To Put The Plough Before the Horse by Mike Walker

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Classic Serial on BBC Radio 4

BBC Radio 4, 30 June 2013
Despite the claims of the Radio 4 announcer that dramatist Mike Walker had created a robust version of Stuart history, this was a rather tender piece about James I of England/ James VI of Scotland.  The older James (Bill Paterson) looked back on his early life; like many before or since, he was brought up in a royal household that suppressed emotions and forced him to behave in a certain way.  Young James (Stewart Campbell) had one true love, Esme Stuart (David Dawson), but could not be allowed to pursue it.  Rather he had to marry Queen Anne (Hannah Wood), in an alliance that was not a doomed one (reminiscent of Charles and Diana), but nonetheless represented a triumph of state over personal interests.  James himself was the victim of bullying from Buckingham (Dominic Mafham), as a young man, which left him indecisive and unsuited for the royal role.  As an older man, he could reflect on this abusive childhood, yet was unable to do much about it.  Walker's story turned out to be a morality-tale, one which transcended its historical material to reflect instead on how lonely and depressing a monarch's life could be.
Jessica Dromgoole and Sasha Yevtushenko's production vividly stressed the differences and parallels between Young and Old James; how an essentially gentle young man had to be transformed into a 'strong' monarch.  Old James certainly had his virtues - he encouraged learning and tried his best to vindicate his mother's memory - but he was too easily swayed from his purpose.  This was entirely attributable to his upbringing, when he was seldom allowed to make his own decisions.