Natalie Dormer has returned to period drama, playing Lady Seymour Worsley in BBC2’s upcoming The Scandalous Lady W. Lady Worsley caused a scandal by fleeing her unhappy marriage and eloping with her husband’s best friend Captain George Bisset. ““I am thrilled to be playing a woman who was so ahead of her time. Though our story is set in the 18th century, it challenges and explores the issues still fully relevant today of freedom and equality,” said Natalie.

The Scandalous Lady W is directed by Sheree Folkson, who directed Doctor Who episode In the Forest of the Night last year. Award winning playwright David Eldridge based his screenplay on historian Hallie Rubenhold’s book Lady Worsley’s Whim. The book is inspired by the full length oil painting of Lady Worsley that hangs in Harewood House in Yorkshire.


While marriage break-ups were not entirely unheard of, Lady and Sir Richard Worsley’s caused a further sensation when Sir Richard sued Bisset for damages totalling £20,000. However the case began to fall apart when it was revealed that Sir Richard had allowed Bisset to see Lady Worsley naked.

"'Sir Richard Worse-than-sly, exposing his wife's bottom; - o fye!'" by James Gillray, published by  William Humphrey, hand-coloured etching, published 14 March 1782

“‘Sir Richard Worse-than-sly, exposing his wife’s bottom; – o fye!'” by James Gillray, published by William Humphrey, hand-coloured etching, published 14 March 1782

 The Scandalous Lady W also stars Aneurin Barnard (Cilla, White Queen) as Captain George Bisset, Shaun Evans (Endeavour, Silk) as Sir Richard Worsley, Jessica Gunning (Fortitude, Pride) as Mary Sotheby and Peter Sullivan (The Hour, The Borgias) as James Farrar.

The London screening caused a little stir itself this week, with some comment on the use of the word “f***” to describe sex, a reference to “screwing” and a woman being called a “bitch”. But Hallie Rubenhold says the language is fitting for the period. “If you’ll pardon my French, the word ‘f—’ and the word ‘bitch’ were used very regularly in 18th century parlance. There is a fantastic line, ‘If that bitch comes in here again I’ll shoot her’ – that’s actually taken from a deposition statement.”

The Scandalous Lady W airs August 20.

Update: The Scandalous Lady W trailer


About The Author

Olga Hughes is currently pre-occupied with fairy tales, fantasy, misanthropy, medieval history and the long eighteenth century. She has a Bachelor of Fine Art from the Victorian College of the Arts and is currently majoring in Literature and History at Deakin. She has contributed to websites such as History behind Game of Thrones, The Anne Boleyn Files and The Tudor Society.

2 Responses

  1. Underdogge

    I had heard that at one time (in the earlier part of the 20th century I think) it was normal to advertise female pups for sale as “lady dogs”. I haven’t verified that personally though. I know little of Lady Worsley’s story but Natalie Dormer certainly has the acting chops. Possibly allegedly crude terms were used less in polite society in former times but they must have been employed or they would have fallen out of use in modern English.

    • Olga Hughes

      Actually f*** was used to describe sex back in the middle ages as well. Prior to that the French word “sard” was used, and I have a book which shows an instance where “sard” was used in a religious book.