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  • This is a terrific series for anyone who is into history or English wars. Words cannot describe how good this is. My VHS tapes of this are old and ready to fall apart, (and they aren't even complete) but I still watch it every year or so.

    Also a great series for a history teacher.

    Unfortunately, it has not been available, but I believe that Acorn is releasing it near the end of the year.

    Watch for it, folks.....for anyone who loves history, it will be worth the wait.

    If you loved Poldark, etc, this will be a great addition to your collection.
  • qlbecky17 April 2005
    I only began watching the DVD set of this series because I had a friend visiting who needed to use my DVD player. Because I am not a historical fiction buff and didn't even know there was an English Civil War, I wasn't expecting to find it in the slightest bit interesting. I was very wrong. The writing and the acting really made the characters come to life for me. I cared deeply what happened to them, and the entire series captivated me. I also think the movie is a wonderful period piece, depicting life during that era. It laid out the history of the war without spending undue time on actual battle scenes.

    If I had to pick out just one actor to praise, it would be Tim Bentinck as Tom Lacey. His performance captured my heart, not to mention the fact that at that time he resembled a young Alan Rickman!
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I didn't catch the first series but I caught the second and thought it was great. The scenery, costumes, music everything was fantastic and that's all before the storyline itself!

    I think it was the actors that really hooked me though. Charles I at his trial was awe inspiring. His voice, his expression, his posture, even the way he moved his eyes was regal. When Tom Lacey confronted Sir Ralph it ripped my heart out but when he made the comment to Lady Francis "you don't have a mother." it was hilarious.

    They were all fabulous in this series, my list would be endless if I named them all.

    Also very historically accurate and informative. The trial and the witchburning episodes in particular.

    I've been trying to find VHS of both 1 & 2 as well for several years now and no luck. sigh wistfully...
  • chuffnobbler19 August 2007
    Warning: Spoilers
    The story of the English Civil War told through the eyes of one family.

    The Parliamanetarians (aka Roundheads), led by General Oliver Cromwell, overthrow the Royalists (aka Cavaliers), led by King Charles I. Charles is executed, and England becomes a Puritan state until Cromwell's death. With no strong leadership, the Royalists are able to reassert themselves, leading to Charles's son (King Chalres II) assuming the throne.

    The Royalist Lacey family, in their castle at Arnescote, is divided when eldest daughter Anne marries a leading Parliamentarian. Before long, Sir Martin Lacey (Julian Glover) is dead; the family's slow self-destruction mirrors that of the country as a whole.

    Glorious scripts and dialogue. Beautiful locations, sets and costumes. Some outstanding performances and some memorable characters among the family and the servants. The great Peter Jeffrey makes Cromwell rather sympathetic, when he eventually appears. King Charles I's trial is taken from the original transcripts, and is utterly powerful and gripping. There are memorable scenes and characters galore: the siege of Arnescote at the end of the first series; the spiteful priest of the second series; John Fletcher's bluff, confident father; duplicitous cousin Susan. Battles, spying, swordfights, seedy London backstreets ... this is the stuff of great British telly.

    A special mention is reserved for one of the best character actresses of all time, Eileen Way, who plays the kitchen crone-in-residence, Minty, and for Rosalie Crutchley as the tower of strength housekeeper Goodwife Margaret.

    The standout episode, for me, is the witchfinder episode from series two. Utterly harrowing, as poor kitchengirl Rachel finds herself the victim of circumstance and gossip. Debbie Goodman's performance stayed with me for days afterwards, and it's a real shame that IMDb suggests she didn't do anything more. If you read this, Debbie, thanks for a startling piece of TV.

    The only disappointment in the whole of By the Sword Divided is that the music composers were obviously working on the BBC's Miss Marple at the same time as this!
  • This is a mainly forgotten show . It was released in a blaze of publicity by the BBC with the tag that it was the most expensive historical drama ever made by the BBC . In an era of GAME OF THRONES and other shows that have truly cinematic production values watching a 1983 series from the beeb means the acting is somewhat stagey and theatrical with production values that are rather dated , but if you like historical dramas there's a lot to recommend from this show

    Series one revolves around the lead up and fighting during the English civil war . King Charles is raising an army from Catholic Ireland and the Protestant parliamentarians are out to stop him . Certainly there's some bias from the narrative where the audiences sympathy are asked to lie with the Lacey family especially the noble Sir Martin Lacey and his son the swashbuckling Tom Lacey . To its credit what the drama does very well is paint the English Civil War not as a conflict between the divine right of kings against democratic parliamentarians but as a religious war between Catholics and evangelical Protestants similar to the type of present day conflict between Sunni Muslims and Shia Muslims . In fact for a drama broadcast pre watershed on a Sunday night just after SONGS OF PRAISE there is a very gritty element to the dialogue with constant references to "whores" and "papists" with Hannibal Marsh having a very unhealthy interest in wanting to rid the world of said whores and papists

    Series two revolves around the aftermath of the civil war with Cromwell now in power. With Sir Martin Lacey written out of the series I did think I was going to miss Julian Glover's excellent performance as Sir Martin but this is quickly forgotten as Peter Jeffrey's performance as Oliver Cromwell takes centre stage . This is a historically warts and all portrait of Cromwell who isn't trying to replace monarchy with parliamentary democracy but a machevillian dictator who wants to replace tyranny with more tyranny . Actually one point the writers do get wrong is painting the Levellers as good guys and while they did want to introduce a small modicum of democracy to the people it was no more than a small modicum . In reality the democracy we know in this country owes far more to the chartist movement of the early 19th century rather than Cromwell or the Levellers . Another slight irritant to the production is the rather intrusive and manipulative incidental music played over every pivotal or emotional scene

    As it stands BY THE SWORD DIVIDED is an impressive drama made when network TV stations made impressive dramas . You have to meet it on its own terms to a degree and the somewhat static camera work and production values might put some people off but if you like history as a subject then you'll like this show
  • BeRightBack13 October 2017
    I will echo that this series is a classic. (I wish I could find it on DVD at a price I can afford! Guess I'll start saving my pennies.)

    As we know, the topic is the English Civil War, told through the eyes of the members of a noble(?) house divided among Royalists and Parliamentarians, with almost no one getting a happy ending.

    The cast is top notch, the writing is great, and the costumes are superb. Hair is on point for the period (for the women, anyhow - some of the men have eighties hair).

    The choreography for the sword fights is astonishing (astonishing!), as is the staging for the battle scenes. All before CGI, folks! (Furthermore - at least one important cast member made it to an equally important role on CGI-fest Game of Thrones.)

    The only not-so-great aspect of this great series is the music - aspirational faux-cavalier composition that detracts from this fabulous show. Again, very of-the-eighties.

    Love it; can't recommend it highly enough.
  • bard-3221 February 2009
    I first saw this on Masterpiece Theater back in 1986. I think it was a repeat. It'd about two families. The Laceys, who are Royalists, (people loyal to King Charles I,) and the Fletchers, who are Roundheads, (people loyal to Oliver Cromwell, and by extension, Parliament.) Very good. The Laceys are Royalists, (Cavaliers,) who support the English monarchy, and King Charles I.

    Charles I, who as everyone knows, or should know, was England's first absolute monarch since King John, prior to the signing of the Magna Carta, at Runnymede in 1215. The Fletchers, Roundheads, (Parliamentarians,) are upset with King Charles because he repeatedly dismissed Parliament. The Parliament that rebelled against Charles I was known as the Rump Parliament, part of the Long Parliament, which refused to be dismissed, until Oliver Cromwell became the Lord Protector of the English Commonwealth, which lasted until his death in 1659. and the Restoration of King Charles II.
  • I have looked for this series since first seeing it when it was new. It is very well done and reveals the divisions that split families, much as was done in the Wars of The Roses in the 15th C { York / Lancaster } and in the United States { Union and Confederacy } in the 1860's.

    I am a staunch monarchist and have a photograph of the martyred King Charles 1 in my home. On 30 January { 1649 } I fly the English Medieval Flag at Half Mast.

    There is an expression regarding people you despise being on fire and reluctance to extinguish the flames. Thus my opinion of Oliver Cromwell.

    By the way, England has never been a republic. From the death of Charles 1 in 1649 his son, also Charles, became Charles 11.
  • Another great period drama from the BBC; two series were made between 1983 and 1985. It follows the fortunes of a Royalist family, the Laceys, during the English Civil War. As the title might suggest, they are torn apart by their opposing politics, with ultimately deadly results. This for me is one of the occasions when the combination of a great script and convincing performances elevate the result to something far greater than the sum of the parts.

    I've read some commentary that says that it is heavily biased towards the Royalist perspective, although I disagree, and think they give both sides a fair and sympathetic representation. The characters are wholly relatable in a modern sense, which is not always the case even in the best period dramas, and the human cost of the conflict is a key part of the story. There are some stand out scenes, including a witch trial and the political machinations surrounding the trial and execution of the King.