Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Department of Silly History: King Charles I

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Loretta reports:

Being a comically-bent writer, I adore silly history. One of my favorite comic history discoveries happened in England, when a guide or waiter or somebody told me about 1066 and All That, by W.C. Sellar and R.J. Yeatman. Here's their take on CHARLES I AND THE CIVIL WAR:

“With the ascension of Charles I to the throne we come at last to the Central Period of English History (not to be confused with the Middle Ages, of course), consisting in the utterly memorable Struggle between the Cavaliers (Wrong but Wromantic) and the Roundheads (Right but Repulsive).

"Charles I was a Cavalier King and therefore had a small pointed beard, long flowing curls, a large, flat, flowing hat and gay attire. The Roundheads on the other hand were clean-shaven and wore tall, conical hats, white ties and sombre garments. Under these circumstances a Civil War was inevitable."

It goes on, delightfully.

You can listen to Monty Python's distinctive musical version of the story. And--in case your ears aren't tuned to British English--these are the lyrics.

The thing is, it's funny, yet there are sharp, shining bits of truth amid the comedy, some of which is black, indeed. But then, there's a lot of straight history, I think, that is black comedy or can become so with only the slightest tweaking. You can expect more examples in blogs to come.


Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Akin to looking to Jon Stewart for interpretations of American politics, I've always gotten my British history from Monty Python. The truth is always in there, it's just more fun to find...

nightsmusic said...

I love that title! I think I need this book.

When I was in high school, I had a test in World History. Who won the battle of Hastings in 1066?

Silly me! I answered Alexander the Great! lol I knew it was a 'great' or some such other title. My teacher never let me forget that, but he also instilled in me with that, a lifelong love of history. So I would love to know what these authors have to say about it.

Isabella Bradford/Susan Holloway Scott said...

What I find so fascinating is that, again and again, the English comedians turn to their history for inspiration and as a subject for parody, while Americans almost never do. Don't know why -- is it because the English audiences are more familiar with their own history to be able "get the joke"? Or are the English comedy-writers better educated about the past than their American counterparts? Or are Americans so uninformed about their own history that they don't even know enough to make fun of it? Or--worst of all! -- are we just not that funny?

I mean, when was the last time Jay Leno did a monolog about, say, the Monroe Doctrine? *g*

Elizabeth Kerri Mahon said...

Susan, that's one of the things I love about Jon Stewart. Did you see on the Emmy's a few years ago, when they spoofed a campaign commercial for George Washington? I think back in the 1950's and 60's comedians did spoof American history, but since so many Americans don't know much about their own history, it's kiind of hard to poke fun. A few years ago, SNL did a spoof of Thomas Jefferson trying to pick up Sally Hemings. I got it, but I'm not sure how many in the audience did.

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