Lucy Worsley Investigates… “The Witch Hunts” 24 May 2022: Tuesday on BBC Two
We all think we know what we mean by a witch, but behind the clichés of pointy hats and broomsticks lies a terrifying history that’s been largely forgotten. 400 years ago, thousands of ordinary people, the vast majority of them women, were hunted down, tortured and killed in witch hunts across Scotland and England. Lucy Worsley investigates what lay behind these horrifying events.
She begins her investigation in North Berwick, a seaside town not far from Edinburgh, where the witch hunting craze began. The story goes that in 1590, a coven of witches gathered here to cast a spell to try to kill the King of Scotland, James VI. Using an account from the time called Newes from Scotland and other first-hand sources, Lucy uncovers a web of political intrigue that led to a woman called Agnes Sampson, a faith healer and midwife, being investigated. She is accused of witchcraft and interrogated at Holyrood Castle by King James himself before being tortured and executed.
Agnes was caught in a perfect storm: hardline Protestant reformers wanting to make Scotland devout, a king out to prove himself a righteous leader, and a new ideology which claims the Devil is actively recruiting women as witches. Under torture, Agnes gave the names of her supposed accomplices, some 59 other innocent people, resulting in the first successful large scale witch hunt in Scotland. Its brutal success made it the model for trials rolled out across Scotland and England for the next hundred years.
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About Lucy Worsley Investigates…
Lucy Worsley re-investigates some of the most dramatic chapters in British history. She uncovers forgotten witnesses, re-examines old evidence and follows new clues.
This show is broadcast on BBC Two, also known as the British Broadcasting Corporation.