Lady Killers with Lucy Worsley

The description of a new series on the BBC website takes up the remainder of this post.

Lucy Worsley investigates the crimes of Victorian women from a contemporary, feminist perspective. [CAFP: A feminist perspective? Well, that will make a change!]

In the first case in the series, Lucy explores the story of Florence Bravo, the woman at the heart of one of the most sensational unsolved murder cases of the Victorian era, and asks whether she was a ruthless poisoner or an abused wife. [CAFP: Hmm, what might be the answer from a “contemprary feminist perspective”?]

Lucy visits The Priory, Florence Bravo’s grand house in Balham where, on 21st April 1876, after three days of agony, her young husband Charles died of poisoning. They had been married for only five months but the relationship was already under strain – Charles was jealous of the much older doctor Florence had been involved with before their marriage, he was frustrated that he had only limited control of her large fortune, both of them were drinking heavily, and Florence had suffered two miscarriages in close succession.

Lucy meets historian Rosalind Crone [CAFP: A feminist, we can conclude from the surname] at the nearby pub where an inquest was held into Charles Bravo’s death. This case became known as The Balham Mystery and was a Victorian media sensation, with pages of coverage every day in the respectable broadsheets, tabloids and penny dreadfuls. An intimidating, all-male environment, Lucy and Rosalind discover how the inquest into Florence’s husband’s death degenerated into an inquiry into her sexual morality, and they wonder what Victorian woman made of Florence’s story. And we hear Florence’s own words as she tried to defend herself at the inquest into her husband’s death.

To gain a contemporary perspective on the Florence Bravo case, Lucy talks to the leading barrister Sasha Wass QC, who has worked on many high-profile cases including those of Rosemary West, Johnny Depp and Rolf Harris. Lucy wants to know why Florence’s accusations about her husband’s cruelty were ignored by the inquest. Would Florence have been treated differently had there been women in the police force, in her legal team, on the jury and in the press? Why do women in criminal investigations continue to undergo ‘trial by media’?

And, crucially, in a case that has never been solved, did she do it?

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