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Blackadder Actors You May Not Know Passed Away

The BBC comedy "Blackadder" consists of four series airing between 1983 and 1989, as well as several specials. It has remained one of the most well-regarded UK television comedies long after its final broadcast. Created by Richard Curtis ("Love Actually") and actor Rowan Atkinson, the four "Blackadder" serials follow the bloodline of Edmund Blackadder, a world-class schemer, from medieval England to World War I, while the specials ("A Blackadder Christmas Carol" and "Blackadder: Back & Forth") extend the timeline to the Victoria Era and the year 2000. Each series follows its respective Blackadder descendant as he navigates the hypocrisy and lunacy of his day while also attempting to grab power and glory for himself.

"Blackadder" enjoys a devoted following thanks to sharp-witted writing from Curtis, Atkinson, and Ben Elton. It also features a cast loaded with comic talent, including Tony Robinson as Blackadder's long-suffering servant, Baldrick, as well as Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Miranda Richardson, Brian Blessed, and Miriam Margolyes. Its guest cast is equally top-shelf and features some of England's best alternative comics, including Robbie Coltrane and Adrian Edmonson.

Many "Blackadder" stars have gone on to great success, most notably Atkinson as the titular "Mr. Bean." Others have continued to work in British TV and film, while a few have sadly died after long and distinguished careers. Following is a list of "Blackadder" actors that you may not know have passed away.

Spoilers will follow.

British comedy great Peter Cook played Richard III

British comedy legend Peter Cook appears briefly in the first episode of "The Black Adder," as King Richard III. The episode presents a very different Richard than the cruel figure depicted in Shakespeare's eponymous play. Cook's Richard is a kindly and beloved, if slightly befuddled, figure: Confused during battle, he makes off with the first Edmund Blackadder's horse and is accidentally decapitated by the young duke. Edmund's rash act leads to his father (Brian Blessed) becoming king; for his pains, Edmund spends much of the first series plagued by Richard's headless ghost.

Peter Cook was a major influence on many of the British comic talents who rose to prominence in the 1960s and 1970s, including members of Monty Python. A gifted improviser who could craft complex and bizarre characters, he first became famous as part of a comedy duo with Dudley Moore (the televised records of which were sadly lost when the BBC wiped its archives) and memorably teamed up with the Pythons as part of the Secret Policeman's Balls benefits. American audiences may know him best as the Impressive Clergyman ("Mawwige!") in "The Princess Bride."

Cook, who struggled with alcoholism throughout his life, died of a gastrointestinal hemorrhage on January 8, 1995. 

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Elspet Gray was Blackadder's dismissive mother

If the blame for Edmund's behavior may be laid at anyone's feet, the most likely culprits are his parents: King Richard IV (Brian Blessed) and his wife, Gertrude of Flanders. As we see in the first series, "The Black Adder," neither parent gives much to Edmund in terms of affection or attention, but Gertrude compounds matters by being intrusive, bossy, and prone to humiliating him. She does, however, save his neck on one important occasion: After Edmund is sentenced to death in "Witchsmeller Pursuivant," Gertrude displays powers of witchcraft that save him and Baldrick from being burned at the stake.

Elspet Gray – also known as Baroness Rix — played Queen Gertrude in all six episodes of the first "Blackadder" series, which came at the end of her long acting career. Gray was a veteran stage actress who often worked with her husband, fellow actor and House of Lords member Brian Rix, CBE. Gray also appeared in numerous British television programs, including "Doctor Who," "The Ruth Rendell Mysteries," and "Fawlty Towers." She made occasional forays into feature films, most notably "Four Weddings and a Funeral" opposite Rowan Atkinson.

Gray and her husband also supported charities for the disabled after their eldest daughter was born with Down's syndrome in 1951. She died at the age of 83 on February 18, 2013.

Frank Finlay sniffed out evil as the Witchsmeller Pursuivant

Oscar-nominated actor Frank Finlay, CBE, made a memorable appearance in "Witchsmeller Pursuivant," the fifth episode of the first "Blackadder" series. Finlay plays the title role, a wild-haired, sharp-fanged lunatic who allegedly roots out magic practitioners and consigns them to death, including Edmund and Baldrick. However, the Witchsmeller's methods are anything but sound: He calls Edmund's horse, Black Satin, to testify against him, claims that a poodle is Edmund's child, and has Baldrick sentenced to death for disagreeing with the assertion that carrots grow on trees.

A veteran of both Broadway and the West End, Finlay also enjoyed a long and diverse career in film and television. He earned an Oscar nomination and a Golden Globe nod for Laurence Olivier's 1965 film adaptation of Shakespeare's "Othello," and received positive reviews as a comic-relief Porthos in 1973's "The Three Musketeers" as well as its 1974 sequel. His other notable appearances include the 1984 TV version of "A Christmas Carol," Roman Polanski's Oscar-winning "The Pianist," and "Prime Suspect."

Made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1984, Finlay gave his final screen appearance on the BBC's 'Merlin" series in 2008. He died on January 30, 2016, of heart failure at the age of 89.

Raiders heel Ronald Lacey was a bad bishop

British character actor Ronald Lacey gives a memorable turn as the "baby-eating" Bishop of Bath and Wells, who serves as an enforcer for the loan sharks at the Bank of the Black Monks. Blackadder is his target in "Money," the fourth episode of "Blackadder II," where the Bishop threatens him with a grisly fate involving a hot poker unless the debt is paid. However, Blackadder counters with a cunning plan involving the Bishop, a painting, and a compromising portrait of Lord Percy (played by Tim McInnerny).

Lacey was best known to stateside audiences as Arnold Toht, the Nazi functionary whose hand is burned by the medallion head of the staff of Ra in "Raiders of the Lost Ark." He later reunited with the Indiana Jones franchise in an uncredited role as SS leader Henrich Himmler in "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade." Between these efforts were film roles in "Firefox," and "Red Sonja," as well as episodes of "The Sweeney" and "Blakes 7," among many other series.

Ronald Lacey died of liver cancer on April 25, 1991, at the age of 55.

Rik Mayall ran wild in three different Blackadder roles

Comic actor Rik Mayall was among the select group of performers to enjoy more than one role on "Blackadder." He made his debut as Prince Edmund's cellmate, Mad Gerald, who is sentenced to die by being eaten alive by snails in "The Black Adder," before returning in "Blackadder II" as the dashing (and thoroughly obnoxious) Lord Flashheart. Mayall also played his equally irritating descendent, Squadron Commander the Lord Flashheart in "Blackadder Goes Forth," and a Flashheart-esque Robin Hood in "Blackadder: Back & Forth."

Mayall rose to fame as the most manic element of the UK alternative comedy boom of the 1980s, alongside such performers as Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders, and his frequent collaborator, Adrian Edmondson. Mayall and Edmondson enjoyed cult success in the BBC series "The Young Ones," while Mayall drew critical praise as a conniving Parliamentarian in "The New Stateman." Mayall made occasional forays to America — most notably as the title role in the 1991 comedy "Drop Dead Fred" — and won an Emmy for voice acting work in a 1996 animated production of "The Wind in the Willows."  

Mayall died of a heart attack at the age of 56 on June 9, 2014.

Warren Clarke went from Droog to Blackadder dolt

A talented and prolific character actor in British film and television for a half-century, Warren Clarke participated in two separate "Blackadder" series. He made his debut in "Blackadder the Third" as an industrialist whose daughter (Miranda Richardson) is betrothed to Hugh Laurie's Prince Regent until it's discovered that he's broke. Clarke then returned to play a zealous Oliver Cromwell, who overthrows Stephen Fry's King Charles and threatens Blackadder's life. His Cromwell is featured in the comic short "Blackadder: The Cavalier Years," which aired in 1988 as part of the Comic Relief charity's first Red Nose Day special.

Clarke began his career in theater during the 1960s before making the leap to television in series like "The Avengers" and the long-running soap "Coronation Street." His turn as the dull-witted droog Dim in Stanley Kubrick's "A Clockwork Orange" led to more substantive parts on TV, including a turn as Quasimodo in a 1976 production of "The Hunchback of Notre Dame."

Clarke earned his star-making role as the filter-free police detective Andy Dalziel on the crime drama "Dalziel and Pascoe," which ran for 11 seasons on the BBC between 1996 and 2007. He continued to appear on television for the next half-decade, landing roles on "Call the Midwife" and "Poldark." While working on the latter series, the 67-year-old Clarke died following a short illness on November 12, 2014.

Comic Bill Wallis tackled three Blackadder characters

Actor and comedian Bill Wallis turned up three times on "Blackadder." He made his debut in the third episode of "The Black Adder," playing a knight who conspires to kill Edmund after he's ordained the Archbishop of Canterbury. Wallis returned as the jailer, Mr. Ploppy, who works under Blackadder during his stint as the Lord High Executioner in the third episode of "Blackadder II," and made his final turn as a British spy mistaken for a German spy in "Blackadder Goes Forth."

Wallis was a contemporary of Peter Cook and appeared in "Beyond the Fringe," the celebrated 1960s Broadway comedy revue featuring Cook, Dudley Moore, Alan Bennett, and Jonathan Miller. He also appeared on Cook and Moore's comedy series, "Not Only... But Also," and in the 1969 dark satire "The Bed Sitting Room." Other TV projects include the miniseries "War and Remembrance" and "Midsomer Murders," while he also acted in films such as "Brazil" and "The Other Boleyn Girl."

Wallis, who lent his voice to numerous BBC Radio 4 series and audiobooks, died at his home in Bath on September 6, 2013.

David Nunn delivered the laughs as the Messenger

Comic actor David Nunn plays the Messenger in "The Black Adder," who attempts to deliver news to the court of King Richard IV. His Messenger — an accident-prone oaf — turns up in episodes three, four, and five of that series, announcing various items about other European nobles that often displease the king. The Messenger also has a penchant for imitating Edmund's movements. Nunn later turned up as one of three Enormous Orphans overseen by Denis Lill's crooked beadle in "Blackadder's Christmas Carol."

Nunn worked largely on television in the 1970s and 1980s before landing his "Blackadder" roles. He enjoyed recurring appearances on the kids' series "Television Club" and "Graham's Gang," and in the 1985 BBC adaptation of Charles Dickens' "The Pickwick Papers." Nunn's appearance in "Blackadder's Christmas Carol" was also his last screen project: He died at the age of 49 on April 26, 2012.

Geoffrey Palmer put a comic spin on a real-life military leader

Numerous figures from history pop up in "Blackadder" episodes, from Richard III to Queen Elizabeth and the Red Baron. One lesser-known historical personage is Field Marshall Douglas Haig, who commanded divisions of the British Army during World War I.

History is divided on whether Haig was a skilled commander or a callous figure who sent thousands of soldiers to their deaths, but the Haig that appears in "Blackadder Goes Forth" falls into the latter category. He's seen sweeping model soldiers off a mock battlefield with a brush and dustpan, and later advises Edmund that the best way to avoid going to the front lines is to put his underwear on his head and stick pencils in his nose –- a trick that Edmund has already employed.

Geoffrey Palmer, OBE who played Haig on "Blackadder," was a prolific actor on British television, radio, and film for more than a half-century. A staple of popular episodic series like "The Avengers," "Doctor Who," and "Fawlty Towers," Palmer rose to more prominent roles in "A Fish Called Wanda" and "The Madness of King George," as well as a starring turn opposite Judi Dench in the long-running "As Time Goes By." His credits in the 1990s and 2000s expanded to include "Tomorrow Never Dies" and "Paddington."

Palmer, who was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 2004, died at the age of 93 on November 5, 2020.

Jeremy Hardy was a comic, activist, and Blackadder guest star

Comedian and author Jeremy Hardy also enjoyed a side career as an actor. In addition to other several television shows, he had a turn as a very polite Army corporal who oversees Captain Blackadder's imprisonment in "Blackadder Goes Forth."

Hardy began his career as a writer and stand-up comic in the 1980s before winning the prestigious Perrier Comedy Award at the 1988 Edinburgh Festival Fringe. The win led to a long run as a popular guest on talk shows and radio programs like "News Quiz." Hardy also hosted his own comedy lectures, "Jeremy Hardy Speaks to the Nation," on BBC Radio 4 from 1993 to 2014, and contributed columns to "The Guardian" and "The Evening Standard" magazine.

A staunch political advocate, Hardy also penned several books and appeared in documentaries, including "Jeremy Hardy vs. the Israeli Army," which detailed his experiences with pro-Palestine peace activists. Hardy died of cancer at the age of 57 on February 1, 2019.

Howard Lew Lewis featured in two Blackadder episodes

Comic actor Howard Lew Lewis was a solid utility player on British TV in the 1970s and 1980s, bringing humor to supporting and minor roles on popular programs like the satirical children's series "Maid Marian and Her Merry Men" and films such as Terry Gilliam's "Brazil." Between these efforts, Lewis turned up in two episodes of "The Black Adder." In "The Queen of Spain's Beard," he plays the father of a perpetually giggling peasant girl (Jane Freeman) whom Edmund attempts to marry in order to get out of his wedding to the Infanta of Spain (Miriam Margolyes). Lewis would later return in "Witchsmeller Pursuivant" as a victim of the Black Plague.

Lewis continued to appear on television and in films after his "Blackadder" appearances; his credits included minor roles in "Chaplin" and "Quills," and guest and recurring roles in various comedy and drama programs. Diagnosed with dementia in 2017, Lewis died at the age of 76 on January 20, 2018.

Kathleen St. John gave a bewitching turn on Blackadder

Three witches predict that the cowardly Prince Edmund will become the king of England in the first episode of "The Black Adder" series, which introduced Rowan Atkinson's character to TV audiences. But the supernatural trio, based on the witches in Shakespeare's "Macbeth," realize a moment too late that they're giving incorrect advice, believing themselves to be speaking to Henry Tudor rather than Prince Edmund, which puts a crimp in Edmund's ambition.

Kathleen St. John played Goneril, one of the three witches (who are all named after King Lear's daughters), in "The Foretelling." The actress was a staple of British television beginning in the early 1950s, often playing minor or supporting roles in series like "Z Cars" and "Man in a Suitcase." St. John remained active throughout the 1970s and 1980s with roles in 1979's "The Quatermass Conclusion" and in the occasional feature like "Trail of the Pink Panther" in 1982.

After her "Blackadder" appearance, St. John logged several more screen roles, including in the Rupert Everett drama "Another Country" and several episodic series. St. John died a decade after her final screen credit on the short-lived BBC sitcom "Wilderness Road" in 1986, passing away at the age of 88 on June 27, 1996.

Patsy Byrne played Nursie on Blackadder

"Blackadder" had its share of wrongheaded, deluded, and just plain vacant characters (we're looking at you, Lord Percy), but few were as deeply out to lunch as Patsy Byrne's Nursie, who appeared in "Blackadder II." The childhood nurse to Miranda Richardson's "Queenie" — aka Queen Elizabeth I — remains by her royal charge's side into adulthood, but loses much of her mental facilities. Case in point: her obsession with cows' udders, which manifests itself in her many cow costumes worn to social events. She is briefly engaged to an equally eccentric figure – Tom Baker's Captain Redbeard Rum — before he is devoured by cannibals.

A member of the Royal Shakespeare Company in the 1960s, Byrne appeared in numerous UK series, including "I, Claudius" and the sitcom "Watching," as well as features ranging from the cult favorite "The Ruling Class" to the 1989 version of "Les Miserables" with Liam Neeson. She reprised Nursie in "Blackadder's Christmas Carol" in 1988 and the short "Blackadder Back & Forth" in 1999. Byrne's final screen appearance came in a 2005 episode of the medical drama "Holby City." She died at the age of 80 on June 17, 2014.

Star Wars, Raiders, Blackadder - William Hootkins did it all

William Hootkins' appearance on "Blackadder" is brief but unforgettable: Billed simply as "Monk," he plays a thoroughly inebriated guest at a party thrown by Blackadder in the fifth episode of "Blackadder II." Hootkins announces himself by walking into the room where Blackadder is speaking with his aunt and uncle, vomiting into the fireplace, and declaring the event a "great booze-up."

Though he worked extensively in England, Hootkins was born in Dallas, Texas. He began acting in school and performed alongside Tommy Lee Jones in the same drama group; training at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art led to minor and supporting roles in US and UK productions. One of these early turns provided Hootkins with lasting pop-culture fame: He played Porkins, the ill-fated X-wing pilot in "Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope."

Hootkins worked extensively throughout the 1980s and 1990s, landing appearances in "Flash Gordon," "Raiders of the Lost Ark," Tim Burton's "Batman," and "A River Runs Through It." He also enjoyed extensive guest roles on television series and earned critical praise as Alfred Hitchcock in the 2003 production of "Hitchcock Blonde" at the Royal Court Theatre. Hootkins died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 57 on October 23, 2005.