England History Media

Charles I – Woke History from the BBC

Charles 1 _ Woke History From the BBC 

The BBC at its best and worst.

 I love history. I love good history.   But that begs the question what is ‘good’ history? It is something that informs, is true and gives as full a picture as possible. I would also add that good history is shot through with humility, intelligence and good writing/speaking. Good history is often uncomfortable – because it faces us with sad truths about people or movements we admire and identify with. Good history paints the picture – warts and all. Which brings us on to the English Civil War and the BBC’s latest drama – Charles 1.   It was after all Cromwell who said to his portrait painter – paint me warts and all.

All of us filter history though our own particular lens – the subjects we are interested in, the prejudices and the limited knowledge we have.   For example I once read a history of Dundee that mentioned everything except Christianity. It was an omission not of deliberate prejudice but just subconscious bias. The writers were not interested in Christianity and could not imagine that anyone could be, or that it would have any relevance or importance.   As a result they wrote a distorted history of the city that was once known as The Geneva of the North’ and which produced George Wishart, McCheyne and Mary Slessor, amongst many other notable Christians.

This bias does not mean that we cannot know or find historical truth – it just means that we do so with humility – knowing that there are things that we do not know.   This all came to mind when I watched Charles 1. It was superbly done – the BBC at its best – informative, dramatic, historical storytelling as it should be. But….

It was also the BBC at its worst. Because this was Woke history.

Take for example some of the quotes from the drama about the Puritans.

A sinister government faction – fanatically minority know as puritans.

Very intense Protestants – everything stems from the Word of God

The puritans didn’t really go in for joy – someone somewhere was having a good time….Although they did admit it was “much more nuanced.”

You will see immediately the caricature. Joyless, fanatical, sinister.   These are not the words of objective historians but of political polemicists.   The Puritans are described in terms which put them not far off the Nazis; it was the King who sliced off people’s ears. One man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter.

But like so much propaganda it is also just factually wrong.   So for example we actually had someone who was supposed to be an ‘expert’ in the Puritans stating “God will save you if you deserve to be saved”  – which is the very antithesis of the Puritan message of salvation by grace alone.   Here was someone pontificating about the Puritans who had 71NtoA217+L._AC_UY218_ML1_either neither read nor understood them.   I contrast that with the Roman Catholic historian, Lady Antonia Fraser, whose biography of Cromwell, is fair, balanced and shows a great degree of understanding of his motivation and theology.

It continued with this simplistic good guys/bad guys narrative. With clear allusions to todays UK – because of course the 16th Century English Civil War must be seen in terms of Brexit.


Pym plants the Irish Royal Commission evidence…I wouldn’t put it pass him…(Pym might plant his photos and some massive statistics on the side of a bus)….

 We were informed that Cromwell’s government was The Junta – who called it that? This is not impartial history.  Charles is portrayed as human, a confused, lost, romantic soul. His enemies are religious extremists. Pym used ‘fake news and smear campaigns. His methods were ‘replusive’.   Charles’s wife Henrietta Maria was ‘devoted to her faith’, whereas Pym was a religious bigot. She was a poor woman oppressed by men – having to watch the mistakes of her husband bring great danger to her. Apart from being patronizing it is historically absurd. We are talking about a powerful Queen not a Handmaids tale. Even when they discussed Henrietta’s alleged affairs this was discussed not in terms of whether they were true or not but rather seen as an example of the patriarchy attacking a woman for her sexuality!

And the propaganda wasn’t finished.

One historian in the programme says that “there was a very large Protestant minority in France who were not persecuted the way Catholics were in England”

Try telling that to the 70,000 Huguenots massacred in St Bartholomew’s Day massacre in August 1572. Although The Edict of Nantes in April 1598 ending civil war had granted the Huguenots civil rights the persecution was not over. In 1643 Louis XIV ascended the throne and began the persecution of Protestants again.

The trouble is that the makers of this programme reflect the woke culture we live in and especially the binary nature of it. It makes sense in the context of that culture to ask as the trailer does, ‘whose side are you on?’ But they don’t trust us to make up our own minds so the programme tells us whose side we should be on – the good – Charles 1, Remainers and Progressives or the Bad – religious Puritans, Brexiteers, Patriarchy, Populists!

Screenshot 2019-09-18 12.50.06            Screenshot 2019-09-18 12.50.31

The quality of the production does not cover up the bigotry, prejudice and propaganda contained within. This is not what history nor the BBC should be for.  Balance, impartiality and truth….can the BBC please return to its Christian roots?

The Noble Liar – The Influence of the BBC and the Meritocracy

Mary Queen of Scots – Woke Movie of the Year





  1. “One historian in the programme says that “there was a very large Protestant minority in France who were not persecuted the way Catholics were in England””

    Wow – that is breathtakingly bad history from the BBC!!! Just who exactly are these “historians”? We receive enough bad BBC shows here in Australia to see clearly how they have declined (the ABC is just as bad) but this is a new nadir. Absolutely shocking. Grossly inaccurate and a true insult to the memory of all the martyred and persecuted Huguenots.

    I don’t think it is stretching it too far to suggest this is more or less a moral equivalent to holocaust denial, in fact.

      1. Okay, thanks for clarifying. Yes, Louis XIV was only 6 years into his reign when Charles I was executed, so it would have been something of a “lull” relatively speaking in the persecution of the Huguenots – but only in relative terms.


        On a related note that I think will be of great interest to you, today’s topic on that French Protestant question and answer website I find hugely helpful was that of separation and church and state. As you know France has strict laws on this which have become ingrained in the culture over time, so the idea of a “Christian state” or “Christian society” are anathema there.

        Here is the modern French Protestants’ thoughts on the matter:

        September 17, 2019 No comment

        ANSWER: Secularism consists in separating “the churches and the state”: from there, faith is relegated to the private domain. While for the Christian all areas of existence have Christ as ultimate authority (Colossians 1: 15-20), secularism implies that faith has no place in all areas. By nature, secularism limits the authority that comes to God and does not bear witness and glory to Him. Moreover, if there are different forms of secularism, there is in France a tendency to eliminate traces of Christianity in values ​​and culture. Thus, the marginalization of the faith inherent in the secular movement necessarily contributes to God losing importance in the lives and hearts of people.

        For all that, can we attribute to secularism the rise of atheism? The churches have probably not made the best of the evidence: if secular states have emerged, it is at least partly because, with respect to Western Europe, Protestants and Catholics were unable to live side by side . And despite the separation of churches and state, churches and Christians still have the opportunity to witness to their faith in words and deeds: to them to seize the opportunities given to them.

        Source: http://1001questions.fr/la-politique-de-la-laicite-a-t-elle-encourage-latheisme-eric/

    1. Holocaust Denial is still illegal in UK. When I grew up in Scotland, people were allowed to be agnostic about questions that affected foreigners,

  2. “All of us filter history though our own particular lens – the subjects we are interested in, the prejudices and the limited knowledge we have.”

    This sentence should make us all think while dishing up history as fact . The BBC has gone out of it’s way to make programmes on historical conflict to show Christianity in a bad light , and I don’t think it’s going to change.”Christ” is spat out as an expletive in it’s drama offerings as everyday language , and it’s “Historians” offer personality , while tripping through travel’s of “enlightenment” on the gullible viewer’s behalf. Eventually such personalities will have graduated to the title of “celebrity” where they will appear on every cook and quiz show until the finally graduate through the gates of accomplishment , with either a distinguished degree, on Celebrity Come Dancing ,or a First with Honours on the independent channel’s , I’m a Celebrity , Get Me Out of Here ! Yep, send them to Oz !

    Supposedly, it was Henry Ford who said, “History is bunk” , whatever he meant by that . My understanding is however different , in that I am grateful to several teachers of history who were also deep thinker’s , and always offered the other side as a consideration. Christ , however blows history wide open and reveals to the believer another way , and an only way . His way of shaping mankind has little to do with empire building territorial gains or financial reward. In fact the opposite . If it is , as some believers say . “His story”, perhaps we are coming near the end of the book .

  3. You wrote an article on how the BBC is biased but then finished it by stating it should become more rooted in Christianity.

    It makes it seem like you’re not against BBC bias, but just annoyed that it is not biased in your direction.

    1. Nice try! The point is that Christianity teaches and practices the values of truth and honesty. That includes telling the truth about things that make us look bad. This is not about exchanging one kind of bus for another. It’s about truth.

  4. An interesting post.

    I agree with you that the BBC goes in for far too much ‘woke’ historical drama. It’s become a very bad habit.

    I’m old enough to know how much Call the Midwife is almost a text book example. Once it got beyond the episodes which were dramatisations of the what the original writer, Jennifer Worth, wrote, it became a series of stories made up to get across messages that the scriptwriter wants to proclaim. It has become a facile failure to make any attempt to get under the skin of who or how people were in the 1950s.

    I’m not so confident, though, in all the assertions you are making about the Charles I programme. Assuming it is the one that was broadcast during the summer, rather than some other programme yet to come, yes, I partially agree with you. It did not make any effective attempt to get into how seventeenth century people thought, felt and saw the world. Yes, it tried to draw parallels with the early 21st century which were simplistic and misleading. And yes, as ever, there was no proper understanding of how faith was part of the warp and weft of how everyone was then. It was, though, nothing like as bad in that respect as Hilary Mantel or Philippa Gregory.

    As it happens, I do know quite a lot about the history of that period, though from an English rather than Scottish standpoint. It hasn’t stuck in my memory that it was particularly biased in the king’s favour. He was so inept and such a bad king that it is difficult to make such a case. Whether he was the worst since 1603 or merely in the bottom three, he was dire. It is also certainly fair to look at all those involved, including the king, as politicians as well as true believers motivated solely by matters of high principle.

    There isn’t really a Brexit, Leave v Remain, aspect to the lead up to the Civil War. There are shadows of it in the events of 1525-58, but that is a different period. As it is before the union of the crowns, there’s no reason why any of that should be familiar in Scotland.

    There are though very definite resonances of the issues of 1625-49 in the cases about prerogative currently before the Supreme Court. I’ve commented before on the Wee Flea about how, because it is disputes about Brexit that have triggered arguments about prerogative and the role of ministers and Parliament, many peoples’ take on Brexit has coloured the positions they have taken on that litigation. It has in many cases resulted in their seeing the arguments about prerogative, the courts, the relationship between Parliament and government and the scope of judicial review quite differently from how they would have done, which side they would have taken, had the cases arisen about anything else.

    An aside, a digression from this particular post, interesting but probably irrelevant for now, is that because the War of the Three Kingdoms was 60 years before the Act of Union, the constitutional rows in the reign of Charles I have usually been entirely argued in terms of the English constitution only. Although much of the development of Scots private law was during the seventeenth century, one of the causes of the stresses in English politics between King and Parliament between 1603 and 1649 (both NS) was that James I arrived from a country that in 1603 still had a far weaker sense as to what its constitution was, whether a country might have one or need one and, if so, how it was supposed to work, than England had by then. That gave both him and his son a sense that their own pronouncements on the nature of their authority had more status than the English establishment were prepared to give them.

  5. When it comes to history though what is truth and honesty is always disputed. There are facts like saying where someone was in a certain year or how many people died in a battle but what makes history interesting is trying to understand why people acted the way they did and in what context and this will always introduce some degree of bias because it can never be known with certainty. Even within a Christian worldview, the reign of Charles I will look considerably different based on whether you are Catholic, Church of England or Scottish Presbyterian. With the current political climate it will look different from a Brexit and Remain perspective.

    1. I would suggest that it is extremely unwise to read everything through the Brexit lens! There are very few parallels and it ends up looking ridiculous….who are the Cavaliers?! the ROundheads? The Puritans?

  6. The Scottish and English QC , Aiden O’Neill , called Boris Johnson “the father of lies” during a submission to the Supreme Court.

    O’Neill obviously has a tin – ear for contemporary pejoratives . His grasp of Spanish history is thoroughly woke though, as this video from Oxford University will attest :


    It is difficult not to laugh at O’Neill’s moral equivalence vis – a – vis “stout Cortez” (of the Dominican Friar leadership) and the Aztec custom of capturing innocent victims for the purpose of deity – appeasing heart removal. Especially in an Dominican enclave of Oxford.

    Also , O’Neill whines about the newly – liberated Spain’s policy of offering Jews conversion or expulsion. He makes no mention of the Muslim policy of the choice of conversion to Islam or payment of “Jjiyza” ( tax on infidels) prevalent in Islamic Colonial Spain.

    Re South America, the reason that the indigenous people became Christians is simply because the White invaders’ military technology offered proof of the backing of a more powerful god so resistance was futile.

  7. One historian in the programme says that “there was a very large Protestant minority in France who were not persecuted the way Catholics were in England”.
    I don’t want to get into an argument about who persecuted whom the most but I would like to raise just a teeny, weeny question about the following statement:
    “Try telling that to the 70,000 Huguenots massacred in St Bartholomew’s Day massacre in August 1572.”
    Counting bodies has always been a bit of a tricky subject. Just look at the different numbers we are given about the numbers of people in a march or a demonstration. David Irving once put the toll in Dresden at 135,000 but more recent estimates suggest a figure of 35,000.
    So who was doing the counting in 1572 and how accurate was their count?
    Well, Wikipedia tells us that the figure of 70,000 was produced by “the contemporary Huguenot duc de Sully”. How accurate was his figure? I don’t know but I do know that figures produced by Protestant apologists for the number of people executed by the Inquisitions have proved to have been mightily exaggerated.
    Wikipedia says:
    “Estimates of the number that perished in the massacres have varied from 2,000 by a Roman Catholic apologist to 70,000 by the contemporary Huguenot duc de Sully, who himself barely escaped death.[34] Accurate figures for casualties have never been compiled,[35] and even in writings by modern historians there is a considerable range, though the more specialised the historian, the lower they tend to be. At the low end are figures of about 2,000 in Paris and 3,000 in the provinces, the latter figure an estimate by Philip Benedict in 1978. Other estimates are about 10,000 in total, with about 3,000 in Paris and 7,000 in the provinces. At the higher end are total figures of up to 20,000, or 30,000 in total, from “a contemporary, non-partisan guesstimate” quoted by the historians Felipe Fernández-Armesto and D. Wilson. For Paris, the only hard figure is a payment by the city to workmen for collecting and burying 1,100 bodies washed up on the banks of the Seine downstream from the city in one week. Body counts relating to other payments are computed from this.”

  8. Rev. There is a chronological gap between my rhetorical error post and your correction.

    Australia is a long way away.

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