BBC defends taking liberties with the life of Charles II death

In one of the most powerful scenes of historical reconstruction to be shown on the BBC, an axe falls on the neck of Charles I as he kneels before his executioner in Whitehall.

But viewers of the four-part BBC blockbuster starting this Sunday may be surprised to see the king's son, who was later to become Charles II, standing close by at the 1649 regicide and splattered in his father's blood.

In reality, at the time of the execution, the teenage prince was in exile in France, where he had been living with his mother, Queen Henrietta Maria, for more than three years. The current edition of the Radio Times criticises the scene as "pure fiction".

The apparent inaccuracy in Sunday's showpiece BBC1 drama on the life of Charles II, starring Rufus Sewell, Diana Rigg and Rupert Graves, is expected to reignite the controversy over history being rewritten in an attempt to provide more gripping television.

Adrian Hodges, the programme's writer, admitted in an interview in the new edition of Radio Times that he had taken "short cuts".

He said: "Although I have used historical background as carefully as I can, I am not claiming this is exactly how things were. In reinventing a period of history there are certain short cuts that have to be taken, characters lost or changed, chronology adapted." Mr Hodges suggested it was "more important to be convincing than authentic".

He said: "I'm sure a 17th- century Londoner wouldn't recognise 90 per cent of what we're showing, but I think a 21st-century TV audience will believe and get involved in it."

Kate Harwood, the producer of the programme, Charles II - The Power and The Passion, said the opening execution scene was a "dream sequence" and was intended to show the helplessness of the teenager in doing anything to prevent his father's death.

She said: "You know the things in dreams when you are trying to act but you can't. He's there, but he can't do anything.

"Drama does simplify things. But I don't think that necessarily robs it of essential truth, which is after all more important than fact listing."

Ms Harwood said the production had included scenes that probably did not take place, such as a meeting between General George Monck, one of Cromwell's commanders, and the Duke of Buckingham, a close friend of Charles, before the Restoration. The programme also "plays with the rumour" that Charles II secretly married the mother of the Duke of Monmouth, though the king always denied it.

The television historian Michael Wood joined the accuracy debate with a scathing attack on the writer Andrew Davies, who recently dramatised the life of Queen Boudica for ITV. Mr Wood said Boudica was "off-the-wall period hokum" and that "the absurdity of script and direction only made bad history".

He said: "The first few minutes said it all. Long-haired ancient Britons roaring like England football fans, knocking back beer, muddy faces daubed in woad, loose sexual morals ... you know the sort of thing. Not the remotest inkling of what an Iron Age society might really have been like."

The historian acknowledged that Mr Davies had done a "terrific job" in his televised version of Pride and Prejudice. "Davies is a great dramatiser, but let loose in a much more distant historical period, without the safe mooring of a great text he was, at times, all at sea."

HOW TV TWISTED THE TRUTH

CAMBRIDGE SPIES

Broadcast: BBC2, May 2003

Four-parter about Anthony Blunt, Guy Burgess, Donald Maclean and Kim Philby.

Criticism: Employs scenes that never happened, such as the spies starting a strike at university and defending a Jewish student.

SHIPMAN

Broadcast: ITV, July 2002

Two hours about the murder of Winifred Mellor by serial killer Dr Harold Shipman.

Criticism: Mrs Mellor's family branded it inaccurate and misleading over its portrayal of her daughters. Granada admitted some inaccuracies.

BLOODY SUNDAY

Broadcast: Channel Four, January 2002

Written by Jimmy "Cracker" McGovern and set in Derry in 1972, when the British army opened fire on a demonstration.

Criticism: McGovern was accused of bias and writing "fantasy".

BOUDICA

Broadcast: ITV, September 2003

Blood-and-mud series on the Queen of the Iceni and her battles against the Romans, starring ER's Alex Kingston.

Criticism: TV historian Michael Wood condemned it as "hokum", without "the remotest inkling of what an Iron Age society might have been like".

Sport
Lionel Messi pictured after reaching the final
world cup 2014
Sport
Lionel Messi and Thomas Muller have shone brightest for Argentina and Germany respectively on their way to the World Cup final
Sport
Brazilian fans watch the match for third place between Brazil and Netherlands
Brazil 0 Netherlands 3: Dutch pile on the misery in third place playoff
Arts and Entertainment
TV The follow-up documentary that has got locals worried
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Eminem's daughter Hailie has graduated from high school
music
News
Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
people
Arts and Entertainment
Original Netflix series such as Orange Is The New Black are to benefit from a 'substantial' increase in investment
TVHoax announcement had caused outrage
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

News
One Direction star Harry Styles who says he has no plans to follow his pal Cara Delevingne down the catwalk.
peopleManagement confirms rumours singer is going it alone are false
Voices
Mrs Brown's Boy: D'Movie has been a huge commercial success
voicesWhen it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Curtain calls: Madani Younis
theatreMadani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Arts and Entertainment
'Deep Breath' is Peter Capaldi's first full-length adventure as the twelfth Doctor
TVFirst episode of new series has ended up on the internet
Life and Style
Douglas McMaster says the food industry is ‘traumatised’
food + drinkSilo in Brighton will have just six staple dishes on the menu every day, including one meat option, one fish, one vegan, and one 'wild card'
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

(Junior) IT Systems Administrator / Infrastructure Analyst

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension, 25 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A highly ...

Sales Engineer - Cowes - £30K-£40K

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Sales Engineer - Cow...

Web / Digital Analyst - Google Analytics, Omniture

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client who are a leading publisher in...

Sales Perfomance Manager. Marylebone, London

£45-£57k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

Day In a Page

Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?