David Dimbleby tells the story of Britain through its art and treasure, from Henry VIII's accession in 1509 to the premiere of Shakespeare's Henry VIII 100 years later.
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DAVID DIMBLEBY: Few periods in our history capture the imagination
like the age of the Tudors.
It was a time of adventure and exploration,
of valour and glory.
This is Buckland Abbey in Devon, once the home of Sir Francis Drake,
the great explorer and some would say pirate,
who circumnavigated the globe,
who defended England against the Spanish Armada
and who was Queen Elizabeth's great warrior hero.
And this...is Drake's drum,
said to be one of those he carried on his voyages.
It has his coat of arms on the front,
the red dragon and a golden ship.
And legend has it that as he lay dying,
he pledged this drum to the nation,
saying that if ever we were in peril,
all we had to do was sound it and he would return to our rescue.
Whether the legend is true or not,
this is one of a number of objects
that have made the Tudor age seem like a golden age,
and the reputation has grown all the time.
It was an image that was deliberately cultivated
by an alliance of monarch and artist.
Under the Tudors, what they were creating
was an image of power and of glory.
And not, as before, power and glory in heaven,
but power and glory here and now on Earth.
BIG BEN CHIMES
In 1509, a young prince was crowned King of England
here in the heart of London.
Henry VIII was the second crowned king of a new royal dynasty,
You have to forget the image we all have of Henry VIII
as a fat, bloated tyrant and a wife killer, a spoilt king,
and think instead of a handsome, debonair 17-year-old
coming to the throne, an intelligent young man.
That was the Henry who inherited.
And he inherited from his father a full Treasury,
which was to his advantage,
because he was determined to show that his nation,
which had for so long been a sideshow in Europe,
was as rich and powerful as any of them.
Henry realised that he could use art
to make a bold statement about royal power,
and he showed how it could be done
in the first great work he commissioned here at Westminster.
This is the tomb Henry built to commemorate his parents
shortly after he came to the throne.
Now, most tombs are designed to commemorate what's passed.
This one was deliberately designed to point the way to the future.
With this tomb, Henry heralded a new era of extravagance.
The figures are sculpted in bronze and gold,
resting on a base of Italian marble.
All around the sides are cherubs and scenes from the Bible.
It took four years to make,
the most expensive tomb of the age
and more sumptuous than any in Westminster Abbey.
No-one in England could do work as fine as this.
Henry had to commission an Italian sculptor, Pietro Torrigiano,
to come here from Rome, a journey few were willing to undertake.
Uncomfortable, long and you arrived in this damp climate.
Even Torrigiano himself, when he'd done it,
talked about his gallant feats among those beasts of Englishmen.
Henry spent more money on palaces
than any other monarch before or since.
Hampton Court was originally the home of one of his chief advisers,
Henry thought it so magnificent, he took it for himself.
Most of our older palaces were built as fortresses to protect the monarch,
but with Henry it was different.
He didn't fear any internal threat,
and so Hampton Court was dedicated to luxurious pleasures
and extravagant display.
The palace exterior is rich in detail.
A complex astronomical clock showing the signs of the Zodiac.
Elaborate chimneys made of terracotta brick,
and harking back to another heroic age, medallions of Roman emperors.
Henry was very competitive,
obsessed with how he'd compare with his rivals abroad.
There's a wonderful story told about the Venetian ambassador
of a meeting he had with the king.
The king said, "Come, talk with me a while.
"The King of France, is he as tall as I am?"
I replied, there was little difference.
"Is he as stout?"
I said no.
"What sort of legs has he?"
I said, "Spare," at which point the king opened his doublet,
put his hand on his thigh and said, "Look here,
"and I've a good calf to my leg, too!"
During the early years of his reign, England and France were at war.
Then in 1520, Henry sailed to France at the head of a great fleet.
This time he came not to fight
but to make peace with his great rival.
The peace was celebrated with a week-long celebration.
It was the most glorious summit anybody's ever arranged.
It was called the Field of Cloth of Gold.
Henry came over from England to meet Francis I
in splendour with 6,000 followers.
And here in Hampton Court is the picture done for Henry
to remind him of what that wonderful moment was like.
Here's Henry on his horse, surrounded by all his courtiers.
The marquees, the Field of Cloth of Gold shimmering there
with Francis and Henry meeting under it.
But they didn't just have a formal meeting and a chat.
The whole series of events designed to make them almost blood brothers.
For instance, they flirted with each other's wives.
They agreed before the summit that they would both grow their beards
as long as they could - they arrived with masculine, virile beards.
They wrestled together, they jousted.
And then in the centre, this magnificent palace which really...
people had their eyes out on stalks when they saw it.
They could not believe this place had been built.
It had a brick foundation, but the whole thing
was made of wood and canvas, like an astonishing stage set.
And with real glass windows, which were particularly expensive
and therefore particularly lavish.
And of course, the whole thing was lavish beyond belief.
Outside, this fountain which flowed not with water but with wine.
And following an old English tradition, of course,
we drank too much, and a scene here, vomiting in the street and brawling.
There was one other little touch the English had.
Before Mass was said, they flew through the sky
a dragon firework 24 feet long, breathing fire,
and there it is up at the top left-hand corner.
They hadn't been warned about this. Some people thought it was a comet
and disaster was going to follow,
but it was just typical English exuberance. Let the fireworks fly!
Henry's foreign policy depended on expanding his navy.
The scale of his ambition can be seen
in the Pepys Library in Cambridge.
This is really thrilling.
This is the most beautiful book.
It's a quite extraordinary record
of the Royal Navy
as it was founded by Henry VIII.
And this book was drawn up by the man in charge of guns
and of ammunition, Anthony Anthony.
And he listed every ship in the Royal Navy,
from the very smallest at the back,
these ones with oars as well as sails.
And under each ship, the list of all the guns that were on board,
the bows and arrows that were on board, the men who crewed the ship.
And as you go forwards,
the ships get bigger and bigger
until you reach the large fighting ships that Henry built here.
And finally, at the front here...
..this magnificent painting, the Mary Rose.
This was the first flagship of Henry's fleet.
And it was these ships that showed that England was determined
to take mastery of the seas.
The Mary Rose saw 35 years of active service.
The peace with France hadn't lasted,
and the Mary Rose was sunk in the Solent off the Isle of Wight,
resisting a French invasion.
Most of her 600 crew were drowned.
Miraculously, in the 1960s, divers discovered the hulk of the Mary Rose
lying on its side in the mud at the bottom of the Solent.
They built a cradle and decided to lift it, and I remember...
I think I had a flu or something,
I watched television all day long, as nothing happened.
It was like watching paint dry.
All our divers are clear, so I think that's a fairly firm indication
that lift-off is about to take place.
'And then of course one's absolutely gripped, and it came up,'
and I remember the first three timbers appearing above the water.
-The timber is in superb condition.
-Indeed it is, the oak particularly.
'Until there was a terrible dramatic moment'
when it slipped in the cradle.
And it looked for a moment as though the whole enterprise would be over.
What's happened there? There was a tremendous cracking noise.
Yes, as though something has given there.
'Eventually, the ship was brought back to shore.
'Work to preserve her has been going on ever since.'
After years spent washing out the salt,
wax is now being injected into the wood to stabilise it.
It's a toxic environment,
so everyone has to wear protective clothing to enter the chamber.
It's a very...messy-looking job.
What are you actually doing to it?
This is the wax that we use to preserve the ship.
So are you mixing it up with...?
Yeah, I'm putting it onto the barge deck,
where it mixes with water, then dissolves
and goes through into the tank and round the system,
through the filter and sprayed onto the ship.
-So it becomes part of the atmosphere.
And then the ship will be preserved.
It's like a kind of ghost ship to work on.
It can be quite sort of eerie some days.
Just the history of the ship
and so many people that actually lost their lives on there.
And sometimes, you know, you look at that ship
and remember exactly what happened in the Solent on that day.
19,000 objects were found from the Mary Rose and are preserved.
This is just a small part of the collection.
Pots up there on the shelf...
And in these drawers, I'll just have a look at one of them.
This is probably... I just have to put gloves on to protect the stuff.
This is probably the best collection
of just ordinary, everyday objects from Tudor Britain.
These are things that, you know, people on board a ship used,
people would have used in their homes.
I mean, look at this, for example, look.
A lovely pair of shoes.
Nice thick leather, the stitches are still intact.
There's a slit rather curiously across the top of the left toe,
as though the owner had a bunion or something
and was trying to ease the pressure.
And funny little manicure things. This is a nit comb on one side.
Yeah, they had nits, too.
A nit comb and an ordinary comb.
You can imagine them all in the dark on that boat
sort of doing each other's hair to get the nits out...
There's a boatswain's whistle for attracting attention,
because if you're in a ship,
the gale's blowing, the canvas is flapping, the ropes are...
You can't shout all time, so you have a whistle.
WHISTLES THREE TONES
You can hear it against the wind.
And this, I think, is probably the most gruesome of all the exhibits.
This is a urethral syringe. Block your ears if you...are squeamish.
This was used for sailors who'd gone ashore
and picked up sexual diseases.
And this long tube here was inserted into the male member,
and mercury plunged down inside them.
Well, certainly if you had too much of it, the mercury would kill you.
I suspect the thought of having... ouch...that inside you would...
deter you in the first place.
Probably stay on board.
By the 1530s, Henry VIII had proved England's mastery in war and at sea.
But now he risked it all for even greater power.
For almost 1,000 years, the Church, ruled from Rome,
had rivalled the English crown in money and influence.
Now Henry wanted a divorce from his wife, but the Pope said no.
Henry denounced the Catholic Church and the Pope himself.
In the years that followed,
all art which reflected the Catholic Church would be destroyed.
Catholic monasteries and abbeys were plundered for their treasure
and left in ruins.
This picture, commissioned by Henry and hung in his palace,
shows Christ's disciples stoning the Pope,
who tries in vain to protect his wealth.
Henry was now free to create a Church of England
in which he would have the last word.
If you'd come to the church of Tivetshall St Margaret's
500 years ago,
like thousands of English churches, it would have been full of colour.
Paintings on the walls, probably statues,
the whiff of incense, the services in Latin.
It was the closest, for country people, that they came
to art and artistic expression of their religion.
What a devastating effect Henry had.
His legacy was that all the paintings were taken away,
the statues were removed
and the walls instead were just simply painted in whitewash.
The worshippers, instead of facing the image of Christ on the cross
or the Day of Judgement, faced the image of monarchy.
This royal coat-of-arms,
painted during the reign of Henry's daughter Elizabeth,
celebrates the power and authority
of the Tudor dynasty over the Church.
Henry might have established his own Church,
but he still had to win over his people.
To break the spell of the Catholic Church,
Henry turned to the new magic of printing.
He printed for the first time the complete Bible in English.
I used to be in the printing business,
and this still gives me a real thrill.
This is...how it was done in the old days,
but the principle's still the same. Ah!
The smell of the ink and the first sight of the printed page,
Two printers working this machine produced a page every 15 seconds,
which I find hard to believe, it must have been tough going.
But in no time he had 8,000 copies of the Bible in English printed,
one for every parish in his kingdom. I mean, it's difficult to grasp.
It seems commonplace to us,
but this revolutionary breakthrough in knowledge,
in letting people see religion for themselves
and, above all, the king being in a position to control what they saw.
It was an astonishing achievement.
For the first time, every parish in the land
had a complete version of the Bible in a language they could understand.
This is the Great Bible, as it's called, Henry's Bible.
And the title page at the very heart of it has Henry,
sitting there in majesty, handing his Bible to the bishops.
They in turn hand it down to the priests,
and the priests hand it down to the people here at the bottom,
who are all shouting out,
"Vivat rex! Long live the King!"
And where's God in all this?
There He is at the very, very top.
Crammed in just under the border
Mmm. This is Henry's Bible.
Henry's rejection of the Catholic Church changed British art.
It was now free to focus not on God and the heavens,
but the material world and its people.
One person who found this particularly appealing
was one of the great painters of the age, a German, Hans Holbein.
He came here because this was a place
where he would be appreciated not for painting religious paintings
but in demand for what he really liked, which was painting power.
In a series of striking portraits,
Holbein captured the likeness of the great power-brokers of the court.
Among them, Henry's chief ministers...
..and his wives.
This is one of Holbein's finest paintings.
It shows French ambassadors at the court of Henry VIII.
And it was commissioned by this ambassador here, a young man of 29,
even though he looks as though he's in his 40s,
and his fellow ambassador, who's 27.
And they chose Holbein because Holbein would paint them like this,
and this is a perfect example of the change in painting.
Instead of religious painting, rather severe, symbolic,
here we have a painter relishing all the practical, material details.
The painting of the clothes, for instance.
Beautifully, obsessively painted.
That fur looks so light on the coat.
This sumptuous gown which you can almost feel.
And the details in the middle are designed to say,
"This is the new world, this is the world of intellectual ferment,
"this is the world of science, of discovery, of change.
"This isn't the world where we're obsessed with a narrow religion."
Religion itself is consigned to one tiny object
right up in the top left-hand corner,
a crucifix half obscured by the curtain.
As though all of this poses a slight possible danger to religious belief.
Now, the oddest of all the things in the picture, though,
is a little device that makes absolutely no sense
when you stand in front of the picture, here,
and it's there at the bottom.
A kind of white/grey streak.
But absolutely makes sense, and it's a sort of joke,
when you come round here.
You have to stand
right here at the far corner and look down,
and that strange streak turns into a human skull.
Despite all this grandeur, death awaits us all.
Holbein's vigorous, worldly style won the attention of the king,
who recognised a man after his own heart.
In 1536, Henry asked Holbein to create an image of royal power
that could be copied and sent throughout the country
for all his subjects to see.
Trinity College in Cambridge was founded by Henry,
so it's not surprising that
pride of place in the hall is a copy of the Holbein portrait of him.
He looks like a Tudor nightclub bouncer standing in that pose,
so the first message of it is, "I'm here, I'm in charge,
"don't you dare disagree with me."
But then there are other ways of putting across this idea
of the power of the king.
The clothes themselves -
the furs, the silk, the brocade.
Silk was actually confined to the aristocracy.
The lower orders weren't actually allowed, by law, to wear silk.
And then there's the painting of the legs.
Henry, proud of his legs, shows off his calves to great effect.
And finally, of course, the face. If you look closely at the face...
..very severe, rather frightening.
-Are you here at Trinity?
Are you? How long have you been here?
-Are you at Trinity, too?
-So what do you think
of the portrait of the king?
It's obviously an extremely impressive picture.
When I enter the hall, it's the first thing that strikes me.
Sitting under that portrait might put you off your food.
Yeah, some might say. But I don't know, I think it's a good image,
a good memoir of representing where Trinity's come from and its history.
Obviously Henry VIII was very brash and brazen.
What do you think about the codpiece on him?
-It's a bit ridiculous, isn't it?
-I'd agree. I think so.
I think it's quite a chauvinistic sign,
which would be in tune with the fact that he had six wives.
With the broad shoulders,
it goes very well with a dagger he's wearing.
It's all very strong and virile.
He's not someone you'd like to meet in a dark alley at night, is he?
Definitely not, not someone that size.
Holbein's genius decided Henry's image for the rest of his reign.
The unassailable power of the crown was fixed in people's minds,
even as Henry himself fell into decline.
This is one of Henry's last suits of armour, a magnificent piece.
Burnished steel etched with gold, the exaggerated codpiece there,
rather like the Holbein suggesting power and majesty.
Designed for hand-to-hand fighting with a poleaxe...
..that sort of thing. But I rather doubt
that the man wearing this would have been capable of that,
because by the time this suit of armour was made
he'd already become very, very fat,
huge round the waist, vast bottom,
and he was weak, too. He couldn't actually carry this suit of armour
without having a special corset fitted inside from which it hung.
And the leg had to be padded out
because he had a terrible ulcerating wound in his leg.
So what you have here is an outer shell of a man
who'd once been a handsome young prince,
and now was crumbling, decaying.
A man who was a shadow of his former self.
Henry died in 1547 at the age of 55.
It was 11 years before a ruler came to the throne
who could build on Henry's vision.
Henry's daughter Elizabeth had spent her childhood here at Hatfield.
Like her father she was obsessed with the image of royal power,
but her way of projecting it was very different.
Henry ruled by brute force.
Elizabeth was far more subtle.
She had a very intelligent, clever way
of dealing with the problem all rulers face,
how to project an image that will be accepted by their people,
how to tell a story about themselves that can be understood.
And Elizabeth did it by presenting herself as the Virgin Queen,
that wonderful image,
probably the most powerful image of any British monarch ever.
And here she is, the Virgin Queen,
in a famous portrait which is called the Rainbow Portrait.
At first glance, you just see the Queen in all her magnificence,
encrusted with jewels,
her face made up white with scarlet lips and the fine eyebrows.
But when you look closer, like all Elizabethan things
there's a kind of riddle to it, a sort of story behind the story.
For instance, the rainbow.
She's holding the rainbow, which is a symbol of peace, in her right hand.
And the words above, the only words on the portrait,
"Non sine sole iris,"
no rainbow without the sun.
And the sun, of course, is Elizabeth herself.
So no peace without Elizabeth, message number one.
Then pearls everywhere, which symbolise purity.
Earrings, round her neck.
And then it gets even more subtle here.
On her sleeve, this wonderfully encrusted serpent
or snake with an orb above and a little heart-shaped ruby below.
The serpent represents wisdom.
It could be her emotions, her heart being controlled by wisdom.
But the most extraordinary bit of this portrait
is something you don't really notice until you look quite closely,
which is that this golden robe has on it painted ears and eyes.
This is rather less subtle, I think, but what it's saying is
that as Queen, I have eyes and ears everywhere.
In other words, my servants, the people who are loyal to me,
are watching and listening, and nothing you do will not be noticed.
this is a woman with real power.
What Elizabeth knew was that you could exert power
as effectively through seduction as through fear.
Under her patronage, the brilliant Nicholas Hilliard,
a young man from Devon,
became the greatest painter of one of the most delicate art forms,
These paintings weren't for public display.
They were intimate pictures to be treasured in private.
And this is the man who did it all.
This is Hilliard himself, a self portrait.
It's tiny, but when you look closely
you can see in his eyes a lively, mischievous view of the world.
He himself said that he wanted to capture in his painting
these lovely graces, these witty smilings,
these stolen glances which, like lightning, pass.
It's just thrilling even to hold this in your hand.
This is probably the most powerful image of the Elizabethan era.
This is Hilliard's famous painting of Young Man Among Roses.
And he has his hand on his heart,
looking with almost cow-eyed devotion, out towards the Queen.
What a wonderful explanation almost, of the nature of romantic love.
And this is the famous Drake Jewel.
I hardly dare hold this in my hand.
Given to the explorer, Francis Drake, by Queen Elizabeth herself.
A cameo on the front, said to suggest her love and fascination
with exploration of foreign lands.
An African man and a European woman behind.
Rubies and diamonds all around.
But the great treasure of this is when you turn it over...
You open it up.
Inside is this miniature of Queen Elizabeth herself.
For Drake's eyes only, with a little phoenix below.
Almost secret, in the back of the locket.
There's no margin for mistake.
If you have a wrong stroke,
if you make one little point in the wrong place, everyone's aware of it.
You can't really go wrong anywhere and you can't correct a mistake.
How long would it take for a portrait?
Oh gosh, it depends on whether it's a good day or a bad day, really.
It would be up to 12 very, very, intense hours.
Hilliard wouldn't have painted somebody like me, would he?
-He didn't paint... He painted beautiful youths, and...
-..and princesses and...
But she was made to look like a young girl.
When she was 60 she was being painted as though she was 20.
Yes, of course. That was part of her image, wasn't it?
-The Virgin Queen.
But did he do portraits of real people
or was it always the court that he painted?
Erm, generally he tended to be quite courtly.
What did he paint on?
He painted on parchment.
-Is this parchment?
-It is, yes.
-What's it made from?
-That would be made from sheep.
Very fine and smooth with very few coarse hairs.
-It's a lovely surface.
-It's beautiful to work on.
Smooth one side, rougher on the other.
-Presumably you paint on the smooth side?
-Yes, that's right.
Could you turn very slightly... Yes.
-Yes, that's good.
So, how's it doing? Is it done?
I'm just putting the final sheen...
-Then can I have a look?
-And I would say it's done.
HE HUMS PENSIVELY
At this point you can sack the painter.
Oh my goodness!
Very young, I'd say.
-Do you think so?
-Oh, I thought I'd got a sense of, um...
-No, a sense of experience and life.
-And wisdom, yes, yes.
-I think wisdom.
And now you've got the eyes with a great, like, shining light.
-What's that done with?
-That was your piercing look.
-That little point.
-I go for the piercing look.
I tell you what, I've got a slightly...
My father used to have this too,
as though there's a slightly bad smell under his nose.
You know, a sort of sniffing. SHE LAUGHS
The devotion Elizabeth inspired led her courtiers
on intrepid journeys of exploration to the four corners of the Earth.
Look, there's a seal over there.
I've been messing about on boats on the River Dart for years
and I love it because it's very beautiful
but it's also powerfully romantic.
Because from this river, in the 16th century,
a new breed of Englishmen seemed to emerge.
Fearless sailors who crossed great oceans
and particularly went to America.
The New World offered excitement and glory
to those brave enough to cross the open seas.
One who confronted its perils was an artist called John White.
He sailed on the expeditions of Sir Walter Raleigh,
to the territory of Virginia.
Named after Elizabeth, the Virgin Queen.
White's job was to paint the things they found.
The extraordinary and exotic animals.
Best of all, White captured the world of the Native Americans.
With these pictures, Elizabeth could see at first hand
the territories and the peoples she'd conquered.
The most daring voyage of the age
was Francis Drake's circumnavigation of the Earth.
He set off in 1577 and returned, triumphant, almost four years later.
The map maker, Emery Molyneux, sailed in one of Drake's ships
and when he came back, he made these two wonderful globes.
The construction of them alone is quite extraordinary.
There's a wooden pole through the centre,
which holds the thing in shape, roughly,
but the globe itself is made of layer upon layer of paper
and then a thin layer of plaster put on the top,
and then the map itself printed in sort of slices,
like the slices of an orange, and stretched over it.
And this is the result.
These two magnificent globes. One of the heavens, one of the Earth.
The heavens, showing all the constellations, with their names,
the Great Bear, the Little Bear, all of that.
And interestingly, because for the first time
Drake had circumnavigated the globe,
there's the consolation called the Southern Cross.
Right down here at the bottom,
with its five stars in the shape of a cross
that you can only see in the southern oceans.
But what's really perhaps even more fascinating is this one of the Earth,
as they knew it at the time.
The excitement of doing this must have been quite extraordinary,
because you see here new bits of the world appearing on this map,
and still other bits completely untouched.
There's no Australia, for instance. But beautifully, accurately, marked.
I barely dare touch it.
It traces Drake's journey from England,
out across the North Atlantic,
down into the South Atlantic,
there's the route of course over to Virginia and to the Americas...
round, down into the South Atlantic
and, if I can find it right down here,
Cape Horn, at the very bottom of South America.
And the line showing where Drake sailed
along the western seaboard of the Americas.
But the other interesting thing about this is that
these two globes were presented to Queen Elizabeth by Molyneux
and before they were presented,
here, bang in the middle of America, is the royal coat of arms
and a great inscription stamped on America,
as though saying to Queen Elizabeth,
"All this territory is yours if you want it.
"The New World is there for the taking."
The riches brought home by fearless explorers in the 16th century
were beyond the wildest dreams even of Elizabeth's court.
In 1912, some workmen were demolishing a building
in Cheapside in the City of London.
They unearthed an old box. They opened it.
And what they discovered was absolutely astonishing.
This treasure trove.
The Cheapside Hoard.
It's the largest collection of jewellery of this period
anywhere in the world
and it is absolutely astonishing.
It's worth millions and millions of pounds.
You need to look closely to see what there is.
This crystal cup with a lovely engraved silver-gilt handle
and top and bottom to it.
These pieces of agate.
At the centre here, absolutely astonishing piece of work.
An enormous emerald
which has been sliced and when it's opened,
there's a little clock inside.
But what's really exciting here are the small things.
The most beautifully, exquisitely made jewels. This cross here.
This, which is a little - I can't touch them -
but this which is a little scent pot
with opals in a fern shape all the way round,
with diamonds and white enamel.
This early Christian amethyst,
of two...thought to be two saints' figures.
I think one or two I could just pick up. This one, for instance.
A finely-cut diamond from India, with white enamel settings.
Right the way around there are little dots on the enamel.
It was such a breathtaking find.
The magic of this collection
is what it tells us about the reach of the Elizabethan era.
Rubies and diamonds from India on the one hand,
to emeralds from Colombia on the other. All brought here to London
to glamorise and glorify the Elizabethan court.
The Armada Portrait shows Elizabeth decked out
in a dazzling array of jewels and fine clothes.
Her hand rests confidently on the globe,
fingers touching the Americas.
But while exploration brought wealth, it also brought new enemies.
Behind Elizabeth, the Spanish Armada fleet gathers in the summer of 1588.
Its mission - to defeat England and overthrow the Queen.
To the right, the Spanish fleet founders in stormy English waters.
This is not just a painting of royal power.
It's a rousing patriotic image to inspire the nation.
The defeat of the Armada quickly became the stuff of myth.
There was of course the myth that Francis Drake was so cool,
when he was told the Spanish were coming up the Channel, he said,
"I'll finish my game of bowls before I go and attack them."
There was the myth that it was puny England against the might of Spain,
when in reality, we outgunned and outmanoeuvred the Spanish.
But the biggest myth of all was that it was all God's doing.
That the storms were provided by God to help England.
Elizabeth even had a medal made.
"God blew," it said on it, "and they were scattered."
Perhaps the English could be forgiven for beginning to think
they were God's chosen people.
And if any doubt was left,
England's most persuasive myth-maker was about to emerge.
He wasn't a painter, but a poet.
His name - William Shakespeare.
At the heart of Shakespeare's work are the history plays,
which he began writing shortly after the defeat of the Spanish Armada.
They're plays which describe the whole grandeur of British history
in very vivid terms, with heroes and villains.
Richard III - the evil hunchback. Killing the princes in the tower.
And when he dies, shouting out,
"A horse. A horse. My kingdom for a horse."
And Henry V urging his troops on to battle against the French
with a cry of, "Once more unto the breach, dear friends. Once more!"
A picture so vibrant it still lives with us today.
Shakespeare's plays span 350 years of British history,
and come to a triumphant end
with a celebration of the birth of Elizabeth herself.
What Shakespeare was saying to his audience was,
"Look, a new era has dawned.
"A period of peace and prosperity,
"brought to you by the Tudors, and you should enjoy it."
In an earlier play, Richard II, he'd set out his vision of England.
It was a myth then - it's a myth now.
But the glorious language still sends a shiver down the spine.
"This royal throne of kings, this sceptr'd isle,
"This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
"This other Eden, demi-paradise,
"This fortress built by Nature for herself
"Against infection and the hand of war,
"This happy breed of men, this little world,
"This precious stone set in the silver sea,
"Which serves it in the office of a wall
"Or as a moat defensive to a house,
"Against the envy of less happier lands,
"This blessed plot, this earth,
In the next Age:
The arrogance of a king.
The people's defiance.
..and monumental splendour.
In the age of revolution.
The story of Britain through its art and treasure.
This episode looks at the Tudors and spans from Henry VIII's accession in 1509 to the first performance of Shakespeare's Henry VIII exactly 100 years later.
David Dimbleby shows how the Tudors used art as an instrument of power and propaganda. Featuring a look at Henry VIII and the lavish, gilded tomb in Westminster Abbey he commissioned for his father; the epic Field of Cloth of Gold painting in Hampton Court made to celebrate his diplomatic triumph over the French; and the extraordinary patron-artist relationship he cultivated with Hans Holbein. Henry favoured blunt statements of power, but his daughter Elizabeth was more subtle.
Dimbleby's journey also takes in the Reformation, the wreck of the Mary Rose, John White's extraordinary watercolours of the New World, the mouthwatering Cheapside Hoard, the Spanish Armada, Henry VIII's armour and Drake's Drum.