This July is Medieval Month on HISTORY.
HISTORY has curated an extensive selection of the best programmes; from Medieval Murder Mysteries, to the Final Battle of the Vikings.
Unravel the mysteries of a great empire.
Quest For Bannockburn
Saturdays at 6:30pm AEST from July 1 until July 8
700 years after one of the most significant conflicts in British history, Neil Oliver and Tony Pollard go in search of both the real and imagined Battle of Bannockburn.
Who Killed The Princes in The Tower?
Saturday July 1 at 9:30pm AEST
Did Richard III kill his nephews in order to make himself King? Is he really the greatest villain in English history? Or has he been the victim of centuries of Tudor propaganda?
In 1483, the twelve-year-old King Edward V and his younger brother were put into the Tower of London by their uncle, Richard. Weeks later, Richard pronounced himself King. The boys were never seen again.
For more than 500 years it has been assumed that Richard killed his nephews in a craven attempt at glory. But, some say, Richard was no child-killing monster. Rather, he was the finest King England ever had. Others say nobody killed the princes at all, and they lived anonymously into old age far away from the cut-throat world of the English court.
This film explores what might have happened, interrogating all the possible culprits, and capturing the debates that rage as fiercely as ever.
Secrets of Great British Castles – Series 1 and 2
Saturdays and Sundays at 1:30pm AEST from July 2 until July 30
Secrets of Great British Castles explores the turbulent history behind six of Britain’s most iconic castles: Dover, Tower of London, Warwick, Caernarfon, Stirling and Carrickfergus.
Popular historian and author, Dan Jones, peels back the layers of these celebrated strongholds that are at the heart of British history and unravels the intrigue, drama, romance and rebellion surrounding these fortifications and their notorious inhabitants.
Filmed in breath-taking locations throughout England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, Secrets of Great British Castles features stunning aerial footage and dramatic reconstructions that capture the might and majesty of these magnificent castles, bringing to life those who wandered within their walls.
Historian Dan Jones is back with a new series exploring more Great British castles and their secrets. This time he is looking at the turbulent history behind six of Britain’s most famous castles: Edinburgh, Cardiff, York, Lancaster, Leeds and Arundel Castle. Behind the walls of these celebrated strongholds are stories of romance, rebellion, and murder. Dan Jones recounts some of the many classic tales from 1000 years of British history, featuring a stellar cast of kings, queens, rogues, rebels, victims and villains.
Along with stunning aerial footage and historical reconstructions Secrets Of Great British Castles with Dan Jones captures the might and majesty of these incredible castles and brings to life the heroic and notorious characters who once walked their corridors.
Across the series, Dan explores how the Kings of Scotland and their enemies played a real life ‘Game of Thrones’ at Edinburgh Castle; How Cardiff Castle’s hidden tunnels provided shelter to the city’s citizens during WW2; How In 1190, York Castle witnessed one of the worst pogroms in English history; How Lancaster Castle was still used as a prison as recently as 2011 and has been the scene of notable trials such as the Birmingham Six and the Pendle Witches; How Henry VIII and his entourage of over 5000 people, spent a night at Leeds Castle on their way to France for a ceremonial meeting, known as the Field of the Cloth of Gold; How Arundel remains the principal seat of the Dukes of Norfolk, the dukedom currently being held by the 18th Duke, the Earl Marshal of England.
She Wolves: England’s Early Queens
Sundays at 5:30pm AEST from July 2 until July 16
In the Medieval and Tudor world there was no question in peoples’ minds about the order of God’s creation – men ruled and women didn’t. A King was a warrior who literally fought to win power then battled to keep it.
Yet despite everything that stood in their way, a handful of extraordinary women did attempt to rule medieval and Tudor England. In this series historian Helen Castor explores seven queens who challenged male power, the fierce reactions they provoked, and whether the term ‘She Wolves’ was deserved.
From Matilda, the first woman who came within a hairs breadth of being crowned Queen of England in her own right, to the glorious reign of Elizabeth I, Helen looks at the dramatic, often violent, lives of the women who pursued power between them. These are the stories of Matilda, Eleanor, Isabella, Margaret and the Tudor queens – Jane, Mary and Elizabeth. They are tales of dynastic strife, marriage, motherhood divorce and betrayal but also of courage and struggling to operate in world of double standards. And to explore these extraordinary women’s stories is to see not just how far we’ve come but how little has changed.
Sundays at 9:30pm AEST from July 2 until July 16
1001 Holy War:
Dr Thomas Asbridge presents his revelatory account of the Crusades, the 200 year war between Christians and Muslims for control of the Holy Land, tracing the epic journey of the first crusaders as they marched 3000 miles.
1002 The Clash Of the Titans:
Dr Thomas Asbridge offers a piercing examination of the Third Crusade and the two renowned figures who have come to embody Crusader war: Richard the Lionheart, and the mighty Muslim sultan Saladin.
1003 Victory and Defeat:
Dr Asbridge reveals that the outcome of these holy wars was decided not in Jerusalem, but in Egypt, and goes on to challenge the misconception that the crusades sparked the enduring clash between Islam and the West.
History of Warfare
Sundays at 11:30pm AEST from July 2 until July 30
Fridays at 9:30pm AEST from July 7 until July 14
A French Army of 30,000 men surveyed the small English force. The French expected a comprehensive victory, but as a day of great savagery unfolded, it was the English led by King Henry V, who would destroy their enemy.
The Viking Wars:
During the bleak years of the Dark Ages, Britain was ravaged by fierce warriors of Scandinavia. It was the Age of the Vikings and this is their story.
The victory of October 1066 was to forever shape the destiny of a nation. At the end of the day of ferocious battle, the sun set on the dead and wounded that scattered Senlac Hill and on the entire Anglo-Saxon way of life.
Edward II placed himself at the head of the invasion of Scotland. The two forces meet at a small stream within sight of Stirling Castle – the Bannockburn – and the battle fought there would decide the fate of a nation.
The Wars Of The Roses:
Fifteenth century England saw the turmoil of a struggle for power between the House of York and the House of Lancaster. This war ended with a ferocious encounter in 1485 – which saw the death of King Richard III.
The Norman Conquests:
This is the story of a brutal period in English history, a time which saw the introduction of feudalism, a proliferation of Norman churches and castles and the completion of the remarkable Domesday Book.
Stirling Bridge 1297:
This is the dramatic story of the great Scots’ triumph over the English which took place on September 11, 1297. Their momentous victory confirmed the reputation of William Wallace and made him a national hero.
Medieval Dead – Series 2
Weekdays at 6:30pm AEST from July 4 until July 12
2001 The Knight Of Saint Bees:
The incredible story of the Cumbrian Knight who was discovered in a lead shroud with his body coated in beeswax, meaning that archaeologists have access to a body from 1368 in a near perfect state.
2002 Agincourt: Band Of Brothers
A fascinating look into the tombs of the English knights who returned from Agincourt – many date to roughly the same period, immortalising Henry V and his ‘happy few’ in English alabaster for hundreds of years.
2003 Battle At Aljubarrota:
This 1385 battle in Portugal between the Portuguese – aided by English allies under the Duke Lancaster – and the Castilians aided by the French resulted in a crushing Portuguese victory.
2004 The Skeleton of Lewes:
When the remains of a medieval man were discovered near the town of Lewes in East Sussex, the town called Tim and Malin in to investigate. Is this the first skeletal link to the battle of Hastings ever found?
2005 The Warrior Of Janakkala:
The team travel to Finland to a recently discovered burial site in which was found the well preserved skeleton of a medieval warrior who was buried with his medieval Long Sword and a Viking Broad Sword.
2006 The Fortress Of Montsegur:
Tim and the team travel to France to search for archaeological clues to try to discover what really happened in those last terrifying days of the siege at Montsegur.
Chivalry and Betrayal: The Hundred Years’ War
Wednesdays at 7:30pm AEST from July 4 until July 18
As the kings of England and France fought for possession of the crown of France, The Hundred Years’ War would become the longest and the bloodiest conflict in medieval history.
Wednesday July 5 at 9:30pm AEST
On 2nd October 1263, King Håkon Håkonson stepped ashore at Largs to command his 900 Norwegian warriors against a force of 500 mounted Scottish knights. The calamitous events to follow at the Battle of Largs changed the future course and identity of a fledgling Scottish nation forever. But this film reveals that although Viking power retreated from Scotland’s shores, they never truly left. Evidence of their assimilation into the villages they first terrorised and then colonised is now coming to light. Marine archaeologist Dr Jon Henderson rediscovers the incredible story of the last days of the Vikings, painting a vivid picture of Scotland and the brutal men who came over the North Sea in longships.
At Rubh An Dunain in Skye, Jon uncovers the secrets of the Viking super weapon – the fast and versatile Norse longships. For three turbulent centuries, the glimpse of a square sail and dragon-headed prow on the horizon struck terror into the hearts of medieval Europeans. Without this crucial advance in ship technology, the Vikings would never have become a dominant force in medieval warfare, politics, and trade. There is evidence pointing to a Viking longboat base submerged beneath Loch na h-Airde – but can Jon and his cutting edge equipment find evidence of the Scandinavian super weapons? The Battle of Largs was the last great assertive enterprise of the late-Norse people, and it began the decline of Norwegian authority in Scotland. But those mighty ancestors of the Vikings didn’t sail back to Norway, they sailed to their homes in Scotland’s highland coasts and islands – and the incredible legacy of the Viking age continued to shape the nation and can still be witnessed today.
Richard III: The New Evidence
Thursday July 6 at 8:30pm AEST
Modern Scoliosis sufferer Dominic Smee and a team of scientists and medieval warfare experts embark on an extraordinary journey to reveal new research that’s changing our knowledge of a defamed medieval king, the medical condition that twisted his spine … and the extraordinary history of the land he ruled.
Britain’s Bloody Crown
Fridays at 8:30pm AEST from July 7 until July 28
Six hundred years ago England was torn apart by a series of bloody battles for the throne. England’s most powerful families went to war against each other in a violent and deadly blood feud.
This is the real life Game of Thrones.
Tens of thousands were slaughtered. In just thirty years the crown changed hands seven times.
It’s known as the Wars of the Roses.
Across four episodes, acclaimed historian Dan Jones’ unique storytelling is combined with high-end scripted drama to reveal the true story of the Wars of the Roses. And the tale he tells is not the one you’ll find in the history books. It’s a story of human frailties, rivalries, forced hands and blind luck that drove England into decades of violence. Each episode focuses on pivotal characters and the moments in their lives when the world shook and history changed forever.
Inside The Tower of London
Saturdays at 3:30pm AEST from July 8 until July 29
The Tower of London, for almost 1,000 years at the heart of state life in the UK, is one of the most famous buildings in the world. Constructed soon after the Norman conquest of Britain in 1066, it has served as a Royal Palace, fortress, prison, place of execution for queens, an edifice to scare the population, royal zoo, mint and keeper of the Crown Jewels. Yet few know its full story. In this series, aided by historian Stephen Porter of King’s College, University of Lon-don, and author of The Biography of the Tower of London, and including some beautiful re-enactments, we hear some startling stories and terrifying tales.
1. Bishop Bonner, who tortured both Catholics and Protestants in the turbulent years following the reign of Henry VIII; why the Tower was constructed, why it was built where it is, how it developed and how the first prisoner it held re-mains the only one to escape from the White Tower. We also hear about Lady Jane Grey, and speak to a Beefeater about their rôle and unique traditions.
2. Alice Tankerville and her attempts to “woo” her way out of trouble with a prison guard; how Watt Tyler led the only force to storm the Tower; and how the legend grew that if you took the Tower you took the country.
3. The Princes in the Tower, who lost their lives in mysterious circumstances; evil Judge Jeffries and how he came to regret his actions, and the larger than life Colonel Blood, who remains the only person to steal the Crown Jewels, and how he got away with it; also the story of the last man to be executed there.
4. Some of the more famous prisoners, such as the only American imprisoned, who was convicted of spying but rather than taking the infamous walk to the block ended up becoming the toast of London society; the tortured life of Roger Casement, and how he fell from grace; and the network of spies and informers whose lives centered on the Tower.
Saturdays at 9:30pm AEST from July 8 until July 22
Ruling for over 300 years as Kings of England, Dukes of France and Counts of Anjou, the Plantagenets were one of Europe’s most dysfunctional yet longest ruling royal dynasties. Although ultimately driven by the wealth and glory a throne brought, they also managed to forge the foundations of the British Parliament and legal system, in between deposing each other of crowns and the warring that would eventually end their line, in the famous Wars of the Roses.
This exciting series explores how Plantagenet rule was dominated by aggressive kings, jealous uncles and formidable mothers-in-law, all feuding over the English crown and grasping for power. Getting under the skin of this extraordinary family enterprise, this vivid history uncovers the politicial and familial upheavals they faced. From the testosterone-charged masculinity of Henry II hungry for his birthright to the peace-loving rule of Richard II, it was personality that shaped politics for the Plantagenets. Despite this, this mighty dynasty left their mark on England and Europe; beautiful buildings such as Westminster Abbey, literary lions like Geoffrey Chaucer, the birth of Parliament and a document that defined the Western concept of liberty – the legendary Magna Carta.
In three fascinating programmes, Professor Robert Bartlett takes viewers on a journey through chivalric knights and wicked queens, bursting with anecdotes, illuminated manuscripts, buildings and fascinating artefacts to tell the story of this fabled family of kings.
Saints and Sinners: A Millennium of Monasteries
Sundays at 2:30pm AEST from July 9 until July 23
Today, monasteries are refuges from the frantic pace of modern life; tranquil retreats insulated from the endless flow of events, debate and hubbub that dictate life outside their walls.
But, it wasn’t always like this. For 1,000 years monasteries were at the very heart of public life in the British Isles. They were centres of learning, enlightenment and political power, and the vital hub of local and national economies.
And, long before art became consumerist, the monasteries produced exceptional works of art: manuscripts, paintings, sculptures, textiles, jewellery and glassware.
In this three-part series, each episode covers a distinct phase in the story of the monasteries – from their roots in radical evangelism, to their transformation into a vehicle of, and eventual rival to, state power, and the tumultuous days of their dissolution and destruction.
Immersive, fascinating and told with wit and warmth, join Dr. Janina Ramirez as she brings the past to life and relates how the monasteries forged a sense of national identity, helped shape the world around them and created a dazzling millennium of art.
Sunday July 9 at 10:30pm AEST
On 1st July 2007, for the first time in 900 years, a Viking Warship set sail from Denmark on a unique voyage of discovery to Britain and Ireland. The ship was the product of 40 years of preservation, research and painstaking construction.
Weekdays at 5:30pm AEST from July 10 until July 17
Six mighty castles. Six legendary sieges. Historian and popular presenter Dan Snow unravels the stories of six of the world’s most famous castles, from Europe to the Middle East.
Monday at 7:30pm AEST from July 10 until July 17
Unravel the mysteries of a great empire.
For 500 years the Vikings forged an empire through ocean exploration and bloody conquest. They survived harsh climates, pushed the boundaries of human exploration and even discovered America 500 years before Columbus. How did they achieve such great successes? And why, at the height of their powers, did they suddenly disappear from many of their territories?
Archaeologist Sarah Parcak travels from the east coast of Scotland to Iceland, Greenland and North America to unlock the secrets of the vast Viking Empire. Combining specialist satellite imagery of archaeological sites with the latest DNA and forensic science, she pieces together the fascinating evidence about this fearless civilisation.
The Vikings Uncovered reveals these intrepid seafarers to be far more sophisticated, vulnerable and more human than their fearless reputation would have us believe.
David Starky’s Magna Carta
Monday July 10 at 10:30pm AEST
Invoked against the excesses of royal power in 1215, Magna Carta is perhaps the most famous constitutional document in history. Though very much a product of its time – the consequence of a long-running struggle between profligate King John and his barons – it has inspired many others, including the American Declaration of Independence and the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
It is a document, originally produced on animal skin, which encapsulated for the very first time the idea of personal freedom; suggested that any political authority only exists with the consent of the people; and sought consciously to balance the rights of the common man with the needs of the crown.
Of course, at the time, the parties involved had no notion of how these universal ideas would still have the capacity to revolutionise life for many centuries later.
David Starkey explores its deployment, its contribution to making everyone – even the monarch – subject to the rule of law, and how this quintessentially English document migrated to the North American colonies and eventually became the foundation of the US constitution.
Magna Carta has become a universal symbol of individual freedom against the tyranny of the state, but with ever-tightening government control on our lives, is it time to resurrect it?
Dracula by Vlad
Wednesday July 12 at 9:30pm AEST
Of Dracula, history only remembers the fiction character created by Bram Stoker. The myth adapted on screen several times took over the amazing life of the man who inspired it: the Prince of Wallachia, Vlad III the Impaler. Back to the origins of the legend. Built on re-known known historians interviews and reenactment scenes of Vlad the Impaler discover the violent life of this blood prince who was well-known in the Christian Occident and the Muslim world.
Medieval Murder Mysteries
Weekdays at 6:30pm AEST from July 13 until July 21
Medieval Murder Mysteries uses modern thinking from historical police criminology combined with forensics and human osteologists blended with current historical ideas to try and solve what really happened all those years ago.
Set in 6 iconic periods in history from Richard The Lionheart, to the Tudors to the end of the Borgias, the series investigates 6 of history’s most famous medieval cold cases.
The Murder of Juan Borgia
The Strange Death of Shakespeare’s Mentor
The Princes in the Tower
The Queen, Her Lover and His Wife
The Murder of Edward II – Myth and Truth
Bad King John – The Killer King? King Al
Afraid of the Dark
Friday July 14 at 10:30pm AEST
Go back to a time before the invention of artificial light and experience a world petrified in the pitch of darkness, when fear ruled the night.
King Alfred and The Anglo Saxons
Saturdays at 2:30pm AEST from July 15 until July 29
1001 Alfred Of Wessex:
Michael Wood tells the story of King Alfred the Great and his children and grandson, arguing that they were the most important and influential rulers in the history of England.
The Lady Of The Mercians:
Alfred’s children continue the family plan to create a kingdom of all the English. The tale begins with a savage Civil War in a bleak decade of snow and famine, culminating in an epic victory over the Vikings.
The First King of England:
Alfred’s grandson Aethelstan fulfils the family plan and creates a kingdom of all England. Travelling from Devon to Cumbria, Scotland and Rome, Michael Wood tells the tale of Aethelstan’s wars, learning and lawmaking.
Inquisition – Episodes 1 and 2
Saturdays at 10:30pm AEST from July 15 until July 22
By the early 90s there had been decades of rumours that the NSW police force was riddled with serious and deeply entrenched corruption. There was talk but little evidence. Over the years a handful of anti corruption inquiries and measures yielded few results. Time and time again those investigators hit the ‘blue wall of silence’ – no copper would dob in another.
One man refused to keep silent. For 20 years John Hatton, the Independent member from the South Coast, had been endangering his life collecting evidence about high-level corruption in the NSW police force – corruption, he believed, that went all the way to the top. Things came to a head on May 11th 1994. Hatton, along with two other Independents, held the balance of power in the minority State Government. Hatton knew he had one chance to play his hand. He stood up and made an hour and a half speech under parliamentary privilege that named high ranking corrupt police and accused the police commissioner of covering up, of being a bully and a liar – he demanded that there be a Royal Commission. It was put to the vote – 46 in favour, 45 against. Hatton had his Royal Commission by one vote. The police commissioner Tony Lauer was apoplectic.
From the moment the Wood Royal Commission began in 1994 it gripped the public’s imagination for almost 3 years as it rolled out like a twisting, shocking thriller. Three things made it radically different than anything that had gone before. Firstly, the Independents set the Commissions’ terms of reference – making it answerable to no political party. Secondly, the appointment of James Wood as Commissioner – a judge who shocked everyone with his ‘steel jawed’ determination. And, finally, because of Wood’s covert proactive undercover investigations that used ‘turned’ corrupt cops to collect shocking audio and video evidence. Wood faced astonishing obstacles as he took on the entire NSW police service and exposed it as riddled with corruption. He faced even more extraordinary obstacles as he began the second part of his investigation – the Paedophile Inquiry that threatened to derail both his own position and that of the Commission itself.
The Wood Royal Commission irrevocably altered our police force and our political landscape. Senior police were jailed. Politicians and a police commissioner were forced to resign. There were 12 suicides and almost 400 police were sacked.
The Wood Royal Commission is told by the key players themselves and draws upon a wealth of rich archival sources – trial and parliamentary transcripts, video and audio surveillance material and material from the recurring media firestorms. Told in the style of a political/crime thriller it will draw a wide audience as it reveals an extraordinary and vivid slice of our recent and very dark past.
Dan Snow’s Norman Walks
Sundays at 7:00pm AEST from July 16 until July 30
This history walking series follows Dan Snow as he uncovers the ‘forgotten’ Norman Empire, one that has been largely overlooked yet laid the foundation for modern Britain. In keeping with Dan’s forensic examination of the past, each episode has a different line of inquiry, following in the foot-steps of the Normans, and taking in prominent and relevant Norman landmarks along the way. The ground-based activities will be enhanced by Skyworks aerial archive together with bespoke helicopter aerial filming for each episode.
Using a variety of sources – including historical accounts, maps and passionate historians – Dan’s walk becomes a vehicle for looking beyond the modern world to investigate the same patch of land almost a thousand years ago. Using detailed local stories and expert interviews, Dan paints a broad, vivid and relevant picture of Norman history. On the Sussex coast, along the Welsh border and on the edge of the North York Moors, Dan explores the landscape and whatever evidence might remain; earthmounds, changing coastlines, viewpoints, and of course the giant stone castles and buildings that were the great symbol of Norman rule. All these elements offer clues as to how the Norman elite were ultimately able to dominate and rule our Anglo-Saxon kingdom.
Castles: Britain’s Fortified History
Weekdays at 5:30pm AEST from July 18 until July 20
Castles have always been romanticised, especially in Britain. They have been incorporated into folklore, witnessed bloody battles, played host to the great and the good, and been kept alive in the imagination by the world’s great writers and artists. Always spectacular, it has often been their power to inspire that has made them such special places.
The first episode in this fascinating series tells how the castle arrived with the Norman invasion of England. William the Conqueror built castles across the land, establishing a network of authority firmly set in stone through which to control his new kingdom. But these very castles became the means by which warrior barons could challenge the crown. This was the period that saw the building of Tintagel. Said to be the birthplace of King Arthur, it remains one of the most evocative of castles to this day, drawing visitors from around the world with its tales of myth and legend.
The English monarch who left the most indelible mark on the castle was the great Plantagenet King Edward I. His reign is the subject of programme two. Edward I took the castle and made it an instrument of colonisation. He spent vast sums to transform the Principality of Wales with a ring of iron comprised of some of the greatest castles this land has ever seen. Castles like Caernarfon and Beaumaris were used to impose England’s will upon the Welsh.
Edward turned his attention on Scotland, laying siege to castles with great catapults. But Edward’s castle building days were over and Scotland escaped the fate of the Welsh. By the Wars of the Roses castles were under attack from a new threat – the cannon.
Britain prospered during the Tudor era and the nature of the castle changed. The last episode explores how these strategic seats of power now had to keep up with the fickle fashions of the court, and became a means to impress. Just as castles seemed to have lost their defensive function, the English Civil War erupted.
The legacy of that tumultuous period resulted in castles no longer being associated with protection. Rather their ruins took on a unique appeal, they embodied a nostalgia for an age of chivalry that became deep set in the minds of all who visited.
From weapon of conquest to fuel for the imagination, the role of the castle, like the stone from which they are built, has endured for centuries. Castles – Britain’s Fortified History offers an intriguing insight into these buildings and their place in the UK’s history, culture and psyche.
Bloody Tales of The Tower
Weekdays at 5:30pm AEST from July 21 until July 25
Tudor historian Suzannah Lipscomb and journalist Joe Crowley team up to investigate three gruesome stories which challenge our ingrained beliefs about the infamous Tower Of London.
From WWII executions and Guy Fawkes’ grisly torture and gruesome death to a 16th century prison break, the Tower of London’s history encompasses it all.
The extraordinary stories of imprisonment, murder and execution behind the walls of Britain’s most historic and iconic castle.
Friday July 21 at 10:30pm AEST
Historian and weapons expert Mike Loades takes us on a high-energy, action-filled, fact-rich rampage through the medieval world.
Rosslyn Chapel: A Treasure in Stone
Saturday July 22 at 8:30pm AEST
Exquisite Rosslyn Chapel became world-famous when it was featured in Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. The chapel is steeped in legends that have linked it to the Knights Templar and even the Holy Grail.
Art historian Lady Helen Rosslyn, whose husband’s ancestor built the chapel over five hundred years ago, is our guide on a journey of discovery around this perfect gem of a building, as she searches for answers to some of its perennial mysteries. Her quest leads her to medieval documents that provide the only surviving evidence of Sir William St Clair, the man who built the chapel, and how he lived; to nearby Melrose Abbey that was partially destroyed in the Reformation, and to monumental Glasgow Cathedral, where she finds some surprising parallels to Rosslyn Chapel.
Most astonishing of all, on a visit to Normandy in northern France, Helen Rosslyn finds some remarkable clues not just about the strange images carved into the fabric of Rosslyn Chapel, but also about the identity of the forgotten masons who built it.
The Unshakeable Hagia Sofia
Sunday July 23 at 9:30pm AEST
Hagia Sophia is one of the most magnificent structures ever created. For over 1500 years it has stood witnesses to the rise and fall of empires, and the transformation from Christian church to Muslim mosque. Now Hagia Sophia is a secular museum, one of Istanbul’s most visited sites, open to all who come to see its glorious art and remarkable dome. Istanbul sits atop a major fault system and has been hit by scores of major earthquakes over the centuries—the last earthquake in 1999 toppled hundreds of buildings and killed 17,000 people. But Hagia Sophia survives. How could a building so old and so large survive such violent shaking? Why is it so strong? And more importantly, will it survive the next big quake?
In an effort to uncover its seismic secrets, architects, engineers, and scientists are undertaking a major effort to find out what makes Hagia Sophia so resilient, using radar, laser, and computer technologies to probe the walls of this massive building. The scientists uncover new details about its materials— the literal brick and mortar that hold it together—and how its original designers tried to ensure its structural integrity.
Seismic engineers at Istanbul’s Bosphorus University even built an 8-ton scale-model of Hagia Sophia to place on a motorized shake table to simulate the effects of a major earthquake on the real building. But even as scientists discover the building’s strengths, they are also uncovering weaknesses that could indicate trouble ahead. With 3D animation and cutting edge drone camera photography for support, experts carefully explain just how this remarkable building—with its massive circular dome sitting atop a huge, open, square base—actually works. As Istanbul braces for that next earthquake will scientists find answers that can help this remarkable building survive for another 1500 years?
The Private Lives of Medieval Kings
Weekdays at 6:30pm AEST from July 24 until July 26
Dr Janina Ramirez unlocks the secrets of illuminated manuscripts that were custom-made for kings, and explores the medieval world they reveal. She begins her journey with the first Anglo-Saxon rulers to create a united England.
Dr Janina Ramirez unlocks the secrets of medieval illuminated manuscripts and shows how they gave power to the king and united the kingdom in an age of plague, warfare and rebellion.
In this episode, the story of the British Library’s Royal Manuscripts collection reaches its end with the last great flowering of illumination in the magnificent courts of the Tudors.
King Arthur: The Legend
Monday July 24 at 7:30pm AEST
Rich with dramatic reconstructions and lavish photography of ancient heritage sites and mystic Celtic landscapes, this thrilling programme, reveals how the stories of King Arthur have grown and developed across a thousand years and more.
Battle of Kings: Bannockburn
Tuesday July 25 at 7:30pm AEST
This drama-documentary tells the story of the pivotal campaign of Scotland’s King Robert Bruce against England’s King Edward II and the culminating Battle of Bannockburn in 1314.
The Dark Ages: An Age of Light
Weekdays at 5:30pm AEST from July 26 until July 31
The Dark Ages have been misunderstood. History has identified the period following the fall of the Roman Empire with a descent into barbarism – a terrible time when civilisation stopped. Waldemar Januszczak disagrees. In this landmark 4-part series Waldemar argues that the Dark Ages were a time of great artistic achievement, with new ideas and religions provoking new artistic adventures. He embarks on a fascinating trip across Europe, Africa and Asia, visits the world’s most famous collections and discovers hidden artistic gems, all to prove that the Dark Ages were actually an ‘Age of Light’.
In the first episode the viewer will discover how Christianity emerged into the Roman Empire as an artistic force in the third and fourth centuries. But with no description of Jesus in the Bible, how were Christians to represent their God? Waldemar explores how Christian artists drew on images of ancient gods for inspiration, and developed new forms of architecture to contain their art.
The second episode is dedicated to the ‘Barbarians’. They are often blamed for the collapse of the Roman Empire, but in reality they were fascinating civilizations that produced magnificent art. Focusing on the Huns, Vandals and Goths, Waldemar follows each tribe’s journey across Europe, and discovers the incredible art they produced along the way.
Along with Christianity the Dark Ages saw the emergence of another vital religion: Islam. This is the focus of Episode Three. After emerging in the near East the religion spread across North Africa and into Europe, and brought its unique artistic style with it. Waldemar examines the early artistic explorations of the first Muslims, the development of the mosque, and their scientific achievements.
In the final episode Waldemar looks towards the North of Europe. The Carolingians saw themselves as successors to Rome, reflected in their art. Elsewhere, the Vikings were constructing long ships with intricate decoration, and marking their territory with powerful rune stones. And on the British Isles, the Irish and Anglo-Saxons were creating unique works of manuscript illumination and remarkable jewellery.
Medieval Lives: Birth, Marriage, Death
Weekdays at 6:30pm AEST from July 27 until July 31
Historian and author Helen Castor, presenter of the popular series She-Wolves, explores how the people of the Middle Ages handled the most fundamental moments of transition in life: birth, marriage and death. In doing so she reveals how people in the medieval world thought and what they believed in.
For the people of the Middle Ages the teachings of the Catholic Church shaped thoughts and beliefs across the whole of Western Europe. But by the end of the Middle Ages the Church would find itself in the grip of momentous change and the way of medieval birth, marriage and death would never be quite the same again.
Merlin The Legend
Sunday July 30 at 2:30pm AEST
Mythical hero and historical mystery; hermit and fierce warrior; wise man and madman; the anti-christ and the fighter of evil; Christian and pagan; magician and scientist; protector and traitor; politician and poet.
Merlin continues to be many things to many people. But one thing is certain; his cultural influence has been vast. Not only in his native Wales and the British Isles but also throughout the world. Without him, Gandalf and Dumbledore would be unimaginable.
Throughout history he has been a mythical hero with a deep capacity for meeting political and artistic needs, appealing to kings and dictators, poets and painters. A complex and fertile figure, he can be re-invented at will and throughout history he has reappeared at times of adversity or challenging change. He represents the duality of our nature and is our link with nature and the past, a past we have long forgotten but which lies just beneath the surface and which is part of all of us.
From Taliesin to Twain, C. S. Lewis to Harry Potter, Tennyson to Peter Jackson – across the centuries, this mysterious figure has influenced poetry, prose, music, the visual arts, film and television.
In addition to these influences, we look at how the perception of Merlin has changed over the centuries, changes driven by the needs of the age. It’s quite a journey. The invading Normans and the Tudor monarchs all use him to legitimise their story and build up the state. In the eighteenth century, he anchors Britain in ancient times just when it’s booming commercially. For the Victorian writers and painters, weighed down by industry and public sobriety, he represents the soul of the artist.
With a lively cast of experts and Merlin enthusiasts, the film traces his continuing presence in arts and culture across the world right up to the present day. Whether it’s blockbuster films, videogames or New Age gatherings at Stonehenge, he offers something beyond mundane daily life. Whatever the needs of the time, Merlin has a way of meeting them. It’s magic. It’s irresistible.
The Man Who Killed Richard III
Sunday July 30 at 9:30pm AEST
This is a story of conspiracy and betrayal, of a lust for power and a lost allegiance; the story of the man who killed King Richard III.
In this documentary we set out to prove that the Welshman Sir Rhys ap Thomas, master of Carew Castle in Pembrokeshire, killed King Richard III, changing the course of British history.
Sir Rhys ap Thomas had sworn allegiance to King Richard III. He had accumulated lands and status in Wales that were dependent, in part, on his loyalty to Richard. But at the Battle of Bosworth he betrayed him, fighting on the side of Henry Tudor. He dealt the fatal blow to Richard III.
We uncover what drove him Rhys ap Thomas to betray not only his master but a King – and we reveal his remarkable story; from a childhood embroiled in the War of the Roses and exile to the continent, to a determined and ambitious man who brought an abrupt end to the Plantagenet line, carving the way for his own rise to power at the heart of the Tudor dynasty.