Lucy Worsley can always been relied upon t)o be entertaining, and her latest documentary – BBC – Lucy Worsley’s Fireworks for a Tudor Queen (2018 – is well up to standard.
As the title suggests, she was going to reproduce the sort of amazing fireworks display that might have been created for Elizabeth I. In this particular case, a specific display produced at Kenilworth in 1575 by Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, as his last-ditch attempt to win the queen’s hand in marriage.
Lucy was in no doubt that the queen was sorely tempted, but in the end Robert received the thumbs-down. The display had cost him a huge fortune, and availed him of nothing. Well, such high stakes might have seemed like a good idea at the time, I suppose, but afterward. . .? Perhaps not.
I knew nothing about early fireworks (or modern ones, come to that) but viewers were guided through an enthralling demonstration of how gerbs, girandolas (which look like wildly sparkling willow trees when spinning), rockets, a flying, illuminated dragon, and so on were produced. It was a hazardous process, with one spark being capable of combusting the whole darned lot!
The display was painstakingly recreated from a 16th century drawing, and looked quite uninspiring before it was lit. After all, we are accustomed to modern fireworks, which have quite spoiled us for the delights and novelties of their earlier counterparts. But the moment it was “set off”, the Tudor display was quite a sight to see, and the real Elizabeth must have been as enthralled as Lucy’s version.
The illuminated dragon was splendid, floating across the scene as regally as the queen herself. Well, almost. Its landing wasn’t quite to royal standards.
Anyway, I loved the programme, and thoroughly recommend it to everyone.