I just wrapped up two documentary series on Netflix and I enjoyed both and learned a lot.
First up is ‘Great British Castles’. This is a twelve-part series about twelve different castles in Great Britain with their own histories though there were a cast of characters who kept showing up all over the place. And the methods of execution didn’t change much from castle to castle.
The series was very thorough in telling the story of each castle from its earliest beginnings to how it changed over the centuries and the part it played in history. The usual cast of characters would start with William the Conqueror who hit the English shores in 1066 and kicked the crap out of the Anglo-Saxons. ‘Ol Willy set about showing how big his sword was by building a lot of castles and fortifying them. Then you had King Edward I who fortified them, or had his wife go out and shore them up while he did a shit-ton of rape, pillage, and burn. Occasionally King John I showed up all gross and corrupt. Fat Boy Henry VIII showed up a lot to take over castles or party at them and so and so forth.
One big thing about castles is that they are colossal money pits. I mean, they had to be rebuilt after sieges, takeovers, and the whims whoever was staying in them. Then they were modernized for today with central heating and electricity. One castle, Lancaster Castle, was a prison until the twentieth century so I’m not sure I’d want to live there. The Tower of London was where anyone who was anyone was held before execution. And I’m sure these places are seriously haunted.
The documentary tells the history in very colorful detail and there is this one professor who’s an expert in witches and really colorful history who actually wears a hat and a cape in one segment. All the historians are really cool and are very good at sharing salacious and colorful details of these castles and their inhabitants.
It’s a fun and informative documentary though I will warn you there is a lot about various forms of torture and execution, like hanging/drawing/quartering which was very popular among the kings and queens. Today all these castles are basically tourist traps (something’s got to pay for the upkeep) though Edinburgh Castle still is an actual working military garrison, too.
This Is a Heist
This is a four-part documentary series on the March 18, 1993 heist from the Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum in Boston, Massachusetts. Thirteen pieces were taken, six paintings, five etchings, and two objects d’art. None of the pieces have been recovered to this day though there is still a ten million-dollar reward for information leading to their recovery.
I first read an article about this a few years back and I’ve been following the story ever since. With this documentary, you can see how every time law enforcement and investigators had a lead it eventually led to nothing. Now in 1993, the only Art Squad in the world had just been formed by Scotland Yard so a big heist like this one wasn’t too much of a priority.
My take on the heist after watching this documentary is that isn’t too well-planned and that a lot went wrong in the aftermath. I think the objects are scattered around the world and finding them is going to be a miracle each time. Law enforcement said they cooperated with this documentary in order to ‘shake the tree’ and see if they can get any new tips to pursue.
There has been a huge surge of popularity for true-crime documentaries and I can see the appeal. There are always lots of details to be poured over and it’s kind of fun to play amateur detective. With the Gardner heist, I have my own pet theory on how the heist went down and what happened afterward. I just don’t think there’s enough evidence to find the pieces though I have a feeling law enforcement might know more than they’re letting on.