The story of Britain through its art and treasure. In the 17th century the people of Britain learned to question everything, resulting in the Civil War.
Browse content similar to Age of Revolution. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!
Deep below London's streets, hidden from public view,
lies an almost forgotten Royal relic.
A survival from the most shocking day in our history.
This is a kind of jacket with long sleeves.
It was called a waistcoat at the time.
It's made of the finest knitted silk.
Beautiful patterns on the sleeves and all over the front.
Very fine buttons up here.
But the significance of this waistcoat is here -
these great splodges of brown, which are thought to be blood.
Because it's said that this is the waistcoat
that King Charles I wore when he knelt for the executioner's axe
on 30th January 1649,
the day this country killed its King.
In the same vault is this extraordinary painting.
It shows the dead Charles, his eyes closed,
his skin a ghostly pallor.
And beside him, three female figures,
England, Scotland and Ireland, all distraught in misery,
their crowns actually in the act of falling off their heads.
And if you look very closely,
you can see that the painter has turned the King into a martyr.
He has rejoined the Royal head to the Royal body,
and the stitching round the neck shows,
with blood trickling down.
This is an artist in turmoil over something unimaginable
that's happened to him.
It's a time when art was used as a weapon
on the battlefield of a world turned upside down.
The early years of the 17th century
gave the first signs of trouble to come.
A new dynasty had inherited the English throne -
the Stuarts of Scotland.
The pretensions of Charles I reached unprecedented heights,
which were unashamedly displayed in his capital.
This magnificent hall, unique in Britain at the time,
is where Charles I, when he ascended the throne,
did all his grand entertaining.
This was a place of dances, of receptions,
thronging with politicians and diplomats.
And to make it all the more impressive,
Charles commissioned this stupendous ceiling.
He turned for that to perhaps the greatest European painter of his age,
Peter Paul Rubens from the Netherlands.
If you don't want to get a permanent crick in your neck,
there's only one way to enjoy this painting,
and that's by lying flat on the floor...
..and seeing it as it should be seen.
Ah, that's better!
What Rubens has done is to show Charles's vision of kingship
by telling the story of Charles's father, James I,
and what this shows is the apotheosis of James.
That's to say, James I ascending to heaven as a god.
It's the most extraordinary claim.
James actually believed that he was as a god.
He told his Parliament, "Even God calls kings God."
And he told his children that they were little gods,
set on Earth to rule over men.
Not with hindsight the wisest advice, perhaps, that a father might give.
It wasn't long before Charles's behaviour
and his claims to divine kingship
had upset his subjects and, more dangerously, his Parliament.
With protests growing throughout the 1630s,
another great painter arrived from the Netherlands.
His name was Anthony van Dyck.
The portraits he produced are a snapshot of a doomed generation.
You'd never guess looking at these pictures
that we were going through the most turbulent period in our history.
Instead, van Dyck came here as a painter of fantasy land,
making portraits of people with beautiful silks, wonderful faces,
full of life and colour and swirling movement.
This huge portrait was done by van Dyck to hang in the Royal palace.
Now, the King was quite a short man. Not here.
He looks like some great Roman emperor, some powerful warrior,
in his armour, long-legged, sitting on his great white charger.
The setting - very grand and powerful.
This Roman arch, with curious green silk drapery hanging.
Behind, a turbulent sky.
A Royal coat of arms
looking as if it's just been dumped on the side there, but vast.
But the key thing is the way that the King himself
is sitting on his white charger.
He's not just out for a ride.
He's actually doing quite a complicated dressage movement.
It's the horse trotting, slowly and deliberately.
Difficult to achieve,
but the King's doing it with consummate ease
just with his staff resting on the horse's withers.
And the idea is that he can control his horse
with the same calm as he holds the reins to his kingdom.
For my money, this is the most poignant painting here
because of the story it tells.
It shows two brothers - Lord John Stuart and his brother Bernard.
John, the elder one, looking a bit aloof out into the distance,
but Bernard - absolute picture of self-obsessed, rather arrogant,
rather carefree youth,
elegantly dressed in wonderful blue silks with absurd boots,
his hand on his hip, the other one holding his cloak
as though he hadn't got a care in the world,
all his future ahead of him.
But both these boys, seven years from the painting of this portrait,
would be dead - killed in bloody civil war.
Events moved so quickly that few predicted the outcome.
It began with the protests of the Puritans -
extreme Protestants who set themselves
against the luxury of the court.
Their fear was that Charles was abandoning the Church of England
to flirt with Roman Catholicism,
and they pulled no punches in their pamphlets and sermons.
"All images, be they molten, carved or painted,
"are to God deceits, uncleanness, filthiness, dung,
"mischief and abomination."
"A dance is the devil's procession, and he that entereth into the dance
"entereth into his possession!"
"The loathsome and odious sin of drunkenness...
CROWD BOOS "..is the root and foundation of many other enormous sins,
"as bloodshed, stabbing, murder,
"adultery and suchlike, to the great dishonour of God!"
But the attack that really hit home was on the evils of the theatre.
William Prynne wrote,
"It hath evermore been the notorious badge of prostituted strumpets
"and the lewdest harlots
"to ramble abroad to plays and playhouses,
"whither only branded whores and infamous adulteresses
"did usually resort in ancient times."
It was a thinly veiled reference to the Queen herself,
who was well known to enjoy the theatre,
and by implying that the Queen of England was a whore,
Prynne landed himself in a load of trouble.
He was fined £5,000, he was sentenced to life imprisonment
and ordered to have part of his ears cut off.
In prison, he went on writing the same kind of stuff
and they then ordered his ears to be cut off entirely,
and they branded the letters "SL" on his cheeks for "seditious libeller".
Many of the Puritans' objections to Charles
that were being heard across the country
were shared by Parliament,
which was already in a power struggle with the King.
It all came to a head in the winter of 1642.
A decade earlier, Charles had actually abolished Parliament,
thinking that he had the right and would rule by himself.
But then he ran out of money and had to summon them back to raise cash.
Instead of just agreeing, they returned with a long list of grievances -
about religious freedom, about his court, about taxation itself
and about their rights.
The King was so alarmed, and actually feared for his life,
that he fled the capital.
It was a terrible mistake. Events were out of his control.
Within months, the unthinkable was happening.
The nation was at war with itself.
On one side, the King's army,
determined to restore Royal authority.
On the other, a militia raised by Parliament
to assert its independence.
Each year in a Northamptonshire field,
enthusiasts stage a Civil War re-enactment.
How did it go? How did it go for you, that?
-We had a good battle today.
-Did you have a good battle?
-It was fun.
-Can I see the pikes?
-Can I try one?
-You can indeed.
Um, 16ft of ash, topped with about 2ft of metal, normally.
But when you... when you charged, it's...
Oh, my God, watch out! LAUGHTER
Well, the idea is that at the press of pike, you would lunge together,
-It's all right, I can hold it. It's just heavy.
..they would gradually come in towards each other and you would try and stab them.
When you got very close, you'd probably drop your pike, draw your sword
and set about each other in a very tightly packed close combat.
-It's very unwieldy, though, isn't it?
-Did you run with the pike, or walk?
-You'd tend to walk.
As an individual weapon, it is, but if you've got 300 men
with these all pointed straight at you,
that's when it becomes frightening, and that's when people run away.
A lot of the power of the pike was psychological, in reality.
If you look at the records, there's not that many pike wounds,
but an awful lot of people ran away.
It makes for a lively day out.
But the reality of the Civil War was grim.
Proportionally, more British lives were lost
than in the First World War.
And 400 years later, people still know who they'd have supported.
How did you decide which army to belong to?
It's whether you want to fight with the King or the Parliament!
-It's where your loyalties lie.
-Which are you? Are you Parliament?
-Or are you...
We are the King's army, sir.
Are you a republican now?
Um...I'm Labour Party so, yes, I believe in the Levellers.
-I think I'm a natural Royalist.
-What side would you have been on?
-Royalist. I'd have been a Royalist.
I must admit, I've got republican leanings.
If you had a choice, would you be with Cromwell or with the King?
-Er, with Cromwell.
Because I, once again, vote Labour and suchlike, trade union...
-You must be tempted to make it a real fight!
It's almost impossible to imagine this tranquil English countryside
ravaged by civil war.
The desolation of the battlefield...
..bodies lying in the ditches and by the hedgerows,
towns divided against towns,
villages fighting villages,
and, worst of all, families divided against themselves.
Middle Claydon has been home to the Verney family
for five-and-a-half centuries.
The Verney story, typical of so many families during the Civil War,
is captured in a moving monument in the family church.
It was constructed by the eldest son, Sir Ralph, in the aftermath of the war.
This is the memorial to the Verney family.
Down here, Sir Ralph Verney and his wife
and above, his father Sir Edmund and his wife.
Now, Sir Edmund was a courtier to Charles I,
and when the trouble began,
he felt compelled by the years he'd spent in his service
to remain loyal to the King on the Royalist side.
The son, on the other hand, thought on principle that the King was wrong
and that he had to fight for the Parliamentary side.
So this family was torn apart by this decision.
The father, while they were still estranged,
went off to fight at the great Battle of Edgehill,
where he had the job of carrying the Royal standard into battle,
and apparently fought very bravely, was said to have killed two people
and then was himself hacked to pieces,
and all that was left of him was the hand still holding the standard.
Now, years later, the war over,
Ralph had this great memorial commissioned.
And what does he do? Puts his father there at the top.
So despite all the divisions they had,
this great tribute to his father is made
with a plaque here recording his life.
In life, they may have been divided.
In death, they're reunited.
Which side do you think you'd have been on?
I think I would naturally be a Royalist.
I feel myself to be a Royalist, a monarchist.
But whether I would've approved of the way the King carried on
and would've allowed myself to be seduced by that, in a way,
I'm not sure.
And what would you think?
Well, I'd hate to tear the family apart
in such a way as it was torn apart all those years ago,
and at my age, I suppose, my emotional attachment
would be more towards keeping the family together.
So I might well decide to follow my father and go with the King.
Is there any evidence of what was going on in the family?
Well, yes, we've got a wonderful lot of letters in the archive from then,
and for instance, there's this one here,
which is written by Ralph's brother to him.
"what I feared is true, which is your being against the King.
"Give me leave to tell you in my opinion,
"'tis most unhandsomely done,
"and it grieves my heart to think that my father already, and I,
"who so dearly love and esteem you,
"should be bound in consequence, because it's in duty to our King,
"to be your enemy."
-Very touching, isn't it?
Ralph's younger brother is writing, saying,
"Your father and I love you, but we're going to be your enemies."
The story about his hand holding the standard.
Is that true? I mean, is there any evidence of that?
Oh, yes. The hand was found clutching the standard after Edmund was killed.
And his body was never found but the hand was brought back,
and indeed, on his hand was a ring,
and I have managed to obtain it for today and there it is.
His hand was buried in the tomb in the church.
Just his hand.
And there's the ring, which is still preserved.
My goodness! An enamel portrait.
-It is identifiably Charles I.
-Yes, it is.
-Like the van Dyck portraits.
With all the turmoil it caused,
the Civil War forced people to question the way they led their lives.
The basement of the British Library.
They have 400 miles of books, many, many treasures among them,
and, in particular, a collection that tells us
about the most extraordinary moment in our history.
Because once people dared take up arms against God's anointed king,
they dared to think things they'd never thought before,
and what's more, they dared to publish them.
Down this alleyway are 2,000 volumes
containing 22,000 different tracts and pamphlets and newsletters -
a great explosion of ideas,
everybody speaking their mind and arguing with each other.
And these individual books contain an invaluable story -
the story of a great experiment in living.
This is a pamphlet from the Levellers,
people who believed in universal franchise -
that all men should have the vote.
And here, a document from the Diggers,
whose idea was that all land should be held in common.
It was a sort of very early version of communism.
But what they are specifically going against here
is another group - the Ranters.
Now, the Ranters believed that they were saved
and therefore would go to heaven,
and therefore could behave as they liked on Earth.
Perhaps slightly exaggerated by the Diggers, who say,
"They enjoy meat, drink, pleasures and women."
Here they are snogging in a corner,
celebrating, saying, "Let's give up the old ways.
"No way to the old way."
Standing there naked with somebody playing a musical instrument.
All these ideas sprang from a ferment of theories
about life and how it should be lived
and particularly how you should achieve salvation.
And here, some of them are listed -
a catalogue of several sects and opinions in England.
Jesuits, Arminians, Arians, Adamites,
Libertines, Soul Sleepers.
It must've been an extraordinary time to be alive.
The lid was off the pot and all these ideas exploded.
Complete chaos and constant argument and bickering
about who was right and who was wrong.
It's wonderfully summed up in a woodcut -
the world turned upside down.
And it shows the man has got
his britches on his shoulders
with his boots and spurs coming out where his arms should be,
his armour down below, and he's standing on his hands
and he's surrounded by an upside-down candle,
a church, upside down,
a rat chasing a cat,
a wheelbarrow pushing a man along on his hands.
And in the sky, of course,
And now appearing gradually, increasingly, in these documents
is one man and one name -
Cromwell was a gentleman farmer in East Anglia
and he could've just passed his life peacefully there.
But when war started, he joined the Parliamentary forces
and he proved himself very quickly
to be an absolutely brilliant soldier...
..if a merciless one.
Cromwell's military genius
brought about the defeat of the Royalist army.
With the King captured and behind bars,
Parliament made the decision to put him on trial for treason.
The verdict - guilty.
He was led through the palace to a platform
which had been built out here,
and there he made a final statement of his beliefs with amazing calm,
ending with the words, "I go from a corruptible to an incorruptible crown
"where no disturbance can be."
And that said, he tucked his hair into a cap,
so that his neck would be free,
took off his cloak and lay down on the scaffold.
And at a signal from him,
the executioner with his axe, with one blow, severed his head.
With Charles out of the way,
a new form of government had to be invented.
Out of the confusion,
Cromwell eventually emerged
as Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland.
Cromwell was a mass of contradictions,
and when he gained power,
he seemed to be pulled in all sorts of different directions.
He was a Puritan who famously banned the celebration of Christmas,
and yet he loved music and allowed dancing at his daughter's wedding.
In England he was seen as rather a hero of liberty,
in Ireland, as a vile oppressor who committed the most terrible massacres.
He'd tried to curb the tyranny of a king,
and yet in later years he became something of a tyrant himself.
The truth is that the new regime never really established
what it was meant to be.
And it shows in the portraits of its leader.
This is the first portrait of him,
and it's curious because it's almost like a Royal portrait.
It could be van Dyck painting Charles I -
the same sort of stormy clouds behind,
his armour on, staff of authority,
and a page to show his power, tying a sash round his waist.
Then there seems to have been a change of heart.
From the rather grand style of portrait,
Cromwell changed completely,
and in the famous words that he used to the painter of the next portrait,
"I want you to paint me, warts and all."
And here it is, this little miniature.
Look at Cromwell's face -
puffy, big nose,
warts on the forehead,
looking like an ordinary person.
And even more so in this one...
..where you can clearly see he's going bald,
and he even seems to have tried a comb-over to disguise it.
It's the first time I've seen a portrait of a head of state
that is not designed to flatter.
There is nothing flattering at all.
And then there's another change of heart,
and this time he reverts to the seriously pompous Cromwell.
He has his head put on a gold coin,
shown as a Roman emperor, with a wreath of laurels.
So it's quite an extraordinary change
and a sort of lack of certainty about how he wanted people to see him.
Cromwell died in 1658,
and in less than two years the Commonwealth had fallen apart.
Britain had lost its appetite for radical change.
Charles I's son was invited back from exile
to assume his father's throne.
It looked as though the whole revolution had been in vain.
This statue of Charles II perfectly captures the spirit of his reign.
At first glance, we could be back under the rule of his father, Charles I -
this rather boastful figure dressed as a military conqueror,
for all the world as though the Civil War had never happened.
The reality, of course, couldn't be more different.
Charles I believed he was God's anointed,
ruled at God's command.
Charles II, on the other hand, ruled by his people's consent.
Charles accepted that he had to bow to the will of Parliament,
but it didn't mean he wouldn't enjoy himself like a king.
On the contrary.
He was famous for his countless mistresses
and he fathered 14 illegitimate children.
He cultivated a new mood of informality, even abandon.
He chose as his court painter someone who'd reflect his tastes -
Lely had rather a lean time during the Cromwellian republic,
with all its austerity. It wasn't going to be a moment
when aristocrats would be commissioning paintings from him.
In fact, he had to take in a lodger to make ends meet.
But come the Restoration, he got the dream job,
painting the finest ladies of the court,
and a great collection of them hangs here.
They're called the Windsor Beauties,
and they're the most beautiful women of the time
who surrounded the King or were at court.
When people looked at them, they would, of course, know their history -
what political games they were playing, whose mistress they were,
whose illegitimate children they'd had.
And they all have a particular beauty of the time,
rather different from what we think of as beautiful now,
but I think nonetheless voluptuous and enticing.
Rather full lips, pale skin with pink cheeks,
almond-shaped eyes. And their dress is interesting,
because the grander you were at court,
the less formally you had to be dressed,
so some of them look as if they're wearing their nightdresses,
which, of course, allows the painter to show the shape of the body
and, perhaps all-important, just a hint of the bosom.
The deliciously seductive Jane Middleton.
She was married at 14, she was surrounded by admirers all her life,
had a lot of lovers.
The King wanted to make her his mistress,
but she always, always refused.
But this is the most powerful of this great bevy of beauties,
the formidable Barbara Villiers,
suitably dressed in almost military garb,
with a helmet with feathers, and a staff and a shield.
She was a long-term mistress of the King,
by whom she had many children,
but a great political operator as well at court,
a person people feared,
and a woman prepared to do what she wanted with her life.
She had not just the King as her lover,
she had a tightrope walker, an actor, a playwright
and a man who was to become Britain's greatest soldier,
the Duke of Marlborough.
A jaundiced bishop said of her she might have been very beautiful,
but she was most enormously vicious and ravenous.
What a woman.
Charles may have been a pleasure-seeker...
..but he also took care to act as patron
of the greatest intellectual enterprise of the age -
to explore and understand the secrets of the natural world.
One effect of the Civil War and the republic
was to free up scientific experiment.
Because there was such political chaos,
the scientists - many of them young geniuses -
were left to get on with it as they chose.
And when Charles came back,
he may have put an end to political experiment,
but he certainly didn't put an end to scientific experiment.
On the contrary, he realised it could be to England's greater glory,
and he gave it his Royal seal of approval.
What had been a ragtag association of amateur enthusiasts
became the Royal Society,
unleashing nothing short of a revolution in science.
The Royal Observatory was built on the King's orders
to promote the study of the heavens.
The work that was done here was typical of the spirit of the age.
Night after night for 40 years,
the Astronomer Royal came here and, looking through his telescopes,
measured the position of the stars.
And when I say "measured", it's not just a casual thing.
He had to obsessively record in minute detail
where every star he saw was in the firmament.
The idea behind it was very simple.
If you could tell where all the stars were
every hour of every day of the year,
then by looking at them,
you could work out where you were on Earth.
The celestial map produced by the first Astronomer Royal,
John Flamsteed, revealed the universe as never before.
Flamsteed fleshed out the known constellations
with newly discovered stars,
bringing the heavens to life with that sensual imagination
so beloved of Charles.
The work that was begun under Charles II
led to Greenwich eventually being declared the official centre of the world
for the purposes of measuring time and space.
And reaching out across the night sky is a laser beam
that marks the prime meridian, nought degrees,
the imaginary line
from which all the time zones of the world are calculated.
The study of science was so new that it welcomed anyone to its ranks.
One of the great scientists of the age still venerated here
had begun life as a painter apprenticed to Peter Lely.
His name was Robert Hooke,
and he became the first Curator of Experiments at the Royal Society.
This is thought to be Hooke's microscope,
and a very, very fine object it is, too -
because obviously it was a very special instrument.
Hooke looked at all kinds of things.
The one we've got under here is just an ordinary flea.
And... Oh, my goodness!
It shows the flea in very fine detail.
You can see the sort of hairy legs and little spikes
and the amber colour - the gleam of light on it.
Of course, Hooke would have spent
hours and hours looking at these specimens.
What he wanted to do was to record in great detail what he was seeing,
and the way he did it
was to assemble a great book of all the objects he'd observed -
plant life, animal life, all the rest of it.
It's called Micrographia,
and this is the page of a flea, and he gives this description of it.
He says, "The microscope manifests it to be
"all over adorned with a curious polished suit of sable armour
"and beset with multitudes of sharp pins..."
There they are.
"..shaped almost like porcupine's quills or..."
And here's a nice common touch.
"..bright, conical steel bodkins."
The kind that women used in their clothes.
Look at this. Perfect detail.
Eye of the flea... these rather unpleasant back legs.
Next to the flea is the louse.
No guesses about why the louse and the flea were popular.
They were very easy to find.
He probably only had to look in the seams of his own clothes
to come up with a louse or a flea.
And here - the most beautiful louse.
There's something else from his body - rather surprising -
that he also put under the microscope, and it's drawn here,
and it's a sample of his frozen urine...
..with little bubbles or circles.
When this book was produced, it caused a sensation.
It was the first time that many people had had a chance
to see these extraordinary pictures of natural life.
When Samuel Pepys, the diarist, got his copy,
he says he stayed up till two in the morning going through it,
it was so fascinating. And of course, for most people,
this was the first time they'd had any chance to see
what the natural world was like, all thanks to Hooke's work.
By the 1660s,
London was one of the busiest trading capitals in the world.
Here, Robert Hooke and his friend, the brilliant Christopher Wren,
would make their names transforming the great city around them.
Science today is very specialised.
But Wren was delving into everything.
He was fascinated by astronomy, by mathematics,
he built mechanical devices,
he did operations on a dog
to try to work out the circulation of the blood,
he made musical instruments.
It's even said he devised a scheme of writing in the dark.
But all this discovery -
this excitement of the universe on the one hand
and the tiny, microscopic details of life -
gave him and others an ambition,
and it was an ambition that was to get its great opportunity
to be unleashed in this city of London
by something that happened here in Pudding Lane.
In the early hours of Sunday 2nd September 1666,
fire broke out at a Pudding Lane bakery.
Soon, fanned by strong winds and fuelled by timber-frame houses,
the fire was raging out of control.
In four days, it destroyed three-quarters of the city.
Within a week of the fire being put out,
Wren submitted a plan for a new City of London.
It swept away the narrow streets that had helped the fire spread,
and replaced them with broad avenues and squares.
Hooke had a plan too.
It was more regimented - a rigorous grid system.
Hosts of other plans followed.
Like Wren's, they all tried to recreate London
as a great Roman city with a logical layout -
a capital to suit the scientific age.
The trouble was, these imaginative plans
were too ambitious to be implemented.
But Wren was not to be defeated. He imposed his mark on the city
by designing the greatest building of the age.
What an astonishing commission.
There'd been a cathedral here for a thousand years,
but when the old one burned down in the fire,
Wren got the job of building a new one.
He wanted, of course, to build a monument to the revived City of London,
to the glory of the King and, of course, the glory of God.
But look at it another way for a moment.
Think of what really preoccupied Wren.
Look at this building, not as a monument to faith,
but a monument to science.
Wren was determined to build a cathedral whose scale and ambition
would push mathematics and engineering to its limits.
He wanted to use scientific principles
to create a monumental structure to rival St Peter's in Rome.
From the start, Wren faced opposition from the clergy
in getting the building he wanted commissioned.
It went through a number of designs before he won their approval.
This was one of Wren's earliest experiments -
this completely entrancing, detailed and magnificent model
of the cathedral he wanted to build.
It's so enticing. You long to be about this size
and to be able to go up the steps and walk around inside.
It cost as much to put it together as to build a London house.
But as a scientist,
Wren was determined to embark on this project
by a process of trial and error.
His great ambition was to deliver to England
something that it had never seen before -
a dome on a huge scale.
Wow! That's so cool.
What Wren wanted was to make a dome
that was in proportion to the cathedral from the inside,
but from the outside was big enough to dominate the London skyline.
It was Wren's collaborator, Hooke, who came up with the solution.
You think you're looking at one dome.
In fact, there are two.
There's the inner dome, and then above it a huge outer dome
which you actually can't see from here.
So it's the two-dome solution -
a unique idea, a brilliant achievement.
Hidden between the two domes, Wren built a brick cone
to carry the load of the stone lantern on top of the cathedral -
850 tons of it -
freeing the outer dome from any structural burden.
And there's another less well-known testament to Wren's genius at St Paul's.
It's hidden away in the south-west tower -
the geometric staircase.
This staircase is a marvel of engineering.
It appears simply to float.
Each step rests on the other with nothing supporting it underneath,
and to this day they argue about why it actually stands up,
which is not very encouraging for people like me
who suffer from a bit of vertigo.
But Wren didn't just want to use science to serve the building.
He wanted the building to serve science.
He had a scheme to install a giant telescope
reaching from right down there up through a hole in the roof.
You could stay at the bottom, look through the telescope,
and as the Earth turned,
the telescope would track the stars in the night sky.
The 17th century had been a time of turmoil,
but out of it had come scientific genius and creative enterprise
that laid the foundations for Britain to become a world power.
At the moment that the final stone was laid
to the top of this dome in 1708,
St Paul's stood at the heart of a new nation.
Only the year before, it had been officially renamed -
not Britain, but Great Britain.
It was an end to warring factions.
In their place, collaboration and confidence that heralded a new era.
In the next age -
wealth beyond our wildest dreams
and the new middle class that enjoyed it.
Out of it all would emerge some of our most inspired artists...
..and our greatest hero.
It's the Age of Money.
In the 17th century, the people of Britain learned to question everything. The result was the Civil War, in which everyone, including artists, had to take sides. Out of it came a reinvented monarchy, a scientific revolution and, ultimately, the great cathedral of St Paul's. Highlights include the courtly portraits of Rubens, Van Dyck and Peter Lely, and the fabulous creations of the Royal Society.
The programme includes: Charles I's execution shirt and painting of Charles with his head sewn back on (Museum of London); Rubens's Apotheosis of James I (Banqueting House); Van Dyck portraits (Tate Britain); Puritan tracts; Civil War re-enactment; Verney family tomb (Claydon House); Thomason Collection (British Library); portraits of Cromwell (National Portrait Gallery); Grinling Gibbons's golden statue of Charles I (Royal Hospital Chelsea); Peter Lely's Windsor Beauties (Hampton Court); Royal Observatory (Greenwich); Hooke's microscope and Micrographia (Science Museum); Wren's plan for London; and St Paul's Cathedral.