It may come as a surprise (or it may not) that we at Cat On The Wall are also obsessive about subjects other than music and art (shock horror). After watching Dr Lucy Worsley’s 4-part BBC programme ‘If Walls Could Talk’ COTW’s Jo Whitby, a passionate medieval freak (as she likes to call herself), decided to venture into unknown territory for the zine and contact Lucy on the chance that she might just agree to an interview. We wish we’d had a camera ready when Jo received a response – the word *sqwee* (google it) comes to mind. Below then is an interview with Lucy where she discusses her rather awesome day job, marriage proposals and a naughty up coming TV series…
Cat On The Wall: What first sparked your interest in history? Has it always been a passion of yours?
Lucy Worsley: I’ve always been interested in history, and enjoyed it at school, but I didn’t realise that you could actually find work in historic houses until I was 18 years old. I was visiting a National Trust property (Mompesson House in Salisbury to be exact) when I suddenly realised that someone must have the job of running it. It was like a lightbulb illuminating for me, and from that point I knew exactly what I wanted to do.
COTW: It may sound like a daft question but what exactly does a Chief Curator of Historic Royal Palaces do?
LW: Historical research into our properties, helping to put together new exhibitions and displays for our visitors, writing guidebooks, going out and about giving talks to all kinds of enthusiasts from school kids to possible funders and buying new things for our collection. I work with a team of sixteen curators, and between us our knowledge extends from the Normans (the White Tower at the Tower of London was built by William the Conqueror) almost to the present day (we also look after the apartment at Kensington Palace occupied until 2003 by Princess Margaret).
COTW: We really enjoyed your recent TV series ‘If Walls Could Talk: The History of the Home’ and felt that you managed to bring history to life without patronising the viewer. Why do think some historians are afraid of getting their hands dirty (i.e. dressing up, re-enacting rather than regurgitating facts)?
LW: Lots of historians – myself included – are used to dealing with documents and archives. If you step outside the library and start to use ‘things’ (whether buildings, pots, clothes or whatever) to explore the past, you’re treading on ground traditionally occupied by hobbyists or ‘re-enactors’ who haven’t always been rigorous about their use of sources and evidence. And why should they be, if they’re just out to have fun? But I don’t think historians should be put off by this: to reconstruct life in the past carefully and accurately really does teach us a lot. (Also, many historians are inhibited by a great fear of looking SILLY.) (Which fortunately has passed me by.)
COTW: What is your favourite period in history and why?
LW: I guess I’d say the Tudor age: we’ve invested so much time, effort and love trying to bring it to life at Hampton Court (where I’m based) that it feels particularly close.
COTW: You’ve gained quite an avid male following since the broadcast of ‘If Walls Could Talk’, one Radio Times reader suggesting you were the female version of Brian Cox and “posh totty” to boot! What do you make of this kind of attention? Have you received marriage proposals through your fan mail yet?
LW: Hum, load of old nonsense. I have received several amusing marriage proposals etc. but this is my top favourite letter from a viewer: ‘Dear Lucy Worsley, we do enjoy your brilliant programmes, but is is disappointing to hear you say COMMUNAL and CONTRIBUTE. That pronunciation is not appropriate to any royal palace’.
COTW: Finally, are there any new projects in the works that you can tell us about?
LW: TV-wise, I’m just finishing a series about the NAUGHTY PRINCE REGENT! It’s marvellous, Jane Austen, Lord Byron, the battle of Waterloo, Turner, the Peterloo Massacre, mail coaches and a bit of dirty dancing (in the form of the shocking new waltz of the 1810s).