Making Modern History

for TV channel Yesterday

Giants of history get a 21st century make-over


UKTV’s factual channel Yesterday asked Taylor Herring to devise a creative publicity campaign around their new historical series ‘Secret Lives Of…’

The new show would shine a spotlight on the hidden lives on some of history’s most fascinating and notorious figures including Henry VIII, Elizabeth I, William Shakespeare and Marie Antoinette. 

Each episode would examine the lifestyles and habits of these celebrated historical figures to show them in a completely new light.  The show’s commentary would also be unique - viewing each historical insight through the eyes of the contemporary, celebrity-obsessed world. 


The show’s key ambition – to show great historical figures in a completely new light was a great starting point for our creative…

What if we could take the insights on each of the characters and use these facts as the basis for a modern day‘re-imagining’ of each historical figure?

The core idea paid back fully to the show’s concept and would provide a neat springboard for a discussion around some of the shows key insights.

This had never been done before and we could already see the headlines ‘Henry VIII – the modern day lady-killer’ – but where to start?


First stop was to purchase the rights to some of the best known portraits of each of the five figures we were looking to update – William Shakespeare, Admiral Nelson, Henry IIIV, Elizabeth I and Marie Antoinette.

These paintings would provide us with our canvas for the 21st Century ‘re-imaginings’.

Our next step was to link up with eminent historian Dr Suzannah Lipscomb to ensure the new artworks accurately reflect how these giants of history might look in 2013. 

Dr Lipscomb leaned heavily on the insight gained from the ‘Secret Life Of’ series to help direct our team of digital artists on how some of the most revered figures in history could look like, had they lived in today’s society complete with cosmetic surgery, pearly white teeth, and the latest fashion wear.  

Our team of digital artists then went to work updating the classic portraits and magically transporting them to the 21st Century….

Queen Elizabeth as a powerful head of state and style queen. 

Shakespeare became a modern day hipster playwright.

 Marie Antoinette gained a boob job and designer clothing.

Henry VIII morphed into a modern day ‘lady killer’.

Admiral Nelson gained some weight and a prosthetic hand (and Victoria Cross).


Following a full national sell in the TH team secured blanket media coverage on the day of the show’s launch, with fully credited DPS spreads in Metro and the Daily Mail. 

Full page coverage was also secured in The Sun, The Mirror, The Times and The Telegraph. 

This coverage was reflected online with the Independent, Express, Huffington Post, MSN, Sky News and numerous other sites covering the story.

The story was covered on Radio 4’s ‘The Today Programme and Dr Suzannah Liscomb completed 13 broadcast interviews reaching a combined audience of over 3 Million listeners on the same day the story broke.

Socially twitter was abuzz with the images sparking debate and interest in the show. 

The pictures provided us with great social media content which was drip fed via Yesterday’s owned media channels and opportunities were heightened further via individual sites providing the content online – the Daily Mail piece alone prompted over 200 Facebook  likes in the first two hours