Illuminations: The Private Lives of Medieval Kings

Libraries Gave Us Power

Series 1 - Episode 3 Libraries Gave Us Power



The last and liveliest part of this story of illustrated manuscripts takes us from the impact of Renaissance realism to the dual deathblows dealt by Caxton’s printing press and then the Reformation.

The programme makes commendable efforts to bring history to life: we learn how ancient books are bound, hear a song written for Henry VIII sung by music specialists, and see that king’s handwritten love note to Anne Boleyn in a royal prayer book. In a single line of faded scrawl we get a greater sense of the man than any tubby portraits by Holbein or brassy dramas could ever convey.


Art historian Janina Ramirez concludes her exploration of medieval illuminated manuscripts by exploring texts from the Tudor period, including astrological works created for Henry VII, as well as the king's will - which is still stored in its original cover at the British Library. She also examines love notes between Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, and visits the Belgian city of Bruges, the source of many of the era's most famous manuscripts.

Cast & Crew

Presenter Janina Ramirez
Director Peter Sweasey
Producer Peter Sweasey
Writer Janina Ramirez