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Clare Balding’s Secrets of a Suffragette

Sun May 26, 8-9pm, C4

The footage still astonishes: a slight woman steps out in front of the king’s horse at the 1913 Derby and is sent head over heels to her death. But did Emily Davison really mean to target that horse, and was it genuinely intended as a suicide mission to drive the Suffragette cause forward? The trouble with historical documentaries that go in search of definitive answers to long-standing mysteries is that they’re more or less doomed to fail, such is the level of supposition and interpretation still required.

But freshly minted national treasure Clare Balding makes a decent fist of uncovering Davison’s motives. She certainly does her homework, using snazzy new technology to reconcile different newsreel footage, researching newly uncovered evidence and enduring a slightly painful lunch with her own bluff, conservative family of horse-lovers (who think Davison was mad). One hundred years on, it’s hard now to believe the violence employed on both sides, and Balding’s incredulity at all the brutality brings the history to compelling life.

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