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Charles II The Power & The Passion
Rufus Sewell stars as King Charles II in a tale of shocking greed and lust, set against moving accounts of love and loyalty.
In exile after the execution of his father Charles I, Charles II (Rufus Sewell) takes comfort where he can; in his illegitimate son James (Charlie Creed-Miles), later Duke of Monmouth, and among whores.
But news of Oliver Cromwell's death sees Charles' triumphant ride into London to be crowned King. This heralds another victory - the long anticipated seduction of beautiful, tantalising Barbara Villiers (Helen McCrory) who had been withholding her charms from the monarch without a kingdom for many a month.
With virile Charles spawning a growing hoard of children by his mistresses, the need to secure the throne with a legitimate heir becomes paramount.
Barbara remains confident of her own charms, and is unconcerned by the arrival of devoutly old-fashioned Catherine of Braganza (Shirley Henderson). Yet to trumpet her pre-eminence in the King's affections, she insists on becoming Catherine's chief lady-in-waiting.
Wounded and angry, Catherine's spirited rejection of Barbara unexpectedly awakens Charles' desire.
Meanwhile, a fiery comet in the sky is seen by some as a portent of doom for Charles and his profligate Court.
Soon plague ravages through London, forcing the Court to decamp to Oxford, while the English fleet suffers ever more devastating losses at the hands of the Dutch.
The comet is a harbinger of yet more tragedy as fire rips through London, beyond all means of control. Charles plunges himself into the thick of the inferno, risking life and limb to try and manage the flames. Alongside the devastation, the fire has a second sinister legacy: the masses rush to blame Catholics for deliberately starting the blaze.
Rufus Sewell: "I think the key to him is that he was constantly shifting and his sole belief was to keep the crown as it was the one thing he promised to his father. So he was capable of being compassionate but also cold and calculating."
Writer Adrian Hodges: "I found a character in Charles himself who struck me as immensely modern, someone who could speak to us now about the ageless issues of personal and public morality, love, sex, hate, fear, anger and death."
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