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Series / Horrible Histories

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Gory stories, we do that,
And your host, a talking rat!
The past is no longer a mystery

Horrible Histories (2009-2013) is the hit live-action Sketch Comedy adaptation of Terry Deary's eponymous books. Running for five series, the half-hour-episode show aired on CBBC in the UK and various affiliated cable channels overseas.

Lifting its premise, (most) content and general Black Comedy sensibilities directly from the books, HH the TV series is hosted by a puppet sewer rat and romps irreverently (but always with conscious accuracy) through all the strangest, silliest and most bodily-fluid-intensive moments on the road to Western Civilization. Live-action sketches — which frequently parody current UK TV programs and personalities — are intercut with quizzes, short animations, and at least one music video per episode, likewise usually a parody of a classic pop/rock genre or song.

Despite all the goofiness, the show has picked up a sizeable Periphery Demographic, thanks both to increasingly sophisticated writing — riffing largely off adult comedy classics like Monty Python and Blackadder — and a core troupe of talented character comedians who also happen to be some of the most attractive Parental Bonuses on television today: Mathew Baynton, Jim Howick, Ben Willbond, Simon Farnaby, Laurence Rickard and Martha Howe-Douglas.

According to Word of God it had in fact been deliberately designed from the outset as a 'family show'; both writers and performers insisted throughout that they were 'just making a comedy series'. This became more obvious when the second series won not only three children's BAFTAs for writing, performing and Best Comedy, but a surprise British Comedy Award for Best Sketch Comedy. Followed the next year by a successful BBC Prom concert, another Best Comedy BAFTA and a (less surprising) Best Sketch Comedy BCA... and the next year by another BAFTA for Best Comedy.

As a result a six-part prime-time version was made for main adult channel BBC1, which featured the best sketches as introduced by Stephen Fry. Back over in the original series, Chris Addison, Reece Shearsmith, Steve Pemberton and Mark Gatiss make special guest appearances as well.

While the original incarnation of the show formally ended with the fifth series, a rebooted series of topical specials involving a (largely) brand new cast, format and production team began airing in 2015. Meanwhile, the original core performers plan to continue working together as a troupe for the forseeable future, writing and starring in both a new TV project (the family fantasy comedy Yonderland) and feature film (Bill, a spoof on the origins of William Shakespeare), and the more adult leaning comedy sitcom Ghosts (UK). The troupe has the Fan Nickname The Six Idiots.

Not to be confused with the 2001-2002 animated series, approximately based on the books.

Thanks to its sketch-based, genre-hopping nature, the series contains examples of many, many tropes, helpfully organized below:

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    Tropes # to H 
  • 0% Approval Rating:
    • Neville Chamberlain is convinced to resign in "Neville Chamberlain's Desktop" when he sees a Commons opinion poll that indicates exactly the trope name.
    • King John also suffered from this, as shown in his desktop segment.
  • Abnormal Ammo: A real-life example in which Hannibal of Carthage had snakes thrown onto an enemy ship was used for a Snakes on a Plane parody called Snakes on a Ship.
  • The Abridged History: Each episode is an anthology of sketches about different historical eras painted in a comedical tint.
  • Accidental Misnaming: Neil Armstrong insists upon calling the second man on the moon "Bazz Alldrains".
  • Accidental Rhyme: After a Celtic king makes a decree forbidding poetry because his name, Áed mac Ainmuirech, is the Least Rhymable Word, suddenly everybody in the room can't stop making Accidental Rhymes, including the king.
  • Accent Slip-Up: In "Mardy Mary Queen of Scots", Mary switches from a French accent to a Scottish one when the more aggressive, boisterous part of her personality rears its head.
  • Accentuate the Negative: It's called Horrible Histories for a reason.
  • Ace Pilot: In the RAF pilots' song, "The Few."
  • Action Girl: You do not want to mess with Boudicca. Or for that matter several of the other female characters. The show actually makes something of a point of celebrating this trope, as a way of compensating for the fact that most of their subject matter is male-oriented.
  • Adaptation Distillation: Of the show itself, as per above.
  • Added Alliterative Appeal: "World War II finally finds a fittingly foul finale."
  • Adipose Rex: Henry VIII, George IV, and Victoria all have sketches highlighting their obesity.
  • Adolf Hitlarious: The Fuhrer is a surprisingly frequent target of mockery. The highlight is probably when he shuts down a reluctant Hitler Youth recruit's protest with the familiar salute: "Talk to ze hand, cos ze face ain't listening."
  • Affably Evil: A favourite satirical approach, used with among others Blackbeard the pirate, Emperor Elagabalus, Athenian lawmaker Draco, Pope Alexander VI, William the Conqueror and Henry VIII. Inca emperor Pachacuti takes it to the extreme in a chipper pop video celebrating exactly how viciously he mutilated his enemies' bodies... complete with little bouncy skulls following the lyrics.
    • Becomes a specific plot point in the "Burke & Hare" song:
      Dr. Knox: They seemed such cultured gentlemen, I never did suspect
      That Burke and Hare were not so nice (I really should've checked!)
  • Agent Peacock: The producers concede that as a general rule, their versions of historical figures tend to "somehow..." end up more camp than the reality, including badass men. Sometimes it's much more overtly played with, as in the course of recasting the greatest flying aces of the Battle of Britain as a boy band.
    • Also by having barbarian warriors from the Burgundian, Frankish, and Alan tribes give fashion advice in Danke magazine.
  • A God Am I: In Alexander's song, he upgrades his monicker from "the Great" to "the Greatest", and then decides that's too boring, and opts for "the Living God".
  • Alas, Poor Yorick: The lead Viking of "Literally!" dramatically sings to a skull for part of the song.
  • All Witches Have Cats: In the 'Witchfinders Direct' advert, the entire witchcraft trial consists of finding a warty old woman and asking her if she has a cat. When she says "Yes", she is immediately declared a with and burned at the stake.
  • Amazingly Embarrassing Parents:
    • Richard I's mother at the end of this sketch.
    • Also, George III, due to his madness, often embarrassed his son George IV.
  • And Starring: Series One had two lead actresses, Martha Howe-Douglas and Sarah Hadland. Hadland left after the first series and Series' Two and Three had Howe-Douglas as the sole female lead with three or four supporting actresses. When Hadland returned for Series Four, she was given the 'And' position in the closing credits.
  • Anachronism Stew:
    • Much of the humour comes from the mesh of historical characters/situations with modern attitudes.
    • A bit less intentionally, since the show features a static list of defined time periods it focuses on, a few sketches are shoehorned into ones that they don't obviously belong to. For example, the "Who Wants to be a German Millionaire?" skit, about the Weimar Republic's 1923 hyperinflation crisis, is filed under "Woeful Second World War".
  • Ancient Grome: Averted for the most part. However, at least one sketch has Caligula state he wants to go to war with Poseidon, rather than Neptune.
  • Annoying Laugh: Elagabalus has one of these to underscore his immaturity.
  • Anti-Climax: Bobby Leach's Stupid Death. After going over the Niagra Falls in a barrel and being rescued several times from the rapids he was trying to swim, he met his end by slipping on an orange peel and dying of gangrene.
  • Antiquated Linguistics: Usually averted; no sense trying to educate the kiddies if they can't understand what you're saying, and besides which it's funnier that way.
  • Antidisestablishmentarianism: In a segment on Victorian school punishments, one boy is punished for misspelling it.
  • Are You Pondering What I'm Pondering?: Used by the Victorian Historical Paramedics. "...That top hats are fabulous?" "No. (...They are!)"
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking:
    • In the Joan of Arc song, Joan is pronouced "guilty of heresy - and wearing men's trousers!"
    • In the Magna Carta rap, the irate barons list the civil rights they're demanding from King John.
      Baron: There's vital stuff here that you've got to give us!
      There's also some stuff about fishing in the rivers...
    • In one of the Ready, Steady, Feast sketches, the guest brings along weird food such as an elephant's trunk and the heart of King Louis XIV. The final item is a pound of sprouts.
    • Words We Get From The Vikings starts by listing some predictably unpleasant and violent ones, and then throws in CAKE!
  • Artistic License – History: Mostly (and impressively) averted — there's apparently a production assistant on-set at all times whose sole charge is to ensure historical accuracy, and when they are made aware of a slip, they'll do their best to correct it in a later show (or in at least one case, the DVD release). On the other hand they're often deliberately trying to keep things simple to avoid confusing their young audience (they routinely modernise geographic references, for instance) and are always giving Rule of Funny as much priority as they can. The net result, as one academic put it, is best thought of as a slightly more conscientious Blackadder.
    • Rattus claims that the Hundred Years' War lasted a hundred years; it did not, it lasted 116 years. There are other factual slips as well. But you generally do have to be a historian to notice them.
    • Sometimes this is obviously the result of their working off the generally-accepted legend, rather than the frequently less hilarious reality — the Tudor and French Revolution segments especially do this a lot. And while Horatio Nelson did say, "Kiss me, Hardy" while in extremis, it's now generally conceded those weren't actually his Last Words.
    • The DI Bones sketch involving the velocipede. While yes a real Victorian era vehicle, velocipede is an umbrella term for human powered land vehicles with one or more wheels such as a bicycle. What they were riding in the sketch is actually a quadracycle which is a type of velocipede.
    • In-Universe, Shakespeare is notorious for it. "I'm William Shakespeare! I write plays and make stuff up! If I wrote it how it was in real life, it would be rubbish, and boring! Like school."
    • Richard III's Historical Villain Downgrade is overcompensated to the point where he gets a Historical Hero Upgrade; he's portrayed as 100% innocent of killing the Princes in the Tower (in actual fact, their fate is unknown, although as early as his own time, it was believed that he did have them bumped off). His Anti-Villain Song blithely glosses over becoming Regent for Life after accusing his late brother of bigamy with "Why not? I'm nobody's fool!"
    • Another bit is when his ghost complains to Shakespeare about the historical inaccuracy of the play by pointing out horses weren’t common in the English countryside til 1485. In actuality horses were in fact being domesticated in Britain as early as 2500 BC and were more formally introduced as early as the 3rd century.
    • Giovanni Borgia is seen commiserating with his siblings over the death of Rodrigo. In reality, he pre-deceased his father by six years by getting brutally stabbed and thrown into the Tiber- quite possibly murdered by Ceasare or Geoffrey.
  • Artistic License – Biology: One skit runs on the joke that two gentlemen can’t hear each other as both had their ears cut off as punishments. In reality while it would certainly be difficult to hear, you wouldn’t go completely deaf if your ear was cut off. The outer part of your ear, the pinna, acts as a megaphone in reverse. When it’s cut off everything would sound quieter as there’s no funnel for the sound to go down the ear drum.
  • Aside Glance: An amusing meta-example in the Stone Age Dragons' Den skit, when the inventor pitching the concept of 'beer' seems suddenly to remember what show he's really on: "It grown-up drink. Not for children."
  • Ass Shove:
    • The Stupid Deaths of the unfortunate Edmund II (not to be confused with Edward II) and Humphrey de Bohun. As for Edward II, the "Kings and Queens" song mentions the infamous poker but not its method of use.
    • The woman advertising human computer Katherine Johnson tries to do this to Katherine in an attempt to figure out where to plug in the keyboard in "Moon Mayhem".
  • Attack! Attack... Retreat! Retreat!: Used in the 'Plague Comes North' sketch, in which a raiding party from plague-free Scotland heads gleefully out to ransack the plague-weakened English, only to hastily backtrack — too late — when they realise the glaring flaw in this strategy. Then — too late — they realize the problem with hurrying home...
  • Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: Bob Hale goes off-topic very quickly. As when listing off the names of Roman emperors somehow turns into the Macarena...
  • Awesomeness by Analysis: Isaac Newton is portrayed this way as a parody of Sherlock in a sketch portraying his time as Warden of the Royal Mint. His acts include immediately calculating the number of forgers in Britain, deducing his deputy is the head of a forging ring, and calculating the physics necessary to bring down a fleeing criminal with a thrown apple.
  • Ax-Crazy: Caligula, so much. Possibly also Mandy the assistant in the "Historical Dentist" sketches, although it's not clear whether she's an active participant in the orthodontic crazy or just obliviously going for an Employee of the Month plaque.
    • Also Henry VIII who killed so many people they made a stretch about it, including two of his wives
    • Dick Turpin who shot "not one but two men dead"
    • Patachuti who sings a song about his war crime and how he treats dead enemies
    • Emperor Nero who "killed Christians for no reason" but also killed his mother, his wife and his girlfriend
  • Bad Boss: The Victorian bosses in the Work Terrible Work song who happily admit to making their employees work long hours and using child labour.
  • Bad News in a Good Way: The point of a sketch in which Henry VIII's jester Will Somers desperately works the news of the Queen's infidelities into a comedy routine.
  • Bad News, Irrelevant News: In response to a Greek athlete's disappointment that his prize for winning the Isthmian Games is a crown of celery (not a 'salary').
    Reporter: Well, the bad news is your prize is just a celery hat.
    Athlete: Then what's the good news?
    Reporter: The good news is that I just bought this delicious Greek dip. [Dips celery stick in said dip] Now that is rich. [Athlete Death Glares].
  • Bait-and-Switch: Sir Arthur Aston's Stupid Death. As he explains, he fell off his horse while showing off for some young women, and broke his leg, which turned septic. Much to Death's initial disappointment, though, that wasn't what killed him... however, the grim reaper is more than satisfied when he learns that the wooden leg Arthur acquired as a result was used, during a battle some years later, to beat him to death.
  • Bankruptcy Barrel: Diogenes. Well, he's not so much bankrupt as voluntarily eschewing material possessions, and he's not so much wearing the barrel as living in it... but still, he's definitely penniless, naked, and in a barrel.
  • Battle Couple: Mr. and Mrs. Sparta from the Ancient Greek "Historical Wife Swap" sketch have the potential to be the ultimate power couple.
  • Beam Me Up, Scotty!: Discussed; Richard III never said "A horse! My kingdom for a horse!" William Shakespeare made it up.
  • Bedsheet Ladder: Making the ladder too short led to the Stupid Death of Griffith Ap Llewelyn...
  • Being Good Sucks: Elagabalus finds that giving only good lottery prices to people of Roman gets "boring"
  • Berserk Button: Do not play a sketch about killing rats! Rattus will be very cross.
    • As will Richard III over references to his alleged villainy.
    • Describing Elizabeth I as anything but an angelic, ravishing beauty routinely triggers tantrums.
    • As does any attempt to deny a Roman emperor anything. For instance, suggesting to Caligula that taking on Poseidon, god of the sea, might be just a teensy bit problematic. You should also never imply that something might be more significant than him.
    • As per above, there's an entire sketch based on how carefully courtiers were forced to tiptoe around Henry VIII re: his latest marital issues.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Played with in a sketch in which a softspoken monk manages to bring the Viking assault on his monastery to a dead halt simply by asking what on earth they're doing there, which completely baffles them — for about a minute. "Oh yeah, 'cos violence is fun!". Cue the monk running for his life.
    • Along similar lines, another monastery raid sketch features a literate monk who calmly convinces the Vikings to spare him so he can record their badassery for all time. ("Write about my biceps!") Unfortunately for the monk, the raiders quickly start arguing over who's the bravest and most fearsome, and they're still carrying axes...
  • Big Ball of Violence: Animated ones frequently appear to denote major battles in the background of Bob Hale's reports.
  • Big Eater:
    • As per the usual cliches, the Tudors' diet was....very rich. "Do you want to have a body like King Henry VIII's? Now you can, thanks to the Henry VIII Tudor Diet Plan! With just seven hours of dedicated feasting a day, you too can have a body to die for!"
    • Emperor Elagabalus's cook reels off all the dishes that will be served at his dinner party — so many that the camera fades to black and fades back in at the end of the list. Whereupon...
    Elagabalus: That sounds like a really nice starter. What's the main?
    • One of the defining characteristics of George IV. During Georgian Come Dine With Me, he is the only able to eat the curry. He then looks at everyone else's unfinished portions and asks "Are you going to eat that?".
  • Bigot vs. Bigot: Parodied in the "Historical Wife Swap" sketches, which tend to pit naturally antagonistic couples against one another (Cavaliers vs. Puritans, Athenians vs. Spartans, etc).
  • Bilingual Bonus: In the "Le Survival Guide" sketch, we get this line from Mat Baynton's young soldier: "Vive Napoléon! Super cool!" The French accent, however, makes that last word really sound like something else. Later, "not cool!" is pronounced similarly when a French soldier is shot in "mon derrière", so the whole thing was probably intentional — especially given that Baynton studied clowning in France.
  • Black Comedy: Cheerfully dialed up to eleven, although careful to stop short of Dude, Not Funny!.
  • Black Spot: In a sketch on the pirate tradition, a pirate who expects to be marked for death keeps seeing black spots everywhere in a busy tavern, up to and including a Dalmatian dog that nearly sends him into fits. His buddy finally manages to convince him he's being silly, and he leaves the tavern much relieved... revealing a huge black spot pinned to his back.
    • In a rare but grievous error for the series, the concept of the black spot is in fact entirely fictitious, having been invented by Robert Louis Stevenson for Treasure Island.
  • Bland-Name Product: The historical-character-uses-the-internet sketches incorporate historically-themed renames of familiar software and websites: Trype, Gargoyle, Macebook, Stained-Glass Windows...
  • Blitz Evacuees: One sketch recounts the Real Life descriptions that evacuees gave of things they encountered in the country, like cows, as if it were a trailer for a horror movie.
  • Blood Knight: William Wallace.
  • Blunt Metaphors Trauma: In the Pizarro sketch. "Easy peasy, squeeze de lemon." Also turns up in (of all things) Ivan the Terrible's Stupid Death, wherein the fearsome Russian Tartar Emperor signs off with "see you later, crocodile!"
  • Boastful Rap: The "Celtic Boast Battle". Charles II's "King of Bling" rap can also be considered this, as Charles brags about his popularity in general and having done "what was right and proper" during the Great Fire of London in particular ("Proved I'm more than a bopper — I'm a fire-stopper!"). He even lists the names of several women he, ah, "broke the wedding rules" with.
    • More obviously, "I'm Minted" by Marcus Licinius Crassus is all about his incredible wealth... and we do mean all. ("These Romans think they're minted/But they ain't rich like me/You can't call yourself loaded/Till you can buy an army...")
  • Boomerang Comeback: Of the "thrower gets hit" variety, when an Egyptian hunter tries to show off his cat's ability to fetch.
  • Boy Band: Parodied twice, complete with angsty spotlights and precision dance moves. The '4 (King) Georges' sing "Born 2 Rule" in the first series and 'The Few' (WWII RAF pilots) specifically send up Take That (Band) in the fourth.
  • Braids of Barbarism: Vercingetorix sports these.
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: Things Elagabalus might let you "win" in "Romo Lottery Millions" range from the useful (a house, a slave, actual money) to the useless (a dead dog) to those that would actively harm you (a box full of bees).
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Used with Rattus (the rat puppet who hosts the series) between segments. More specifically, the Stone Age Dragon's Den example above.
  • Bring My Brown Pants:
    • After being intimidated by a Viking warlord online, Ethelred the Unready decides he might as well go clothes shopping as well... and posts an order for brown leggings.
    • Henry VIII bursts in on the matchmaking consultation of the Earl of Arran and the infant Mary, Queen of Scots, and declares war on Scotland. One of the dating agency employees notes that someone needs changing and she doesn't think it's the baby.
    • When Cutlass Liz pulls a five-barreled pistol and robs her partner on the Pirate Shopping Network, she says she doesn't want his coat as it is covered in poo. He then says that she won't want his trousers either.
  • British Stuffiness: Played for laughs in the 'WWII Codebreakers' sketch, among others.
  • British Teeth: Used as a contrast between American and British soldiers in a WWII sketch. Also implied by a few Horrible toothpaste recipes, including one whose main ingredient is sugar-paste.
  • Brownface: The show's Egyptian, Aztec, and Incan sketches often have the white actors in this, with the sketches often featuring the actors plastered with layers of makeup to make them look darker skinned. This is continued well into the 2015 reboot, where the act would no longer be considered acceptable today.
  • Bumbling Sidekick: Several, notably over-sharing Pedro in 'Francisco Pizarro's Very Rough Guide to Mexico': "...and then we steal all their gold!"
  • Bully and Wimp Pairing: Again, several, notably Caveman Art Show hosts Ug and Grunt. The Cro-Magnon Ug clearly enjoys clubbing his poor Neanderthal co-host Grunt, frequently just for the hell of it. ("Now, the next thing we do... is hit Grunt!") In the sketch about cave painting, Grunt goes on to make fun of Ug's weight and hit Ug.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: The Stonewall Jackson sketch is a succinct demonstration of this trope in action; quirks displayed, disbelief from the newbie and competency proved.
    • Similarly, the Reformation sketch shows how Martin Luther, the creator of the Reformation, made his office into a big bathroom and took notes on his own excrement.
  • Burn the Witch!: The point of an advert for 'Witchfinders Direct'. "Had something bad happen to you? Wasn't your fault? We'll find an old woman and blame her for it!"
  • The Caligula: Many, including the trope namer himself.
  • Call-Back: In his second-series debut, Charles II raps "Is today my birthday, I can't recall/Let's have a party anyway, because I love a masked ball!" Cut to the final episode of the third season, in which his hungover majesty opens a sketch with "Easy, Southerby, I had a rather major un-birthday party last night..."
    • In one early Bob Hale Report, he uses "except NOT helicopters" in his Mad Libs Catch Phrase (see entry below). It became one of the character's most-quoted lines, leading to this in a fourth-series Report involving Leonardo da Vinci: "Except obviously NOT helicopters. But then — hm? Oh... apparently he did invent a helicopter. Knew that one'd come back to bite me someday."
    • Ben Willbond offhandedly decided to spice up Alexander the Great's otherwise-innocuous first-series debut by sniffing ominously at his subordinate general's hair. The scene became so iconic a followup sniff (involving a different subordinate) was deliberately scripted into a sketch four series later.
  • The Cameo: A truly epic one in We're History, the final song of the series. Almost every single historical figure that's ever appeared on the show, from Alexander the Great to Baynton's unnamed awkward peasant, shows up by the last chorus.
  • Camp Gay: The host of the 'Fashion Fix' skits, a broad parody of popular UK fashion guru Gok Wan. The fashionable advice-giving barbarians of Danke magazine may also be counted.
  • Camping a Crapper: Edmund II's Stupid Death - killed by a sword up the rear from a Viking hiding in his toilet.
  • Canis Latinicus: Discussed by Rattus in the course of explaining that the Romans made sandwiches before Earl Sandwich ever did: " we should probably call it a sandwichus! Hahahaha! 'Cause that's - if you put an ''-us'' on the ends of words, it makes it sound Roman...?"
  • Captain Colorbeard: One episode had Captain Saltybeard giving a weather forecast as dictated by pirate superstitions.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: Many including Adolf Hitler and the Aztec Priests who "aren't very nice". But most notably in the Evil Roman Emperors song were four emperors try to prove themselves Eviler than Thou.
  • Catchphrase: "HI, I'M A SHOUTY MAN!"
    • "Good day!"
    • "Hot sausage!"
    • "Amazing!.."
    • Rattus: "That's 100% accu-rat" and "The rat knows all!" To a lesser extent, "Ooh I'm imagining it, I'm imagining it..." and "Ahhh, suit yerself!" after one of his puns falls flat (again).
    • Bob Hale has several (and yes, all delivered in capslock): "THANK YOU SAM!" "BUT NOT FOR LONG!" "WRONG!" "OR SO THEY THOUGHT!"
    • Death (at least in the first season): "You're dead funny!" Later, "You're through to the afterlife!"
    • Cliff Whiteley: "Whallop!"
    • In-universe, in the course of French prankster Robert of Artois trying to develop his own reality series: "Wooo-OOO! You've been ARTOIS'D!" It doesn't exactly catch on.
    • King Charles II: "Big time!"
  • Cat Fight: Not shown, but very much talked about in the Roman funeral sketch:
    1st Roman dude: My uncle Centillus had it written into his will that he wanted a fight to the death [over his grave] between two beautiful women!
    2nd Roman dude: That's disgusting!
    1st Roman dude: His funeral's in ten minutes.
    2nd Roman dude: ...can I come?
  • Cats Are Mean: Rattus, naturally, isn't a fan. Especially not in one segue when a loud and angry meow is heard, chasing him offscreen.
  • Ceiling Banger: John Sublett, a.k.a. John W. Bubbles, the inventor of tap dancing, talks about how everyone loves him. Apart from his downstairs neighbour, who keeps pounding on the ceiling and telling him to knock it off.
  • Characterization Marches On: Occasionally, when a character goes from being a one-off sketch to a more recurring or at least, notable figure. For instance, in Richard III's first appearance (in a sketch where his ghost comes to edit Shakespeare's Richard III) he is quite a bit angrier and more northern than his later, more Woobie-ish portrayal.
  • Chariot Race: A parody ad for a historically accurate chariot racing video game based on famous charioteer Scorpus. Watch it here.
  • Chimney Entry: A Victorian sketch about chimney sweeps has the latest hired help discover that a rich household's chimney was blocked by older chimney sweeps ... and Santa Claus.
  • Christmas Episode: Horrible Christmas, featuring among other things the WWI Christmas Day truce, weird Victorian holiday cards and the decidedly uninspiring truth behind various favourite carols.
  • Clasp Your Hands If You Deceive: Exaggerated by Cesare Borgia with his "I am the mostest powerfullest evilest of all!"
  • Cloneopoly: A "Measly Middle Ages" sketch depicts William The Conquer's invasion of Medieval England through a board game called "Normanopoly". It is a circular board with Medieval versions of Monopoly player spaces, and the player pieces are a crown, a wooden ship, and a wild pig. As players go around the board, churches and abbeys are constructed in order to appease the gods after the murder of thousands of Saxons. Board spaces can be renamed, just as the real-life town of Nottingham was renamed as such from the more disgusting sounding Snottingham. The rules are even made up as the players go.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Bob Hale, as revealed when discussing anything that isn't actual history.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Hannibal. He fights Carthaginian dirty, y'all.
  • Comically Inept Healing: The "Historical Paramedics" sketches feature 'paramedics' from different historical eras applying period remedies to modern day patients, and usually leaving the patients in a worse condition than when they started, to the horror of the patient and onlookers. Similar ideas are used in the "Historical Hospital" and "Historical Dentist" sketches.
  • Constantly Curious: What the show uses to explain the Socratic method.
    Socrates: (singing) People found me irritating
    Thanks to my interrogating
    Like a toddler, was always asking why...
  • Consulting Mister Puppet:
    • The show's version of Caligula makes this a trademark. Usually using his own hand with a face drawn on, but he's also chatted happily with a wooden mallet that he named Whackus Bonkus and which doubled as a murder weapon. The worm attached to the dead man's armour he was wearing may also count although he ended up eating it.
    • Death's relationship with his two (literal) skeleton sidekicks — joined by a mummy in the fourth series — has definite overtones of this; they're supposed to be an X-Factor-esque judging panel, but Death's apparently the only one that can hear the others' opinions (and berates them loudly when he disagrees). He also occasionally holds staring contests with them.
  • Continuity Nod: In the four King Georges' song, George III claims that he was as 'batty as a bonkers kangaroo'. In a later song (where George IV goes solo), a dead George III introduces himself as a kangaroo. Not to mention George III's first word in the second song is the same as his last word in the first - 'banana'.
    • This example is actually also an aversion — the show usually maintains strict continuity in re: who performs what historical character, but in this case George III from the first song (Simon Farnaby) wasn't available for the second so a replacement (Lawry Lewin) was brought on. The same situation led to another aversion in which Mat Baynton took over from Farnaby as Caligula.
    • One of the rebooted episodes focuses on King George III. Simon Farnaby and Jim Howick reprise their roles as Georges III and IV, respectively. The kangaroo joke is carried over too.
    • In one sketch, Jim Howick plays a Georgian army recruit whose CO berates him as "You horrible little man!" Cut to a sketch a few episodes later featuring Howick as a Roman army recruit whose similarly cranky CO uses the same epithet.
  • Continuity Cavalcade: The aforementioned finale song.
  • Court Jester: Based on real-life Tudor court clown Will Somers. He's the only one who can speak honestly to Henry VIII about his wife cheating on him.
  • Cover Innocent Eyes and Ears:
    • In "Monstrous Musicians", a mother covers her child's eyes with a leaf of lettuce when a pack of flagellants walk past.
    • In "Formidable Florence Nightingale", Florence's father tries to cover her sister's eyes when they see Florence spend her trip around the world nursing with the nuns at a covenant.
  • Covered in Gunge: All the time. The gunge is usually meant to be poo, and it's almost always Rickard covered in it. The rule seems to be "You write a sketch about a man covered in poo, you have to play the man covered in poo."
  • Cowboy: A musical number describes what the life of a working cowboy was really like.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Parodied in the 'Race to the South Pole' sketch, in which the proudly under-equipped British explorers believe the Norwegian team to be sissies for bringing along such luxuries as sled dogs and warm clothing.
  • Creator Cameo: Terry Deary, author of the Horrible Histories books, quite often turns up in sketches when a kindly elder gent (usually monk) is concerned, notably playing the Bishop in The Monks' Song.
    • Production assistant (in charge of fact-finding) Greg Jenner often appears in the background of sketches, usually as the mute-but-loyal flunky. Notably, he's William the Conqueror's knight-assistant in both the "Kings & Queens Song" and the 'Mud & Matilda' sketch.
    • Series producer Caroline Norris appears in Death's waiting room during the jingle as a housewife with a sooty face, presumably blown up by her gas oven.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Often showcased in the video game segments. These include Vikings slaughtering English monks or conquistadores crushing the Aztecs using their superior weapons.
  • Dated History: "Sweet King Richard III" was recorded before King Richard's body was found and exhumed, so the song dismisses Richard's scoliosis as an invention of his enemies.
  • The Dead Can Dance: Death dances to the Stupid Deaths opening jingle, and, in the Scary Special song, even gets a team of Thriller-esque backup-dancing corpses.
    • During the Plague Song, the dead rise from the dead-collector's cart to sing and dance about the disease that killed them.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Apparently, history was full of 'em. The talking rat has his moments too: "It's true! William the Conqueror really did explode at his own funeral... try finding that on The Bayeux Tapestry."
  • Dead Hat Shot: The Tudore version of Thumbelina ends with with Thumbelina travelling to London in search of her prince. However, because this is Tudor era London, the streets are covered in human excrement, and Thumbelina, being just six inches high, sinks and drown. The final shot is her hat floating atop a pool of poo.
  • Death as Comedy: More or less constantly (although Bloody Hilarious is largely averted). They even have an entire recurring sketch devoted specifically to the concept.
  • Delusions of Doghood: George III is frequently portrayed as believing he is a kangaroo.
  • Department of Redundancy Department:
    • Oh yeah. "The sugary paste in all new Tudor Sugar Paste Toothpaste is made up of sugar in a paste!"
    • From Horrible Histories Prom: "Henry VIII and Charles II arrive for this unusual royal variety performance, in which a variety of royals will perform."
    • From the Stone Age Tool Kit sketch: "Sharp stone is sharp."
  • Depraved Dentist: The "Historical Dentist" sketches feature all the excruciating and unsanitary practices that earned the profession its bad reputation in the first place, with the eager participation of modern dentist Mandy.
  • Desecrating the Dead: Pachacuti sings a whole song about it!
  • Did You Die?: A variation on this happens when Charles II meets Thomas Blood, the (unexpectedly goodnatured) man who stole the Crown Jewels:
    Charles II: You must come 'round to the palace for tea! You can regale us with your funny stories!
    Blood: I've got a fantastic one about the time I was plotting to kill you
    Charles II: Did you succeed? No no no, don't tell me, I'll wait until you come round!
  • Didn't Think This Through: The sheepish conclusion (twice) of the aforementioned Scots whose raid on the disease-weakened English was responsible for a) giving the raiding party the plague and b) thereby introducing plague to Scotland.
    • Also, the main reason why the French lost the battle of Agincourt.
      1st French soldier: Okay... heavy armour, too many knights, too little room, lots of arrows and lots of mud.
      2nd French soldier: We probably should have thought this through a little better...
    • A Saxon farmer who's just burnt all his crops to the ground to ward off ghosts comes to the same conclusion when his wife asks him what exactly he thinks they're going to eat now.
    • This is also the reaction of the treacherous General Pausanius when he tries to hide from the Spartan army in a temple to Athena, only to be bricked in.
    • The whole point of the 'Dodgy War Inventions' animated sketches.
    • Amateur scientist Robert Cocking designed a parachute, carefully calculating how big it would need to be to support him... but forgot to factor in the weight of the parachute itself. Needless to say, he ended up in a 'Stupid Deaths' sketch.
    • After stating that he would randomly shoot members of his crew, Blackbeard realizes he's lost so many that the Royal Navy can board his ship and take him captive.
  • Disguised in Drag: Used in a 'Putrid Pirates' sketch about tricks they used to entice ships close enough to attack (since a shipful of women wouldn't be perceived as a threat).
    Random pirate: (on seeing his bearded captain in drag) Right, I'll just put my eye-patch over my good eye...
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Cesare Borgia will kill a man who dares to, like, invade his personal space. Also this, courtesy of The Caligula in the "Evil Emperors' Song":
    Caligula: I'm very hairy, but take note
    If you so much as whisper 'goat'
    With an iron rod you will be smote!
    (In a good mood today, so I won't slit your throat.)
  • Distaff Counterpart: Inverted and played with in the 'Joan of Arc' sketch, in which the skeptical heroine suggests God's angel must mean to call her (fictional) neighbor John of Arc. Who immediately comes running up in chain mail — why, yes, he has always wanted to lead the French to glorious victory and restore the rightful king to the throne! There's no arguing with the Divine will... so John ends up taking over Joan's domestic chores instead.
    • Also played straight with the "Shouty Georgian Woman" - a one-shot Distaff Counterpart to the Shouty Man.
  • Don't Explain the Joke: Death has a problem — sometimes the corpses even call him out on it. Rattus is frequently guilty of it too.
    • As is a Bumbling Sidekick of Saladin in one sketch. Saladin is trying to explain his plan to cut off the Crusaders' access to water, but the sidekick doesn't realize that this is intended to kill them and says, "they'll have nothing to wash their salad in...get it, it's your name, Saladin!"
  • Don't Fear the Reaper: Although you may justifiably worry a bit if your death throes weren't sufficiently entertaining, as you then — as per one Stupid Deaths sketch — have to get back into the 'long and boring' Boring Deaths line.
  • Don't Try This at Home: Sometimes appended to sketches, apparently more because the writers thought it'd be funny than out of any actual desire to avoid lawsuits. Still, yes: drilling holes in your family's skulls, definitely a bad idea.
    • Used with a surprising amount of seriousness in one sketch. Being that that sketch involves the Viking Historical Paramedics determining the seriousness of a wound by tasting the injured person's blood, it's fair enough that this has something to the effect of "do not do this, EVER, WE ARE SERIOUS, NEVER" plastered underneath it.
  • Double-Meaning Title: The finale song, "We're History". The people singing are literally from history, but they're also "history" in the colloquial sense because the show is ending!
  • Draco in Leather Pants: An in universe example, Dick Turpin sings a song about how he doesn't deserve this treatment.
  • Dramatic Drop: In the Boudica special, Boudica snatches a pot of a Roman who has come to the reading of her husband's will. When she finds out he has left everything to the Roman Empire, she drops the pot, and and the Roman complains about her breaking his pottery.
  • Dramatic Thunder: Margaret Thatcher changing her voice to sound more commanding in "Putrid Politics" is accompanied by this.
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: The knight preparing Crusaders for the monsters they'll be likely to meet on their way to the Holy Land (in a loose takeoff of the classic Monty Python "Self-Defense Against Fresh Fruit" sketch).
  • Dumbass Has a Point: In "Moon Mayhem", the ditzy Sebastian points out that the Americans' plan to nuke the moon would be massively unpopular and lead to the extinction of all life on Earth. One Dope Slap from Sophie later, and he apologises, not knowing what came over him.
  • Dumb Muscle:
    • A gladiator in one sketch, who keeps misunderstanding his trainer's motivational metaphors ("You want me to lick him?") until they're reduced to "Go - out - there - and - kill - him!".
    • Unsurprisingly, this is the cause of a few Stupid Deaths: notably strongman Milo of Croton, trapped by a tree he was trying to split, and the unnamed Greek boxer who beat on his rival's statue until it toppled over on him.
  • Dunce Cap: In "Moon Mayhem", John Wilkins puts one on a student who points out that there's no air in space. Since it's not actually done anymore in real life, she has no idea what a dunce even is.
    • Often given in Dodgey War skeches.
  • Eagle Land: A downplayed example as the U.S.A. doesn’t come up often but the actual heading for the segments is “Awesome U.S.A.” and the characters are often those viewed as cool or heroic, like the Pilgrim Fathers, cowboys, WWI and II soldiers, and civil rights fighters.
  • Eagle Squadron: Referenced in the song "The Few":
    The finest British pilots
    That the world could hope to have
    Binky, Stinky, Squiffy
    Frantiek and Stanislav

    Hold fire! Is that some foreign chaps
    Risking their necks?
    That’s right, some of the bravest men
    Were Polish and Czech
  • Ear Trumpet: Type 2. At one point during the Prom special, famously deaf Ludwig van Beethoven is provided a literal trumpet by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, in order to more comfortably argue over which of them was the Greatest Composer Who Ever Lived.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: The first series is trying harder to be children's edutainment (onscreen song lyrics etc), on a much lower budget; by the second they've made comedic potential the priority over demographics, and they've clearly got much more to spend on it, a trend that intensified with each series. Originally, as well, skits were based pretty much entirely on stories from the books, and hence have a similarly cartoonish feel, featuring lots of over-the-top grossout gags and violence. As the show has progressed — and, arguably, gained in sophistication — a larger percentage of ideas are from more conventional sources, and based around more subtle limitations of human nature.
    • Also, compare the simple song-and-dance routines with cardboard props of Series One to the green-screen and dry-ice filled music videos that came later.
    • Death's makeup and set dressing get a major upgrade between the first and second series — though, strangely, they went from giving him an actual scythe to using obviously tinfoil-wrapped cardboard ones as decorations in series two.
  • Eat the Dog: Or the horse named Dobbin. Or the goose filled with the Holy Spirit. Or the goat filled with the Holy Spirit. Or an actual dog, if you're Aztec.
  • Economy Cast: Entire armies, angry mobs etc. tend to be played by about five-six people.
  • Educational Song: Yes, they are technically supposed to be this. At least one an episode.
    • Let's face it- there are a whole bunch of kids in their late teens/early twenties who can still recite (well sing) all the monarchs of England/UK - in order - from 1066. That's pretty educational!
  • Egopolis: The settlers in "Colonisation Colonisation Colonisation" have to give landmarks names that will please King James. Thus James River, Jamestown, etc etc. One man has the audacity to name a fort after himself... fortunately, his name happens to be James too.
    • As per both history and This Is My Name on Foreign below, Alexander the Great established cities named Alexandria pretty much everywhere in his conquered territories.
  • Elmuh Fudd Syndwome: Caligula (and occasionally Nero), mirroring the Roman belief that a lisp was a sure sign of an aristocrat.
  • Erotic Eating: In "Ridiculous Romantics", Anne Boylen provocatively sucks an olive off a toothpick in front of Henry VIII during the "Historical First Dates" sketch.
  • Even the Subtitler Is Stumped: "The News in Tudor Criminal Slang" begins with a translator accurately translating the slang, gradually getting confused, and finally giving up.
    • In the "Aztec Priests' Song", two of the priests rattle off the gods they worship, with the third explaining who they are, until the first two get completely tongue-tied over the multi-syllable names — to which the third hastily improvises "Erm... Some other gods' great lives!"**
  • Everybody Hates Mathematics: Death invokes this after failing to wrap his head around the Pythagorean Theorem.
  • Everyone Has Standards:
    • The host, Rattus Rattus, is, naturally, a sewer rat who cultivates his (flatulent) fleas as pets, happily admits to eating filth and often laughs at the more gross elements of the show. However, even he is repulsed at the concept of "Mellified Man".note 
      Rattus: ...Y.U.C.K: yuck! And that's not a word I use often.
    • He's also a lot more sombre after a Titanic sketch when discussing what the aftermath was, since it was a tragedy.
  • Everything's Louder with Bagpipes: Emperor Nero, of all people.
  • Evil Eyebrows: Ivan the Terrible has some truly magnificent ones.
  • Evil Is Hammy: Used frequently, largely as a way to get across truly irredeemable nastiness — Emperor Nero, Hitler, the Borgias etc. — without completely freaking out the kiddies.
  • Eviler than Thou: The theme of the "Evil Emperors' Song" (a pastiche of Michael Jackson's "Bad") featuring Caligula, Elagabalus, Commodus and Nero. Nero handily proves himself the most evil of them all.
  • Excessive Evil Eyeshadow: Ivan the Terrible, so much. Dick Turpin's infamous Guy Liner also qualifies.
  • Excrement Statement: Diogenes urinates on people he doesn't like, "...and let's just say when I'm really offended, I switch to Plan B!"
  • The Exit Is That Way: Used at the end of both the Columbus sketch and King Canute's Movie Pitch.
  • Expository Theme Tune: Presumably to ensure viewers know exactly what they're getting into.
  • Fainting: A staple, used to especial comic effect in the segments on the Black Death.
  • Face Death with Dignity: The old lady in the 'Witchfinders Direct' advert. She initially protests her innocence, but then faces her imminent burning with solemn silence.
  • Fake Rabies: One of the scams on "Real Victorian Hustle" involves a Street Urchin eating soap to make it look like he is foaming at the mouth.
  • False Reassurance: In a "Gross Designs" sketch, Vlad III Dracula, Prince of Wallachia, corrects a misunderstanding caused by his name:
    Kevin McLeod: Hi, welcome to Gross Designs. I'm here in Middle Ages Romania to meet a man with a truly awe-inspiring new design project to defend his country. His name is Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia.
    Vlad III: Please, my friends call me Dracula.
    Kevin McLeod: You're not going to bite my neck and suck out all the blood, are you?
    Vlad III: No, I'm not vampire.
    Kevin McLeod: You're not some crazed killer.
    Vlad III: Mm, well, I'm not vampire anyway.
  • Fashion Hurts: One Stupid Deaths sketch involves a Georgian woman coming in after a vicious cycle of using lead based paint to cover her smallpox scars, which led to more scars and then more make up, and then more scars and more make up until she died. Immediately afterwards another Georgian woman comes in, caked in the same stuff, causing Death to quip "Lead me guess."
  • Fat, Sweaty Southerner in a White Suit: Turns up as the foil in a (not-particularly-subtle) sketch about the disguises Harriet Tubman used to lead slaves to freedom.
  • Fate Worse than Death: Invoked by Greek ruler Draco in sentencing a hapless apple-snatcher: "Guards! Take him away and make him dead! Oh, and if you can think of anything worse than death, do that too, OK? OK."
  • Faux Affably Evil: Even a show as satirical as Horrible Histories still manages to make these types of people:
    • Oliver Cromwell seems to be this as the first sketch features him saying this and locking his own relatives on Christmas along before telling them gently "Merry Christmas":
      Oliver Cromwell: (calmly) Oh relatives. (angrily) How did you get past the guard?
    • Adolf Hitler in the Hitler Youth sketch, but given its Hitler its hard to make him genuinely friendly.
    • Nero, as the show makes it clear that even with some funny moments he is a genuinely terrible and mean person with even the other evil Roman Emperors commenting that he is truly mad and evil with him throwing parties while using live Christians as candles and softly telling how in a sketch he's going to kick Poppaea to death softly to himself while hugging her.
  • Faux Horrific: "The Farm" sketch involves a British evacuee who is terrified when he sees a cow. It goes further when he runs away screaming from other farm animals and when his foster mother offers to give him a bath.
  • Fiery Redhead: Boudicca. To a certain extent, Henry VIII and Elizabeth I.
  • Firing in the Air a Lot: Wyatt Earp and Billy the Kid do this repeatedly in one of the Cliff Whiteley sketches. Cliff is not happy about the damage to his ceiling.
  • Fish out of Water: One "Historical Masterchef" sketch focuses on a Stuart era head cook... who has no idea how to use a modern stove.
    AAAHHHH! That's the work of a witch!
  • Flowery Insults: The show's version of William Shakespeare, just like the real one, is a master of these. He manages to literally knock out an opponent in a battle of words, using a barrage of insults collected from the real Shakespeare's works:
    Shakespeare: How can I respond to a beslubbered, pebbling, churlish clotpole, a beef-witted gleeking bum-bailey, a gorbellied, mewling, hedge-born, onion-eyed, fustilarian cob-loaf! Flappy-eared, knotty-pated measle, you ruttish, reeking coxcomb, you bugger-mugger moldwarp! Pottle-deep, maggot-pie lewdster! Yeasty, tickle-brained, whey-faced, nut-hook skainsmate!
  • Follow the Bouncing Ball: Both played straight and parodied, as per the bouncing skulls in the Pachacuti song referenced above.
  • Football Hooligans: Exaggerated by the Tudor-era origins of the sport, in which the entire game was essentially two villages beating the living daylights out of each other... with an inflated pig's bladder somewhere on scene. The sketch, naturally, doesn't show the extent of the violence, but makes it clear that participants commonly ended up dead.
  • Forbidden Holiday: In S2 E2, Oliver Cromwell bans Christmas celebrations among many other things. The sketch can be viewed here.
  • Foreign Queasine: Another staple of the show, although "foreign" is usually more a matter of time than of geography. Pretty much the entire point of the Ready Steady Feast and Historical Masterchef bits, among others.
  • Forgot to Feed the Monster: Nigel the Historical Paramedic forgot to feed the spiders for the asthma cure ("Are you insane in ye brain? We can't feed her dead buttered spiders!") Earlier, a Viking navigator forgets to feed the navigation raven, putting a distinct crimp in plans to release it and follow it to land.
  • For the Evulz: As per history, what tends to happen when Roman emperors get bored. Caligula randomly kills people, Elagabalus serves his dinner guests painted rocks and hands out dead dogs as lottery prizes, and Nero describes his persecution of Christians as "just a fun game I played, y'know..."
    • Cesare Borgia as well. As per history, he gleefully explains in the 'Borgia Family Song' that he's ready to kill at the slightest provocation or for no reason at all.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: Plenty in the "Historical Internet" sketches, among others. For example, Cleopatra getting an email from her sister and Henry VIII's mistress Bessie Blount being on his top 8 on "Yebo".
  • Friendly Enemy: Done for a gag in the English Civil War song. “Why’s it called civil?” “May I kill you, please?” “Sure.”
  • Frivolous Lawsuit: After a rat chews off one of his toy soldiers' heads, Tsarevich Peter III takes it to court.
  • Full-Frontal Assault: Fighting in the nude is one of the Badass Boasts made by the duelling Celtic warriors in the "Boast Battle" rap.
  • Fully-Clothed Nudity: The "naked man" in Elizabeth I's throne room is still wearing undergarments that cover him completely from the waist down. (And a woolly hat.)
  • The "Fun" in "Funeral": Several sketches on ancient burial rites turn out to involve this, especially one in which it's revealed Romans sometimes had their favourite slaves — male and female — fight to the death over their graves, which evolved into the concept of gladiators.
  • Gasshole: There are quite a few fart gags.
    • In the aforementioned 'Real Live Cowboys' number, one of them farts a solo because of all the beans they eat.
    • Similarly, "Aztec Come Dine With Me" is set during Etzalcualiztli, the month of eating maize and beans, and the beans have made everyone humorously gassy.
    • There's also a sketch about professional Gasshole Joseph "Le Pétomane" Pujol.
    • And also Roland the Farter, who entertained at the court of Henry II by ... well, guess.
  • Genuine Human Hide: An "Historical Educators" sketch has Burke and Hare employed as business teachers. When they are fired, they present the headmaster with a leather bound journal as a farewell gift. He is delighted with it until he notices the cover has freckles.
    • Also, the William Wallace song contains the lines:
      Celebrated Stirling Bridge, another Scottish win
      By decorating my sword with the English general's skin!
  • Gesundheit: Augustus to Agrippa, the man never given credit for many accomplishments claimed by Augustus, or, apparently, for even having a name.
    • Weirdly inverted in a sketch about the Persian army: "It doesn't even sound like a sneeze, it just sounds like you're saying 'Wazoo.'"
  • Gilded Cage: Passionately invoked by King John Balliol when his lawyer questions why the former Scottish King is so desperate to get out of the Tower of London despite the luxurious treatment he's getting. Balliol insists that his heart and soul belong in Scotland and he must get back home... until the lawyer offers to get him banished to France.
  • Girls with Moustaches: A false beard finishes off Cleopatra's beauty regime, though it only appears for a moment in her song. Hatshepsut likes her beard so much she decides to keep it.
  • Giver of Lame Names: The guy in Pilgrim Fathers who says "I'm from Newcastle, can we call this New Newcastle?"
  • Gladiator Games: Multiple sketches about them, including a memorable one in which they run out of animals.
  • God Save Us from the Queen!: Elizabeth I might have the body of "a weak and feeble woman", but she definitely has the heart and stomach of an absolute monarch who can casually have her subjects' heads chopped off for displeasing her. Similarly, Mary I is absolutely gleeful about burning people alive for being Protestant.
  • "Good Luck" Gesture: In the "Queen for Nine Days" sketch, when sending a letter to Mary Tudor asking Mary to recognize her as Queen Lady Jane Grey does the classic 'Fingers crossed!' while holding them up.
  • Gratuitous Disco Sequence: The Aztec Priests song ("Ain't Stayin' Alive"), a bit.
  • Gratuitous French: In many sketches dealing with France, most noticably the Joan of Arc song.
  • Grave Robbing: A cheery song about the gruesome activities of historical grave robbers Burk and Hare.
  • The Grim Reaper: He loves his job. He really does. Except during that one humongous backlog in afterlife applications caused by the 'Measly Middle Ages' (Crusades, floods, plague, Hundred Years' War, etc. etc...).
  • Hand-or-Object Underwear: The man who has his toga stolen during the Shouty Man's ad for the Roman Baths uses a book from the bath library to preserve his modesty.
    • In a sketch about ancient Egyptian fashion, an Egyptian peasant in historically accurate utter lack of clothing is shown holding a basket in front of his bits.
  • Hard Head: Turns up with surprising abandon in a supposed children's educational programme. Most notably in the 'Caveman Art Show' sketches, wherein Grunt takes multiple club bashings from his co-host without apparent injury — of course, when he finally turns the tables, his co-host isn't so lucky.
  • Here Comes the Science: Used in several mock-adverts. "Here's the sciency bit!"
  • Here We Go Again!: After the death of his wife Mary Tudor, Philip II of Spain promptly starts plotting to marry her half-sister Elizabeth.
  • The Highwayman: The dashing legend, and specifically the romanticisation of Dick Turpin, is deconstructed in song... how well is debateable, given it's being performed by an eyeliner-wearing Baynton, but still.
  • Historical Character Confusion: One Cliff Whiteley segment opens with Cliff on the phone telling a newspaper "Albert Einstein was the one with a theory of relativity. Frankenstein was the one with a monster. Now print an apology!"
  • Historical Hero Upgrade: Notorious highwayman Dick Turpin sings a song about his life which takes some time to lampoon how he was romanticized after he died.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: Lampshaded and played straight in one sketch about Richard III, in which his ghost gripes about how his Shakespearean portrayal is pure fiction. There's a continuation in a third series song, in which Richard III lists all the ways in which he's remembered and complains that he's a nice guy, really, and that Shakespeare made up the phrase "A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse" out of whole cloth.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: At the end of the Greek Historical Wife Swap, the Athenian man suggests they vote on whose way of life is the best. The Spartan man votes Spartan. His wife votes Spartan. The Athenian man votes Athenian. His wife... doesn't get to vote, she's only a woman!
  • Hollywood History: George IV gets a solo song complaining about how all anyone ever remembers about his reign is that he was really fat. Also falls into this in a few other areas.
  • Hollywood Tone-Deaf: In the Christmas special, the HH carolers briefly lapse into this while singing about medieval wassailing to the tune of "Silent Night":
    Male Carolers: They are out wassailing!
    Female Caroler: If they think that's in tune, they're failing.
  • Home Guard: Several sketches reference the British version in WWII, notably one based on how they frequently contrived to injure themselves with their makeshift weapons.
  • Hook Hand: In the pirate sketches. Lampshaded exasperatedly when one such character is offered a high-five: "Seriously, why would you do that?"
  • Hope Spot: Happens from time to time, usually Played for Laughs. For example, a well-off Roman couple, having lost their home and virtually all of their possessions in the Great Fire, are delighted to see that Nero is taking personal involvement in reconstruction efforts... only for him to reveal that he's building a palace for himself on top of the burned rubble and tell them to go live in the slums.
  • Horny Vikings: The show makes a point of not giving its Vikings horned helmets, and providing occasional reminders that they never really wore them (although Rattus does wear one from time to time). The trope is otherwise mostly played straight.
    • ...And then completely subverted in a Series 5 song, which portrays the Vikings as Simon-and-Garfunkel-esque flower children.
  • Human Mail: One sketch was about a pair of suffragettes attempting to have themselves mailed to 10 Downing Street. Rattus tells us that suffragettes really did attempt to have themselves mailed to the Prime Minister, and this was the reason why a law was passed making it illegal to send humans through the Royal Mail.
  • Human Sacrifice: As the "Aztec Priests' Song" makes clear (using, erm, a Bee Gees pastiche), this was very much that empire's founding principle:
    To win at war, make crops grow more, to cure our kids when ill,
    The sun to shine, this song to rhyme, more victims we must kill!
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: Occasionally invoked from Rattus' POV. According to him, rats think of Florence Nightingale as "The Lady with the Broom, 'cos that's what she used to hit us with!"
  • Human Shield: Not human, but same general principle: the Persian army uses adorable little kitties to protect itself from the cat-worshipping Egyptians.
  • Hurricane of Puns: Not nearly as punny as the books overall, but used in some sketches, notably one involving Henry VIII's jester. Rattus sometimes indulges as well.
    • Death also gets in on it during the "Stupid Deaths" sketches, and complains when his skeleton lackeys — who, it should be noted again, are actual skeletons — don't laugh.
  • Hypocritical Humor:
    • In the "Victorian Names" sketch, the substitute teacher expresses amazement at the bizarre names of the pupils... only to reveal that her name is "Miss Farting Clack".
    • Similarly, the two confused peasants in the "Wat Tyler" sketch call "Wat" a silly name. However, it turns out that their names are "Who" and "When".
      "Oh, whatever!" (offscreen) "Yes?"
    • There's also the Newgate Prison guard who refuses to allow a pig in the prison on the grounds that they're "filthy animals" and then sticks his finger up his nose.
    • The correspondent at the prom warns Charles II not to mention Victoria's late husband in her presence — then, once she arrives, welcomes her to the Royal Albert Hall, causing her to rush off in tears.
    • The "Tudor Sugar-Paste Toothpaste" commercial. Elizabeth I says, "As a famous monarch, I'm always being asked how I keep my teeth so bright, white and healthy," at which point she opens her mouth to reveal very yellowed teeth.
    • When Mary Shelley mentions her friendship with Lord Byron, one of the Movie Executives tells her "I hate namedroppers, and so does my good friend Brad Pitt."

    Tropes I to P 
  • "I Am Great!" Song: Sung by (who else?) Alexander the Great. Although he prefers "the Greatest".
  • I Ate WHAT?!: One of Admiral Nelson's crew proposes a toast to the fallen admiral. He then does a Spit Take on being told that the body is pickling in the brandy they're drinking.
    • Greg also has this reaction to most of what he eats in the "Historical MasterChef sketches, due to him stuffing his face before hearing what the ingredients are.
  • I Call It "Vera": Caligula calls his hammer "Whackus Bonkus".
  • I Fought the Law and the Law Won: Mentioned word-for-word in the Luddites song.
  • Ignorant About Fire: A scene featured an elderly Victorian gentleman catching his rear end on fire and more concerned about his daughter's suitor's bad language than the fact that he's on fire. (To him, words like "bottom", "trousers" and "leg" aren't fit for mixed company.)
  • I Resemble That Remark!: The motivation behind Guy Fawkes' Gunpowder Plot:
    "Because you're a Catholic and I'm a Catholic, and the king hates Catholics! He seems to think we're always plotting something."
  • I've Got an X, and I'm Not Afraid to Use It!: While reporting on the Battle of Marston Moor during the picnic the Royalists are having just prior, Mike Peabody is caught in a surprise attack by the Roundhead forces. He snatches the closest bit of cutlery off Prince Rupert's table and announces "I've got a butter knife and I'm not afraid to use it! You—get back or I will spread you, I am not joking!"
  • I Want My Mommy!: Invoked by a young student warrior in the "Spartan High School Musical" song, and by a fully-grown Spartan warrior in a sketch involving preparation for the battle of Thermopylae. Made even funnier when you realise that, as per what the show has already established, 'mommy' would most likely have just clocked them upside the ear and thrown them right back out into the battle.
    • At the end of the "Celtic Boast Battle Rap" the Celt who was stabbed runs out of the tent yelling "MUM!"
    • The general cry of "Mummy!" is used again in a Historical Hospital episode. Only this one makes total sense, considering that the speaker is from Ancient Egypt, is being chased out the door, and has just nearly run into a patient covered head to toe in bandages.
  • I Was Beaten by a Girl: Used nearly word-for-word by a Roman soldier in the Boudicca song.
  • I Was Quite a Fashion Victim: The Georgian period is treated like this, with an entire song dedicated to how Georgian ladies made themselves fashionable. Note that this includes replacing your eyebrows with mouse fur, wearing toxic lead makeup and hanging carrots from your ears.
  • I Would Say If I Could Say: Describing Oliver Cromwell during his song, Charles II scoffs that "Old Ollie wasn't jolly, he was glum and he was proud/Would be miserable as sin/Only sinning's not allowed."
  • Identical Grandson: Inevitable in a show with all the variously interrelated characters of history played by just a few actors, but particularly noticeable in the Stuart dynasty, with Baynton playing all the Jameses and Charleses shown (plus cousin Rupert). They do however get someone else (semiregular Lawry Lewin) to play Bonnie Prince Charlie.
  • Imagine Spot: What if gladiator school was run like a modern junior high? Or if Henry VIII had access to the internet? Usually courtesy Rattus — complete with 'imagine if...' and wavy dissolve cut ("Ooh, I'm imaginin' it, I'm imaginin' it...!").
  • Incredibly Long Note: The kings and queens in the English Kings and Queens Song sing "VIC-TOR-IIIIIIII-AAAAAAAAA" with incredibly long notes to represent the fact that Victoria was (at the time) the longest-reigning English monarch. "I ruled for sixty-three years, you know."
  • Inelegant Blubbering: The actors seem to have a penchant for making funny faces when crying. The worst offenders are Jim Howick, Martha Howe-Douglas, and Mathew Baynton.
  • Inherently Funny Words: To show his insanity, George III is particularly fond of throwing them around at random, especially "kangaroo" and "banana".
  • Insane Troll Logic: In "Moon Mayhem", the Russian military leader decides that sending out a dummy that recites subpar recipes for borscht is a great idea for demoralising the Americans, because the recipe will make them doubt their tastebuds, which will in turn make them doubt their government and the whole concept of Western democracy.
  • Instrumental Weapon: During the musical number "Literally", two of the Vikings are playing guitars that are really axes.
  • Insufferable Genius: William Shakespeare achieves this in the prom special, just before finally being belted unconscious by the caveman he's been insulting. "Uggh! Talks too much!"
  • Insult Backfire: From the Vlad the Impaler sketch:
    Vlad: You know what the Ottomans will say when they see the bodies of 20,000 of my own people spiked on the border?
    Interviewer: You're Insane!!
    Vlad: Exactly!
  • Insult to Rocks: Rattus reveals that George IV's nickname was "Prince of Whales". Then hastily adds how unfair this was — to the whales.
  • Interactive Narrator: Used occasionally, notably in the Hatshepsut sketch. Sometimes, as in "Love You to Death", the narrator appears to interact with the cameraman.
  • Internal Homage: Bob Hale's "Fact, fact, fact, and amusing anachronism, except not the last one" Mad Libs Catch Phrase is referenced, quite unexpectedly, in the "Spartan Girl" mock-advertisement.
  • The Internet Is for Porn: Yes, it's a kids' show. No, they didn't have the Internet during most of history. Yes, it still manages this trope.
  • Irony: Often, as a byproduct of the concept. On the Historical Masterchef sketches, for instance, the most sophisticated food is served by a caveman named Nug.
  • Is This Thing Still On?: After discussing her marital prospects on a Skype equivalent with William Cecil, Elizabeth I announces that she is married to England. Cecil says goodbye and then mutters "She's finally lost it", prompting Elizabeth to respond "I'm still here, Cecil!".
    • Also used at the end of the HHTV Sport report on Emma Sharp, who ran one thousand miles in a thousand hours. "I mean, she must have cheated, there's no way a woman - ah, we're not still on air, are we, Pete?"
  • It Will Never Catch On:
    • In one sketch, a monk is called a crackpot for believing that the Earth is round and the Moon causes tides.
    • In another, a Georgian sports presenter claims football is just a fad, and that long after people have gotten over football they'll still be into pinching matches and greased goose grabbing.
    • On scientific exploration into the causes of illness: "A microscope? What do you expect to find, tiny little creatures?!"
    • Another sketch revolves around cavemen studying plans for an ambitious new invention: the 'city'. The idea guy is mocked for coming up with pointlessly 'fancy-pants' concepts like "streets" and "trade".
    • In another, a Parliamentary aide is laughed at for citing research that suggests dumping raw sewage into the Thames might not be the best idea, and that the subsequent traces of sewage in the drinking water are probably the cause of the current cholera epidemic.
    • A Stuart merchant who encourages his friends to try tea is laughed off at first. "Dead leaves in water? Like a puddle in Autumn?"
    • One of the guests in the Georgian Come Dine With Me sketch believes this about the first Indian restaurant in Britain. The future George IV promptly asks if he's going to finish his curry.
    • After being compelled to sign the Magna Carta, King John scoffs that he'll have the Pope undo it anyway, and "No one will even remember this tomorrow!"
  • Judgement of the Dead: Played for Laughs where one reoccurring sketch called "Stupid Deaths" has Death himself judging the deaths of various people throughout history to determine whether they make it through to the afterlife. However unlike most version of this trope he judges based on how much the deaths are able to make him laugh, and if they entertain him enough then he lets them into the afterlife.
  • Just a Stupid Accent: Most sketches set somewhere other than England use this. The usual exceptions to this rule are Ancient Rome, Ancient Greece, the Aztecs and Incas.
  • Kangaroo Court: In the Witchfinders Direct sketch, the 'trial' of the old woman consists of asking her if she owns a cat.
  • Kavorka Man: George IV.
  • Kent Brockman News: What inevitably happens when a sleek modern news crew (on the 'News at When' broadcast) tries to report on messy historical events. And that's not even mentioning poor Bob Hale, who was apparently originally meant to be the weatherman. "Our forecast is for lots of Vikings heading down from the north — but look! The Saxons are fighting back! Wait, here come the Vikings again..."
  • Kick the Dog: Shows up a lot, historical class divisions being what they were among other things. A high point of sorts is reached during the Georgian Wife Swap sketch, in which wealthy Lord Posh, deeply moved by Mrs. Peasant's complaining over her lot at dinner, summons his personal orchestra to play sad music while she tells him all about it... then informs the whole Peasant family that he's razing their cottage... then summons the orchestra again when they get upset about it.
    • Earlier in that particular skit, Lady Posh, annoyed that Mr and Mrs Peasant's starving little girl has possibly stolen an apple out of her ridiculously elaborate hairstyle, concludes with a sigh that she'll just have to have the child hanged.
    • Similarly, the Victorian Wife Swap's ending has the Tombleby-Pumblechooks informing the Smikes that the latter will be moving out of the slum... only to be thrown in jail for stealing a lump of coal. To add insult to injury, the T-P's throw the lump away because it was touched by poor people.
  • The Knights Who Say "Squee!": Death is very excited to meet "the Draco," and keeps a collection of autographs from some of history's most famous baddies.
  • Large Ham: Several of the historical figures, of whom Henry VIII, Charles II and Caligula are unsurprisingly foremost. The SHOUTY MAN and Death have their moments as well. Really, watch any sketch with members of the core troupe in the background and you'll see some fairly shameless scene-stealing going on.
  • Last-Second Word Swap: This exchange from the Starbucks — er, Stuart-era coffeehouse sketch:
    Customer: Well, tell the king that he's very smart, and in no way at all a silly old -
    Frank: Don't push your luck.
    Customer: ...farmer.
    • Combined with Perfectly Cromulent Word in the 'Historical First Dates' sketch on the "Ridiculous Romantics" special. Catherine Howard attends her first date with Henry VIII accompanied by Francis Dereham. When Henry asks who he is, Francis starts to say he's her boyfriend, but is kicked by Catherine under the table after he says "boyfr...", and Catherine hurriedly finishes the sentence by saying "Boyfr...ump! It's a new word meaning companion. Or servant."
  • Laughably Evil: Where to even start. The entire show seems to be made of these guys.
  • Let Us Never Speak of This Again: After the siege of Dunbar Castle ends in abject failure.
    The Earl of Salisbury: If anyone asks, we've been on a walking holiday in the Highlands.
  • Life of the Party: Charles II, who describes himself as "the king who brought back partying". His love of parties is mentioned very often on the show.
  • List Song: Several, including the Greek and Victorian inventions songs, the English Kings and Queens Song, the list of phrases coined by Shakespeare, and the list of books by Charles Dickens.
  • Literal Metaphor: The core concept of "Literally", the Viking invasion anthem. "We're gonna set this sleepy town alight/Literally!"
    • Also lampshaded by the Crusader who has just spent hours trying to find the Holy Land by following a goose "filled with the holy spirit": "I never thought I'd be part of a walking metaphor, but that was literally a wild goose chase."
  • Luxury Prison Suite: Newgate, as long as you can afford it. King John Balliol of Scotland also gets one of these in the Tower of London, and hates it ("You wouldn't keep an animal like this! It's inhumane!") He cheers up noticeably, though, when his lawyer offers to get him banished to France instead.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: "Work, Terrible Work", an upbeat, catchy song about the horrors of child labor in Victorian England. Based loosely on "Food, Glorious Food", itself an upbeat, catchy song about the horrors of workhouses in Victorian England, from the musical Oliver!.
    • As noted above, "Do the Pachacuti" is probably the most relentlessly cheerful, upbeat song about mutilating dead enemies you will ever hear.
  • Mad Artist: Their portrayal of medieval French troubadour Bertran de Born shows shades of this.
  • Mad Libs Catch Phrase: Bob Hale has a tendency to give lists in the form of "X, and Y, and Z, except not Y," where X and Z are historical facts and Y is a humorous anachronism. Usually helicopters. Or mutant sea monsters...
    • Also, HHTV's war correspondent invariably signs off with "This is Mike Peabody, reporting for HHTV News live from [historical event], really wishing he were somewhere else...!"
    • Anchorwoman Sam does her own version of this to introduce Bob's reports: "Hello, and welcome to the News at When. When? [Time period], when [description of important event]. To tell us more, here's Bob Hale, with the [Subject] Report."
  • Makeup Is Evil: Oliver Cromwell certainly thinks so. ("Especially that eyeshadow with that top.")
  • Married to the Job: Elizabeth I. She claims she married to England.
  • Mayincatec: Refreshingly averted. The Aztecs and the Incas are appropriately treated as two distinct cultures; The Mayans would eventually appear in the reboot.
  • Meaningful Name: Oh yeah. Notables include Abigail Tight-Corset and Matilda Never-Wash. There are a couple of names that are meaningful but more likely to sail over kid's heads; one character, a Victorian drunk, is named Florence Guttersnipe.
  • Medical Game: There's a very complicated licensed game that has a mini-game about putting leeches on a sick person's stomach.
  • Medium Awareness: Frequent. At one point, Cliff Whiteley asks Mary Seacole if she'd like to appear on a "historical sketch show for the BBC". When she skeptically asks him "It any good?" he turns and grins into the camera: "It ain't bad!"
  • Metaphorgotten: A Saxon farmer giving his neighbor advice regarding his barren field reminds him that "The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence - unless you're me, 'cause that's not!"
  • Michael Jackson's Thriller Parody: Death's song in the Scary Special was built up to be this, but surprised audiences by being a pastiche of "My Favorite Things" instead, except for the Thrilleresque dancing ghouls.
  • Milking the Giant Cow: Used as a dance move and referred to by name in a behind-the-scenes vid.
  • Misery Trigger: Mentioning her dear deceased 'Albert' will instantly cause Queen Victoria to dissolve into floods of tears.
  • Mistaken for Aliens: One Scary Story tells the tale of the Green Children of Woolpit, a mysterious, otherworldly-green pair of siblings from the far-off planet of.... Belgium.
  • Mistaken for Fake Hair: "Victorian Undercover Proprietor" (a parody of Undercover Boss) has Sir Titus Salt going undercover in one of his mills and discovering how horrible conditions are for his workers. At the end of the sketch, after he reveals himself, one of his workers says "I knew that were a disguise, as soon as I saw the daft fake beard." He yanks on it only to discover it is Sir Titus' real beard.
  • Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal: The "Real Victorian Hustle" sketch ends with Mat Baynton's crime boss character being ratted out by his young accomplice for refusing to give him his share of the money.
  • Mood Whiplash: After sketches, Rattus will sometimes become a bit sombre when describing the reality behind the funny, especially in re: the First & Second World Wars. ("Well, what do you expect? It is 'Horrible' Histories, after all.") They manage to pull it off with impressive tact and taste... to the point where the rat's finally moved to protest after an especially horrible scene: "Do you know, if I'm honest, I'd rather just do the funnies. Couldn't we get a badger or something in for the sad bits?"
  • Moral Guardians: A feature of the 'Slimy Stuarts' sketches especially, thanks to the Cavalier/Roundhead conflict. The show is characteristically unsubtle about which side it's on, as per a sketch in which Oliver Cromwell has his relatives arrested for simply showing up at his door to wish him Happy Christmas.
    Charles II: (rapping) Old Ollie wasn't jolly, he was glum and he was proud
    Would be miserable as sin, only sinning's not allowed!
  • Motor Mouth: Bob Hale's Reports are essentially very extended, very detailed and very enthusiastic monologues.
  • Mourning an Object: One sketch revolves around Tsarevich Peter III treating one of his toy soldiers getting its head chewed off by a rat as akin to an actual murder, complete with putting the rat on trial, sentencing him to death, and hanging him with a rat-sized noose.
  • Mr. Fanservice: None of the characters specifically — but the combination of extremely attractive actors and frequent shirtlessness is much too obvious to be entirely coincidental.
  • Mumbling Brando: Pope Alexander VI, one of the most corrupt popes ever elected, is portrayed as a "mafia boss" type of character in this sketch, complete with his actor doing a Marlon Brando impression.
  • Mummies at the Dinner Table: One sketch features an unlucky couple enduring dinner at the Raleighs' after Sir Walter's been executed for treason... and thus having to make conversation with his preserved head, in order to avoid upsetting his wife.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: "If the pirate captain really wanted to kill you, he'd send you... A LITTLE NOTE!"
  • My Little Phony: One sketch in a fifth season episode included the Victorian My Little Pit Pony. This doll described what life was like for horses that worked in coal mines, including breathing coal dust and getting stuck in tunnels. They only came in one color: black.
  • My Local: Death's (so he claims) is called "The King's Head Being Chopped Off".
  • Mystery Box: The prizes in Elagabalus's Romo Lottery Millions. Could be a slave or a new house, could be a dead dog, or could be a swarm of angry bees...
  • Naked People Are Funny: Nudity or partial nudity is a common source of humor in the show. In one sketch, Queen Elizabeth and Lord Cecil keep informing a man the articles of clothing he's wearing have recently been made illegal, leaving him standing there with no shirt. In everything relating to the ancient Greek Olympics, including the song "Flame", the participants are naked as well.
    Greek runner: No girls could compete or watch, this may sound rude, But makes more sense when I tell you we competed nude!
  • Namesake Gag: One sketch showed the Earl of Sandwich inventing the sandwich. This was then followed by the culinary creations of of his friends Baron Hotdog (silly) and Lord Turkey of Twizzler (very silly).
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast:: Incan warlord Pachacuti helpfully translates his name as "He Who Shakes the Earth" before he starts describing all the other reasons you should be running.
  • Never Needs Sharpening: Paul Revere's All-American Toothpaste. You'll never need to use another toothpaste, because once the formula of sugar, butter, breadcrumbs, and gunpowder have done their trick, you won't have any teeth left! (Warning: new gunpowder formula may contain gunpowder)
    • Also a stone age bed guaranteed never to sag... because it's made of stone.
  • Never Say "Die": Averted throughout the show, most prominently in the "Stupid Deaths" sketches.
  • Newspaper-Thin Disguise: In the Mission: Incompetent sketch detailing the attempts of the Black Hand to assassinate the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the first assassin Muhamed Mehmedbašić is hiding behind a newspaper at a cafe, but is too scared of the policeman standing nearby to act.
  • The Nicknamer: There's a sketch about Elizabeth I being this, including her most well-known nickname of "Pygmy" for one of her ministers.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: The 'hot Egyptian' (or 'gorgeous Viking', or 'surprisingly handsome Anglo-Saxon') scientist host of the Wonders of the Universe skits is named Brian, looks like him and speaks like him but is totally not UK pop-science presenter Brian Cox. Totally.
    • Also, the 'angry, shouty' chef host of "Roman Kitchen Nightmares" is so completely not Gordon Ramsey.
    • The Shouty Man totally doesn't sound almost identical to infomercial reader Barry Scott, never mind how one sketch about how medieval peasants used fermented urine for clothing detergent happens to include a parody of the tagline from his Cillit Bang infomercial.
    • The Scary Stories narrator totally isn't Vincent Price.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: A hapless man who wants to present a fish to Emperor Tiberius ends up being assaulted with it thanks to the emperor's paranoia. He comments that it's a good thing he didn't bring the emperor a crab...
  • No Indoor Voice: Bob Hale and The Shouty Man. Other notable sketches include one with Caligula: "THINK YOU'RE BIGGER THAN ME?!".
    • The show's version of Greg Wallace on the Historical Masterchef segments. After an Aztec chef tells him what a howler monkey is, this ensues:
      Greg: That must be the LOUDEST CREATURE ON EARTH!
      Aztec: It's one of them.
    • From the same sketch:
  • "No. Just… No" Reaction: This is Margaret Tatcher's voice coach's reaction to her attempting a Cockney accent in "Putrid Politics".
    Voice coach: Please, never, ever do that again.
  • No Kill like Overkill:
    • The SHOUTY MAN.
    • The conclusion to a song about Victorian inventions... did you know they invented dynamite during that era?
  • Nonverbal Miscommunication: In a segment on the sign language of Saxon monks, a monk's attempt to tell his brothers that the Vikings are attacking is first interpreted as "the gorillas are making clay pots" and then "the gorillas are ringing the bells".
  • Not a Morning Person: The "Wake Like an Egyptian" song depicts both Pharaoh Hatshepsut and Amun-Ra, Egyptian god of the sun, as non-morning people, which is unfortunate as both of them are required by the Egyptian religion to literally get up before the sun.
  • Not Evil, Just Misunderstood: Richard III is given this treatment, with a whole song about how he wasn't the cold-hearted murderer that Tudor propaganda described him as.
  • Not Helping Your Case: A suffragette running out onto a horse race course (and being trampled by a horse) to get the attention of her MP. He reacts by saying "We can't let women vote if they're so silly they'll do that!"
  • "Not Making This Up" Disclaimer: Signs pop up during sketches, to the effect that they're not making up certain historical details... or that they are. (The sign that they are usually says "Silly" or, at least once, "Very Very Silly".)
    • The 'Victorian Names' sketch includes a pop up after every single name just to reassure us that they're real, and given that they include names like "Never" and "Baboon" this is entirely justified.
  • Obvious Object Could Be Anything: In the "Scary Special", a deliveryman delivers what is obviously a scythe wrapped in brown paper. Death wonders what it could be, and when the deliveryman tells him it's a scythe, Death tells him off for ruining the surprise.
  • Oh, Crap!: Several times per episode, although the most spectacular is probably Emperor Elagabalus' dinner guests upon finding a live lion in the powder room.
  • Old-Timey Ankle Taboo: The "Surfing the Web Safely" video has a prudish Victorian going online and being shocked by all kinds of smut: such as women showing their ankles, or appearing in public without gloves.
  • Old-Timey Bathing Suit: The sketch "Victorian Beach Watch" demonstrates some problems with these, namely that they are hard to swim in as well as hard to put on, leading to lifeguards not being able to save someone before he shows up and clocks them upside the ear.
  • Omnidisciplinary Scientist: Real-life Aristotle was the original, and the show's version sings it thus: "I took all their theories higher / Discovered water, ether, earth, air, and fire / Mastered every science, I'm Mister Know-It-All!"
  • Once Done, Never Forgotten: King George IV complains that he's most known for his obesity, rather than his achievements or interesting life.
  • One-Steve Limit: Deliberately — not to say enthusiastically — averted by writer Rickard, who has admitted to shoehorning 'Geoff's into his sketches wherever possible. Most noticeable with the various Historical Paramedics, who regardless of era are invariably named Geoff and Nigel (Rickard's father's name).
    • Every horse is named Dobbin (or in the Roman chariot racing sketch, 'Dobbinus').
    • Averted with Mary Queen of Scots, who had four ladies-in-waiting during her time in France, all called Mary. Cue several jokes about Mary Queen of Scots wanting to speak to Mary, and all four answering her together.
  • Only Sane Woman: Anchorwoman Sam is appropriately perturbed by Bob Hale's weirdness... which doesn't stop her from taking advantage of it from time-to-time in the service of a good punchline, as in the Human (Evolution) Report.
    • In a sketch with a Saxon husband and wife, the wife is the only one to realise that burning their crops will mean they starve.
  • On the Next: "Historical Wife Swap" sketches generally end with one of these, as does 'My Big Fat (Medieval Scottish) Wedding'.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: In the WWI special when covering the incredibly brutal Battle of the Somme, Bob Hale starts off as his usual chipper self ("and the funny thing about the Somme is..."), but then drops all of that and admits that it really wasn't funny at all. It's quite a sombre moment for the series in general.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Played with to heighten the absurdity of historical cliches — most notably during the 'Savage Stone Age' segments, in which the performers routinely switch from subliterate grunts to perfect English without missing a beat.
    • Also used to great effect during a 'Putrid Pirates' sketch featuring the notorious Captain Black Bart listing off his rules to the new recruits. He starts off in bog-standard 'Arrr, me mateys!' mode... right up until "Rule One: Fighting!":
      Black Bart (abruptly switching to modern 'posh' accent): "No fighting. It's antisocial, and it's a good way to lose an eye, isn't it Mulligan?"
    • During the Dick Turpin song, sung otherwise with an assumed accent, the words "that's lame" are in the actor's normal voice.
  • Oop North: The 'Home Guard Injuries' sketch is taken specifically from the accident reports of the Durham division. The attempts at the accent are almost as hilarious as the intended comedy.
  • Paint the Town Red: "We're gonna paint the whole town red / Literally! / With the blood of the dead / Literally!"
  • Parental Bonus: Basically the entire thing, although see of course Parent Service.
  • Parent Service: Go on, just try to find one clip on YouTube with Mathew Baynton in it that doesn't have comments gushing over how 'fit' (British for 'gorgeous') Mat is. Seriously, they're even on the one in which he plays an eighty-year-old Charles Darwin.
    • Larry Rickard, one of the writers/performers, has also referred to costar Ben Willbond as 'mum candy' in one of his tweets — and of course, Rickard himself and Jim Howick get their share of this as well. It's all become something of a behind-the-scenes Running Gag.
    • Which was in turn lampshaded during a 2011 pre-BAFTA ceremony interview with the cast. "What's the secret to your tremendous success?" Rickard (completely deadpan): "Mat's eyes." Rickard also referred the 'why does the show appeal to adults?' question to Willbond the mum candy.
  • Parody Commercial: Several, including "God Compare" and "We Buy Any Monk."
  • Perfectly Cromulent Word: Combined with Last-Second Word Swap in the 'Historical First Dates' sketch on the "Ridiculous Romantics" special. Catherine Howard attends her first date with Henry VIII accompanied by Francis Dereham. When Henry asks who he is, Francis starts to say he's her boyfriend, but is kicked by Catherine under the table after he says "boyfr...", and Catherine hurriedly finishes the sentence by saying "Boyfr...ump! It's a new word meaning companion. Or servant."
  • Perverted Sniffing: Alexander the Great takes an ominously casual sniff of his general Hephaestion's hair, in the notorious "Alexandria" sketch. According to Ben Willbond's Twitter, this was a Throw It In! by Willbond himself.
  • Pie in the Face: A sketch on Victorian manners, in which almost everything a gentleman does whilst on a picnic results in him being slapped by his lady, ends with him oh-so-politely ascertaining that there's nothing at all improper about an apple pie... then shoving it into her face. "Just be grateful I forgot the cream!"
  • Pirate Girl: Cutlass Liz who co-hosts the Pirate Shopping Network (until her partner pulls out a bag of sugar. Then she draws a pistols and robs him. She is a pirate, after all).
  • Plank Gag: In a sketch about Edward III's wedding in the unfinished Yorkminster, his bride - Philippa of Hainault - gets clonked on the head when a workman carrying a beam turns around.
  • Please Shoot the Messenger: Pausanius's messenger is savvy enough to read the message and survive.
  • Poirot Speak: Sometimes. For example, the sketch at a German supply store during the Battle of Stalingrad — the whole thing is in English, except for the words Herr and Auf Wiedersehn.
  • Poke the Poodle: When the Goths take over Rome, they plan to destroy it... only to decide against destroying the arenas, the aqueduct, the houses, and the art. They eventually content themselves with smashing a few jugs, before heading off to tidy up in the Roman baths.
  • Politically Correct History: Averting this is pretty much the entire point.
  • Potty Failure: Happens to one of the ladies in the Georgian Court Toilets sketch, where they have to wait in line to ask the queen permission to use the toilets.
  • Porky Pig Pronunciation: This happens in an episode.
    Tudor Woman: William Shakespeare was fenome-fenomena-fenom- *sigh* he was good.
  • Powered by a Forsaken Child: For the Victorian Dragons' Den segment, all of the new labour saving inventions being presented consist of a street child. Something of a running theme in the 'Vile Victorians' segments generally; see also the "Work, Terrible Work!" song, an advertisement for New! Victorian Child (ie. chimney sweeps) and a sketch in which among a kid's fifth birthday presents is a job in the factory alongside his dad — who then implies that they thus won't have to worry about a sixth birthday present.
  • Pretty Boy: Mathew Baynton. The thumbnail for this compilation of him has several pink hearts scattered throughout the image; his name is also written in pink.
  • Princeling Rivalry: This is a common pastime among the various royal families. Cleopatra murders most of her siblings to facilitate her rise to power. Royal cousins Stephen and Matilda fight over the crown of England in the Anarchy. Tudor siblings Edward, Mary, and Elizabeth (as well as their cousins Jane Grey and Mary Stuart) vie to succeed Henry VIII.
  • Pronouncing My Name for You: PR agent Cliff Whitely always has to remind people that his name is pronounced "White-LEE", not "White-LIE".
  • Psychopathic Manchild: In the "Historical Dentist" sketches, Mandy the modern dentist seems all too gung-ho about using historical remedies for toothache, or at least allowing the historical dentists to do so. This is particularly prominent with the Roman dentist, one of whose cures involves a violently-killed man!
  • Puff of Logic: Merlin disappears upon being told that he's not real in the "It's Not True!" song.
  • Pun: Not quite as bad as the books, but still manages to get off some serious groaners. "At night, the Vikings navigated by the stars. Take a right at Britney Spears, then a left at Angelina Jolie! Hahaha!"
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: In one of the Fashion Fix segments, a Celtic warrior reacts badly to his makeover and starts to work himself into a berserker frenzy. The Gok Wan Expy presenter cuts him off with "Not. On. My. Show. Sister."
  • Pungeon Master: Death quite fancies himself as one, as does Rattus. Also a favourite tactic of Tudor jester Will Somers, though in his case it's justified somewhat as he's frantically trying to keep Henry VIII happy.

    Tropes Q to Z 
  • The Queen's Latin: Standard in the 'Rotten Romans' sketches.
  • Quintessential British Gentleman: The animated character who introduces the "Vile Victorians" segments is one of these, complete with bowler hat. He even ends each statement by tipping his hat and saying "Good day."
  • A Rare Sentence: In this sketch: "This is Dom Duckworth, in Stuart England, covered in the remains of an ancient Egyptian mummy - a sentence I thought I'd never hear myself say."
  • Readings Blew Up the Scale: Bob Hale's Thing-O-Meters frequently get broken by the sheer magnitude of whatever they're measuring, whether it be the number of heads cut off in the French Revolution or the drama level of World War II.
  • Reading The Enemy's Mail: A sketch has Sir Francis Walsingham advertising his new postal service where your mail will be picked up, sorted, read by a spy...
  • Reading the Stage Directions Out Loud: Florence Nightingale does this with the directions "thumbs up" and "point" in the "Florence Nightingale School of Nursing" skit in "Formidable Florence Nightingale".
  • Really Gets Around: Henry VIII has six wives. Charles II often "broke the wedding rules". Rameses II also has six wives . . . at the same time, not to mention all his girlfriends. George IV has "loved more girls than [he] ate pies."
  • Real Joke Name: The point of the "Real Victorian Names" sketch (as for instance "Minty Badger" and "Princess Cheese").
  • Real Men Wear Pink:
    • Vercingetorix - "a man so deadly, he can wear pigtails and still look hard."
    • Death uses a fluffy pink pen.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: Inherent in the premise.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: As per Flowery Insults above, William Shakespeare wins a fight with a tavern patron by giving him an epic version of this.
  • Reckless Gun Usage: Mat Baynton's portrayal of Dick Turpin involves a lot of dramatic gesturing, including at his own face and chest, while Dual Wielding pistols.
  • Red-plica Baron: Manfred von Richthofen appears in a sketch in the "Frightful First World War Special". He is portrayed as a Glory Hound who tells terrible jokes and is surrounded by a band of yes-men who cheer him on and laugh at his jokes whose demands for a new war trophy are hampered by a shortage of silver.
  • Reduced to Ratburgers: Unsurprisingly the show has done several sketches about the various unappetising things people have been reduced to eating over the centuries. For example, one Historical Masterchef had a First World War soldier eating the lice he plucked out of his clothing, which visibly squicked the hosts.
  • Regal Ruff: Turns up, naturally enough, in the "Terrible Tudors" sketches. One sketch in particular—in "Mardy Mary Queen of Scots" (Series 6, Episode 4)—shows the problems caused when ruffs reached there most ridiculous extremes, with men meeting in public being forced to feed each other with overlong spoons due to the size of their ruffs.
  • Reports of My Death Were Greatly Exaggerated: As per history, a distinctly premature obituary is Alfred Nobel's inspiration for establishing his eponymous prizes (as it revealed that otherwise he would be remembered solely as the 'Merchant of Death', ie the inventor of dynamite). "And I will call them... Prizemite!"
  • Rhetorical Request Blunder: A sketch involves Henry II explaining to HHTV's Royalty Today correspondent how he accidentally became responsible for his friend Thomas Becket's murder in history's most famous example of this trope. Thing is, Henry's still being followed by the three "idiot knights" whose over-literal interpretation of "Will no one rid me of this troublesome priest!?" led to Becket's death. This becomes a new and immediate problem when, pressed for more details, Henry jokingly asks if no one will rid him of this troublesome interviewer...
  • Ridiculous Exchange Rates: Interbellum hyperinflation complicates an episode of “Who Wants to Be a German Millionaire?”, as the purchasing power of the mark keeps dropping between rounds until it is not enough to buy the wheelbarrow the contestant needs to carry the money home. It starts at 64 million German Marks, then 128 million, then 128 billion, then 128 trillion, all which can afford just a wheelbarrow, then that not being enough to afford the wheelbarrow just a few seconds later.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: As his song says, William Wallace's rebel career possibly began as this, depending on the veracity of stories of English forces harassing his family and killing his wife.
  • Rockers Smash Guitars: The Luddites do this at the end of their punk-rock musical number. After that, one of them then calls out "Solo!" and another one, now that they have no instruments, says "On what... exactly?"
  • Roger Rabbit Effect: Happens a few times early in Series 1, as when the cartoon Roman from the era introductions walks in on a Shouty Man advertisement to inform a disgusted audience that Romans used urine for mouthwash.
  • Roofless Renovation: A sketch shows the marriage between Edward III and Philippa of Hainault in the still unfinished Yorkminister. The builder is trying to remember what it is he still has to finish. He remembers it is the roof when it starts snowing.
  • Royal Brat: Emperor Elagabalus. Also George IV, in all but actual age.
  • Royally Screwed Up: Lots of fun had with this one.
  • Rump Roast: In one sketch a Victorian man's trousers have caught fire. The funny part isn't only that his bottom is on fire, it's that any of the words another Victorian man is trying to use to inform him of this, even "trousers" and "legs", are considered too rude, so all the man who's on fire is doing is reprimanding the other man for his language. At the end, he finally realizes what's happening and yells "My trousers! My legs! My BOTTOM!"
  • Running Gag: The numerous Not Making This Up Disclaimers.
  • Sadist Teacher: A carryover from the books, and even less subtle. One sketch on Stone Age burial rituals fades out to Rattus and a single tiny pea on a plate: "Here's a brain I've prepared myself. As you can see, from a PE teacher! Hah!"
    • When a fed-up Death decides to quit in one Stupid Deaths sketch, the queue of corpses asks what other job a 'miserable, sick-looking' Grim Reaper could possibly do. He suggests becoming a school headmaster. Everyone nods thoughtfully.
    • Then there's this doozy from Elagabalus in the "Evil Emperors' Song":
      You'd think to children, I'd be cuter
      No, I was their biggest executor
      Used their guts to read the future
      Says here I should get a job as a school tutor!
    • Also the 'Historical Headmasters', who threaten to beat/cane students for arriving at school after dawn, wearing shoes and being caught stealing (it should be clarified that it's not the student stealing that's the problem, it's his getting caught).
  • Sadly Mythtaken: Downplayed but still present. Viking Heaven is shown as only Valhalla and Viking Hell (or Hel) is shown only as Náströnd (made out of Serpent's bones and the only drink is Goat's Urine) and called Viking Hell/Hel, ignoring the other parts of Hel(which is closer to Purgatory and Limbo apart from Náströnd anyway) and Fólkvangr is never mentioned.
  • Scarpia Ultimatum: Yes, still a children's show. King George I still manages to heavily imply this in Born 2 Rule:
    I was a hunk, girls adored me, ladies all swooned before me
    They would do anything for me, or I'd have their husbands killed...
  • Scenery Censor: Used on two different naked Celtic warriors - one on Historical Fashion Fix and one in the "Celtic Boast Battle" song.
  • "Schoolhouse Rock!" Lesson: A musical number about a historical figure or event Once an Episode.
  • Scout-Out: "The Hitler Youth. It is just like ze Scouts... only EVIL!"
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: Cesare Borgia gleefully invokes this in "The Borgia Family Song": it's no problem being a violent, power-hungry sociopath when your dad's the Pope!
  • Screw the Rules, I Make Them!:
    • As per history, King Charles I tries this tactic on Parliament in the "English Civil War Song". Also as per history, it doesn't go over at all well.
    • Also applied to Nero's, erm, "contributions" to the 67 AD Olympics:
      Crashed my racing chariot, but still awarded gold
      Hey, my Olympics, my rules, to argue would be bold!
    • Pope Alexander VIaka Rodrigo Borgia — uses this to get away with his decadence and corruption.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: Rodrigo Borgia became Pope via bribery.
  • Self-Deprecation: A few people on the Stupid Deaths sketches find their deaths just as funny as The Grim Reaper does.
  • Serkis Folk: The video-game advertisement sketches ("Warrior", "Duat", et cetera) all star video-game animation versions of the main cast.
  • Shirtless Scene: Quite a few for a supposed kids' show, to the point where it may overall be second only to Twilight for shirtless Fanservice. One sketch about the Greek Olympics, where most games were played naked, had a sports presenter cover up the Greek athlete with his clipboard, followed by a report on the Greek wrestling, featuring a Greek athlete in a loincloth.
    • Often lampshaded by said shirtless men covering up their chests rather obviously. Most obviously of all in the aforementioned 'preparation for Thermopylae' sketch, in which the warrior complains outright that the shield he's been given "won't even cover my nipples!"
  • Shoot the Builder: In his "Stupid Deaths" appearance, Ivan the Terrible explains to Death the acts that earned the sobriquet "the Terrible". This includes the blinding of Postnik Yakovlev—the architect who designed St. Basil's—so he could never make anything so beautiful again
  • Shoot the Messenger: The trailer for the Pausanias movie has the messenger Pausanias sends to King Xerxes wonder why none of the other messengers Pausanias has sent to Xerxes have ever returned. He discovers the message is full of treasonous offers, and ends with an instruction to kill the messenegr after reading the message.
  • Shout-Out: So many. The songs in particular, featuring references to artists such as The Bee Gees, Michael Jackson, The Monkees, Lady Gaga and Adam and the Ants. Recognisable personalities include Gordon Ramsay ("Hello, I'm an angry shouty Roman chef!") and UK newscaster Peter Snow (as sent up by Bob Hale). A lot of the sketches are more-or-less direct takeoffs of Monty Python (especially the ones set in Rome) or Blackadder (the Tudors). Entire segments are based off various types of reality shows, eg. Masterchef, Wife Swap, Come Dine With Me, etc. See Here.
  • Shovel Strike: A sketch on the Saxon weregild features a Saxon woman who keeps killing members of the family she is involved in a blood feud with by hitting them in the head with a shovel; much to the frustration of the king who is attempting to explain the new law.
  • Shrunken Organ: One sketch on Stone Age burial rituals fades out to Rattus and a single tiny pea on a plate: "Here's a brain I've prepared myself. As you can see, from a PE teacher! Hah!"
  • Signature Laugh: Rattus punctuates his stories with a distinctive "Hahahah!" and excited little paws.
    • Elagabalus' delightfully obnoxious laugh.
  • Signing-Off Catchphrase:
    • "Back to you, Sam!"
    • "This is Mike Peabody live from___ for HHTV News, really wishing he was somewhere else...!"
  • Skewed Priorities: A Pilgrim expresses disbelief at one of his fellows for carrying 150 pairs of shoes in his pack. "Now that's wack."
    • Also see the entry for Rump Roast; you'd think someone would pay more attention to the fact that their biscuits are burning than the fact that their friend is daring to use such foul language as "trousers."
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: William the future Conqueror pursues his courtship of his future wife Matilda of Flanders by pulling her hair and knocking her down, to the shock of the trailer narrator for the (fictional) romantic drama about the couple "Mud and Matilda."
  • Slave Brand: In a sketch on the Tudor punishment of branding perjurers with a large 'P' in the middle of their forehead, a perjurer applying for a job firstly claims it is a birthmark, and then that he slipped a fell on to a hot branding iron.
  • Slave Galley: S1E6 has "Things to remember when you're a Galley slave": a two-part parody of airline passenger announcements.note 
  • Slobs Versus Snobs: Many of the "Historical Wife Swap" videos involve a wealthy family from a certain time period swapping wives with a poor family of the same time period.
  • Snow Means Death: This is the case at the execution of Earl Thomas of Lancaster—and is taken gleeful advantage of by the audience, much to the exasperation of the earl, who finds it tricky to Face Death with Dignity while being pelted with snowballs.
  • So Unfunny, It's Funny: Used in the aforementioned 'stay calmer when you want to harm a llama' sketch.
  • Special Effect Failure: In-Universe examples when Jasper Maskelyne — and later, in the Renaissance Report, Bob Hale — fail to dramatically disappear in a puff of smoke. Bob at least is sanguine about this. "Yep, didn't work in rehearsal, either."
    • Occasionally happens simply because the show can't afford CGI elephants or snakes. They do a valiant job with two stagehands and some grey felt though.
  • Species Surname: Actually, Species Full Name. Rattus Rattus is also the scientific name for the black rat.
  • Spinoff: Horrible Histories: Gory Games.
  • Spit Take: A frequent reaction.
  • Springtime for Hitler: After having his ship fouled up by seasick cattle, pirate Basil Hood tries to get himself arrested by the Royal Navy. However, the captain finds the ship so disgusting that he lets the pirates go.
  • Stealth Pun: The Owain Glyndwr song is a pastiche of "Delilah" by Tom Jones — however, when Owain mentions being given the title of Prince... of Wales, it segues into a pastiche of "Kiss", which was also performed by Jones, but originally by Prince.
  • Stock Footage: Used in the Monarchs song, including some footage from earlier HH episodes. The Neil Armstrong sketch also features footage from the Apollo landings.
    • Used liberally throughout We're History, the final song of the series.
  • Stock "Yuck!": Sprouts. Also, Turkey Twizzlers.
  • Straw Misogynist: The Victorian man in the Mary Anning sketch takes this trope up to eleven. He is in such disbelief that a woman found so many fossils he patronizes her and pretends to have found them himself. Fortunately, he gets his comeuppance when Mary Anning hurls her fossils at him!
  • Stuck in a Chimney: A sketch from the Victorian era featured aristocrats hiring a child chimney sweeper to clean the chimney out, leading to him dislodging three teenagers and Santa Claus.
  • Stupid Crooks: How Guy Fawkes and his band of conspirators are portrayed.
  • Stylistic Suck: The awkward but earwormy jingles, acting and singing in many of the parodies — notably "Stay Calmer When You Want a Harm a Llama" — are 110% deliberate and meant to evoke cheap adverts and infomercials.
  • Sub-Par Supremacist: In Awesome USA, the series shows how Agent Moses freed slaves and showed how she outsmarted the slave owners; she was actually a woman called Harriet Tubman, she hid by simply reading a newspaper, and distracted slave owners with a chicken.
    Slave: Lady, either you very, very clever, or these slave owners are very, very stupid.
    Agent Moses: A little bit of both boys, little bit of both.
  • Subverted Kids' Show: More like a subverted kid's album, but still, in the form of a Parody Commercial for a children's album made by Joseph Stalin. Also, a rare over sixes example in the Make Show segments.
  • Suddenly Shouting:
    • Before the aBook came out, the only way to get your poetry to the masses was by writing it on long, awkward scrolls, OR BY SHOUTING REALLY LOUD!
    • The initially amiable Edward I displays this whenever dealing with his unhappy Welsh neighbors, to the consternation of the Gross Designs host.
    • The spoof of Greg Wallace once said "I'M SHOUTING FOR NO REASON"
    • Inverted when William Wallace takes issue with his further home expansion plans.
      Wallace: YOU MAY TAKE OUR LIVES — but you will never get planning permission to build loads of castles in Scotland.
  • Suffrage and Political Liberation: "The Suffragette Song" gives a potted history of the Woman's Suffrage Movement in Britain. You think you know some fierce girls? You ain’t heard nothing yet. According to the song, the one thing that worked was WWI when women put down their banners, supported the men’s fight and worked hard to help them win the war. After that, men were finally all "Okay ladies… You were right!"
  • The Suffragette: "The Suffragette Song" has suffragettes sing about their plight and fight.
    • Millie Fawcett is identified as a founder of the cause who started the battle for women's rights. She argued that the government should change the laws. Women have to obey laws and rules, they work and pay taxes, so they should be able to influence those rules, too.
    • Emmeline Pankhurst is their new leader for peaceful protests that started in 1903, but they got no reaction, so they needed "drastic action". They proceed with civil disobedience, vandalism, attacking MPs, smashing up shops, burning down churches, chaining themselves to palace gates etc.
    • Miss Davison and her heroic sacrifice gets a shout-out. (Though in all probability she didn't deliberately jump in front of the horse and was in fact trying to attach a "Votes for women" badge onto the King's horse as a statement. Unfortunately it went wrong and she ended up getting trampled to death by horses.)
      Miss Davison please take the mic
      We became more extreme
      Derby day June 13
      In front of king and queen
      Committed sacrifice supreme
      Crept unseen between the team
      And crowds watching the race
      And threw myself under a horse
      To try and make our case
      Became a famous martyr
  • Surrounded by Idiots: Saladin has to (very slowly) explain his plan for the Battle of Hattin to a couple of them, and then one of them asks him to repeat it...
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: Francis Walsingham's new postal service definitely isn't having your mail read by spies. ("Wait — by denying we're using spies, it's pretty clear that we ''are'' using spies, isn't it...")
  • Take That! (possibly more Take That, Critics!): Simon Cowell... for some reason, the only person this show has it in for more than teachers. They're not too fond of Greg Wallace, either.
    • "A three-hour poem? Still, I suppose it's better than some of the acts on Britain's Got Talent, ha ha!"
  • Talking Animal: Rattus Rattus (named for his species) — a puppet Expy of a similar rat character from the books — hosts the original series, explaining and clarifying the historical information presented in each sketch... in his own inimitable fashion (describing the cause of The Black Death: "So that's Rats 1, Humans 0.") Despite the tiny swords and top hats, he appears to be quite content merely to snigger at the horrible humans from beneath their floorboards... at least until the behind-the-scenes vid that reveals he's moved to Hollywood to become a Star, or barring that become a historical consultant to Steven Spielberg.
  • Tangled Family Tree: The poor "This is Your Reign" presenter gets very confused (and squicked) by Cleopatra's family tree — including her marrying two of her brothers and her father — when she appears on his show. Also comes up in the "Norman Family Tree" song (which covers the medieval battle for the English throne between Henry, Stephen and two would-be Empress Matildas), to the extent that at one point they resort to an onscreen diagram.
  • Teens Are Monsters: Elagabalus was quite possibly the original... something the show plays up for all it's worth. "I'm so random! Huhuhuhuhuhuh!"
  • Tempting Fate: At one point in the "Court of Historical Law" sketch featuring Tsar Peter III's case against a rat (or possibly 'a mouse, with delusions of grandeur') that he found nibbling his toy soldiers:
    Judge: Well, this certainly can't get any weirder...
    Peter: (triumphantly produces a teeny little gallows)
    Judge: ...Yes it could. It could get weirder.
    • Used again in the Borgias' song:
      Cesare: I am the mostest powerfulest, evilest of all
      As long as Dad's alive, there's not a single chance I'll fall!
      Rodrigo: (Dies)
      Cesare: Aw, no...
    • And earlier, in a 'Fashion Fix' segment making over a Georgian peasant into a nobleman:
      Host: Now, the next thing we need to do is get you out of those filthy clothes!
      Peasant: (staring at himself wearing white makeup and rouge) Well, I certainly can't look any more ridiculous...
      (Gilligan Cut to peasant in full lordly costume, complete with brocaded satin, rhinestones and high heels)
      Peasant:... I stand corrected.
    • In the "English Civil War" song:
      King Charles I: Your pathetic war will finish even before it's begun!
      The Roundheads: We've taken Charles prisoner, THE ROUNDHEADS HAVE WON!
      King Charles I: Oh.
  • Thicker Than Water: Namechecked in the Borgia Family song.
  • Thieves' Cant: Two sketches explored these: one where the news was read out in Tudor criminal slang, and another where a newbie crook is stumped by his partners' Victorian criminal slang.
  • Thing-O-Meter: Bob Hale is fond of them. The "French Revolution Report" has a Head-Cutting-Off-O-Meter and a Cunning-Plan-O-Meter, for example.
  • This Is My Name on Foreign: Alexander the Great decides to name one of his cities something other than Alexandria for once. He'll name this one Iskenderun. "Why Iskenderun?" "It's Turkish." " it Turkish for Alexandria?" "YES."
  • This Page Will Self-Destruct: The Mission: Incompetent sketch detailing the Black Hand's assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand ends with their briefing saying "This message—and most of western Europe—will self-destruct in 90 seconds". The assassins sit around the table looking smug until they realize they were receiving their briefing by phone. They hurriedly shove it around the table before it explodes, leaving them with Ash Face
  • Those Wacky Nazis: The particular version of Evil Is Hammy (see above) used in the WWII sketches. "Join the Hitler Youth: Just like the Scouts... only EVIL!"
    Small boy: But I'm only 10...
    Hitler: (gives Nazi salute) Talk to ze hand, 'cos ze face ain't listening.
    • And from a later sketch, detailing how the German response to D-Day was delayed thanks to his guards' reluctance to disturb 'Mr. Grumpy Pants' at his nap:
      SS Guard 1: But if we wake ze Fuhrer, he will... why, he will... get in such a paddy!
      SS Guard 2: Ooh, such a paddy he will get in!
  • Throw the Book at Them: In the Shouty Man's ad for 'New Emperor Statue', the bookworm emperor kills the warrior emperor by hitting him over the head with a massive tome.
  • Toilet Humour: Up to and including a couple sketches actually set in the Roman communal toilets.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Fittingly, a number of people in the Stupid Deaths sketches. Perhaps most notably Hannah Twynnoy, who, when a travelling circus came to her small Georgian village, thought it would be hilarious to repeatedly poke the tiger with a stick.
  • Totally Radical: In-universe, as used by the title character in the "You've Been Artois'd!" sketch. "I know these words, you see? I am 'street', yes?"
  • Trial Balloon Question: Bonnie Prince Charlie sounds out a potential helper by pretending to be conducting a door-to-door poll about himself in a silly voice.
  • Tsundere: Elizabeth I was one of the originals.
    • Mary Queen of Scots is portrayed as a Sweet type in her special episode. Her deredere side is distinguished by her French accent, and her tsuntsun side by her Scottish accent.
  • Twinkle Smile: Elizabeth I's disgustingly rotten teeth twinkle yellow in the "Tudor Sugar-Paste Toothpaste" sketch.
  • Uncanny Valley Makeup: In the "Gorgeous Georgian Lady" song, the usually lovely Martha Howe-Douglas models historical Georgian cosmetics that make her look horrifying from the Deliberate Values Dissonance. The lyrics explaining that the ingredients include lead and dead mice just make it worse.
  • Undignified Death: Showcasing these is the point of the Stupid Deaths skits.
  • Unfortunate Names: According to "King of Bling," Hortense Mancini~!
  • Unishment: In one Historical Masterchef sketch, starving Saxon peasant Eidbert is arrested for trading his son for a chicken. Upon being told the jail has food, he's thrilled.
  • Universal-Adaptor Cast: The core troupe tend to fit into this, playing the same basic types across all historical eras.
  • Universally Beloved Leader: Charles II claims to have this in his "I Am Great!" Song.
    Charles II: I'm the King loved by everyone, my song is done.
  • Unknown Rival: Arguably, Mary Seacole to Florence Nightingale.
  • Unusual Euphemism: As noted above, the Charles II rap covers his legendary libido thusly: "As King, I must admit I broke the wedding rules..."
  • Unwanted Rescue: Socrates explains it thus: "Look, no real philosopher fears death. If you rescue me, people will still find me really annoying; I'll end up in prison again."
  • Unwanted Spouse: Caroline of Brunswick to George IV. In his song it's portrayed as one-sided, as she hugs an unenthused George while smiling brightly and is said to die after finally realizing that he hates her.
  • Upper-Class Twit: A staple, as exemplified by Blenkinsop & Maltravers in the 'Causes of WWI' sketch. Mike Peabody narrowly escapes lynching over being mistaken for one in the 'Fall of the Bastille' sketch.
  • Ur-Example: And possibly Trope Namer: a late The '60s history show for children called The Complete and Utter History of Britain which covered historical event in the same irreverent way. The influence of TCAUHOB, which primarily starred and was scripted by Michael Palin and Terry Jones, may well explain the Python-reminiscent moments in HH.
  • Vandalism Backfire: The cop in charge of investigating the Great Fire of London tells one his subordinates to "Clear his desk!" and then dramatically sweeps everything off the desk to emphasize his point. His subordinate then looks from the desk to his boss and says "That's not my desk".
  • Villain Song: Several. Henry VIII's especially is deliberately styled in the traditional Disney manner: "I'm Henry the Eighth, I had six sorry wives/Some might say I ruined their lives..."
    • Dick Turpin, Blackbeard, Cleopatra and Pachacuti also have their own villain songs, albeit much less traditional versions. The Pachacuti song in particular, considering it's styled as an annoyingly catchy summer novelty song.
    • The Borgia Family also gets its own villain song.
    • The most Egregious villain song is probably the aforementioned 'Evil Emperors Song' by Caligula, Elagabalus, Commodus and Nero.
    • Let's not forget "I'm Minted", where Crassus gleefully recounts his cruelty.
    • There's also "Ain't Staying Alive", sung by the Aztec priests.
    • Don't forget "Literally" by the Viking raiders. Vikingland inverts this by explaining how the Vikings built nice villages, set up trade routes, and in general improved life in England and Northern Scotland.
    • There's also an inversion by legendary royal villain Richard III, who sings about how he was in reality not evil.
    • 'Bloody' Mary Tudor also gets a musical chance to explain that she really was trying to be good (yes, back then that could easily include burning 'heretics' at the stake) and wasn't so much unsuccessful as pathetically naive and unfortunate.
  • Visual Pun: In the Pilgrim Fathers, some time after explaining that one of them brought 150 pairs of shoes, Mat's character holds the shoes up and says "Does this mean that we'll meet with de-feet?"
  • Vomit Discretion Shot: Standard. Since they then have no problem showing the actual vomit afterwards, this is likely a limitation of their special effects.
  • War Elephants: The show did its own take on Hannibal, of course, with a fake trailer for Elephants on a Plain, starring Hannibal as a 'maverick Carthaginian general'(complete with a Southern accent).
  • Warrior Poet: Invoked by, of all people, Erik the Viking. Who speaks only in rhyme.
  • We Meet Again: Spoofed relentlessly in the aforementioned WWII POW sketch. It starts with Commandant Klinsman admitting that he and Squadron Leader Higgins haven't actually met before, "I just like ze vay I sound vhen I say zat." Higgins then proceeds to disappear every time the commandant looks away, getting dragged back in each time:
    Higgins: (cheerily) So, we meet again!
    Klinsman: Don't say zat, I say zat!
  • What's a Henway?: From the Horrible Hearts Club Band song:
    Cleopatra: I play this very nicely.
    Lyre Player: Lyre?
    Cleopatra: No, I can!
  • Wholesome Crossdresser: There's one skit about Scottish soldiers in World War I wearing ladies' tights under their kilts, both to keep warm and to defend against gas attacks.
  • Who Names Their Kid "Dude"?:
    • The teacher in the "Victorian Names" sketch is absolutely bewildered that the kids in her class would have ridiculous names like "Toilet" and "Never".
    • In Restoration Historical Wife Swap, the Cavalier husband asks the Puritan wife what her first name is, and when she tells him her first name is "Fight-The-Good-Fight-Of-Faith", he says "Mrs. Miserable it is!" Later, he asks her what the name of her baby is, and she says her name is "Silence Discipline Search-The-Scriptures", and says her husband chose it, with her commenting that she wanted to call her "If-Christ-Had-Not-Died-Thou-Hast-Been-Damned", which the Cavalier husband laughs at and calls "ridiculous".
  • Who Writes This Crap?!: Combined with Medium Awareness:
    Tudor Executioner (walking down a row of gibbets): Now, this is your seven o'clock noose... this is the nine o'clock noose... this is the noose at ten...
    (stops at a body in modern dress sprawled on a chopping block)
    ...and this is the person that wrote that joke.
  • Who's on First?: Deployed shamelessly in a sketch about rebel leader Wat Tyler. "So, what's our leader's name?" "Yes."
    • Also in the Victorian names sketch.
      Ms. Farting Clack: Toilet and Baboon? Your parents must be evil.
      Toilet: No, that's Evil over there.
    • And by the medieval Historical Paramedics:
      Geoff: Nigel, treacle!
      Nigel: (puts hand on his shoulder, tenderly) Yes, honey?
      Geoff: No, no, get the treacle.
    • In Restoration Wife Swap, the Cavalier husband asks the Puritan wife what her new baby's name is and gets the answer "Silence." He thinks she's telling him to be quiet, but she later explains Silence is the name of the baby.
  • Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: Justified in the WWII POW sketch:
    Commandant Klinsman: You gif me one good reason vhy I shouldn't just shoot you right here on ze spot.
    Squadron Leader Higgins: Because the Geneva Convention means you can't shoot officers.
    Klinsman: (disappointedly) Yes... forgot about zat.
  • William Telling: One of the Stupid Deaths involves a Tudor archer telling his friend, "I bet you can't hit my hat!"
  • Winged Soul Flies Off at Death: In a Vicious Vikings sketch depicting a Mortal Kombat-style video game in which Vikings fight monks, some of the slaughtered monks' souls, coloured blue with angel wings, fly off after they are killed.
  • The Wonka: Motor Mouth Bob Hale seems like your typical Cloud Cuckoo Lander if it wasn't for the fact that everything he says is true.
  • Workaholic: Winston Churchill, much to the dismay of his secretary and a general.
  • Worst Aid: As administered by various physicians of the past in the recurring Historical Hospital sketch. As you might imagine, it's not uncommon for a patient to come in with a blister and be dead ten minutes later.
    • Similarly, the Historical Paramedics sketches, although their patients rarely die — presumably because the HPs are forced to flee the scene too quickly to avoid the present-day EMS.
    • Subverted by the Arabian healer, who pleasantly surprises his apprehensive patients with his thoroughly reasonable remedies and ends up chasing away a far less knowledgeable Crusader doctor with his own bone saw.
    • The Egyptian doctor is also set up to be a subversion, with a nurse skeptic of his remedies only to be confirmed by a modern GP (honey being antibacterial, the calcium carbonate in limestone being a cure for stomach trouble etc), only to suggest a complicated and bonkers cure, which prompts the doctor and nurse to chase him off.
    • Also, unsurprisingly, comes up in Stupid Deaths from time to time.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Emperor Elagabalus is the only one to openly boast of it, but several of the other historical figures the show mentions were guilty as well.
    • Depending on your definition of 'hurt', the "Work, Terrible Work!" song could also be considered an excellent example, being a song about children being put to gruelling work in the terrible, unsafe conditions of Victorian workhouses for awful pay.
    • The fate of the young boy who shot Richard I, despite express instructions from Richard otherwise.
      Death: Ah. I take it Richard's men didn't obey his order.
      Boy: (shrugs)
  • Wrong Insult Offence: Shakespeare is offended when the best that his opponent in an insult contest can do is "rogue" and "saucy knave". He proceeds to knock him out with a string of proper Shakespearean insults.
  • X-Ray Sparks: When Bob Hale pulls the plug on the buzzer in the Mary, Queen of Scots report.

Gory, ghastly, mean and cruel,
Stuff they don't teach you at school!
The past is no longer a mystery
Hope you enjoyed... HORRIBLE HISTORIES!


The Sandwich - An Origin Story

One segment of Horrible Histories explains the origins of the sandwich, and that it was named by Earl Sandwich. Which is then followed by the namesakes of the hot dog and turkey twizzler (a monstrously unhealthy UK snack food that was discontinued after negative publicity). Although the latter two are only jokes, as evidenced by the "THIS IS SILLY" and "VERY SILLY" signs Rattus holds up.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (11 votes)

Example of:

Main / NamesakeGag

Media sources: