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Charles II: The Power and the Passion [DVD] [2003]

61 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Actors: Rufus Sewell, Rupert Graves, Charlie Creed-Miles, Shirley Henderson, Martin Freeman
  • Producers: Emilio Nunez
  • Format: PAL, Subtitled, Widescreen, Colour, Dolby, Digital Sound
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Subtitles For The Hearing Impaired: English
  • Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 16:9 - 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Classification: 15
  • Studio: BBC
  • DVD Release Date: 16 Feb. 2004
  • Run Time: 233 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0000D9Y62
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 12,901 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)

Product Description

Product Description

Starring Rufus Sewell, Charlie Creed-Miles, Martin Freeman, Rupert Graves, Shirley Henderson, Helen McCrory, Ian McDiarmid, Diana Rigg.

Rescued from exile by a desperate Parliament, Charles II returns to the throne at the age of 30. As the Plague and the Great Fire brings London to its knees, Charles nurtures the wittiest, most lascivious and decadent court of all time. A sensitive and promiscuous lover, he entertains an array of mistresses including high-born Barbara Villiers, sparky streetwise actress Nell Gwyn and aristocratic French spy Louise de Keroualle. Still traumatized by the execution of his father, Charles is forced to play politics with the Parliament that killed him and proves himself a canny and ruthless politician. Meanwhile, with a lack of a legitimate heir, his squabbling family grow ever more frantic …


One of the better BBC costume dramas of recent years, 2003's Charles II: The Power and the Passion depends very strongly on its central performance. Fortunately, Rufus Sewell is admirable throughout as the saturnine, witty monarch who has retained popular fondness down the centuries in spite of his conscientious adherence to the bad and losing cause of absolute monarchy. Adrian Hodge's intelligent script dramatises the issue in quick sound bites--many politicians accepted the Restoration to avoid chaos and were determined to bring Charles to heel, whereas he was determined to defend the position for which his father had been martyred. If that meant handing the throne to his Catholic brother in default of a legitimate son of his own, so be it.

The four hour-long episodes cover the Restoration, the Plague and the Fire of London, the secret treaties with France and the Popish Plot, as well as giving us a fair bit of Charles's moderately happy marriage to Catherine (Shirley Henderson in the most hideously accurate historical hairdos ever) and his affairs with various mistresses. Among a number of fine supporting performances, Rupert Graves stands out as Buckingham, the friend who betrayed Charles. This sort of costume drama only ever works if the acting is as good as it is here.

On the DVD: Charles II on disc comes with a making-of documentary and a commentary on the first episode from writer Adrian Hodge and the director and producer. It also includes an extended documentary on Charles's back story--his education, his attempt to fight Cromwell's forces, his period on the run in England and his long exile--in which a number of eminent historians, including Richard Holmes and Ronald Hutton, talk about how he became the king he was. --Roz Kaveney

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Derek Vernon-morris on 20 Nov. 2011
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
All four long episodes of this classic BBC series are presented on two discs with a very extensive special feature section. Along with commentaries by Kate Harwood, Joe Wright, and Adrian Hodges,the Writers and Directors. There is a Documentary on the making of Charles II, and a more accurate historical Documentary, 'The Boy Who Would Be King'.
Rufus Sewell plays Charles II, tenaciously, and Rupert Graves, plays his impulsive close friend George, The Duke of Buckinghamshire, with whom he shared his exile in Belgium and France before being recalled by Parliament after the death of Oliver Cromwell.
Weaving through the intrigues between Catholics and Protetsants, king and Parliament, Dutchess Barbara Villiers manipulated Charles, and Helen McCrory recreates this fascinating sultry role with great panache.
As a contrast, bright cockney Actress Nell Gwynn out lasted most other Royal Mistresses, and Emma Pierson, brings this role to life excellently. Charles is reputed to have had at least 16 mistresses.

Shirley Henderson portrays his official wife, with an amazing wig from the fashions of the period, whith whom he eventually fell in love, Catherine of Braganza, from Portugal. It was at first a political marriage. Unfortunately their son was still born, and to protect them, and thwart Parliament, Charles would not name any of his children as heirs, but named his younger brother James as heir.
Christian Coulson plays his eldest son the Duke of Monmouth, who led an unsuccessful rebellion after Charles's death, and throughout most of the action, his old friend and advisor Sir Edward Hyde is played by Ian McDiarmid.
Diana Rigg has a small but powerful role as the Queen Mother.
The power and the conficting passion makes powerful viewing.
Read more ›
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62 of 67 people found the following review helpful By Nicholas A. Deutsch on 20 Oct. 2009
Format: DVD
This is NOT the original 4-hour, 4-episode version of Joe Wright & Adrian Hodges's excellent Charles II: The Power and the Passion, but the 3-hour, 2-episode version shown on A&E in the U.S. The longer original is vastly preferable, and there is no reason for anyone who has the capacity to watch Region 2 DVDs not to get that version instead. On that 2-DVD set, you also get interesting commentaries on the episodes. Oh, and in the scene where Nell Gwynn (sp?) poses topless for a painter, you get a glimpse of her, er... oranges. (Too much for the tender sensibilities of American audiences, apparently.)
Seriously, this is an outstanding collaboration between writer, director, designers and cinematographer (with the Czech Republic standing in for England!), and with an exceptionally fine cast. It was director Joe Wright's "breakthrough" film - before Pride & Prejudice and Atonement - and conveys real passion for its subject on the part of its makers.
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38 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Liam on 2 Jan. 2007
Format: DVD
Having just watched this DVD again, I've been capitvated anew by how good it is. Everything, from the music to the costumes to the acting, is magnificent. Rufus Sewell skillfully portrays the character of Charles II - cynical, witty, essentially good natured but determined not to go on his 'travels' again. The supporting cast are wonderful too, especially Shirley Henderson as Catherine of Braganza, Helen McCrory as Lady Castlemaine and Rupert Graves as the Duke of Buckingham. The spirit of Restoration times - that is, self indulgent pleasure seeking interspersed with religious mania - is captured beautifully.

I have a few little complaints to make. I feel that James, Charles's brother and eventual successor, is treated rather unfairly. Yes, James was very stubborn and not too intelligent, but in the drama he is constantly defying Charles and is often borderline disrespectful to him. As a believer in the Divine Right of Kings, James wouldn't have acted like that. Also, it would have been nice to see James's daughters, Mary and Anne, featured, or even his second wife, but I understand that time constraints probably made this unfeasible.

Diana Rigg puts in a good performance as Henrietta Maria, despite her English accent. There are some slight chronological inaccuracies however - for example, Charles's brother Henry was dead long before Catherine arrived in England. These are all minor points however, and are the only reason I'm giving 4 rather than 5 stars. It's a wonderful, exciting drama and is for the most part true to history.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By V. Ballinger on 19 Dec. 2009
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Being an enthusiast of the Tudor and Stuart periods and seeing this was a BBC production, I thought that I'd buy this DVD and see. It was good - really good. The production stuck mostly to factual historical evidence although Rufus Sewell's interprepation of the "Merry Monarch" didn't work for me. Charles 11 was known for his extreme conviviality - so much so that it was not appreciated by the senior Court associates surrounding the king. This wasn't evident at all and even his brother, James 11, was belittled in this production.

The acting of the mistresses was superb but I felt the interpretation of Catherine of Braganza, Charles's wife, was "over the top" portraying her as almost neurotic and lacking in personality. The painting of that period which I've seen of her shows a quite beautiful woman with a normal hair style! Perhaps she changed!

All in all, I found this real value for money. A good production based mostly on historical facts with an excellent "features" section on the DVD where we saw the construction of the sets in Prague and the most interesting was the interviews with the actors. Well worth buying!
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