How To Get Ahead is a three-part history series examining what it took to survive and prosper in the most artistic, decadent and dangerous royal courts in history.
Along the way we’ll be guided by writer and broadcaster Stephen Smith as we look back at the Medieval and Renaissance ages to understand how power struggles and royal etiquette was conducted.
Episode 1: At Medieval Court
This first episode takes a look at the court of Richard II in the end of the 14th century. Here, sophisticated artists, painters, sculptors, poets, tailors, weavers and builders flocked to the courts to make their fortunes.
But these were dangerous times. Being close to Richard brought many a courtier to a sticky end, so what did it really take to get ahead?
Episode 2: At Renaissance Court
The second episode explores Renaissance Florence under the reign of Grand Duke Cosimo Medici. Cosimo’s fledgling court prized the finer things in life and some of the greatest painters, sculptors and craftsmen in world history came to serve the Grand Duke.
But successful courtiers had to have brains as well as brawn. The canniest of them looked to theorists like Niccolo Machiavelli for underhand ways to get ahead, whilst enlightened polymaths turned their minds to the heavens, and to ice cream.
Episode 3: At Versailles
The third and last episode investigates the flamboyant Baroque court of the Sun King, Louis XIV.
Perhaps one of the more well known Monarchs in history, Louis created the Palace of Versailles so he could surround himself with aristocrats, artists, interior designers, gardeners, wigmakers, chefs and musicians.
Hordes of ambitious courtiers scrambled to get close to the king, but unseemly goings-on in the royal bedchamber reflected the quickest path to power.
- Release date2014
- Full runtime
- Director(s)Ian Leese, Suniti Somaiya
- Production companyBBC