The White Queen (TV series)

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The White Queen
Alt=Series titles over a background of carved roses
Genre Drama
Historical fiction
Based on The White Queen, The Red Queen and The Kingmaker's Daughter  
by Philippa Gregory
Written by Emma Frost
Lisa McGee
Malcolm Campbell
Nicole Taylor
Directed by James Kent
Jamie Payne
Colin Teague
Starring Rebecca Ferguson
Amanda Hale
Faye Marsay
Aneurin Barnard
Max Irons
David Oakes
Eleanor Tomlinson
Ben Lamb
James Frain
Janet McTeer
Composer(s) John Lunn[1]
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original language(s) English
No. of series 1
No. of episodes 10 (List of episodes)
Executive producer(s) John Griffin
George Faber
Charles Pattinson
Eurydice Gysel
Producer(s) Gina Cronk
Location(s) Belgium
Running time 60 minutes
Production company(s) Company Pictures[2]
Czar Television[2]
Original channel BBC One
Picture format 16:9 (HDTV)
Audio format Stereo
Original run 16 June 2013 (2013-06-16)[3] – 18 August 2013 (2013-08-18)
Related shows The Real White Queen and Her Rivals
External links

The White Queen is a British television drama series in ten parts, based on Philippa Gregory's historical novel series The Cousins' War (The White Queen, The Red Queen and The Kingmaker's Daughter).[4] The first episode was premiered on BBC One on 16 June 2013 in the United Kingdom.[5] It was first broadcast in the United States on Starz on 9 August 2013.[6][7]

Set against the backdrop of the Wars of the Roses, the series is the story of the women caught up in the protracted conflict for the throne of England. It starts in 1464—the nation has been at war for nine years fighting over who is the rightful King of England, as two sides of the same family, the House of York and the House of Lancaster, are in violent conflict over the throne. The story focuses on three women in their quest for power, as they manipulate behind the scenes of history — Elizabeth Woodville, Margaret Beaufort and Anne Neville.[8] Woodville is the central character in the novel The White Queen, whilst Beaufort and Neville are the focus of the novels The Red Queen and The Kingmaker's Daughter respectively; however, all three characters appear in all three novels that went to make up the television series.

After the final episode of The White Queen was aired on 18 August 2013, the series was released on DVD and Blu-ray Disc the following day. Two days later, it was confirmed that The White Queen would not be returning for a second series. In a statement to Broadcast, the BBC stated that the show was always planned as a one-off series.[9] In October 2013, The Telegraph reported that Starz is planning to develop a sequel miniseries called The White Princess, based on Gregory's 2013 novel of the same name.[10]

Among others, The White Queen was nominated for 3 Golden Globe Awards, 2 Primetime Emmy Awards and a People's Choice Award.[11]


House of York[edit]

House of Lancaster[edit]

Additional cast[edit]

The large majority of the cast is British, but since the series is shot in Belgium, several local actors are featured: Veerle Baetens,[12] Jurgen Delnaet, Joren Seldeslachts, Elsa Houben, Ben Forceville and Ben Van den Heuvel all appear in the series.[13] Rebecca Ferguson who portrays Elizabeth Woodville, the White Queen, is from Sweden (her mother is originally from England).[14]


The budget was £25 million and took 120 days to shoot, consisting of 250 sets including: dungeons, palaces, castles, 12 state banquets and at least two coronations.[15]

Two versions were made, one for the BBC and a more sexually explicit version for the US.[16]

A companion two-part documentary series, The Real White Queen and Her Rivals, presented by Philippa Gregory, was made to accompany the series. It was broadcast on BBC Two 17 and 24 July 2013.[17]


  • Executive producers: John Griffin, George Faber, Charles Pattinson for Company Pictures, Eurydice Gysel for Czar Television, Polly Hill for the BBC, Philippa Gregory and Colin Callender.
  • Series lead writer: Emma Frost[8] and produced by Company Pictures. Lisa McGee[18] and Nicole Taylor are also writers.
  • James Kent directed the first three episodes.[19]
  • Other episodes were directed by Jamie Payne[20] and Colin Teague.[21]
  • Cinematographer: Jean Philippe Gossart.[22] and David Luther.[23]
  • Music: John Lunn.[1]


The White Queen was filmed on location in Belgium, where several landmarks in Bruges and Ghent represent locations in London and elsewhere:[24]

Nominations and reception[edit]

The series received generally favourable reviews, with an average critic rating of 7.6/10 on Rotten Tomatoes and a score of 70 on Metacritic; the critic consensus that it "sometimes suffers from clunky storytelling", but "delivers sufficient intrigue, thanks to its gorgeous costumes, splendid cast, and sexy, soapy plots".[25][26] The show currently holds a 79% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 20 reviews, and a score of 7.8/10 on IMDb based on 10,230 user ratings.[25][27]

The White Queen was nominated for several awards including 3 Golden Globe Awards, 2 Primetime Emmy Awards and a People's Choice Award for Favorite TV Movie/Miniseries.[11]

71st Golden Globe Awards (2014)

  • Best Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
  • Best Performance by an Actress in a Mini-Series or a Motion Picture Made for Television - (Rebecca Ferguson)
  • Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television - (Janet McTeer)

Primetime Emmy Awards 2014

  • Outstanding Miniseries
  • Outstanding Music Composition for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special (Original Dramatic Score) - For episode: " The Final Battle".

40th People's Choice Awards (2014)

  • Favorite TV Movie/Miniseries

2014 Saturn Awards - Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films

  • SBest Television Release on DVD/Blu-ray

2014 ASC Award - American Society of Cinematographers

  • Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography in Television Movie/Mini-Series - David Luther for Episode: "War at First Hand"

OFTA Television Awards 2014 - Online Film & Television Association

  • Best Miniseries

Satellite Awards 2013

  • Best Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television

Reception in the UK[edit]

In the UK the critical reception was described as 'mixed at best'[28] and 'mostly scathing'.[29] Sam Wollaston of The Guardian praised the show's characters, suggesting Janet McTeer (Jacquetta) stole the show. He also praised the show's romantic elements, commenting "Mmmm, steamy".[30] Gerard O'Donovan of The Daily Telegraph praised the casting of the supporting characters and the exciting "lust and vengeance" fueling the drama, but objected to the prettified portrayal of 15th century England.[31] Deborah Ross of The Daily Mail gave the mixed review of both one and five stars, "because it possesses the sort of one-star awfulness that, if properly embraced, can transport you all the way to five-star joy."[32] The Independent's Tom Sutcliffe found it "less historically plausible than Game of Thrones", but concluded that "I’m sure it will give innocent pleasure to many."[33] Barbara Ellen in The Observer, compared the show to "a strange Timotei advert, featuring fornication, shouting, horses, armour", whilst commenting that the sex scenes, toned down in the British version, "were so vanilla, I ended up fancying an ice cream. "[34]

Reviewing the final episode for The Daily Telegraph, Bernadette McNulty stated that the series, "fell between two stools — not serious enough for the scholars nor glitzy enough for the Game of Thrones fans."[35] The ratings were however good. The first episode received 6 million viewers, stabilising at around the 4–4.5 million mark from the second episode,[36][37] although occasionally it dipped below this on first broadcast figures.[38]

Reception in the USA[edit]

The White Queen received mixed reviews after airing on the Starz network on 10 August 2013. Joanne Ostrow of The Denver Post described the series as "Sexy, empowering and violent".[39] Linda Stasi of the New York Post agreed that the series is a hit, exclaiming "The White Queen a royal winner".[40] It was again unfavourably compared to HBO's high budget and fast-paced Game of Thrones. In comparison to Game of Thrones Neil Genzlinger speculates that "even if dragons were allowed, they’d mostly be lounging around and, between bouts of relatively tame dragon sex, talking about eating people rather than actually eating them".[41] The performances of Janet McTeer and James Frain were praised by several American reviewers. Amanda Hale, despite receiving praise for her performance by British reviewers,[42] was unfavourably reviewed by US critic Matthew Gilbert. He said "There were moments when I rolled my eyes — Amanda Hale, as the mother of young Henry Tudor, looks as if she is going to explode with ill intent. Really, her performance could be transposed into a Mel Brooks spoof".[43] Louise Mellor of the Den of Geek added "Why does Lady Margaret Beaufort constantly look like she is sucking on a Murray Mint?"[44] TV Guide writer Matt Roush praised Hale's performance as "intense", and favored the series, labeling it as "fun", and on a one to ten scale, ranking it at seven.[45]

The White Queen was nominated three times at the 71st Golden Globe Awards, with acting nominations for Ferguson and McTeer and an overall nomination for the series in the Best Miniseries or Television Film category.[46]


Despite speculation that the programme was designed with a second series in mind, on 20 August 2013, the BBC announced they were not commissioning a second series.[47] In October 2013, The Telegraph reported that Starz is planning to develop a sequel miniseries called The White Princess, based on Gregory's 2013 novel of the same name.[10]


The Starz episode title is shown below the original BBC title if different. Final UK episode ratings from BARB.

No. Title[48][49][50] Directed by Written by Original air date US air date[49] UK viewers
1 "In Love With the King" James Kent Emma Frost 16 June 2013 (2013-06-16) 10 August 2013 (2013-08-10)[6] 6.75
Having been widowed and lost access to her Lancastrian husband's property in the War of the Roses, Elizabeth Woodville is encouraged by her mother Jacquetta to put herself in the way of the new Yorkist King, Edward IV, and appeal to him directly. Edward, already with a reputation as a womanizer, is instantly drawn to Elizabeth's beauty, and makes arrangements to see her again. When Elizabeth rejects his sexual advances, he agrees to marry her and make her Queen of England. However, the secret marriage does not go down well with England's court, especially with Edward's mother, Duchess Cecily, and his most trusted adviser, the Earl of Warwick.
2 "The Price of Power" James Kent Emma Frost 23 June 2013 (2013-06-23) 17 August 2013 (2013-08-17) 5.70
An extravagant coronation is planned in an attempt to silence critics of the marriage between Elizabeth and the king. Warwick's discontent with Edward's choice quickly makes itself known, as he refuses to allow his daughters to become her ladies-in-waiting. Margaret Beaufort, whose son Henry Tudor has a claim to the throne, sides with Warwick and Edward's brother George, Duke of Clarence, in the hope that her child will be returned to her. Meanwhile, Warwick makes use of his elder daughter Isabel in an attempt to unify the Nevilles and the Yorks by marrying her to the Duke of Clarence, heir presumptive to King Edward.
3 "The Storm" James Kent Emma Frost 30 June 2013 (2013-06-30) 24 August 2013 (2013-08-24) 5.32
After a rebellion by the Earl of Warwick results in the deaths of Elizabeth's father and brother but fails to put George, Duke of Clarence, on the throne in Edward's place, an uneasy peace is concluded between Warwick and Edward. It lasts only a short time before they rebel again and are forced to flee to France. Their supporters in England, including committed Lancastrian Margaret Beaufort, are left to face the consequences. Seeking vengeance for her father and brother's deaths, Elizabeth and her mother Jacquetta turn to the occult, with devastating consequences for Isabel Neville, who loses her baby while en route to France with her husband.
4 "The Bad Queen" Jamie Payne Lisa McGee 7 July 2013 (2013-07-07) 7 September 2013 (2013-09-07) 5.00
Warwick's campaign with George has failed, so the desperate Kingmaker turns to Margaret of Anjou, the Lancastrian Queen, as his only option to stop his family from losing everything. To seal the deal, his youngest daughter Anne is married off to the heir to the Lancastrian throne, the cruel and spoilt Edward, Prince of Wales. Back in London, Edward and Elizabeth are troubled by news of this new alliance, and are taken by surprise when Warwick leads an assault on London. Warwick, now in control of the country, has Jacquetta tried for witchcraft, but his plans are thwarted when she appeals to her friend Margaret of Anjou for a testimonial. Seeking sanctuary at Westminster Abbey with her children, Elizabeth is joined by her mother and finally gives birth to a baby boy.
5 "War at First Hand" Jamie Payne Malcolm Campbell 14 July 2013 (2013-07-14) 14 September 2013 (2013-09-14) 4.56
Lancaster is restored to the throne in the form of the demented King Henry VI, and Margaret Beaufort brings her son to receive his blessing. Margaret of Anjou sails for England with her new daughter-in-law Anne by her side, to take her place beside her husband. However, news that Edward is returning with an army unsettles the court, and, in a desperate attempt to protect her husband as the York and Lancastrian forces meet on the battlefield, Elizabeth again turns to supernatural forces. Margaret Beaufort is horrified when her husband decides to fight for York; he is seriously wounded in the battle. Warwick's death results in another change of monarch, and Elizabeth rejoices at her husband's return, but is dismayed when he and his brothers murder King Henry VI in order to remove all Lancastrian opposition.
6 "Love and Marriage"
"Love and Death"
Jamie Payne Nicole Taylor 21 July 2013 (2013-07-21) 21 September 2013 (2013-09-21) 4.59
Although Warwick, Henry VI and Edward of Lancaster are all dead, the court is unsettled. Elizabeth is concerned by Edward's growing attraction to his new mistress, Jane Shore. She is devastated by the death of a baby son shortly after birth, coinciding with the death of her mother Jacquetta; her distress causes Edward to reaffirm his love for her. Meanwhile, George attempts to control the widowed Anne Neville and obtain sole access to the Neville inheritance by locking her away and threatening her with a convent. Anne's upset is further increased as Isabel sides with George; her only friend is the King's youngest brother, Richard, who eventually snatches Anne from Clarence's grasp and marries her. The fanatical Margaret Beaufort tries to increase her power by re-marrying to one of King Edward's closest advisers, Thomas Stanley.
7 "Poison and Malmsey Wine" Colin Teague Emma Frost 28 July 2013 (2013-07-28) 28 September 2013 (2013-09-28) 4.58
The brief peace is broken when Edward decides to make war on France, but both George and Richard are horrified when he makes peace in return for financial gain. Both Elizabeth and Anne give birth to sons. George's frustrations lead him to make a deal with the French king. When his wife Isabel dies, after giving birth to the son he has longed for, he accuses Elizabeth of causing her death by poisoning and employs a sorcerer to work against her "witchcraft" and plot the king's death. Left with no choice, Edward recognizes his brother as a traitor to the crown, and condemns him to death. Duchess Cecily, who greatly favors George above her other sons, pleads with Edward and blames Elizabeth. George selects drowning in a butt of Malmsey wine as the method of execution. Elizabeth finally has her revenge against her father's and brother's killer, but it brings her no satisfaction.
8 "The King is Dead"
"Long Live the King"
Colin Teague Malcolm Campbell 4 August 2013 (2013-08-04) 5 October 2013 (2013-10-05) 4.35
The King is taken ill. Foreseeing his death, he asks Elizabeth to send for his brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester, whom he appoints Lord Protector. Elizabeth, mistrustful of Gloucester, asks her brother Anthony to arrange for her son, now King Edward V, to be brought to London by his half-brother Richard Grey; they are intercepted by Gloucester and the young king is taken to the Tower of London. Anthony pleads with Elizabeth to cooperate with Gloucester, but Margaret Beaufort and her husband Thomas Stanley sow seeds of mistrust in both camps, recognizing the potential advantage for Margaret's son. Meanwhile, the Duke of Buckingham, himself a distant claimant to the throne, works for his own ends. Elizabeth takes her children into sanctuary and tells Anthony to ensure that the fleet is ready to rescue them; ordered to send her second son to join his brother in the Tower, she sends a boy of common birth as a substitute. Gloucester, at first protective of his nephews, executes Anthony for treason when he hears of the Woodvilles' intentions. He is soon persuaded by his wife Anne to have his nephews declared illegitimate, on the grounds of a previous promise of marriage made by Edward to another woman. He and Anne are then crowned instead of his nephew.
9 "The Princes in the Tower" Colin Teague Emma Frost 11 August 2013 (2013-08-11) 12 October 2013 (2013-10-12) 4.16
Stanley advises Margaret to ensure that the two young princes do not survive the attempt to free them from the Tower; having unsuccessfully sought a sign from God, she instructs her men to kill the boys. Anne Neville, now queen, simultaneously hints to Brackenbury that she would prefer them dead. The attempted “rescue” is thwarted. Buckingham is persuaded to give his allegiance to Henry Tudor and implies that he will carry out the murder of the princes. It becomes clear that the two boys in the tower (the Prince of Wales and the impostor planted by Elizabeth) are dead, and Richard returns to London to look for them. After he secretly visits Elizabeth in sanctuary, she realizes that Margaret has deceived her and puts a curse on the boys’ murderer. Buckingham, unable to join forces with Jasper Tudor, is captured and executed, and Margaret is placed under house arrest for her role in the failed rebellion.
10 "The Final Battle" Colin Teague Emma Frost 18 August 2013 (2013-08-18) 19 October 2013 (2013-10-19) 4.41
Despite the threat from Henry Tudor, King Richard III remains confident that his reign is unthreatened. Richard begins to take an interest in his niece Elizabeth of York. Anne is jealous, but Richard reveals that he is doing so only to prevent Elizabeth's marriage alliance with Henry Tudor. The former Queen Elizabeth warns her daughter of the curse they cast on Prince Edward's killers: that his children and grandchildren would be struck down prematurely; this could include the young Elizabeth's children should she marry Richard. Following the death of his only son and heir, an embittered Anne dies, and Richard immediately dismisses Elizabeth, realising that his strategy has driven away Neville supporters. Lady Margaret Beaufort is still under house arrest, and there is friction between her and the young Elizabeth of York, who has been sent to stay with her. As Henry Tudor prepares to cross the Channel with his army of French convicts and mercenaries, a solar eclipse takes place; Margaret sees this as a message from God that Henry will be king. She defies her house arrest to ride to Bosworth field where she pleads with Stanley to fight against the king, but he refuses to commit himself. She sees Jasper and is able to talk to Henry before battle commences at Bosworth. Things are not going well for Tudor until Stanley's men charge the king's forces. Richard is killed. As Stanley kneels to offer Henry the crown, Margaret declares herself "Margaret Regina", ordering her husband to remain kneeling before the mother of the king. Elizabeth is reunited with her son Richard and warns him not to seek revenge. She tells her daughter that she will marry Tudor and become queen, just as she herself once was.

Historical accuracy[edit]

A number of anachronisms and historical inaccuracies within the show received attention, especially in the costumes and locations used in the series.[52] Pat Stacey of the Irish Evening Herald newspaper, said that "the historical howlers are piling up like bodies on a battlefield, week after week", comparing it to the "flaws" spotted by "nitpickers" in Downton Abbey and Foyle's War.[53] Deborah Ross, of the Daily Mail newspaper, criticised the cleanliness and "amazing teeth" of the actors involved, whilst also pointing out glimpses of a modern drainpipe and stair-rail.[32] Bernadette McNulty, of The Daily Telegraph newspaper, commented that in the final episode of the series, the Battle of Bosworth Field appears to take place in a forest rather than a field.[35] Mary McNamara, of the LA Times newspaper, states that in order to fit thirty years of history into ten episodes, "Years collapse into minutes, intricate policy is condensed into cardboard personalities, and the characters are swiftly categorized as good or evil."[54] Others questioned the depiction of the major characters. Amy Licence, Cecily's biographer, states that Cecily Neville, Duchess of York, is portrayed in the first episode as "a Cecily straight from the pages of a novel rather than the actual proud aristocrat who asserted her own right to rule". However, her main argument is that these issues miss the point; that "novelists have no moral responsibility" to tell the truth and this does not detract from the enjoyment of the series.[55] Historian Michael Hicks commented, "They've fiddled with the chronology" but added, "I can see why they decided to restrict the cast of characters, and play up the rivalry between Elizabeth and the Earl of Warwick," and also said "As with Philippa Gregory's source novels, they've done their research".[56]

In response to criticisms of the series being "ahistorical", Gregory stated that "What [BBC One and Starz] wanted was not a historical series based on the documents from the War of the Roses. They wanted my take on it, so that's what they got."[57] Aneurin Barnard (who played Richard) stated, with regard to inaccuracies, "...the truth can be pretty boring. You have to up the stakes and make something up or twist it to make it a little bit more exciting."[58][59]

DVD and Blu-ray disc releases[edit]

DVD title Discs Year Episodes DVD release Notes
Region 1 Region 2 Region 4
The complete series 4 2013 10 4 February 2014 19 August 2013 n/a BBC version in region 2
Blu-ray Disc title Discs Year Episodes Blu-ray Disc release Notes
Region A Region B Region C
The complete series 3 2013 10 4 February 2014 19 August 2013 n/a BBC version in region B


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External links[edit]