BBC Four is screening a new series from December 8 – Blood and Gold: The Making of Spain. Presented by Simon Sebag Montefiore, the series unlocks 2,000 years of Spain’s history.
In episode one of the three part series Simon starts at the beginning, when Iberia was still a minor province of Carthage, and travels forward in time to Spain’s Muslim age and the Córdoba Caliphate. He shows us how a young Spain was a battleground for empires and visits Italica – a perfectly preserved city from Roman times and home to one of the finest amphitheatres outside of Rome.
During this first episode, Simon travels to Cadiz with Spain’s first invaders and visits a sacred island where the Carthaginian warrior Hannibal received the blessing of the Gods. From there the episode covers the early, brazen Christian Martyrs; the Visigoths and the Muslim conquest.
Screening: 9pm (UK time) for one hour on December 8.
The journey continues with Simon Sebag Montefiore examining the re-awakening of Christianity in the north as one by one the Muslim states fall. Islamic groups from North Africa attempt to win Spain back and by the middle of the 15th century only Granada’s city-state remains, besieged by Catholic King and Queen Ferdinand and Isabella.
In 1492 Granada falls and the 7 centuries of Muslim rule come to an end. The Jews are expelled, the inquisition is underway. In the meantime, Simon Sebag Montefiore discovers some upsetting information about his ancestors.
Screening: 9pm (UK time) for one hour on December 15.
Simon finishes his fascinating journey as Spain enters its Golden Age.
King Philip II is a major player on the European Stage, and becomes the King of England, with a short marriage to Queen Mary, for a brief period in addition to ruling Spain. Madrid is founded and the great Armada heads for England.
Next is a visit to El Escorial, a mighty palace outside Madrid that Philip called home for a time. We learn how his descendents struggled to live up to his reputation with a life full of mistresses and lovers. King Charles II, the last Habsburg, King Charles II, is a victim of inbreeding and dies without producing an heir. Spain is ruled by the Bourbons, becomes part of the Napoleonic Empire and eventually succumbs to a devastating Civil War and dictatorship under Franco before emerging as a modern, 20th century nation and a model of democratic monarchy.
Screening: 9pm (UK time) for one hour on December 22.