The White Queen

White QueenPhilippa Gregory’s historical fiction novel has been adapted for tv but does it bring history to life like her book have?

The White Queen is set during the War of the Roses with the Houses of Lancaster & York battleing for the English throne. The novel has a focal romantic setting as the two sides struggle for ultimate power. Young Elizabeth has recently lost her husband in battle when she meets a young King Edward. In spite of their opposing alliances the pair are instantly smitten with one another and are quick to wed. Thus, Elizabeth becomes Queen and the families unite but not is all as it seems. Lord Warwick, Edward’s cousin and the kingmaker is outraged at this marriage because he was planning to wed Edward to a French princess in hopes of preventing the war. Warwick and whoever he entices to join in go about splitting the pair up and so begins a dirty, bloody & shameful path. Elizabeth is also fighting an inner war as she struggles to protect her family, keep her husband’s love & remain on the throne. Throw in numerous challenges to Edwards rule, including overthrow attempts from his own family & the story really ignites into a bloody thirsty battle.

While Gregory’s writing style is free-flowing, informative & romantically balanced, I found the tv series clunky, disconnected & overly romanticised at times. The sub plots unfortunately dilute the shows central thrust & by the sixth episode you almost need annotated notes to follow along. Some of the sub stories are unnecessary in my opinion. The cast, in particular Max Irons (Young King Edward) & Rebecca Ferguson (Young Queen Elizabeth) carry themselves well as plausible regal characters of the time. Reviews have criticised both the book & the tv show for historical inaccuracies. Philippa Gregory explains in her author notes that the sub plots of the story often took place in secret during this time period so it is impossible to write perfect factual accounts & reminds the reader her books are fiction.

This is easier to accept as a reader than it is as a viewer. Costume, artifacts & landscapes shown in the tv series did look out of place to me in some scenes & although this was disappointing it didn’t affect my overall viewing pleasure. Historical interpretation for tv has to be modified to some degree to reach a certain standard of entertainment for the audience. The White Queen is not a documentary. In summary, I enjoyed the tv adaptation like I have enjoyed others historical shows such as The Tudors, The Borgias & The Pillars of the Earth.