Timeshift: How to Be a Lady - An Elegant History

Timeshift: How to Be a Lady - An Elegant History

Series 12



What, wonders Rachel Johnson, does it take to be “a lady” in the 21st century? As a former editor of The Lady, Johnson, whose big brother Boris had his life dissected by Michael Cockerell on BBC2 last night, is well placed to lead us gently by the hand through this funny and informative documentary.

She learns to ride side-saddle and visits Cheltenham Ladies College, an august establishment that she absolutely refused even to countenance attending as a schoolgirl. She has etiquette lessons where she fails to balance a book on her head and takes to her bike, once denounced as a depraved form of transport for a lady because it might ruin the “feminine organs”.


Rachel Johnson embarks on a quest to find out how to be a lady. The writer and former editor of the Lady magazine explores the origins of the word `lady', from the time when it represented a specific code of behaviour, dress and speech, to the current day, asking why terms such as `ladylike' remain in use. As part of her mission, Rachel rides side-saddle, attends an etiquette school and visits her grandmother's own Ladies' College at Cheltenham.

Cast & Crew

Presenter Rachel Johnson
Producer Robert Murphy
Series Producer William Murphy