Fit To Rule: How Royal Illness Changed History. Television Review.

Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating 8.5/10

History is what defines us; it is what has shaped our nation and those around us, without the ability to learn from it, to take comfort in its meaning or to be able to look at the parallels in which we can draw conclusions of in today’s world. We may as well arguably find ourselves bereft of the ability to reason, to wonder and imagine; we may as well start again and scrap anything and everyone that has lived in the last thousand years.

A country can be defined by how it copes in adverse times, when the odds are stacked against it, and never more so when its figurehead is considered not fit to rule.

Lucy Worsley’s in depth look at history is one of great fascination, she somehow manages to combine great enthusiasm for her subject with the ability to impart knowledge to her viewers, whilst never coming across as condescending or expecting the audience to be bored by her work. In is in that field that she perhaps expands the interest in a way of those who were left behind in such lessons at school and does it whilst still maintaining the attention of those to whom History is a noticeable hobby or concern.

In Ms. Worsley’s latest three part series, Fit To Rule: How Royal Illness Changed History, the evidence of five hundred years of English and British history is put under the microscope and seen to reflect the nation’s attitude and issues at the time; like an ornate mirror showing the shadows and the blemishes of society, illness is no curse and absolute health in both body and mind can be damning.

From the Tudor period through to the current regent’s own Uncle; King Edward VIII, the question of being fit to rule is one that hangs in the air like a vulture waiting for the opportune moment in which to strike down, whether it is the whispered galleries of Queen Mary and the threat of cancer and her blood lust for revenge or through to what could be described as clinical depression in Queen Victoria in the wake of her husband’s death; the vulture of gossip and politics plays an even hand, even more so in modern society with the dramas and free access to public opinion via the internet.

Fit To Rule: How Royal Illness Changed History is an eye opener into the effect on seeing the King or Queen as just people, not hindered by the thought of divine rule but one in which gout, corpulent to the point of heart disease, bordering on psychosis, affairs of state, dying in childbirth, rigours of the title and demands on the body are just the same as everybody else. We all live, we all die, some in glorious failure, others because they paid no heed, we all are bound by our bodies and our minds, we are the mirror in which a nation is viewed.

Once again Lucy Worsley brings a fresh take on the history of the people that shaped a nation; for good or for ill, the question of who is fit to rule is never more poignant in a world decreed by mad men in office.

Ian D. Hall