18th-century England and Ireland viewed through the eyes of four beautiful high-born sisters - Caroline, Emily, Louisa, and Sarah Lennox, great-granddaughters of a king, daughters of a cabinet minister, and wives of politicians and peers.
When Elizabeth Tudor comes to the throne, her (male) advisers know she has to marry. Doesn't she? Thus starts a decades-long political/ matrimonial game, during an age of high passions and high achievement.
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After the downfall of Cardinal Wolsey, his secretary, Thomas Cromwell, finds himself amongst the treachery and intrigue of King Henry VIII's court and soon becomes a close advisor to the King, a role fraught with danger.
In the eighteenth century, London is a city filled with prostitutes, pimps, gamblers and villains. In a time before the invention of modern policing procedures, the novelist Henry Fielding ... See full summary »
The focus of King Charles II (Rufus Sewell) is his court, his squabbling family and his glamorous mistresses - from the high-born and promiscuous Barbara Villiers, Countess of Castlemaine (Helen McCrory), through folk heroine and sex symbol of the day Nell Gwynne (Emma Pierson), to the French spy Louise de Kéroualle (Mélanie Thierry). It is an original take on a historical period written by award-winning Screenwriter Adrian Hodges, whose credits include David Copperfield (1999) and The Lost World (2001), which penetrates to the heart of the charismatic monarch who was deeply traumatized by the execution of his father.
The version shown in UK was titled "Charles II: The Power & The Passion" and its original running time is 235 minutes. It was broadcast on TV by BBC in four parts, as it is also on the UK DVD distributed by BBC. The longer UK version has also been released in many European countries (Finland, Netherlands and more) and Australia. The version shown in USA on A&E was titled "The Last King" and has a running time on 188 minutes, cutting it down by almost 40 minutes. The DVD released by A&E in USA is the shorter version. See more »
The Last King: The Power and the Passion of Charles II captures and squeezes twenty-five years of politics and debauchery into 188 minutes so well that the time focused and wasted on Lady Castlemaine, along with a few other minor warts, are forgiven.
Charles II, a less formal King with never enough money, trusted no one; and so he told half-truths. This fact and the many other snippets of historical information interwoven with fiction makes The Last King a worthy and most enjoyable period piece. It's also a spring-board for those unfamiliar, but interested in learning more about Charles II's Restoration.
Disappointing are the sets and physiognomy of the actors portraying some of the characters. There's also too many close-ups. Granted, these close-ups are supposed to convey intimacy between characters. I would have expected a better balance in the actors projecting the intimacy and the camera work.
Diana Rigg is stellar as the dominating, moody, and excitable Queen Henrietta Maria.
Rufus Sewell, although not swarthy like Charles's Medici ancestors, plays the King intelligently and with sensitivity.
Helen McCrory, who plays Lady Castlemaine, looks a wee bit too old for her part. In 1665 Castlemaine would have been 25. Charles 35. Also, Lady Castlemaine is known to have been very beautiful, tall, voluptuous, and with blue-violet eyes. I'm sure those familiar with these historical figures were disappointed when they saw otherwise, and perhaps were scratching their heads.
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