Seventeenth-century women, a new TV series, and Jeffrey the horse

Please meet Jeffrey the horse.  He’s a lovely tame animal.  Not having ridden a horse since an incident at Girl Guide camp in 1985, let alone ridden side-saddle, I was a bit nervous of Jeffrey when I first met him. But he is so well trained that if you accidentally pull even a tiny bit too hard on the reins to bring him to stop, he goes into reverse and starts walking backwards.

He was also completely unfazed by our camera and our sound man’s fluffy boom – but, strangely, he took a dislike to the silver stepladder I used to climb up onto him, and we had to hide it from him.

Anyway, Jeffrey and I are trotting through the grounds of Broughton Castle in Oxfordshire, home of the Fiennes family, in search of the intrepid seventeenth century traveller and chronicler of Britain, Celia Fiennes.  She’s just one of the many Restoration Women I’ve been thinking about recently, for a new BBC4 series.  Nell Gwyn and Barbara Villiers, the royal mistresses, are of course included, as we spring off from the subject matter of 2012’s Hampton Court exhibition ‘The Wild, The Beautiful And The Damned’, about beauty at the debauched court of Charles II.  But we’ve also got Aphra Behn, Margaret Cavendish, and scores of nameless ordinary women to consider too. Read the official blurb here.

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