MCM: Rowan Atkinson


Comic legend Rowan Atkinson is known for two key projects: Mr. Bean and the Blackadder series. The Blackadder series — set in four different historical periods, with Atkinson playing various descendants of the same family — is a huge one for historical comedy. But Atkinson has done some other period work, so let’s run him down!


The Black Adder (1983)

Wikipedia summarizes it well: “Set in 1485… the series is written as an alternative history in which Richard III won the Battle of Bosworth Field only to be mistaken for someone else and murdered, and is succeeded by Richard IV, one of the Princes in the Tower. The series follows the exploits of Richard IV’s unfavored second son Edmund, the Duke of Edinburgh (who calls himself “The Black Adder” [Atkinson]) in his various attempts to increase his standing with his father and his eventual quest to overthrow him.” His comic foil is, of course, Baldrick (Tony Robinson), who is much smarter than the Black Adder.

1983 The Black Adder 1983 The Black Adder 1983 The Black Adder


Blackadder II (1986)

The second series is set during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I in the second half of the 16th century. A much smarter Edmund, Lord Blackadder (Atkinson) interacts with the queen (Miranda Richardson), her lord chamberlain (Stephen Fry), and again Baldrick (this time much more dim-witted).

Edmund Blackadder, Blackadder II Blackadder II (1986) Blackadder II (1986)


Blackadder the Third (1987)

Set during the very late 18th and early 19th centuries. This time around, Edmund Blackadder (Atkinson) is the butler to the Prince Regent (Hugh Laurie), a completely idiotic fop.

Blackadder the Third (1987) 1987 Blackadder the Third


Blackadder: the Cavalier Years (1988)

A special shown as part of Comic Relief’s Red Nose Day. Set in the last days of the English Civil War (1648 specifically), Sir Edmund Blackadder (Atkinson) and Baldrick are the last two supports of King Charles I (Stephen Fry).

1988 Blackadder- the Cavalier Years 1988 Blackadder- the Cavalier Years


Blackadder’s Christmas Carol (1988)

Another special, this time a take on Dickens’s Christmas Carol, with Atkinson playing Ebenezer Blackadder.

1988 Blackadder's Christmas Carol 1988 Blackadder's Christmas Carol


Blackadder Goes Forth (1989)

Set in 1917 in the trenches of World War I, with Atkinson playing Captain Blackadder.


1989 Blackadder Goes Forth 1989 Blackadder Goes Forth 1989 Blackadder Goes Forth


Full Throttle (1995)

Apparently Atkinson is a huge classic car fan, which led him to play a famous 1920s race car driver, Henry Birkin.

1995 Full Throttle 1995 Full Throttle


Blackadder: Back & Forth (1999)

Lord Blackadder has made a time machine, and he and Baldrick travel to various historical and future time periods, creating chaos.

1999 Blackadder- Back & Forth 1999 Blackadder- Back & Forth


Horrible Histories (2015)

Atkinson played King Henry VIII in one episode of the comedy sketch series.

2015 Horrible Histories 2015 Horrible Histories 2015 Horrible Histories


Maigret (2016-18)

Atkinson played the fictional 1950s French detective in a totally uncomedic role!

2016-18 Maigret 2016-18 Maigret 2016 Maigret Sets a Trap 2016 Maigret's Dead Man

What’s your favorite of Rowan Atkinson’s historical roles?


About the author



Kendra has been a fixture in the online costuming world since the late 1990s. Her website, Démodé Couture, is one of the most well-known online resources for historical costumers. In the summer of 2014, she published a book on 18th-century wig and hair styling. Kendra is a librarian at a university, specializing in history and fashion. She’s also an academic, with several articles on fashion history published in research journals.

12 Responses

  1. Kat

    Blackadder will always be my forever favorite (any of them really, though I have a special place in my heart for Blackadder the Third and Blackadder Goes Forth) but I quite liked him in Maigret – nice that he had a chance to show off his non-comedic acting chops.

  2. Boxermom

    Blackadder III because Prinny! I must say, however, that the costumes in II are amazing.

    • M.E. Lawrence

      Yes! Hugh Laurie at his upper-class twittiest. By the way, I’m in Hampshire, England, right now, and so far we’ve taken the grandkiddos to museums in Newbury and Winchester, where they’ve dressed up in nicely designed and sewn costumes, including small repro helmets and stuff. Most important, this gave me a chance to lecture them about the important of caps and other headgear and of girls wearing their hair UP! (The 9-year-old looked fetching in a linen cap with lappets.)

  3. ED

    Much as I enjoy a BLACKADDER, Margret is my favourite Rowan Atkinson character – possibly because I love a good mystery and because it’s intriguing to see Mr Atkinson so subtle.

  4. Gail

    ah, Blackadder! So well done! and the final season (WWI) so very poignant. Hard to pick a favorite — what a cast of actors.

  5. Susan

    Blackadder in all the series, but I, too need to track Maigret because I love mysteries and I’ve seen the other Maigrets which were excellent.

  6. Ewa

    Maigret! I am a huge fan of the Simenon novels that were the source material for the series and ho boy, Atkinson was spot on as commissaire Maigret.

  7. MoHub

    I have a weakness for Blackadder’s Christmas Carol—especially due to Miriam Margolyes’ Victoria.

  8. A

    All the Blackadders combined are some finest comedy the BBC ever produced.
    And the ending to Blackadder Goes Forth is a punch in the gut.

    I love everything about Maigret except for two things: 1) there are only 4 episodes, and 2) the May-gray pronunciation they insist on using. It’s driving me mental.
    (I also hate the persistent “DarTAYnyan” pronunciation, but that’s another story)


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