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A Review of The BBC’s The White Queen

The White Queen

Yesterday I posted a blog entitled ‘Who is the white Queen?’; today I am tempted to change that to ‘and who cares?’  Maybe that sounds bitter, but after looking forward to this series so much I was left very disappointed last night.  Here was an opportunity for the BBC, in showing the War of the Roses from the female perspective, to build real character for these women.  Instead what we were shown were another set of stereotypical female characters – Elizabeth the seductress, her mother the social-climbing witch and the Cecily Neville the overbearing mother.  And here are two of my biggest problems with the programme – the ridiculous witchcraft and second-sight and the even more ridiculous screeching threats by the Queen Mother to declare her own son a bastard.

Unfortunately, Edward IV played by Max Irons didn’t have the physical authority or the charisma to really hold our attention, something Edward IV really did have.  The relationship between him and Elizabeth, played by newcomer Rebecca Ferguson,  didn’t feel convincing to me either – it was a purely physical relationship, where she apparently tormented him by withholding sexual pleasure into marrying her.  Admittedly Edward was a young King, and he was a known seducer, but he was also a King with powerful advisers.  Again this seemed like a missed opportunity to give more substance to Elizabeth, to give us some understanding of why he would have gone against his own mother and uncle’s wishes to marry her.  There was a lot more to Elizabeth, and the only sight we had of this was when she made Cecily Neville curtsey to her at the end of the programme.  If we had seen more of this side of Elizabeth in her private conversations with her family, or even just her mother, this may have seemed less contrived.

The White Queen

To be honest I can forgive historical inaccuracies – ‘The Tudors’, afterall, is my guilty pleasure, which has become more fiction than fact – what I can’t forgive is the dullness of the programme.  There is nothing dull in the real story of Elizabeth Woodville, and what good historical fiction should do is make you want to find out the truth – I don’t think ‘The White Queen’ achieved this at all.

There were two shining lights for me amongst all the disappointment – one was the brilliant James Frain as Warwick, who was always captivating when on screen – taking my attention completely from the King.  The other was, for me, Lady Margaret Beaufort played by Amanda Hale – she was on only for a short while but she seemed to convey the essence of the woman who would become Henry VII’s mother and I am looking forward to seeing more of her.

Because, yes, even after the disappointment I feel compelled to watch the next in the series – at least my expectations will be lower this time!

BBC/Company Pictures & ALL3MEDIA/Ed Miller.

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