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Abducted - Elizabeth I's Child Actors

Shocking true story of children kidnapped from the streets of Elizabethan London to perform on stage. Katherine Rundell uncovers the case of a father's fight to reclaim his son.

The gripping true story of a boy abducted from the streets of Elizabethan London, and how his father fought to get him back. Presented by acclaimed children's author and academic Katherine Rundell, this intriguing tale is set behind the scenes in the golden age of Shakespeare and sheds a shocking light on the lives of children long before they were thought to have rights.

Thirteen-year-old Thomas Clifton was walking to school on 13 December 1600, when he was violently kidnapped. And what's most extraordinary is that the men who took him claimed that they had legal authority to do so from Queen Elizabeth I herself. Children are so often missing from history, but this tale has survived by the skin of its teeth. This inventive film pieces together Thomas Clifton's story from contemporary accounts, court documents, plays and poetry, with the missing gaps beautifully illustrated by vivid hand-drawn animation.

Shedding light on politics, religion, money and fame at a time when society's anxieties were played out nightly on the stage, it is an unknown slice of British history, both bizarre and sinister. The snatching of Thomas Clifton had been organised by a theatrical impresario, who intended to put him on the stage as part of a company of child actors, who were enormously popular with the Elizabethan theatre. He wasn't the only boy lifted from the streets for this purpose - a whole host of others suffered a similar ordeal. It was a practice known as impressment - forced recruitment into public service - which meant that children could be legally taken without their parents' or their own consent.

1 hour

Last on

Tue 7 Aug 2018 03:00


Role Contributor
Presenter Katherine Rundell
Director Susie Attwood
Producer Susie Attwood
Executive Producer Archie Baron
Executive Producer Helena Braun
Animator Ella Baron
Animator Andy A'Court
Production Company Wingspan Productions


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