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Lucy Worsley has to hold back tears as she gets serious about the witch hunts

In the 1990s, British witches enjoyed better press thanks to JK Rowling. Four centuries ago, not far from the very Edinburgh coffee shop where she scraped the early adventures of Hermione Granger and the young wizards in her gang, witches were in a less good smell. How exciting told in The Witch Hunts: Lucy Worsley investigates (BBC Two) started the state-sponsored hunt for innocent women in Edinburgh in the 1590s with the execution of Agnes Sampson.

Worsley carefully pieced together the facts from books, documents, and meetings with other historians, he fell into a horror story. Poor Agnes, she revealed, was a midwife and healer in an East Lothian village who found herself in the crosshairs of history.

John Knox’s Presbyterians had come into prominence just as the Little Ice Age and a growing population were making food scarce. To appease the Almighty someone had to be blamed, and folk healers, newly suspected of being in league with the devil, fitted the picture. Most of them were women.

Then, in 1590, the heirless James VI’s ship bringing home his Danish bride almost sank in a storm in the Firth of Forth. Agnes was summoned before the king at Holyrood and had a confession to having raised the tormented storm. As they hunted for signs of the devil “found on their privates,” she confessed to a fictional coven of 200 before being executed by strangulation.

Those weren’t fun times, though perhaps not so dissimilar to ours. Imagine the fanatics of Isis teaming up with the disinformers of Russian state television: this was the Scotland of James VI, who as James I would shortly be exporting this misogynist ideology to England.

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/tv/0/lucy-worsley-has-hold-back-tears-gets-serious-witch-hunts/ Lucy Worsley has to hold back tears as she gets serious about the witch hunts

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