Rarely am I satisfied with a dramatisation of a novel. I have yards of checklists constantly comparing it to the original book – does it match the literary style of the author? Does it create the same mood and atmosphere? How historically accurate is the depiction?
What impressed me the most was how well the characters were brought to life. It was as if they had chewed and chewed on the descriptions on the novels’ pages, digested it, and the words had become their very blood and flesh. Jacquetta’s ever brimming eyes full of her shrewdness, and how Warwick calls out ‘Edward!’ in the very first episode, as if a parent is trying to gently persuade a child, but with slight underlying intimidation. So simple, but encapsulating perfectly the Kingmaker’s initial overriding influence over the King Edward IV. It was marvelously done.
The drama combines the three books from Philippa Gregory’s The Cousins Wars series: The White Queen, Kingmaker’s Daughter, and The Red Queen. This has its limitations – whereas the portrayal of each characters on their own merit were fantastic, how these key women (Elizabeth Woodville, Anne Neville, Margaret Beaufort) were emotionally interconnected were only fleetingly shown. The intensity of the terror Anne felt for Elizabeth, or the icy coldness Elizabeth shows to the Warwick sisters is definitely there, but is not tangible enough to be the central driving force of the story.
If you are planning to watch The White Queen to learn more about the Wars of the Roses, you would be slightly disappointed. It doesn’t really bother explaining family lines and why Yorks and Lancasters are both claiming the throne. I haven’t read The Red Queen yet, and even on Episode 6 I am utterly clueless why Margaret Beaufort believes her son would be the the King of England or who the hell is Jasper Tudor.
To make up for this, you can also watch The Real White Queen and Her Rivals, a documentary series narrated by Philippa Gregory herself, that digs deeper into the relationship and history of the three women at the War of the Roses.
Despite a few limitations, I am still thoroughly enjoying BBC’s The White Queen and am gutted to see that it only goes up to 10 episodes. I give it five stars, without hesitation.
* And here is a show for the ultimate history geeks who are going through The White Queen obsession like I am:
The Time Team Series 18, Episode 7. It’s about Groby Old Hall in Leicestershire which was once home to Elizabeth Woodville.