Saturday, 10 September 2011

Wenlock was utterly delighted when he heard that his favourite television channel, BBC4, had commissioned one of his favourite historians, Lucy Worsley, Chief Curator of Historic Royal Palaces, to present a series on almost all of his favourite topics: Elephants and Decadence: The Age of the Regency.

The first programme in the series was an enjoyable run through the high points of Regency life - Caroline of Brunswick and Mrs Fitzherbert; Almacks and Whites; Brummell and Dandyism (with Ian Kelly); the Prince Regent's attitude towards Napoleon and the cartoonists' attitudes towards the Prince. With the sheer enthusiasm that Lucy Worsley brings to all her projects it was almost possible to forgive the total non-appearance of any elephants.

The second programme was even better, perhaps because it was more focused, and focused on one of Lucy Worsley's areas of expertise, art and architecture. Of course we had plenty of John Nash, from the overwhelming exuberance of the Royal Pavilion at Brighton to the superficial Neo-Classicism of Cumberland Terrace, but we also had John Soane - in Wenlock's opinion by far the better architect - whose reputation for refusing to compromise probably ruined his chances of obtaining the Royal commissions that he probably craved. And we also had Waterloo Bridge (not the current concrete one, but an earlier span) built by public subscription to commemorate the great victory, opened in 1817 with great ceremony, and painted by Constable, whose picture was not finished until a quarter of a century later, by when all the excitement was long forgotten, and Turner had arrived.

Still no elephants, but the third and final programme will be broadcast on Monday. Maybe it will be Behemoth-heavy to compensate.

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