Royal Wives At War
Friday 8th January, 9.00pm
Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon and Wallis Simpson, respectively the spouses of George VI and Edward VIII, didn’t much care for each other. Built around dramatised monologues set in 1967, this drama-documentary finds the two women looking back at the roots of their feud, in the abdication crisis of 1936.
Drama: How To Flee From Sorrow
Saturday 9th January, 2.30pm
The life of 17th-century Italian composer Alessandro Stradella (1639–82) was colourful to the point of being scandalous, and he was eventually stabbed to death. All of which makes him a glorious subject for writer Frank Cottrell-Boyce, whose drama findsits main focus in the musician’s affair with Agnese, the ‘niece’ of the Doge of Venice.
Sunday Feature: Literary Pursuits
Sunday 10th January, 6.45pm
Sarah Dillon turns literary detective to look at the story behind the writing of Great Expectations. Why did Charles Dickens write the novel so quickly? And why did he change the ending? Also this week, Dickensian (BBC One, Wednesday 13th January and Thursday 14th January, 8.00pm) continues, and finds Edward Barbary attracting the professional attention of Inspector Bucket.
Episode two of the Andrew Davies-scripted adaptation of Tolstoy’s epic novel and the Russian military is seemingly edging things against the forces of Napoleon. But as Andrei and Nikolai boast of their involvement at the front, are events about to take a turn for the worse for the army?
The Ever Widening War
Monday 11th January, 1.45pm
Over five weekday episodes, Christopher Clark considers how the First World War became a truly global conflict. He begins by framing 1914–18 as a conflict of empires. Subsequent episodes deal with such subjects as how the Ottoman Empire’s entry into the war shaped the history of the Middle East.
Immortal Egypt with Joann Fletcher
Monday 11th January, 9.00pm
What with climate change, political upheaval and famine, the pyramid age didn’t end well. As Joann Fletcher relates in the second episode of her series charting Ancient Egypt’s history, the kingdom fractured. But from the ashes of civil war, a new state would eventually arise.
Tuesday 12th January, 8.00pm
The living history series jumps to 1870, and charts life in an urban bakery. Although it’s the height of the Industrial Revolution, labour is cheap so the bakers find themselves still kneading by hand. Expect a minor rebellion on the subject of the adulterants our forebears added to their daily loaves.
Empire of the Tsar: Romanov Russia with Lucy Worsley
Wednesday 13th January, 9.00pm
Continuing her series on Russia’s ruling family, Lucy Worsley reaches the 18th century and the reign of Catherine the Great. It’s a tale of a powerful and passionate woman who was in many respects a moderniser, yet who struggled to introduce deeper reforms. The programme also charts Napoleon’s invasion of Russia.
Wednesday 13th January, 9.00pm
The series looking at significant events in the history of science continues with the story of how fish sparked humankind’s interest in electricity. As Naomi Alderman relates, the electric eel was a vital source of inspiration for Alessandro Volta, who invented the battery in 1800.
Dan Jones’s energetic retelling of the War of the Roses reaches 1461, when Edward IV took Henry VI’s throne. It was Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, who was kingmaker. Was Warwick really, as is often said, later consumed by a lust for power that would prove disastrous for England?