Tuesday 9th May, 2006

11 AM Hatfield House, Hertfordshire. We’re using the Long Gallery here as rooms in Walsingham’s house. In today’s scenes Sir Francis entertain his brother. This is one of those scenes that people will write to me about as there are a number of key differences from ‘history’.

Firstly in our film Walsingham has a brother William, whereas we know that Sir Francis was an only son. So why do we have him? For me having this brother brings the intrigue, suspicions and fears of the age closer to home for Walsingham, so we can see the effects on him and those close to him. Walsingham can so often seem a distant, cold character, hanging around in the back of shot, whereas he was in truth a far more complex and interesting character than that. Our invented brother gives us a chance to explore that complexity a little more.
That’s not the only strange name in this scene however. At the Walsingham home we also meet Sir Francis wife, Ursula (who very much did exist) and his daughter Mary. The Walsinghams did have a daughter Mary but she died at the age of 7. The daughter we meet, who was around 21 at the time of the Armada, was actually called Frances. Having a Francis and a Frances in the same scenes seemed confusing to us so we switched the names round.
So do changes like this matter? Is it OK to invent new characters or change the names of extant ones? Let us know what you think.

6 thoughts on “Tuesday 9th May, 2006

  1. Dear Justin
    The purpose in telling a story is the story. If the essense of the reality that motivates the story is not destroyed, I don’t see details being changed or invented as problematic. Imho.
    love, Heather

  2. No, I don’t think it’s okay to make up new characters. It confuses people about history. If you are trying to tell a true story, stick to the truth. These characters may be minor and not affect the major plot, but if you have some inaccuracies, then people can wonder what else is completely fictitious.

  3. Justin, alot of what you’re doing reminds me of authors who are constantly switching narrators and often tenses in a novel. Some of them say that it was necessary to tell the story that way, I say that it is lazy and you’re efforts remind me of people who cannot come up with creative ways of showing the world what really happened, and trusting the audience is intelligent enough to go along for the ride. I say shame, shame.

  4. Dear Justin,
    I’m glad to hear that you are showing a bit of Walsingham’s personal life. The first film made it sound as if Walsingham was a single man, who put his work before his personal life.

  5. Historical accuracy is important up to a point but I want films like Elizabeth to inspire me, to convey the characters’ emotional journeys, their driving forces and to communicate the beliefs of an age very different from ours, e.g. the ‘divine right to rule’ that you say will be the focus of this film. I studied Elizabeth’s reign for a-level and even with my fantastic teacher it was still all about policies, decisions, intrigues. I found it hard to imagine the real people behind all this. I won’t forget the scene in the recent BBC production with anne-marie duff as the older Elizabeth when we catch sight of her completely unmade up – vulnerable and frail. This is what film allows us to ‘see’. Yes, some people will believe what they see on the screen, but if I needed the facts I would go back to the ‘primary sources’. I think it’s OK to alter details for the sake of creating a dynamic film.

  6. What is history?
    The ‘past’ is all those events that have happened. We can never go there, we can never recreate it truly faithfully and we can never know what it was like to actually live then. What we have is an incomplete record and without being able to entirely cast aside our modern lives we cannot know just what it was to be anyone in any previous age.
    What we have instead is history. History is a mirror we hold up in the present and as we walk into the future we catch glimpses in it, over our shoulder, of what lies in the past. It is not a true mirror, but bends and distorts depending on the ground we are treading. As such each era has a different view and sees the past differently. None is right, none is wrong and every ones tells us as much about that present as it does about the past. This is why every generation has the right to reinterpret history – to describe what they see in the mirror.

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