The White Queen with the common touch

 

If and when the present Duke of Cambridge is crowned King William V of Great Britain (perhaps without Scotland), Kate Middleton will not be the first “commoner” to become Queen, though you have to go a very long way back in our islands’ story to find another example – beyond the aristocratically connected Anne Boleyn, to the War of the Roses. For going against all the rules of dynastic Middle Ages marriages, Lancastrian squire’s daughter Elizabeth Woodville caught the fancy of the Yorkist King Edward IV, and theirs was a union of the heart. Unsurprisingly, it is also the stuff of romantic fiction – duly supplied by historical novelist Philippa Gregory in The White Queen, part of her The Cousins’ War series.

Three of these five novels – The White Queen, The Red Queen (which centres on Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry Tudor) and The Kingmaker’s Daughter (the story of Anne Neville, future wife of Richard III) have now been conflated into a £20m BBC co-production called The White Queen – a 10-hour saga that the BBC hopes will have the worldwide appeal of The Tudors. You could call it The Pre-Tudors. “I don’t think this period has been done much at all,” says its producer Gina Cronk. “It’s not well-trodden like the Tudors.”

We are talking in a disused factory on the outskirts of Bruges in Belgium, in which various medieval interiors have been re-constructed. Today, they are shooting a lavish party sequence – all goblets and overflowing fruit platters – and during breaks I chat to Max Irons, son of Jeremy Irons, who is donning a doublet (“it’s like wearing a duvet all day”) as Edward IV. “He’s very successful … he’s winning every battle … spreading law and order,” says Irons – part of a large, and in its principle actors, largely unknown cast that also includes Amanda Hale (The Crimson Petal and the White) as Margaret Beaufort, newcomer Faye Marsay as Anne Neville, and, as the White Queen herself, the Swedish actress Rebecca Ferguson (pictured).

The White Queen may give pride of place to strong women, but it is also a co-production with Starz, the US cable channel known for spicing up its historical drama, such as Spartacus and Da Vinci’s Demons, with lashings of sex and violence. Indeed two versions were shot – a slightly more graphic Starz version for international consumption, and a BBC one. It’s a contradiction that left Amanda Hale, who plays Margaret Beaufort, disgruntled.

“You go into something that purports to be a women’s drama, with women in the leads, and then you find every script has got these really gratuitous nude scenes,” she says. “Isn’t it enough that’s it’s about women? Do we also have to be naked?”

‘The White Queen’ begins on BBC1  on Sunday at 9pm

Arts and Entertainment

Film Leonardo DiCaprio hunts Tom Hardy

Arts and Entertainment
And now for something completely different: the ‘Sin City’ episode of ‘Casualty’
TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Giants Club: After wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, Uganda’s giants flourish once again

    Uganda's giants are flourishing once again

    After the wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, elephant populations are finally recovering
    The London: After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

    After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

    Archaeologists will recover a crucial item from the wreck of the London which could help shed more light on what happened in the vessel's final seconds
    Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

    Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

    The invention involves turbojets and ramjets - a type of jet engine - and a rocket motor
    10 best sun creams for kids

    10 best sun creams for kids

    Protect delicate and sensitive skin with products specially formulated for little ones
    Tate Sensorium: New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art

    Tate Sensorium

    New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art
    Ashes 2015: Nice guy Steven Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

    Nice guy Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

    He was man-of-the-match in the third Test following his recall to the England side
    Ashes 2015: Remember Ashton Agar? The No 11 that nearly toppled England

    Remember Ashton Agar?

    The No 11 that nearly toppled England
    Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

    US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

    Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

    'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
    The male menopause and intimations of mortality

    Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

    So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
    Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

    'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

    Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
    Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

    Bettany Hughes interview

    The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
    Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

    Art of the state

    Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
    Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

    Vegetarian food gets a makeover

    Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks