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Preview of episode one of Majesty and Mortar: Britain’s Great Palaces

Majesty and Mortar: Britain’s Great Palaces

Hampton Court Palace

For royalists, tourists and history-lovers alike, the palaces which still stand in Britain today are grand symbols of our past royal courts, kings and queens. In this new three-part series by BBC Four, historian Dan Cruickshank will take viewers through the walls of some of the most prominent palaces in Britain in order to unpick and understand the significance of these dominating buildings.

Cruickshank claims in the opening scenes that “No buildings in history have more dramatic stories to tell”, and he surely is correct with this announcement. Being an architecture enthusiast, he readily applies this eagerness and interest in palace construction through this series. From Hampton Court to the Tower of London, Cruickshank will illustrate how such palaces helped our past monarchs seize and strengthen their crowns in the first episode.

He will also remind viewers of those palaces which have not survived over the centuries, be it from damage, fire or being left to crumble. The significance of the likes of Whitehall Palace and Nonsuch Palace, both of which were built under Henry VIII, are discussed through the use of contemporary accounts and images from the time.

In the first episode, named Towards an Architecture of Majesty, Cruickshank takes a key interest in the forms of tools to defend these palaces from outside threats. He takes great notice of the ‘murder hole’, found next to the medieval portcullis mechanism in the Tower of London, which was used to drop and pour materials onto attackers from above. There is also mention of the angel-shaped ‘hammer beams’ which were used on the roof of Westminster Hall.

Towards an Architecture of Majesty will be broadcasted on BBC Four at 9pm on Wednesday 18th June. It will then be available to view online soon after. This episode was directed and produced by Graham Cooper.

Featured image credit: BBC/Emilie Sandy

Photo credit: BBC/Christian Stacey

  • S.M. MacLean

    I especially like discussions of Hampton Court that emphasise the early architectural direction of Cardinal Wolsey.

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