Bonnie Prince Charles Edward Louis Stuart (1720 – 1788), whose grandfather was James II of England, assumed command of French expeditionary forces in 1744 after obtaining the support of the French government for a projected invasion of England.
He was persisting in the Stuart’s determination to drive Hanoverian King George II (1714-1727) from the throne of England and his cause and raising the funds to fulfill it during the years leading up to the ill-feted Battle of Culloden in 1746, is the event at the heart of Series 2 of STARZ television series Outlander, which has acquired fans all around the world.
Outlander is taken from a series of fictional books by Diana Gabaldon, about a feisty ‘Sassenach’ Claire Randall (Catriona Balfe), who is transported in time from a stone circle at Craigh na Dun to the early eighteenth century in Scotland where she meets and marries a handsome Highlander Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan).
He’s not her first love, back before World War II she had been married to academic Frank Randall (Tobias Menzies). Having spent nearly a decade apart, after it was over they had gone on a second honeymoon to Scotland where they hoped to rekindle their romance.
Then suddenly and inexplicably she disappeared.
By the end of Season One during the first half of the eighteenth century, the former WW II nurse Claire and her handsome kilt wearing Scot Jamie were found sailing off to France where a new independent, rich, less discreetly immoral society are clamouring for novelty.
The audience by then were also hoping for a brief respite from the continuing gut-wrenching emotional turmoil the finale of the first season supplied.
This was brought about by Jamie’s horrific physical and sexual abuse in prison by an English redcoat Black Jack (Jonathan) Randall, who looks like Claire’s husband in the twentieth century Frank – his evil ancestral twin.
The series is packed full of fine performances by principals, supported by an outstanding cast and crew.
It’s hard not to be seduced by the glorious visuals, the fabulous costumes, the sensational and often-sensuous music composed by Emmy nominee for Outstanding Original Score, Brear McCreary. It grabs both your heart and mind.
The first six episodes have taken place mostly in France. While creeping along slowly at first, the chain of events as they have progressed have become far more complex, taking their toll on everyone, especially a very pregnant Claire.
In Episode Six, the most emotionally charged so far in Series 2, the best-laid schemes it seems always go astray.
Nobody’s perfect; so if you don’t want spoilers please don’t read on!
All the spanners Jamie and Claire have plotted and schemed to throw into the works to stop the wheels of history irrevocably turning so far have basically failed to achieve their objective.
The strength of the characters in Outlander and the brilliant story telling of the principal characters tumultuous life has certainly been overwhelming again at times, as we build up to a mid term break in Season 2.
We will all need it!
Wearing fashionable clothes made of rustling silk, while moving about or dining in grand salons with Kings, Princes, Counts and Countesses for company while drinking the finest wines and picking what you like from glorious buffets of food we find out, is not it seems all it’s cracked up to be.
It’s downright dangerous!
Episode One saw Frank and Claire back in 1948 arriving in Boston where he’s been offered a post at Harvard University.
Taking his hand, Claire finds herself back with Jamie arriving in France with his faithul guardian angel, his godfather Murtagh Fraser (Duncan Lacroix) by their side.
Jamie hopes to meet and infiltrate the people surrounding the infamous King over the Sea, Bonnie Prince Charlie himself. However, having run foul of the aristocratic Comte St. Germain (Stanley Weber) on Le Havre docks, its not going to be easy.
Jared Jamie’s cousin a successful Parisian merchant after seeing the scars on Jamie’s back, sets his relative up royally managing his wine business, while he travels overseas. Located in Paris his house will be the perfect place and the perfect set up for Jamie and Claire as they try to change the course of history.
They find themselves living in beauteous boiserie-lined rooms where they can at last live a life of married bliss, or can they, with Black Jack Randall and his cruelty continuing to haunt Jamie’s dreams.
Will time prove to be a healer after all?
They have excellent introductions into Parisian social life where at a soiree they encounter an old friend from Jamie’s past, the very lovely Annalise de Marillac (Margaux Chatelier).
Jamie is through Annalise’s introduction invited to meet The Young Pretender King, of all places at Maison de Madame Elise a brothel, high class, but nevertheless a den of thieves and dissolute people.
She also introduces them to the French Minister of Finance Joseph Duverney (Marc Duret) and another altogether nasty piece of work, the very English Duke of Sandringham (Simon Callow). He’s a supporter of The Young Pretender’s cause, or is he… charming and friendly… he’s much like a snake in the grass.
Meanwhile Murtagh Jamie’s guardian angel is intent on keeping Jamie fit and ready for sword fighting action, just in case events don’t run as smoothly as everyone would like.
As we move along believing Captain Black Jack Randall is dead, Jamie is kept busy finding his feet in his new world of politics via his new association with the potential King of England and playing the game of chess with Duverney.
But what is politics but chess on a grand scale….
Claire finds her feet and meets a like soul, a new friend in the healing stakes, Monsieur Raymond (Dominique Pinon) an apothecary, a man she believes she can trust.
Ladies small talk, which basically amounts to just hurtful and often malicious gossip, is not something she seeks to be part of or wants to endure. So she starts using her considerable healing skills daily to help Mother Hildegarde (Frances de le Tour) in a charity convent hospital for the poor.
Going from one world to another on one of her and Jamie’s extraordinary social outings, she is introduced by the Duke of Sandringham to Black Jack Randall’s brother Alex who is his secretary, and very soon she discovers Jamie’s tormentor is very much and alarmingly, alive.
Sharing the news with Murtagh, they agree to keep it a secret between them to save Jamie’s life, because they are worried about what he will do.
Jamie meanwhile chases a young boy pickpocket Fergus (Romann Berrux) from the brothel, whom he has witnessed thieving. He wants to recruit him to help his cause, stealing letters going to Bonnie Prince Charlie so Jamie can keep abreast of what is going down.
By Episode Five the momentum, which has been building slowly, starts to come to a climax, the first stage being giving an extraordinary dinner party for the Duke of Sandringham, which is destined to end in a monumental brawl.
Claire is delayed from getting home from the hospital to co-host the party with Jamie as someone has sabotaged her coach. She and her friend Mary Hawkins (Rose Day) are violently attacked as they attempt to walk home, despite having Murtagh to protect them.
Helping the Duke to choose horses on an outing at the Palace of Versailles at the invitation of King Louis XV (Lionel Lingelser) the next day, Jamie equips himself well by assuring his Grace the Duke of Sandringham that he sees The Young Pretender for what he is, although no one can deny he is an heir to the British throne.
Claire is walking in the gardens with Jamie’s childhood friend Annalise where she unexpectedly and terrifyingly comes face to face with Black Jack Randall. It’s one trauma after another.
He has come to help and intervene on behalf of his brother Alex, who has been dismissed by the Duke of Sandringham from his service. In the middle of their meeting King Louis XV and his entourage happen along and Randall is forced to bend to his knees by the King, finding himself a laughing stock at the French court, which doesn’t go down too well at all.
After the King and his courtiers leave, Jamie who has been summoned by Annalise to Claire’s aid challenges Black Jack to a duel, which is by this stage in history, outlawed in France.
Claire in a panic bears false witness against Randall and has him thrown into the Bastille, at least temporarily.
She wants to give herself the time to talk to Jamie and to ask him not to go ahead with the challenge for at least for a year so that her innocent twentieth century husband Frank won’t be affected, which for Jamie is almost too much to bear.
However a man of honour, Jamie is used to paying his debts and promises.
Episode Six is the watershed for change; Murtagh wants to help Jamie prepare for the duel and Randall is released from the Bastille.
Murtagh doesn’t know about Claire’s history and to prevent his pain Jamie and Claire decide to take him into their confidence, when he’s upset Jamie tells him he will not fight the duel.
How you get your eighteenth century head around such a tale is anyone’s guess.
Meanwhile Jamie and Fergus are doing their best to upset Bonnie Prince’s plans, to no avail.
He and Jamie have increasingly formed a father and son like bond and when having to go to the Maison Elise on an errand, Jamie tells Fergus to wait in the hall.
However the young boy becoming restless and strays into a room where we can see an English redcoat hanging. Knowing Black Jack’s proclivities, we are left to guess what will happen next, and we know it will be awful.
Then the scene suddenly cuts to Jamie and Black Jack duelling in the woods.
“Bad things tend to happen when we’re apart” is what Claire had said to Jamie the night before.
Now tired and exhausted, she has started bleeding putting her baby in danger.
Arriving home she discovers Jamie is not there and receives a message to rush to the woods outside the city and try to stop the duel, which is finally going down.
By the end of Episode Six Claire has collapsed and is in real trouble. After witnessing the end of the duel, she is being raced to hospital her baby’s life now threatened.
Jamie is at the same time being arrested by gendarmes, while Black Jack Randall his mortal enemy is left lying on the field having taken a sword thrust from Jamie right into the private parts that house his perverted personality.
Brilliantly directed and adapted for screen, there’s sure to be more tragedy ahead in Season Two of Outlander.
Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2016