Arthur, Kai, and two other Celts are riding through open country, their horses laden with goods obtained on a trading expedition. Kai looks disconsolately at two lovebirds in a cage hanging from his saddle. The trader he bought them from said they were songbirds, but they won’t utter a peep.

Hearing a call for help, the Celts immediately gallop along a woodland path, towards the source of the cry. But it is a trap – a rope, pulled tight across the path, trips their horses, and the riders fall, and are knocked unconscious. Someone steals the cage with the lovebirds.

Back at the longhouse, Llud tends a wound on Kai’s arm, while he and Arthur bemoan the loss of a whole season’s trading; perhaps a bigger worry is the theft of the four battle-horses they were riding. Llud suggests a visit to Yorath the Jute, to get some more.

In Yorath’s village, his daughter Rowena is berating him for sending her to marry another chieftain, Hecla. Though Yorath protests, “but you agreed”, Rowena refuses to go.

Arthur arrives, and tells Yorath he needs horses, for the defence of both the Celts and the Jutes, from the Saxons. At first, Yorath refuses, then he makes a deal: some horses, in exchange for Arthur’s services in escorting Rowena to Hecla’s encampment.

Rowena and Arthur set out, along with Arthur’s new horses. Rowena tells Arthur that she only agreed to the marriage to secure her father’s treaty; she thought the arrangement would be forgotten.

She wants to “take to the hills”, but Arthur refuses to turn a blind eye. She tries to bribe him with her jewellery, but to no avail. Then, while Arthur is distracted, she jumps on her horse, and gallops off. But Arthur soon catches her, and they continue on their way, with Rowena’s hands bound behind her back.

They stop for a meal, but Arthur won’t even untie her so she can feed herself. He tries to feed her some meat on a knife, and when she bites his hand instead, he goes off to eat alone.

Rowena manages to pull a knife from inside her boot, and cut her bonds. Then she frees some of Arthur’s horses, stows the knife in her boot, sits back down, and calls to “warn” Arthur that the horses are loose. While Arthur re-captures them, Rowena runs off again.

Arthur goes to look for her, and is hit on the head by one of three Saxons who have taken Rowena captive. When he comes to, Rowena covertly shows Arthur the knife in her boot, and he positions himself so he can get at it.

In exchange for her life, Rowena offers to show their captors where some monastery silver is buried, if they will ride there with her. As soon as she gets onto a horse, she rides at one of the Saxons and kills him. Arthur deals with the other two.

Rowena thinks that because she saved Arthur’s life, he should let her go, but he blames her for their capture, ties her hands once more, and puts her on her horse.

At Hecla’s village, Hecla presents Rowena to his people for inspection, leads her to the head of the table, pulls her onto his lap, pets her, and assures her that she will soon be a subservient wife.

While Hecla and Arthur talk politics, Rowena slips away.

Later, Rowena begs Arthur to help her escape, but he reluctantly refuses. Rowena accuses him of only caring about getting Hecla to join forces with him. Arthur tells her to stick to her agreement.

When Arthur sets out for home, he passes a hut with the cage containing the two stolen lovebirds, hanging outside. Arthur has his excuse to help Rowena.

Two days later, Rowena – under Hecla’s supervision – is getting ready to be wed, when they hear hoof-beats. They go outside to find Arthur, Kai, Llud, and more of Arthur's men, holding a group of Hecla’s villagers at spear-point, along with the goods they stole in the ambush. Arthur tells Hecla he still has need of a priest.


Botanist Lynn Davy comments that the fruiting Clematis (Old Man's Beard) seen behind Rowena in the scene below definitely puts the filming in September.

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“Rowena” appears immediately after “Go Warily” in both the “Konig Arthur” book, and the German DVDs, but “The Prisoner” and “The Duel” are thought to have been filmed first, followed by the short break which Executive Producer Patrick Dromgoole recalls as having occurred halfway through the filming.

Gerry Cullen, one of the extras, remembers, “When I came in, I was told they were making some changes … and the series was half done.” “Rowena” was the first episode in which Gerry appeared, so it was probably the 13th to be filmed.

The main change seems to be the introduction of new recurring characters, Yorath – the leader of a tribe we haven’t met before, the Jutes – and his daughter, Rowena. Brian Blessed as Mark of Cornwall, who has not been seen since the first episode, would also appear more often in the later episodes, though not in this one.

Suggested shooting order so far

Arthur is Dead
Daughter of the King
The Challenge
The Gift of Life
Enemies and Lovers
In Common Cause
The Penitent Invader
The Slaves
People of the Plough
Go Warily
The Prisoner
The Duel


For “Rowena”, the village at Woollard was cunningly divided up using bits of screening and palisade, so that the long, north-east facing side of the longhouse could serve as the Jutes’ village, mainly decorated with horses’ hides and skulls, while Hecla’s village was situated on the shorter, south-east facing end, and featured antlers as a motif.

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Patrick Dromgoole confirmed, “certainly the long house that we built and used was adapted for a number of different episodes”, and in later episodes, “the village was the same, but in deference to their architectural taste we shot it from two different points of view in long shot according to whether it was Jute, Saxon etc. or Brit.”

Arthur’s journey with Rowena mostly takes place on the River Chew, near Woollard. The place where Rowena refuses to cross the river looks like the same place where Arthur and Kai have their muddy brawl in "The Challenge."

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Cast notes

At the meeting with fans in 2010, Oliver Tobias recalled that “Arthur of the Britons” was a co-production,1 on which they had to have a quota of German actors, and that because the producers felt that Arthur needed to loosen up bit, they brought in Rowena for him, ‘in a Platonic way.’

Born as one of six siblings into a noble Prussian family, Gila von Weitershausen had been acting professionally since the age of 14, and was credited simply as “Gila.”

In contrast, the acting career of writer and director Georg Marischka only began in 1971, when he was in his late forties; Yorath the Jute was one of his earliest roles in front of the camera.

Peter Bowles has a long and distinguished career in comedy and drama on film, TV and on the stage; rarely has he played such an unappealing character as Hecla.

Inside Information

Patrick Dromgoole recalls: "One particularly touching scene I remember was where Gila von Weitershausen was emphasising her maidenhood in a love scene, when we had to stop shooting because her baby started squalling in the background.”2

According to Oliver Tobias, Gila was very nervous when she first joined the cast on set, and not a very confident rider, and they delighted in playing jokes on her, including making her horse bolt!

Re-working the legends

When they hear a cry for help, Arthur and Kai immediately rush to the rescue, in a very chivalrous fashion. But when it comes to Rowena, Arthur is more concerned with keeping his word than with rescuing a damsel in distress. It’s only when he returns to retrieve his stolen property that he saves Rowena from her lecherous husband-to-be.

The real Rowena

The original Rowena was daughter of Hengist, who – with his brother, Horsa – led the Angle, Saxon, Frisian, and Jutish armies to Britain in the 5th century. Initially, the group came to serve one of the leaders of the Britons, Vortigern, as mercenaries. Rowena was then married to Vortigern, gaining political advantage for her father.

“A man on a horse is worth ten on foot”

The importance of horses to the Celts is central to this episode. Having lost four battle-horses in the ambush, Arthur regrets not having had time to breed their horses, “As the Romans did.” Kai suggests crossing the sea to Gaul, to get more. Instead, Arthur pays a visit to “a man to the north who breeds strong horses”, Yorath the Jute.3

When Arthur arrives at Yorath’s village, he is, for the first time, seen riding a horse that isn’t white. This is presumably to emphasise the point that his horse was stolen. The horse he is riding is dark brown, with a small star.

His dismount at Yorath’s village is even more unconventional than usual. As a rule, a rider will dismount on the horse’s left, or near side, because – most people being right handed – the sword is usually worn on the left. However, Arthur has a spear in his right hand, which would be more difficult to manage if he were to try to dismount on the left side, so he swings his left leg over the horse’s neck, and dismounts on the horse’s right, or off side.

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After refusing to give Arthur any horses at all, Yorath ends up giving him seven, which shows how keen he is for someone else to solve the problem of getting Rowena safely to Hecla, with the minimum of fuss!

When they leave Yorath’s village, Rowena is riding Blackstar, and Arthur is back on a white horse, Bernie. He is leading two other white horses: Pinkie, and one we haven’t seen before, also with a pink mark on the muzzle, and a very long forelock, Binky. He is also leading Blondie, Merlin, Flame, and another bay horse with a star, either James or Charlie. By the time they reach the river crossing, Arthur is riding Skyline, and leading Bernie and Pinkie.

He rides Bernie when he has to catch Rowena’s horse.

Rowena uses Arthur’s horses as a distraction, and her own as a weapon.

When Arthur is leaving Hecla’s village, he is, for the first time, riding Binky.

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In the final scene, Arthur is still on Binky, Llud is on Curly, and Kai is on Moonlight – one of the horses which was supposedly stolen. Flame and Blondie are also with the Celts.

See this post for further details of the horses of "Arthur of the Britons."

Dark Age Men and a Dark Age Feminist

The story looks at the – sometimes unhappy – lot of women in Arthur’s world. In the opening scene, Kai even jokes that he should have bought a woman from a Greek trader, so that his lovebirds would sing.

The Jutish princess, Rowena, finds herself in an unenviable position. Two years ago, probably under pressure from her father to do her duty for her people, she agreed to marry Hecla when she came of age, as part of a treaty between Hecla’s people and her own. Now the time has come, she refuses to go, and calls her father, “Peddler of flesh!”

To be fair, Yorath does seem somewhat regretful about having to send his daughter away, and he is understandably frustrated that she has changed her mind. But his comparison of her to a half-tamed horse: “Daughters are not brought to heel so easily!” is not very flattering!

Arthur tries to persuade her that the marriage will have some benefits: “You’ll have a much easier life. You’ll be taken care of”, but proto-feminist Rowena asserts that she doesn’t need a man to look after her.

When they arrive at Hecla’s encampment, it is easy to see why Rowena hoped that her betrothal to Hecla would be forgotten. He carries and parades her around for inspection by his villagers as if she were a piece of meat, even asking, “How would you like a slice of that, eh?” He mocks her when she is upset, foists his attention on her, and assures her that he will soon have his “mountain butterfly” under his thumb.

A fine romance

While Kai has had flings with Eithna (“Daughter of the King”), Goda (“Enemies and Lovers”), and Freya (“People of the Plough”), and received favourable attention and help from Hildred (“The Gift of Life”) and Thuna (“The Slaves”), Arthur seems very much a novice where women are concerned, with little more than an unfulfilled promise from Eithna to his credit.

If Arthur is attracted to Rowena, he doesn’t seem to know what to do about it. As they set out, his first conversational gambit is the unfailingly annoying, “Your face’ll set forever in that scowl”, which gets him a well-earned grimace from Rowena. But at least – unlike with Eitha – he has the sense not to criticise her for riding a horse, or for wearing breeches, and by the time she says, “I need no man to take care of me!” he is clearly falling a little bit in love with her.

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Later, when he suggests that the cowardice of which she accuses Hecla was because he was “made timid by [her] presence”, perhaps it is Arthur himself who is feeling that way. But he is hamstrung by his promise to deliver her to Hecla; she bites his hand, and tells him she wishes they were both dead.

His bitterness at having to leave her with her execrable husband-to-be spills over into his sarcastic reply when Hecla thanks him for bringing Rowena: “It was a pleasure to accompany such a sweet-tempered lady.”

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When Rowena begs him to take her away, he is clearly conflicted, and implies that he might have considered it if she had been nicer to him, but that he is not going to “make an enemy of Hecla for a spitting cat.”

Rowena accuses him of having no care for her happiness. His reply: “Believe me … I wish you well” – is hardly the kind of declaration to melt anyone’s heart, but eventually he finds a way to square it with his conscience, and rescue her.

"I’m a man of my word"

Having established to his own satisfaction that Rowena consented – however reluctantly – to marry Hecla, Arthur shows his inflexible side. He is determined to deliver her safely, come hell or high water. “I gave my word to your father that I would take you to Hecla … And I’m a man of my word!”

One might have thought that, having discharged his duty to Yorath by escorting Rowena to her destination, Arthur could then have helped her escape, without having technically broken his agreement; he does split hairs like this in other episodes. But he seems driven, not only to keep his own word, but to make sure that others do the same. “I fulfilled my obligation to your father. Now you must keep your promise to Hecla.”

Arthur’s wisdom

Arthur makes no decisions hastily, but usually – as in this episode – he finds a way to do the right thing in the end. His restrained behaviour when Rowena bites his hand is commendable.

Celts and Saxons

Kai says that if their horses have been stolen by Saxons, they will have been eaten, and when three Saxons catch Arthur and Rowena, Arthur says, “It isn’t like them to keep their axes clean, with Celtic blood about. Or Jutish blood.”

But Rulf was both a Saxon, and a competent rider; Kai has already been treated with justice by Ulrich’s people, and when Cerdig’s slavers kidnapped the men of Col’s village, they even left the women and children alive, and free.

It is hard to avoid the conclusion that some of what Arthur and the other Celts say about the Saxons is based on prejudice, rather than evidence.

In “Rowena”, Arthur tries to use the Saxon threat to get the horses he wants from Yorath, but the wily old leader claims that “When the Saxons come, they find more trouble than they need.” Though Arthur is probably right when he says that Yorath is being protected by Celt lines of defence, Yorath is more concerned with his domestic problems!

The hot-headed side-kick

Kai has undergone something of a transformation since “Arthur is Dead.” Based on the earlier episodes, one might have expected that after the ambush, he would be the one who was raging mad, and out for revenge. But his reaction is quite phlegmatic: “We’re lucky we have our lives.” He leaves the fuming to Arthur and Llud.

Grumpy Old Men

The loss of their goods and horses has put Llud in a very bad mood; it sounds as though he feels Arthur and Kai are to blame!

Yorath is also in a bit of a snit, having had pots thrown at him by Rowena; the way he greets Arthur – “Whaddayou want?” – is not going to win any prizes for diplomacy!

“That is bloody dangerous!”

The start of the episode is quite fraught with peril, though possibly not as bad as it looks. Horses are supposedly tripped, but only one horse is actually seen falling, or rolling, and the same fall is shown twice. Neither the horse nor the rider who fall are the ones seen galloping along the track; the rider who initiates the fall looks like stuntman Terry Yorke, who played one of Mark of Cornwall's men, Mahon in "The Duel", and the bay horse in the stunt has lot more white on its face than those seen earlier.

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Oliver Tobias manages to avoid another head injury, and - despite her lack of confidence, and of protective head-gear - Gila von Weitershausen also survives a few canters, and being dragged from her horse, apparently unscathed.

“Night-night, Kiddies!”

Hecla’s threat to turn Rowena into a submissive wife may be the most chilling moment in the episode. Arthur’s “You still have need of a priest” comes a close second.

Dressed to kill?

Possibly as part of the “changes” Gerry Cullen mentioned, there are quite a few new costumes in this episode. Arthur has two new tunics, one mustard-coloured, and one, a white knitted affair, as well as a white lace-up shirt, and a purple cloak.

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Kai has a new brown and turquoise tunic. Yet somehow, both Llud and Kai again manage to end up stripped to the waist ...

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Arthur goes back to his ring armour for his return to Hecla’s village, while Llud makes himself decent in his studded tunic.

"By the Gods!"

Addressing Arthur, and possibly Kai as well, Llud once again highlights the fact that he has different beliefs: “thank your god they were more interested in what you carried, than your lives”.

Rowena fools the Saxons into untying her, by pretending she knows where some monastery silver was buried in an earth barrow, to hide it from the Saxons.

Hecla intends to marry Rowena in a ceremony officiated by a priest. When Arthur arrives to reclaim his goods, he tells Hecla he still needs a priest – presumably to shrive his soul before Arthur has him killed.

Great moments

Domestic scenes in the longhouse are always a pleasure to watch, and Arthur’s chat with Yorath is amusing.


Rowena: Just because you sired me, I will not be treated like one of your dumb mares!
Yorath: Daughters are not brought to heel so easily,
Rowena: I need no man to take care of me.
Arthur: I’m a man of my word.
Arthur: It was a pleasure to accompany such a sweet-tempered lady.
Arthur: You still have need of a priest.

On the table

It’s nice to see that Arthur is capable of doing his own cooking; he even goes to his pack to get some salt or seasoning for the meat he is cooking for himself and Rowena. Beside him, on the platter, is a piece of meat which looks as though he bought it from a supermarket!

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At the feast at Hecla’s village, we see the usual selection of bread, meat and apples, and there are some dead rabbits hanging up, as well as that stag from Rolf’s village! The bits of food the villagers are cooking in their spits look rather over-done.

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Extra! Extra!

When Arthur arrives at Yorath's village, a bashful-looking blond girl runs inside. The same blond girl is then seen standing behind Arthur, to his left.

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She then appears at the door again, with Rowena.

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“Rowena” was the first episode in which Gerry Cullen4 appeared as an extra. He remembers playing one of Hecla’s villagers at the feast, and says “at 19:48 I am sitting down in front of the table, and throw wine at a villager, who falls down.”

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By the end of the episode, he has joined Arthur’s side instead! Here, he is standing in the middle, next to Arthur.

Gerry centre

Honourable mention …

… has to go to the lovebirds, who give Rowena back her wings.

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What’s going on here?

When Kai is seen on the ground after the ambush, he has a head wound. By the time he gets home, his injury seems to have migrated to his left arm.

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When Kai says of their lost horses, “In Saxon hands they’ll be eaten by now”, Arthur’s response, “How d’you know he was a Saxon?” sounds rather paranoid. Surely he doesn’t suspect Kai of being in on the ambush? Perhaps after the incident with Roland, he hasn’t yet learned to trust him again.

Why does Arthur go to visit Yorath on his own? And why does he set his spear in the ground point up? The usual way to signal peaceful intentions is to drive the point into the ground, blunting it.

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The mare which Yorath claims in “only half-tame” was actually being encouraged to buck by a flipper attached to her hind leg.

See that mare (2)

When Arthur tells Yorath he has “no experience to judge” how daughters behave, and Yorath replies, “You will have”, Arthur looks quite alarmed. Does he really consider it completely out of the question that he should ever reproduce?

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He seems very relieved when Yorath – apparently in agreement that he is unlikely to produce female offspring – clarifies, “Not as a father! As an escort.”

Perhaps Arthur’s earlier expression of regret at not having had time to breed, referred to more than just the horses!

If Hecla rules a small kingdom to the south of Arthur, and Yorath’s territory is to the north, how is it that Arthur, who lives closer to Hecla, has never met the fellow, and yet Yorath has gone so far as to make a treaty with him?

While Arthur and Rowena travel on their way, you can see two memeber of the crew in shot. One runs across the path behind the horses, and one is walking in front of them. Presumably, the one in front of novice rider Rowena is leading her horse.

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When Rowena puts her jewellery away, there is one brooch that she slips into her boot, instead of putting it back in her bag. But by the time they make their next stop, the brooch has magically turned into a dagger! Or perhaps there is a simpler explanation: she wanted to keep the brooch to use for barter, and the knife was there all along.

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When she has cut her bonds, she slips the knife back into its hiding place, and by the time they are captured by the Saxons, it has very conveniently moved round to the outside of her magic boot!

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When they stop for a break, Arthur walks behind all his horses in a way that is not recommended.

Bite (2)

But these horses are so placid, that even Arthur, with all his flapping and chasing, can’t persuade them to run away with any enthusiasm!

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When they continue on their way, following Rowena's first escape attempt, Rowena seems to have her hands free, but moments later, we see her hands bound behind her back, and Arthur, leading her horse. But why didn’t he tie her up straight after she tried to escape? And in the shot where he is leading Rowena's horse, what has happened to the other horses he got from Yorath?

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Not that Hecla is any kind of catch, but his compliments to Rowena – “Isn’t that a fine woman, eh?” “There now, look at that! How would you like a slice of that, eh?” seem a little odd considering her tomboyish appearance. Hecla’s first wife must have been quite malnourished if Rowena really has “more meat” on her!

Rowena was quite persistent in her attempts to escape from Arthur, so why doesn’t she try to escape from Hecla’s village on her own?

How did the villager who was caught in possession of the stolen lovebirds know that they were supposed to sing? Kai couldn’t have told him – he was unconscious when they were stolen from him! And even if the villager recognised them as songbirds, why is he so annoyed? It’s not as if they cost him any money!

When Arthur says, “You still have need of a priest”, we are left to wonder whether Hecla is really to be executed, leaving his rabble leaderless. Like the line in “Enemies and Lovers” – "she got what she deserved" – the implication is that the punishment is death, and according to the blood price logic of the times, Hecla would have had to "pay" for his deeds, be it in money or blood. But execution seems a bit drastic in this case. After all, Geraint was killed in the fall; Hecla didn’t deliberately murder him, otherwise they would have killed Arthur, Kai and the other “red-shirt” as well. It seems more likely that Arthur would have settled for the release of Rowena from her promise, the return of his property, compensation for the relatives of the dead man, and a treaty.

Luckily for Arthur, he would have got his own horses back, in addition to the ones Yorath gave him!


Some of the music tracks used in this episode were:

Track 23, Arrival of Arthur: Arthur and Kai arrive on the scene.
Track 21, Celtic Bard: Kai’s lovebirds won’t sing.
Track 10, Battle on Horseback: the Celts answer a cry for help.
Track 23, Arrival of Arthur: Arthur arrives at Yorath’s village.
Track 33, Springtime: Arthur and Rowena set out along the river bank.
Track 23, Arrival of Arthur: Arthur goes back to fetch Rowena.
Track 30, Night Scene: Arthur makes Rowena cross the river.
Track 8, Kai the Saxon/Skirmish and Rout: Rowena tries to escape on her horse.
Track 34, Title Theme (bridge): Arthur and Rowena continue on their way.
Track 21, Celtic Bard: Arthur cooks a meal.
Track 20, The Fair Rowena: Arthur brings Rowena some food.
Track 5, To Battle! – Rowena gets her knife and frees the horses.
Track 10, Battle on Horseback/Bitter Victory: Arthur chases and catches the horses.
Track 6, Infiltration and Treachery: Rowena and Arthur defeat their Saxon captors.
Track 3, Celtic horns/The Longships: Arthur and his men arrive to confront Hecla.

The whole suite of music, beautifully written and orchestrated for the series by Paul Lewis, is now available on CD.


Arthur …………….... Oliver Tobias
Kai ……………….… Michael Gothard
Llud ………………... Jack Watson
Yorath ………............ Georg Marischka
Rowena ………......… Gila von Weitershausen
Hecla ……….............. Peter Bowles
Erig …………….…... Kenneth Colley
Villager .….…............ Hal Galili


Director ………….…. Patrick Dromgoole
Story ………………... Robert Banks Stewart
Executive Producer … Patrick Dromgoole
Producer ……………. Peter Miller
Associate Producer …. John Peverall
Production Manager ... Keith Evans
Post-production …….. Barry Peters
Fight Arranger ……… Peter Brayham
Cameraman ………… Bob Edwards
Camera Operator …… Brian Morgan
Editor ………………. Alex Kirby
Sound recordist …….. Mike Davey
Dubbing mixer ……... John Cross
Art Director ………… Doug James
Assistant Director ….. Keith Knott
Production Assistant .. Ann Rees
Costume Design .…… Audrey MacLeod
Make-up ……………. Christine Penwarden
Incidental music ……. Paul Lewis
Theme music ……….. Elmer Bernstein

1 With German public-service television broadcaster, Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen, usually shortened to ZDF.

2 There is no scene in any of the episodes where Gila mentions her maidenhood, so perhaps there was not enough time to re-shoot those particular lines.

3 “Moving forward, to the time of the Romans, in Great Britain, it seems the Roman cavalry horses, may have bred with the native horses, which produced a new breed, consisting probably of strains from every area from which Roman horses were taken. The effects of this cross breeding are not fully understood. Also, we do not know the extent to which the Jutes and Saxons may have introduced new breeds into England … We know, from an early high court official, that a law was passed prohibiting export of English horses, except as gifts, this suggests that the English horse was superior to many overseas breeds.”
Ray Cunningham, in “History of Horses from Ancient Times.”

4 Gerry Cullen offered these insights into the filming of the series.
Gerry Cullen, who was employed as an extra on "Arthur of the Britons", offered these insights to the filming of the series.

By a series of total coincidences, I was running low on money in Bristol when I heard that Harlech TV was having open casting sessions, to find extras for "Arthur of the Britons." I was hired, and worked until the end of the series. I remember often being there six days a week. Extras were only used when they need villagers to “fill in” of course, but I was very lucky; I seemed to get most work, probably because I looked the most scruffy.

When I came in, I was told they were making some changes (I don’t know what they were) and the series was half done. When I watched the DVDs, I saw that I was in some of “Season Two” and not in any of “Season One.”

Gerry centre

In this scene from "Rowena", Gerry is the person in the middle, standing next to Arthur.

For me, it was paid graduate school. The demanding schedule called for rotating directors, so I was able to observe their different styles and methods, and how they interacted with the actors. Most of the talk that I had access to was about blocking, director/DP discussions on camera placement, and lighting. I also got to see some of the very good character actors who bolstered the roster. That experience gave me solid confidence throughout my modest career as a camera production person.

The set was always very calm and orderly; very professional. It seemed to me that they were trying to keep to filming one episode per week, so there was a lot of pressure to hit the short deadlines for a quick turn-around; the actors and crew had a lot to do to make a half hour weekly action show. We worked long days; the extras would meet early, often about dawn, or before, at HTV Bristol, and usually come back late in the day, sometimes in the dark. The filming was extremely well organized and all the crew and actors created a friendly, but always moving forward, atmosphere.

Shooting wasn’t always in sequence; there was definitely some overlap between one episode and another. I remember hearing sometimes that a B crew was shooting cutaways and other footage at different locations, to help keep things moving.

Since it was all 16 mm film back then, all the good takes would have to be developed, and the dailies would have to be looked over. Film editing was very time consuming back then; the editor was dealing with many, many, short clips of film that would need to be physically spliced together, then the music mixed in the audio department, and titles added in the lab. I would guess a month at least from shoot week to air. If I remember rightly, it was airing during production, but I didn’t have a TV, and I only saw one broadcast episode while I was there.

Back then it was a big deal to have Arthur in the more primitive environment, rather than the glossy concept of shining armour and big gleaming castles and such.

I remember two main buildings, and some smaller ones to make the village for the Celts. The make-up area was in a tent; wardrobe was in there too. The Celts main building was often converted back and forth between sleeping quarters and also used for inside banquets. The series won some awards for the location set designs and costumes. The food was real, but no alcohol; the wine was grape juice. As I recall the boars were real but don't remember anyone eating them. I was a strict vegetarian for the about 5 years back then so I didn't pay to much attention to them even though I sat right near them in some scenes!

Speaking of the dining tent, the food was great but what I found intriguing was the afternoon tea break, where everyone had banana sandwiches; I had never heard of such a thing but they were very good.

With regard to stunts – from what I observed it was always Oliver and Michael doing everything; I don't recall any stuntmen standing in for either of them. When there was a group of riders I believe some of those were stuntmen. Oliver and Michael always did their own riding, and they both were very good at it.

Extras would get an additional £2 per day if they were involved in any stunts, or got pummelled. They probably don’t allow that today – too many lawyers – but it was fun then. In one episode, “The Marriage Feast”, a scene called for Mark of Cornwall (Brian Blessed) to storm off, mad because Arthur had just embarrassed him. It must have been my turn that day, as the director picked me to be thrown over Brian Blessed’s shoulder as he rampaged through the village, knocking people out of his way. We did at least 5 takes where Blessed literally threw me over his shoulder and into the air; he was a strong guy. Lucky for me, I studied jiu-jitsu in high school, so I knew how to land in hard falls, but it was still somewhat rough. I was disappointed when I watched the DVD; the take they used was the only one where he did not do that; instead, they used the one take where he just throws me down.

The Fight (143) The Fight (145)

I was involved in inside banquet scenes in two different shows. One was “The Marriage Feast”; I am sitting next to Brian Blessed, on his right. You can only see me in a quick wide shot at 14:45, and some back and forth over the shoulder shots in that scene, one is at 16:15.

The Feast (18)

In the other, I sit next to Arthur in a scene where Arthur and an opposing group, I cannot remember which one, decided to make a treaty and be peaceful with each other, so they hold a feast to celebrate.1

While Arthur and the leaders of the opposing group are inside at the banquet, some of the villagers from both sides have a knife throwing contest at a target. There is an accidental death when a knife misses the target and kills one of the villagers, and things get tense. A messenger rushes into the banquet to tell everyone, and things get tense. I remember that one well. It was shot of course out of sequence. In the filming of it, first the outdoor scene was shot, in that shot I am standing near the target when the man next to me gets killed by the stray knife. Later the banquet scene is shot and the messenger comes in and tells Arthur what happened, when he does everyone gets tense and I was told by the director to slowly start pulling out my knife as if a fight was about to happen. Normally I wouldn’t say anything to the director but I thought I better tell him I was in the previous outside shot and he might have a continuity problem if I was noticeable. But he wasn’t worried so he probably had plenty of coverage. 2

At an outside feast in “Rowena” at 19:48 I am sitting down in front of the table and throw wine at a villager, who falls down.

Look at her (14) Look at her (15)

In "Some Saxon Women" I am in quite a few shots but more interestingly there are good shots of the young woman that Michael Gothard was seeing. She is most easily seen in the scene starting at 7:00 where the two men look over the Saxon women who are chained up. In the shot where the two men stop and shake hands “to make the deal” was Michael’s girlfriend; she was German, and had a young child.

On set, Oliver was always the quietest of the three main actors, and was always very courteous to everyone. He was the youngest, and – as the lead – he had the biggest responsibility. While waiting, he seemed to keep it very serious. He was perfect for the role of Arthur, and he did a great job, even though he was not that experienced.

Jack Watson was the most laid back. Having previously worked on TV productions in New York, I already knew never to bother the actors; always wait until spoken to, and stay on business unless someone else brings up a topic, because they need their space to think about their lines, and get into the character, but while waiting for his part, Jack would often stand on the side among the extras, chatting amiably. He usually had fewer lines to deliver than the others, so I would think that made it easier to be relaxed, plus he had the most experience.

The most serious I ever saw him was on the occasion when, in a nice manner, he scolded me. It was very cold on some of the early mornings, so I had gone to a second-hand shop and bought the warmest overcoat I could find: a long dark blue wool coat, that only cost three pounds.

While we were watching a scene being prepared, Jack, who was standing next to me, said, “Are you a medic?” I answered, “No. What makes you think I would be?”

He explained that I was wearing a Navy medic’s coat; it still had the patch on it.

I told him I didn’t know what it meant, I just bought it because I was trying to keep warm.

He wasn’t mad or anything; he was just very worried that if there was an emergency, it would cause confusion. I couldn’t imagine anyone would think I was a medic, since – other than the coat – my clothes were those of an impoverished medieval Celt, but I realized later that he was a WW2 Navy man, so I could understand his concern.

Michael Gothard was probably the most physical actor. Even standing still, the man seemed to be moving. I noticed that whenever he was in a scene that was being shot, the energy on the set went up; I think he was the sort of actor who made everyone rise up without their even realizing it. Somehow, Michael began talking with me, and found out I had just been travelling about Europe, much as he did some years earlier. During that period, we hit the pubs a few times.

Whoever cast this series really knew what they were doing. The contrast between Oliver and Michael made for good interplay between the two. Oliver was sturdy, emanated inner strength, and kept his cards close, while Michael was lanky, had his energy “out there”, and was often edgy.

It was my impression that the three lead actors liked each other very much.

It is amazing how popular and long-lasting Arthur of the Britons has been. Many of the Brits and Aussies that I have known here in the US remember the show very fondly and vividly. It is an incredible testament to everyone involved.

1 “The Treaty.”

2 This indoor scene, where a messenger comes in to tell the assembled chiefs about the death, does not appear in the episode as shown on TV; the footage must have been discarded.


Arthur of the Britons

August 2015

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