A rare opportunity to explore five of Britain’s finest stately homes.
It is the first time they have been portrayed in 3-D. But it does more: this is not just about some of the world’s best-loved buildings, spectacular as they are; it is about the treasures within which tell a human story, from the tapestries which the First Duke of Marlborough commissioned to celebrate his triumph at the Battle of Blenheim, to the Italian pietra dura cabinet which the Medicis gave to the owners of Burghley – the greatest Elizabethan house in England.
Episode 1: Burghley House
Selina Scott explores Burghley House, Lincolnshire. This fabulous house was built by William Cecil, Lord High Treasurer to Elizabeth I, starting in 1555. It took 32 years. 450 years later, Burghley’s state rooms are filled with treasures including one of the finest collection of 17th century Italian masterpieces, an exceptional display of Oriental and European ceramics, and fine furniture – all gathered by the Cecils down the centuries. And it remains a family home, run by the direct descendants of the man who set out to impress Queen Elizabeth with his house in the country.
Episode 2: Chatsworth
Selina Scott discovers Chatsworth, Derbyshire, home of the twelfth Duke of Devonshire. Built by the remarkable Bess of Hardwick and altered by the first Duke, Chatsworth is one of the nation’s great private homes open to the public. Its first floor is taken up with richly-decorated state apartments built for a visit by King William III. But the King never came.
Episode 3: Blenheim Palace
The Duke of Marlborough talks to Selina Scott about Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire, paid for by an Act of Parliament in 1705 as a grateful nation thanked its greatest warrior, John Churchill 1st Duke of Marlborough. Treasures include the tapestry which records the Battle of Blenheim in which Marlborough defeated the Franco-Bavarian forces in the War of the Spanish Succession. Winston Spencer Churchill, who was born at Blenheim in 1874, is buried in the park at the tiny church of Bladon.
Episode 4: Holkham Hall
In Norfolk, Selina Scott tours Holkham Hall, a Palladian masterpiece commissioned by Thomas Coke, First Earl of Leicester. It took over 30 years to build. Coke spent six years touring Europe. He loved Italy best. And, when he returned to Norfolk in 1718 he brought with him works of art, statues, books and manuscripts that now form a unique collection. But he had nowhere to put them. So, he employed the architect Matthew Brettingham to build a house worthy of his new treasures. The house is still owned by his descendants.
Episode 5: Boughton
Selina Scott uncovers the treasures of Boughton House, the home of the Duke of Buccleuch and Queensbury. His ancestors were collectors on a grand scale and managed to fill three houses in Scotland and two in England. Boughton is a storehouse of treasures, from tapestries commissioned from the weavers at Mortlake, through gilt tables, to forty works by Van Dyck and cabinets by Andre-Charles Boulle…all in the very best condition. Now, the present Duke is adding to the collections.