Fireworks Fit For a Queen


Historian Lucy Worsley teams up with artist and materials scientist Zoe Laughlin to explore the explosive science and fascinating history of fireworks, using an original pyrotechnics instruction manual, and other 400 year old historical documents, to recreate one of the most spectacular fireworks displays from the Tudor era. In an ambitious film, Lucy and Zoe will be joined by a team of top class pyro technicians to replicate a mind-blowing fireworks display especially designed for Queen Elizabeth I – one of the first documented firework displays in England. Lucy will piece together clues from some of the earliest instruction manuals for making fireworks in England, as well as eyewitness accounts of the display laid on in 1575.

Armed with this information, the team will apply their understanding of cutting edge pyrotechnics to recreate it in the grounds of Kenilworth Castle, Warwickshire, where it was originally staged. Using hands on experiments to test their designs, the team will construct Tudor rockets, firework fountains and a fire-breathing dragon, as well as discovering the secrets of Elizabethan gunpowder. Throughout the show, Lucy will explore the history of the three-week extravaganza laid on by Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, in his final attempt to win the Queens hand in marriage.

From the elaborate food the Tudor audience would have eaten, to the colours that the set might have been painted in. She will also reveal the important role fireworks had during the Tudor era from the firework effects used on stage at The Globe Theatre; to the pyrotechnical experimentation that took place at The Tower of London – the MI5 of its day. But not all the clues can be found in England some of the fireworks described need to be tracked down further afield. Lucy will travel to Italy to recreate the mysterious Girandola: a horizontal spinning wheel of fire; whilst Zoe will fly to South Korea to witness the ancient, and rather terrifying, rocket box launcher in action.