Is Ethel & Ernest based on a true story?

The author and illustrator found himself "blubbing" after watching the adaptation of his graphic novel, telling the true story of his parents' lives

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Ethel & Ernest is the latest Raymond Briggs tale to be adapted for the screen – and it’s the most ambitious story to date.

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Taking in over six decades of British history, the animated film tells the true story of Raymond Briggs’ parents Ethel and Ernest Briggs, played by Jim Broadbent and Brenda Blethyn. The film airs on BBC1 at 7.30pm on Wednesday 28th December.

Is Ethel & Ernest based on a true story?

The film is an adaptation of the graphic novel by Raymond Briggs published in 1998, and is based on his parents’ real-life experiences, living through the Second World War, the birth of the Welfare State, the advent of television and more.

It’s a biography of his parents’ lives. Ernest, a milkman, meets lady’s maid Ethel in 1928. After marrying they move in together to a three-bedroom house in Wimbledon Park, London – they would live in the same house for 41 years.

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Ethel & Ernest actors Jim Broadbent, Luke Treadaway and Brenda Blethyn

Raymond was born in 1934; in Ethel & Ernest, he is played by A Street Cat Named Bob actor Luke Treadaway. The novel includes how he was evacuated to Dorset when he was five years old, how he was sent to grammar school, and how his parents reacted with disapproval when he announced he wanted to go to art school.

“All my mates from around the corner didn’t get into grammar school,” Briggs told Radio Times. “I was the only one that did. I didn’t like the feeling at all. I didn’t feel superior to them, but they obviously felt slightly embarrassed. In Ethel & Ernest I have my dad say, ‘I hope he’s not going to get too posh for us.’”

All this is taken from memories of his parents, right up to their deaths, within months of each other, in 1971.

When Briggs visited the recording studio to see the production of Ethel & Ernest, Broadbent and Blethyn’s performance had a profound impact on him.

“I spent two days in tears,” he said. “It was just as if they were behind me in the room, saying all the things they used to say.”

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