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Duel and Duality
Dual and Duality
The duelling theme of the episode is illustrated by the titlecard artwork.
Episode 6
Written by Ben Elton & Richard Curtis
Directed by Mandie Fletcher
Guest stars Stephen Fry, Gertan Klauber
Original airdate 22 October 1987
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"Duel and Duality" is the sixth and final episode of the third series of the BBC sitcom Blackadder.


Prince George has finally had a sexual encounter, but to Blackadder's astonishment, it emerges that it was with the two nieces of the Duke of Wellington (Stephen Fry). Blackadder warns the Prince that Wellington threatens to kill any who take sexual advantage of his relations. The Prince believes that "Big Nose" Wellington won't find out because he is still in Spain, fighting Napoleon Bonaparte. Unfortunately, he realizes that Wellington has triumphed six months ago and receives message that shows the Duke's intentions of challenging him to a duel. Horrified, the Prince enlists Blackadder's help and Baldrick suggests that the Prince finds someone else to take his place, as Wellington does not know what the Prince looks like. Blackadder prompts Baldrick to answer the Prince's objection that his face is known due to portraits hanging on every wall. Baldrick replies that his cousin told him that all portraits looked the same these days, because they were "painted to a romantic ideal rather than the true depiction of the idiosyncratic facial qualities of the person in question". In a second reply, Baldrick suggests Blackadder as the one to fight the duel.

Edmund isn't keen on the idea, threatening to cut Baldrick into long strips and telling the Prince that he walked over a very sharp cattle grid wearing an extremely heavy hat but realizes that his mad Scottish cousin MacAdder (also played by Rowan Atkinson), who has come down to London, could take his place.

Later, Wellington decides to visit the Prince, and Blackadder and the Prince are forced to impersonate one another so that Wellington will not become suspicious during the actual duel. During Wellington's brief visit, Blackadder proves a far more competent Regent than the actual Prince Regent, and helps Wellington to mastermind the Battle of Trafalgar. The Prince proves less apt a butler than Blackadder does a Regent, and finds himself on the receiving end of multiple assaults (both verbal and physical) from Wellington and Blackadder, who takes a certain amount of glee in helping maintain the illusion that he is the Regent, and the Prince a mere servant. After Wellington departs, Blackadder goes to see MacAdder, explaining his plan and offering MacAdder "enough cash to buy the Outer Hebrides" (14 shillings and a sixpence) as a reward for aiding him; unfortunately, MacAdder is busy with his kipper salesman job on the day the duel is meant to take place, and goes back to Scotland with Mrs. Miggins. Blackadder tries to pull out of the duel, but the desperate Prince persuades him to continue with the plan in exchange for all of the Prince's possessions (such as large amounts of cash, a lewd cuckoo clock and a set of pornographic lithographs). Blackadder agrees, uttering the famous line that effectively sums up his character: "A man may fight for many things: his country, his principles, his friends, the glistening tear on the cheek of a golden child. But personally, I'd mud wrestle my own mother for a ton of cash, an amusing clock and a sack of French porn!

The duel does not run along with the traditional lines of swords or pistols; Wellington is a proponent of modern weapons, and so the duel is fought with Vickers-Armstrong 4-pounder cannonettes. Blackadder survives the duel, as the cannonball Wellington fired at him merely bounced off a cigarillo case which was given to him by the Duke himself. The Duke, having grown to admire the "Prince", happily declares a draw as "God clearly spares you for greatness!" At that point Prince George enters and reveals that he is the real prince. Wellington, however, is outraged at what he believes to be insolence and, unable to contain himself, he shoots him.

King George, who has become increasingly eccentric and now believes himself to be "a small village in Lincolnshire, commanding spectacular views of the Nene valley", arrives on the scene and does not notice that Blackadder is masquerading as the Prince Regent. Having been ordered to marry a rose bush, Blackadder takes on the role of the Prince Regent knowing the King will never know the wiser and that Wellington already believes him to be Regent. He tells Baldrick to "Clear away that dead butler" and leaves grinning evilly, presumably becoming King himself a few years later.

Shortly, whilst Baldrick is lamenting over the Prince's apparent death, the real Prince awakes, apparently unharmed, in Baldrick's arms, before sitting up and mentioning that he too had a case in his inside pocket which shielded him from Wellington's bullet. However, after fumbling around to find it, he fails to do so, and declares that he must have left it on his dresser, promptly dying again upon realising.

Historical references and inaccuracies[]

  • When Blackadder and the Prince switch places, the Prince alludes to "that story-the Prince and the Porpoise" , a reference to The Prince and the Pauper, which was not written until 1881, well after the chronological setting of this episode. In fact, the novel's author Mark Twain would not be born until 1835, more than five years after the death of George IV.
  • When King George III appears for the first time at the end of this episode he speaks with a German accent. Although the Hanoverians are of German origin, George III was born in Britain, spoke English as his first language and never visited Germany.
  • At the beginning, Prince George returns home from "a night of ecstasy" with the Duke of Wellington's nieces. Later in the episode, Blackadder, masquerading as Prince George, discusses strategies for the Battle of Trafalgar, which actually took place on 21 October 1805. Arthur Wellesley had not received his title then and the Regency did not begin until 1811.
  • During the discussion, Wellington refers to Lord Nelson several times and that he will pass on the message of their battle plans. The only encounter the Duke of Wellington ever had with Nelson was in 1805, when he was still a young major-general.
  • Prince George mentioned that Wellington was "fighting in Spain" (presumably the Peninsular War) and Blackadder states that Wellington had "triumphed six months ago". The conflict started in 1808 and won by the Allies in 1814, the official year Wellesley achieved his dukedom.
  • In the episode, Wellington was referred to as the "Iron Duke". Although this actually was one of his nicknames, it was most likely given to him after the incident in 1832 when he installed metal shutters in windows at Apsley House in order to prevent rioters from breaking them.
  • Baldrick mentions that his cousin is in the service of Thomas Gainsborough. However, Gainsborough passed away in 1788, while the series takes place after the French Revolution (1789-1799).


  • The third series of Blackadder is the only one of the series in which Blackadder does not die (the Prince doing so in his place), Blackadder supposedly living the rest of his life as Prince George and later George IV, and one of two where Baldrick survives to the end (as he also, along with Percy, survives in the first series).
  • This episode has many similarities with the 2000 film Sabotage!, in which Stephen Fry also played the Duke of Wellington. In that movie, Napoleon set up a double to fight at Waterloo in his place. Additionally, Fry reprised the role of Wellington briefly in Blackadder: Back and Forth.
  • In the 2007 documentary Stephen Fry: 50 Not Out, and in the 2008 documentary, "Fry and Laurie Reunited", Emma Thompson referred to the scene where Wellington physically beats the Prince as being her favorite onscreen interaction between Stephen Fry (the Duke of Wellington) and Hugh Laurie (The Prince Regent) who collaborated on many series before and following the success of Blackadder.


  • The music used when Blackadder is hit, and is stating his will, is the Adagio in G minor often attributed to Tomaso Albinoni, although now it is thought the composer is unknown.
  • The music used when Baldrick is mourning the death of the Prince at the end of the episode is the Second Movement from Beethoven's Emperor Concerto.