Erddig House National Treasures


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Erddig House

Dan Snow and Sian Williams are at Erddig House in North Wales, where they see what life was really like for Victorian servants. Sheila Hancock looks at female spies.


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A couple of weeks ago we asked you to is enin your national treasure.

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And Nicky Tweeted, "I love Erddig Hall so much, it feels like you

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have gone back in time." couldn't agree more. From Erddig

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Hall, welcome to National Treasures Good evening, and welcome to Erddig

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Hall. For two centuries well up until the late 1970s this was the

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home of the Miss Work of Art. the surface, they were a typically

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wealthy family, but behind this grand facade was a interesting

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story. They were people like us who shared a love of history, but they

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horded everything because this horse is a unique glimpse into 19th

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century life and is perfectly preserved. We're joined by fans of

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Erddig. What do you think is special about it? Erddig is so

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unique. It's an atmosphere that brings people back here again and

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again. What do you think is special? To me, it's just a family

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homestead. You just feel like you can pull up a chair and have a cup

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of tea. That would be nice. Tonight we're going to take you inside this

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grand house. We'll show you how the servants worked and how the family

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lived and, unusually, the relationship between the two.

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explain another unusual relationship - how a feral child

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found wandering the woods became King George I's pet perfect, and we

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head to Perthshire to meet one of the few men alive who know what

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it's like to sink a German warship. If you have World War II questions

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of your own or other questions, do e-mail us at

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[email protected], or you can Tweet us. We'll see if we can

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help you out later. Throughout the series we have

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learnt a lot about the historical passions of some of our best-known

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faces, everything from Greg Wallace's war-time rationing

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recipes to Larry Lamb's love of the music halls. Tonight we're going

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undercover with Sheila Hancock as she infiltrates the fascinating

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world of female spies. From Mata Hari to Anna Chapman,

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women spice have been seen as glamorous. Growing up in World War

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II, I really was quite scared of talking. I thought there were spies

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behind every tree, and it's not surprising considering the posters

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that were all over the place. This is a typical one, "Careless talk

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costs lives." It's given me a life- long interest in the world of

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spying, and in particular, the role of the female spy. When I think of

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spies in the olden days, I think of people like Mata Harics, kind of

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vampy and sexy and all of that. When did that happen? I think

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throughout the centuries, it's conditioned by women's role in

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society. Women spies would be cortisans, would be the lovers of

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Kings, of generals and could get information from the pillow, as it

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were. But World War II changed everything. With the recruitment of

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female agents into an intelligence unit called The Special Operations

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Executive or SOE. The purpose of SOE agents was to facility -

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facility ate the dropping of supplies. They acted as wireless

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operators or couriers. Let's have a look at what they used. A courier

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would be taking secret messages from one place to another. This is

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a handbag that has a secret compartment.

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I suppose it was easy for women to not be suspected at a time like

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that. Is that right? Well, it conforms to the role of women in

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society in France in the early 1940s, which is, you know,

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housewife, office worker, that sort of thing, and this assumption was

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that the resistance fighter was bound to be a man. This, I believe,

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belonged to a specific woman. Her name was Yvonne Kurmou, from 1943.

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My goodness. There is a stain there. What is that? That is her blood

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when she was shot in the leg, and you can see the bloodstains here.

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Oh, my goodness, and did she get away all right? Yes, she did.

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Sesurvived. She's one of the most successful wireless operators, but

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strangely, is one of the most forgotten.

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Because of the bravery of women like her, attitudes towards female

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operators changed. As tensions between East and West developed

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into the Cold War, a whole raft of elaborate Bondesque gadgets emerged,

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some of which were definitely more Jane a than James, like the kiss-

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of-death lipstick with a concealed- shot pistol, a lady's leather belt,

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hidden dagger, optional, and a fashionable silver ring with a

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hollow compartment, perfect for carrying poison - just in case.

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Pictured here with the former Foreign Secretary Geoffrey Howell

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is one of the women recruited during the Cold War, Baroness Mita

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Ramsey. If I ask you for a job description of what you did, what

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would it be? An intelligence officer in secret intelligence

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service, also known as MI6. Would you call yourself a spy? I suppose

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it could be, yes. During the Cold War, one of her jobs was to recruit

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agents across the world to pass foreign military secrets back to

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the UK. Were there advantages in being a woman? Well, you can

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sometimes get away with murder with policemen, and you can play up a

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little bit your helpless femininity, so I think that can be a real

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advantage. One of the qualities I would have thought you needed was

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not exactly an enjoyment of danger, but not avoiding danger. I mean, if

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you were frightened of danger, then you couldn't do it, could you?

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suppose that's true. I have never thought about it like enjoying the

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danger, but if you couldn't live with the rush of adrenaline when

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something's not going right, then you wouldn't go on doing it. You

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would either have a nervous breakdown, or you would certainly

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stop. Female spies have come a long way. The glamorous image of the

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movies remains a fiction. Well, where did the Mata Hari bit come

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in? Where was the glamour and the sexiness? I don't know if I would

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use that word about being an intelligence officer. There is a

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lot of waiting around. There is a lot of taking a long time to get

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anywhere to make absolutely sure you're not followed. That can be in

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all climates. There are a lot of times when you're standing in way,

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way below zero waiting to do something, and you think, there

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must be easier ways to... Like filming! Exactly.

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LAUGHTER Oh, the Baroness there, an

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extraordinary woman. Sheila has joined us in this amazing dining

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room. Isn't it lovely? It's incredible. We'll learn more about

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it in just a moment. Meeting the Baroness must have been special,

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wasn't it? It was. It was remarkable. It summed up - when I

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asked her why she chose such a difficult, dangerous career, she

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said, quite simply, "I wanted to serve my country," and that's what

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she's done ever since. She's at the heart of Lords now. She's

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campaigned. She's done everything. Do you think her role and the other

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female spys from World War II are largely overlooked? I think there

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is a danger like all history because history is mainly written

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by men. Certainly there were women that did remarkable things. We know

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about the famous ones that films were made of, but we don't know

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about others. I know you're starting to write a book. It's a

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novel, isn't it? I am of the wartime generation, and I wanted to

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put some of my experiences in the book. In the process I have been

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researching resistance workers, and I have been absolutely amazed of

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the untold stories of these women. They're just completely ignored and

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overlooked. It's just a case of keeping those stories and memories

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alive. Yes, it's very important people know about them. Good luck.

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How far are you in it? I am about a quarter of the way through.

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back to it. Yeah, better. Toot sweet! Just ass women were the

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unsung heroes of World War II, in stately homes it's normally the

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staff that are forgotten over time. That's not the case here in Erddig

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Hall, is it? No, I am here in the guts of the building. Look at these

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incredible bells. People would have rung them upstairs if they wanted

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something. We'll come here into the servants' hall. This is where they

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would have eaten. There are paintings on the wall. These look

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like they're the paintings of the owners, but they're not. Merlin

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Watson is heavily involved in the restoration of the building. Tell

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me about these? They're portraits of staff. This lady was a spider

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brusher, in other words, a housemaid. The painting was painted

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in 1973. She's shown with her broom and her mop. This is a game keeper

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to the estate, Jack Henshaw. The indescription tells us he was a

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little bit bond of beer here is somebody called Jack Nicklaus. He

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plucked chickens. He was a simpleton and kept by the family as

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an act of charity. This is unusual. Usually portraits are reserved for

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members of the family. Yes, but it's one of the things about Erddig

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- in the early 18th century, the family were close to their servants.

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They corresponded with them. They took a great interest in them when

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they got married. They began to record them. This collection goes

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right the way through to the 20th century. It does. Photography began

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in the 1860s. It's continued until the First World War. There are just

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a sprinkling of photographs just after. Incredible. You can find

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more about all of these servants and stories on our website. Ruth

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Goodman explores the secrets of the house including more of these

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paintings and the recently discovered postcard collection of

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the house's last ever nanny. Here is the web address. The collection

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is unique, but Lucy Worsley has unearthed one or two other pictures

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of servants elsewhere, particularly a on the King George I's palace.

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She used it to try to solve one of our strangest Royal mysteries.

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at Kensington Palace in London, this staircase is lined with the

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portraits of servants who worked for King George I. In among the

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courtiers and ladies in waiting is one of the most mysterious figures

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in the history of the Royal court. He was known simply as "Peter, the

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wild boy". In 1725, he was found by local peasants deep in the woods

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near the German town of Hanover. He was a feral child with a wild

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appearance who lived off the food of the forest and who couldn't

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articulate a single word. People were surprised by the wild boy's

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excessively hairy appearance, the way he scampered on all fours

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instead of walking upright. They noticed he had an old wound on his

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left hand. Some of the fingers were fused together with webbing, like a

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duck's foot. King George I, who had been born near that city, heard

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about the wild boy, and invited him to join the Royal household.

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Perhaps he relished the challenge of transforming Peter from the

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savage he seemed into the perfect gentleman. And the courtiers were

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intrigued by him because he didn't understand the rules of human

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behaviour. They were charmed by his encounters with civilisation. At

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night, he wouldn't get into a bed. He'd go and curl up in the corner

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of the room on floor. Standing next to Peter in the picture is his

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tutor, Dr John Arbuthnot in the hat. He tried to teach him the alphabet.

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He got him to mouth the letters, and despite all of his tutor's

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efforts, Peter never learned how to speak. For the ploser ifs, he

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summed up one of the great questions of the enlightenment -

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what does it mean to be a human being? If you have no speech, do

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you have a soul? Was Peter just an animal? At the time, people assumed

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that Peter acted the way he did because he was a wild child. They

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didn't suspect that something else could have been afflicting him. But

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a new analysis of Peter's portraits by Professor Philip Beale Beals has

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revealed the possible causes of his behaviour. What we see in this

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particular picture is he has this prominent flop of hair and these

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nostrils. The artist has captured the lip, which have this cupid's

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bow appearance. You have put all of these clues into your database and

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come out with an answer? I think this is a condition described as

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Pit Hopkins Syndrome. There are many features, the most severe of

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this is the neurological component, a difficulty to develop speech and

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other conditions. Not realising Peter's behaviour could be due to a

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medical condition, the courtiers got bored of him and was sent to

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the country. He was looked after in Hertfordshire. In the country,

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Peter could be much more himself, a far cry from his life within the

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Royal Palaces. And near to his home, here at

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Berkhamstead School Library, they have the only remaining artefact

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left from his life, Peter's collar. Look at this. You can see where it

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was locked on around his neck. It looks like a horrible, vicious

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thing to wear. What do you think of a human being wearing a collar like

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a dog? I don't think people should wear collars. But at the same time,

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it was made with a kind thought, I think, because it's got his name

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and address on the front. "Whoever will bring him to Mr Fen shall be

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paid for their trouble." It shows, then, he wasn't really an object or

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a possession because if he was a slave, people wouldn't get paid for

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the trouble. I agree with you. I think the collar does show they

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cared about him. Peter lived on into his 70s, and in turn, he grew

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very attached to the farmers who looked after him, so much so that

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when the last farmer died, Peter really took it to heart. He pined

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:16:02.:16:03.

away, and he died here at the farm Often, flowers mysteriously appear

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at his grave. I asked somebody at the church who leaves them, and she

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said, we don't know who leaves flowers for Peter but there must be

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people around here who think he should be a remembered. Peter, once

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ridiculed by the upper classes as a wild and soul this animal, had

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grown into a gentle and sensitive person, leading an innocent and

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simple life, proving himself to be Isn't it lovely to think there are

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people leaving flowers on Peter's grave today? You have to wonder who

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those people might be. We are back in the dining room here,

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where successive generations of the Yorkes would have entertained. They

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would have had five-course meals including four desserts. It sounds

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very grand and man in his here with me. They were not an ostentatious

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family -- Merlin Waterson is here with me. No, if you look at the

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portraits, the first Duke has chosen to be painted in a rather

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sombre black coat, but it is a sympathetic, intelligent face. I

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think that is how he would have wanted to have been sort of. What

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happened at the Yorke family? lived here comfortably in the 19th

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century but the income from the estate was dwindling and it was

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running downhill. During the First World War, in a sense, it gave them

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an opportunity to stop keeping up appearances. Most of the staff left.

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That is when you came in, in the 70s. We can see what the house

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looked like, it was in a poor state of repair. You stayed here for

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quite a while? There had been mining their -- mining beneath the

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house, so it had fallen three feet. Water had fallen into the centre

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part of the building and when I stayed here, I sat in one of the

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lovely bedrooms upstairs, but the water came through the ceiling and

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when it was cold, because the windows were broken, sometimes snow

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would drift in and you founded on the floor in the morning. It was in

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a precarious state. And a labour of love for you and the Natural Trust

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-- the National Trust to build it back up into what we see today.

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This room would have had fine dinner parties, but most of the

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time the family would have eaten alone, and for the last generation

:18:44.:18:51.

of Yorkes it meant mum, dad anti- boys, but even they had 15 indoor

:18:51.:18:55.

servants, which made it got pretty busy downstairs.

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It would have been packed down here. Waste not, one not. That was the

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motto. That is why there are all of these incredible artefacts. We do

:19:06.:19:12.

have been down here working, or up there, relaxing? I would have liked

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the people down here more but I am not a good cook and I do not like

:19:16.:19:21.

emptying chamber pots and things! This would have been a very hot

:19:21.:19:27.

place to work because that fire was an open fire until the early

:19:27.:19:32.

twentieth-century, when they put the range in. And that window, a

:19:32.:19:39.

beautiful window, very unusual. Servants in the kitchen where often

:19:39.:19:43.

in the basement, but here they are in the ground floor with the light

:19:43.:19:51.

streaming in. Lovely. I have somebody with some of these

:19:51.:19:53.

utensils, my grandmother had some of these. What is that? Sugar

:19:53.:20:00.

nippers. How did show the come? a large cone, and this would be the

:20:00.:20:06.

top of it. Was the sugar lumps for a ball or cooking? Cooking,

:20:06.:20:10.

anything that was needed. And if you mash that, you get icing sugar.

:20:10.:20:18.

It would have been hard work down here. Look at this! This is an

:20:18.:20:23.

apple peeler and corer. It does everything. A scullery maid would

:20:23.:20:29.

have been up at 6am and not in bed until 10pm. Do you know how much

:20:29.:20:35.

she got paid? About �8 in year. are doing all of the research for

:20:35.:20:39.

us! These guys have been slaving away down here, but the family had

:20:40.:20:45.

plenty of time up there for leisure. They did, the Yorke family spent

:20:45.:20:50.

lots of time out here in this beautiful garden. Looking lovely.

:20:50.:20:53.

They would play croquet, cricket, there was even a bowling alley down

:20:53.:20:58.

the other end. It is a Grade 1 listed garden so the layout has not

:20:58.:21:03.

been changed and about 300 years. Throughout the series down and

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Michael have been criss-crossing the land on their history rogue

:21:06.:21:12.

chip, and for the final leg of their journey they have been timid

:21:12.:21:18.

and -- been to meet an ordinary man with an extraordinary story.

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I don't fit on this bed. You make a lot of noise in your sleep, a lot

:21:24.:21:31.

of scratching and snoring. A lot of tromping. When we put this engine

:21:31.:21:36.

on, the whole thing will go! Today we are going off to meet a special

:21:36.:21:43.

person, a surprise for years. Off to Scotland. Great. Doing what?

:21:43.:21:53.
:21:53.:22:07.

Welcome to Scotland! I can't even see through the rain. Britain is a

:22:07.:22:12.

nation shaped by warfare but the reality is there has been more war

:22:12.:22:16.

in our nation's history than peace. A British soldier has been killed

:22:16.:22:21.

in combat every year since the Second World War apart from once.

:22:21.:22:26.

Is there ever a good reason for war? Do you ever think, they should

:22:26.:22:34.

be happening? A lot of people say the second world war was a good one.

:22:34.:22:44.
:22:44.:22:49.

Britain was on the right side of Let's see what this house is, on

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the right. There we go. You are driving on the lawn! Is this

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somebody's lawn?! Have you heard of the Bismarck? I have heard of it,

:23:03.:23:07.

but I don't know what it is. Something to do with the Second

:23:08.:23:13.

World War? Yes, it is a big ship. One of the most powerful warships

:23:13.:23:18.

ever build, and it threatened Britain's supply line to North

:23:18.:23:22.

America, potentially a war winning piece of equipment for the Germans

:23:22.:23:32.
:23:32.:23:32.

will -- for the Germans. This man is responsible for sinking it.

:23:32.:23:35.

have to make sure we are at the right house because he is not good

:23:35.:23:39.

with maps, but I think we will meet someone with a first-hand account

:23:39.:23:43.

of a major piece of history, and I am nervous about that because he

:23:43.:23:51.

does this all of the time, but I just cut people's hair! John, how

:23:51.:23:56.

are you? This is Michael Foster up hello, nice to meet you. Welcome

:23:56.:24:02.

aboard. Meeting John Moffett is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for

:24:02.:24:08.

Michael. He dropped a torpedo that hit the Bismarck, the world's most

:24:08.:24:13.

powerful German battleship. It hit it in the rudder, it span in

:24:13.:24:17.

circles and the Royal Navy closed in and pounded it until it sank.

:24:17.:24:20.

You were flying the Swordfish on that famous mission against the

:24:20.:24:26.

Bismarck? Yes. Tell us what happened? New set off from the Ark

:24:26.:24:32.

Royal? We kept going up above the clouds, and all of a sudden all

:24:32.:24:37.

hell let loose. Shells bursting all around us and causing a sheet of

:24:37.:24:45.

water to come up to maybe 200, 300 ft, coming up everywhere. I could

:24:45.:24:52.

see this big ship firing its guns. It was a hell of a size. It was

:24:52.:24:55.

really something. I could just about see the people on the deck of

:24:55.:25:02.

the ship. Of the Bismarck? Yes, I was that close. Bullets started

:25:02.:25:08.

flying them. My observers suddenly said, not yet! And all of a sudden

:25:08.:25:13.

he shouted, let her go! And away she went. You didn't know what you

:25:13.:25:19.

had done and you went over the next day? Yes, to finish her off. All of

:25:19.:25:25.

a sudden, it turned on its side. Did you see that? Oh, yes, and not

:25:25.:25:33.

only that, I was about 50 ft off the water, and there were hundreds

:25:33.:25:39.

of chaps in the sea. It was unbelievable. It was not a side

:25:39.:25:46.

that you forget. -- not a sight that you forget. Did you feel you

:25:46.:25:49.

were doing the right thing being in the Navy, fighting on the right

:25:49.:25:56.

side? Hitler had to be stopped, and if we can do our bit, then fair

:25:56.:26:02.

enough. I cannot thank you enough for sharing that with me. That is

:26:02.:26:10.

absolutely superb, thank you. That was remarkable. His actions

:26:10.:26:14.

were responsible for changing the course of the war. That is the

:26:14.:26:18.

amazing thing about meeting people like that, normal people with an

:26:18.:26:22.

impact on history which will be felt for years to come. Amazing.

:26:22.:26:28.

Where next? Salad. Can I get a white pudding before we go? What is

:26:28.:26:35.

that? It is like a battered sausage...

:26:35.:26:39.

An extraordinary testimony. We have met people throughout this series

:26:39.:26:45.

who have been at a heart of history, quite a privilege. I have met him a

:26:45.:26:49.

couple of times, he is a national treasure.

:26:49.:26:53.

Thank you for your tweets and e- mail so that the programme.

:26:53.:26:56.

Question -- Sheila, you have a question?

:26:56.:27:01.

We know the people upstairs were above us in the kitchen, but was

:27:01.:27:05.

there hierarchy in the kitchen? Housekeeper ruled the roost and had

:27:05.:27:10.

a stronger position than the cook, so could order the cut around, but

:27:10.:27:13.

there was a time when the cook earned so much more because of all

:27:13.:27:16.

of the entertaining. The Butler was in charge on the

:27:17.:27:22.

male side and had for it man below, said definitely a hierarchy. As a

:27:22.:27:28.

scullery maid, I would have had to obey everybody!

:27:28.:27:32.

We have a tweet about World War One. Richard wants to know, could the

:27:32.:27:39.

Allies have won the war without Enigma? Women was so important in

:27:39.:27:43.

breaking the code. More women than men working on the Enigma code, I

:27:43.:27:48.

believe. The second world war would have lasted a lot longer if the

:27:48.:27:54.

Enigma code had not been broken. A lot of lives were saved breaking

:27:54.:27:59.

that was stopped they broke lots of codes.

:27:59.:28:04.

Sheila, it has been lovely having you, thank you. And thank you to

:28:04.:28:07.

the staff it, I don't know how many apples you have chopped since you

:28:07.:28:13.

have been the! Thank you for joining us tonight. -- since you

:28:13.:28:16.

have been here. That is it for tonight, and the

:28:16.:28:21.

series. But you can go to the website where you can find great

:28:21.:28:24.

activities and animations from the tee at BBC Hands On History.

:28:24.:28:29.

And you will find details of the annual Heritage Days where

:28:29.:28:33.

In the final episode of the series, Dan Snow and Sian Williams broadcast live from Erddig House in North Wales, where they get a glimpse of what life was really like for Victorian servants.

Special guest Sheila Hancock looks at the changing face of the female spy, whilst Michael Douglas meets the extraordinary World War II veteran whose torpedoes sank the Bismarck.