Lucy Worsley: "If I Ruled the World"

Lucy Worsley: "If I Ruled the World"

Lucy Worsley is the author of several best-selling books and is one of our pre-eminent TV historians. She’s also chief curator of Historic Royal Palaces, with her office in Hampton Court.

All children would visit an historic house or castle

hampton court
Hampton Court Palace, where Lucy has her office

Or even just a lump in the ground from the Bronze Age. The point is to capture their imaginations while they’re still full of adventure.

Seeing the real thing brings history alive far better than a cartoon, and children gain so much: knowledge about the past; analytical skills while studying evidence; and best of all they have a really good time.

Taking a day out to visit an historic house is often a social event with friends and family, and there’s always tea and cake to look forward to at the end of it. 


We’d walk more and have fewer cars

I don’t have a car, so I can preach about this with sanctimonious impunity. I think they’re the bane of modern life. They’re smelly, noisy, dangerous and I get car sick.

Here at Hampton Court we’re surrounded by so many lovely green spaces, but the traffic is often gridlocked to a choking standstill. That makes me really sad.


I’d spend more money on the arts

manchester museum
Manchester's Imperial War Museum

Museums, libraries, heritage services and art galleries. And the money would be spread more evenly around the UK.

Local museums need our help and love—they’re having their budgets cut by local authorities. At the moment so much taxpayers’ money is being used to subsidise the London museums. 


Things wouldn’t be so long

I’d cut films, books, meetings and journeys by 20 per cent. I may be impatient, but who wants to watch a film for three hours? Or sit in a meeting to the point of diminishing returns?


We’d enjoy more elegant living

The Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection
A gown from the Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection

Women would wear lovely dresses and we’d go to more cocktail parties. Style and panache are pleasurable, in the same way that art and culture make life worth living rather than enduring.

In my job, we look after The Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection, which is more than 10,000 pieces of historic dress. Being around clothes where each piece has been carefully considered by the person who commissioned it, made it or wore it is an inspiration.


I’d tell people to value small things 

I’m fascinated by everyday detail—as the old-school feminists used to say, “The personal is the political.” For example, how we dress or stand have been indicators throughout time of power or our standing in society.

We all have to eat or go to the loo, and seeing how other people have done such familiar things differently from us can be an unexpected connection and window to the past.


We’d be less judgmental

selfie stick

A lot of visitors to historic houses believe there’s a certain way to behave, but I believe everyone should be able to do what they like—within reason. Let’s get over the snobbery of selfie sticks; if that’s how people want to record a happy time, then great. 


I’d encourage people to take time to contemplate

It could be looking at a great work of art or a garden or a building, but stopping and standing in silence for a while to contemplate something can give a greater under-standing of our place in the universe.

It’s my job to help provide that kind of experience for four million people a year, and it’s a challenge I love.


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