A new portrait of Edmund Blackadder was secretly installed overnight at a stately home, to the bemusement of visitors.
Some mistook Rowan Atkinson’s character for Shakespeare, Sir Walter Raleigh and even Henry VIII when they spotted in the great hall of Audley End House, an historic Jacobean mansion in Essex.
The stunt was orchestrated by TV channel Gold to mark the sitcom’s 40th anniversary and promote two new documentaries about the comedy, including the first TV outing for the original Blackadder pilot.
The painting, created by artist Tom Croft, took 60 hours to create the Elizabethan era series two Blackadder in oil on canvas, which was set in an ornate gold frame.
Reactions to the painting were captured in a new video featuring Sir Tony Robinson, who played Baldrick, Blackadder’s servant and sidekick.
He said: ‘What an honour to have been asked to unveil this incredible painting – and what a cunning plan to have it installed by Gold in such an extraordinary location to celebrate 40 years of Blackadder.
‘Tom Croft did an amazing job at capturing Edmund’s witty expression, and I know Baldrick would be thrilled to see his hero hanging at Audley End House.’
Peter Moore, from house owner English Heritage, added: ‘The walls of Audley End House are hung with masterpieces by the likes of Hans Holbein and Sir Anthony Van Dyck. We also have an extensive collection of royal portraits, including Elizabeth I herself, so it seems only fitting that her court nobleman Edmund Blackadder should be displayed alongside her. After all, he’s been TV royalty in his own right for the past 40 years.’
New research by the channel has found that 71 per cent of Brits agree that Blackadder is the funniest UK sitcom of all time with 89 per cent saying they still find the show just as funny now as it was when it aired.
According to those surveyed, Blackadder taunting Samuel Johnson with his vocabulary is the funniest moment from the series, taking 41 per cent of the vote.
The scene sees Johnson, played by the late Robbie Coltrane, marvelling in his completion of the first ever dictionary, only for Edmund to offer him his ‘enthusiastic contrafibularities’.
Gerald Casey, Gold’s channel director, said: ’40 years since the show began, the nation still loves Blackadder just as much. From Edmund’s wit to Baldrick’s cunning plans, we knew we wanted to celebrate the iconic show in a way that celebrated its humour and history.
‘This portrait is an incredible tribute to a much-loved character, and we’re so thankful to have had Tony Robinson help us to unveil it. We’re excited for comedy fans across the UK to celebrate this momentous anniversary with us on Gold and enjoy the brand-new documentaries that show Blackadder as you’ve never seen it before!.’
Gold is airing all episodes of Blackadder from the start on from today, The documentary Blackadder: The Lost Pilot will air on June 15 – 40 years to the day since the first episode was broadcast – followed by Blackadder: A Cunning Story on June 16.
Earlier this month, Royal Mail unveiled a series of commemorative stamps which also mark 40 years of Blackadder.
Published: 1 Jun 2023