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But as usual distracted by fabulous wardrobe. Where did you get the red dress with black detail? Just a point about mosquitoes! During the summer the winds blow from Russia to Finland and I can fully understand the comment about the winged Dracula. I once visited Helsinki during the late summer and the mosquitoes there were horrendous compared to the tiny little chaps I have encountered on the Thai — Burmese border. I hope you will be continuing this exciting tale of Russia very soon.

Dear Lucy, I have watched a number of your truly entertaining and exceedingly interesting historical programmes on the BBC. There was a little box above which I am required to fill in, but I have no idea what it is. I was obliged to put in something, so I put in 10 hoping that it was expecting a value comment out of 10 on your TV programmes, but your system rejected that.

I will try again. Can we please have more episodes? Three was not enough! I really enjoyed the last one. More History please! Just wanted to congratulate you on your recent series on the Romanovs.

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Fascinating subject and as ever you are a pleasure and delight to listen to and watch. Is this available to viewers in the US? Fingers crossed for a yes. Let me know. Thank you so much! Your facts of royal linage is true and factual, and well done and look forward to your ongoing presentations.

Like yourself we know the facts for Royal Bloodline Descent , our web page shows the same inherited visible DNA royal marker a few royal lines who share the same ancestor bloodline.

My family enjoys your history shows. They are informative, entertaining and your presentation has good style, humor and taste. Your passion for history is inspiring. Thank you! But why does Lucy look so white in her face in this series?


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She has not looked so pale in previous programmes! Hope she is not ill as she is so interesting and informative.. Is this DVD going to be available in Australia? If so, when? Loved the series and want to gift to Russian friends. Just watched your great series, enjoyed it. Must correct you on 1 error, our Empress Katherina the Great has Russian blood through her ancestor rurik.

She brought this line back into our imperial family. Yes, two children. Where did power really lie at this point in the 17th century? Symbolically, it was hand-in-hand with civil power. But in reality, of course the civil power was much stronger, which is not depicted here. Secretly, he is the most important person in the picture. He is the most important. Of course, political power belonged to the Tsar. Russian territory stretched from the southern Steppes to the Arctic. And thousands of miles east into Siberia.

In the late 17th century, Russia was times the area of England and Wales. But it had less than twice the population. And this overwhelmingly rural country was hugely underdeveloped. Apart from churches and fortifications, stone buildings were virtually unknown in Russia. Peasant huts and clothes barely changed for hundreds of years. At the Museum of Wooden Architecture in Kostroma, they've preserved some examples. I'm modelling a traditional dress called a sarafan. While village life looks idyllic on a sunny day, for most of the year it was quite the opposite. Russia's climate was notoriously harsh.

Imagine trudging along here through the mud in the wet, or the snow in winter. But despite the inhospitable terrain, the majority of Russians, right into the 19th century, had to scratch out a living from the land. They also had to cope with the social reality of serfdom. This was a practice that was dying out in Western Europe. But in 17th-century Russia, it was actually on the rise. And if you were somebody's serf, you were effectively their property, to be bought or sold. Agriculture was the mainstay of Russia's economy.

And serfdom guaranteed the landowning nobility a captive workforce. The peasants couldn't just up and leave, in search of better pay or conditions elsewhere. Serfdom lasted and increased in the 17th century simply because it was found in the interests of both nobles and state to do so. The nobles had already established that they needed to have control over the movement of the serfs. And to some extent it was in the interest of the state as well, to keep people in one place, to tax them, to control them, and to reward the nobility for their service.

So serfs were wealth, in a way that they weren't in the West. Bodies were wealth. But towards the end of the 17th century it looked like things might change. Russia gained a new tsar. Driven by an obsessive desire to modernise the country, he was convinced that Russia's future depended on it looking westwards, to Europe. Meet Peter the Great, or at least the next best thing, because this is a super-accurate wax effigy, made just after his death and using his actual death mask for the face.

These are Peter's real clothes and that's even his real hair. You might be thinking, "It must be larger than life," because his arms are so freakishly long, but, no, he was six and a half feet tall. I think he looks pretty terrifying and in real life he was absolutely terrifying. But Peter the Great was Russia's most far-sighted and hard-working sovereign. Peter's ruthlessness was a result of his traumatic childhood. In , his accession to the throne at the age of nine was followed by a brief but bloody revolt. A faction at court regarded Peter's half-brother Ivan as the rightful tsar.

When rumours spread that Ivan had been killed, a mob stormed into the Kremlin and they were led by the royal guards themselves.

Lucy Worsley's Empire of the Tsars (1 of 3) Reinventing Russia

To calm the situation, Peter's mother walked out onto the palace balcony at the top of this staircase. She was holding hands with both Peter and Ivan, to prove to the mob that they were very much still alive. It must have been a terrifying moment for the little boys, for Peter and his brother. But when the rebels saw that they were still alive, everything calmed down. It seemed to work.

But then, a second wave of violence came sweeping through the palace. The rebels came rushing up this staircase, and when they got to the top they seized the family's closest advisors and leading noblemen and they threw them down over that balustrade so they fell and were impaled upon the spears of the guards below. Eventually, the rebels agreed a compromise, but not before they'd slaughtered two of Peter's uncles. Peter would have to wait for his revenge. The revolt left Peter with a loathing of Moscow.

As soon as he could get away, he did. This is Lake Pleshcheyevo, 90 miles north of the capital. And it's on these waters that the teenage Peter felt truly at home. So where did Peter the Great get his very un-Russian passion for sailing? Well, he discovered an old boat lying around on one of the royal estates near Moscow. But in order to learn how to use it, he had to come up here to the nice big lake, where he could get up some speed. And it was on the waters of this lake that a new vision of the future of Russia began to take shape in Peter's mind.

Peter took every opportunity to come up to the lake. He employed foreign experts to teach him not just how to sail the boats, but how to build them. This is the only survivor of Peter the Great's flotilla of little boats that he had made here on the shores of Lake Pleshcheyevo. He and his friends would go out onto the water and amuse themselves with mock sea battles. The small ships became known as Peter's "toy navy", but his ambition went much further than simply messing about with boats. Peter realised that if Russia was to have prosperity, security and influence in the wider world, then it needed to be powerful at sea.

There's a saying that a ruler with an army has one hand, but a ruler with a navy has two. Whether or not this saying really was coined by Peter the Great, there's no question that he believed it. European powers like the English and the Dutch were making fortunes from maritime trade. But, despite its size, Russia was effectively landlocked.

It had just the one proper seaport, in the far north, and that was frozen up for half the year. More urgently, Russia's two most threatening neighbours, Sweden to the west and Turkey to the south, both had formidable navies. Russia needed a fleet of its own. It needed maritime expertise. It needed a major new seaport that could be its gateway to the world. Peter the Great made it his mission to get these things for Russia. And to fulfil that mission he took an extraordinary step.

In , at the age of 24, Peter left his kingdom in the hands of his advisors and set off to spend a gap year in Europe. Here he was to study shipbuilding and the latest developments in maritime science. The journey became known as Peter's Grand Embassy. He spent several months in Holland, working in a shipyard. Then, early in , Peter and his entourage pitched up in London. And one of the first places he visited was the Royal Observatory at Greenwich. Together, they looked through a telescope at the planet of Venus. But this wasn't just sightseeing. Peter wanted to check out Britain's first purpose-built scientific research facility.

Empire of The Tsars: Romanov Russia with Lucy Worsley

It's hard to think of a building that could have appealed to Peter more. It had the express purpose of using astronomy to improve navigation at sea. Over the coming months, Peter gorged himself on the best of English science and technology. During his time in London, Peter the Great stayed just around the bend in the river from Greenwich, at Deptford. He liked it there, cos it was near the shipyards and he was spotted joining in the work. It was said that, "The Tsar of Muscovy works with his own hands "as hard as any man in the yard. It was the ultimate boy's toy, a modern, high-speed ship called the Royal Transport.

One of several English royal yachts, the ship was a fairly naked bribe.

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William saw Russia as a lucrative potential trading partner. Peter soon befriended the ship's designer, the Marquess of Carmarthen. And this marquess also shared another much-loved hobby of the young Tsar's. This man who designed the ship, he and Peter became drinking buddies, didn't they? I think they really found sort of kindred spirits in each other. The became very close and spent a lot of time together during Peter's visit and, yes, drinking was a big part of that.

Well, I think we know what their favourite tipple was. Let's see what that tastes like. Probably fair to say that the English couldn't teach the Russians much about drinking. But at the same time, Carmarthen did actually introduce Peter to this drink. Pepper-flavoured brandy. Ugh, that's foul.

That's really not very nice at all. That's not as bad as I was expecting. When Peter and his friends were in London, they were staying in Deptford on the river, they got up to some other naughty tricks, didn't they? They certainly did, and they were described by one of the Sayes Court servants where they were staying as being right nasty in their behaviour. They basically trashed the place completely. They used portraits and paintings as target practice, they burned all the chairs as firewood, they destroyed the furniture, tore up the beds, knocked a hole in the wall so Peter could get out to the river easily, and they used to race wheelbarrows with people inside them through the hedges.

Is that because they hadn't seen wheelbarrows before? That's exactly right, yes. These were entirely new to them, so this was seen as a great sport. Peter is beginning to sound like he's a complete mass of contradictions. We see on the one hand his scientific interests, and alongside that he's behaving like a complete lunatic. During his year in Europe, Peter not only acquired a royal yacht, he also purchased several shiploads of the latest maritime equipment.

And who knows - maybe a few wheelbarrows to remind him of good times in Deptford. He hired European shipbuilders and sailors to bring their expertise to Russia and to teach the skills that he and his retinue had learned for themselves in Holland and England. Peter also got a feel for life in prosperous, modern European cities. He saw how their citizens behaved, where they lived, how they dressed. The contrast with his superstitious, conservative homeland couldn't have been more marked.

And, as if to underline the point, in August he was forced to hurry back to Moscow. The palace guards had rebelled again. The revolt was quickly crushed and this time there were no deals or compromises - Peter was merciless in his retribution. He had more than a thousand of his guards beheaded or hanged. Hundreds more were tortured, flogged and banished. The fate of the guards, known in Russian as the Streltsy, is depicted in this picture by Vasily Surikov, one of the great Russian history painters of the 19th century.

This is Red Square on the morning of the execution of the Streltsy. You know which ones they are, because they have immensely long beards and they're in their shirts, because their uniforms have been stripped off them. And each of them is holding a little candle. That's his life that's about to be snuffed out. All the rest of the people here, and there's a huge mass of humanity, are their families. He's got his wife weeping on his lap and that must be his little boy who's crying on his knee.

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There's a huge amount of suffering going on. You'd think that somebody would take pity, but no. Here's the man in charge, Peter the Great, and he is implacable, look at him. He's saying this lot are absolutely going to that gallows in the background. And the reason that Peter is so determined is that he was once the weeping little boy himself. These are the men who murdered Peter's own uncles. But the real message of the picture is that the Streltsy represent the old Russia.

They're messy and dirty and superstitious and Peter the Great is the wind of change. He's going to sweep them all away. Peter's next move was to quash any lingering opposition to his rule. He was convinced that the rebellion had been orchestrated by his half-sister Sophia. He didn't execute Sophia, but he did what was considered the next best thing. He forced her to become a nun.


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  • But, initially at least, Peter did provide Sophia with some company. He strung up the corpses of the Streltsy rebels right outside her windows. Peter now turned to the Moscow elite. These were the same class of people who put the Romanovs on the throne nearly 90 years before. But Peter considered them to be reactionary and lazy. It was time they caught up with the present day. Peter decided that the best way to make them behave like modern Europeans was to make them look like modern Europeans.

    This is rather good, isn't it? A bit tsar-ish, a bit furry, a bit velvety too. Very nice. To see just how revolutionary this was, I've come to the famous Mosfilm Studios in Moscow. Many a historical epic has been filmed here. And, while I admire the vast costume department, our translator, Misha, has volunteered to model some traditional Russian clothes, to show what Peter's new rules on dress actually meant. Misha, you've been quite a long time in there - are you ready?

    Oh, look at you! Come out. You're dressed for the 17th century, - you're warm for the Moscow winters, I guess. And, um, is it practical? Can you move about in this one? Of course it's practical, because this is how people were dressed. Yes, you do have a touch of the Orient about you, looking at you.

    Oh, I would say it's old Russian style - Old Russian style, yes. It could have some influence of the Orient, just like a lot of old Russian architecture, for example, does. So along comes Peter the Great at the end of the 17th century and he doesn't want to see his subjects dressed like this any more, - he wants to see them as Europeans. And the first thing to go, I'm sorry to say, is - Don't! It's a very religious thing. But Peter the Great, he'd been to Europe, he'd seen all of these clean-shaven people and he thought it was very important that his subjects should lose the beards, so there's stories of him ripping them out by the roots.

    He wouldn't rip them off, but he cut them with an axe, that's what the legend says. Now, I actually know the secret of getting your beard off you. Are you ready for this, Misha? You're laughing? I am laughing, I've still got my moustache, it's not that bad yet. Now, we've Europeanised your facial hair. Peter the Great would also have wanted to change your clothes, wouldn't he? Yeah, he didn't stop with the beards just - he went the full way.

    Go on, back into your cubicle. Very good, fantastic! Oh, fantastic! So here you are, all European-ed up. Now, it strikes me that your shoes are better for dancing, but not so good for walking across a snowy plain. Absolutely right. For snow, this is horrible. I would freeze my feet off. And how are you feeling about it as a Russian nobleman? I, for one, am extremely unhappy, - because I was used to my warm, good Russian clothes - Yes. In the snow, without doing a single thing, just direct my hundreds of thousands of serfs - and do nothing.

    Absolutely naked, Lucy.

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    And what can you do about this as an earlyth-century nobleman? Well, the thing is that the noblemen had really no choice. The clergy and the people in the fields, the peasants, as they were called at the time, they continued having beards. They could actually pay for their beards and there is a little token here and it shows that I have paid or whoeverpaid a beard tax. Once you wear it around your neck to show that you have paid for it, you can have your proud Russian beard. A tiny little beard on it, look at that.

    I think that there's something that I owe you, as you're clearly a beard taxpayer. Do svidaniya. And all this applied to the ladies too. Although they're said to have enjoyed wearing their elegant European dresses rather more than the men did. Peter's assault on the traditions of old Moscow left the capital reeling.

    But the Tsar was already planning what was to be his boldest move yet. In , Peter packed up and left Moscow once again. On the high-speed train, it takes me less than four hours. On horseback, though, it took Peter weeks.