I find the origin stories of famous historical figures to be fascinating. Knowing who they were before allows us to understand them as fully formed human beings, not just names in a textbook.
The new Starz series, Becoming Elizabeth, is the origin story of Elizabeth I of England. Then known as Elizabeth Tudor (Alicia von Rittberg), her world turns upside when her father, Henry VIII dies. Though it is her younger brother, Edward VI (Oliver Zetterström) ascends to the throne, neither she nor her elder sister Mary I (Romola Garai) are free from court intrigue. She must both deal with being a teenager and the very tricky politics of sex, religion, and power.
I am hooked so far. The young lady we are watching on screen is both ordinary and extraordinary. Her ordinariness comes from experiencing the same growing pains that we all went through at that age. The extraordinariness comes from being seen as nothing but chattel while using every tool at her disposal to survive. It is brilliant, it is entertaining, and I am looking forward to the rest of the season.
Do I recommend it? Absolutely.
Becoming Elizabeth airs on Sunday night on Starz at 8PM.
In the fairy tales we were told as children, the stories always ended in a happily ever after. The prince and princess walked into the sunset with nothing but a bright and easy future ahead of them. The reality of that life is far more complicated than childhood tale could create.
The series starts when the teenage princess travels to England to marry. Arthur Tudor, the Prince of Wales (August Imrie). Their marriage was suppose to cement the relationship between England and Spain and create a figurative wall against the power of the French. But Arthur died young, leaving Catherine not only a widow, but childless. Without the heir to the English throne growing inside of her, her fate is unknown.
The solution to the problem is for Catherine to marry Henry. But the question of her virginity looms over their relationship. It is a concern that hovers over the rest of their years together, even after the birth of their daughter (and only surviving child), the future Mary I of England.
The program introduces the audience first to the young girl who has been trained from birth to be a future queen. She then becomes the woman who leads the country when her husband goes off to war and finally, a Queen who realizes that both the man and the crown she loves and will soon be slipping from her fingers.
I have never read the books, so I cannot comment on what changes may have been made between the page and the screen. Either way, the program is fantastic. This world is brought to life with all of the colors and complexities that only a well done BPD (British Period Drama) can bring to audiences. Supported by a fantastic cast, this show is one that is worthy of our television viewing time.
Do I recommend it? Yes.
The Spanish Princess is available for streaming on Hulu.
In the new PBS miniseries, Secrets Of The Six Wives, historian Lucy Worsley takes the audience through the reign of Henry VIII through the eyes of his wives. Telling the story both in character (and in the background of Henry’s court) and in modern dress, Ms. Worsley allows the audience to see that world through the point of view of the six different women who were referred to as the Queen of England in the first half of the 16th century.
As a feminist and a history buff, this series is absolutely fascinating. To see this man’s world through a woman’s eyes, is still a concept that while it should not be radical in 2017, feels radical. Despite the fact that these women were Queens, their status was no different from any other woman in England at this time. Their job (especially at the higher levels of society) was to bring legitimate male heirs into the world. That was their only responsibility. Five of these women failed at this task. Jane Seymour (wife #3) was the only one who bore her husband a male heir. Unfortunately, the boy who would briefly reign as Edward VI died young. I’d like to think that history has a sense of humor. While Henry VIII married six women in an effort to bring a male heir in the world, his daughter Elizabeth I (by wife #2 Anne Boleyn) is remembered as one of the greatest rulers, male or female in the history of the human race.
I recommend it.
The Secret Of The Six Wives airs on PBS on Sunday night at 10PM.