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Series 1: 3. Queens, Feuds and Faith



In the 16th century, the British Isles experienced a religious revolution, as the kingdoms of England and then Scotland turned Protestant. Artists and experts today reveal how, during the reign of Elizabeth I, Protestants and Catholics used art, language and new technology to wage a battle for power in the Isles, creating surprising and often radical works.\n\nAuthor Stephanie Merritt reassesses John Foxe’s grisly Book of Martyrs as a work of history and nationalist propaganda, with passages performed by actress Morfydd Clark, and we meet the indefatigable William Morgan, who undertook the ten-year task of translating and publishing the Bible in Welsh in 1588.\n\nWe discover how England’s emblem was the queen herself, with textiles artist James Merry exploring the mysterious Bacton Altar Cloth, now believed to be a fragment of one of Elizabeth’s power dresses seen in one of her many portraits. Elizabeth’s court swirls with religious intrigue, and the Ora Singers perform the daring, subversive Mass for Four Voices, a Catholic work created by William Byrd, a composer of the Royal Chapel and favourite of Elizabeth.\n\nThe queen also had a dangerous rival in Mary Queen of Scots. Jewellery designer Shaun Leane examines how Mary promoted her brand through jewels and fine Scottish gold work, while artist Alice Kettle assesses Mary’s embroideries and the coded messages in them that would contribute to her downfall. As Elizabeth expands exploration and empire in the 1590s, theatre, an explosive entertainment for the people, fed off the stories of distant lands coming back to the Isles. Artist Phoebe Boswell analyses Shakespeare’s attitude to race in his play Othello, supported by performances from actor Martins Imhangbe.

Source: BBC 2

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