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Nursie (Bernard)
Blackadder character
Blackadder 2 nursie.jpg
First appearance Bells
Last appearance Blackadder: Back & Forth
Portrayed by Patsy Byrne
Episode count 8 (6, +2 specials)
Information
Occupation Former childhood nurse of Queen Elizabeth I
Nationality English

Nursie (real name "Bernard") was a regular character in the second series of the popular BBC sit-com Blackadder II. She was played by Patsy Byrne and appeared in all six episodes. She also appeared in two of the Blackadder specials; Blackadder's Christmas Carol and Blackadder: Back & Forth. As she is now so well known (after a 50-year career) Byrne is sometimes asked if she keeps the cow costume in her wardrobe.[1]

Contents

Character

Once Queenie's childhood nurse, by the time of her appearances in Blackadder II, Nursie is either senile or otherwise irreversibly stupid, but remains at court at the side of the Queen. Nursie frequently embarrasses herself by openly recounting tales of the Queen's childhood, prompting Queenie's standard reply of "Shut up, Nursie." She is also known for her complete non sequiturs in conversation. Lord Blackadder describes her as "a sad, insane old woman with an udder fixation."[2]

Nursie is apparently unmarried, as in the episode "Potato" she accepts a proposal of marriage from Captain Redbeard Rum (played by Tom Baker), though he is killed before the marriage can take place. In a bout of absurdism quite typical of Nursie, on hearing of his death she takes his beard, attaches it to her own face and swears to "wear it always" as an act of remembrance.[3]

Nursie is a caricature of the doting nursery maid or nanny, who at the drop of a hat launches into long disquisitions on her charge's brilliance and wit, and intended as a parody of Juliet's Nurse in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, as the nurse also admits to being something of a fool, proclaiming, "were not I thine [Juliet's] only nurse, I would say thou hadst suck'd wisdom from thy teat."[4]

Character development

Nursie's character changes very little throughout the series; she remains oblivious to the current topic of conversation, obsesses over bodily functions, and offers irrelevant comments and useless advice.

Blackadder II

"Bells"

Nursie's first appearance, in which we find out that her real name is Bernard (her sisters were Donald, Eric and Basil), and in which she recalls how the Queen was first mistaken for a boy:

"Out you popped, out of your mummie's tumkin and everybody shouting, 'It's a boy, it's a boy!' And somebody said, 'But it hasn't got a winkle!' And then I said, 'A boy without a winkle? God be praised, it's a miracle. A boy without a winkle!' And then Sir Thomas More pointed out that a boy without a winkle is a girl, and everyone was really disappointed."[5] This may be a reference to the Shakespeare play Henry VIII, where Elizabeth is first mistaken as a boy a symbol of her ascending to the throne something usually reserved for male heirs.

"Head"

Nursie demonstrates her medical training by explaining that when one's head has been cut off, the best treatment is "ointment".[6][7]

"Potato"

Thanks to Nursie's excellent memory, we find out that Queenie's first words when a child were, "Lizzie go plop-plop!" Nursie finds out that her bottom might be big enough to be "forced 'twixt two splintered planks, to plug a leak and save a ship" and gets engaged to the man who said it, Captain Redbeard Rum,[1] despite his having "no legs and a beard you could lose a badger in". Rum is later eaten by cannibals while on a voyage, and while Nursie is initially upset at the news, the recovery of his beard cheers her greatly.[3][8]

"Money"

Nursie's attitude towards the disciplining of children is apparent in this episode when Queenie and Lord Melchett play a very weak practical joke on Edmund. Queenie later admits that it was "very naughty", to which Nursie responds:

"It was, my little rosebud. If you weren't quite so big, it'd be time for Mr. and Mrs. Spank to pay a short sharp trip to Bottyland."[9]

"Beer"

Some more of Nursie's dubious medical knowledge is revealed when she treats Lord Melchett's hangover by rubbing his stomach quite forcefully. The result, as she says, is "such great and fruitsome flappy woof-woofs! One can scarcely believe one's tiny nosey!" She also offers Queenie some advice, informing her that excessive cleverness can result in loss of appendages:

Nursie: You're so clever today, you better be careful your foot doesn't fall off.
Queen: Does that happen when you have lots of brilliant ideas? Your foot falls off?
Nursie: It certainly does. My brother, he had this brilliant idea of cutting his toenails with a scythe, and his foot fell off.

She's also shown to treat Blackadder as if he was an infant.

Nursie: Certainly not!
Queen: I beg you pardon?
Nursie: Well it's just one excuse after another isn't it? Soon he'll be wanting to get off baths altogether!
Queen: He wasn't talking about baths.
Nursie: Well he should be! How else is he going to keep clean? Next he's going say he doesn't want his nappy changed.
Queen: Lord Blackadder doesn't wear a nappy.
Nursie: In that case it's even more important for him to have his bath![10]

"Chains"

Nursie announces that she intends to come to the Queen's fancy-dress party as either "a bit of wood" or a pencil.[1] Reminded that she always comes dressed as a cow, she responds, "Yes, that's right! A lovely lovely cow with great big lovely udders." Prince Ludwig the Indestructible learns of this and attempts to sneak into the party dressed as a cow in order to assassinate the Queen, but is easily foiled by Blackadder due to the quality of Ludwig's disguise, as the real Nursie's cow costume is entirely unconvincing. Nursie is killed, along with the rest of the cast, at the end of the episode.[11]

The specials

Blackadder's Christmas Carol

The Ghost of Christmas Past gives Ebenezer Blackadder a glimpse of his ancestor Lord Blackadder at the Court of Queen Elizabeth, and Nursie also makes an appearance. Her robotic descendant is also featured during a glimpse into the future, as one of Queen Asphyxia XIX's "triple husbandoids". She mistakes a laser gun for an ashtray.

Blackadder: Back & Forth

Nursie is present at the meeting of the late-twentieth century incarnation of Blackadder when he time-travels back to her era and introduces the humble polo mint to the court.

Notes








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