Thursday, 30 June 2022

Buckingham Palace confirms 'revised policies' after claims Meghan 'humiliated' staff

Buckingham Palace won’t publish probe into claims of Meghan bullying staff / Royal family receives over £100 million as costs soar despite cost of living crisis - full breakdown


 

EUROPE

Buckingham Palace won’t publish probe into claims of Meghan bullying staff

By Karla Adam

June 30, 2022 at 7:20 a.m. EDT

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/06/30/meghan-royal-family-bullying-report-conclusion/

 

LONDON — Buckingham Palace confirmed that “lessons have been learned” following an investigation into complaints that Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, had bullied palace staff members, but it has not published the findings nor explained what those lessons are.

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Last year, the palace launched an investigation into bullying claims after an article in the Times of London claimed that two of her employees had been driven from their jobs and a third had been undermined.

 

Lawyers for Meghan denied the reports, calling it a “calculated smear campaign” and said that the Times of London was being “used by Buckingham Palace to peddle a wholly false narrative” about the duchess. The reports appeared in the paper shortly before Meghan and Prince Harry’s bombshell interview with Oprah Winfrey.

 

The palace, which never backed the claims but said they were serious enough to be investigated, said in a statement on Thursday that the probe had concluded and that “recommendations on our policies and procedures have been taken forward.” The palace said that it would not be publishing the results of the review, which looked at how the palace handled the complaints — not the specifics of the allegations themselves.

 

Buckingham Palace to investigate whether Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, bullied her staff

 

During a Wednesday briefing on annual royal finances, a palace official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told reporters that the details would remain confidential to protect the privacy of those who gave testimony about their experiences.

 

“Because of the confidentiality of the discussions we have not communicated the detailed recommendations,” the official said. “The recommendations have been incorporated within policies and procedures wherever appropriate, and policies and procedures have changed.”

 

The official added: “I think the objectives have been satisfied because lessons have been learned.”

 

Royal watchers had expected the review might be mentioned in the Sovereign Grant Report, the annual financial accounts of the monarchy’s spending and income that was published on Thursday.

 

According to the palace official, the investigation into the bullying allegations was funded privately, not by taxpayers, meaning that it did not have to be included in the public accounts.

 

The annual report showed that British monarch’s official expenditure for 2021-2022 had been about $124 million, an increase of 17 percent on the previous financial year.

 

This amount exceeded the $105 million in the Sovereign Grant — the pot of public money provided by the British government to cover the costs of the queen’s household and upkeep of royal residences. The palace said that the royal finances cost $1.57 per person in the United Kingdom and that the bulk of its spending went toward major renovation works at Buckingham Palace. The extra costs, the palace said, would be met by reserves set aside in previous years.

 

The accounts showed that the most expensive trip over the past year was the trip to the Caribbean in March by Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge — seen as something of a public relations disaster — that cost $274,000.

 

William and Kate, touring the Caribbean to celebrate queen’s jubilee, draw anti-colonial protests, demands for reparations

 

Some said that the costs seemed excessive, especially in the current economic climate with a cost-of-living crisis that is starting to bite. Inflation in the U.K. is over 9 percent — the highest rate in 40 years. “£100m for the royals? Reign it in,” roared the Daily Mirror on its front page.

 

Michael Stevens, the queen’s treasurer who is also called the Keeper of the Privy Purse, said in a statement that royal finances would also probably be tightened in coming years.

 

“With the Sovereign Grant likely to be flat in the next couple of years, inflationary pressures on operating costs and our ability to grow supplementary income likely to be constrained in the short term, we will continue to deliver against our plans and manage these impacts through our own efforts and efficiencies,” he said.

 

By Karla Adam

Karla Adam is a London correspondent for The Washington Post. Before joining The Post in 2006, she worked as a freelancer in London, writing for several U.S. publications including the New York Times, Newsweek and People magazine. She is a former president of the Association of American Correspondents in London.  Twitter



Royal family receives over £100 million as costs soar despite cost of living crisis - full breakdown

 

Costs claimed by senior royals such as the Queen, Prince Charles and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have continued to rise

 

By Russell Myers Enda Mullen

08:26, 30 JUN 2022UPDATED08:53, 30 JUN 2022

https://www.coventrytelegraph.net/news/uk-world-news/royal-family-receives-over-100-24359721

 

A new report has revealed that the royal family cost taxpayers £102.4 million last year. While the country continues to cope with the cost of living crisis the money received by the the royals rose by 17 per cent (£15 million).

 

It means the cash they received exceeded £100 million for the first time. Royal finances expert Norman Baker described it as “not right”, the Mirror reports.

 

The bill was driven up in part by the multi-million-pound renovation of Buckingham Palace. Spending on the project rose to £63.9 million, up £14.4million on the previous year.

 

Renovation work intensified to prepare the palace for the Platinum Jubilee celebrations. The Queen was in another of her official residences yesterday, receiving Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh.

 

The Sovereign Grant Report shows that last year the royal family’s travel costs soared from £1.3 million to £4.5 million, as in-person royal visits resumed following the pandemic.

 

Royal finances expert Norman Baker said: “The Government should have a complete rethink of how taxpayers’ money is allocated to the royal family. We have no say in how the royals choose to use private jets or helicopters, which are all paid for out of the public purse, and while ordinary people are struggling it isn’t right.”

 

The 10-year Buckingham Palace renovation project appears to be on target to cost £369 million. Delivering the Sovereign Grant Report, Keeper of the Privy Purse, Sir Michael Stevens, said: “There was a significant increase in work against a hard deadline to enable Buckingham Palace to be at the centre of the Platinum Jubilee celebrations. We were pleased to deliver against our plans.”

 

Spending on the royals rose by almost £15 million in 2021/22, up more than 17 per cent on the previous year, the report revealed. Sir Michael said: “The year was not without operational and financial challenges. Covid meant we had another year in which access to the royal palaces was restricted for the Royal Collection Trust, which again affected our ability to help self-finance our work on behalf of the nation.”

 

While ordinary Brits coped with the cost of living crisis costs incurred by senior royals continued to rise. Prince William and Kate’s trip to the Caribbean cost £226,000 in flights and accommodation.

 

Despite campaigning on environmental issues, Prince Charles still flies between his royal residences at an average cost of £15,000 a time. The Queen’s royal train cost £100,000 for just three outings last year, but is now exclusively powered by “hydro-treated vegetable oil”, royal sources revealed.

 

As a non-working royal, like Prince Harry and his wife Megan, Prince Andrew no longer qualifies for public funding and gets nothing from the Sovereign Grant. He is now thought to be exclusively funded privately by the Queen.

 

Caribbean tour

William and Kate’s controversial visit to Belize, Jamaica and the Bahamas cost roughly £226,000. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge came in for heavy criticism during the tour in March, with critics labelling it a “throwback to Britain’s colonial past”.

 

The royal pair raised eyebrows for travelling in an open top Land Rover driven by a Jamaican soldier during a military parade, with some people suggesting it “looked like a scene from The Crown”.

 

In an unprecedented statement, William said after the Caribbean visit: “Tours are an opportunity to reflect. You learn so much. This tour has brought into even sharper focus questions about the past and the future. In Belize, Jamaica and the Bahamas, that future is for the people to decide upon.”

 

Royal train

The Queen will not give up using the royal train despite just three outings for her and Prince Charles costing £100,000 The monarch will hold on to her favourite mode of transport, which she can travel and sleep on when on engagements - despite it being used so little each year.

 

Her Majesty used the royal train last July on a return journey from Windsor to Manchester to celebrate 60 years of Coronation Street and the 600th Anniversary of Manchester Cathedral, costing a staggering £42,452. Prince Charles used the train twice, with a journey over several days between Stonehaven, Newcastle and Durham and back to Windsor coming in at £42,450.

 

A royal aide said: “The Queen has no plans to stop using the royal train which provides excellent value for money.”

 

Green fuel

Environmentalist Charles committed to using “green fuel” for plane journeys where he can, despite it costing the public purse far more than normal fuel. A source said: “The prince is aware of the extra cost but the destructive cost to the environment during a climate emergency is far greater."

 

Harry and Meghan are now paying for themselves - the Prince of Wales no longer funds them after they ditched their royal roles seeking “financial independence”. After they shed their life as working royals in 2020 they signed £100m worth of deals with streaming giants Netflix and Spotify.

 

During the couple’s interview with Oprah Winfrey in March last year, Harry said “my family literally cut me off financially” in “the first quarter of 2020”. A source close to Prince Charles said the Duke and Duchess “should be congratulated on achieving their goal” in raking in millions from the private sector - despite using their new found roles to routinely slam the royal family on global television interviews.

 

Charles’s bill for his sons and their families no longer lists the Sussexes in the accounts.

 

Charity cash

 

Changes to the way the royal charities accept donations have been implemented after Prince Charles accepted £2.6million in cash from a former prime minister of Qatar. The Prince of Wales will never again handle large sums in notes to be passed to his charities, a royal source has stated.

 

Charles faced criticism over being presented with one million euros stuffed in a briefcase while two other cash gifts of more than £1.6million were given in Fortnum & Mason carrier bags between 2011 and 2015. A report claimed the heir to the throne personally accepted the donations for his charity The Prince of Wales’s Charitable Fund from Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim, above .

 

A royal source said Charles acts on advice and such incidents have not happened in the past five years and will not happen again.

Wednesday, 29 June 2022

Prince Charles will no longer accept large cash donations for charities

 


Prince Charles will no longer accept large cash donations for charities

 

Royal source says heir to throne ‘operates on advice’, after claims sheikh gave him millions in bag and suitcase

 

Caroline Davies

Wed 29 Jun 2022 16.00 BST

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2022/jun/29/prince-charles-will-no-longer-accept-large-cash-donations-for-charities

 

The Prince of Wales will no longer accept large cash donations for his charities, a senior royal source has said, after Charles faced criticism over claims that he received €3m from a billionaire Qatari sheikh reportedly stuffed in a small suitcase and Fortnum & Mason carrier bag.

 

The Sunday Times reported that Charles personally accepted the donations, which were passed to the Prince of Wales’s Charitable Fund (PWCF) from Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber al-Thani, who was the prime minister of Qatar between 2007 and 2013.

 

The three donations were said to have been made between 2011 and 2015. Clarence House has said all correct processes were followed.

 

A royal source said that the heir to the throne “operates on advice”. “Situations, contexts change over the years. I can say with certainty for more than half a decade with the situation as it has evolved, this has not happened and it would not happen again … That was then, this is now.”

 

The Charity Commission is examining reports to decide whether this is a matter for it to investigate.

 

Although there is no suggestion of any illegality, or that Charles offered anything in return for the cash, critics have said the allegations show poor judgment on the part of the heir to the throne.

 

The campaign group Republic has demanded full disclosure over the matter , and has described the events as “shocking”. It has written to the Charity Commission in connection with the cash donations.

 

The Metropolitan police is currently investigating accusations of cash-for-honours at another of the Prince’s charities, the Prince’s Foundation, over allegations that a Saudi millionaire was offered help to obtain a knighthood and UK citizenship in return for generous donations.

 

The former Liberal Democrat cabinet minister Norman Baker has called on the Met to take the cash donation claims into account during its investigation, claiming that it contradicts previous statements from Clarence House that the prince did not directly involve himself in fundraising for his charities.

 

The royal source said there had been “a lot of reporting about the Prince of Wales ‘accepting’ this money”.

 

“It was passed immediately to his charities and it was his charities who decided to accept the money. That is a decision for them. And they did so, and, as they have confirmed, it followed all the right processes. The auditors looked at it,” the source said.

 

The Charity Commission has said in a statement: “We are aware of reports about donations received by the Prince of Wales’s Charitable Foundation. We will review the information to determine whether there is any role for the commission in this matter.”

 

Clarence House has said: “Charitable donations received from Sheikh Bin Jassim were passed immediately to one of the prince’s charities, who carried out the appropriate governance and have assured us that all the correct processes were followed.”

 

Tuesday, 28 June 2022

Revealed: how Prince Charles pressured ministers to change law to benefit his estate

 


Queen's consent investigations

Prince Charles

Revealed: how Prince Charles pressured ministers to change law to benefit his estate

Newly discovered documents show government yielded to heir’s demands amid fears of a constitutional crisis

 

Queen’s secret influence on laws revealed in Scottish government memo

Prince Charles

 Photograph: Ben Stansall/PA

Rob Evans, David Pegg and Severin Carrell

Tue 28 Jun 2022 14.56 BST

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2022/jun/28/prince-charles-pressured-ministers-change-law-queen-consent

 

Prince Charles exploited a controversial procedure to compel government ministers to secretly change a proposed law to benefit his landed estate, according to documents uncovered by the Guardian.

 

Official papers unearthed in the National Archives reveal ministers in John Major’s government yielded to his demands amid fears that resisting the heir to the throne could spark a constitutional crisis.

 

Ministers backed down to “avoid a major row” with the prince, effectively allowing him to force the hand of the elected government.

 

The disclosure of the documents provides further evidence of how the royal family has used the secretive procedure known as Queen’s consent to alter legislation to benefit their private interests.

 

Under the procedure, the monarch and her eldest son are given copies of draft laws in advance so they can examine whether the legislation affects their public powers or private assets, such as his Duchy of Cornwall estate or the privately owned estate at Sandringham.

 

Ministers must obtain the consent of the Queen and the prince before relevant legislation can be approved by parliament. This procedure is different than the better known procedure of royal assent, a formality that makes a bill become law.

 

A Guardian investigation has revealed that the Queen’s consent procedure has been used by the monarch in recent decades to privately lobby for changes. During her reign, ministers have been required to secure approval from the Queen or her son for more than 1,000 parliamentary acts before they were implemented.

 

Buckingham Palace and the government say Queen’s consent is a “purely formal” part of the parliamentary process and is granted by the monarch as a matter of course. The palace has said that “consent is always granted by the monarch where requested by government” and that “this process does not change the nature of any such bill”.

 

But the newly revealed documents, concerning a leasehold reform act that became law in 1993, provide detailed evidence of Charles applying pressure on elected ministers to ensure an exemption to prevent his own tenants from having the right to buy their own homes.

 

The Windsor family has used the consent procedure to vet at least four draft acts that have changed leasehold laws since the 1960s. Under such laws tenants live in properties for a specific number of years on a lease, instead of owning it outright. The changes have given tenants across the country the legal power in certain circumstances to buy their homes from their landlords.

 

Letters and internal memos from September and October 1992 show Charles took a “close personal interest” in Newton St Loe, a small Somerset village that is part of the £1bn Duchy of Cornwall estate, and insisted his properties there should be excluded from the proposed bill. His lobbying secured a special exemption for the village that has to this day left the tenants financially worse off.

 

The documents also reveal Charles wrote directly to Major in October 1992 noting that he would be shortly receiving a request to give his consent to the leasehold bill, and expressing his “particular concern” about another aspect of the proposed law – which he feared would permit tenants to buy and redevelop historic properties without preserving their “special character”.

 

‘It is important to avoid a major row with the Prince of Wales’

Charles, as the heir to the throne, is given a private annual income – currently about £20m – out of the profits made by the Duchy of Cornwall, a property estate. The 52,000-hectare estate collects rents on properties across 20 counties in England and Wales. However, in some areas its tenants are barred from buying their homes. These tenants, whose number is unknown, continue to pay rent to the duchy – money that in turn is paid to the prince.

 

Last year, after a Guardian investigation revealed the Windsors had vetted several leasehold reform acts, the duchy said in a statement that neither it nor the prince had had “any involvement in the drafting of legislation that relates to any part of leasehold reform”, including the question of tenants buying their own homes.

 

In September 1992, lawyers representing the duchy privately told the government they were concerned about the proposals contained in a new leasehold bill, and argued the Newton St Loe tenants should be denied the right to buy their homes.

 

David Landale, the duchy’s secretary, said the village – one of the duchy’s main holdings – was “particularly well liked and valued by His Royal Highness because of its well-balanced mixture of farms and woodland”.

 

On 30 September a Whitehall official, JE Roberts, warned ministers that “the difficulty is that the Prince of Wales takes a close personal interest in the development of this village”, adding that Charles saw “no reason why he should now relinquish control. It has been made clear to me that if the government wish to press ahead on this issue, the prince will wish to discuss it at the highest levels.”

 

Roberts stressed: “The Prince of Wales is likely to come back on Newton St Loe. Ministers will then need to decide whether it is worth fighting him on the issue.”

 

Sir George Young, the housing minister at the time, and another minister, Tony Baldry, believed it was not justified to prevent the Newton St Loe tenants from buying their homes when others in the country had that right, according to a letter. It was feared it would create a precedent for other major landowners.

 

In a memo on 9 October, Roberts noted: “No special case can be made beyond the fact that the prince has taken a special interest.” He cautioned that ministers’ most important objective was to “ensure that the consent of the Queen and the Prince of Wales to the bill is obtained … their consent is necessary before the bill may be introduced.”

 

“Ultimately I assume that the will of ministers can prevail over that of monarchy but a constitutional crisis would add a further dimension of controversy to the bill which would be better avoided,” he wrote.

 

Roberts warned the ministers faced a choice between either conceding to the prince or staying firm and “looking for a mechanism to break the deadlock. Unfortunately I am not aware that our constitution has provided any such mechanism!”

 

On 22 October, Roberts advised: “On the basis that it is important to avoid a major row with the Prince of Wales … there is a case for letting matters rest … It is open to the minister to fight if he wishes, recognising that this is likely to have costs on both sides.”

 

However, Baldry replied: “We have probably got as far as we can with this … we should let the matter rest.” Young agreed: “I could live with this – reluctantly.” On the same day, the prince gave his consent to the bill.

 

The special exemption barring the Newton St Loe tenants from buying their homes was made public only during the enactment of a later leasehold act in 2002.

 

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A duchy spokesperson said: “The Duchy of Cornwall estate is exempt from leasehold reform legislation but has agreed to act as if bound in, apart from in a very small number of specifically identified areas including Newton St Loe. As you can imagine, we do not discuss individual leaseholds.”

 

In practical terms only a small number of Newton St Loe tenants are affected by the ban. But they say they have suffered bitter financial hardship as a result of the prince’s special rights. One, Jane Giddins, said she and her husband cannot borrow against their home to pay for social care for themselves in the future. She added that the value of the 99-year-old lease on their home – their main asset – diminished steadily as it got closer to ending.

 

“It is total injustice, and feudal,” Giddins said. “Because my freehold is owned by someone who is immensely wealthy and powerful, I am not protected by the law that applies to everyone else in this country. I can’t do anything about it.”

 

She said that when she and her husband took the lease in 1996, the duchy told them about the ban on buying it – but she could not have known that the prince had lobbied to keep the village exempt from leasehold reform.

 

“I took the view that it was so obviously anachronistic and grossly unfair, that by the time I needed to sort it out, the law would have been changed. And I had no idea that the duchy would be able to stop the law being tidied up.”

Monday, 27 June 2022

Prince Charles In Major Controversy After 'Accepting a Suitcase With 1M Euros', Report Claims | GMB / Prince Charles: calls for investigations into ‘cash in bags’ controversy


Prince Charles: calls for investigations into ‘cash in bags’ controversy

 

Government and Charity Commission urged to examine claims Qatari sheikh donated €3m

 

Caroline Davies

Sun 26 Jun 2022 17.16 BST

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2022/jun/26/prince-charles-calls-for-investigations-into-cash-in-bags-controversy

 

Prince Charles faced fresh controversy over the funding of his charities on Sunday, with calls for the government and the Charity Commission to investigate claims he accepted €3m in cash from a billionaire Qatari sheikh.

 

Claims in the Sunday Times that Charles accepted three donations between 2011 and 2015 from former Qatari prime minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber al-Thani – known as “HBJ” – were described as “shocking” by critics. One donation, totalling €1m, was reportedly handed over in a small suitcase and another was stuffed in a carrier bag from upmarket department store Fortnum & Mason.

 

The cash, allegedly then counted by Charles’s aides and subsequently collected by Coutts bank, was paid to the Prince of Wales’s charitable fund which aims to “transform lives and build sustainable communities” through awarding grants. The fund told the Sunday Times that its trustees had concluded that the donor was legitimate and its auditors had signed off on the donation.

 

Although there is no suggestion of any illegality, or that Charles offered anything in return for the generous donations, critics said it raised serious concerns about the future king’s personal judgment, especially given Qatar’s record on human rights.

 

One described it as more like the actions of a “South American drug baron” than a future king, while another said the image of Charles’s aides counting out the cash was like a scene from TV sitcom Only Fools and Horses.

 

Clarence House said in a statement: “Charitable donations received from Sheikh bin Jassim were passed immediately to one of the prince’s charities, who carried out the appropriate governance and have assured us that all the correct processes were followed.”

 

The royal family’s guidelines make no mention of cash donations, but do say that at their sole discretion members of the royal family are allowed to accept a cheque as a patron of, or on behalf of, a charity with which they are associated.

 

The campaign group Republic today demanded full disclosure from Charles over this latest controversy and said it would be writing to Prince Charles, the government, MPs and the Charity Commission. Graham Smith of Republic said the claims were “shocking” and raised ethical questions.

 


“Prince Charles met Sheikh Hamad in private, with no officials present and with no disclosure of the meeting in the court circular,” said Smith. “Sheikh Hamad faces serious accusations over human rights and has significant financial and other interests here in the UK.”

 

Norman Baker, a former government minister and Liberal Democrat MP, who has written a book on royal finances, said: “A million dollars in cash stuffed into Fortnum and Mason bags, or shoved into a holdall or a suitcase, and handed over behind closed doors. This is what one might expect from a South American drug baron, not the heir to the British throne. It seems there are no lengths Charles will not go to get money for his good causes.”

 

Last year, Charles’s closest aide Michael Fawcett was forced to resign after donations to another of his charities, the Prince’s Foundation, came under scrutiny after allegations it offered to help a wealthy Saudi donor secure a knighthood and British citizenship. The Metropolitan police said earlier this year it is investigating the honours claim under the Honours (Prevention of Abuses) Act 1925, after complaints from Baker and others. Clarence House has said Charles had no knowledge of the alleged offers to the billionaire businessman Mahfouz Marei Mubarak bin Mahfouz, who denies any wrongdoing.

 

Of these latests claims, Baker said: “[Charles] is already involved in a police investigation as a result of my complaint to the Metropolitan police last year. This is grubby, scuzzy behaviour which reinforces the view many are reaching: that Charles is not fit to be king.

 

“He doesn’t behave in any way which is appropriate to his position. If an MP behaved in that way they would be out of parliament.”

 

The Northern Ireland secretary, Brandon Lewis, said the donations the Prince of Wales is alleged to have received from the former prime minister of Qatar would have gone through “proper due process”.

 

“This isn’t a government issue, but what I have seen is the palace have been very clear, that all moneys go through proper due process, the charities obviously go through proper due process,” Lewis told the BBC’s Sunday Morning programme.

 

“I’m confident having had some dealings with charities, the Prince’s Trust, the Prince’s Foundation, around the palace in the past myself that these will have gone through proper due process.”

 

But the royal author and Prince Charles critic Tom Bower, said the claim that royal aides were asked to handle carrier bags stuffed with money was “like a scene from the TV comedy Only Fools and Horses.”

 

Coutts declined to discuss specific transactions, but a spokesperson told the Mail on Sunday: “We have longstanding and robust policies and controls to assess the source, nature and purpose of large and unusual transactions. In particular, receipt of cash payments by the bank receive thorough review and oversight.”



The rise of luxury fashion’s resale market | FT Wealth

Sunday, 26 June 2022

Lucy Worsley Investigates - Preview


REVIEW

Lucy Worsley has to hold back tears as she gets serious about the witch hunts

   

4/5

In her new series, Lucy Worsley Investigates, the historian has ditched the twinkle for sober research - and it suits her

 

By

Jasper Rees

24 May 2022 • 10:00pm

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/tv/0/lucy-worsley-has-hold-back-tears-gets-serious-witch-hunts/

 

In the 1990s Britain’s witches started to enjoy a better press thanks to JK Rowling. Four centuries earlier, not far from the very Edinburgh cafe in which she scratched out the early adventures of Hermione Granger and the boy wizards in her gang, witches were in less good odour. As grippingly related in The Witch Hunts: Lucy Worsley Investigates (BBC Two), the state-sponsored hounding of blameless women began in Edinburgh in the 1590s with the execution of Agnes Sampson.

 

Carefully lacing the facts together from books, documents and sessions with fellow historians, Worsley wandered into a horror story. Poor Agnes, she revealed, was a midwife and healer in a village in East Lothian who found herself snared in the cross-hairs of history.

 

John Knox’s Presbyterians had jostled to prominence just as the Little Ice Age and a growing population made food scarcer. To propitiate the Almighty someone needed blaming and folk healers, newly suspected of being in league with the Devil, fitted the bill. Most of them were women.

 

Then in 1590 the heirless James VI’s ship, bringing home his Danish bride, nearly sank in a storm in the Firth of Forth. Agnes was summoned before the king to Holyrood and had a confession of conjuring up the storm tortured out of her. As they hunted for marks of the Devil “found upon her privities”, she admitted to a fictitious 200-strong coven before being executed by strangling.

 

Fun times these were not, though perhaps they were not so unlike our own. Imagine the fanatics of Isis teaming up with the disinformers of Russian state TV: that was the Scotland of James VI, who, as James I, would shortly export this misogynist ideology to England.

 

This new series, casting Worsley as an inky-fingered sleuth shedding new light on well-worn episodes in British history, could run and run. Previously I have been resistant to her immersive style – the mob caps and the mummery would trigger my inner harrumpher.

 

Her director still fetishises her shoewear with close-ups of clacking Marplesque heels, but there’s now less artful twinkling and more impassioned sincerity. Here you could watch Worsley reacting in real time to unscripted discoveries. When she found a document quoting Agnes more or less verbatim, she distinctly paused to hold back a tear.

 

This was sober, research-based storytelling, with field trips to overgrown ruins and museum storerooms. The only glimmer of impish wit was in Forfar, where the camera spotted a black cat on the prowl.

 

Worsley’s true co-stars were the documents she disinterred. However, it was only if you paused on the relevant frame could you read the vilification of blameless women at its most pornographic: “It has latelye beene found that the Divell dooth generallye marke them with a privie marke, by reason the Witches have confessed themselves, that the Divell dooth lick them with his tung in some privy part of their bodie, before hee dooth receive them to be his servants.” Worsley left that bit out. As did Rowling.

 

1. Princes in the Tower

Air date: May 15, 2022

Lucy Worsley investigates what really happened to the two princes who disappeared in 1483.

 

2. Madness of King George

Air date: May 22, 2022

A close look at the life of George III, including the effect of his mental illness on Britain and how the assassination attempt on his life changed psychiatry.

 

3. The Black Death

Air date: May 24, 2022

Lucy Worsley reinvestigates and reveals new evidence about some of British history's biggest unsolved mysteries.

 

4. The Witch Hunts

Air date: May 24, 2022

Lucy Worsley reinvestigates and reveals new evidence about some of British history's biggest unsolved mysteries.