Art that tells the story of 900 years of Monarchy

Release date: 
Friday, 2 December 2011

A collaboration between BBC Radio 4 and the Royal Collection

To mark Her Majesty The Queen's Diamond Jubilee, BBC Radio 4 illuminates the long history of the Monarchy in a new eight-part series, The Art of Monarchy (broadcast from February 2012). Presented by BBC Arts Editor Will Gompertz, the programmes explore the monarchs who have ruled these islands through the works of art they have acquired.

Travelling from Balmoral Castle in Scotland to the Royal Library at Windsor and from the State Rooms of Buckingham Palace to Osborne House on the Isle of Wight, Will speaks to historians, academics and Royal Collection curators, all of whom share their expertise and explain how the chosen objects illustrate the subjects examined in the programmes, including faith, progress, war and legacy.

Among the objects featured in the series are:
• Henry VIII’s defence of Roman Catholicism, which led him to receive the title Defender of the Faith, before his break with the Roman Catholic Church;
• A memorial ring with a miniature of Charles I, intended as a token of reward for those who supported the loyalist cause.
• ‘The secret picture’, commissioned by Queen Victoria as a surprise for Prince Albert and showing her in an intimate pose with her hair unravelled.

Gwyneth Williams, Controller, Radio 4 says: “As we approach the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, The Art of Monarchy will give Radio 4 listeners an insight and deeper understanding of the Monarchy through a whole range of works of art from the Royal Collection. It is a unique opportunity to understand more about this fascinating collection and the monarchs who created it, whose history also spans the globe. Will Gompertz is the perfect guide, probing beneath the surface to draw out the stories, whilst reflecting on what art has meant to Kings and Queens through the ages. We hope listeners will enjoy listening to the programmes and take the opportunity to see the works online.”

Jonathan Marsden, Director of the Royal Collection says: “Just as the British Monarchy is one of the defining characteristics of this country, so the Royal Collection is the physical embodiment of that history.  It is also a collection that is ‘in use’. So in this series Will discovers works of art ‘in the wild’, not in the captive conditions of a museum.  And the settings, from the Highlands of Scotland to the Tower of London, contribute to the power of this series.”

Will Gompertz says: “The Royal Collection has a unique place in the world’s great art collections. It is extraordinarily rich both artistically and historically – including works from internationally renowned old masters, to intimate keepsakes belonging to the royal family over the centuries. The idea behind the series is to use the collection as a prism through which to better understand the art of being a monarch, through the objects acquired by those monarchs.”
The Art of Monarchy will be broadcast in eight episodes on BBC Radio 4 from February 2012 (Saturdays, 10.30-11.00am).

For more information:
BBC Radio 4: or 0207 765 5337
The Royal Collection: or 020 7839 1377

2nd December 2011

Notes to Editors:
Online: Audiences will be able to follow The Art of Monarchy online and view the objects described in the series.  The programmes will be available to listen to and download from the Radio 4 website. Video clips from inside the royal palaces and residences, deep zoom imagery, blog posts and additional information, and a selection of programmes from the rich Radio 4 archive will illustrate the themes of the series in more depth. The site, built in collaboration with the Royal Collection, will remain online as a permanent resource. For more information:

BBC Learning: BBC Learning will be collaborating with the Royal Collection’s Learning team to produce a set of classroom resources around The Art of Monarchy. Aimed at the Key Stage 1 and 2 audience (ages 5-11), these teaching resources will explore the Royal Collection objects along side key monarchs from the BBC Primary History Famous People website.

The Royal Collection, one of the world’s great art collections, is held in trust by The Queen for her successors and the nation. The Collection is administered by the Royal Collection Trust, a registered charity. The aims of the Trust are the care and conservation of the Royal Collection and the promotion of public access and enjoyment through exhibitions, publications, loans and educational activities,

The locations: The locations visited in the series include Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, the Palace of Holyroodhouse, Kew Palace, Hampton Court Palace, the Tower of London, Balmoral Castle and Osborne House.