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Lucy Worsley's Fireworks for a Tudor Queen

Lucy Worsley teams up with Zoe Laughlin in an ambitious attempt to recreate one of the earliest and most spectacular fireworks displays in England, designed for Queen Elizabeth I.

Historian Lucy Worsley teams up with artist and materials scientist Zoe Laughlin to explore the explosive science and fascinating history of fireworks, using an original pyrotechnics instruction manual, and other 400-year-old historical documents, to recreate one of the most spectacular fireworks displays from the Tudor era.

Lucy and Zoe are joined by a team of top class pyrotechnicians to replicate a mind-blowing fireworks display especially designed for Queen Elizabeth I - one of the first documented firework displays in England. Lucy pieces together clues from some of the earliest instruction manuals for making fireworks in England, as well as eyewitness accounts of the display laid on in 1575. Armed with this information, the team apply their understanding of cutting-edge pyrotechnics to recreate it in the grounds of Kenilworth Castle, Warwickshire, where it was originally staged.

Using hands-on experiments to test their designs, the team construct Tudor rockets, firework fountains and a fire-breathing dragon, as well as discovering the secrets of Elizabethan gunpowder.

Throughout the show, Lucy explores the history of the three-week extravaganza laid on by Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, in his final attempt to win the queen's hand in marriage - from the elaborate food the Tudor audience would have eaten, to the colours that the set might have been painted in.

She also reveals the important role fireworks had during the Tudor era - from the firework effects used on stage at the Globe Theatre to the pyrotechnical experimentation that took place at the Tower of London, the MI5 of its day.

But not all the clues can be found in England - some of the fireworks described need to be tracked down further afield. Lucy travels to Italy to recreate the mysterious Girandola - a horizontal spinning wheel of fire - whilst Zoe flies to South Korea to witness the ancient, and rather terrifying, rocket box launcher in action.

The danger and technical challenges involved in recreating 400-year-old fireworks creates a real sense of scale and event. And the detective work needed to decipher these Tudor pyrotechnic manuals, and the engineering ingenuity to recreate them, form the narrative spine of the film, culminating in a spectacular recreation of Elizabeth I's mind-blowing firework display at Kenilworth Castle.

1 hour, 30 minutes

Last on

Mon 5 Nov 2018 22:00

Music Played

Timings (where shown) are from the start of the programme in hours and minutes

  • 01:19

    Daft Punk/The Glitch Mob, Daft Punk

    Derezzed

Credits

Role Contributor
Presenter Lucy Worsley
Presenter Zoe Laughlin
Producer Nigel Levy
Director Sid Bennett
Production Company STV Productions
Executive Producer Peter Collins
Production Manager Lucy Beveridge
Production Manager Scott Leadbetter
Editor Gary Scott
Editor John Steventon
On-line editing Neil Allan

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