Art, Passion & Power: The Story of the Royal Collection (2018) s01e01 Episode Script

Dangerous Magic

It's quite likely that you know this
Windsor Castle.
1.5 million people
come here every year bathe in our nation's greatest
export - British pomp
..and immerse themselves in a
history that goes back nearly
1,000 years.
But a ticket to Windsor Castle buys
you access to something else as
Now, many of the tourists streaming
through these galleries
haven't travelled halfway round the
world to visit an art gallery,
and yet that, along with many other
is exactly what they're paying to
Every room's an Aladdin's cave.
In this case Rubens, Rubens
But that's not all.
A reliquary clock.
You can wind it up and it'll play
Ming porcelain.
Children of the Duke of Buckingham
by Van Dyck.
Wonderful group portrait of the
family of Charles I.
It's fantastic. And look here, look
at this.
The decorative arts as well.
This cabinet.
This would have taken somebody
probably three years of his life to
make it,
and yet we pass through in
five seconds.
All of these things are part of the
unparalleled Royal Collection.
More than a million works of art
owned by the Queen
and handed down from monarch to
Housed in our nation's palaces,
as well as many other museums and
the Royal Collection projects
The reassuring stability of the
monarchy and our nation.
This is Britain, blowing its own
But scratch the surface,
and a multitude of other stories are
revealed as well.
Oh, my word!
The fall and rise of great
Private royal passions.
Unashamed decadence.
A ruler's quest for control.
You can sense his aloofness,
his total conviction that he is
right and everyone else is wrong.
In the first programme of this
I'm exploring the troubled birth of
the modern Royal Collection.
When the Tudors and early Stuarts
discovered the hypnotising,
operatic powers of art
changing the way the nation looked
at itself and its rulers.
There's a kind of dangerous magic
about the whole of this sequence.
But then losing everything
in a moment of calamity.
The objects in the Royal Collection
have been witness to and part of
500 years of British history,
and I believe there is no better way
to get inside the minds
of those who have worn the crown
from Henry VIII to Charles I
to Queen Victoria and beyond,
than by looking at the objects they
they wanted to be surrounded by.
The Royal Collection's by no means
just painting and decorative arts.
In fact, the crown jewels of the
collection are the Crown Jewels.
They embody a fundamental rule,
that to be a monarch you have to
look like one.
And you do this by surrounding
yourself with rare and storied
St Edward's Crown, weighed down by
5lb of gold, precious stones,
and a nation's history.
Wielding these extraordinary
even the most unremarkable
individual can be transformed
into something other -
glorious, dazzling.
Millions of people come to see these
objects every year.
The display cases might be modern,
but the regalia's doing what it's
always done,
lending an aura of mystery,
of magic, even, to the monarchy.
And when I talk about magic,
I'm talking about objects once
invested with supernatural powers.
The most ancient rite in the
Coronation service
is performed with holy oil
and this 12th century spoon,
an exceptionally-rare survival from
the medieval English court.
The anointing symbolises an
individual reborn at the moment of
into a new person, filled with
divine grace.
ARCHIVE: And here in the most
mysterious of the rites of
the Archbishop anoints her
with holy oil
and consecrates her to her great
A moment so sacrosanct
but the cameras were shielded back
in 1953,
lest they steal a little piece of
the monarchy's enchantment.
The Imperial State Crown object designed to inspire awe
and loyalty.
What a fragile, magnificent thing
it is.
The setting of this crown might be
20th century,
but several of the gems in it have
rich and ancient histories.
The Black Prince's Ruby is said to
have been worn by Henry V
at the Battle of Agincourt.
While the sapphire set into the very
top of the crown
is reputed to have belonged to
Edward the Confessor.
Now, kings and queens have long
understood the symbolic significance
of the crown.
When this is placed on the head of
an individual,
they become other than the rest of
They become irradiated with a sense
of the divine.
These objects don't just impart the
intangible aura
that surrounds a monarch.
Embodied in them is a very real
element of power.
Charles II certainly understood
He had seen his father executed,
his crown melted down.
But look at him brandishing his new
Are these mere objects of state?
Or are they a kind of shield,
protection against the worst thing
that ever happened,
ever happening again?
A king or queen can't wear a crown
all the time,
but they can surround themselves
with great art,
and over time the Royal Collection
has come to do much the same job,
reflecting its brilliance back onto
its royal owner.
Occasionally, you can also see
a different side of the great royal
collectors, a hint of their
As in this painted terracotta bust
of a cheerful royal child.
What are you laughing at?
Meet the Mona Lisa of
the Royal Collection.
Except no mysterious smile,
just an enigmatic chuckle.
In many ways,
it's a baffling object and it
certainly confused the generations.
George IV, when he borrowed the bust
to put it in Brighton Pavilion,
referred to it as
"the laughing Chinaman".
Other scholars have seen it as
a depiction of a dwarf,
But I think I know who it really is
a portrait of.
We know the sculptor is
Guido Mazzoni,
and it's assumed that he presented
this bust to his patron Henry VII,
around the end of the 15th century.
So, who would he have portrayed for
the King?
Perhaps, I think for sure, his son.
I think that this is young
Henry VIII, gold headgear and all,
having a very good time.
I love the idea that the boy in the
bust would grow to fill this suit
of Greenwich armour.
Henry VIII's court was a kind of
theatre of Renaissance magnificence.
When he met the King of France near
Calais in 1520,
6,000 men built a temporary palace
adorned with statues and fountains
that flowed with wine.
Henry's idea of a camping trip was
certainly extravagant.
Tupperware? No.
He liked to impress with sideboards
groaning with gold plate.
At Hampton Court Palace,
Henry's most impressive works of art
were prominently placed on the walls
of one of its most public spaces.
The Great Hall.
How better to intimidate visiting
on their way to see the King?
Henry VIII can seem
dauntingly remote to us now.
Very little survives of his court,
and there's almost nowhere where you
can see one of his great art
possessions hanging in the room for
which it was intended.
But there is this magnificent,
astonishingly-expensive set of
tapestries created for this space.
We know that they hung here because
this is the only room big enough
for them to have been hung.
These are the great tapestries
telling the story of Abraham.
They cost an absolute fortune.
Tapestries were far more expensive
than paintings.
What magnificent things they still
despite the fading of their colours
with time.
You can still see the glimmer of
gold threads in their surface.
I think that by choosing the story
of Abraham,
Henry was making very clear and
direct claims about himself.
Especially, I think, in this
where God comes down and anoints
Abraham as the first patriarch,
the first leader of the Jewish
Can we see Henry in that?
Henry as the chosen one,
leading the people out of Catholic
and into the Protestant light.
Here, perhaps most potent of all,
and one of the most beautiful of
these tapestries with its rich
and beautiful, billowing drapery, it
shows the sacrifice of Isaac.
And I think we can get some sense of
the allegorical meanings
that the court might have been
intended to draw from this
from these figures that we see at
the bottom.
Particularly this one, obedience.
Because that's what that rather
terrifying tale
of Abraham obeying God's command to
sacrifice his own son,
until the angel at the last minute
I think it's Henry's way of saying
to his people, be obedient.
Be obedient to me.
In other words, within the allegory
of that tapestry,
Henry himself is God,
and it's his people who become the
Abrahams and the Isaacs.
I rather think of Henry as the
founder of the modern
Royal Collection.
He's the earliest king whose
acquisitions have survived
in sufficient quantity to
reflect his taste and character.
Henry was a canny judge of talent
and he joined forces with an artist
of true genius.
In Hans Holbein the Younger,
the King found a superlative
whose painted portraits captured
Henry's rule and his court.
As can be seen by a visit to
Windsor Castle's print room,
home to the Drawing Collection.
Here, there are over 80 Holbein
drawings from Henry's reign,
the first great age of the portrait
in Britain.
These are preparatory sketches that
were gathered up and, we think,
made into a book that the king
himself kept in his study.
A dossier of the obedient and
the troublesome.
So, nine of the greatest drawings
ever produced by anybody anywhere,
nine Holbeins.
It's as if you're coming
with people from the distant past.
They've got their faces pressed up
against the glass of history,
and here we've got Thomas More with
his five o'clock stubble.
It was the intellectual circle
around Sir Thomas More
who first brought the German-born
to the attention of the Tudor court.
Making the introductions is
Royal Collection Trust's
Vanessa Remington,
who knows these individuals almost
as well as her own family.
This is Thomas More's daughter?
Yes, this is Cicely Heron,
who was his youngest,
third and youngest daughter.
She was very, very well-educated,
educated with his son,
which was unusual at that time.
So she read Greek, she read Latin?
She read Greek and Latin, she knew
astronomy, mathematics, philosophy,
logic, and some of the intelligence
really comes across in the drawing.
Members of More's circle, like
Sir Henry Guildford, were humanists,
up-to-date thinkers, who thought of
themselves very much as individuals.
They want to know about the insides
of each other's minds,
but they also want to have images of
each other that they can exchange.
Exactly. You can see where the
portrait was important
in all of this, and exchange was
a key factor.
And in England, this is the first
age of the portrait.
There had not been portraits.
Absolutely not. So when these
sitters sat to Holbein,
they would never have seen anything
like this.
In an age when mirrors were still an
expensive luxury,
a Holbein likeness seemed positively
a magical conjuring of human
Small wonder that the magician
himself was hired by Henry
to be the King's painter.
I love the selection that you've
because we are moving through pretty
much every layer
of the social hierarchy.
That's right.
We've got royal sitters, we've got
every sort of official at court,
poets, the powerful and influential,
but also those who are at court,
but lesser figures.
I'm very drawn to
..Southwell. He's got such a strong
He was. He was a henchman of
Thomas Cromwell,
and he was involved in the downfall
of Sir Thomas More.
And you can see as well,
an interesting example here of
attention to detail,
he's even included the tubercular
which Sir Richard Southwell bore on
his chin. Oh, that's what that is.
And up here on the forehead.
How amazing.
So he's certainly not flattering.
How fantastic.
Do you know, I'd assumed that was
a bit of paper damage.
It was thought to be a repaired tear
for a while.
How brilliant. Not a repaired tear,
it's a skin tear.
Yeah. It's a scar.
That's fantastic.
I think, also, Holbein is quite
responsive to the sense of the
between one sitter and another.
So, Jane Seymour.
It's not one of my favourite Holbein
drawings, because I think,
partly because he has armoured her
in the impersonality
that he feels is befitting to
a queen.
He's really not giving anything away
about her.
This is an official picture, to me.
Yes, Holbein knew what was required
of him,
and he was portraying a queen,
and a queen with decorum and
restraint, and that comes across.
A tight-lipped lady.
For Henry VIII's
Palace of Whitehall,
long since destroyed by fire,
Holbein created an enormous mural,
propaganda for the Tudor monarchy.
A copy survives in
the Royal Collection.
Jane and Henry's long-awaited son
had just been born,
hence the King's bullish stance.
Most daring of all, there are no
royal trappings.
Henry and Holbein knew the King's
physical presence was enough.
Who could ever out-stare this
broad-shouldered giant
with his ruthless eyes?
The King's image was copied and
copied, haunting the centuries,
until it became not just the
definitive picture of Henry,
but of royal power itself.
Henry VIII demonstrated the power of
But his children took a very
different approach.
At the height of the Reformation,
Henry's son,
the deeply-Protestant Edward VI,
ordered that the thousands of
paintings and carvings
that had filled English churches for
be smashed or whitewashed over.
A few ghosts survive, but everything
else went.
The greatest destruction of art in
the history not just of British,
but of all European civilisation.
What Edward began, his sister
Elizabeth I continued.
And when it came to secular art,
Elizabeth understood that the royal
portrait could now occupy a special
place in the Protestant age as a new
kind of icon, an object of devotion.
You can see this in
the Royal Collection's
3,000 portrait miniatures,
which include some of the finest
examples by masters of the form -
Isaac Oliver and Elizabeth's court
artist, Nicholas Hilliard.
So from the portrait, suddenly you
get this development,
which becomes a positive obsession
in Elizabeth's time
with the notion of the miniature
portrait, or keepsake.
Something that can be worn close to
the heart,
an image that can be put inside
a locket to demonstrate
love, affection, closeness.
This is
I think this is one of the greatest
miniatures ever painted.
We're not sure, we don't know who
it's of.
It's a man in a landscape,
and he looks at us with this
Oh, infinitely soulful, melancholic
expression on his face.
He's so miserable.
He really needs someone else to be
with him.
But in Elizabeth's case, and these
four images are all of Elizabeth isn't just about love, I think
it's also about realpolitik.
Her very canny sense of
how to use the image
to promote her political ends.
We see her first of all in this
image as a relatively-young lady.
Here she is again, early 30s,
determined young woman.
A very fine costume, roses in her
Now, she's in her 50s.
She's a little bit weathered by age,
but you still wouldn't want
to cross her.
And the best of all, I think,
is this image.
She's now near the end of her reign,
it's the 1590s.
I'm going to pick it up, because I
think when you pick it up,
you really feel the power of the
I'm holding the Queen in my hand.
But if I'm one of her courtiers,
and I've been given this image to
wear close to my heart,
I know that it's not really me in
control of her,
it's her in control of me.
No monarch policed the royal image
more fiercely than Elizabeth.
All likenesses had to adhere to a
standard template.
And what she's done, which was
brilliantly clever this new age in England where
no religious images are allowed,
images of the Saints - proscribed,
images of the Virgin Mary -
she, the Queen, has taken on to
herself all of those ancient,
magical properties of the image.
She has become the Virgin Mary.
This notion of the monarch as
semi-divine only grew in strength
after Elizabeth's death in 1603,
not least because the incoming
Stuarts truly believed
they had a divine right to the
These long-time kings of Scotland
had just inherited the Tudor crown,
lands and palaces.
Had a dynasty ever been so favoured
by the Almighty?
And if the present seemed bright,
the future seemed brighter still.
The young heir to the throne, Henry,
Prince of Wales, was handsome,
dashing, intelligent, a gifted
swordsman, a master jouster.
This young man was destined one day
for the Crown.
The future Henry IX.
Would he be perhaps the greatest
king of all?
Henry's proud father, James I,
instructed his son that he was made
a little god to rule over men.
And in portraits, Henry was shown
wearing a spectacular exoskeleton,
a suit of Greenwich armour, still
kept at Windsor Castle.
It's being shown to me by
Simon Metcalf, the Queen's armourer.
So it all clips together,
this fantastically-elaborate piece
of military kit?
That's exactly right.
It's completely handmade in about
and the balance is to protect you
but you also have to be able to
and you have to be able to perform.
You could run in this, you could
jump in it.
I mean, I notice the thistle, his
father is James VI of Scotland,
James I of England.
So they're emphasising that he's the
heir to the throne,
he's the heir to the Scottish throne
as well.
But how do they achieve this
fantastic golden decoration?
It's been chased and embossed and
and then they've used a mixture of
mercury and gold leaf
that's put on in a paste.
And then that's heated up and the
mercury's driven away,
very dangerous, but leaves this
wonderful gold, contrasting gold
But even more incredible,
this finish can only be achieved by
heating the metal to between 285-295
degrees C, and you get this
wonderful blue appearance
appearing on the steel.
So, it's actually, you know,
although it's spectacular, this
contrast, I see black and gold.
Yes. We would have actually been
seeing a kind of peacock blue.
Yes. But it only occurs at this very
particular heat.
It's something from another world,
isn't it?
I mean, what do you imagine people,
I don't know,
were he to ride out onto the streets
of London one day in the early 17th
century, what on earth would they
make of him?
It must have been absolutely
I believe it's like somebody
arriving from Mars, honestly.
Nobody else would have an armour
like this on horseback.
Can you imagine it in the daylight,
In the sun. Gold, blue.
Amazing. With feathers.
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
And that essential part of Stuart
kingship was this belief that the
really is not part of the human race
in the same sense as the rest of us.
He has a hotline to God.
He has been anointed by God, he's
divinely appointed.
Perhaps armour like this on a sunny
day in London makes you
..really believe it's true.
I think it would.
And then for the person wearing it,
if you wear armour,
you feel invincible.
So, it's going both ways.
But the destiny of the Stuarts was
to be twisted on fortune's wheel.
In November 1612, Henry, still a
contracted typhoid and died at
St James's Palace.
Heir to the throne was now Henry's
younger brother,
the rather less promising Charles,
Duke of York.
Charles was just 12 years old, and
physically unimpressive.
Slight, short, with weak ankle
joints probably caused by rickets,
and a stammer that would afflict him
throughout his life.
But now, he had to step into his
older brother's boots.
Suddenly, he was destined to be
So, here's a question:
how did weedy Charles, Duke of York,
become one of the most glamorous
kings ever immortalised in paint?
As Charles I,
he would grow into the greatest
royal collector in all of British
..releasing royal taste from the
stiffness of the Tudor past
into the Baroque sensuality
of a new age.
The transformation began
when Charles was just 22.
He gained his father's permission
to travel to Spain,
and win the hand of the Spanish
So, wearing a false beard
and accompanied by
the Duke of Buckingham,
Charles set out for the continent.
They travelled incognito,
taking the back roads to Dover.
In fact, they got rumbled pretty
early on.
Taking the ferry across the river at
Charles had nothing but a single
20 shilling gold coin
to pay the boatman -
the equivalent of trying to pay
a cabbie now with a £1,000 note.
The boatman reported him to the
and Buckingham and Charles were
stopped, briefly detained.
You can imagine the scene.
"Oh, I'm so sorry your Highness,
Proceed they did, and once they
reached Madrid's Alcazar Palace,
Charles witnessed the splendour of
the Spanish King,
and a Catholic Imperial court,
at first hand.
Charles fell in love, but not
with a princess.
Few nobles and princes from England
had travelled to the continent since
the Reformation,
so they'd never seen the art of the
high Renaissance,
they'd never seen Titan, Raphael,
the great painting of the Baroque
Charles now experienced that on the
Continent in its true context,
and he was entranced, enchanted.
He had to have more of it.
And the greatest legacy of his trip
was in fact a whole series of
carriages coming the other way, back
from the continent towards London,
carrying the art that he had
And how strange Charles's Spanish
acquisitions must have seemed
when they were unpacked back in
rainy London.
Is this really what they get up to
on the Continent?
As a souvenir,
Charles gave this sculpture by
to his travelling companion,
..who put it in his garden
to startle passers-by.
This sculpture was a very
adventurous object
for a young royal to bring back to
What do we get from it?
The sense that there's something
a little bit extreme
about Charles's taste.
Very sensual, very passionate.
He likes art that's got a little
taste of danger about it.
Charles was now competing as a
collector with the crowned heads of
and in Madrid he negotiated the
purchase of seven enormous
coloured drawings by a master of the
Renaissance, Raphael.
The Raphael cartoons are now on
long-term loan to the V&A in London.
I think they represented to him the
that England had never had, that the
Reformation had prevented.
So this was his way
of getting a piece of the
Renaissance, seven pieces of it.
But he also had a very
straightforward and practical reason
for buying them, because these are
the Raphael cartoons,
and they're called cartoons because
they are all preparatory designs
for tapestries.
These blueprints were intended to
give a boost
to the English tapestry industry,
but Raphael's designs were
originally created for
the Sistine Chapel -
inner sanctum of
the Catholic Church.
Did the young prince just love art
so much that he sometimes forgot
its more dangerous meanings?
You have to say that the association
of these images in England
in the 1620s is potentially
..anoints Peter.
And that gesture announces Peter as
the first Pope,
and by implication every subsequent
Pope is likewise anointed.
..represents the Antichrist.
In buying works by Raphael, Charles,
in his mind,
was showing off his taste.
He was to be England's first
connoisseur King.
And in the 17th century,
the most desirable works for any
collector were Italian.
But getting hold of the very best
Italian art was extremely difficult.
Shortly after he came to the throne,
Charles attempted to persuade the
Italian painter Guercino
to come to London to be his artist.
But Guercino said no, London was
too far away,
too far north, too cold,
too many heretics lived there.
But despite his disadvantages,
Charles did become one of the
greatest collectors of Italian art
in all of history.
And how did he manage it?
The answer is a caper.
He pulled a stunt, and it happened
here in Mantua,
the very first Italian Job.
Some people here still think Mantua
is the scene of a crime.
The Palazzo Ducale,
principal seat of the family who
ruled Mantua for 400 years,
the Gonzaga.
The walls are bare now,
but once these rooms were filled
with dazzling works of art.
The Gonzaga court owned one of the
greatest collections in the world,
built up steadily since the family's
zenith in the 15th century.
It's taken them centuries to get
that creak right.
This is the nerve centre of the
Ducal Palace at Mantua,
the Camera Degli Sposi,
once the bedroom and the state
apartment of the Gonzaga Princes.
The whole room was decorated
by the great Andrea Mantegna.
What did Mantegna give his masters
to look at?
Well, images of themselves.
What a watchful, hard-faced clan
they are.
And up above, all around,
you have these images of different
Roman Caesars
..very significant.
The Gonzaga at that time saw
as modern versions of the old Roman
Emperors, such was their power.
But wind forward to the
17th century,
and the dynasty was in terminal
A conspiracy was hatched
..between the Gonzaga and Charles's
agent in Italy sell the treasures to the
English King.
When word got out, the people of
Mantua protested,
even offering to pay to keep the
works in their city.
This was their heritage, their
culture being purloined by a foreign
Nevertheless, a rather complicated
deal was done.
At the end of which, Charles had
forked out £30,000
in exchange for crate after crate
after crate of masterpieces.
Pictures by Caravaggio, Raphael,
making their way to far-off England.
The Mantua purchases in the present
collection show art in England
being taken from 0-60
as fast as a Ferrari.
Poetic, atmospheric, seemingly from
another world,
yet miraculously natural.
Remember, art on a grand scale had
barely been seen in this country
since the Reformation,
so there'd been no native flowering
of the Renaissance or the Baroque.
But here it all was,
arriving from abroad in one job lot.
It was held that the greatest of all
the Gonzaga treasures
were nine canvases by
Andrea Mantegna,
The Triumphs of Caesar.
Charles placed them on display at
Hampton Court,
and here they still are.
These are The Triumphs of Caesar,
and there is the man himself.
Caesar on his chariot, stern of
face, ruthless.
Before him, a great tide of humanity
and possessions.
Everything that he has come back
with from his conquests.
Not just objects but people, there
are the captives.
They include women and children as
well as sullen-faced, defeated men.
There is the armour of the army that
his has defeated,
and now we begin to see the spoils
of war
..borne by elephants, by people, by
There are vases, there's plate,
..precious arrays of sculpture.
More armour.
The booty piles up.
But there's a dark side to it all,
a slight feeling of Christian
Christian revulsion.
Look at this figure of a soldier the middle of the procession,
lost in thought.
He's one of the victors, but he,
more than anyone else,
seems to be counting the cost.
And I think if you
If you were to take his expression
away with you and apply it,
if you like, to the meaning of this
whole vast panorama of triumph
..I think you might come away with
the thought that, yes
..every great civilisation
is founded on a crime.
There's a kind of dangerous magic
about the picture.
And in fact I think there's a kind
of dangerous magic
about the whole of this sequence of
nine great paintings.
And their history is almost part of
their message, because power passes from the Gonzaga
to Charles,
he purchases them.
But when Charles falls
..what happens to his great art
The pictures might almost be
a prediction of it,
because this is what Cromwell will
do to Charles's paintings.
He will form them into a great
caravan and send them away.
For now, the Royal Collection was
carefully guarded behind the walls
of Charles's palaces.
Its epicentre was still
the Palace of Whitehall.
The only substantial part of which
to survive is the banqueting house,
adorned with a ceiling by Rubens.
Is that a Saint ascending to heaven?
No, it's a Stuart King.
Charles's father, James I.
But this is just one fragment of
a lost palace
that overflowed with art.
In the cabinet room at Whitehall
were no less than 73 paintings
..including Giorgione's Judith.
A painting of Lucretia thought to be
by Titian.
Mantegna's Death of the Virgin.
Raphael's St George and the Dragon.
And, if that wasn't enough,
Leonardo Da Vinci's
St John the Baptist.
In 1625, Charles had appointed
a Dutch medal maker,
Abraham Van Der Doort,
as surveyor of all our pictures at
Whitehall and other houses.
It's a role that still exists,
and is currently held by
Desmond Shawe-Taylor.
This is an inventory, a manuscript
written by Abraham Van Der Doort,
the first holder of my job, the
surveyor of the Queen's pictures,
and it's a list of everything in the
cabinet room at Whitehall.
He gives the He says, for example
here, it says,
"A Mantua piece done by Titian."
Now, somebody's decided that his
spelling of Titian
..pretty illegible, is not correct,
so he's corrected that.
It might even be Charles I
correcting his spelling there.
This had a very high value, I think
it was even £200.
It's a Lucretia, which is still in
the collection.
And it's interesting that it
describes it as holding
with her left hand a red veil over
her face.
It's not absolutely obvious that
that's how to interpret the painting
so he's clearly reading the painting
and suggesting
she's holding the veil out of shame,
I think is the idea.
Goodness. It's quite detailed.
Yeah, very, very detailed indeed.
I mean, it strikes me that he's a
king who wants someone to write down
everything that he's got. He is
seeking to introduce, perhaps,
a bit more order into
the Royal Collection
than has hitherto existed.
Completely, and I think order always
starts in a cabinet room
because a cabinet room contains
coins, medals, silver, reliefs,
precious books.
And the cabinet room for Charles I,
it's in Whitehall Palace.
In Whitehall, yes. And it's almost
the Fort Knox of the collection.
It's where the very most precious
things are kept.
It is completely that,
and there's a lot of discussion in
Van Der Doort's manuscripts,
particularly the draft manuscripts,
about arguments with other members
of the household
as to whether they've got a key or
whether they've been removing a coin
or not.
And you can see this man sort of
struggling with a household
where people are obviously coming
from all sorts of different
directions with different agendas.
So, it's sort of the sound of
a Dutchman sweating.
It is. I mean it is
And you really feel for him.
In the end he committed suicide,
and it was said that he did so
because he worried
that he had lost a miniature,
which had been personally assigned
to him by the King,
which he in fact had not lost, so
it's a sort of tragic Oh, no!
That's one account.
So, he killed himself because he
thought he'd lost the miniature,
but in fact he'd just put it in the
fridge or something, so to speak.
I've done that with my car keys!
It's like losing your glasses.
Exactly! That's terrible!
By the 1630s, Charles was at the
apex of his power.
Parliament had been dissolved
The King governed by personal
..or tyranny, depending on your
historical perspective.
And in this new political climate,
Charles forged a partnership with
a former assistant of Rubens,
whom he lured to England in 1632.
Anthony Van Dyck.
Never had a king and his painter
being better matched.
Charles would visit Van Dyck's
Thames-side studio to sit for him
and, presumably, discuss art with
a like mind.
I've come to Buckingham Palace to
see the result of their
a glamorous new vision of royal
I'm hoping it's here, in the East
Yes, it is.
This is the painting I've come to
Van Dyck's portrait of
Charles I on horseback,
with his equerry,
Monsieur De St Antoine.
What a masterpiece, and what
a shockingly new,
extraordinary type of royal
When it was first created,
no-one in England had seen anything
like this before.
Think of Holbein's portrait
of Henry VIII.
Impressive, yes, but nonetheless
static, frozen,
compared to this swirl of
Baroque movement.
This is painted theatre.
And the horse is loaded with
In this type of Baroque portraiture,
the horse stands for the nation
that Charles, its rider, rules.
If you see, it's raised one fore leg
and one hind leg
at the slightest pressure from
Charles's kid-booted foot.
But imagine how this picture must
have struck those who first saw it,
where they first saw it,
hung in St James's Palace
..a Tudor building, much, much
And this painting was hung at the
far end of the room,
where it filled the wall.
It was like a magnificent illusion.
You would have had the feeling that
Charles was actually riding into the
room, to impress you with his
mastery of his horse, his nation.
In the Royal Collection,
you can see Van Dyck ripping up the
rules of English portraiture.
He plays with light,
comparing the gleam in a jewel to
the gleam in a human eye.
And he introduces a new intimacy to
British art.
This is a royal family.
Henrietta Maria, the first
Queen of England ever painted,
holding a baby.
But Van Dyck's greatest royal
portrait was created
for an audience of one,
the great sculptor
Gian Lorenzo Bernini,
who needed source material for
a marble bust of the King.
Van Dyck sent him this,
a study of a man prematurely worn
down by power.
I saw it out of its frame at
Royal Collection Trust's
conservation studios,
as it was worked on by conservator
Nicola Christie.
Nicola, I don't want to break your
but would you mind explaining to me
what you're looking for?
Well, the painting's going out on
so I'm checking it against existing
photographs and reports,
to make sure that the condition
hasn't changed.
It's a curious object in some ways,
because it's a work of art designed
to enable another work of art to be
created. Absolutely.
This painting had a function, yes.
It's a sort of three-dimensional
painting, isn't it?
Yes, and possibly also Van Dyck
saying to Bernini,
"Well, better that!"
The colours are just superb, and the
face, when you put your light on it,
it's interesting, it really comes to
It does. The skin tones.
Yes, and the hands, the back of the
hand is so colourful too.
Yeah. And you've got your magnifying
Yes, at my age you need to wear
I think I need one of those.
And in fact, I see that there's a
pair over there, which I'm going to
Welcome to my world.
No, this is great.
Oh, this is great. Yes.
Goodness me.
The painting of the eye is just
I mean, they're surprisingly
colourful, aren't they,
these sort of rather red-rimmed
There's a little touch of yellow
And the highlights, the catch lights
are actually blue.
And tell me about how he's done the
lace, because it's very fine.
Well, yes, but if you look at it, it
is painted very, very swiftly.
He's actually added these touches of
red that you see
of his garment underneath the lace,
he's actually added those.
They're on top of the white.
They're on top. Yes
He hasn't painted the gaps, he's
That seems perverse.
It's almost as if he's painted the
lace backwards.
Yes, he has.
It strikes me that of all the
pictures of Charles
..this is the one,
or these are the three, that somehow
take you closest to his
..rather difficult character.
You really feel that you can sense
his aloofness.
His determination, his total
that he is right and
everyone else is wrong.
This is where Charles's art joins up
with the march of great events.
The King spent less on paintings
than he did on other forms of
display -
clothes, lavish court
But they were all part of a gilded
bubble into which he would retreat.
Cocooned within, Charles was
evermore distant
from the nation that he ruled.
With the country on the brink of
civil war,
Van Dyck produced a distillation of
Charles's artistic vision.
A single glorious image that I'm
going to see at Kensington Palace,
a warning to those who would seek
out beauty.
Ah Here you are.
There are more than a million
objects in the Royal Collection.
Over 7,000 paintings.
But if I had to choose my
desert island object,
the one thing that I could take home
and keep in my house,
hang on my wall, I'd choose this -
Cupid and Psyche.
For my money, the greatest painting
in the Royal Collection,
an absolute astonishing masterpiece,
painted just a year before
Van Dyck died.
His greatest work.
An image of love painted with
immense love.
Such a beautiful thing.
Psyche is a mortal woman, lover of
Cupid, god of desire.
She's been asked by Cupid's mother,
Venus, to go to the underworld
and come back with a box containing
Psyche is overcome with curiosity.
Venus has tricked her.
It contains sleep, and not just any
kind of sleep.
Stygian sleep, the eternal sleep of
Psyche falls down in a dead faint.
And Cupid has come to save her.
He will brush the sleep from her
that's the meaning of his
outstretched right hand.
At this moment, 1639, 1640, British
art suddenly, and for a very,
very short moment,
joins the great traditions of
continental post-Renaissance art,
from which it had been severed by
the Reformation.
But now, under Charles I,
it's back.
British art suddenly has its Titian,
he's called Anthony Van Dyck.
That's why this is such
a significant painting.
We often think of Stuart art as
representing a kind of ending,
as being doom-laden, as having the
shadow of death about it.
But this picture, this picture is a
fresh start.
It's a dawn. This is where art would
have gone in this country
if Charles I had lived.
It would have gone in this
This is what we would have had all
over the palaces of the Royal
all over our aristocratic homes.
This is what British art would have
become, but it didn't.
It didn't.
Shortly after Cupid and Psyche was
completed, Van Dyck was dead,
and civil war had broken out.
The paintings and treasures of the
Royal Collection gathered dust
in abandoned Royal palaces.
A nation tore itself apart.
In December 1648, a few weeks before
going on trial for his life,
Charles was a prisoner
at Windsor Castle.
A relic from this time is still part
of the Royal Collection.
Despite the King's reduced
he was initially afforded a degree
of Royal respect.
Then suddenly there's
a great change.
Orders are given that Charles is to
be treated less like a king
and more like a prisoner.
The days are short and the nights
are getting long.
What does he do to console himself
during this darkest period of his
This is one of the things that he
This is Charles's very own copy of
the second folio edition published
in 1632.
And if I turn to
..the list of the plays which it
..we can see that Charles has
actually marked them up.
We can see what he was reading that
Christmas, a month before his death.
Much Ado About Nothing.
A Midsummer Night's Dream.
As You Like It.
All's Well That Ends Well.
Twelfth Night.
And not only that,
but Charles has written the names of
his favourite characters.
Benedict and Beatrice.
Pyramus and Thisbe.
Absurd Malvolio, poor Malvolio.
I think it's very interesting that
at this time
what he's reading is the comedies.
He's reading the comedies.
His life is a tragedy.
His life reminds me, at this point,
of King Lear.
But, he didn't want to think about
He remained remarkably defiant up
until the end,
as you can see in this, the most
precious inscription
in this very precious book.
On the very first page, his spidery
"Dum spiro spero."
"While I breathe, I hope."
Charles's own personal motto.
And he's signed it with his
monogram, CR, Carolus Rex.
He's not going to go gently into
that good night.
In January 1649, Charles was tried
and sentenced to death.
Whitehall Palace, still filled with
his works of art,
was the backdrop for the execution.
The whole event was a kind of black
turning the King back from a god to
a mortal human being.
But if you want to get rid of a
monarchy, you go one step further.
You get rid of the way they'd
projected their power,
their specialness.
You get rid of their art.
Fortunately, Charles's collection
was too valuable to be destroyed
in an act of righteous fury,
and so it was decided that
everything must go.
The sale of the late King's goods,
as it was billed,
took place on this site,
Denmark House, as it was in
Cromwell's time,
Somerset House as it is now.
The main purpose of it all was to
pay back the King's creditors,
and they came clamouring for their
The royal plumber, who was owed
got just £403 in cash and £500 worth
of paintings -
which he didn't know what to do
with -
but they included at least one
priceless Titian.
The result was loss, loss, and more
The most magnificent, the most
spectacular royal car-boot sale in
And so it was that Charles's art
collection was disassembled.
The pictures that had projected
a divine aura of monarchy,
available to anyone, for the right
But I think it's rather telling that
Cromwell kept back
The Triumphs of Caesar for himself.
Nothing projects power like the
greatest art in the world.
Of course, the Royal Collection
would survive.
Indeed, it would be significantly
by a succession of later monarchs.
But its character from now on would
be fundamentally different.
It would be more earthbound.
Never again would the monarchy use
art to project the image of itself
as a force from heaven above.
In the next episode,
the Royal Collection is rebuilt by
Charles II
..and reinvented by a king more
in understanding the world than
ruling it, George III.
Next Episode