Bringing sexy back in the fourteenth century fight for power
If you’re familiar with the likes of The Tudors, The Borgias, Game Of Thrones or even Downton Abbey (although milder) you’ll know what to expect in the new highly-anticipated, sexed-up BBC period drama, The White Queen. Adapted from Phillipa Gregory‘s bestselling novel ‘The Cousin’s War’, a bed of beautiful people take on the mantle to tell us the abridged story of the War Of The Roses as two sides of the same family battle over who is the rightful King of England. If fourteenth century England had their own catwalk, our stars in the shape of Max Irons and Rebecca Ferguson would surely be on it. And why not? If we’re going to get a history lesson – faithful or not. We might as well enjoy it.
The story focuses on Lancastrian widower Elizabeth Woodville (Ferguson) who catches the eye of the new King Edward IV (Irons) of the opposing House of York. A commoner and poor following her husband’s death she makes a plight to the passing King for her lost lands. Attraction is instant, and caught up in a whirlwind of love and passion the pair – enabled by Elizabeth’s mother and soothsayer, Lady Jacquetta Woodville – marry in secret. That is until Lord Warwick (James Frain) also known as The Kingmaker, intends to announce that King Edward is to be betrothed to another, leading the young King to confess his true love and marriage to Elizabeth to the fury of the controlling Warwick.
Although initially the pace is fairly slow, it builds sufficiently in the last twenty minutes leading us much closer to the thrilling ride The White Queen is to become. As the intense power play comes into force, we see how an unwanted outsider Elizabeth is to the palace and the internal war she faces to prove her place. Meanwhile Lord Warwick and Edward’s mother Duchess Cecily (Caroline Goodall) will do anything to retain power and to bring order, and indeed Edward, back into line with their imagining of a future King.
My feminist side wasn’t happy Elizabeth was shown to still be besotted and went on to marry someone who would attempt to force himself upon her (a brief explanation is given of how it was not uncommon for men of that time period to behave that way). However, Elizabeth defending herself and her right to choose provided a powerful modern twist.
However, the real power seems to lie with Elizabeth’s mother (played wonderfully by Janet McTeer), who knows exactly what to do and say to ensure her daughter’s position, and stand up to those who oppose the marriage. A lady who flouts the law in dabbling in magic and yet seems self-assured that her role is to guide her daughter in a world of betrayal.
Amanda Hale although only glimpsed briefly as the Lady Margaret Beaufort, provides an intriguing first impression as she airs her disapproval of the new Queen’s defection to a different house and dislike of Edward. A lady who very much has her own agenda In the story.
With a host of talented actors new and old the series production values, sets and the costumes are stunning. The stage has now been set for the love, power, betrayal and loss ahead. Whether or not the series can intrigue an audience for ten episodes remains to be seen, but it’s made a good start and one I’m looking forward to following.