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Episode 4 of 8

30 minutes
First broadcast:
Saturday 03 March 2012

The Royal Collection is one of the most wide-ranging collections of art and artefacts in the world and provides an intriguing insight into the minds of the monarchs who assembled it.

In this series, BBC Arts Editor Will Gompertz encounters dozens of these unique objects - some priceless, others no more than souvenirs - each shedding light on our relationship with the monarchy and giving a glimpse into the essential ingredients of a successful sovereign.

In this programme, Will uses five objects to investigate a pivotal aspect of the art of monarchy - the projection of magnificence. An idea as old as monarchy itself, magnificence is the expression of power through the display of wealth and status. Will's first object unites our current Queen with George III; the Gold State Coach, which has been used for coronations since 1821. Built for George III in 1762, it reflects Britain's new found glory in its richly gilded carvings and painted panels...but the glory was to be short lived.

Will goes on to explore Henry VIII's taste for interior design at Hampton Court Palace, with the enormous Abraham Tapestries - a symbol of Henry's personal self-belief but also a post-Reformation statement to his rival the Pope. Charles II's preoccupations are given unlikely form in a silver table now held at Windsor Castle, whilst Sir Christopher Wren's designs for Hampton Court have an unusually egalitarian purpose.

The idea of magnificence might seem one-dimensional - but encoded into the jewels, the gilding, the silver and the marble are stories of political intrigue and personal paranoia.

Prod: Neil George.

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  • The Gold State Coach

    The Gold State Coach of 1762

    The Gold State Coach designed by Sir William Chambers (1723-1796), made by Samuel Butler, with carvings by Joseph Wilton (1722-1803), painted decoration by G.B. Cipriani (1727-1785). The Gold State Coach has been used for every Coronation since 1762 and, in the present reign, has also appeared at the Silver and Golden Jubilees.


    From: England. Made for the Coronation of George III (1738-1820)

    Date: 1762

    Material: Carved and gilded walnut, ash and oak; and iron

    Size: 4050 x 7200 x 2600 mm


    The Royal Collection


  • The Abraham Tapestries

    The Abraham Tapestries, probably designed and woven in Antwerp

    The Abraham Tapestries, probably designed and woven in Antwerp. A series of ten tapestries depicting the principal events of the life of the Prophet Abraham, as told in the Old Testament. The tapestries were used at the Coronations of all subsequent Tudor and Stuart monarchs.


    From: The Netherlands. Acquired by Henry VIII

    Date: 1540-41

    Material: Silk and gilt-wrapped thread

    Size: 5620 x 8820 mm  


    The Royal Collection


  • Silver table made for Charles II

    Silver table made for Charles II

    Silver table made for Charles II (1630-85). Charles II commissioned silver furniture to rival the glories the court of Louis XIV (1638-1715) at Versailles.


    From: England. Made for Charles II (1630-85)

    Date: c.1670

    Material: Chased and embossed silver on an oak frame

    Size: 870 x 1060 x 700 mm  


    The Royal Collection


  • An Exact Prospect of Hampton Court

    An Exact Prospect of Hampton Court, an etching by Sutton Nicholls (fl.1680-1740)

    An Exact Prospect of Hampton Court, an etching by Sutton Nicholls (fl.1680-1740). William III (1650-1702) and Mary II (1662-1694) commissioned Sir Christopher Wren (1623-1723) to design a magnificent new eastern façade for Hampton Court Palace. This print is a plate from 'Prospects of the Most Considerable Buildings About London', published in 1725.


    From: England

    Date: c. 1700

    Material: Etching

    Size: 520 x 613 mm  


    The Royal Collection

  • Imperial State Crown

    Imperial State Crown, made by Rundell Bridge

    Imperial State Crown, made by Rundell Bridge & Rundell. This is the crown worn by the Sovereign on leaving Westminster Abbey after the Corononation and, on such occasions as the State Opening of Parliament.


    From: England. Made for King George VI

    Date: 1937

    Material: Gold, silver, diamonds and other precious stones

    Size: 315 mm high  


    The Royal Collection


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  1. Image for The Art of Monarchy

    The Art of Monarchy

    Will Gompertz enters the Royal Collection to examine some of the objects that have adorned, defined…

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