Empire and Commonwealth
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 looks beyond these island shores to see the Monarchy as a global force. The monarch was a symbol of imperial expansion, in the form of the British Empire, for 300 years. But Will begins with the current reign, which has seen a retreat from Empire and the development of the modern Commonwealth, exemplified in the Royal Collection by a small woven cloth made with yarn spun by Gandhi, which contains an anti-imperial message written in Hindi. Centuries ago, the Queen's predecessor and namesake, Elizabeth I, presided over the very beginning of England's experiment in empire. We see the world as she understood it, in the form of an early atlas. As he explores Britain's involvement in world affairs Will examines a shard of wood from the coffin of George Washington, a print of a merino ram which illustrates George III's impact on the Australian wool trade, and a brightly painted chess set, presented to the Duke of Edinburgh by President Mandela in 1996.
Each of these objects has its own story to tell and each reveals another aspect to the art of monarchy.
Producer: Neil George.
Dorsaywala Gordenji - a tailor in the service of the Maharaja
A Peep at the Train, Bakshiram, Dorsaywala Gordenji and Sirinbai Ardeshir from a series of 82 portraits depicting Indians by Rudolph Swoboda (1859-1914). The sitters in this extensive series of portraits are generally ordinary Indian subjects. Bakshiram was a potter, alleged to be over 102 years old, from Agra; Dorsayawala Gordenji was a 50 year old tailor in the service of the Maharaja; and Sirinbai Ardeshir was a 14 year old Parsi from Nemuch.
From: India. Commissioned by Queen Victoria (1819-1901)
Date: c. 1886-8
Material: Oil on panel
Size: 261 x 151 mm and 297 x 188 mm
The shawl encorporates a rectangular panel woven with the words 'JAI HIND', a salutation meaning 'Victory to India'.
From: Presented to Her Majesty The Queen, when Princess Elizabeth, on the occasion of her marriage in 1947.
Size: 570 x 570 mm
Theatre de l'univers by Abraham Ortelius
Book, Theatre de l'univers: contenant les cartes de tout le monde, avec une brieve declaration d'icelles, Abraham Ortelius (1527-98). During the sixteenth century, the flourishing printing industry played a central role in disseminating maps, images and accounts of distant lands.
From: The Netherlands. Probably acquired after 1830
Material: Printed paper bound in black calfskin
Size: 423 x 298 x 68 mm
Fragment of George Washington's coffin
Fragment of George Washington's (1732-1799) coffin. King Edward VII, when Prince of Wales, was the first member of the royal family to visit the United States of America. The shard was presented by Washington's great, great nephew, John A. Washington Jr.
From: United States of America. Presented to the future King Edward VII in 1860
Size: 12 x 170 x 30 mm
A Merino sheep. George III had his own flock at Windsor Castle
Print depicting a Merino sheep from 'The Bee' or literary weekly intelligencer; volume 10, by James Anderson (1739-1808). George III was keenly interested in improving crops and stock-breeding. In 1804 a group of Merino sheep from George III's flock at Windsor Castle was exported to Australia where it laid the foundations of fine wool production in that country.
From: England. Acquired before or during the reign of Queen Victoria (1819-1901)
Material: Printed paper bound with brown calfskin
Size: 188 x 121 mm
Chess set presented by Nelson Mandela
In 1995 Her Majesty The Queen paid an historic visit to South Africa to celebrate the country's return to the Commonwealth after 33 years. The following year the President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, made a return visit to the U.K., when he presented this chess set.
From: Presented to His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh by Nelson Mandela
Material: Wooden box with terracotta and painted figures
Size: 115 x 434 x 435 mm
More from Radio 4: The Violent Side of Indian Independence
The struggle for Indian independence is remembered most for the peaceful protests inspired by Mahatma Gandhi. Michael Portillo discovers the seam of violence that ran alongside the peaceful civil disobedience. In particular he looks at the pivotal role played by India House, a villa in North London that became a base for those plotting against British rule in India. He also investigates how in the First World War , Germany tried to destabilise the British Empire by exploiting Indian disaffection.
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More from Radio 4: Slavery and Empire
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss slavery and empire; two themes that run right through this country’s history. Britain’s imperial project dominated at least the last three centuries of our national life. Its advocates claim it was a civilising mission by which Britain spread enlightenment and improvement across the globe. Opponents have long seen it as a brutal business, with Britons cast as cruel oppressors out to exploit a conquered world. Is our imperial history so clear cut?
More from Radio 4: The Legacy
The King James Bible is everywhere. We see it in hair commercials, film titles, novels, music, even in the way we speak. It is lauded with praise as "The great monument to English Prose." But how and why has it achieved such a status? What is its significance in the English speaking world? In a programme to mark the 400th anniversary of its publication, James Naughtie assesses the legacy of the King James Bible.
More from Radio 4: The British Empire
Melvyn Bragg examines the British Empire. At its height in 1919 the British Empire stretched from East to West, incorporating one quarter of the globe and included such diverse colonies as Canada, Australia, parts of South America, the Persian Gulf, the Middle East and China, New Zealand, much of Africa and of course India. By 1960 it had all but vanished off the face of the earth. What drove Britain to build such an immense Empire, why did it all disappear so quickly and what kind of legacy was left behind?
More from Radio 4: Empire with Jeremy Paxman and Richard Gott
Andrew Marr looks at the lasting impact of the British Empire with Jeremy Paxman and Richard Gott. Paxman reflects on how our imperial past still has the power to influence everything from Prime Ministers' decisions to send troops to war, to the way we view adventurers of the past. While Gott argues against any residual belief that the Empire was an imaginative and civilising enterprise, and reveals the brutality at its heart. The social entrepreneur Mariéme Jamme believes it's time for Africa to leave behind its colonised past, and with Africa's share of global trade on the rise, she asks whether this is her continent's decade. China's Empire once ruled over a third of the world's population, and the film-maker Suyun Sun is embarking on a major history series on China which she hopes will cast new light on the country.