Royal History's Biggest Fibs with Lucy Worsley (4 stars)

Royal History's Biggest Fibs with Lucy Worsley

Delightful stroll down the path of regal fakery with an ebullient host

There's a thin line in academic broadcasting between being serious and tedious. Similarly, a light touch can mean the import of a subject might get lost amid gimmicks and fripperies. Lucy Worsley has for many years struck the balance just right in showing authority as well as displaying a sense of fun while presenting several series on everything from the British obsession with murder to a history of homes in the UK. But it's her documentaries about regal matters which have propelled her into the top league of history presenters, and here she takes on a topic which will never be more timely: that of lies, deceptions and fakery, particularly connected to royalty down the ages.

Across three episodes, Worsley debunks some myths from a trio of historical landmarks: the earth-shattering revolutions in France and Russia, and the Georgian Regency. Among the questions she asks are: did Marie Antoinette ever say 'let them eat cake'? (nope); was Robespierre a no-good bloodthirsty anarchist? (he certainly liked a good scuffle, but actually campaigned against the death penalty); was King George III as insane as legend and the movies made out? (not really); was Lenin the true revolutionary leader as painted in the history books? (not especially, he wasn't even there when the 1917 revolutionary took off); was mad monk Rasputin, as Boney M maintained, lover of the Russian queen? (total cobblers).

Alongside Worsley's breathless ebullience are a number of other experts who seem positively comatose in comparison, while she spends some sections having a fine old time swanning around in ostentatious garb and hairpieces from those various eras. Her head-girl vibe and jolly-hockey shtick might not be to everyone's taste, but certainly for even the most casual observer of historical matters, Lucy Worsley's enthusiasm for the subject and ability to render it vividly make her documentaries a pure delight.

BBC Two, starts on Friday 6 November, 9pm. Watch on BBC iPlayer.

Post a comment