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Award-winning journalist Michael Buerk and leading historian and broadcaster Bettany Hughes return to ITV for a brand new series of Britain’s Secret Treasures. Following its success last year, Michael, Bettany and a host of guest presenters uncover a fresh hoard of extraordinary objects found by ordinary people that have changed our understanding of British history.
Continuing its successful partnership with the British Museum’s Portable Antiquities Scheme, which is responsible for all finds in England and Wales, the new series of Britain’s Secret Treasures also joins forces with Treasure Trove Scotland and the Ulster Museum to include stories of outstanding artefacts discovered by members of the public in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Each and every artefact included in the new eight-part series has been selected due to its national importance, beauty and cultural or historic significance. All are artefacts, objects or treasures that have been left, lost or discarded by our ancestors, which reveal the remarkable story of how we once lived.
Once again Michael and Bettany are joined by a host of guest presenters including Kevin Whately, Mariella Frostrup, Katherine Jenkins and Vic Reeves, to find out more about the stories behind each item and to meet many of the members of the public who discovered them.
In episode three, Bettany Hughes finds out more about a beautiful 18th century ring with a tragic story and Russell Grant explores horoscopes, Roman-style.
In 2011, a metal-detecting husband and wife duo unearthed a foot-long bronze Capricorn figurine in Somerset. They’d chanced upon one of the rarest Roman finds in Britain, which provides us with a unique way to explore ancient astrology and horoscopes. It transpires that astrology played a vital part in the life of one famous Roman emperor.
Russell Grant says: “One day over 2000 years ago, a teenager went to have his horoscope read. He was told that he would become the most powerful leader the world had ever known.”
The horoscope turned out to be extraordinarily accurate. Today, the teenage boy is known as Augustus, the first and perhaps greatest of all the Roman Emperors. Romans chose their own star signs, and Augustus chose Capricorn both as his personal sign and emblem for his Second Legion, who would later conquer Britain in search of our mineral wealth.
In 2005 in Shropshire, local enthusiast Tony Baker uncovered a beautiful and mysterious ring inscribed with the names Mary and Sarah and the year 1735. The ring proved to be an emotional reminder of an era when giving birth was an incredibly risky affair.
Tony did his own research, spending weeks trying to find out who the ring had belonged to. Bettany Hughes meets Tony and learns about the tragic tale.
A clergyman in the 18th century called Thomas Littleton owned the ring and the inscriptions on the ring relate to Thomas’s wife, Mary who died in childbirth and his daughter, Sarah, who died a day later.
The practice of bequeathing a ring for remembrance was known from the Middle Ages. By the seventeenth century it had become customary to engrave rings with the name and the dates of the deceased, with the decorative design on a ground of black enamel.
Bettany says: “This little ring was made so that Thomas’s wife and his day-old daughter would never be forgotten. By finding it, Tony’s shed light on a heart-rending tradition, and also in fact 300 years on, he’s ensured that Mary and little Sarah will always be remembered.”
Also this week, Michael Buerk follows the story of an 800-year-old coat of arms badge, discovered by a postman in the ruins of an old monastery in Dumfries and Galloway. And historian and broadcaster Suzannah Lipscomb learns more about an intriguing medieval gold locket from Rolleston, Nottinghamshire, believed to have belonged to two lovers torn apart by war, due to its close comparison with another locket from 1464, found ten miles away.