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Court Scene with Cardinal Richelieu

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The Court Scene with Cardinal Richelieu is the first sketch in Series 1, Episode 3 of Monty Python's Flying Circus entitled How to Recognise Different Types of Trees From Quite a Long Way Away about the proceedings of a bizarre trial.

The scene begins with a judge (Terry Jones), speaking to the defendant, Harold Larch, (named after the tree of the same name), played by Eric Idle, inviting him to deliver a closing statement before he delivers the sentence. Larch cites that he has a wife and six children, and pleads the judge not to take away his freedom. He then begins slipping into a Laurence Olivier impression, poetically and dramatically describing how freedom is the thing that every man holds most dear, shouting, "What goddess doth the storm toss'd mariner offer her most tempestuous prayers to?" When he finishes his monologue, the annoyed judge reminds Larch that he's only in for a parking violation.

Mr. Bartlett (John Cleese), the court barrister, arrives, having just now found a suitably kosher car park. He then calls Mrs. Lewis (Graham Chapman) to the stand, a stereotypically Pythonesque housewife, who rambles on with annoying gossip about another couple's expensive wedding and their child in Rhodesia, their goldfish who's being taken care of by the Bratbys, who never actually got married, and the husband's in the KGB if you ask her, though he says he's a tree surgeon, but she doesn't trust him because his liver is so squeaky at night, and his mother's been much better since her head was removed...

Bartlett has gotten so annoyed at the irrelevant chatter of his witness that he pushes her out of court still in mid-sentence. He then explains that his next witness will clarify things, calling upon the late Arthur Aldridge, who is not completely dead yet, but that he is feeling "not at all well", the coffin being merely a precaution. Bartlett then interrogates Mr. Aldridge, who responds by knocking once for yes, twice for no. When Bartlett suggests to him that he is dead, Aldridge stops responding. After looking into the coffin, Bartlett declares that he has no further questions to the witness. The judge is now even more confused, especially since Bartlett is ignoring the fact that Larch already pleaded guilty. Bartlett continues and suggests that his testimonies will eventually reveal an unspeakably fiendish and complex web of lies and intrigue. The judge accuses him of just stretching out the trial because he's too embarrassed to admit he's lost. Bartlett will have none of it, and to demonstrate his theory, he calls upon his final defense,Cardinal Armand de Plessis de Richelieu (Michael Palin), as a character witness. Richelieu states that Larch is a wonderful human being, and Bartlett holds that since Richelieu is such a pious and devout minister, his testimony is cause for clemency. The judge holds that the sentence is just a thirty shilling fine.

Suddenly, Inspector Dim (Chapman, again) from Scotland Yard arrives and demands to interrogate Richelieu, thereafter tricking the cardinal into admitting that he did in fact die in December of 1642, much to Richelieu's chagrin. Dim goes on to prove that he is not Cardinal Richelieu at all, but none other than Ron Higgins, professional Cardinal Richelieu impersonator. The court is impressed, and the judge suggests that Dim could be something much better than a police officer with an intellect like his. Dim launches into an impromptu sing-along about how if he were to leave the Criminal Investigation Department, he should like to become a window cleaner. The rest of the court finds this very entertaining, joining in the chorus after a few lines. Bartlett, in the spur of the moment, launches into another song about how if he weren't a barrister, he'd be an engine driver, but stops after a few seconds upon noticing the court conversely finds his singing completely insane and innapropriate. Upon this, the sketch is concluded when a knight in full armour (Terry Gilliam) arrives and smacks Bartlett on the head with a rubber chicken.

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