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Wales Online
Wales Online
Lorna Hughes

Blackadder portrait appears at historic mansion house leaving visitors scratching their heads

A new portrait of Blackadder at a historic mansion house left visitors scratching their heads. The oil painting of the BBC sitcom favourite was secretly installed at Audley End House.

The painting, by renowned artist Tom Croft, shows the much-loved Rowan Atkinson character in his Elizabethan attire. It was painted in a classical oil on canvas style and completed with an ornate gold frame.

It left tourists at the English Heritage property in Essex bemused – with some even mistaking the comedy character for Shakespeare, British aristocracy and even Henry VIII.

TV channel Gold has now revealed it is part of a stunt marking the 40th anniversary of the series. It is airing new documentaries about the making of Blackadder, including Blackadder: A Cunning Story and Blackadder: The Lost Pilot - which includes the first TV outing for the original Blackadder pilot.

Reactions from visitors were captured in a new video featuring Tony Robinson who played Baldrick, Blackadder’s servant and sidekick. He helped sneak the portrait into Audley End House and has now officially unveiled it.

The actor 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."

Tom spent 60 hours painting the portrait after re-watching series two of Blackadder repeatedly for reference. The artist previously worked on the 'Portraits for NHS Heroes’ initiative during the pandemic.

Tony Robinson with the oil painting of Blackadder by artist Tom Croft (left) at Audley End manor house (PinPep / James Lindell-Clark)

Peter Moore, English Heritage’s Curator of Collections and Interiors at Audley End House, said: "At English Heritage we care for a remarkable collection of paintings, and 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!"

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Gold said almost three quarters (71%) of Brits agree that Blackadder is the funniest UK sitcom of all time, according to a new survey it commissioned. Baldrick was also voted the nation’s second favourite character with 62% of Brits in agreement, only after Blackadder himself at 81%.

Those surveyed said Blackadder taunting Samuel Johnson with his vocabulary is the funniest Blackadder moment ever – taking 41% 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 channel director, said: "40 years on 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."

Episodes of Blackadder are on Gold from Thursday (June 1) ahead of the 40th anniversary on June 15. Blackadder: The Lost Pilot’ will air on June 15 at 9pm and Blackadder: A Cunning Story on June 16 at 9pm.

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