Stuart-Online Films

The brief for HistoryWorks and the sharing of original sources envisaged for A'Level Students & their Teachers

The academic team selected the topics for the twenty short illustrated films.  We were aiming for these to be of 5 minutes duration, which we know is an appropriate time to engage young teachers and students!  However, because so many of the sources and their interpretations are *new* to audiences, we found that most of the films needed 12 to 15 minutes to engage and explain the sources.   Jon Calver,  Technical Director of Historyworks, recorded all of these short films and edited them using final cut pro.  It was Jon's idea too in the first workshops when it was hard for the academics to speak fluently for a wide audience beyond academia, that the best format would be for all of these short films to be 'in conversation' with a questioner from the academic team and an expert responding.  

The scripts were all shaped up by a process of a spine of the argument with the key sources mapped out by the academic team, and then the honing of the illustrative argument taking place with Helen and Jon helping listen and fill gaps in knowledge for a wider audience during the recording process, then skillfully edited by Jon afterwards!

We early on made the decision together NOT to have these short films showing the academics on camera throughout, but instead to treat them as illustrated podcasts, so that the viewer would be focused all the time on learning about the look and interpretation of original seventeenth-century sources.

Do find the 20 illustrated films here!   See below in the following sub-pages that there are a variety of subjects and speakers beyond the core academic team, including Professor Justin Champion, History Department at RHUL; Dr Ian Archer, History Faculty, Oxford University; Dr Alexandra Franklin of the Bodliean Library; and Matthew Winterbottom and Giovanni Vitelli of the Ashmolean Museum. 

  • Hamlet and the Jacobean Succession

    Hamlet is widely recognized as a succession play but how far is it a play about the Jacobean succession? Performed in Elizabeth’s dying years, the play survives in three distinct versions printed after the accession of James VI of Scotland to the English throne: Quarto 1 (1603), Quarto 2 (1604/5), and the Folio (1623). James claimed indefeasible hereditary right, but his title was fiercely contested before 1603 and variously construed thereafter in an outpouring of print in prose and verse. In this filmProfessor Paulina Kewes and Professor Andrew McRae discuss the significance ofHamlet’s textual transmission for the understanding of its engagement with the processes of regime change and, specifically, the first Stuart succession.

    Read more

  • James I’s First Speech to Parliament

    King James’s first speech to his English parliament, on 19 March 1604, was his opportunity to introduce himself to his new subjects. He aimed in this speech to present an authoritative self-image, outlining his theories on kingship and tactfully setting aside four decades of Elizabethan rule. He also sought to introduce his vision for the union of Scotland and England, to create a new nation of Great Britain. But he was also aware of tensions, over both his policies and his perception of the relation between parliament and the monarch. These tensions would lend shape to his reign.

    Read more

  • Macbeth and Early Stuart Politics

    Shakespeare was a Jacobean for over a decade of his professional life. In his plays written after the accession of James I, the first Stuart king of England, Shakespeare addressed, however obliquely, a range of pressing political concerns, as well as exploring in general terms the proprieties of kingship and challenges to royal power. In this film Professor Paulina Kewes and Dr Joseph Hone discuss the politics of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, in particular its response to the Gunpowder Plot and James’s project for a closer union of England and Scotland.

    Read more

  • The Royal Entry of James I

    Monarchs customarily processed through the city of London with the royal entourage on the day before their coronation, although in the case of James I the entry was delayed because of the plague. The entry was an important form of political communication: it displayed the loyalty of the political elite, while also lauding the qualities of the ruler through the iconography of the triumphal arches and the accompanying speeches which occurred at key points along the route.  But tensions and rivalries between the devisers of the entry meant that it was not quite as ideologically coherent as it might at first seem.

    Read more

  • The Forerunner of Revenge and the Murder of James I

    The death of any king is a time of instability. In 1625, while the line of succession was without question, Charles I faced considerable levels of uncertainty over diplomatic and religious policy. And, thanks to the unauthorized circulation of George Eglisham’s pamphlet The Forerunner of Revenge, he also had to confront the allegation that his father, King James, had been murdered at the hand of the court favorite George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham. Although there was never much foundation to Eglisham’s claims, this episode illuminates a culture of court scandal and the circulation of illicit news in the early Stuart period

    Read more

  • Ballads and Popular Politics

    Popular, cheap literature offers an insight into the way political matters were discussed at street level and among those outside parliament and the court. In an era long before television news, the printed broadside ballads offered a multi-media commentary on political affairs, framed as a song to be sung aloud and sometimes with an accompanying illustration. In this film Professor Andrew McRae and Dr Alexandra Franklin look at some ballads that commented on the tumultuous political changes of the Stuart period.

    Read more

  • Embroideries and the Stuart Period

    Wealthy homes in Stuart Britain would have been decorated with lavish embroideris, usually made by the women of the household. The designs of these embroideries often marry political imagery with more personal domestic ideas. In this film Dr Giovanna Vitelli and Dr John West discuss the importance of these artefacts, and what they can reveal about the ways in which women could engage with political ideas.

    Read more

  • The Regicide

    The execution of King Charles I on 30 January 1649 was a pivotal moment in British history. But the significance of the event, and the posthumous reputation of the beheaded king, were hotly debated over subsequent months and years. While the regicides presented Charles as a traitor, the counter-image was of a royal martyr put to death by mere rebels. Charles himself contributed to this struggle, at once through his measured performance on the scaffold and through Eikon Basilike, a book probably co-authored by the King. This battle over reputation would have a critical impact on the subsequent course of British history.

    Read more

  • Oliver Cromwell: King in All But Name

    When he died in September 1658, Oliver Cromwell had completed an extraordinary rise to power. From being an army officer in the Civil Wars and defender of the execution of Charles I, Cromwell had, in 1653, become Lord Protector. This title invested in Cromwell supreme political power. Yet many of his enemies, and some of his former allies, saw the Protectorship as little more than a new form of regal authority. In this film Dr John West and Professor Paulina Kewes consider how far it is true to describe Cromwell as a king in all but name.

    Read more

  • The Royal Entry of Charles II

    As part of the effort to signal the return to normality at the Restoration, Charles IIstaged a spectacular entry to the city of London on the eve of his coronation. But for all the emphasis in the spectacle on unity and legitimacy, it was difficult to conceal the very real ideological tensions in the city. Although Londoners had been enthusiastic about the return of the king, they had varying expectations of Charles’ rule, and disagreements soon emerged over religion. As Professor Ian Archer and Professor Paulina Kewes discuss in this film, that meant that the entry of 1661 was more divisive than previous such events.

    Read more

  • Royal Marriage: The Arrival of Catherine of Braganza

    Royal marriages in early modern Europe were occasions to forge alliances on the diplomatic chessboard. Many queens also came to wield influence over the political, religious and cultural lives of their adopted nations. Hence the choice of bride forCharles II, thirty years old and unmarried when he returned to Britain in 1660, was hotly debated. Catherine of Braganza, daughter of the King of Portugal, was not an obvious choice; however, she brought with her a considerable dowry, including trading rights over the port of Bombay. She is also thought to have popularized a taste for one particular exotic commodity: tea.

    Read more

  • Nahum Tate’s Richard II and the Late Stuart Succession Crisis

    Politicised adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays proliferated in the Restoration. The earliest ones celebrated the return of Charles II, while the later ones contested or else sought to shore up Stuart rule. The number of new versions peaked in the late 1670s and early 1680s, with the deepening of political divisions and emergence of political parties – the Whigs and the Tories. In this film Professor Paulina Kewes and Dr Joseph Hone discuss Nahum Tate’s provocative adaptation of Shakespeare’s Richard II which sought to intervene in the fraught politics surrounding the Popish Plot and Succession Crisis (1678-81).

    Read more

  • Aphra Behn: Poetry and the Crisis of Stuart Monarchy

    Aphra Behn was one of the most prominent writers of the later Stuart era. In her plays, including The Rover (1677), she addressed questions about gender and power. These themes are also present in her political poetry. During the reign of James II (1685-89), Behn wrote many poems in support of the Stuart monarchy (extracts from which can be read here) and they focus not just on the king but also the queen consorts who were central to the survival of the Stuart dynasty. In this film Dr John West and Dr Joseph Hone discuss how Behn’s poems chart the twists and turns in the fortunes of the Stuart lineage during a period of escalating political crisis.

    Read more

  • James II and the Catholic Succession

    The reign of James II is one of the most turbulent periods in seventeenth-century history. On coming to the throne in 1685, James was the first Catholic to rule in Protestant Britain for over a century. But despite suspicions about his religion, James was initially a popular monarch. Over the following years, though, his policies increasingly divided the opinion of the people he sought to rule. The result was a foreign invasion and a revolution. In this film Dr John West and Dr Joseph Hone trace the journey that James made in four years from respected ruler to a monarch facing deposition.

    Read more

  • Delftware: Popularising the Monarchy

    During the seventeenth century commemorative items such as mugs and plates began being produced for signficant royal occasions such as royal marriages, birthdays, and coronations. Delftware was one type of pottery that was frequently used for commemorative items. These commercial wares were sold to an emergent middle class who could afford to buy them. Portrayals of kings and queens on plates and mugs could influence the public reception of those monarchs and, as Matthew Winterbottomand Dr John West discuss in this film, engage with contemporary political debates about kingship and the future of the Stuart dynasty.

    Read more

  • The Warming Pan Scandal

    In the summer of 1688, Mary of Modena, queen to James II, gave birth to a son, James Francis Edward Stuart. This boy was the heir to the throne and his birth was celebrated by many in the country. But others were less happy about the new arrival, seeing it as ushering in the prospect of a permanent Catholic dynasty in Britain. In numerous scandalous pamphlets and prints, the royal baby was presented as an imposter, a fraudulent child smuggled into the queen’s bedchamber in a warming pan. In this filmDr John West and Professor Paulina Kewes discuss the impact of this scandal on politics and culture in 1688.

    Read more

  • Political Theory and the Glorious Revolution

    One of the most significant problems of later Stuart Britain was the perceived threat of ‘popery’ and arbitrary power. Fears about the resurgence of arbitrary government were exacerbated by the accession of the Catholic James II in 1685. In this film Professor Justin Champion and Professor Paulina Kewes examine the last major crisis of Stuart government through the challenge to dominant divine right ideas of sovereignty.

    Read more

  • Stuart Monarchy and the Invention of News

    One of the greatest developments of the seventeenth century was the development of news. When James I acceeded to the English throne there were no newspapers. By the death of Queen Anne in 1714 there were many competing papers offering different perspectives on current events. In this film Dr Joseph Hone and Professor Andrew McRae examine the development of the British newspaper and consider the influence of the Stuart monarchs on this new industry.

    Read more

  • Coronation Medals and Stuart Iconography

    The distribution of distinctive medals was a key feature of each Stuart coronation. Expensive gold medals were reserved for diplomats and visiting dignitaries, while cheaper silver and copper medals were thrown freely into the crowd. Each medal was designed with the new monarch’s approval and established key aspects of their Stuart iconography. In this film Dr Joseph Hone and Professor Andrew McRae look at the medal designed by Isaac Newton for the coronation of the last Stuart monarch, Queen Anne.

    Read more

  • The Act of Settlement and the Hanoverian Succession

    Stuart monarchy ended with the death of Queen Anne in 1714, when the British Crown passed to George of Hanover. The earlier passing of the Act of Settlement in 1701 identified the legitimacy of the Hanoverian succession as a proper continuity of the protestant monarchy. In this film, Professor Justin Champion and Professor Paulina Kewes investigate the origins and consequences of the Act of Settlement during the first age of party politics.

    Read more



In this section