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When the 19th century dawned, Britain was a land of two nations.
A small wealthy class ruling a large and growing population.
The Regency was a time between times.
It was after absolute monarchy, but it was before democracy.
It was towards the end of an age of agriculture.
It was the beginning of an age of industry.
As radical voices confronted an arrogant elite,
the ways of the old order were no longer tenable.
It was a time that would set the many against the few.
What a wonderful sight for the Regency swells
taking part in the new craze for ballooning.
This is Bath, queen city of the west. Celebrated for its spa waters.
Packed full of genteel Jane Austen-type characters.
But Britain was a troubled land.
Years of war had wearied and impoverished the masses.
The country hovered on the brink of revolution,
as the governing classes chose to use violent repression
instead of enlightened reform.
Challenging Parliament and the Cabinet
were a new generation
The power of the word would now take over from the power of the sword
but not without the shedding of blood.
In the Regency, people admired a sense of gusto.
The most dashing people of the age
were literally dashing across the countryside,
and the age's favourite vehicle was this monster, the mail coach.
The mail coach was extraordinary.
It could go at an average speed of seven miles an hour,
which seemed utterly amazing to 19th-century Jeremy Clarksons.
This meant that, instead of taking two days to get to Cambridge,
you could get there in seven hours.
Edinburgh was only 60 hours away. Britain was shrinking.
-All right, love? Right. Stand out, please.
Today, I'm really excited to travel on the Swingletree mail coach.
We're scorching through the Norfolk countryside.
This is John Parker holding the reins and Rosie as guard.
This coach used to earn its keep on the London to Norwich run.
Travel by mail coach was expensive,
but it was also fast and safe.
Our team of horses would be changed every ten or so miles.
We'd be travelling with an armed guard on the back.
And when we got to tollgates they'd open as if by magic.
We'd toot our horn and the keeper would leap out of the way.
Because nothing was allowed to hold up the king's mail.
So what could you signal with the horn?
Are there things like "I'm coming"? "Get out of the way"?
For different coaches, there was different tunes.
-Even for different people. They had their favourite tunes.
OK. So this coach was owned by James Selby
and I think you know his particular coaching call.
Let's hear it. HORN FANFARE
If you could afford it, you rode on it.
If you couldn't afford this, you tried to hook a ride
on something else. If you couldn't get a ride, you had a choice.
You either owned a horse and rode it or you walked.
-There's no other choices.
You couldn't jump on the back of carriages, because they had spikes
to make sure you didn't do it.
It's the king's mail. If you held it up,
you died. You were either shot or hung, one of the two.
-That's a big draconian.
-If you stood in front and said, "Stand and deliver,"
these teams of horses, they won't stop. They'll flatten you.
For Regency people, travel by mail coach was
like taking Concorde.
Mail coaches helped them to discover their own countryside.
The Highlands, the Lake District and Spa towns like Bath
became tourist destinations for the first time
thanks to coach travel.
For the rich, the coach was the only way to travel.
The Prince Regent's dirty weekends in Brighton
were all horse-drawn affairs.
But, if George had chosen to notice,
the countryside he was travelling through was changing fast.
An agricultural revolution was driving the rural workers
off the land and into the new industrial cities.
The Enclosure Acts denied villagers access to the fields
where generations of peasants had scraped out a living.
In these troubled times, the labourers of Northamptonshire
had a voice through John Clare.
He's often called the Peasant Poet.
In Helpston, his cottage, or cot, still survives. It's now a museum,
devoted to a rare Regency imagination.
And swathy bees about the grass That stops wi' every bloom they pass
And every minute every hour
Keep teazing weeds that wear a flower.
Imagine the scene on a dark winter's night.
John Clare is sitting on a stool in the corner of the room,
writing a poem.
His mother, over there, spinning.
This was their cottage. It's just two up, two down.
There was earth on the floor, a ladder instead of stairs,
and actually ten people were living here. Three generations
of the Clare family shared it.
It's not quite our modern idyll of country living by any means,
but they were glad to have this cottage, it was their home.
Many of John Clare's poems celebrated all things bright and beautiful.
But in Helpston he witnessed the single greatest threat
to rural life for over a thousand years.
The enclosure of the common lands.
Each little tyrant with his little sign
Shows where man claims earth glows no more divine
But paths to freedom and to childhood dear
A board sticks up to notice "No road here"
And birds and trees and flowers without a name
All sighed when lawless law's enclosure came.
'I talked to the curator David Dykes about the changes Clare lived through.'
The Enclosure Act of 1809 in this area
was the biggest single impact on his life.
Prior to that he was able to walk the fields, anywhere he wished to go,
and he rails against that,
in the fact he's lost his freedom
and also lost a livelihood,
because he couldn't get to the common land.
He couldn't graze the cows.
His friends where losing their jobs and he was seeing an acceleration
of people leaving the countryside.
One of his benefactors, the Fitzwilliams,
were the big landowners here.
And indeed they supported Clare during his poetry
and also were getting land off him at the same time
during the enclosure process.
Clare, through his education, became a curiosity in his native village.
The strains of his life and his heavy drinking possibly explained
his drift into insanity.
And here is a very melancholy letter indeed.
Somebody wrote to him at the asylum, saying, "Why no more poems?"
and this answer is heart-breaking. He writes, "Dear Sir.
"I am in a madhouse. I quite forget your name."
He says, "You must excuse me, for I have nothing to communicate.
"I have nothing to say."
It's a very sad end for a poet, isn't it?
John Clare now lies in the village churchyard.
He had asked to be buried round the other side of the church
where there was most sun in the morning and the evening.
This is a man who knew about the weather, don't forget.
But in the event they put him here, near to his parents.
In the Regency, when all transport was still horse-drawn,
the advantages of the canal for carrying goods were overwhelming.
A single horse could pull 50 times more weight
on the water than it could on a road.
Canals carried coal, iron and grain to the new cities
and then transported manufactured goods
from the factories to the ports.
Canals reached their peak with the building
of the brilliant Kennet and Avon Canal.
This waterway was the supreme civil engineering achievement of the 1810s.
The Regency is often described
in terms of fashion and, most of all, architecture.
But the decade should really be remembered as the point
when Britain entered the modern machine age.
If you ask people to think of Regency architecture,
they're probably going to come up with Cheltenham, or Brighton,
or parts of London. But one of the most important buildings
from the period is here, in the middle of the Wiltshire countryside.
You'll work out what it is when you notice the chimney.
Steam power would make Britain the most advanced nation on earth.
It drove a technological revolution that would change
the face of the country
and create social tensions
that would threaten to sweep the monarchy away.
The Crofton steam engine is still doing its original work
of keeping the Kennet and Avon topped up with water.
And its engineer today is Harry Willis.
-So, Harry. What have we got here?
-We've got the oldest working steam engine in the world.
-Is it yours?
-Well, it's not mine, but I'm certainly responsible for managing it.
-What do you need to do to it?
-These levers control the passage of steam through the engine.
You need to use them when you're starting or stopping it
and also during the running of it.
-So this is the nerve centre?
-This is the nerve centre.
This is the driving platform.
-Can I drive?
-You certainly can,
but you'll need to put a boiler suit on first.
OK, I'm going to get kitted up like you.
-Here I am, ready to drive.
What need's doing? Shall we slow it down?
You can close that a little bit. Move it to the left a little bit.
-I'm reducing the...
-Reducing the steam, that's right.
It's hard to imagine how impressive this must have been to someone
who hadn't seen machinery before.
Exactly, and the impact on the local inhabitants as well,
who'd have only seen horse-drawn transport.
Then this thing came and began to belch smoke
-and make noises.
-You can hear it from some distance away, can't you?
-Going, "Throb! Throb! Throb!"
-In fact, a heart is quite a good analogy.
-It was keeping the blood of Britain, the canal, flowing.
Give it a bit more to the right.
A bit more steam to the right or else it will stop.
Come on, give it some welly.
That's it, it's OK.
-There is a tremendous amount of power here in your hands.
I just want to go faster and faster.
The Crofton beam engine lifts 11 tons of water
up to the canal every minute
There had been waterwheels and windmills before, but in the Regency
super-efficient steam engines produced power unimaginable
to previous ages.
For the first time, you could generate power
wherever you had coal for the furnace and water for the boiler.
The steam engine liberated and multiplied all that was possible.
In the 1810s, this Boulton & Watt beam engine
was at the forefront of technological achievement.
The first wonder of the new industrial age.
Steam power is one of history's great leaps forward.
Manufacturing is taken out of people's houses
and put into factories.
So we get a concentration of machinery, of manpower,
of the population itself.
We get the birth of our industrial cities.
The Industrial Revolution of the Regent's time
was one of the great discontinuities of history,
where everything after was so little like what had gone before.
'I spoke to the industrial historian Neil Cossons
'on how it affected those who witnessed these changes.'
What do you think it felt like to live through this period?
There is no question in my mind that people through the Regency period
knew that they were living in tempestuous times.
You only have to dig a little below the surface, I think,
and go into these new industrial communities
to see both sides of the coin. Immense prosperity
and huge social deprivation.
On the other hand, it's worth remembering that the numbers of jobs
that were created as a result of industrialisation were huge.
So whereas small numbers of cottage-based industries
went into decline, they were replaced by huge numbers of jobs
and mass migrations from the countryside
into the new industrial communities.
Let's have a look at your favourite picture.
This is certainly one of my favourites,
largely because I lived perhaps 200 yards
-from where the artist stood when he painted it.
That's a view looking down the valley
of the River Severn, with bedlam furnaces
and the silhouette of the dwellings
and associated buildings in front of it.
This is a scene painter's, a theatre painter's view.
Philip de Loutherbourg's picture of Coalbrookdale By Night.
He's made it look awe-inspiring and wonderful and sort of magical.
-A sort of Dante's Inferno view, too.
So he's saying, "Isn't it great?
-"Look at this power, strength, magnificence." Do you think?
That's one of the archetypal images
of the middle industrial revolution.
But there is also, I think, a statement of an entirely new world.
-And Turner, similarly, and his view of Leeds.
Now, that painting shows an urban scene
which would have been impossible
20 years earlier.
Because you see large factories and chimneys,
which would be the chimneys of the steam engines
that powered the machines in those factories.
And that would have been an entirely new vision.
And uniquely English, or shall we say British, at that period.
I like the way you've got the contrast
of the dark satanic mills in the background,
and then you've got almost a rural scene here.
You've got people going about their business, building a wall,
going on a journey on donkeys.
They're doing something to do with the textile industry.
Are they drying, bleaching, colouring cloths?
-They might be doing any of those things.
But the interesting aspect of that is you have, in parallel,
-the pre-industrial world.
-Still going on.
-And the new industrial world.
-And that's a paradox?
So there were rural scenes and rural communities
that were hardly touched by the impact of industrialisation.
One of the things that we need to remember
is that we've been taught more about the evils of industrialisation
than the good bits of it, for generations.
And what the industrial revolution has hidden, in a sense,
partly because it was so all-embracing,
is the appalling working and living conditions
-of the pre-industrial rural poor.
And the squalor and extraordinary deprivation
and grindingness of the poverty
of the rural labourer
was at least as bad and possibly much worse
than the mill worker of a generation
or two generations later.
Textile mills gave many jobs to the men, women and children
driven off the countryside in ever greater numbers during the decade.
But mechanisation came at a high human cost, when each fresh invention
or new machine could wipe out a family's livelihood at a stroke.
In the Prince Regent's lifetime,
spinning was revolutionised.
It went from being a case of one person operating one spinning wheel
and producing just one spindle of thread, to machines like this.
This one's got 714 spindles.
Still operated by just one worker,
but it means that 713 spinners
have lost their jobs.
Many people reacted with fear, and then with anger.
In the 1810s, gangs started to roam about the Midlands and the North
smashing up the new machines, much to the fury of the Tory government.
These men were called frame-breakers or, more commonly, Luddites.
Although Luddism was a grassroots movement,
it had an aristocratic supporter in the person of Lord Byron.
In 1812, Lord Byron got really upset
by the plight of the Nottinghamshire weavers.
Some of them were Luddites and they fell foul of this new bill
being introduced by the Tories called The Frame-Breaking Bill.
Anybody caught breaking or damaging machinery
would now face the death penalty.
Byron thought this was outrageously repressive
and he travelled south to London by coach
to plead the cause of the weavers in his maiden speech
in the House of Lords.
Byron arrived and launched into this passionate speech,
defending the Luddites. Perhaps even went a bit over the top.
He was arguing against the death penalty for breaking machines.
He said, yes, the Luddites had committed outrages,
but that this had arisen from circumstances
of the most unparalleled distress.
He was shaking and trembling with emotion.
He said that the Luddites had not been ashamed to beg,
but there had been no-one to relieve them.
He said that their excesses, however to be deplored and condemned,
could hardly be subject to surprise.
Now, did Byron get what he wanted?
No, he didn't. This pouting and posturing had slightly annoyed the other lords.
As soon as Byron sat down, they passed their bill anyway.
But Byron was suddenly to become a literary superstar,
when his narrative poem called Childe Harold's Pilgrimage
was published the following month.
The first edition sold out in three days and London was intoxicated.
There was traffic chaos as carriages queued up to drop off
dinner invitations at his rooms in St James's.
It was a real overnight success.
In Byron's own words, I awoke one morning and found myself famous.
Childe Harold's Pilgrimage gave a war-locked nation
a tantalising glimpse of Mediterranean Europe.
It also marked an early stage
in Byron's management of his own mysterious, exotic, rakish image.
An image that consciously played up his theatrical, seductive character.
One not bound by social conventions,
one who flirted with the dangerous frontiers of the acceptable.
In a very modern way Byron maintained strict picture approval.
He rejected one innocent boyish portrait but authorised
another very camp canvas of himself in full Albanian costume.
But Byron's image didn't always match with Byron in the flesh.
I went to the London wine merchants, Berry Brothers,
to see some documentary evidence
that Lord Byron was not always the snake-hipped seducer of legend.
Now in here I think we've got
Lord Byron, there he is, he was first weighed in 1806,
he was 18 years old and he was only 5'8'' tall.
He comes in at a pretty hefty 13 stone 12.
That was wearing his boots, but not his hat.
That's borderline obese for a teenager.
He wasn't always the irresistible Adonis of legend
and we know he took a lot of trouble to try to reduce his weight.
We hear about him playing cricket,
wearing seven waistcoats and a great coat in an attempt to sweat it off
and sometimes at dinner he would refuse all food
except for soda water and biscuits.
This worked - five years later, by 1811 he's lost four stone,
he's gone right down to nine stone 11, pretty svelte.
I think I'll give it a go myself.
That just about balances,
but I'm not telling you how much weight there is on the other side.
Being a dissolute poet was scandalous enough, but the behaviour
of the bloated Prince Regent was truly shocking to his subjects.
His affairs with his mistresses
outraged the God-fearing, respectable, populace.
George was a serial adulterer
in a way that opened up to enormous ridicule.
Ironically, the one woman
who was free from his sexual attentions was his wife.
Caroline of Brunswick was his German mail-order bride
and when she arrived in London George famously said on seeing her,
"Harris, I am not well, pray bring the brandy."
And she said, "He wasn't that fat in his portrait!"
Their wedding was a disaster.
He'd only agreed to it to help clear his debts, he complained
about her offensive smell and he was drunk at the ceremony.
They did manage to produce an heir,
but after the honeymoon they were never intimate again.
George was largely indifferent to his only child and heir, Charlotte,
and chose not see her very often,
much preferring the company of one of his many mistresses.
His selfish and extravagant lifestyle had become a national disgrace.
Maybe George's debauched behaviour
annoyed the gods, provoking them to send destruction.
In April 1815, a volcano erupted far away in Indonesia.
It had a dramatic effect on the world's weather
and the political climate.
Tongues of flame leaped high into the sky.
Explosions ripped the air
and smoke and ash swirled high above the Java sea.
Beneath the volcano over 70,000 perished.
It seemed like the end of the world.
Mount Tambora's eruption was the largest in recorded history.
The explosion was heard over 1200 miles away.
160 cubic kilometres of debris were thrown into the atmosphere
creating a volcanic winter which lasted the whole of the next year.
In Europe crops would fail,
livestock die, and people starve.
But the fires and shadows of Tambora
had the most surprising effect on the imagination of one young woman.
One of the greatest literary creations of the regency period
was Frankenstein, by Mary Godwin, she was first the mistress
and later the wife of the notorious Percy Shelley.
The original manuscript is here at the Bodleian,
normally only scholars get to see it.
This priceless manuscript is kept safe in Oxford,
high up in the tower of the Bodliean library.
There I am going to meet writer Daisy Hay, an expert on Mary Shelley.
And she can tell me about Mary's curious Swiss holiday.
A holiday that gave form to one of fiction's enduring creations.
Daisy, Hello, thanks for having me.
-What have we got?
We've got the manuscript of Frankenstein
and some pictures of Mary and Byron and Shelley.
OK. So tell me about this holiday on the banks of Lake Geneva.
In the spring of 1816 Byron leaves England for good
and heads down the Rhine Valley to Geneva, London has become too hot.
He is joined there kind of by accident by Shelley and by
Shelley's mistress, Mary Godwin, and Mary's stepsister Claire Claremont.
This is a really complicated situation.
So we've got the two Romantic poets and we've got the two sisters
and the second sister is kind of stalking Byron.
The second one has decided she wants a radical poet of her own
and she writes to Byron and offers herself to him.
An offer which he accepts, and this results in a very brief affair
just before Byron leaves London.
Thereafter Claire persuades Shelley and Mary
that they should follow Byron to Geneva.
So they all meet on the shores of Lake Geneva in the summer of 1816,
having arrived by different ways.
And Byron takes a large villa,
a grand house on the shores of Lake Geneva called the Villa Diodati.
And it rains a lot.
The weather was an important part of distorted, isn't it?
Yes, the weather turns.
Thunder echoes round the lake.
There are huge lightning storms
and the group retreat inside to tell ghost stories and to read Coleridge.
The weather is bad all over the world, isn't it?
Because of the volcano.
Yes, so right across the northern hemisphere
crops fail and the sun disappears.
There was terrible distress
which they all come back to in England in 1816.
So what they are experiencing is part of a much wider phenomenon.
So they're all cooped up together telling ghost stories and
Mary's turns out be the best of the lot, doesn't it?
It does but initially it doesn't happen easily for her.
Everybody us get on with their ghost story quite quickly
and she can't think of one.
Until one night she has a nightmare,
she called it a waking dream, and this vision
of the moment in which her monster Frankenstein is created comes to her
and then she's able to say,
"I have thought of a story", the following morning.
And here's the actual moment in her own handwriting. This is great.
This is the moment the monster
comes to life and the narrator says in the glimmer of the half
extinguished light I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open.
And then down here
Shelley, her future husband, he's annotated it,
he's improve the writing.
Do you think he's improved it?
Throughout you can see Shelley's annotations in the margin.
You can see the difference between Shelley's handwriting and Mary's.
He edited the manuscript as
she went along so you can see that he's changed,
for example, handsome for beautiful
and has added a description of the hair here as lustrous black.
What's the significance of Shelley changing it?
What do you think he's added to the story?
There's something about lustrous black,
he's sharpened the contrast, I think.
We've got this creature described in terms of colour, yellow,
but now there's something almost unearthly
about the vividness of this, I think.
The change to beautiful rather than handsome,
there's somehow something more inhuman about it, I think.
What was the atmosphere like at the villa?
Because Byron was definitely the most successful of them so far.
Was it like a rock star with his groupies?
Well, I think, as you say, he was the most famous, he's older,
he's richer, an established poet, but I think that perhaps
what the atmosphere was like, it always seems to me
to be quite like those conversations
you have late into the night when you're a student.
They are all very young.
Did you practise free love late in the night when you were a student?
Ah, no! But you know when you argue about things and stay up to 3am
and that seems to me to be quite familiar,
the way they are to each other, that very intense way you are
when you're young and working out what you think about the world.
Here's another bit of Shelley inserting his views.
What does that one say?
This is a section with quite a long bit of Shelley annotation,
it starts here and goes over the page.
This is where he's talking about the virtues of a republican system
rather than a system with monarchies,
and talking about this in terms of how you treat those
who are more vulnerable than you, particularly about servant classes
and how the system of having servants in Switzerland,
which is a republican country, is preferable to that in England.
He's saying, "The republican institutions of our country
"have produced simpler and happier manners than those
"which prevail in the great monarchies that surround it."
So, this is a Shelleyian manifesto, I suppose,
sneaking its way into Frankenstein.
And Shelley isn't alone, is he, in this decade, the 1810's?
There's a lot of respectable people talking up against absolute monarchy.
There really is,
and for people like Shelley and those around him,
the way in which power is concentrated in the hands
of a tiny minority seems to become untenable,
so Shelley writes a proposal for putting reform to the vote,
he wants there to be a referendum on universal manhood suffrage,
so there is a feeling that
the way in which British society is structured cannot go on.
In 1816, Britain's small ruling elite were facing their own nightmare -
a population suffering unemployment and starvation demanded reform.
The pressure from the new urban masses
was every bit as terrifying to the government
as Frankenstein's monster.
The vote in Regency England
was limited to a ridiculously small number.
Lots of MPs were returned by so-called pocket or rotten boroughs.
Dunwich had all but disappeared into the North Sea,
and the medieval settlement of Old Sarum had only 15 voters,
yet both returned two MPs,
while the bustling cities
of Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester had no MPs at all.
The clamour for fairer parliamentary representation
was becoming louder and more insistent.
The Prime Minister, Lord Liverpool, and his cabinet,
seemed deaf to the demands of the growing urban population.
In 1816, the tension between the two boiled over,
when a gathering of leading radicals addressed a mass meeting
at Spa Fields in north London.
Here are the two perpetrators or ringleaders -
one of them is Henry Hunt, Henry 'Orator' Hunt, as he's called.
He's quite a classy individual, he's 43 years old,
he's a prosperous farmer, and what he wants his universal suffrage.
He wants an annual election to Parliament,
he wants quite a gentle version of reform, I suppose.
The great advantage he has as a radical leader is his voice -
he has a great pair of lungs, he can address an enormous crowd,
and in 1816 he'd been all over Britain
addressing these huge gatherings of reformers.
He'd spoken to 80,000 people in Birmingham,
in Blackburn, 40,000 had turned up to hear him.
In Nottingham, it was 20,000,
in Stockport it was 20,000 again,
and in Macclesfield, 10,000 people,
so he was a very, very popular speaker.
The other ringleader was Arthur Thistlewood,
he's a very different cup of tea.
He's a little bit older, he's 46, he's not a farmer,
but is the illegitimate son of one,
and this should set off alarm bells with the authorities -
he spent time in revolutionary France.
Maybe he's taken in some Jacobean ideas.
In fact, he has. He's from a group called the Spencean Philanthropists
and what he wants is violent revolution
followed by the total redistribution of property.
So, in November 1816, a great crowd gathers at Spa Fields
and they demand reform.
They draw up a list of things they want -
universal suffrage and annual elections.
This is sent to the Prince Regent, but there is no reply,
he completely ignores them.
So, a month later, in December,
the crowd gathers again at Spa Fields,
and this time there's fighting, it's a riot.
Arthur Thistlewood is arrested, but he escapes imprisonment,
he gets off on a technicality.
After Spa Fields, the roads of these two men diverge,
one peaceful, the other increasingly violent.
Thistlewood was now even more determined
to incite the London mob into bloody revolution.
The Regent, who'd loftily ignored the petitions of his people,
was now to feel their wrath at first hand.
By 1817, those voices of discontent were growing louder.
In January of that year, the Prince Regent in his coach
on the way home from Parliament, where he'd been making an address,
when he got surrounded by an angry mob.
They were shouting, "Seize him! Seize him!"
and, "Throw things! Throw things!"
And they called him names too rude to be printed in the Times.
Suddenly, there was a loud crack...
HORSE WHINNIES ..the glass of the windows got broken,
George thought that this was an assassination attempt.
He offered a £1,000 reward for the catching of the criminal.
But then people started asking questions -
nobody had actually seen a gun, and nobody had smelt any smoke,
maybe it was all in his imagination.
This turned out to be the case.
The thing that probed the window wasn't a bullet at all.
It was just an ordinary little pebble.
The Regent, at 55, was under-employed,
overdrawn and overweight.
He was a laughing stock.
In a society jaded by George's excesses,
his subjects wished to see in his daughter, Charlotte,
a purer image of royalty.
A princess untainted by the gluttony
and sexual incontinence of the Regent.
Aged 20, with great celebration, she married a German prince,
Leopold of Saxe-Coburg,
and settled here at Claremont House in Surrey.
As a child, Princess Charlotte was neglected by her father.
But here, she found contentment and happiness,
and, in 1817, Britain was delighted with the news
that she'd got pregnant.
Perhaps an heir would provide a brighter future
for the Hanoverian dynasty which her father brought into such disrepute.
But, it wasn't going to end happily.
After a 48 hour labour up there,
poor Charlotte's son was born dead
and she died a few hours later.
In this one dreadful night,
the whole royal line of the Prince Regent ended.
People said it was as though every household had lost a favourite child.
The whole country mourned, and drapers sold out of black cloth.
On hearing the news, her mother,
Princess Caroline, fainted with shock.
George, who'd always been a dreadful father,
was crippled with grief, and unable to face his own daughter's funeral.
She was buried, her son at her feet, in St George's Chapel at Windsor.
After Charlotte's death,
a public subscription was launched to build a monument to honour her.
The response was phenomenal -
in two years, over £12,000 had been raised,
and the sculptor Matthew Cotes Wyatt
was commissioned to make this Cenotaph.
It must be one of the most spectacular works of art
of the Regency.
Down below Charlotte's body the mourners are heavily,
realistically draped with cloth,
And up above, the angels
are carrying Charlotte and her baby up to heaven.
There's no sense of British reserve or stiff upper lip here,
and rightly so, because the monument was paid for by thousands of ordinary people
who wanted a record of their grief.
To them, Charlotte had been the future of the monarchy,
the future of Britain, and here she is,
tragically young, being carried away by angels.
Although there was a genuine public outpouring of emotion,
the bitter conflicts of the years following Waterloo
hadn't been forgotten by one Republican.
On a November day here in Marlowe,
Shelley heard about the death at Claremont.
It inspired him to write a political pamphlet.
He called it, An Address To The Nation On The Death Of Princess Charlotte.
But this wasn't to be a simple eulogy.
The pamphlet also mourned the death of three men who were executed
on the day following Princess Charlotte's death.
These three were workers from Derbyshire.
They'd been involved in a protest march calling for reform,
but they'd been set up to it by a government spy.
Shelley was one of the few radicals to risk open publication of his views.
"Liberty is dead," he wrote.
"Fetters heavier than iron weigh upon us,
because they bind our souls."
The government seemed to have no answer
to the pressure for democratic change that was coming from below.
The morning of the 19th August, 1819, was hot and cloudless.
On that morning, a cloth worker called John Lees left his home in Oldham.
He wanted to go into Manchester to attend a big rally
for parliamentary reform that was being held in St Peter's Fields.
He and 60,000 other people wanted to hear the famous orator, Henry Hunt.
Orator Hunt, the champion of Spa Fields,
was perhaps the best man in Britain to inspire
and lead large crowds in the call for greater freedom.
At half-past one, Henry 'Orator' Hunt arrived at this spot
and he climbed up on to a cart to address the crowd.
He would have seen 60,000 people watching him,
all crammed into this area about the size of two football pitches.
But it was quiet, these people were unarmed,
they were sober, they were behaving very well
and they'd come dressed in their Sunday best.
So, Orator Hunt is all ready to go with his speech,
but the local magistrates are watching from a house just over there,
and they just can't believe that his speech is going to go off peacefully,
and they panic.
They send in the special constables and the local militia,
called the Yeomanry, to arrest Orator Hunt.
The crowd tried to protect him by linking their arms,
but the Yeomanry are only volunteers,
they start waving their sabres around.
They're clearly out of their depth, so the proper soldiers are called in.
Two bands of Hussars are summoned and ordered to clear the square.
This is Chetham's Library in Manchester.
It was founded in 1653 and it's the oldest public library in Britain.
It was well known to the radicals of Regency Manchester,
and lots of their original documents still survive here.
I've come to look at the contemporary evidence
with the historian Robert Poole
to find out how a peaceful protest turned into a bloody massacre.
So, what kind of a man was he, Henry Hunt?
He was called Orator Hunt as well, wasn't he, because he had enormous lungs?
Yes, Hunt was also a powerful personality.
He said, "I'm a gentleman farmer with a small fortune
"and a friend of the people," and he contrasted himself
to the wealthy parasites who ran government and finance at the time,
the equivalent of the fat-cat bankers of our own age.
He saw himself as one of the wealth producers, but also as a kind of
aristocratic leader of the people, but he'd become outraged at the way people were treated
and had fallen in with the radical Whigs.
So he wasn't of the people, he wasn't a weaver,
but he'd set himself up as their leader,
and on one level he's giving them good advice here.
He's saying, behave well, don't get drunk,
behave in an orderly fashion and we'll be fine,
but at the same time he's hinting that there could be trouble.
He's talking about "our enemies" and, "there might be bloodshed,"
and he calls the authorities "malignant and contemptible."
Yes, and accuses the authorities of seeking to excite a riot
in order of a pretence for spilling blood.
Hunt was extremely good at almost riding two horses at once.
He needed to rouse the people
and demonstrate the tremendous force of popular resentment,
but at the same time demonstrate only he could control crowds.
What did he want, exactly,
in calling all of his associates to this meeting?
What did they hope to achieve together?
They wanted a radical reform of Parliament,
that is universal suffrage, by which they meant manhood suffrage,
annual parliaments, so that MPs regularly had to account for themselves,
and a secret ballot,
to make sure people couldn't be influenced by landlords or employers.
And part of the problem was that Manchester,
this great industrial city, wasn't really represented, was it?
Because the old distribution of MPs didn't take it into account?
No, Manchester was a modern industrial city in many ways,
but it just kind of had parish pump politics,
it was governed by its parish vestry and its court leets,
and a lot of constables and dog whippers and so forth,
and it wasn't a modern town at all.
This is a plan of the set-up at St Peter's Field.
On print, you can see the density of people,
all the flags, the banners, around the hustings.
But also towards the edges, quite a large number of spectators.
It wasn't just a rally of reformers. It was a bit of a day out.
There were a lot of people watching, which makes what happened all the more shocking.
They sent in the Deputy Constable to arrest Henry Hunt simply because they feared
that anybody making a rousing speech to a large crowd of ordinary people
gathered without the legitimate authority to keep them in order,
that was like applying a match to a dry field.
They just felt there had to be some kind of explosion.
So the Yeomanry panicked? They came in and started slashing people.
It was said they were drunk, is that true?
If they hadn't been drinking, it would've been out of character for the Yeomanry.
A lot were publicans and small tradesmen. That's what people did at lunchtime.
There are reports of that and the fact that they had their swords sharpened in the weeks before.
When they got stuck, they were untrained. They were volunteers.
They'd only been formed a couple of years before.
They started slashing around them with sabres, which caused a crush and a panic
and sparked what became the Peterloo Massacre.
This book here is a list of many of the people who did get hurt.
We've got Judith Kilner, "a pregnant woman was much bruised"
and we've got a lady thrown into a cellar with a woman who was killed, "was pregnant at the time."
We've got somebody cut under the ear by a sabre.
We've got people being sabred and crushed,
being hit on head with truncheons, being crushed by the horses.
It's just horrible. How many people actually got killed?
There were 15 killed on the day.
But there were over 650 injured in only 20 minutes,
which is why it deserves the title, I think, of a massacre.
Over 200 of those were sabre wounds.
Many of those were women, and some of them were children.
There's some research been done on the injuries to women at Peterloo.
It's fairly reliably reckoned they were more likely to be sabred than the men.
The Yeomanry went for the women, because they were the people the authorities hated and resented most.
That's because it was felt it was improper for women to be taking part in politics?
Yes. Female reformers dressed in virginal white, in that patriotic way,
seemed to the authorities like Marianne, the symbol of the French Revolution.
It was claimed they were deaf to every feminine virtue.
You can see this in this satirical picture from a loyalist newspaper.
You've got an imaginary scene at one of the meetings of female reformers in Manchester.
Meetings of this kind did happen.
The female reformers had no idea how to conduct a meeting.
One is standing on the table, many are drinking gin.
None of them are listening. There is one here snogging. They're all chatting.
They don't know anything about politics.
It's reminiscent of 17th century pictures of a fox addressing the silly geese
who think they know about politics, but really don't.
And just like a proper battle, there were souvenirs and medals made.
Planned with satirical intent.
There's an example here modelled on the famous Josiah Wedgwood anti-slavery medal.
The black slave kneeling, and the slogan,
"Am I not a man and brother"?
Here, the kneeling figure is a ragged weaver and he's saying,
"Am I not a man and brother?"
And he's speaking to a member of the Yeomanry,
who has a bloodied axed raised.
-His reply is, "No, you're a poor weaver."
-"Off with your head."
It's surrounded by skulls and crossbones.
It's very... It's bitter, isn't it?
It's making the point that Britain has abolished slavery abroad.
-But still doing it at home.
How quickly was that connection made? Waterloo.
This became known as Peterloo in sort of parody.
Very quickly. In a way, the authorities made the connection first
because one volunteer special constable said to some of the crowd, "This is Waterloo for you."
Meaning like Napoleon. "You reformers have now met your Waterloo."
The constables and the Yeomanry were proud of what they were doing
in averting revolution, as they saw it.
Within a week, the local radical newspaper,
the Manchester Observer, announced it was going to publish
the evidence under the title "Peterloo Massacre"
with ironic reference to Waterloo.
This was the time when the troops, who were supposed to be guarding the people,
had turned on them and there were more Waterloo veterans amongst the crowd
than there were amongst troops and none among the volunteer Yeomanry.
Peterloo frightens the Government to the core.
Feeling that the growing disturbances were threatening violent revolution,
they banned all public meetings and imposed imprisonment without trial for some of those arrested.
This only served further to inflame the crowds.
With the death of George III in 1820,
and the accession of the detested Prince Regent to the throne,
the other radical from Spa Fields, Arthur Thistlewood, decided to act.
He plotted to murder the Cabinet and remove the King.
One evening, he and his small band of conspirators met in a hayloft
on a narrow lane just off London's Edgware Road.
But, unfortunately for the conspirators, the government got wind of what was going on
at the point when the conspirators gathered here.
This is the scene of the crime. It's a hayloft in Cato Street.
Here we've got exactly how it was laid out.
On the table here, the conspirators had gathered their weapons,
their swords, their grenades, their guns.
But this is the ladder up which the police officers came barging in.
There was a big fight, a confrontation.
And Arthur Thistlewood himself ran through one of the police officers with a sword.
This is the spot here where the body fell.
In the darkness and confusion, the conspirators ran away.
They are climbing out through holes in the building, some, it's said, went down the hay chutes.
But, the next morning, the ringleaders were rounded up and captured.
They included the Thistlewood, a couple of shoemakers,
a coffee-house owner, a failed law student from Jamaica
and this rather mysterious character, George Edwards,
who was probably a government agent inciting the whole thing.
Now this caused problems when it came to the trial.
Would the case collapse because of the presence of the government agent?
Well, it didn't because this conspirator, John Monument,
he turned evidence against his colleagues.
So they were condemned. John Monument was let off for being a snitch.
George Edwards was let off for being a government agent.
But the rest were all executed.
Just at the point that the Prince Regent was about to become King George IV,
it looks like Britain was just on the brink of revolution.
George continued his life of idleness and excess.
Yet he and his government would next face an opponent far more destructive
than either Hunt of Thistlewood.
The opposition would come now in the form of his estranged and reviled wife,
the now Queen Caroline.
In the country, Caroline was seen as the wronged and abused wife.
All the more so when George tried, unsuccessfully,
to divorce her by act of Parliament.
His pretext was her rumoured scandalous behaviour.
Caroline had got a bit too close to her Italian servant, Bartolomeo Pergami.
They'd been seen kissing, they'd even been seen undressed together
and there was talk about an illegitimate child.
The Bill got through the House of Lords,
but Caroline was so amazingly popular in the country,
it seemed unlikely it would get through the House of Commons.
So George had to give up. He could not stop her from becoming Queen.
All he could hope was that she wouldn't show up at his coronation.
Despite the distraction of a wild and unwanted Queen, George started to plan
the most extravagant and expensive coronation of all time.
At Kensington Palace, where I work as a curator,
we look after the enormous coronation robe
that George chose for the moment he truly became King.
On three, OK? One, two, three.
He may have been King of a divided nation,
but George always knew how to put on a good show.
You lift first off the table and then one, two, three, up.
Well done. It's gone through.
OK, let's go. Nearly there.
-Here it is, come on, let's open it up.
Because of its fragile condition, this robe rarely sees the light of day
and this is my first full chance to see it unwrapped.
OK. One, two, three.
This is George IV's coronation robe from his coronation in 1821.
The whole event got delayed a year because they needed extra planning time
to make it into this huge extravaganza.
Look how richly it's embroidered with all this gold and all these sequins.
And this was purple, imperial velvet. He's trying to out-Napoleon Napoleon here.
This is the one he wore to come out at the end.
When he arrived at the coronation, he was wearing a red velvet robe, very similar.
He spent £24,000 on these robes.
It needed nine people to carry it for him.
He turned up in this huge, magnificent procession that seemed to go on for miles.
It was led by the herb women, strewing herbs for the King to walk over.
He appeared with his robe bearers and then all the peerage turned up
and George had insisted the Peers, many of whom were elderly men,
dress up in Tudor outfits, wearing tights.
The peers were dubious about this.
It is true there were sniggers from their wives when they arrived in the Abbey.
But this was the greatest show on Earth.
George commissioned a special new crown for himself.
He hired 12,000 diamonds.
It was a five-hour ceremony
and at several points he was seen to be sweating,
he almost fainted and had to be revived with smelling salts.
But he kept up his spirits. Everybody also noticed he was nodding and winking to his mistress,
who was in the audience.
But it definitely left an indelible mark
on the memories of everybody who was there.
So five hours later, this is the robe
in which he made his first appearance as the crowned anointed King.
MUSIC: "Zadok The Priest" by Handel
But however meticulously George had planned his own anointing as King,
there was still one unresolved problem -
Caroline, and she wasn't a woman to take no for an answer.
This is pretty much the only view of the coronation enjoyed by George's wife Caroline.
She had been exiled from court at the start of the Regency
and she'd gone overseas.
But when he became King, she turned back up again, wanting to be crowned.
This is despite the fact she had been offered £50,000 to stay away.
So, on Coronation Day, she arrived at Westminster Abbey
and she flew at the doors shouting, "I am the Queen, open!"
"I am the Queen of Britain, let me pass!"
But the doors remained closed.
The coronation was the Prince Regent's final bow.
Now the Regency was officially over.
It had been a splendid ten years for architecture, for poetry,
for painting and for prose.
But it had also been ten years of waste and profligacy
and Royal immorality.
Britain may have won the Battle of Waterloo,
but it looked like the country was at war with itself.
Was there ever a decade of greater contrasts? I don't think so.
And what about and George IV as King, how would he be remembered?
Well, 200 years later, English Heritage ran a poll
and he was voted Britain's worst monarch ever.
So the Regency, for me, is two things -
untold elegance combined with squalid decadence.
Subtitling by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]c.co.uk.
In this final programme, Lucy Worsley examines the backlash against the excesses of the Prince Regent and the elite world he represented, as George finds himself in a Britain on the brink of revolution in the closing years of his Regency. This was a moment when the power of the word - in radical writings and speeches - briefly challenged the power of the sword. Percy Bysshe Shelley, and future wife Mary, openly supported revolutionary ideas and Mary's famous novel Frankenstein can be seen as a vehicle for the fears surrounding the creation of an uncontrollable new industrial world.
Lucy reveals that even Lord Byron was not always the snake-hipped seducer of legend. He and fellow writers and poets were active supporters of the grass roots movement for reform. Byron made an impassioned speech in Parliament in defence of Luddite machine-breakers. New industrial cities such as Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester were being established yet, under the archaic electoral system of the day, not one returned an MP. The vote was in fact limited to a small land-owning class. The demands for democratic change were to end in tragedy in Manchester with a bloody massacre of unarmed men, women and children at St Peter's Fields - an event dubbed, with bitter reference to the triumph of Waterloo, as 'Peterloo'.
Lucy also describes the technological changes that transformed the Regency landscape and experiences - she enjoys the thrills of a mail coach ride, complete with armed guard; learns how to operate the world's oldest steam engine; and partakes in the Regency craze of balloon flight.
The programme ends with the Prince Regent finally being crowned as George IV at Westminster Abbey in 1821 while his estranged wife Caroline batters the main doors demanding entry. A colourful ending to a decade of elegance and extravagance.