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Lucy Worsley travels to Russia to tell the extraordinary story of the dynasty that ruled the country for more than three centuries. It's an epic tale that includes giant figures such as Peter the Great and Catherine the Great, the devastating struggle against Napoleon in 1812, and the political murders of Nicholas II and his family in 1918 which brought the dynasty to a brutal end.
In this first episode, Lucy investigates the beginning of the Romanovs' 300-year reign in Russia. In 1613, when Russia was leaderless, 16-year-old Mikhail Romanov was plucked from obscurity and offered the crown of Russia. Lucy also charts the story of Peter the Great, the ruthless and ambitious tsar who was determined to modernise Russia at the end of the 17th century.
Empire of the Tsars
Adoration in the Forest
Painted over five centuries ago, Filippo Lippi's nativity is like none other: it shows the birth of Christ in a dark, wooded wilderness. There are no shepherds, kings, ox, ass – there is no Joseph. Its beauty inspired Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and Botticelli. But it also conceals a deeply personal story. It was painted for Cosimo de Medici, a wealthy banker who feared that his money was dragging him straight to hell. The artist's life was equally surprising. One of the most celebrated painters of his day, Filippo Lippi was also a Carmelite friar, but he was no stranger to the temptations of the flesh, to which he frequently yielded. Shortly before painting his Adoration, he caused uproar by seducing a twenty year-old nun. His paintings rejoice not only in divine beauty, but in the beauty of women. In later times, the Adoration's history was interwoven with that of rulers and dictators. It became a bargaining chip after Napoleon's allies seized twenty merchant ships. And in the 20th century, it was hidden by the Nazis in a potassium mine, where specialist american officers, known as Monuments Men, stumbled upon it. they were now told to get it ready to be shipped out. In an unprecedented turn of events they refused. This is the only known case in the whole of the Second World War of American officers refusing an order. It was sent to the National Gallery of Art, but in 1949 Lippi's Adoration was returned to Germany.
The Private Life of a Masterpiece
The Third of May 1808
Arguably the most powerful painting about war ever achieved. It portrays the slaughter of civilians after Napoleonic troops entered Madrid in 1808. The programme reveals the historical truths behind the painting and shows exactly how Goya achieved this masterpiece of protest. he painting's content, presentation, and emotional force secure its status as a groundbreaking, archetypal image of the horrors of war. Although it draws on many sources from both high and popular art, The Third of May 1808 marks a clear break from convention. Diverging from the traditions of Christian art and traditional depictions of war, it has no distinct precedent, and is acknowledged as one of the first paintings of the modern era.
According to the art historian Kenneth Clark, The Third of May 1808 is 'the first great picture which can be called revolutionary in every sense of the word, in style, in subject, and in intention'. Discover how Goya used drawings by authentic witnesses to depict a real firing squad.
The Private Life of a Masterpiece
Age of Extremes
Lucy Worsley continues her journey through Russia in the footsteps of the Romanovs, the most powerful royal dynasty in modern European history. In this episode she examines the extraordinary reign of Catherine the Great, and the traumatic conflict with napoleonic France that provides the setting for the novel War and Peace. At the magnificent palace of Peterhof near St Petersburg, Lucy charts the meteoric rise of Catherine the Great, who seized the Russian throne from her husband Peter III in 1762 and became the most powerful woman in the world. Catherine was a woman of huge passions - for art, for her adopted country (she was German by birth) and for her many lovers.
Catherine expanded her empire through military victories overseas, while at home she encouraged education and introduced smallpox inoculation to Russia. But Catherine struggled to introduce deeper reforms, and the institution of serfdom remained largely unchanged. Lucy explains how this injustice fuelled a violent rebellion. Nevertheless, Catherine left Russia more powerful on the world stage than ever. But all she had achieved looked set to be undone when Napoleon invaded Russia in 1812. Lucy relives the pivotal battle of Borodino, when the Russian army finally confronted the French forces; the traumatic destruction of Moscow; and, under Catherine's grandson Alexander, the eventual victory over the French that provided the Romanov dynasty with its most glorious hour.
Empire of the Tsars
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