Queenie Le Trout, ATV Today’s television critic, casts her eye over BBC One’s lavish new Sunday evening drama The White Queen.
I do love a good historical drama and especially if it’s been given the ‘Dallas treatment’. The Tudors and Rome were both brilliant drama’s but it wasn’t just their setting that made them so good; it was the sexing up of the drama to make it more like Dynasty and Dallas. Let’s be honest Rome essentially was Dynasty with toga’s and more blood.
The White Queen has been dismissed by some critics for not being “accurate” enough but they have clearly missed the point of the drama. The White Queen is designed to tell the stories of three powerful women central to The War of the Roses. It is not a drama designed to explore the hardship of the time or even the fashion of the time – one critic pointing out “zips” weren’t around in medieval England.
The White Queen, based on the Cousins War novel series by Philippa Greggory, tells the story of Elisabeth Woodville (Rebecca Ferguson), Margaret Beaufort (Amanda Hale) and Anne Neville (Faye Marsay) though other key women of the time such as Margaret of Anjou (Veerle Baetens) and Jacquetta Rivers (Janet McTeer) also feature.
I must admit to being a fan of the drama having falling in love with it from the first episode but then I love drama’s that feature strong, independent female characters. The White Queen presents The War of the Roses firmly through the eyes of the women involved and how it tore their families apart and how each of them paid a very high price.
Elisabeth Woodville lost her father and brother, Anne Neville lost her father and became estranged from her sister while Margaret Beaufort lost her husband and her son – the future King Henry VII – was sent into exile. Margaret of Anjou – dubbed a “she-wolf of England” – lost her crown, her husband and her son.
Characterisation is generally good and the cast is brilliant; packed full of talent. Though it can be hard to sympathise with some of the characters. Margaret Beaufort becomes particularly tiresome at points; backing every revolt that comes along, and ultimately fails, portrays Margaret in rather a bad light – it makes her seem stupid. Although her actions are explained as religious belief it doesn’t make her actions that believable and she does whine on quite a bit.
The death of Warwick (James Frain) is also welcome because not only does it allow his daughters more screen-time it also means a rather bland villain has been removed. While I said characterisation is generally good in the case of Warwick I felt he was more annoying than one of the “love to hate” villains that every drama needs.
The White Queen is perfect Sunday evening viewing; a slice of guilty pleasure that isn’t too hard to follow but engages viewers with a period of history they are perhaps unfamiliar with. Call the Midwife, Downton Abbey and Upstairs Downstairs all perform similar roles though admittedly those wishing for a “hardship” view of history will prefer Call the Midwife.
While the drama may not be a huge it I won’t be missing an episode of it; I have fallen quite in love with The White Queen and especially with its dishy King Edward (Max Irons). I don’t care if other critics don’t like it – what do they know? The critics don’t like Mrs Brown’s Boys, Vicious or the revived Upstairs Downstairs but I love them all. Television is for viewers and not for the critics. So sit down on a Sunday evening, with a glass of wine perhaps and a tub of ice cream, and enjoy The White Queen for what it is!
The White Queen continues at 9pm, Sunday on BBC One. Catch up with the series via the BBC iPlayer service.
Of interest to some viewers may be the BBC Two companion series The Real White Queen and her Rivals. Episode one is currently available on BBC iPlayer and episode two will air next Wednesday 9pm on BBC Two