Page last updated at 14:22 GMT, Friday, 9 April 2010 15:22 UK

Raising The Armada

Armada tapestries return to Westminster

A famous victory, a devastating fire and the recreation of some iconic art.

In Raising The Armada, the BBC's deputy political editor James Landale tells how, after more than 150 years, the Spanish Armada is finally returning to the Palace of Westminster.

In 1588, English commanders saw off the mighty invasion fleet assembled by Philip II of Spain - a triumph which laid the foundations of Britain's Naval power.

Ten giant tapestries depicting key scenes from the campaign were displayed in the old House of Lords. They were as symbolic of Parliament as Big Ben is today. But their tale was lost when the entire building burnt down in 1834.

Royal request

Prince Albert, consort of Queen Victoria, wanted six tapestries to be recreated on canvas - to hang in a specially designed room next to the new Lords chamber. But work was halted by his death in 1861, with only one painting completed.

James Landale explains how the efforts of a House of Lords researcher - and £330,000 of private sponsorship - have now helped persuade peers to revive the project.

Artist Anthony Oakshett on the modern technology used to recreate the tapestries


In the first of a two-part series, Raising The Armada follows artist Anthony Oakshett and his team in their studio at Wrest Park as they create five paintings to match the one Victorian example.

And the programme also hears the tale of the one tapestry which escaped the flames - and its probable fate.

In the second episode, BBC Parliament will report on the installation of the paintings in the House of Lords.

They are due to go on public display in the Royal Gallery in June, before being fixed high up on the walls of the Prince's Chamber in autumn 2010.

Watch Raising the Armada on BBC Parliament at 8pm on Saturday 10 April.

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