Review: The White Queen
The White Queen is the latest historical BBC drama set during The War of Roses, and based on three of author Philippa Gregory’s novels – The White Queen, The Red Queen and The Kingmaker’s Daughter.
The series takes place in England, when the country is divided into two factions, those who loyal to the family of Lancaster and those loyal to the family of York, both who have a claim to the throne. The first episode opens with the Lancastrian King Henry in hiding, having just been overthrown by Edward York, with help from his cousin Warwick.
Elizabeth Woodville, the main character in the series, is a Lancastrian who’s husband fought for Henry and died during the battle. Determined ensure her young boys’ still receive their inheritance she meets the new King Edward on the road as he is passing, from this meeting a romance begins to blossom. Soon they married and she is Queen of England, throwing her right into the heart of the countries politics…
The series follows many characters, but the two other major characters are Ann Neville the youngest daughter of Warwick, who becomes embroiled in her father schemes, and Mary Beaufort the ambitious mother of Henry Tudor.
I found this series fascinating and enjoyable. It strength lies in being more of medieval costume drama than a historical re-enactment, and I feel it strikes the right balance between being entertaining and educational.
All the characters in the show are well written and well-played, and I like that no-one is the villain or the good guy. All the characters are human, and every character is allowed to have a moment of humanity during the series. I especially like the fact that Richard III was shown sympathetically, since he has classically been demonised, most famously in Shakespeare’s history play.
Another character I must mention is Mary Beaufort, who is played wonderfully by Amanda Hale. This character is so compelling because you can never quite pin down her motives. Yes, her main goal is to put her son Henry on the throne, but does she truly believe this is because God wants it, or is it merely selfish reasons? Is she doing it for herself or for her son? The other interesting thing about her is that, despite being a very manipulative character, she is still likeable. She has moments of genuine regret and self-doubt – she is just so intriguing.
The episodes also look fantastic. Initially I found it a little silly and amusing to see such women with nicely manicured hands and such clean peasants in 15th century England, let alone what looked like a zip on Elizabeth Woodville’s dress! However, I quickly forgot to notice, instead admiring the sumptuous medieval costumes and the beautiful locations with their period details. The way the series was shot should be mentioned too, as the lighting and composition was done very well and there was a lot of atmosphere in the scenes.
To sum up
The White Queen is a very stylish and compelling historical drama with a cast full of great actors. If you like drama, or history, or both then its a brilliant way to spend a Sunday evening.
The White Queen is available now on DVD and Blu-ray.