Terry Jones (1942-2020)

Sad news today: Terry Jones, Monty Python absurdist, film director and historian has died. I met him 15 years ago while preparing a couple of pieces on dramatic adaptations of The Canterbury Tales. Who Murdered Chaucer?, a book co-authored by Jones, suggested that the anticlericalism of the Tales had not gone down well with Henry IV’s Establishment and that the mystery surrounding the poet’s death might suggest skulduggery in high places. Genial and chatty before the dementia of more recent times took hold, Jones exuded enthusiasm for all things Medieval and especially Chaucer (he had earlier written a study of “The Knight’s Tale”): “The characters are so lively, you can hear them talking. It’s as if a tape recorder had been left running in the 14th century.”

Terry Jones discusses Chaucer and medieval humour on BBC Radio 4 Open Books

with Mariella Frostrup and Professor John Mullan


We had met in his home at the time in Camberwell, in south London. Michael Palin, Terry’s longstanding friend and collaborator, told a suitably nuanced comic anecdote set there during radio recollections today. Jones – a keen cook – was shucking oysters while talking enthusiastically and sliced into his hand, so the pair rushed over the road to A&E at King’s College Hospital. Enter two Pythons, with the injured one obliged to hold his bloody hand up in the air as if requesting permission to speak. The assembled patients – of course – fell about laughing. There’s more than one way to cheer people up.

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