Stars: Jamie Parker, George Baker, Sinna Mogul
With Starz as our guide, we’ve marched through the years between the Wars of the Roses, beginning with King Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville in the 15th century (The White Queen), to the reign of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York. princess, about the rise of the young Henry VIII and his early romance with Catherine of Aragon (The Spanish Princess), and now we meet the Tudor Queen Elizabeth I (Becoming Elizabeth). The first few installments loosely followed Philippa Gregory’s series of novels, which focused on women in the historical background who deserved more attention because of her influence and agency.
First Episode date: 12 June 2022
No. Of Episodes: 8
The creator of Becoming Elizabeth, Anya Reiss, has found one highlighting an Elizabeth who has not yet risen to power and is still finding herself. When we find her here, her father Henry VIII has just died, leaving a huge power vacuum at the English court. Enrique had three living children: María (Romola Garai), daughter of his first wife Catalina de Aragón; Elizabeth (Alicia von Rittberg), the daughter of Anne Boleyn; and Edward (Oliver Zetterstrom), now King Edward VI, son of Jane Seymour.
The eight-episode series kicks off right away amid chaos. Edward, the only son, is obviously elevated to king, but he’s also only 11 years old. He has been raised by her stepmother, Catherine Parr (Jessica Raine), and loves her and her uncle Thomas Seymour (Tom Cullen), whom Catherine marries as soon as Henry is underground. This would-be power couple seeks to exert influence over the new king, but Thomas’ older brother Edward, who has the young ruler call him Lord Protector thwarts them in a quick power play.
To regain lost ground, Thomas and Catherine invite Elizabeth to live with them; she is only 14 at the time and impressionable. She is not a Catholic like her older sister Mary. Almost immediately, however, the handsome and charismatic Thomas flirts with Elizabeth, even in front of his new and supposedly beloved wife. And Elizabeth, flattered, returns the flirt and falls in love with her.
Crucially, Becoming Elizabeth understands from the start that the “relationship” between Thomas and Elizabeth is troubled. Catherine at first plays along, believing that Thomas, a man in his late 40s, is only teasing Elizabeth to win her over, so they can manipulate her. But it quickly becomes clear that Thomas’s motivations are even more nefarious, and while her attraction to Elizabeth may turn out to be romantic on her part, for everyone else (including viewers), it’s unquestionably off-putting.
Like the previous series, Becoming Elizabeth has a lot going on and a lot of ground to cover in explaining who everyone is, what her motivations are, and who is trying to betray whom, when, why, and how. Although Wikipedia is often a helpful resource when watching dense historical series, Becoming Elizabeth does an admirable job of avoiding that need by having characters speak clearly in a way that never feels like rote exposition. The thing about court intrigue is that it’s intriguing: There’s a reason George R. R. Martin took this moment in English history and its many political twists as the basis for his Game of Thrones saga.
So while Elizabeth is bound by her feelings, there are many fascinating things going on around her, and everyone has a part to play. It is very clear to all what happens in these dark halls and musty corridors that the reign of Henry VIII filled with uncertainty and betrayal; Neither it surprised Elizabeth nor her siblings to discover that they are in the middle of a big game, but the way they respond differs widely. Still, the series again does an admirable job of letting the younger siblings react like children. They can be petulant, immature, and easily hurt, each desperate to be old enough to take their own power from him. But when Catherine confronts Elizabeth about Thomas, she deliberately asks the right question: “what did he do?” She knows that ultimately it is Thomas who handles essentially grooming his young ward. After all, Catherine was a woman chosen and used by a powerful older man.
Watch Becoming Elizabeth 2022 Official Trailer: