The British (2012) s01e03 Episode Script


Over 2,000 years, they will forge a nation dominate the globe and invent the modern world.
This is the story of how a small group of islands becomes a superpower.
The British - this is our story.
Glastonbury Abbey.
Please, I beg you, show some respect.
Richard Layton, one of the most trusted lieutenants of Henry VIII, has arrived unannounced and unwelcome.
Abbot Whiting is at Sharpham! Layton is under orders to loot whatever he can - but most importantly, he's looking for evidence of high treason.
(THUDS / CLATTERS) King Henry's relationship with the Church has broken down at home and abroad since his divorce from Catherine of Aragon.
Actions like storming Glastonbury Abbey push England closer to war with Catholic Europe.
Please, show some respect.
Oh! The monks have been able to hide all but a few of their valuables.
But what seals their fate is not the missing silver or gold but two books.
One condemns the King's divorce.
The other praises Thomas Becket - a Catholic saint.
These are times when having the wrong opinion can cost you your life.
In the past 300 years, England has changed beyond recognition.
War and revolt have brought her people more freedom than ever before.
Ordinary Englishmen have rights, earn wages and can rent land.
But a third of all land remains owned by the Church.
Now Henry has broken with the Pope - he wants it.
The Pope was an enormously powerful person because he was God's representative on Earth, and kings believed that.
I think it was a huge deal for Henry to defy papal power, because it made England a target for all the Catholic countries in Europe.
So I think it was a massive thing, and I'm sure rocked the whole hierarchical system.
Any resistance is crushed.
On the 15th November, 1539, the Abbot of Glastonbury, and two of his monks are taken to the top of Glastonbury Tor.
Found guilty of high treason, the punishment - to be hanged, drawn and quartered.
I think the action against the Abbot of Glastonbury is interesting because of course he was an elderly figure, you can't imagine him being this kind of rabble-rouser, really.
But I think his action might potentially mobilise resistance elsewhere, and of course this just simply had to be stamped upon.
The frail and elderly Abbot, Richard Whiting, addresses the crowd.
I pray for God's mercy, and that His Majesty the King forgive me for whatever great offence I have committed.
(THUD / RETCHING) Strangled until barely breathing, cut down, disembowelled alive.
He won't die until his body is cut into quarters.
So somebody had to sit down and go "I've got a good idea, "let's keep him alive - we'll cut him open but you've got to keep him alive.
" "OK, why?" "Oh well just cos it'll be more fun, "and then we'll take his guts out" I mean, somebody thought of this stuff.
Abbot Whiting dies as a lesson to anybody who would dare to stand in the way of King Henry VIII.
In four years, Henry takes control of all 800 monasteries in England, adding to the Royal coffers by billions in today's money.
The dissolution is accomplished extraordinarily quickly, given the number of monasteries and the number of people who are involved, and I think it's carried out by a pretty ruthless apparatus of people who are very hostile to Catholicism, very committed to the new Protestant religion.
So the whole thing is done pretty brutally.
And from the point of view of Henry VIII, what he's really interested in, of course, is getting his hands on church wealth.
Henry VIII's rupture with the Pope and the seizing of the goods of the monasteries, these are enormous moments in British history.
The consequences of Henry's actions will pull Britain from the edge of Europe into the very centre of the world.
But what will transform Henry's reign is not just a new religion or a new political philosophy but an invention, first brought to London 60 years earlier.
Merchant William Caxton is abroad on business when he first sees a printing press.
A revolutionary new invention that combines old and new technologies from across the world.
Paper from China and the Middle East, made from water and shredded rags.
Precise metal casting from the jewellers of Northern Europe.
And the wooden screw from German wine presses.
It's an invention that will ferment new, revolutionary ideas.
Before the printing press came to England, a single scribe could take over a year to copy out a book by hand.
But now Caxton's printing press can produce hundreds of books in weeks.
When I think about Caxton and I think about that revolution of the word Oh, my god, it excites me.
Can you imagine? Well, I can imagine, because I compare it to the internet, I can compare it to an iPhone 4, I can compare it to modern technology because that's what it was, it was as powerful as that.
The written word - once the preserve of the elite - is now available to nearly everyone.
Suddenly, they had access to printed news, they had access to information, you know.
There's a case for saying it was the most important invention, certainly of the Middle Ages.
This is the first time the English language comes to the printed page.
Knowledge and new ideas spread like wildfire.
The printing press was as important, maybe more important than the internet is going to become, because it allowed people to disseminate ideas - revolutionary.
But in 1539, one book explodes onto the scene.
The first official English-language Bible.
King Henry orders every church and cathedral in England to buy a copy.
On the front cover, an image not of Christ or the Pope, but of King Henry himself.
This act pushes England a step closer to war with Catholic Europe.
This Bible in English was a political document, because of course the frontispiece on it had Henry dispensing the Word of God.
You know, viewed objectively, he's a brutal, sexist, selfish ruler, but there's a sneaking admiration for his rebelliousness and I think that's quite British.
Henry VIII braces the country for war with Catholic Europe.
Iron founders Ralph Hogge and William Levett take up the challenge of producing a new type weapon.
England can't afford expensive bronze cannons, popular on the continent, but what Britain does have is huge quantities of iron.
It's on, it's on! (BOOM / THUD) But current iron cannon are neither accurate or reliable.
Finding a solution has suddenly become critical to England's very existence.
England is a nervous country.
The Catholic forces of Europe look aggressively on and a small iron foundry in Buxted in Sussex carries the hopes of a nation.
(METAL CLANGS) Ironmonger Ralph Hogge is using a new method to cast fail-safe iron cannons.
More add some more.
The process involves melting iron at incredibly high temperatures.
The heat is generated by feeding air to the fire with vast bellows.
If it's not hot enough, imperfections can occur.
The cannon would be rendered useless.
The operation is paid for by a wealthy parson, William Levett.
On a Sunday, he preaches from Henry's bible, during the week he bankrolls weapons research.
Hogge's big idea is to cast the iron barrel vertically and as a single piece.
His thinking is that the impurities will rise to the top and can then be cut away - leaving a much stronger weapon.
What d'you reckon? Live firing is the only way of testing whether their idea has worked.
The only thing more dangerous than lighting the fuse is going back to re-light it.
(HISSES) (BOOM) A cheap, effective and deadly weapon is born.
This was an innovation that would set the mark in gunnery for the next three centuries.
Henry VIII orders 120 of Levett and Hogge's state-of-the-art iron cannons.
When Elizabeth I becomes queen, she strictly limits the number of cannon exported to foreign powers.
A few years later, 200 more are ordered.
Their cheap, reliable, and easy-to-produce cannon turn England into one of the biggest arms manufacturers in Europe and help secure its borders.
But the world is changing.
(THUNDER) When Elizabeth I is on the throne, the European powers are focusing their attention on getting wealth from beyond the ocean.
(SWORDS CLASH / CRIES) On the other side of the world, South America is being colonised and looted by Spain, England's great rival.
Silver and gold have transformed Catholic Spain into a superpower.
It's difficult to conceive the scale of the Spanish empire, covering much of South America, with vast quantities of gold travelling to Spain, and enriching that country.
So the Spanish empire is vastly bigger and more important than little England.
England looks enviously on.
March the 1st, 1579.
The Pacific Ocean.
The pride of the Spanish fleet, the infamous Cacafuego.
She is returning home with 26 tons of silver raided from South America.
But close by, on another ship, one man is determined that England will have its share of the Spaniards' new wealth.
Francis Drake, captain of the Golden Hind, has been at sea since he was a teenager.
This voyage will see him become the first Briton to circumnavigate the world.
For over a decade, he has been raiding Spanish ships and trading posts in the Atlantic - known as a privateer, he is secretly backed by Queen Elizabeth I.
Francis Drake is a rogue, he is known as a privateer, because much of what he did was for his private enrichment.
He was a hero to some, but he was also a black beard and a pirate and a rakish adventurer to others.
The Golden Hind is the first English ship to sail into the Pacific.
The last thing the Spanish are expecting to encounter on this side of the world is an English privateer.
The Golden Hind boasts 15 of the latest cast iron cannon.
Drake hopes they won't be needed.
He doesn't want the Cacafuego to sink - and lose all her silver.
They've done this many times on smaller vessels, but this is the big one.
Surprise is critical.
At noon, they see her.
Drake's disguises his ship as a merchant vessel, and tells his men to stay quiet.
Come on, boys, get them down there, we need to slow her down.
The sails are shortened.
Cables and barrels are dragged behind the stern to slow the ship down.
The Golden Hind creeps closer.
A voice calls over to the Spanish captain, San Juan de Anton, assuring him that the Golden Hind is not a threat.
Drake fires a single broadside.
(BOOM / CRASH) Two half cannon balls chained together smash the mizzen mast, crippling the ship.
(CREAKS / CRASHES) (CRIES / YELLS) It's over in a moment.
In this single raid, Drake seizes 80 pounds in weight of gold, and more than 26 tons in silver bars.
He would see a Spanish boat full of silver doubloons, or whatever, and go, "I'll have that.
For you, your Majesty.
" He's like James Bond.
On Her Majesty's Secret Service.
I think he does sound somewhat heroic, although ethically reprehensible.
It's one of the biggest heists in history.
The hoard will take six days to unload.
Drake is war-hungry - he's not simply a kind of buccaneer, he actually has a bigger plan, he wants to take war to Spain.
Queen Elizabeth's cut pays off the English government's foreign debt and helps finance the building of one the greatest fighting machines the world has ever seen the Royal Navy.
Jealous of Spain's riches, England's new power at sea begins a radical transformation of the nation, and kick-starts its overseas adventures.
The 1st of November, 1611.
32 years after Drake's buccaneering adventures, England's overseas exploits are the talk of the town.
In the Banqueting House of Whitehall Palace, London's most successful playwright, William Shakespeare, is preparing for a Royal premiere.
Heigh, my hearts! Cheerly, cheerly, my good hearts.
His plays have introduced 1,700 new words to the English language, and countless expressions still used today.
Without Shakespeare, no-one would "catch a cold", nothing would be "out of the question" and the world would never "be your oyster".
Try it again.
If you wanted to teach someone who knew absolutely nothing about the British people, it would be very good to guide them to Shakespeare.
And you could see foolishness, the arrogance, the humour, the brutality, it's all in almost every play.
I think Shakespeare reflected the society.
And I think Shakespeare reflected it in such a way that society looking at ourselves realise our extraordinary potential as thinkers, as inventors, as speculators, as philosophers, and as doers.
He wrote the great romances, they are and tragedies, it is and political dramas and It's extraordinary stuff.
But it's bloody hard to do.
Tonight, William Shakespeare hopes to gain royal approval for his play, The Tempest.
King James VI of Scotland has inherited the English throne from his mother's cousin Elizabeth.
James is the first monarch to rule both Scotland and England .
Boatswain! Here, master.
What cheer? The play tells the story of a group of travellers shipwrecked on the shores of a mysterious distant land.
(BOARDS MOVING AND CREAKING) Shakespeare uses sound effects to build the atmosphere of his story.
A story inspired by real events that are the news of the day.
Tend to the Master's whistle, blow.
An English adventurer, John Rolfe, has survived a shipwreck heading to a fledgling new English settlement in North America, called Jamestown.
The settlers have been struggling to survive.
They're starving, and under attack by the local Powhatan people, on whose land they have settled.
In the Tempest Shakespeare creates Caliban.
An islander whose land is threatened by Europeans.
This island's mine, by Sycorax my mother, that thou takest from me.
A terrifying savage, whose island has been stolen from him.
The new Jamestown colony, and the tobacco grown there, is the first step in building an empire that will rival Spain's.
By 1640 Jamestown is a busy commercial colony and home to 8,000 people.
The growth of empire will make English the most widely spoken language in the world.
And make William Shakespeare the best known Briton of them all.
Storytelling is the most important thing to our culture and our identity, it's how our culture is carried, it's how it's travelled.
The people that are in charge of our stories, or information, or our knowledge, are the people that ultimately have power.
These are all the great men of England.
And if you'd told them the one man in the room who would be remembered when they were all forgotten was the bloke who wrote the play they were going to see, they would laugh their socks off, but of course that's true.
But while there is success overseas.
At home society is becoming increasingly divided.
Whilst the printed word is giving birth to some of the greatest works in the English language, it is also giving form to new and radical ideas that will soon tear apart the country.
The 7th of May 1634 - 34-year-old firebrand William Prynne is dragged to the stocks in Westminster.
His ear lobes have been cut off, and his cheeks will be branded with the letters SL- "Seditious Libeller" Plays are sinful, heinous, lewd, ungodly spectacles and the most vile corrupt His crime? Publishing a 1,000 page book condemning the theatre as the work of the Devil.
The idea of having your cheeks branded because you were giving out leaflets, I mean, imagine if that was the case now, I mean it would just, every, nearly every student in the land would have their cheeks branded.
In pamphlets he's attacked Britain's new King, Charles, for not closing down the theatres and called actresses 'notorious whores'.
Now he's paying the price.
But Prynne isn't deterred.
He continues to defy the law.
Watching is John Lilburne.
They are both part of a radical movement sweeping the country.
Who want a simpler, more democratic church.
They're known as Puritans.
Thank you, brother.
Men like Prynne and Lilburne will help lead England into civil war.
Get out.
John Lilburne is a young tailor's apprentice, making clothes for London's rich.
But he's got a secret trade - he's an underground printer.
What Lilburne is doing is illegal - and dangerous.
He's printing and distributing thousands of contraband books, attacking Church and King John Lilburne and men like him are taking a great risk in publishing what is regarded by the government as seditious material.
It's very hard to kill the printed word, it's easier to smuggle.
As soon as you've got information in a book, that can just be hidden in a cloak and anybody could be riding off with it and spreading it across the country.
This is the first time that information and truth and news can be protected effectively and spread quickly.
This public defiance against Crown and Church spells serious trouble.
The access of the ordinary man in the street, the ordinary person, to information, to knowledge, was bound to bring change, and revolution, and rebellion.
Printing, Protestantism and the spread of education have turned the English into one of the most literate people in the world.
Over 70% of Londoners can read.
Opposition to the King and his government begins to spread across the British Isles.
Personal freedoms were hard fought for.
Which there's a slight inclination, I'm afraid, to take them for granted, in my view.
We should occasionally remind ourselves that these are precious indeed.
Lilburne is arrested, whipped and thrown into the Fleet Prison for printing unlicensed books.
From prison Lilburne begins to write his own pamphlets.
He'll write over 80, launching new attacks on the King, his taxes, the Church, and the injustice of the courts.
In May 1639, he writes a secret letter to all apprentices of London, calling them to take to the streets.
(CROWD) Free John Lilburne! In London, riots break out.
John Lilburne has become a hero.
(CROWD) Free John Lilburne! The crowd demand Lilburne is freed.
Facing unrest in London, war in Scotland, and bankruptcy, King Charles is forced to call Parliament for the first time in 11 years to raise money.
It's a humiliating backtrack.
Charles I has spent eleven years trying to establish an absolute monarchy, a monarchy that can rule without Parliament.
In 1640, a newly elected Member for Cambridge enters Parliament.
A Puritan farmer from Huntingdon, Oliver Cromwell.
During the early years of his career he's hardly been noticed.
But in the next ten years he will lead Britain through the most turbulent era in its history.
Though London will wait another 200 years for the Houses of Parliament to take its modern form, the Palace of Westminster has been the heart of law making and taxation for centuries.
In Cromwell's time there are no regular elections.
The King is free to call and dismiss MPs when he sees fit.
But this sitting will change that.
This is now Parliament's opportunity to ensure that that can never happen again, so they're not going to grant taxes until all of their demands have been met.
One of the new Parliament's first acts is to pass a law forbidding King Charles from dissolving it ever again.
Political pamphlets fan the flames of the crisis.
Parliament passes a bill listing 204 complaints against the King.
Cromwell has demanded the release of John Lilburne.
Who now joins rioters on the streets of London.
Please, please take it.
Read it The country is in meltdown.
(GUNFIRE) Come on! Come on! On the afternoon of January the 4th, 1642, the King storms into the House of Commons.
Radical MPs in Parliament have narrowly voted through a bill of 204 individual complaints against King Charles.
Charles intends to arrest the rebel MPs.
But they have been tipped off and escape.
Charles is now caught in a situation where his own Parliament are defying him, and that is the break between the Monarch and the Parliament, and there begins the English Civil war.
King Charles abandons London, and the city becomes a Parliamentary stronghold.
The capital closes its gates against Charles.
Ludgate, Bishopsgate, Moorgate, Newgate, Cripplegate, Aldersgate and Aldgate - all slammed shut to keep the King's men out.
The 23rd of October, 1642.
In the countryside near the Warwickshire village of Edgehill, the armies of a divided England face each other for the first time.
Through into the trees.
Most MPs from the North and West of England have taken the King's side.
The remaining men in Parliament have raised an army from militias around the country.
Cavalry, muster in the centre.
The civil war engulfed the country but it also engulfed families and it became a civil war within communities where neighbours might suddenly find themselves on opposite sides of the conflict.
Among its new officers is Captain John Lilburne.
Muster under the trees.
keep your powder dry.
Most are farm labourers with only a week's training in how to fire a musket.
The King rides along his lines.
30,000 men stare across at each other.
Forward! At 2pm the first shot comes from the Parliamentarian ranks - a shot that will change the country forever.
This is a conflict which is so fundamental to the future of Britain, it can only now be resolved by a war.
The English Civil War is the hinge on which the whole of British history turns.
Cromwell, a captain in Parliament's cavalry, arrives at Edgehill in the final stages of the battle.
1,500 men are dead.
Many more injured.
Both sides claim victory.
But it's a stalemate.
The weakness of the Parliamentary army is all too obvious to him.
Your troops are most of them old decayed serving-men, tapsters, and such kind of fellows.
Do you think the spirits of such base, mean fellows will ever be able to encounter gentlemen that have honour and courage and resolution in them? The Parliamentarians realise that to win the English Civil War you need a regular, professional, properly constituted and trained fighting force.
And that force that they create is the New Model Army Over three and a half years of bloody, civil war, Oliver Cromwell will rise through the ranks and help turn Parliament's ragtag army into an efficient fighting force.
Cromwell's New Model Army will eventually defeat the forces of the King.
The New Model Army as a properly constituted, disciplined, professional force, constantly in being, is something that has remained to this day.
The King eventually surrenders in Nottinghamshire.
Brought back to London, he is tried and found guilty of High Treason against the people of England.
I think everything has to be challenged.
And I think it was probably very good that the monarchy was challenged.
It was a step towards the democracy we have today.
It was just an inevitable progression.
January 1649, with 59 leading Parliamentarians, Oliver Cromwell signs the King's death warrant.
For all which treasons and crimes this court doth adjudge that he, the said Charles Stuart, as a tyrant, traitor, murderer, and public enemy to the good people of this nation, shall be put to death by the severing of his head from his body.
(THUD) (CROWD CHEERS) That is the moment when it is decided that Britain will not become an absolute monarchy.
Britain will become a constitutional monarchy, in which the monarch reigns, alongside the men of property represented in Parliament, who are then going to reshape Britain and the world in the course of the eighteenth century.
350 years ago or thereabouts we took the head off a monarch but out of this emerges the extraordinary fortunate place we are in today, constitutionally.
What they call democracy is is a most extraordinary thing, and it is it is a system that that maybe is worth investing all our blood in.
But when the bloodletting is over, Britain is transformed by this century of revolution.
A literate people, with a love of words and new ideas, and hard won new political freedoms.
A nation of entrepreneurs.
A new naval power, with its first colonies, at the centre of the new Atlantic world.