I was reading an article in today’s Telegraph about telly-dons and why it’s wrong to be snobbish about them. In the bitchy world of university historians, it seems, no sooner does a colleague dare to appear on television than he or she loses credibility as a serious historian. What? Once a chap like David Starkey has spent half a lifetime buried in Tudor documents, why shouldn’t he make some money by sharing his knowledge with the rest of us?
Not that he’s free from bitchiness himself. He apparently criticised Lucy Worsley for what he termed ‘historical Mills and Boon’ on television. I do have some sympathy with this view, having a great aversion to mob cap history, but in spite of that, I’ve found all her programmes lively and interesting. She may look about twelve with her little hair slides, but she is, after all, chief curator at Historic Royal Palaces. Hardly a job you get by looking cute. Also (my turn to be shallow) I really like her clothes, especially the teal coat and purple gloves combo. She’s wearing the coat again for her latest series, Antiques Uncovered but is outshone by the dandyism of co-presenter Mark Hill. Ooh, those velvet collars take me back. In yesterday’s episode he even sported a curly brimmed bowler, very appropriate for the Victorian seaside artefacts they were looking at. It’s social history and if it’s also popular (damning word) history, it's none the worse for that.
I wish Mary Beard hadn’t bothered to respond to A A Gill’s insulting and pointless remarks about her appearance. ‘Leave it Mare! ‘e’s not worth it!’ She looks what she is, a fifty seven year old woman who doesn’t worry much about her image. Why should she? In the last episode of Meet the Romans she had me crying over little dead Roman babies. If that’s not bringing the past to life, what is? I hope to see lots more programmes like this one, fronted by older women with grey hair. The British are supposed to like eccentricity. Do we really want homogenised presenters, all toned and bronzed and with their teeth fixed until you can't tell one from another?