BBC One’s “Six Wives with Lucy Worsley” and the Positive Influence of “Popular History”…

December 9, 2016 in The Tudor Thomases by Beth von Staats

by Beth von Staats

Lucy Worsley Photo Credit: British Broadcasting Company

Lucy Worsley
Photo Credit: British Broadcasting Company

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Who in heaven’s name is Joel Golby? As an American whose news and editorial obsessions include CNN, PBS television, and The New York Times, I had not a clue — well not until today when a dear friend sent along a link to Golby’s scathing and mean-spirited “review” of BBC One’s Six Wives with Lucy Worsley.

Who is this guy? According to The Guardian, he “writes about general stuff for VICE and the Guardian Guide”. My quick google adventure of Joel Golby’s “general stuff” sent me on a whirlwind of articles about a variety of fun topics. Do you want to learn about weekly London “rental opportunities”? Who is the best dog ever? “Hysterical” newspaper front pages? How about “pricks” that dress like clowns or a man “bitten on the dick” twice by a spider? If so, Joel Golby is your man. His “general stuff” is really — and I mean really really — great stuff. Who knew?

I need to say I am “scratching my head” at this mess, though. With a resume as stellar as Joel Golby’s, along with his obvious love of history, how could he get things so wrong? Is Lucy Worsley really “very slowly and carefully polishing a turd, that turd being the subject of history“? Is Six Wives with Lucy Worsley as Golby describes, “Game Of Thrones without any of the good bits”? Has TV popular history “pecked the carcass clean”?

Heavens no. Within British and American cultures where history education is marginalized, historian David Starkey correctly teaches us, “There is evidence of an extraordinary evacuation of basic historical knowledge.” Let’s take a peek at some “average Americans” answering a few basic history questions to prove David Starkey’s point.

Video Credit: Mark Dice

Case closed. Step in Lucy Worsley.

BBC One’s Six Wives with Lucy Worsley, truth be told, is a delightfully engaging introduction to the six wives of King Henry VIII. As a wonderful example of the “Popular History” television genre, Six Wives throws a wide net, drawing viewership among ordinary people by emphasizing the personalities and real-life experiences of the historical figures highlighted. This is accomplished by period costumed acting vignettes combined with Lucy Wolsey’s enthusiastic, engaging, informative, vividly detailed and colorful documentation style.

Let’s face facts. Lucy Worsley has the “right stuff” for History TV. Not only is she intellectually brilliant, but she is just “too darn cute”. In Six Wives, Lucy time-travels dressed as a common maiden eavesdropping on King Henry’s court. That may seem silly, but guess what? The historical events she “witnesses” are spot-on accurate from contemporary accounts, with a surprising amount of common misconceptions dispelled. Making history not only accurate but fun draws in new history lovers and leaves viewers interested in learning more. That’s the point of it.

If you are an avid Tudorphile, you will likely learn nothing new from Six Wives with Lucy Worsley. Watch it just the same — with a youngster, family member or friend that you want to introduce to your love for “all things Tudor”. They’ll catch the bug, trust me.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Beth von Staats

Beth von Staats

Beth von Staats is a history writer of both fiction and non-fiction short works. A life-long history enthusiast, Beth holds a Bachelor of Arts degree, magna cum laude, in Sociology from the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth. She is the owner and administrator of Queen Anne Boleyn Historical Writers website, QueenAnneBoleyn.com.

Beth’s interest in British History grew through the profound influence of her Welsh grandparents, both of whom desired she learn of her family cultural heritage. Her most pronounced interest lies with the men and women who drove the course of events and/or who were most poignantly impacted by the English Henrician and Protestant Reformations, as well as the Tudor Dynasty of English and Welsh History in general.

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