Harlots (TV series)
The Covent Garden Ladies|
by Hallie Rubenhold
|Country of origin||
|No. of series||2|
|No. of episodes||14 (list of episodes)|
|Production location(s)||London, England, Hertfordshire, England|
|Running time||44–50 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Monumental Pictures|
|Original release||27 March 2017– present|
Harlots is a British-American period drama television series created by Alison Newman and Moira Buffini and inspired by The Covent Garden Ladies by Hallie Rubenhold. The series focuses on Margaret Wells, who runs a brothel in 18th century England and struggles to raise her daughters in a chaotic household.
The series premiered on 27 March 2017 on ITV Encore in the United Kingdom, and on 29 March 2017 on Hulu in the United States. It was subsequently renewed for a second series that premiered on 11 July 2018 in the United States.
London in 1763 is booming, and one in five women makes a living selling sex. Women's opportunity for economic advancement is to marry well or be a prostitute. The city’s brothels are run by canny, cruel businesswomen such as Margaret Wells and Lydia Quigley. The prostitutes are reviewed in Harris's List of Covent Garden Ladies, which some of the women are seen reading in the premiere episode.
But there is a new morality in the air as religious crusaders demand the closure of brothels, and the constables are happy to launch brutal raids.
Episodes revolve round Mrs Wells' determination to improve her life and fortune by moving her brothel to Greek Street in Soho and serve a better class of Georgian society. To finance the move, after receiving a £100 fine, she auctions the virginity of her younger daughter Lucy as she had done before with her older daughter Charlotte when she was 12 years old. Charlotte is the lover of the besotted Sir George Howard, who wants her to sign a contract with him that makes him her "keeper."
Margaret's move to Greek Street puts her into conflict with Lydia Quigley, for whom she had previously worked as a prostitute. Lydia Quigley operates a high class brothel in Golden Square, serving rich, highly influential people in the judiciary and police, and blackmails a religious reformer into opposing Margaret.
Cast and characters
- Samantha Morton as Margaret Wells, madam of a low-class brothel seeking to improve her fortune, and former prostitute of Lydia Quigley
- Lesley Manville as Lydia Quigley, madam of a high-class brothel with clients from the judiciary, nobility, and upper echelons of Georgian society
- Jessica Brown Findlay as Charlotte Wells, eldest daughter of Margaret Wells, prostitute and lover of Sir George Howard whom she views as a path to a better life
- Dorothy Atkinson as Florence Scanwell, religious campaigner beholden to Lydia Quigley who provides her and her daughter with lodgings
- Pippa Bennett-Warner as Harriet Lennox, comes to England as Nathaniel's wife with two children, former slave
- Rory Fleck Byrne as Daniel Marney
- Kate Fleetwood as Nancy Birch, neighbour of Margaret Wells, specialises in flagellation.
- Edward Hogg as Thomas Haxby, manservant and much put upon by Sir George
- Richard McCabe as Justice Cunliffe
- Tim McInnerny as Lord Repton
- Con O'Neil as Nathaniel Lennox, plantation and slave owner, former lover of Margaret Wells
- Danny Sapani as William North, partner, protector, and lover of Margaret Wells, born a free man in England
- Hugh Skinner as Sir George Howard, soon to be a member of Parliament, generally under the spell of Charlotte Wells
- Eloise Smyth as Lucy Wells, youngest daughter of Margaret Wells, inexperienced prostitute learning the trade
- Fenella Woolgar as Lady Repton
- Sebastian Armesto as Josiah Hunt (season 2)
- Liv Tyler as Lady Isabella Fitzwilliam (season 2)
- Holli Dempsey as Emily Lacey, prostitute who deserts Margaret Wells for better prospects at Lydia Quigley's brothel and later ends up at Nancy's.
- Rosalind Eleazar as Violet Cross, prostitute, one of Nancy's girls.
- Roy Beck as Mr. Abbadon
- Bronwyn James as Fanny Lambert, prostitute of Margaret Wells described as a fat jolly girl in the Harris's list.
- Jordon Stevens as Amelia Scanwell, daughter of Florence Scanwell, her innocence is of interest to Lydia Quigley.
- Alexa Davies as Betsey Fletcher, prostitute, one of Nancy's girls
- Poppy Corby-Tuech as Marie-Louise D’Aubigne, French-speaking prostitute of Lydia Quigley's house
- Douggie McMeekin as Charles Quigley, son and aide of Lydia Quigley who takes to sampling the girls his mother employs, especially Emily Lacey
- Josef Altin as Prince Rasselas, a young molly boy who plies his trade on the streets of Covent Garden
- Jordan A. Nash as Jacob Wells North, son of Margaret Wells and William North
- Ellie Heydon as Anne Pettifer, one of Lydia Quigley's girls
- Steven Robertson as Robert Oswald
- Timothy Innes as Benjamin Lennox, eldest child from Nathaniel's former marriage
- Ziggy Heath as Sam Holland
- Ben Lambert as Lord Fallon, an aristocrat who takes an interest in Margaret Well’s youngest daughter Lucy.
- Gerard Monaco as Mr. Armitage
- Sean Hart as Sir Christopher Rutledge
- Amy Dawson as Mary Cooper
- Eleanor Yates as Lady Caroline Howard, wife of Sir George who understands his dalliances can be used to her advantage.
- Lottie Tolhurst as Kitty Carter, prostitute of Margaret Wells
- Actors credited among the main cast only in the episodes in which they appear.
|First aired||Last aired|
|1||8||27 March 2017||15 May 2017|
|2||8||11 July 2018||22 August 2018|
Series 1 (2017)
|Title||Directed by||Written by||Original air date||US release date|
|1||1||"Episode 1"||Coky Giedroyc||Moira Buffini||27 March 2017||29 March 2018|
|Brothel owner Margaret Wells plans to move up in the world by taking her daughters and her brothel to a house in Greek Street. Rival high class brothel owner Lydia Quigley enlists religious crusaders and constables to raid the brothel. After paying a £100 fine, Margaret cannot make the final payment on her new house, so she plans to auction off the virginity of her youngest daughter, Lucy, to the highest bidder, just as she did with her oldest daughter Charlotte. Sir George Howard expects Charlotte to sign a contract to become her "keeper," but she refuses to sign; in a fit of jealousy, he successfully bids for Lucy's virginity. Charlotte makes the acquaintance of an aspiring male gigolo. Emily Lacey deserts Margaret to work for Lydia.|
|2||2||"Episode 2"||Coky Giedroyc||Moira Buffini||3 April 2017||5 April 2018|
|Margaret discovers one of Lydia's girls, Mary Cooper, on the streets dying of French pox and plans to use her as revenge against Lydia. On the behest of Justice Cunliffe, Lydia illegally procures an untouched girl against her will for a secret group of high born men referred to as "the Spartans" so they can rape her. Margaret's old lover, plantation owner Nathaniel Lennox, returns from America with his wife and children and agrees to invest in her new house. Sir George leaves his servant, Haxby, to watch over his property, including Charlotte. Lucy's virginity is sold thrice.|
|3||3||"Episode 3"||Coky Giedroyc||Cat Jones||10 April 2017||12 April 2018|
|Margaret's move to the Greek Street house is initially thwarted by thugs hired by Lydia. Nathaniel Lennox dies, which reveals that his marriage is a sham, his wife Harriet's freedom is a lie, and his bastard are children enslaved and unprovided for. Lucy is hired to spend a few days with the sadistic Lord and Lady Repton at their country estate and finds herself the quarry in a hunt and out of her depth. Sir George Howard's wife tries to come to an agreement with Charlotte. Lydia has left a dead body as a surprise in Margaret's new house for her to find. Emily Lacey, having earned Lydia's displeasure for her attitude, is starved and later required to service Lydia's most feared client, Mr. Osborne. Justice Cunliffe is looking for a new, untouched girl for a royal client, but Lydia is reluctant to provide without some assurances.|
|4||4||"Episode 4"||China Moo-Young||Debbie O'Malley||17 April 2017||19 April 2018|
|Margaret's trade suffers from Florence Scanwell's endless religious tirades, ordered by Lydia. Charlotte suggests a masquerade party to save her mother's business and goes to The Cocoa Tree seeking potential guests, especially Lord Fallon. Lucy is failing to thrive in her new role and can't attract a keeper; she turns to her sister, Charlotte, for help, but continues to seem out of place. Emily tries to run away and rejoin Margaret's brothel, but realises she is the prisoner of Lydia's son, Charles. A rift between Charlotte and Sir George widens due to jealous spite and he beds Lucy. The 'hellish' bacchanal brings together many unexpected guests and girls. Harriet Lennox, now a maid in Margaret's house, uses her charms on Lord Repton to promote herself to harlot. Charles stands up to his mother and bans Osborne. Amelia Scanwell, befriended by Violet, joins the party for a glimpse of Margaret's brothel. Lydia finds and illegally imprisons another virgin for the Spartans in exchange for a name.|
|5||5||"Episode 5"||China Moo-Young||Jane English||24 April 2017||26 April 2018|
|The wildly successful party leaves the coffers flush, and Margaret visits Lydia to offer a resentful truce and pay the debts of Marie-Louise, who has deserted Lydia for Margaret's brothel. Beaten and bloodied by Lydia, Emily manages to escape the brothel by drugging Charles with laudanum, but can find nowhere to go. Charlotte is desperate to attract a new keeper, while Sir George's outrageous behaviour escalates to violence and social scandal when Charlotte tries to leave him. Harriet Lennox excels in her new position, but her former stepson puts an impossible price on her children that he has inherited. Lydia is in a panic when the only trace of the latest virgin is blood on the door after the Spartans had visited. Lord Fallon wishes to be Lucy's keeper, to the delight of Margaret, but his strange aggression alarms Lucy even as her mother encourages her to accept. Violet and Amelia continue to meet. Emily is taken in by Nancy. Lydia refuses to procure more girls when she realises Justice Cunliffe is just a lackey.|
|6||6||"Episode 6"||China Moo-Young||Moira Buffini||1 May 2017||3 May 2018|
|Margaret is faced with an ever mounting tide of problems, and she is left with her finger in the dam to try and stop the flow. Benjamin Lennox demands immediate repayment on the loan his father gave the brothel and plans to leave for Virginia, taking Harriet's children with him. Charlotte has left Sir George, penniless, and wishes for the freedom of America. Lucy refuses to take Lord Fallon as her keeper, without whom they will not have the money to pay Lennox. Lydia is spying the house night and day for signs of Emily Lacey. Fanny is pregnant and too far gone to have an abortion. To spite Charlotte, Sir George appears and demands to be a reluctant Lucy's keeper, paying Margaret handsomely for the privilege and seemingly solving all of their problems. Lucy lashes out and Margaret takes responsibility to keep her daughter safe, putting all of the house occupants in danger. Lydia recaptures Emily after Margaret betrays her whereabouts to gain time to save Lucy. Florence confesses her past as a prostitute to Amelia in an effort to break free from Lydia, to no avail. Lydia is back on board with providing girls for the Spartans, who have grown blood thirsty.|
|7||7||"Episode 7"||Jill Robertson||Cat Jones||8 May 2017||10 May 2018|
|Decisions and consequences. Saving one daughter may have condemned the other: Sir George is found murdered and Charlotte and Daniel Marney are arrested in place of the true culprits. Margaret's world starts to crumble as William and Jacob have disappeared, the harlots in her house rebel, and Margaret comes closer than ever to becoming what she despises most. Lydia has captured Emily Lacey with foul intentions in mind. Charles grows disillusioned with his mother and chooses to grow more independent and act behind his mother's back. Charlotte must decide whether to throw Daniel Marney to the wolves to walk free, or trust that he won't betray her in turn for his own freedom. Florence seeks an alliance with Margaret to save Amelia from Lydia's threats. Justice Cunliffe seeks reassurance and a seat at the table from The Spartans behind Lydia's back. Harriet Lennox blackmails Margaret for the money to recover her children before they are taken to America by Benjamin. Lydia discovers where Sir George was murdered. Fanny is about to give birth.|
|8||8||"Episode 8"||Jill Robertson||Moira Buffini and Jane English||15 May 2017||17 May 2018|
|Betrayals and new alliances. Lydia's motivations for saving Charlotte are revealed: she wants Charlotte to abandon her mother and join her house instead. Lady Howard, now free as a widow, sides with Charlotte over Haxby and arranges Daniel's freedom. Justice Cunliffe betrays Lydia for acceptance by The Spartans. They'll take him, on condition he produces a girl who is a virgin. William and Harriet team up to recover her children, and end up doing so. Emily Lacey returns to pair with Charles against his mother and they find a new independence together. Margaret must decide if she'll do the right thing, or take the final step to becoming like Lydia and deliver Amelia to the Spartans to save herself. Lydia pulls off a double cross with an unexpected outcome for Justice Cunliffe, who is murdered by Fallon. Charlotte has decided to disown Margaret and Daniel and remain with Lydia, although she reveals to Daniel that she aims to take down Lydia's house from the inside. Fanny gives birth to a daughter. Lucy remains at her mother's brothel newly wiser.|
Series 2 (2018)
|Title ||Directed by||Written by||Original air date |
|9||1||"Episode 1"||Coky Giedroyc||Moira Buffini||11 July 2018|
|10||2||"Episode 2"||Coky Giedroyc||Cat Jones||11 July 2018|
|11||3||"Episode 3"||Coky Giedroyc||Jane English||18 July 2018|
|12||4||"Episode 4"||Philippa Langdale||Emer Kenny||25 July 2018|
|13||5||"Episode 5"||Philippa Langdale||Jane English||1 August 2018|
|14||6||"Episode 6"||Philippa Langdale||Moira Buffini||8 August 2018|
|15||7||"Episode 7"||Jill Robertson||Cat Jones||15 August 2018|
|16||8||"Episode 8"||Jill Robertson||Moira Buffini||22 August 2018|
On 26 May 2016, it was announced that Hulu and ITV had given the co-production a series order for a first season consisting of eight episodes. The series was set to be written by Moira Buffini and based upon an original idea by Buffini and Alison Newman. Directors were expected to include Coky Giedroyc and China Moo-Young. Lawrence Till was set as producer, with Alison Owen and Debra Hayward also on board to executive produce alongside Alison Carpenter, Buffini, and Newman. Production companies involved with the series include Monumental Pictures.
On 27 July 2017, it was announced at the annual Television Critics Association summer press tour that the series had been renewed for a second season. On 23 April 2018, it was announced that the second season would premiere in the United States on 11 July, 2018.
Alongside the initial series order announcement, it was confirmed that the series would star Samantha Morton, Lesley Manville, and Jessica Brown Findlay. On 7 July 2016, it was announced that Eloise Smyth had been cast in a series regular role.
Principal photography for season one was expected to commence in June 2016 in London.
The first season of Harlots received a positive response from critics. On the review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, the season holds a 95% approval rating with an average rating of 7.05 out of 10 based on 41 reviews. The website's critical consensus reads, "Harlots uses its titillating subject matter to draw the viewer into a deeper drama about the intersection of survival, business, and family." Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned the season a score of 74 out of 100 based on 17 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews."
- Alison, Graham. "Radio Times". Retrieved 28 March 2017.
- "Harlots Listings". The Futon Critic. Retrieved 25 June 2018.
- Petski, Denise (23 April 2018). "'Harlots' Gets Season 2 Premiere Date On Hulu". Deadline. Retrieved 24 April 2018.
- Jaafar, Ali (26 May 2016). "Samantha Morton, Lesley Manville & Jessica Brown Findlay Are 'Harlots' For ITV And Hulu". Deadline. Retrieved 24 April 2018.
- Spangler, Todd (26 May 2016). "Hulu, ITV Order Brothel Drama Series 'Harlots'". Variety. Retrieved 24 April 2018.
- Goldberg, Lesley (26 May 2016). "Samantha Morton to Star in Hulu/ITV Brothel Drama 'Harlots'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 24 April 2018.
- Pedersen, Erik (27 July 2017). "'Harlots' Renewed For Season 2 On Hulu – TCA". Deadline. Retrieved 24 April 2018.
- Petski, Denise (7 July 2016). "'The Blacklist: Redemption' Casts Adrian Martinez; Eloise Smyth Joins 'Harlots'". Deadline. Retrieved 23 April 2018.
- Andreeva, Nellie (26 October 2017). "Liv Tyler Joins Hulu Drama 'Harlots' As Series Regular For Season 2". Deadline. Retrieved 23 April 2018.
- "Harlots: Season 1 - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 24 April 2018.
- "Harlots: Season 1 - Metacritic". Metacritic. Retrieved 24 April 2018.