Segments in this Video

Osborne House (03:51)


Challenges facing Britain's royal palaces increased during the modern age; the monarchy wanted to appear democratic while retaining prestige. Seeking privacy, Victoria and Albert had Thomas Cubitt build a coastal villa. Daniel Cruickshank tours the interior.

Royal Tourism (02:30)

Victoria supported the idea of opening palaces to the public. Charles II had created an exhibition of king's armor in the Tower of London supporting his rule—the longest continual attraction in the world.

Tower of London Legends (02:58)

Charles II put the crown jewels on display. Today, Tower yeoman warders are a tourist attraction in their own right. Clive tells a group about executions and Barney explains the tradition of keeping ravens on site.

Byward Tower Tour (02:36)

Chief yeoman warder Alan Kingshod shows Cruickshank his apartment in the former Tower of London prison cell, where traitors awaited execution.

Opening Hampton Court (03:04)

By the 1840s, the Tower of London attracted thousands of visitors per year. Queen Victoria allowed the public to tour her offsite residence that housed "grace and favor" tenants: retired courtiers and public servants.

"Grace and Favor" Apartment (03:19)

Cruickshank tours a Hampton Court residence that housed retired courtiers and public servants from the 1770s.

Life at Hampton Court (03:10)

Despite a palatial setting, residences could be spartan. A woman employed to keep the Great Vine recalls the "grace and favor" community hierarchy and explains that Queen Victoria opened the palace to the public for government funding.

British Imperial Monuments (02:20)

By opening palaces to the public, Queen Victoria set the Heritage Movement in motion. When she died in 1901, Edward VII ordered the London Mall widened and a memorial built at Buckingham Palace.

Queen Victoria Monument (03:25)

Classical architecture revivalist Ashton Webb widened the Mall and designed a new Buckingham Palace facade to celebrate the British Empire. However, its power waned during World War I.

Final Execution (02:52)

During World War I, the Tower of London was used as a barracks and as a prison for German spies. During World War II, it was closed to the public. Hear details of Josef Jakobs' 1941 execution.

London Blitz (02:27)

In 1940 and 1941, the Germans targeted the Tower of London to lower British morale; Kensington and Buckingham Palaces were damaged. After World War II, Britain valued modernism at the expense of historic buildings.

Historic Royal Palaces Agency (03:18)

After a Hampton Court fire in 1986, a new body was created for conservation and fundraising. Cruickshank meets an art restorer monitoring conditions of Rubens canvasses on the Banqueting House ceiling.

Restoring a Reubens Ceiling (04:02)

An art conservation expert explains past and present restoration techniques in the Banqueting House. UV light reveals areas where a painting has been retouched.

Preventative Conservation (02:00)

At Hampton Court, textiles, carvings, and other historic objects are regularly cleaned of dust brought in by visitors.

Preserving Historical Objects (04:18)

Items too fragile to remain in their original setting are kept in the Hampton Court attic. Cruickshank examines a ceiling roundel and a Roman bath fragment from Henry VIII's reign.

Tijou Screen (02:34)

Fragments of an 17th century metal gate are preserved at Hampton Court—providing a sense of labor and craftsmanship that went into building palaces. Restoration projects are carried out at historic palaces.

Future of Royal Structures (01:51)

Prince Charles honors helicopter pilots at St. James' Palace—confirming the importance of functioning royal palaces to the British identity. The fate of historic palaces depends on the monarchy's changing character.

Credits: Opening the Palace Doors (00:41)

Credits: Opening the Palace Doors

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Opening the Palace Doors

Part of the Series : Genius of Palaces
DVD (Chaptered) Price: $300.00
DVD + 3-Year Streaming Price: $450.00
3-Year Streaming Price: $300.00



This series unlocks the secrets behind some of Britain’s most magnificent buildings, from construction to their impact on a changing society. While fortresses and castles were defense strongholds, palaces have been the residences of bishops and kings as far back as the Romans. In this film, historian Dan Cruickshank reveals how Charles II opened the Tower of London to the public in the first royal tourism scheme, followed by Queen Victoria opening Hampton Court, Kensington, and other palaces to gain government funding. After World War II, historic buildings were rejected in favor of modernism until the Historic Royal Palaces Agency was created to conserve and fund these monuments to British neo-classical architecture. Cruickshank witnesses efforts to restore Reubens’ ceiling at Banqueting House and gains access to objects from Henry VIII’s reign. A BBC Production.

Length: 52 minutes

Item#: BVL86518

ISBN: 978-1-60057-843-4

Copyright date: ©2014

Closed Captioned

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Not available to Home Video and Publisher customers.