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The White Queen & Knowing Your Fact From Fiction

Hello

I’m closing in on my maternity leave, which ultimately means that I will be posting even less. I know, I know… you’ll be devastated!

Although this blog is a personal endeavour, I have to say that I am going to have to quieten down more than I thought I would. Basically, being a Mummy is a very time consuming thing and my babies are the most important thing in the entire world and deserve all of my attention. Therefore, my writing is dying a death for the next year or so.

I often say that the most important thing I’ll ever be in life is a Mum… well, here shall be the proof. I might tweet a bit, but that will mainly be because I’m breastfeeding and any Mum who breast feeds will tell you – once you’re baby latches on, that’s it. Bring a magazine or the TV remote, breast fed babies take their time 🙂

Historical Fact and Fiction – Know the Blummin Difference!

So, I thought I’d grumble about something. The annoying tendency of some people to not be able to differentiate between historical fact and fiction. It honestly winds me up something chronic.

My Sunday nights are currently bereft of entertainment, as ‘The White Queen’ on BBC 1 has now concluded its 10 week run. In America, it’s just getting going and being shown on the Starz channel I do believe.

It was a wonderful chunk of drama, taken from Dr Phillipa Gregory’s ‘Cousins War’ series of historical fictions.

I read a former soap actor criticize the acting skills as being ‘too wooden’ for him. Coming from a bloke who, in everything I have ever seen him in, has gone for stereotype roles or OTT melodrama that would make even Louis Spence wince, I found that laughable.

I actually found the acting restrained in the most part – and for jolly good reason. Should royalty of the medieval era go about beating their breasts and roaming the halls screaming and sobbing over everything? Or were they more accurately portrayed as people who had to keep everything, even in private, to themselves and bottled up, as letting out their feelings was a dangerous thing to do?

The latter. No standing in the street yelling and screaming here. These are not peasants we’re talking about and values were very different to what we have now. Nowadays, we expect our royalty to expose everything to us. When Princess Diana died in 1997, the royal family were widely criticized for not making a private matter public. Image forcing Queen Victoria or Queen Elizabeth being made to address the nation because an ex-family member had died? They’d have told you to sod off.  Take that back a few hundred years further and in the 15th century, death, murder and disease were normal, everyday parts of court life.

So no, the performances were much more accurate as being subtle and brooding, rather than the hand wringing and fist waving idiocy we think we should see by modern standards. Some people seem to have watched far too many Robin Hood films and expect wild pageantry and a cracking pair of tights chucked in for good measure. I have always found measured, calm and deliberate performance vastly more engaging and emotive than all-out soap-style acting.

The historical accuracy also came in for a massive telling off by people who, in my opinion, have a lot of time on their hands and little to complain about of substance in their day to day.

They seem to have magically forgotten that the show they were watching was historical fiction and that it was based on history. If they wanted to see something with the cast wearing 100% accurate clothes, rotting teeth and castles sans hand rails – go watch a documentary or a reconstruction. This programme is neither of those things. It isn’t either a docu-drama. It is dramatic entertainment and does not pretend to be otherwise – get over it.

It  wound me up that people were moaning and whinging about zips in dresses and modern gutters. If you cannot get the simple premise that this is a dramatization, then view a documentary instead. In fact, Dr Gregory has done a belting one to tie-in with the series on the three main women of the tale: Elizabeth Woodville, Anne Neville and Margaret Beaufort.

As someone who knows their history reasonably well (I was pretty good before I married a nerdy history graduate), I didn’t find it that bad at all to be honest. Timelines were compacted (which is a normal process for historical fiction plays and films to be made) and events were slightly reimagined and switched about, things were omitted or things that didn’t happen included, but the main points were pretty much there. I didn’t lose sleep over my country’s rich historical heritage being insulted. Fundamentally, I was vastly more grateful that this series may actually encourage others to find out more about the Wars of the Roses and history in general.

As a born Lancastrian (Merseyside used to be Lancashire until the mid 1970’s), I have grown up knowing about the historical war and therefore, always believing that the house of Lancaster was right. After watching the programme, I had my complacent ideologies challenged a bit, which I thought was brilliant. Henry Tudor had a very wobbly and rather tenuous claim to the English throne, which I think I always just glossed over and accepted, taken in by the Tudor period propaganda machine.

History is always written by the winners, right?

Richard III’s story was told to me by Shakespeare throughout my life and although I was aware of his history, it never occurred to me that there were so many powers at work behind the scenes – scheming and plotting against him.

In the opening soliloquy by Shakespeare, Richard III tells us that he was born deformed and therefore it was a hint to him that he should be evil as it was fate that had bound him on that course. More or less.

But Richard III was not the rotten, calculating murderer of Shakespeare. In his time, murdering and plotting your way to the top was normal. Brutal, but absolutely normal.

How many corpses did Henry VII walk over to claim the throne? Or Edward IV? Richard III was no different.

I didn’t see the zips in the dresses or the gleaming modern dentistry – I saw the drama, the history (however tweaked) and the joy of it all.

It is sad that others couldn’t and even went out of their way to say so.

British history, whether good or bad, is an amazing thing and makes me extremely proud to be from this country. I can’t be proud all the time, there are dark recesses in our history that are awful, but despite it all, we have something, as a nation to be proud of. I hope ‘The White Queen’ demonstrated to those who watched it and didn’t bemoan tedious what-nots, that history can be relevant, dramatic and interesting.

It has certainly renewed my interest in the subject, I can tell you.

 

Cat x

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