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Scott D. Pierce: 'White Queen' author indifferent to royal baby

Published August 4, 2013 8:12 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Beverly Hills, Calif. •

British author Philippa Gregory has made a career out of writing historical novels, many of them about the British royals.

Her novels form the basis of the 10-episode series "The White Queen," which premieres Saturday, Aug. 10, at 9, 10 and 11:05 p.m. on Starz.

It's all about queens and kings, including Edward IV (Max Irons), Richard III (Aneurin Barnard) and Henry VII (Oscar Kennedy and Michael Marcus). But just because she immersed herself in royal history to craft her novels doesn't mean Gregory is a fan of the current royal family.

"I'm going to save you all a lot of time and trouble here by saying to you, I am utterly indifferent about Kate Middleton's baby," Gregory said.

Clearly, not all of Queen Elizabeth II's subjects spend time thinking about her and her offspring.

Gregory is glad that little George was born healthy and is male, "because it's going to have a terrible life. And if it had been a girl, it would have been a nightmare."

(The child would have been third in line to the throne regardless of gender. And that's not been true before.)

"Yes, the rule was in England in the medieval period was that a woman could not inherit the throne," said Gregory, who pointed out that the title character in "The White Queen," Elizabeth Woodville (Rebecca Ferguson), absolutely had to have a son after marrying Edward. She did, after giving birth to four girls.

"And then, because she was an extremely reliable mistress, lover, and producer of children, she ended up with 15 pregnancies and 12 live children," she said.

"The White Queen" isn't the easiest show to watch. There are so many characters it's a bit dizzying. It takes about three episodes to really establish itself. And it's aimed at people who like this sort of costume drama.

It's based on history, but it's not a documentary. Gregory's tale is distinct because it's from the perspective of the women, and she's not afraid to play with the truth to make a more compelling tale.

Historians have quibbled with her novels, and they will quibble with "The White Queen," too. But for most of us, we don't know enough about the War of the Roses —which raged, off an on, from about 1455-1485 — to raise complaints.

That's true for viewers on both sides of the Atlantic. According to Gregory, the British are as ignorant of their history as most Americans.

"You're so nice that you really think that the British people are so well informed," she said with a smile. "Honestly, at some levels we're quite dumb. A lot of people have got all of their information about Henry VIII from Jonathan Rhys Meyers [who starred in the TV series "The Tudors"]. This isn't study. This is pleasure."

Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at spierce@sltrib.com; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce.