The Devil’s Whore

“It was a drama so ropey that there is only one exterior scene, where a wheel falls off a carriage as it’s going up a hill – and they didn’t even bother to reshoot it. The whole thing must have cost 14 shillings and sixpence!”

That was writer Peter Flannery talking about the 1980s drama By The Sword Divided in last Saturday’s Daily Telegraph. Surprisingly, it’s the only TV drama set in the English Civil War that has ever been made…until now.

Flannery’s The Devil’s Whore, is a new series which starts on Channel 4 tonight. It’s a tale set in the English Civil War about a fictional woman, Angelica Fanshawe, and it promises to be much better than the previous creaky old BBC drama.

Now By The Sword Divided might not have been up to much, but at least it had some c.p. in it. A father uses a cane to punish his daughter for refusing to marry his preferred choice of husband.

This is the same reason for which Helena Bonham-Carter was caned in Lady Jane. Unlike Lady Jane however, the caning is done over the skirts, and the outcome is very different too. The girl stoically bears seven strokes until the out of breath father gives in and accepts defeat. With fatherly pride, he then congratulates her on taking her punishment so bravely.

“You took your punishment well, like a Lacey.”

So that’s one TV series about the English Civil War, and one caning scene. Can this perfect 100 per cent record be maintained?

The early indications are quite promising. Angelica Fanshawe, the “Devil’s Whore”, is a strong-willed anti-monarchist whose character was developed from the confessions of women facing the gallows in 17th-century London for crimes such as robbery and prostitution.

ar 01She is played by Andrea Riseborough, who is best known for playing a young Margaret Thatcher in biopic The Long Road To Finchley. In other words, she is no stranger to playing strong, outspoken female leads.

According to the Telegraph article, she is feisty enough to be the fearless Angelica too: ” ‘Strong women like Angelica were ten-a-penny during that time,’ she asserts with a pout, when it’s suggested her character’s ballsy-ness isn’t quite what you’d expect of the period.”

Angelica Fanshawe has many lovers and we are promised plenty of fruity sex scenes and nudity. But will she meet her match in the shape of a man who will teach her a necessary lesson or two?

Skilled swordsman Sexby, who attaches himself to the Royalist cause before swapping sides, sounds like a likely candidate. He is described as a “a 17th century James Bond.” With the same sexist attitudes?

Riseborough says that she prepared for the role by trying on a variety of undergarments – one for each period in her character’s life, as she ages from 17 to 38.

“The knickers went from ones that made me feel youthful, to ones that felt saggy in all the wrong places for her older years!”

(The mind boggles at the thought of her using the same method for her role as Mrs T!)

af 01

Andrea Riseborough as Angelica Fanshawe

Apparently, the reason why there have been so few Civil War dramas in the past is because the Puritans are not seen as very “sexy”. Plus, no-one seems to know for sure which side were the goodies, which makes it awkward for scriptwriters.

Anyway let’s remind ourselves just how entertaining and rewarding for audiences the English Civil War can be, by viewing a scene from By The Sword Dividedand I don’t mean the one in which the wheel comes off the carriage!

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3 thoughts on “The Devil’s Whore”

  1. Thanks for reminding us about the CP scene in “By The Sword Divided” I remember watching that with utter fascination, as a teenager, while trying to look outwardly detached and uninterested as my parents where watching it on the same TV at the same time.

    Unfortunately I cannot get channel 4 where I live, I hope that “The Devil’s Whore” gets sold on later to one of the local TV stations that I get.

    As to who where the good guys in the English civil war the answer was neither. The Royalists where trying to create a system where the King had ultimate power, a situation that had not existed since the signing of the Magna Carta, destroying what was by the standards of the day, an advanced and liberal form of government that had started on the road towards democracy. Although the Parliamentarians where not all Puritans they where mostly influenced by the Puritans, who where a bunch of repressive zealots who believed in imposing their beliefs on the entire population by means of oppressing and persecuting anyone of other faiths or even other sects of the same faith. With the luxury of looking back at history I am glad that the Parliamentarians won, as that did prove to be a major step on the road to true democracy but if I had been alive at the time I do not think that I would have supported either side and would have been looking for a nice cosy cave to hide in till all the hoo ha had blown over.

    Prefectdt

  2. The spanko vote must go to the Puritans. Many of them would have a Sunday whipping session, where the only thing in doubt was the amount of strokes administered to the younger members of the household after church, as mum read the Bible and dad wielded the rod. The weekly faults would be totted up and made to count in the number of strokes awarded. By today’s standards, of course, this is non-PC and illegal, but at the time it was the in thing!

  3. Hi Reggie, and thanks for your comment – nice to hear from someone new. Well, I can report that there was a corporal punishment scene in The Devil’s Whore. Barely five minutes in, and a man was publicly whipped for refusing to vow allegiance to the king.

    Let’s hope for some puritanical punishments more like the ones you describe in future episodes.

    Hortic: I remember “By the Sword Divided”, but I didn’t see the caning scene or even know about it until I got on the internet. I did have a similar experience to yours though when “The Happy Valley” was on – around the same time I think.

    I suppose the main problem with supporting the parliamentarian cause is knowing with hindsight what happened after they came to power: Oliver Cromwell, Ireland etc.

    “A nice cosy cave to hide in.” LOL! Sounds alright, but you’d need broadband wouldn’t you?

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