All hail Lucy Worsley, historian and TV star

She’s one of TV’s hottest, most improbable stars.

She suffers from rhotacism, which makes it difficult for her to pronounce the letter “r.” She wears her straight blond hair parted on the side and held in check by a barette. And her ensembles, which can appear too big for her, are always accented with pops of neon colors that don’t necessarily go together and white sneakers.

And yet, despite this – or maybe in part because of it – Lucy Worsley, chief curator of Britain’s Historic Royal Palaces, is the greatest thing since sliced bread slathered with British jam when it comes to presenting European history to the masses on the telly. On this side of the Pond, she has captivated PBS audiences with programs on everything from the six wives of Henry VIII to Queen Victoria’s wedding to Prince Albert.

It’s not just that this DPhil knows her stuff. It’s the way she blends that knowledge with a showman’s gifts. In a docudrama on Queen Anne – whom she credits with creating modern Britain, for better or worse – she may be Anne’s footman one moment and the queen herself the next. As an actress, she can be saucy or poignant. There’s a great bit in the six wives series in which as one of Catherine of Aragon’s ladies in waiting , she looks on ruefully as the queen miscarries, knowing this has sealing Catherine’s fate as Henry VIII’s first wife.

Always, Worsley takes us behind the scenes to debunk myths, raising up some historical figures like the underrated Anne and the lambasted Marie Antoinette and putting others like Prince Albert – great at advancing England, less so in supporting his wife – in their place.

Best of all, Worsley illustrates in her choice of subjects and her intrepid presentations that a woman of courage and intelligence is indeed worth her weight in gold.

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– Georgette Gouveia

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