Rik Mayall: A goodbye to Lord Flashheart

Rik Mayall as Lord Flashheart in Blackadder II

After the news of Rik Mayall's death, one of the most fondly recalled moments has been his cameo as Lord Flashheart in Blackadder. None of his characters left a stronger impression than that epitome of boorish, bawdy brilliance, writes Jem Roberts.

It's too often forgotten that Mayall's first appearance in Blackadder was as easily amused prisoner Mad Gerald (credited as "Himself", as part of Rik's early campaign to totally disappear into his roles). But if Gerald was any kind of Flashheart ancestor, surely oceans of sexy genes were added to the family DNA.

Blackadder's endlessly superior childhood friend Flash was originally inspired by a similarly-monikered friend of John Lloyd and Richard Curtis, but once Ben Elton brought in his real-life best man to fill that golden codpiece, the script became immaterial - the swaggering, lusty Flashheart was Mayall's creation.

Director Mandie Fletcher recalled Mayall being quietly obedient through the week's rehearsal for the wedding scene on Blackadder II's "Bells" episode, as Flash arrived and carried away Edmund's beloved Bob. It wasn't until the shells were threaded into Flash's golden mane, the moustache was just about stuck to his upper lip, and above all, the audience - the beloved punters Mayall gleefully fed and fed off throughout his whole life - were in place, that that ball-bouncingly bravura performance, now indelibly glued into the national psyche, was allowed to burst forth.

There were further flashes of Flash - the unforgettable Squadron Leader of Blackadder Goes Forth, Robin Hood, and even the 18th Century beer-swilling persona of the Bombardier - but it was in Mayall himself that the erotically charged charmer really lived on, just one aspect of a magical character we all felt we knew, or certainly wanted to.

Mayall once told the Guardian that his interaction with his audience was "very sexual - you mass them together and sense what they want and give it to them just before they ask for it". Just like Flashheart, "woof"-ing off into the history books with a final unforgettable explosion, now Rik has left us all eternally wanting more.

Jem Roberts is the author of The True History of The Black Adder.

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