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Dr David Starkey's exploration of how the monarchy shaped Britain's music reaches the 17th century, when religious conflict threatened not only the lives of musicians and monarchs, but the future of the monarchy and the glorious tradition of British music itself. And yet, in the midst of this upheaval, royalty presided over a series of musical breakthroughs - from the first chamber concerts and proto-operas, to the triumphant debut of the baroque orchestra.

Westminster Abbey choir sing some of the earliest surviving music to be heard at British coronations; the Band of the Life Guards play pieces which Charles I used in battle, which marched James II out of his kingdom, and which mourned Mary II; and the Academy of Ancient Music perform some of the glorious works of arguably the greatest English composer - Henry Purcell. Also featured are works by Orlando Gibbons, Thomas Tomkins and the little-known William Lawes - a composer who had the potential to be truly great, had he not died fighting for the king in the English Civil War.

David also visits the Whitehall Banqueting House, home of the extravagant form which was the forerunner of opera in England - the court masque. And he explores how music was fought over by Puritans and Royalists - with the church organ proving a surprisingly bitter source of conflict.

Release date:

1 hour

Last on

Tue 17 Jan 2017 00:30


Role Contributor
PresenterDavid Starkey
ProducerPeter Sweasey
DirectorPeter Sweasey
Executive ProducerNicholas Kent

Watch the Full Performances

Watch the Full Performances from Episode One

Watch extended versions of some of the musical pieces featured in the series.