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18 December 2019 02:38

Charles I of England BBC Four Lisa Hilton

Charles I: Killing a King, BBC4, review: A painstaking look at a Royal downfall

Charles I: Killing a King BBC Four ★★★☆☆ The Dirty War on the NHS ITV ★★★★☆ Christmas Day 1648: Charles I sat imprisoned in Windsor Castle, reading his Book of Common Prayer and lost in thought as Merry Xmas Everybody played away (yes, even then). It wasn't a merry Christmas. He couldn't engage in any "swiving" (bedding his mistress), and however much he told himself God would see him right, there was the nagging worry that he might just have his head severed from this body with the full backing of parliament. Will O'Connell as the doomed monarch in Charles I: Killing a King DARLOW SMITHSON PRODUCTIONS And there was the rub of Charles I: Killing a King — "the full backing of parliament". Like its sister series in the summer, Downfall of a King, this was history leveraged by the (loose) modern parallels.

After… This three-part series by historian Lisa Hilton is a follow-up to her previous effort from last July, Charles I: Downfall of a King (BBC Four). That examined his disastrous fall from power, and this first new programme opened just before Christmas 1648, with the melancholy monarch incarcerated in Windsor Castle, separated from his wife and children and with only his dogs for company. In his previous confinement at Carisbrooke, he'd been permitted to engage the services of a mistress, but now the mirthless Puritan grip had tightened around both the king and the nation. Meanwhile in London, Oliver Cromwell, triumphant on the battlefield and keen to impose his authority on the nation's governance, was living at the Palace of Whitehall and sleeping in one of the king's own beds. The camera-friendly Hilton, aided by a squad of historians and legal experts – including a barrister called Harry Potter – painstakingly laid the religious, political and historical groundwork. While Cromwell and the Parliament badgered Charles to reach a negotiated settlement regarding the respective powers of Parliament and the monarchy, Charles's unshakeable belief in his kingly Divine Right made compromise impossible (pictured below, Will O'Connell as the ill-starred sovereign). We learned a bit about Oliver Cromwell's "providential" thinking – since God had granted him military victory, he therefore considered it self-evident that bringing the king to trial was also God's will. You could see how this sort of thing could cause an awful lot of trouble. Cromwell helped himself to a bit of extra self-righteous justification through a vision experienced by Elizabeth Poole, "the Abingdon prophetess", though Poole later unhelpfully muddied the waters by reinterpreting her vision as being supportive of the king. When it was proposed to try Charles for treason against the English realm for the carnage inflicted during the second Civil War, which had earned him the sobriquet of "a man of blood", even anti-royalists were aghast. It's a morbidly compelling story, and the voguish Hilton brings a Chanel-perfumed air of fashion-conscious chic to the often dowdy world of academic scholarship. Nonetheless, the narrative moved at a funereal pace, padded out with decorative landscape shots or of Hilton strolling past Windsor Castle, while the reenacted historical scenes were wooden at best. Three hours of this seems too generous by about half. Charles I: Killing a King, BBC4, review: A painstaking look at a Royal downfall Historian Lisa Hilton brought chic to the often dowdy world of academic scholarship but otherwise, things moved at a funereal pace Will O'Connell as the troubled monarch in Charles I: Killing a King (Photo: BBC) Charles I: Killing a King, BBC Four, 9pm ★★★ Charles I: Killing a King is a three-part documentary series by historian Lisa Hilton. It opened just before Christmas 1648, with Charles incarcerated in Windsor Castle, separated from his family and with only his dogs for company. In his previous confinement at Carisbrooke, he'd been permitted to engage the services of a mistress, but now the Puritan grip had tightened around the king. Sign up to our newsletter i's TV newsletter: what you should watch next Thanks for signing up! Sorry, there seem to be some issues. Please try again later. Submitting... Hilton, aided by a squad of historians and legal experts, painstakingly laid the religious, political and historical groundwork for his downfall. While Oliver Cromwell and parliament badgered Charles to reach a settlement regarding their respective powers, Charles' unshakeable belief in his kingly Divine Right made compromise impossible. When it was proposed to try the king for treason against the English realm for the carnage inflicted during the second Civil War, even anti-royalists were aghast. As Geoffrey Robertson QC pointed out, it was technically impossible for the king to have committed treason, since treason is defined as disloyalty to the Crown. Eventually a cunning lawyer came up with the idea of charging Charles with "tyranny" instead.