BBC criticised for ‘inaccurate’ sketch showing Florence Nightingale as racist

The BBC has been told not to repeat the Horrible Histories sketch about Florence Nightingale. Photograph: BBC

The BBC has been told not to repeat the Horrible Histories sketch about Florence Nightingale. Photograph: BBC

Trust says Horrible Histories clip should be removed from website after viewer claimed it was insulting to nurse’s memory

The BBC has been accused of insulting the memory of Florence Nightingale after a sketch on its award-winning children’s TV show Horrible Histories featured her racially discriminating against a fellow nurse.

The BBC Trust said the clip, featuring Nightingale and Jamaican-born Mary Seacole, was inaccurate and “the charge of racism very serious”.

The trust largely upheld a complaint by a viewer who said it was “insulting to Nightingale” and a “totally fictional and offensive misrepresentation”.

Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing, and Seacole cared for British soldiers on the battlefield during the Crimean war.

The sketch, first broadcast as part of the Vile Victorians series in 2010 and later put on the BBC’s Learning Zone website, showed the pair visit a PR consultant to discuss their respective images.

It showed Nightingale repeatedly rejecting Seacole’s efforts to join her nursing corps, telling her: “The nursing corps was for British girls. You’re from Jamaica.”

The pair were also shown jostling in a doorway with Nightingale pushing Seacole aside.

Seacole’s character said: “All the history books about the Crimean War only seem to mention one nurse. Did you forget about me? Four times me try to join old Lamp Face [Nightingale] in the Crimean War, and four times she said no”…

The BBC had initially defended the portrayal, saying it was justified by its “humorous approach” and “comedy”.

A BBC spokesman said: “ A spokesman for the BBC said: “We note and accept the findings of the editorial standards committee.

“The intention of this Horrible Histories sketch was never to undermine the reputation of such an important historical figure like Florence Nightingale, but to open up a discussion of the some of the attitudes of the time…

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