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Tom Holland and a cast of leading historians discuss the history of the royal portrait, an early example of political image management.

Tom Holland is joined by Dr Lucy Robinson from the University of Sussex and Professor Justin Champion from Royal Holloway University of London who has recently been elected President of the Historical Association.

Helen Castor visits the National Gallery to look at the beautiful 14th century Wilton Diptych, one of two pairings featuring King Richard II. Helen is joined by Curator Susan Foister and Dr Jenny Stratford to explore whether a monarch under pressure and in need of a strong, kingly image, gave rise to our earliest examples of royal portrait.

On the day that Scottish Higher results are published (and a little more than a week before A Levels) we hear from academics at Edgehill University and the University of Roehampton who are working on using social media and on-line activities to help bridge the gap between studying history at school and university.

Down on the Solent, Dr Sam Willis meets up with members of Subterranea Brtiannica who are celebrating 40 years of exploring underground history with a visit to a Palmerston Fort near Portsmouth.

Contact the programme by emailing, or writing to Making History, BBC Radio 4, PO Box 3096. Brighton BN1 1PL.

Producer: Nick Patrick
A Pier production for BBC Radio 4.

Available now

28 minutes

Last on

Tue 5 Aug 2014 15:00

Richard II and our earliest medieval royal portraits

Richard II and our earliest medieval royal portraits

Image: Richard II presented to the Virgin and Child by his Patron Saint John the Baptist and Saints Edward and Edmund (‘The Wilton Diptych’), circa1395-9 © The National Gallery, London.

Helen Castor visits the National Gallery in London to question why our two earliest royal portraits from the 14th century show a king whose reign is in big trouble. The king was Richard II and the paintings are the Wilton Diptych (see above) and a life-sized portrait which hangs in Westminster Abbey. Is this image making? 

Helen talks to Dr Susan Foister, the Deputy Director and Director of Collections at the National Gallery. She has been Curator of Early Netherlandish, German and British Painting at the National Gallery since 1990; and Dr Jenny Stratford who currently teaches palaeography and manuscript studies to MA and Ph.D students at the Institute of Historical Research. Her book Richard II and the English Royal Treasure, was published in 2012.

Useful Links

Institute of Historical Research 

National Gallery

Westminster Abbey 

Royal Collection Trust 

What kind of historian are you?

That’s the question posed by historians at the Universities of Edgehill and Roehampton in their attempts to help youngsters with the transition from school to degree level courses.

Have a go at the quiz devised by Mason Norton (Edgehill) and Daniel Taylor (Roehampton) to see which type of historian you are:

There is more information about the project, which is funded by the Higher Education Academy,  and resources for teaches at the project website

Useful Links

Higher Education Academy 

University of Roehampton 

Edgehill University  

Subterranea Britannica

Dr Sam Willis joins members of Britain’s foremost organisation for exploring underground history at a Palmerston Fort near Portsmouth, just one of their activities in the year in which it celebrates its 40th birthday.

More information at Subterrenea Britannica 

Making History is produced by Nick Patrick and is a Pier Production for BBC Radio 4.


  • Tue 5 Aug 2014 15:00