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Sex, skulduggery and magic in BBC One's The White Queen | reviews, news & interviews

Sex, skulduggery and magic in BBC One's The White Queen

Sex, skulduggery and magic in BBC One's The White Queen

Supersoap comes to the Wars of the Roses in Philippa Gregory adaptation

Rebecca Ferguson as Elizabeth Woodville, fast-tracked to the throne

As a prequel to the BBC's panorama of all things Tudor, Sunday night's new 10-part drama The White Queen (BBC One) whisks us back to the Wars of the Roses. Adapted from Philippa Gregory's novel, the series tells the story of how Edward IV, scion of the house of York, married the beautiful and widowed Elizabeth Woodville, from the rival house of Lancaster. In the opening episode, the pair first meet when Elizabeth (Rebecca Ferguson) petitions the king, as he rides past with his retinue, for the return of her lands. These were lost when her husband, Sir Richard Woodville, was killed in battle while fighting with the Lancastrian cavalry, leaving her struggling to support her two children.

Edward (Max Irons, pictured below) is a confident and engaging young fellow with a reputation for womanising. He promptly decides that he'll not only grant Elizabeth's request but will make her his mistress as well, announcing that "I am quick, I am brave and I am as lucky in battle as I am in love." Giving the Sovereign the cold shoulder was by and large suicidal during the late middle ages, but it's when Elizabeth firmly rebuffs Edward's brusque attempt to get her drawers off on the greensward that he realises the gal is a bit special. He has to marry her!

All kinds of upheavals would ensue from the wedding, which the king initially insisted on keeping secret, largely because it torpedoed the grandiose plans of Lord Warwick ("Warwick the Kingmaker", played here by a caustic James Frain). For instance, it sent his proposed alliance with France straight down the pan. But by the look of it the series has no plans to get bogged down in drab political stuff, and will be full of sex, skulduggery and magic. Elizabeth's mother, Jacquetta Woodville (an imperious Janet McTeer), likes to dabble in spells and clairvoyance, and her daughter is prone to sudden premonitions of her own. It's also a woman-power world. The clash of the mothers-in-law, when Jacquetta faces down the king's formidable parent Duchess Cecily (Caroline Goodall), is a highlight of the week. 

  • The White Queen begins at 9pm on Sunday on BBC One
It's when Elizabeth rebuffs Edward's brusque attempt to get her drawers off on the greensward that he realises the gal is a bit special

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