The White Queen DVD review
What’s it about? Often lauded as the real-life inspiration for George RR Martin’s Game of Thrones series, the events that serve as basis for Philippa Gregory’s book series The Cousins’ War have captivated audiences for years. Here we have three books adapted into The White Queen, a 10-part drama covering arguably the bloodiest period in history – the Wars of the Roses.
While the association with Game of Thrones may raise certain expectations of blood, sex and gore, The White Queen takes a more political and behind-the-scenes look at the battle for the throne, in this case the race to be the King and Queen of England.
This is not a series where beheadings will see heads rolling around on the floor or limbs gushing blood everywhere. The White Queen offers up tales of deception and manipulation around every corner, showing that you can never quite trust anyone when the throne is up for grabs.
We start with Edward IV (Max Irons) being crowned King of England, falling in love with a simple commoner Elizabeth Woodville (Rebecca Ferguson), and the battle for dominance begins. What follows is a desperate and sometimes shameful movement from all angles in a bid to kick Edward out of power by various factions. From sexual relations in order to create an heir, to unjust murders and marriages of convenience, there are no limits to how far people will go in The White Queen to get their perceived rightful place on the throne.
While Queen Elizabeth and King Edward try for a son, the plotting from other areas continues. Elizabeth’s toughest threat comes from Margaret Beaufort (Amanda Hale), a loyal Lancastrian looking to get her son Henry Tudor to the throne at all costs. She fully believes this is God’s will and is relentless in her quest, weaving her web of lies and manipulation to gain ground on the King, and would no doubt sacrifice herself if she believed it would guarantee her son the rule of the kingdom. Along the way she chooses to align herself with those she believes will give her the greatest chance of success, but things are never as simple as they first seem.
Having helped Edward gain power, Lord Warwick The Kingmaker (James Frain) is disappointed at his choice of Queen. In the shadows, Warwick’s daughter Anne Neville (Faye Marsay) awaits her father’s instruction for dominance over the land, but finds her own strength and desire for power, marrying Richard Duke of Gloucester (Aneurin Barnard).
As the pieces move into formation, this is the most emotional and high risk game of human chess you’ll ever see. Sacrifices are made, covert communications are used in order to gain the upper hand, and lies are spread throughout the land to manoeuvre support away from those in power to those who desire it most. This is an exhausting period of 30 years of battle involving some of the most famous historical figures in England’s history, and one that focuses on the strength of the women at the time. This is truly the story of Elizabeth, Margaret and Anne.
Verdict: It is a tale very hard to sum up in one simple review. The White Queen demands attention at every moment, as if you take your eye off the ball for just a second, someone has switched sides and you’ll end up lost. A truly fascinating look at one of the most famous power struggles in history, Gregory may use some artistic licence in The White Queen but generally the real life events are more than enough to keep you interested. Beaufort’s story especially, being the more unhinged and desperate of the three main ladies, makes for some incredible scenes from Hale who steals the show in nearly every episode. It’s hard to fault the acting across the board, with some of the best known British talent out there, like Rupert Graves and Arthur Darvill, as well as some lesser known talent stepping up to the plate.
Adapting real life stories into books is difficult enough, but then to translate such detail to a television series is a further challenge. The casting is strong, the editing does a solid job of telling such a complex tale, and the source material is covered well. With a score that perfectly complements the highs, lows, joys and sorrows, The White Queen delivers an addictive and audacious story for the ages. To think such a tale could be true is nothing short of incredible, and makes you all the more intrigued by the history of our country.
Extras: The White Queen is available on DVD and Blu-ray, both offering the full ten episodes, as well as a number of bonus features including A Conversation with Philippa Gregory and The Making Of The White Queen. These features give some very interesting insight into the adaptation of the novels, the historical accuracy, and the work that went into developing such a complex series.
Final Words: With over 200 different sets and a cast of 100s, The White Queen is a triumph, offering a real alternative to the highly sexed and violent Game of Thrones, and is even more enthralling knowing this really happened. If you are looking for something to fill these barren summer months then this series is a must-have.
The White Queen is available from 19 August.