Harlots, Housewives & Heroines: A 17th Century History for Girls

Act Three: At Work and Play

Series 1 - Episode 3 Act Three: At Work and Play



Lucy Worsley climbs into a pair of breeches to pay homage to Britain’s first female thespians, among them King Charles II’s mistress, orange-seller Nell Gwyn. But actresses – or “buttered buns”, as outraged puritans preferred to call them – weren’t the only 17th-century women to wear the trousers.

The final instalment of this absorbing series also celebrates explorer Celia Fiennes (forebear of Sir Ranulph), a soldier who fought for a dozen years until a groin injury exposed her true gender, the first woman to be paid for putting pen to paper and – Worsley’s personal heroine – scientist Margaret Cavendish.


Lucy Worsley profiles women who took advantage of social and technological changes during the Restoration era to step into traditionally male roles and challenge British gender divisions. She explores how religious and political turmoil, the rapid expansion of London and advances in science and printing presented women with new opportunities, and profiles trailblazing figures including actress Nell Gwynn, writer Aphra Behn and Christian Davies, who disguised herself as a man in a bid to become a soldier. Last in the series.

Cast & Crew

Presenter Lucy Worsley
Director Eleanor Scoones
Executive Producer Emma Hindley
Producer Eleanor Scoones
Series Producer Nick Gillam-Smith