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Watch Buildings That Shaped Britain online: Episode 4 The Country House

Historian presenter Simon Thurley turns his attention to the English country house that represented the very heart of Britain's political, economic and cultural life in the 16th to 18th century. Unlike Europe, where power resided absolutely with the monarch, in Britain it rested not only with the king, but also with parliament, which was controlled by the great men of the counties and shires. These aristocrats were kings in their own little 'countries'. Flush with money given to them by Henry VIII after he took over the monasteries, they cemented that power through building wonderful houses. More than 700 were built between 1530 and 1750 and their design reflected the roles of lord and ladies and the distancing of their assistants to 'downstairs' staff.

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