i Editor's Letter: Eccentric views of history


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I couldn't resist a wry smile when I read the story about Madonna and Ben Goodman, the film extra who set her right about the British view of Mrs Simpson.

Apparently, Madge felt Mrs S was much-maligned and has been at pains to present this view in her forthcoming oeuvre about Edward VIII and his paramour, WE. Mr Goodman, who plays a newspaper vendor, disagreed – telling the singer-turned-director that the British people blamed her for the Abdication.

There's nothing new about Hollywood playing fast and loose with history, of course. It's a shame there was no helpful extra around to break the news to Roland Emmerich that woolly mammoths were not used to build the Pyramids in 10,000BC (2008).

And no knowledgeable minion was on hand to inform Mel Gibson that Edward III, who according to Braveheart (1995) was the product of a liaison between William Wallace and the Princess Isabelle, was born seven years after Wallace was executed by Edward I (who, come to think of it, unhelpfully lingered on for a couple of years afterwards).

Gladiator's director, Ridley Scott, was probably too busy computer-generating the late Oliver Reed, who died during filming, to bother about the inaccuracies in his sword-fighting epic. The emperor Commodus, portrayed as a patricidal maniac who died in gladiatorial combat, did not kill his father – Marcus Aurelius died of chicken pox – and was assassinated in his bath.

But hey, life would be a lot less entertaining without these eccentric views of history - and the snorts of laughter they provoke when we come across them.