|Charles II: The Power and The Passion|
|Directed by||Joe Wright|
|Written by||Adrian Hodges|
|Produced by||Kate Harwood|
|Edited by||Paul Tothill|
|Music by||Robert Lane|
|Distributed by||British Broadcasting Corporation|
|16 November - 7 December 2003|
Charles II: The Power and the Passion is a British television film in four episodes, broadcast on BBC One in 2003, and produced by the BBC in association with the A&E Network in the United States. It was produced by Kate Harwood, directed by Joe Wright and written by screenwriter Adrian Hodges, whose credits include David Copperfield and The Lost World.
It covers the life of Charles II - beginning just before his Restoration to the throne in 1660. He was deeply traumatized by the execution of his father in 1649, after the former's defeat in the Wars of the Three Kingdoms; it begins, however, with his penurious exile in Antwerp in 1658. The film's emphasis is on his court, and his conflicts with Parliament - essentially the same issues which led to the Civil War between his father and the House of Commons, the politics of who would succeed him - and his relationships with his family, his mistresses and his illegitimate son James, Duke of Monmouth.
The film dramatizes both Charles's laziness and frivolous diversion, leaving political issues to his chancellor Sir Edward Hyde, but becoming increasingly irritated by the paternalistic way which Hyde behaves towards him. Dismissing Hyde, he takes the reins of power himself, determined that his brother should succeed him in the event of his not having any legitimate children (despite opposition to James's Catholicism), and that Royal Power not be challenged by Parliament.
It was shown in the United States under the title The Last King: The Power and the Passion of King Charles II. This version, however, was heavily edited. The original British version is a four part series. For American broadcast, over an hour was edited out, and it was shown in two 90 min (with commercials, 2 hour) installments.
The edits often make little regard for either the script's continuity or coherence. Unless otherwise stated, items said to have been left out refer to the version shown in America and the DVD version available.
Many things are left out including the full details of the Treaty of Dover which contained a secret clause wherein Charles promised Louis XIV, his first cousin, to convert to Catholicism for an enormous sum of money. Louis also promised six thousand French troops if Charles needed them.
The edited American version also leaves out Charles's trickery of George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham (played by Rupert Graves) regarding the treaty's secret provision. Thus, Buckingham's later opposition to Charles's insistence that his brother James (later James II played by Charlie Creed-Miles) inherit the throne appears to be motivated by merely spite and jealousy rather than a feeling of betrayal.
James's marriage to Anne, daughter of Sir Edward Hyde, made Earl of Clarendon by Charles in 1661, is also unexplained in the American version. Played by Tabitha Wady, Anne is only in two scenes, when Charles meets Catherine of Braganza and later, in conversation with Lady Castlemaine as the Queen "took the waters" at Tunbridge Wells, where many noble and wealthy women went to seek treatment for infertility.
The part where James and Charles are discussing James divorcing Anne was also removed, further confusing viewers not familiar with the history.
The conversations between "Minette" (Charles' sister Henrietta-Anne) and Louise de Kéroualle with Louis XIV (played by Anne-Marie Duff, Perkins Thierry, and Mélanie Thierry, respectively) are all in French with English subtitles in the British version. In the American version, only the conversation between Minette and Louis, where Louis asks Minette to act as his envoy to Charles is in English (perhaps because of the perception that American audiences dislike subtitles).
Another scene edited out shows "Minette"'s husband, the Duke of Orléans, called "Monsieur" (the traditional appellation for the King's eldest brother), a notorious homosexual libertine, battering and raping her after insulting her.
All in all, the cuts made by A&E distort the picture of Charles II's personality and political maneuvers whereas the version shown in Britain displays much more fully Charles II's "shifty insincerity" (as Will & Ariel Durant put in it The Age of Louis XIV) and his willingness to sacrifice loyal servants at need. Indeed, the cuts seem to have been made with little regard for continuity or narrative coherence in the American version.
The American version presents Charles as the last "absolute" monarch of England. This does not dovetail with the historical reality (see the Durants and Fraser). In fact, Charles maintained his independence of Parliament in his last years only by taking French money. He also ensured his brother's succession to the throne not through royal command but through Parliamentary manoeuvres the nation's reluctance to see another civil war so soon after the First and Second English Civil Wars in the 1640s.
The full BBC version gives a more detailed, coherent presentation of the story of Charles' life and (temporary) victory over his opponents in Parliament.
Three scenes of brief nudity were also removed.
The only version available on DVD in the US & Canada is the one broadcast on A&E. The British DVD retains the full BBC version. Due to technical reasons, the most important impediment being the different television formats used in the two countries, see PAL and NTSC; also (see DVD article for further details on controversial "copy protection" measures), the British version cannot be readily viewed with the vast majority of American set-top DVD players. The aforementioned television format differences also make viewing a VHS copy of the British version difficult on US and Canadian TVs.
The production team and the writer made an attempt to make this version as close to history as the constraints of squeezing 27 years of history into 4 hours allow. The script appears to be heavily influenced by Antonia Fraser's bestselling 1979 biography Charles II. In the "Making of Charles II" Rufus Sewell states that he used Fraser's book as guide to his portrayal of the penultimate Stuart king.
There are some issues of fact which are altered or omitted in the script.
There are also certain omissions in the script.