The Blackadder Wiki
Born to be King
Born to be King

Title Card
The Black Adder, Episode 2
Written by Richard Curtis & Rowan Atkinson
additional dialogue by William Shakespeare
Directed by Martin Shardlow
Guest stars Alex Norton
Original airdate 22nd June 1983
Episode chronology
← Previous Next →
"The Foretelling" "The Archbishop"
List of episodes

"Born to be King" is the second or Later editions The Fourth episode of The Black Adder, the first series in the Blackadder continuum.


In 1486, King Richard IV departs on a Crusade. His younger son, Prince Edmund, thinks there's a chance to get some real power, but in truth, his brother Prince Harry takes most of the power and leaves Edmund to do the duties that remain: namely herding sheep and cleaning out the drains. Edmund's bad mood worsens when his father's military commander, Dougal MacAngus, arrives for a feast to celebrate Richard's impending return, and asks for land in Scotland as a reward for his service, ignoring the fact said land belongs to Edmund. When the land is given away, a furious Edmund plots with Baldrick and Percy to kill MacAngus. After ignoring Baldrick's suggestion to use a cannon, Edmund decides to try something more subtle. He finds MacAngus hunting in the forest and offers him a part in a play that is being staged at the castle that night. During the play backstage, Edmund replaces the actors' fake knives with real ones, intending to have them kill MacAngus onstage. When MacAngus reveals he has information that throws the legitimacy of Prince Harry's claim to the throne in jeopardy, however, Edmund reluctantly prevents the assassination.

Later, Edmund has the chance to examine the letters himself. They are dated 1460, his brother's year of birth. MacAngus claims Richard IV was last seen entering Constantinople alone, armed with only a fruit knife and facing 10,000 Turks armed with scimitars, seemingly clearing the way for Edmund to become king.

Soon enough, Edmund reveals the letters to the Royal court, claiming Harry to be illegitimate and the King (probably) deceased. At that moment, however, Richard IV makes a grand entrance, claiming to have survived "thanks to my trusty fruit knife!".

Edmund is surprised but tries to show the letters to his father, and it is found that the letters date from November-December 1460, nine months after Harry was born, and nine months before Edmund was born. Edmund is quick to claim the letters to be forgeries and burns them out of feigned disgust. In the heat of the moment, Edmund also challenges MacAngus to a duel; MacAngus quickly disarms him with a single blow of the sword, and with a sword to his neck, Edmund begs for his life, offering everything he had to Dougal. MacAngus pretends at first to be about to strike but then laughs, showing no hard feelings. Soon afterwards, Harry sees Edmund and Dougal keeping company, and believes them to have become firm friends. However, it is shown that Edmund goes through with Baldrick's plan and MacAngus dies in an "accident" involving a cannon.

The Pilot[]

This episode is a remake of the original unaired pilot, with the following differences:

  • The King is not at the crusades, but at home.
  • McAngus discovers that Edmund's parentage is in doubt at the same time as the rest of the court, rather than knowingly setting him up to reveal it.
  • Edmund's plot to kill MacAngus involves a hanging with a fake rope, not a staged stabbing with a real dagger, although the plan backfires in much the same way.
  • The King, Prince Harry, and Baldrick are played by different actors, respectively John Savident, Robert Bathurst and Philip Fox.
  • The King remembers Edmund and his name.
  • In the pilot, Edmund is Duke of York rather than Duke of Edinburgh.
  • Edmund and MacAngus have the duel, rather than having MacAngus slicing Edmund's sword in half before it could start.
  • Prince Harry is named Prince Henry.
  • Edmund's character is much more like that of his descendants in the other series: more sarcastic and cruel.



This episode is mostly a retelling of the original pilot for the series. It moves the action to the middle ages and removes the King from much of the action. Remnants of the original script include Edmund being much more vicious and clever than he usually is in this series and Baldrick being much dimmer than usual.


  • Among the acts for the feast are a group of Jews. The Jewish people had been expelled from England in 1290 and did not return until 1655.