Castles: Britain’s Fortified History, BBC4 - TV review: Distinguished only by lovely aerial shots

Another documentary inspired by Game of Thrones' success

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The Independent Culture

Way back when, before the police force existed, if you wanted to protect your riches from marauding hordes, you’d have to build a castle. Dr Sam Willis’s Castles: Britain’s Fortified History (BBC4) is one of several Game of Thrones-inspired documentaries about medieval history currently on television, distinguished only by some lovely aerial shots of the country’s most impressive ruins.

Proud nationalists of Cymru might want to avert their eyes, however; the second part of this three-part series mainly concerned King Edward I’s use of castles as “gigantic fortresses to subjugate the Welsh”. First, Edward crushed Llywelyn ap Gruffudd – who was no pushover – then he appropriated the title “Prince of Wales” and bestowed it on his first-born son, establishing a royal tradition that has lasted to the present day.

Glimpses of characters like Llywelyn and Isabella de Fortibus, the unofficial “Queen of the Isle of Wight”, helped liven up a programme that also included extended tuition in medieval stonemasonry – particularly dull, since we’d already seen something very similar on BBC2’s Secrets of the Castle.