the Queen watches.
Now a young man, and in the King's service, Harry
receives a request from Pelham Humphrey that he set a French work.
Not to his taste, he criticises the prevalence of French styles in English
Newmarket - Dryden ponders on the succession,
as James of York awaits the death of his brother.
Charles, in narration, ponders the decline of royalty.
Back to Dryden's voice-over, as he recalls the many plots that occurred
in Charles's last years. Shaftesbury encourages Monmouth to consider
usurping James's place as the next king.
Harry falteringly accepts the role of supervising
the music for the betrothal of Princess Mary to William of Orange.
The wedding takes place as Harry plays the organ
- a political and financial arrangement which will ensure the crown reverts
to Protestant monarchs following the death of James II.
The wedding night is not a success!
Pepys is concerned that Harry will encounter
problems with his proposed marriage to Frances, who is a Roman Catholic.
Harry oversees the engraving of his manuscript.
Harry and Frances stroll in the garden with Charles,
who worries about the plots and machinations that surround him. He
warns against Monmouth and Shaftesbury (a Protestant plot) and against
Popish plots. He aims to leave England in peace, and prays it will
stay that way.
Anti-papal parades - a
figure of the Pope is burnt/Orange Day parade
with news footage of Ian Paisley making his 'No Popery' speech.
Harry's first child is born.
The Popish Plot - Titus Oates was celebrated
as the discoverer of a Jesuit plot to overthrow the King, and to replace
him with his Catholic brother. Oates was a key witness at the series
of trials of those he named as guilty of treason, but was later found to
have fabricated the whole plot. He survived public whippings and
was imprisoned for five years.
Modern times - in a pub,
Bill rejects parts of Charles's script as too violent, and too expensive
for TV. Nell tunes the radio to listen to a play, which is heralded
by Purcell's Lilliburlero, which is still played daily on the BBC
Harry's study - Dryden worries that Harry's new
work will be regarded as an endorsement of plots against the King.
1684 - Frost Fair - Pepys, Frances and Harry
skate on the frozen River Thames. Pepys is preoccupied with his oncoming
Harry and Frances's first baby dies suddenly.
Whilst judging an organ, Harry hears that Charles
James, in his first scene as King, is accompanied
by a monk and a priest. England once again has a Catholic monarch.
Frances tries to comfort Harry as they mourn
their first child.
The Monmouth Rebellion - The Duke lands on English
soil, but the rebellion is short-lived and he is soon arrested and executed,
along with his followers.
Dryden recalls that James's reign heralded a
time of disorder and fear.
Pepys and Harry - Harry realises that a Catholic
monarchy will mean he will no longer be commissioned to write church music.
Harry ponders the lack of work - Harry and Frances
fear a visitor who gives them a pleasant surprise by paying some of the
King's debts. Frances, pregnant, falls in agony.
Tavern - drunken singing. Harry celebrates
the new fashion for Italian musical styles, as it replaces the once-favoured
French style. Meanwhile, Frances is in labour.
Their second child is all too soon being mourned.
Frances recites the rosary before the baby's coffin.
Nell and Charles argue.
In the pub again, Charles bemoans the fact that England is now part of
the Common Market. Nell disagrees with his politics and sees Europe
as the future.
The Glorious Revolution - seen by Dryden as "another
miracle", James was removed by the Protestant aristocracy who invited his
Protestant daughter and son-in-law, Mary and William, to rule in his place.
House - Mary promises Harry payment of his royal debts and commissions
more work. All looks well - briefly.
The Dean of Westminster tells Harry that he no
longer has the right to claim monies from his position as organist at the
Abbey. The beginning of Harry's fatal illness? He coughs frequently
during the heated debate.
Harry, Frances and Dryden at home. Harry cannot
afford to pay back the claimed money. Dryden encourages him to do
more work for the stage, and presents him with his ideas for King Arthur.
1960s flat - Bill tells
Charles that his script is too wordy.
Frances is in labour once again.
Dryden is arrested.
Harry angrily refutes accusations of disloyalty.
He insists on his loyalty by saying his brother serves in the King's regiment
in Ireland. The work in question is written for the theatre, and
has nothing to do with politics.
A royal performance of King Arthur, by
Dryden, set by Purcell. Harry helps backstage. The audience
is rapt - none of the rowdiness which marked earlier theatrical performances.
Frances gives birth once more.
Harry tells Frances that parrots and noisy machinery
for the sets distracted from the performance. Frances is clearly
jealous when he talks about the Queen.
Christmas in the 1960s
- Charles tells Nell that Mary died soon after these events. He reads
about the high infant mortality of the late seventeenth-century and about
smallpox, the disease which killed the Queen.
Mary's deathbed - her maids nurse and tend her.
She died aged 32.
Dryden tells us that Mary's death broke Harry's
spirit. A revival of Dido and Aeneas, to be given in private,
with little funds - Harry has to take on the role of Belinda himself.
His situation with regards to Mary is compared to Belinda's relationship
with Queen Dido. William, a military man, had little interest in
music. The slow motion shadowy images of the dancers echoes those
seen at Bedlam in a later scene. The atmosphere is now one of desolation.
Mary's funeral - an effigy of the Queen is carried
through the streets, above the hearse.
Charles visits Bedlam (Bethlehem, a famous mental
asylum) - the time periods merge as Charles imagines Harry's visits to
the same place. Harry believed the insane had "seen the light" and
sought a clue to their knowledge. As we see the inmates of Bedlam
we hear key passages repeated from earlier in the film.
Harry joins Charles in
the 1960s apartment. In modern dress, Harry speaks as Purcell, looking
back on his life. Despite all his work, he died in penury.
Just as Charles regrets a 'golden past' apparently denied him, Harry regrets
the loss of what should have been his birthright. Charles's script
is complete. (For a textual extract from this scene, see The
Harry, very ill, collapses in the doorway, in
Harry in his sick bed, coughing frequently -
he dies in his wife's arms.
For information on the ideas behind the making
of England, My England, see Michael
White's CD sleeve notes, which include some thoughts by the director,
Tony Palmer, and the conductor, John Eliot Gardiner.
Purcell's funeral - Charles
watches as the coffin is borne aloft. Dido's Lament is performed
by Susan Graham, in modern dress.
Standing at his monument,
Charles and Cooke, both in modern dress, remember Purcell.
Charles and Nell at the
Royal Court - the play is soon to close. Charles's play has been
rejected as a TV film.
Short extracts from the
film are repeated, with clips of the orchestra in modern dress, along with
footage of Benjamin Britten and horse racing, as testament to the legacy
of Purcell and Charles II (A Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra
is based on work by Purcell; Newmarket races established by Charles
II). The cast take their bows on the theatre stage.
With the closing credits
come scenes of pollution destroying 'this green and pleasant land'.
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Copyright belongs to Deborah Norris, 2001