Lords of Disguise
Master’s Project 2017 – MA Serial Storytelling
Genre: Period Biographical Drama
It is early 19th century, and Richard Burton is a young man living an expat life with his family across continental Europe. With his dark looks and his talent for languages, in the south he is often mistaken for a local. Richard is a romantic and an idealist who dreams of the Far East. However, he is also a stubborn man and a trouble-maker.
Even though Richard is free, he doesn’t feel at home. So when, after 20 years of living abroad, he finds out he and his brother Edward will return together to Britain to study at Oxford he is excited and ready for adventure Even though Edward admires Richard, they are opposites. Edward is a rule-follower, determinate and secretive. Edward hides his most valuable secret: being a gay man in an era when he could be severely punished by law.
Going to Oxford is the chance for Richard to find out where he belongs and for Edward to bring their family back into the aristocratic society. However, the dream of Oxford turns to be a nightmare for Richard. While Edward is well-accepted by the students, Richard is hazed, mocked and made fun of because of the color of his skin.
Thanks to Richard’s short temper and his inability to conform, he ends up a drop-out student – and in 19th century Britain there is only one thing a drop-out can do: Join the army and sail to India.
But the army and Oxford are not that different after all. In India Richard realizes that the British social rules also apply on the other side of the planet.
To Richard, an idealist who doesn’t follow rules, the army seems like a living hell. But although his superiors despise him, they keep him around. Because of his looks, Richard becomes a spy for the British Empire in India. However, by living among locals, Richard reconsiders on who’s side he really is.
Richard is sent on a mission destined to fail. He is sent to Sindh, where the British Empire is at war with Persia. Richard must infiltrate the palace, convince the king to move his troops from the region, and rescue a fellow soldier who is also his personal enemy. The plan changes drastically when Richard falls in love with the princess and his true identity is revealed. Richard learns that his attitude has severe consequences.
This is a story about people wearing masks, pretending to be someone who they truly aren’t. This is the true untold story of how a boy became Sir Richard Burton, the greatest explorer of Victorian times, held up as a hero by a society that originally rejected him.