Talk sheds new light on Wicked Lady

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There’s a chance to see Hertfordshire’s notorious highwaywoman in a new light, at a talk in Markyate next month.

The classic novel, Life and Death of the Wicked Lady Skelton, based on the legend of 17th century highwaywoman Katherine Ferrers, has been published in a new critical edition by UH Press with notes and an introduction by Rowland Hughes.

Dr Hughes, who is a principal lecturer in English Literature and American Studies at the University of Hertfordshire, is taking the book on tour in Herts throughout June in a series of free events open to the public.

Ferrers reputedly terrorised the highways of Hertfordshire during the 17th century, leading a double life while living with her wealthy husband at the respectable Markyate Cells, near Wheathampstead.

The novel Life and Death of the Wicked Lady Skelton by Magdalen King-Hall was written in the 1940s, inspired by the legend. It was quickly made into a film, The Wicked Lady, starring Margaret Lockwood, Patricia Roc and James Mason, which became one of the most successful British films of the period.

In his critical introduction to the new edition of the novel, Dr Hughes relates the novel to the legend, and to the popularity of women’s historical fiction in the 1940s. He explains how a story of female empowerment, sexual promiscuity and cross-dressing spoke powerfully to a contemporary audience just emerging from the Second World War.

He will be giving a talk and selling and signing copies of the book at 6.30pm on Tuesday, June 21, at St John’s Church, Markyate.

Tickets are free. Book in advance on 01707 285319 or c.dunkley@herts.ac.uk

Dr Hughes is also giving his talk at the International Garden Cities Exhibition in Letchworth on June 1, at Mead Hall in Wheathampstead on June 7 and at Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies in Hertford on June 14.