Cat no. 223

A Kingdom of My Own

Running time29:43 Black & White Sound 1962 East Bergholt, Suffolk

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BBC Television documentary on the life and work of John Constable and his relationship with his native village.



Long shots of the countryside around East Bergholt that was to inspire many of Constable's paintings. Shots of a tour bus on the lane approaching Flatford Mill and interior shots showing the passengers and the guide giving his commentary. The tourists walk down to Flatford Mill. There are some shots of the Stour Valley and interviews with tourists who offer their opinion of John Constable and his work. Other shots show how tourism has changed the area with cafes and postcard booths. All of these opening scenes are intercut with stills of Constable's paintings.

The main body of the film features dramatised interludes over readings from Constable's letters and diary as well as commentary, and tell the story of Constable's life. Landscape shots are intercut with stills from Constable's paintings showing the same scene. There are shots of places that were important to Constable, including Dedham Grammar School as well as many buildings that featured in his paintings; Flatford Mill, Willie Lott's Cottage, and buildings around East Bergholt. Stills of some of the principal characters in Constable's life. These include his parents, Golding and Anne Constable; Dr. Grimwood, the master of Dedham Grammar School; Dr. John Fisher, Rector of Langham and later Bishop of Salisbury and John Fisher, his nephew and Constable's Friend. John Fisher introduced Constable to the Close at Salisbury and there are stills of Constable's painting of Salisbury Cathedral, a painting the bishop didn't like. Constable's courtship of Maria Bicknell is told at length. Included here are studies Constable painted of his wife and their seven children. There are also paintings of Brighton, where the Constable's spent much of their time, hoping to improve Maria's health. Constable's friend, the American writer C.R. Leslie is quoted. The film shows how Maria's death affected Constable's work, increasing the impression of melancholy. The film ends showing the house where Constable died, scenes from modern London, and from East Bergholt. These feature the building of a new housing development, a new primary school, and the A12, showing how that too is changing.

Background Information:

There are many stills of Constable's paintings in the film. These include; Portraits of his parents, Ann and Golding Constable and of his wife, Maria Bicknell. Stratford Mill, for which Constable couldn't find a buyer but which sold in 1951 for 42,000 guineas.The Hay Wain, which was sold to a French dealer. Constable found no buyer when he exhibited the painting at the R.A. in 1821.


John Constable, RA, was born in East Bergholt, Suffolk, on the 11th June, 1776. His father, Golding Constable, was a Corn Merchant. He owned wind and water mills in East Bergholt, Flatford and Dedham. He also owned land and a ship, 'The Telegraph', that he used to transport corn to London. Constable's family background was wealthy and happy. Although initially hostile, his father's financial support would be vital to the artist during his early career. In 1799 he went to the Royal Academy Schools. Here he learned that landscape and landscape artists were held in low esteem. Although he was to spend most of his life resident in London, he continued to make frequent visits to Suffolk. When he was 33, he fell in love with Maria Bicknell, the granddaughter of the Rector of East Bergholt, Dr. Rhudde. Constable was still dependent on the allowance from his father and was unable to make a living through his art. Although to his family and friends he was generous and affectionate, in professional relationships he had a reputation for being hostile, arrogant and sarcastic; this didn't help to sell paintings. Maria's family were against the union. Her father was a senior lawyer in the admiralty and the Royal household. The Constables, although wealthy, were 'trade'. Dr. Rhudde, believed by his family to be very wealthy, threatened to disinherit Maria if she continued her relationship with the artist.. Their seven year engagement continued through secret correspondence until 1816. Constable's share in the business profits following the death of his father allowed them to marry. On the 2nd of November they were married in the Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields by John Fisher. Their marriage lasted for twelve years. In 1824 Maria developed pulmonary tuberculosis. She died on 23rd November, 1828.Often, Constable's work was better appreciated in France than in Britain. In 1824, he was awarded a gold medal by the King of France for 'The Hay Wain'. In 1829 he was elected a full member of the Royal Academy. He died on the 31st March, 1837 at his home, 40, Well Walk, Hampstead. He is buried with Maria in Hampstead Churchyard.

Featured People:

John Constable, RA, artist; Maria Bicknell, his wife; Golding Constable, his father; Anne Constable, his mother; Dr. John Fisher, Rector of Langham and Bishop of Salisbury; John Fisher, his nephew and friend of Constable; C.R. Lesley, American writer and friend of Constable; Peter Tuddenham, voice of Constable.

Featured Organisations:

The Royal Academy

Featured Buildings:

East Bergholt Church; Salisbury Cathedral; Flatford Mill; Willie Lott's Cottage; 40, Well Walk, Hampstead

BBC Television

Malclom Freegard

John Lawes

Norman Scarfe; Malcolm Freegard

Alvin Bailey

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