With the popularity of British TV series like Downton Abbey, I think it is time to draw attention to a wonderful television series from 1973, Flambards. It is set in the period from 1910 through World War I, and it includes many of the same issues of the changing relationships between the British ruling class and the people they felt they ruled over.
Christina is a teenage orphan who is passed around from elderly aunt to elderly aunt living in genteel but shabby conditions until Uncle Russell calls for her to be brought to Flambards, the family’s crumbling ancestral home. Christina is a child of her times, who obeys unquestioningly and misses all the deeper family currents. She has been sent to Flambards because she is an heiress who will come into her fortune when she turns 21. Uncle Russell requires her fortune to save Flambards which is crumbling into disrepair as he has spent all his money, time, and energy on fox-hunting. In Uncle Russell’s mind the logical solution is for Christina to marry his eldest son, Mark, who is also her first cousin, and they will spend her fortune to save Flambards.
Uncle Russell is obsessed with fox hunting, even though he is confined to a chair and in constant pain after a hunting accident. He lives through his sons as they hunt, which is fine for Mark who is only interested in hunting, drinking, and girls. His brother, Will, hates hunting. Will is an intelligent, sensitive boy who wants to learn to fly in the new airplanes that are being developed. Christina spends time with both her cousins, but Will is easier to get along with and she enjoys talking to him about planes. The interest of the handsome groom, Dick, adds to the romantic tension, while the increasing drunken brutishness of Uncle Russell raises the drama.
Flambards is based on the series of novels by K.M. Peyton, which started with Flambards published in 1967, then went on to The Edge of the Cloud (1969), Flambards in Summer (1969), although the TV series doesn’t cover Flambards Divided (1981). Our library doesn’t currently own the books although they are still in print. As usual in comparisons between the screen version and the book, the books have more depth and background, but they cannot provide the the gorgeous scenery, the galloping horses, and the wondrous early planes.
As I already said, Flambards is a good choice for fans of Downton Abbey and Upstairs Downstairs, but also I recommend it for lovers of romance and horses. Oddly for a historical romance, I also recommend it for aviation fans. Early planes like the Bleriot are integral to the plot of the story so the series creators made and flew radio controlled model working replicas of these early planes. I actually thought that they made full-size planes until I researched it for this blog post, so they did a good job of hiding the planes’ size. Either way, their flimsy, splindliness and air of imminent disaster is fascinating!
Flambards also has wonderful music, written by David Fanshawe. As I am typing this I have the whistling refrain from the credits going through my head, and I’m anticipating spending some quality girl-time re-watching some of my favorite episodes.
Check the WRL catalog for Flambards