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Thursday 27 Nov 2014

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BBC Radio marks 500th anniversary of Henry VIII's accession to throne

Update – 16 April 2009: this press release has been updated to reflect changed transmission details for the The Six Faces Of Henry VIII.

April 2009 marks the 500th anniversary of the accession of Henry VIII to the English throne. Aged just 17 when he became king, Henry VIII became known for his fierce suppression of the Protestant faith, his fiery battles with Pope Clement VII in Rome and, of course, for his six wives.

The life and times of this remarkable monarch are marked on BBC Radio 3 in a new production of Shakespeare and Fletcher's Henry VIII starring Patrick Malahide, Matthew Marsh and Adam Godley; special editions of The Early Music Show; and a Sunday Feature and, across a week of The Essay, five writers and academics share their views on the famous monarch's reign.

Over on BBC Radio 4, Ian Hislop looks at how subsequent generations have reinvented Henry's image for their own era in The Six Faces Of Henry VIII and, in The Hidden Henry, those at the leading edge of Tudor research share their portraits of unknown and surprising aspects of Henry's character.

Drama On 3 – Henry VIII (19 April), is a rarely performed William Shakespeare and John Fletcher collaboration and a masterful analysis of the murky world of Tudor politics, revealing a world where nothing can be taken on face value.

The play opens with the arrest of Duke of Buckingham, charged with treason for opposing the all-powerful Cardinal Wolsey, and tells the story of Henry's struggle to have his marriage to Katherine of Aragon annulled. The play shows the fall of Cardinal Wolsey, the rise of reformer Thomas Cranmer and the christening of the future Queen, young Elizabeth.

Sunday Feature – Leland's Travels (26 April) is a fascinating journey through Henry VIII's dissolution of the monasteries through the eyes of antiquarian scholar John Leland. Leland was Henry's librarian, topographer and sometime ghost writer. He was charged with making an exhaustive tour of the monastic houses in Henry's kingdom and cataloguing their literary treasures.

Tragically, Leland's diligent research and stock-taking was not put to the pure scholarly use he might have imagined; the monasteries he visited were later ransacked by the King's commissioners, their ancient treasures and illuminated manuscripts were plundered and many of the buildings that housed them were defaced or destroyed. Leland, broken by the experience, went mad.

In a special edition of The Early Music Show (26 April), Lucie Skeaping talks to David Skinner (Director of Studies and Director of Music at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge) about Henry VIII and his music and takes a look at the exhibition of his manuscripts at the British Library.

The Essay – Henry VIII, King Of Kings (20-24 April) explores five different views on Henry's reign: Professor Peter Marshall from Warwick University explores Henry's relationship with religion; Lucy Wooding, biographer of Henry VIII and lecturer in Early Modern History at King's College, London, looks at Henry as a Renaissance prince; and author and travel writer Geoffrey Moorhouse reveals the legacies left by Henry's war including the formation of the Royal Navy and the development of a vast coastal defence system.

Other contributors are Dr Tom Betteridge, reader in Early Modern English Literature at Oxford Brookes University, and Suzannah Lipscomb, one of the curators at Hampton Court.

Elsewhere, Radio 4 will mark this special anniversary with The Six Faces of Henry VIII where Ian Hislop investigates the constant re-appropriation of the most memorable face in British history.

In Radio 4's The Hidden Henry, five academics share little aspects of Henry's character, from his obsession with his health to his scholarly talents and from his musical abilities to his role as a father and as a self-publicist.

The five academics featured are Dr Elisabeth Hurren (Oxford Brookes), Dr Steve Gunn (Merton College, Oxford), Dr Susan Doran (Christ Church College, Oxford), Kent Rawlinson (buildings curator at Hampton Court) and Dr Steven Rice (Southampton University).

Notes to Editors

  • Drama On 3 – Henry VIII
    BBC Radio 3 on Sunday 19 April at 8.00pm
  • The Essay – Henry VIII, King Of Kings
    BBC Radio 3 from Monday 20 to Friday 24 April at 11.00pm
  • The Early Music Show
    BBC Radio 3 on Sunday 26 April at 1.00pm
  • Sunday Feature: Leland's Travels
    BBC Radio 3 on Sunday 26 April at 9.30pm
  • The Six Faces Of Henry VIII
    BBC Radio 4 on Monday 25 May at 11.00am
  • The Hidden Henry
    BBC Radio 4 from Monday 1 to Friday 5 June at 3.45pm
  • On BBC Four, Henry VIII – Patron Or Plunderer, narrated by Dr Jonathan Foyle, explores the paradox of a famously brutal king who oversaw the murder of writers; the demolition of ancient monasteries; and the destruction of rare artistic treasures – and yet was a cultured, well-read man, who brought the Renaissance to England and funded a building boom of exquisite architecture on an unprecedented scale.


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