New Worlds TX: 1 Apr 2014, Week 14
It’s 1680. Charles II has reigned in England for 20 years. Hope that the restoration of the monarchy would bring stability to a realm fractured by civil war is fading. Fears that his Roman Catholic brother, James, will succeed to the throne open old religious wounds and fan the embers of republican idealism.
King Charles reacts with brutal force, while continuing to hunt down those responsible for his father’s execution. His vengeful eye falls upon Massachusetts, New England, where the Puritans have established a virtual commonwealth and where one of the remaining regicides has found safe haven.
As the King tightens his grip on the colony, the English settlers confront a more immediate threat - the Native Americans . . .
Ned Hawkins (Joe Dempsie) has come to Hadley, Massachusetts, as the representative of his father’s company, the Hawkins Bay Company, to warn the English settlers living there that they must pay their rents or risk losing their homes.
When Indians savagely attack the town, Ned fights alongside the townsfolk, including Pastor Russell (Sean Baker) and his daughter Hope (Alice Englert). In the chaos that ensues, Colonel William Goffe (James Cosmo) appears as avenging angel - a fugitive regicide, sheltered for twenty years by the Russells from Charles II’s wrath. Taking command, Goffe saves the town. His whereabouts revealed, he must flee into the wilderness. Led by Ned and Hope, who are falling in love, he takes refuge in a cave. Ned’s eyes are opened, especially when Goffe refers to his father as a ‘land pirate’ who has stolen land from the Indians.
Meanwhile in England, Judge Jeffreys (Pip Carter), the ruthless enforcer of the King’s justice, has scores to settle with Angelica Fanshawe (Eve Best) for her republican past. He forces Will Blood (James McArdle) to spy on Angelica and her ‘nest of republican vipers’ at Fanshawe House in Oxfordshire; in return, Jeffreys will save Will’s father from the gallows.
In the aftermath of the Civil War and the failed republican experiment, Angelica has spent her days creating a sanctuary to protect her family from the turmoil beyond the walls. Little does she realise as she kisses her Roman Catholic husband, John Francis (Patrick Malahide), and greets her daughter, Beth (Freya Mavor), on her birthday, that her ‘commonwealth’ idyll is about to be destroyed.
Abe Goffe (Jamie Dornan) and his outlaws break through the woods and crash into the garden, hunting a wounded deer. When Angelica rebukes Abe, he reminds her that Edward Sexby would not have denied food to the hungry. Edward Sexby? Beth is intrigued. Angelica deflects her question. Later on that morning, Beth discovers a chest containing the secrets of her mother’s past and the truth about her own identity.
Abe and his band disrupt the birthday revels, robbing the guests of their jewels - including the Duke of Monmouth (Tom Payne), illegitimate son of Charles II, who has arrived at Fanshawe House to drum up support for his claim to the throne. As Abe makes his escape, he seizes Beth and gallops off with her into the woods. There, under the spell of first love, he opens her eyes to the reality of the injustice under which the poor suffer and which her own father, Edward Sexby, died fighting. Beth leaves the woods transformed - in love with Abe and his political ideals.
Back in Massachusetts, Edward Randolph (Guy Henry), the King’s agent, has tracked down Goffe and is about to arrest him for high treason when Goffe thwarts him by plunging to his death. Ned races back to Hadley to find Pastor Russell is arrested, to stand trial in Boston for harbouring a regicide. Hope implores Ned to warn Angelica Fanshawe that she is in mortal danger.
Ned’s father, John Hawkins (Michael McElhatton), dispatches him to England to avoid awkward questions about his part in assisting a regicide. Ned asks his father to give Hope a letter, but he destroys it. When Pastor Russell dies in prison, Hawkins insists Hope marry Henry Cresswell (Geoffrey Streatfeild), a recent widower: she cannot remain a woman alone in their Puritan community.
Back in Oxfordshire and undercover in Wightham Woods, Abe and Beth’s love is growing – not just for each other but for the common good. Together they blow up the clay-pits where the brutal landowner George Hardwick (Michael Maloney) is forcing men, women and children to work like slaves. Meanwhile, Judge Jeffreys is tightening the screws on Will Blood to produce evidence against Angelica or her Papist husband, John Francis. As the country slides into war between those who support the King in his drive towards absolutism and those who support the sovereignty of Parliament, Abe and Beth step up their highway robbery. One night in Wightham Woods they accost a weary traveller - Ned Hawkins, on his way to warn Angelica that her letters to Goffe have been seized.
Later that night, Ned recognises Beth on the roof of Fanshawe House. They are interrupted by the arrival of a Pope-burning procession, got up by Hardwick to provoke John Francis into denying the Popish Plot, an overt act of treason. As John Francis falls into the trap, Angelica’s worst fears are realised: the chaos she has tried so hard to forestall has come over the walls. Before they can flee, soldiers arrive to arrest John Francis.
Meanwhile, wounded by Hardwick as he tried to defend Beth and her family from the Pope burners, Abe is on the run. He meets Ned in a coffeehouse, where it is revealed that he is Colonel Goffe’s son. Fired with passion to avenge his father that very day, he tries to shoot the King. He misses. Beth and Ned carry him, half-dead, to Fanshawe House, where Angelica tends him then helps him escape into the woods, with Ned. Beth refuses to leave her mother’s side. Now Jeffreys has his pretext to arrest Angelica. Mother and daughter are seized and charged with high treason for sheltering a would-be regicide. To save her precious daughter, Angelica makes a deal with Jeffreys: she will plead guilty if Beth is spared and exiled to the New World.
In parallel, in another part of the city, Charles II (Jeremy Northam) silences the debate about the succession by dissolving His Parliament assembled in Christ Church. Parliamentary opposition has been crushed under Charles II’s autocratic heel.
The ship carrying Beth to the New World is wrecked on the shores of Massachusetts. Washed ashore, she is discovered by Masca (Alex Meraz), the leader of the Native American Wawanaki tribe. Beth is adopted by the tribe and slowly recovers the will to survive as she gives herself up to its innocent, natural way of life. Masca cherishes her, believing that she is a gift sent by the Great Spirit to help him reunite his tribe. Slowly and tenderly they fall in love.
Meanwhile in Boston, Hope has reluctantly married Henry Cresswell. John Hawkins sends Cresswell up-river to build a new settlement on the Wawanaki tribe’s land. Ned returns to Boston, politically awakened by his experiences in England. Dismayed to find Hope has married Cresswell but compelled by an irresistible love, Hope and Ned, consummate their adulterous relationship at great risk. Cresswell discovers them and, under pain of death, they are forbidden to meet again.
Back in England, Charles II grants Hardwick the Fanshawe land for clay-pits, but refuses him the house until he delivers Abe Goffe. Abe secretly enters Fanshawe House and encounters the maidservant Agnes (Holli Dempsey), who greets him as a hero. Abe realises that, alone, he is powerless to help Agnes and the other servants enslaved by Hardwick. He goes to London in search of Colonel Algernon Sidney (Donald Sumpter), one of his father’s old comrades, a Civil War hero and avowed republican. With him he plots to assassinate the King. Again the plot is foiled. Abe and Sidney are captured.
In the New World, Henry Cresswell clears the Indians off their land by offering Masca’s tribe blankets infected with smallpox. Lacking immunity to the pathogen, the tribe is virtually wiped out. Masca dies and Beth who survives learns that the tribe was deliberately exterminated. Ned, suspecting the same, tracks Cresswell to his camp and confronts him. As he is demanding the truth about the blankets, Beth bursts from the undergrowth and stabs Cresswell in the throat.
Ned returns to Boston with Beth and tells Hope of Cresswell’s death. They are free to be together. But rumours abound and they must bide their time. Ned confronts his father about the blankets, and in the row that ensues his father has a heart attack and dies. His death wish is that Ned will take over the Company, using it as a platform to preserve Massachusetts’ independence. Ned is determined to do the right thing. Meantime, Ned and Hope conceal Beth at Pond Farm in woods near Boston.
In Oxford gaol, Jeffreys has Abe in his clutches. He desperately needs a second witness to incriminate Sidney. Abe will not be broken and endures terrible suffering. Agnes visits him and gives him a magic herbal potion to feign his death. Tricked, the guards throw his ‘corpse’ into the plague pit, from where Agnes and her grandfather Adam (Malcolm Storry) retrieve him. Back in the woods, they gradually restore him to life.
Colonel Sidney is brought to court and condemned to death as a traitor. Sidney stoically prepares for execution. When Abe visits him in the Tower, he urges him to eschew violence. The pen must replace the sword. Abe resolves to dedicate his life to healing the sick and to spreading Sidney’s ideals of liberty and justice.
It’s 1685. News arrives in Boston of Charles II’s death and Monmouth’s challenge to the succession of his Roman Catholic uncle, James. Beth decides it is time for her to go back to England and play her part in the ensuing rebellion.
Ned smuggles copies of Sidney’s writings into Boston from Rotterdam. These powerful ideas inspire the new generation of young Americans to contemplate independence from the rule of the English King. Together Hope and Ned disseminate this sedition through an underground network. They are holding a clandestine meeting at Pond Farm when an armed troop surrounds the place and, in a fusillade of musket fire, massacre all inside.
Beth returns to England. On her route from Bristol docks to Oxford, she witnesses the last remnants of the Duke of Monmouth’s rebellion, routed at the Battle of Sedgemoor, limping home. The grip of the autocratic King is tighter than ever. From the carriage window she sees a figure kneeling in sorrow beneath two hanged corpses: Agnes and Adam. She recognises the figure. It is Abe. God’s Providence has brought them together. They return to Wightham Woods, and there they lie on the hard ground as love slowly heals their pain and sorrow. The world has been turned by the idealism, the sacrifice and the courage of extraordinary men and women. And, in the final account, the love.