If historical accuracy is what floats your boat then The White Queen should probably be avoided, but for an entertaining and pretty-to-look-at drama it’s spot on.
BBC1’s latest historical drama comes in the form of The White Queen, which has been dividing opinions since it aired last month. A retelling of the famous War of the Roses in 15th century England, it tells the story of the women caught up in the battle for the throne.
Shortly after the first episode aired on the 16th of June, people took to the web and to the newspapers to complain about the amount of sex and the fact that the white queen herself is played by Swedish actress Rebecca Ferguson. Delicate flowers who clearly chose to ignore the fact that The White Queen had been likened to A Game of Thrones (renowned for the amount of sex and nudity) in every write-up written prior to its release got annoyed about the amount of sex in the first episode, and the ‘unnecessary sex scenes’. The press surrounding the drama made no attempt to hide the fact that it was a show for adults, so anyone that’d read up on it before watching would have been made aware. Not to mention that there were only about three sex scenes in the first episode, and only one of them was bordering on explicit, refreshingly it left a lot to the viewers imagination. Alas, some people just aren’t happy unless they have something to complain about.
Regardless of Rebecca Ferguson‘s nationality, she does a brilliant job of portraying Queen Elizabeth, she’s ballsy and fearsome, and is believable as the first queen to have been married out of love and not convenience. The casting is spot on for the most part, but in my opinion the casting of King Edward (Max Irons) is slightly off. I’ve never been convinced by his performance as a ruthless king, perhaps it’s the baby face or maybe it’s the fact that I saw him in Stephenie Meyer’s latest book adaption The Host around the time I started watching The White Queen. He has this boy band look about him that screams ‘heartthrob’ (if you’re a fifteen year old girl, perhaps) and there’s just something about the way he looks that for me doesn’t seem quite right for the part.
The series is incredibly pretty to watch and a lot of effort has gone into the wardrobe and props work. The settings and locations are brilliant, the set decoration is magnificent and the whole thing comes together in a neat, beautiful little package. Not that I have any idea how things looked back in the 1400’s, but the setting and costumes all look very accurate and appropriate, nothing looks out of place and it has a really authentic feel.
My one main criticism of the show is the fact that it focuses on the women, because nothing really happens. The series has gone in circles, with the same things happening in different ways and to different people and most of what happens revolves around pregnancy and women giving birth. Time is quite fragmented in the series, skipping forwards by a matter of months, or even years at times, every now and then with no warning. There is no particular transition to imply that we’ve gone forward in time, no titles to say the date or to say ‘three months later’, nothing simple to make sure we don’t get lost, actually the only way you can keep up with the time and know when we’ve gone forwards a few months is by the Queen’s pregnancy. You can tell roughly how many months we’ve moved forward by the size of her belly, and there seems to be a pattern throughout every episode by which the Queen’s belly gets bigger, then she pops out a baby and everything’s back to normal. Then lo and behold she’s up the duff again by the next episode. It’d be interesting to go back and count how many episodes didn’t show her giving birth or at least being heavily pregnant because I don’t think there’s been one!
The White Queen is an entertaining, pretty to look at drama that’s in my opinion nowhere near violent or exciting enough. I do applaud writer Emma Frost (Shameless) for focusing the story on the women, it’s something that’s not often done, but you can see how the story suffers because of that decision because literally the only things that really happen are pregnancy, giving birth, sex and them sitting twiddling their thumbs waiting for their husbands to return from war. Of course, that’s probably accurate; life as a woman back then wouldn’t have been easy and that probably is all there was to it, but perhaps there should be less episodes in the series (10 feels a bit of a stretch).