Henry VIII and His Six Wives
Friday 6th May, 8pm
Dan Jones and Suzannah Lipscomb’s intimate history of Henry VIII’s love life concludes by charting his final two marriages. First comes the king’s unsuitable match to doomed teenager Catherine Howard, followed by his more placid union with Katherine Parr, whose religious devotion proved problematic.
The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses – Henry VI Part I
Saturday 7th May, 9pm
The BBC’s sweeping adaptation of Shakespeare’s history plays returns for a lavish second series. We pick up England’s messy dynastic history with the reign of Henry VI, as played by Tom Sturridge. Later in the series Benedict Cumberbatch stars as Richard III, with Dame Judi Dench as his mother, Cecily, Duchess of York.
Attenborough at 90
Sunday 8th May, 7pm
Naturalist and national treasure Sir David Attenborough looks back on some of the highlights of his genre-defining career. Along with friends, colleagues and presenter Kirsty Young he reflects on the huge changes the natural world has witnessed over the past 90 years and recounts some of his most extraordinary global encounters and adventures.
Attenborough at 90. (BBC/Sarah Dunn)
The Rest is History
Sunday 8th May 7.15pm
Comedian Frank Skinner’s journey through history’s weirdest and most wonderful events continues with a characteristically wry look at Bloody Mary, Drake’s drum and legendary thief of the crown jewels, Captain Blood. Skinner’s guests this week are Josie Long and Kevin Eldon, with historical back-up from Professor Kate Williams.
The Silk Road
Sunday 8th May 9pm
Sam Willis continues his adventure along history’s most famous trade route. As he reaches central Asia and the mountain passes of Tajikistan, Willis discovers more about the historical characters and incredible innovations of an often-overlooked region. Don’t miss the accompanying series, Handmade on the Silk Road (BBC Four, Wednesday 7.30pm).
During Wind and Rain: A British History in Weather
Monday 9th May, 1.45pm
It’s a well-known aphorism that the British love to talk about the weather, and according to During Wind and Rain we have done for many centuries. From Anglo-Saxon descriptions of a wintry world to Romantic odes about the power of storms, Alexandra Harris examines the British people’s ongoing relationship with the weather. Continues all this week at 1.45pm.
Monday 9th May, 10pm
As part of the BBC’s season of Shakespeare programming, Ben Elton’s latest comedy offering stars comedian David Mitchell as the Bard. We meet him in 1592, getting into trouble while attempting to make a name for himself in London.
Upstart Crow. (BBC/Colin Hutton)
Great Lives: Richard the Lionheart
Tuesday 10th May 4.30pm
The medieval crusader king is nominated by children’s TV personality (and unexpected history graduate) Timmy Mallett. With the help of presenter Matthew Parris and historian Helen Castor, Mallett examines the reality behind Richard’s legend and investigates the theory that the warrior king was in fact gay.
Mary Beard’s Ultimate Rome: Empire Without Limit
Wednesday 11th May 9.00pm
In her exploration of the Roman empire’s unparalleled success, Classics professor Mary Beard turns to the question of Roman citizenship. She paints a vivid picture of the empire as a place of thriving and complex hybrid cultures.
You can read our interview with Mary Beard about the series here.
Thursday 12th May, 9pm
Gambling, liquor and fistfights abound in the slick gangster drama set in 1920s Birmingham. After Tommy’s wedding day the Shelby family’s quest to go global resumes, while life back home becomes increasingly dangerous.
You can read our interview with Peaky Blinders’ creator Steven Knight here.