The Scandalous Lady W

Natalie Dormer has made her name appearing in lavish period costume dramas, frequently minus her lavish period costume. As Ann Boleyn in The Tudors and Margaery Tyrell in Game of Thrones, she employed a killer combination of brain and body to become queen of her realm (though – SPOILER – in at least one of those cases, she might have wished she’d never bothered).

Dormer has an extraordinary face. There is something about the set of her eyebrows and the turn of her mouth that makes her look like she knows something you don’t. That much is a gift; the rest is all her own work – and she brought exactly the right mix of silk and steel to this gripping true life tale of a wronged wife at the centre of an 18th century Parliamentary sex scandal.

One of the most eligible women in Georgian England, Seymour Dorothy Fleming made a disastrous match in the form of Sir Richard Worsley (the excellent Shaun Evans), a rising star of the Commons whose interpretation of the ‘obey’ part of his wife’s wedding vows was to force her to take 27 lovers, while he spied through the keyhole. (At one point, Worsley was described as a ‘selfless, God-fearing public servant, a loving father and a dutiful husband’. I think we all know a few MPs like that.)

When Seymour eloped with one of her paramours, Worsley sued his usurper for £20,000. His wife’s response? To prove in court that she was already ‘worthless’, sacrificing her own reputation to destroy her husband’s and save her lover from penury. In the end, the jury decided she was worth a total of one shilling – a strange, sad sort of victory for a woman who had lost everything.

Tasteful enough to avoid accusations of prurience from all but the most mischievous tabloid editors, Sheree Folkson’s film was a fitting testament to a woman who, by standing up to her husband in an age when a wife was considered as much a man’s property as his deeds and titles, struck her own blow for women’s emancipation. Or, as Lady W herself put it: ‘While it is my misfortune to live in an age of men, I belong to no man’.

 

TV extra:

 

Who Do You Think You Are?

Launching the 12th series of the celebrity family history show, Merseyside’s most famous Hollywood since Frankie Went To spent the first 37 minutes finding out what his granddad (probably) did in the war. Things got more interesting when the genealogy actually kicked in – but am I the only one disappointed that, instead of people in white gloves turning the pages of crumbling parish registers, it’s now all done with the swipe of an iPad? I guess it’s true what they say: history ain’t what it used to be.

 

The Saturday Night Story

The story of the battle for viewers’ hearts and minds on the most important telly night of the week makes for a fascinating documentary. I know that, because I watched it on BBC Four a while back. This, on the other hand, was a very odd fish, giving iconic shows like The Generation Game short shrift in favour of Game For A Laugh, Gladiators, Baywatch and something called Fool Britannia (no, me neither). The only thing these shows have in common? They were all on ITV. Tsk.

Published in Waitrose Weekend, August 20, 2015

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