Historical Figures (Played by Patrick Malahide)

Admin and I realized the other day that Patrick Malahide has played a number of historical characters in his career, with quite a bit of attention paid as to portraying them as accurately as possible.  We thought it would be an interesting idea to contrast those portrayals with the real thing – or at least, as much of the real thing as we can find out, since we don’t have a TARDIS yet (nertz!).  So, here are a few of our favourite historical figures (played by Patrick Malahide).

Sir Francis Walsingham  |  Rev. Patrick Brontë  |  Lord Willingdon  |  Sir John Conroy  |  Maj.-Gen. Bernard Law Montgomery

RF:  My favourite historical figures are…

Sir Francis Walsingham
(“Elizabeth I“, 2005)

Who Was He?

Elizabeth I's favourite spymaster, Sir Francis Walsingham Historical Figures (Played by Patrick Malahide)

Elizabeth I’s favourite spymaster, Sir Francis Walsingham

He was Elizabeth I’s (Helen Mirren) spymaster and was largely responsible for her longevity on the English throne, along with William and Robert Cecil.  He had a network of spies stretching across Europe and made it his business to know what Elizabeth’s enemies were planning, possibly before they knew they were planning it themselves.

What Is His Motivation?

A vital part of the power behind Elizabeth's throne

A vital part of the power behind Elizabeth’s throne

He was devoted to the cause of keeping Elizabeth in power, possibly because he would’ve regarded a Catholic monarch as being much worse.  He also wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty from time to time, resorting to underhanded or deceptive methods to get things done.  Elizabeth apparently didn’t like him all that much, but she found him extremely useful.  So, his motivation is almost entirely devotion to his Queen, with a smattering of sticking it to the Earls of Leicester (Jeremy Irons) and Essex (Hugh Dancy) along the way.  Fortunately, William and Robert Cecil agree with him about how unbearable Leicester and Essex are.

Who Wore it Better?

The real Sir Francis versus the fictional Sir Francis<br>(Image source: Wikipedia)

The real Sir Francis versus the fictional Sir Francis
(Image source: Wikipedia)

We-elll, there’s a slight possibility I’m biased, but I’d have to say Mr. Malahide is an improvement on the original.  He decided to opt out of the starched ruff while keeping the goatee and the austere, imposing all-black outfit.  We only saw him in one costume, unfortunately.  Or perhaps Walsy just had a bunch of interchangeable costumes that were all the same, to save time when picking out his wardrobe in the morning.  Also, perfect for sneaking around at night.  I’d have to say Mr. Malahide wins this one.  😉

Would You Invite Him to Stay the Weekend?

Hopefully he wouldn't spend the entire weekend working...

Hopefully he wouldn’t spend the entire weekend working…

I would!  Mind you, by the time Saturday was done, he’d have already snooped through all of my private papers and hard drive, gotten all of my passwords, checked out my finances, figured out who all of my friends and family are and where they live, and ascertained how many library books I have signed out.  Then he’d probably spend Sunday skulking around looking for spies and sending secret messages.  But it would still be fun!

What Would He Be Doing Now?

He might have to give up quill pens, though.

He might have to give up quill pens, though.

For someone with as much talent for espionage and skullduggery as Sir Francis, his talents would never go to waste.  He would probably be near the top, if not at the top, of MI5, putting his abilities to good use.  The technologies would have changed, but I’m sure Sir Francis would get caught up.  He’d probably appreciate all the innovations since his time, and he’d be working for another Queen Elizabeth again.


The Rev. Patrick Brontë
(“In Search of the Brontës“, 2003)

Who Was He?

He's much nicer than he looks - Historical Figures (Played by Patrick Malahide)

The Rev. Patrick Brontë: He’s much nicer than he looks

He was the father of the famous Brontë siblings:  Anne, Emily, and Charlotte, and perhaps slightly less famously, Branwell.   He was an Irish vicar with some surprisingly progressive ideas about educating his children, including the girls, and encouraging their development.  And despite the somewhat fearsome reputation he has nowadays, he appears to have been a loving, concerned, and involved father.  He was also very witty and had quite the dry sense of humour.

What Is His Motivation?

Educating his children using current events

Educating his children using current events

His motivation seems to have been simply to support his family as best he could.  After his wife Maria died when their children were still young, he tried to get out and find another wife, but that didn’t work out.  Penniless parsons with four children weren’t considered to be a great catch by the local ladies.  So, the Rev. Brontë decided to raise his children as a single father, which was rather progressive for the time.  He also came up with unique ways of educating them in order to encourage critical, creative, and independent thinking.

Who Wore It Better?

The real and fictional Rev. Patrick Brontë
(Image source: Gutenberg Canada)

The real Rev. Brontë seems to have had a thing for cravats wrapped several times around his neck and done right up to his chin, which looks… very odd, like he’s covering up a medical condition or something.  Maybe he always had a cold neck?  He also looks very austere, and apparently he had a temper.  Mr. Malahide’s version wears a normal cravat and looks warmer and more approachable (granted, photos are always rather stiff), but he also managed to convey the original Rev. Brontë’s temper extremely well.  He also embodies Rev. Brontë through several stages of life, from a youthful married man, to a middle-aged single father, to an elderly man looking back on his life, and does a thoroughly convincing job every time.

Would You Invite Him to Stay the Weekend?

Who doesn't fire a pistol out their window every morning?

Who doesn’t fire a pistol out their window every morning?

I would, but he’d probably say no because there wouldn’t be a chaperone.  Mind you, if he thought I was a wealthy widow lady who liked kids, he might put some effort into the pursuit.  Maybe I’d even be the recipient of one of his “Saucy Pat” poems.  It was very interesting to find out that the real Rev. Brontë could be surprisingly romantic at times.  He’d probably also appreciate my central heating and all the hot water at his disposal.  Perhaps he’d even fire his pistol out the window in the morning.

What Would He Be Doing Now?

Never one to be shy with his opinions.

Never one to be shy with his opinions.

He’d probably be preaching a little fire and brimstone, lamenting the lax moral state of the world, and be incredibly proud that his children’s works are still well-known and widely read, with translations in many languages.  He might be a bit nonplussed by the tourism industry that’s sprung up around Haworth and the old parsonage, though.  I don’t think he’d put much stock in such fripperies.  He might also like to set the record straight after the image Mrs. Elizabeth Gaskell created of him in her The Life of Charlotte Brontë.  But whatever he’d be doing, he’d certainly make his opinions known.


Admin:  And my choices are…

Lord Willingdon
(“Indian Summers“, 2015)

Who Was He?

Lord Willingdon, Viceroy of India.

He was Freeman Freeman-Thomas, the Marquess of Willingdon and served as Viceroy of India from 1931-1936. He was also Governor General of Canada from 1926 – 1931. He held a variety of high level offices throughout the British Empire during his lifetime.

What Is His Motivation?

Gandhi, Willingdon cartoon. Source: Wikipedia

He was in power during a time that the British Empire was rapidly falling apart. His main motivation was to keep it as unified as possible. Unfortunately this meant jailing Indian nationalists who were striving for independence, including Gandhi himself.

But, it seems despite that, Willingdon’s heart was in many ways actually in the right place, especially for a man of his time and status. Patrick Malahide himself was impressed by Willingdon’s formation of a yacht club, The Willingdon Sports and Social Club, which was open to all ethnicities, after he had been denied entry into the Royal Bombay Yacht Club for having a group of Indian friends with him.

Who Wore it Better?

They both look good, but the cricket whites win.

Well, the real Lord Willingdon was a very smart looking fellow, I’d even say somewhat handsome, and looked pretty sharp and dignified in his Viceregal suits and uniforms. He was every bit the grand English gentleman you would expect him to have been.

That said, of course Patrick Malahide looks better. Whether in his pith helmet, evening wear, cricket whites (my favorite), or golfing gear, Mr. Malahide’s Viceroy looks absolutely like he is in charge of it all and absolutely outshines anyone in his vicinity.

Would You Invite Him to Stay the Weekend?

Sarah is transported, gazing into Lord W.'s baby blues as they waltz. Lord W. has no idea who she is.

It’s all good until the Vicereine cuts in with her handbag.

Oh, it would be a great honor! Of course, that’s what it would have to be….an honor. No naughty weekends with Lord W., because he was married to the very formidable Vicereine Lady Willingdon. Seems there were some interesting stories about her.  According to The Hindu article “Madras’ Push First Lady” she was a very dynamic and willful woman indeed. To her very great credit she worked towards improving the lives of Indian women. Not so much to her credit, but still so hilarious that it is weirdly charming, she had no compunction about asking the Maharajahs and Maharanis for expensive gifts. Hopefully she’d be busy on any weekend Lord Willingdon might visit because otherwise you might have to say goodbye to your Dogs Playing Poker print. 😉

What Would He Be Doing Now?

Holding up his cash in a sort of "Peace in our time" pose

He’d make a great documentary program host.

Well, there isn’t much call for Viceroys today, so he wouldn’t be doing that.  Nor do I see him as a modern day politician as Lord Willingdon strikes me as too adventurous and hands on to do well in an age of political science degrees and opinion poll studies.

I think an energetic intelligent man like him would do well in philanthropy as well as historical and cultural studies. I could easily imagine him being like one of my heroes Sir Tony Robinson, romping about the lovely countryside while teaching television viewers about history and the great outdoors.


Sir John Conroy
(“Victoria & Albert“, 2001)

Who Was He?

Patrick Malahide as Sir John Conroy: Victoria & Albert

Sir John Conroy, skilled in the art of looming.

He was a British army officer who served as comptroller to the Duchess of Kent and her young daughter, Princess Victoria, the future Queen of the United Kingdom. And if you don’t believe me, just check Wikipedia where I copied and pasted it from. 😉

He was also it seems a bit of a rogue and an adventurer. Some gossip says he may have even been Victoria’s father, but who knows if that is true or not.

What Is His Motivation?

Patrick Malahide as Sir John Conroy: Victoria & Albert

Who knew she didn’t like it when oppressive bullies breathed down her neck?

Power, prestige and money. He wanted to keep in close with the Duchess of Kent and exert absolute power over the young Queen Victoria while enjoying all the luxurious perks that would come with it. During Victoria’s younger years Sir John was extremely oppressive and over bearing to the point of bullying and demeaning her. Victoria, unsurprisingly, hated him and removed him from her household as soon as she could.

Who Wore It Better?

Patrick Malahide wins because I like the green cravat.

In “Victoria & Albert” Patrick Malahide wears several gorgeous end of Regency era costumes. They are simply stunning. Those elaborate bows make him look like a great big Christmas present. 🙂

It is hard to say what the real John Conroy wore in his regular palace day-to-days because when I Googled I mostly saw the same portrait of him in high necked military wear. Like Lord Willingdon, Sir John seems to have been a pretty good looking guy in his own right and certainly he looks extremely dashing in his portraits.  But you know nothing can beat those costumes Patrick Malahide wears.  Winner: Patrick Malahide.  Was there ever any doubt?

Would You Invite Him to Stay the Weekend?

Patrick Malahide as Sir John Conroy: Victoria & Albert

Seems Victoria’s mum liked having him over for the weekend.

Ah, well, now that would depend on whether or not I wanted to be on Queen Vic’s good side. If I did, then poor old John would have to be persona non grata. However, if her good opinion of me didn’t matter, then why the heck not?

What Would He Be Doing Now?

Something awful, I’m sure. Sir John seems tailor made for scandal, and I expect he’d find it easily enough today. I could imagine him appearing on some sort of obnoxious reality television show where he would be the guy everyone loves to hate. Equally, I could see him becoming the very unpopular lover/husband to a well-loved female celebrity providing many stories for the tabloid press. Fortunately, I don’t think he’d make it quite as far as to earn any invitations to Balmoral, so I think the modern Royal Family as they now stand would be safe from his chicanery and insinuations.  Whew!


And One Honourable Mention:

Major-General Bernard Law Montgomery
(“Into the Storm“, 2009)

Monty, making an indelible impression on Churchill

Monty, making an indelible impression on Churchill

RF:  Even though he’s barely on screen for two minutes, Mr. Malahide nonetheless made an indelible (and delightful) impression as Monty.  Everything from his speech patterns, demeanour, and ramrod-straight posture echoes the real thing, and he even includes a bit of Monty’s insufferability about teetotalling and fitness.  He wasn’t the slightest bit afraid to stand up to Brendan Gleeson’s Churchill and demand what he wanted (“Buses!”)  after expressing his views about static gun placements (“Worse than useless!”).  Unfortunately, I think Monty would be a bit trying as a weekend guest; he’d probably be up and about by o’dark thirty, out doing calisthenics on the lawn.  And he’d probably insist on an extremely healthy vegetarian diet and being early to bed.  However, Mr. Malahide made such a striking impression in the role that I wish we could’ve seen a lot more of him, or that he could take on the role again in a full-scale biography.

The real Monty and Winnie showing their lighter sides. Source: The Telegraph

Admin: I’d also love to see Patrick Malahide in a full-fledged biography about Gen. Montgomery.  He’d be great.  His scene with Gleeson’s Churchill was scene stealing perfection, but I’d love to see it all taken much further.  Their chemistry was wonderful and they certainly deserve more than a few scenes together.

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