For example, we have two cinematic contenders that feature British royalty in very different ways. The Favourite focuses on the reign of Queen Anne and the influence that certain select friendships made upon her decisions. The fight over who gets to be Her Majesty's best friend,fueled by jealousy,greed and love, has earned the movie plenty of praise for it's examination of female power dynamics with doses of snarky humor.
This dark satire is up for several Oscars, including Best Actress(Olivia Coleman) and two Best Supporting Actress spots(Rachel Weisz, Emma Stone) as well.
Meanwhile, we also have Mary, Queen of Scots, a more conventional costume drama which stars Saoirse Ronan as the title matriarch who clashes with her English counterpart Elizabeth I(Margot Robbie).
The movie has received mixed reviews at best, with many critiquing the historical accuracy of the script and debating which of the two leading ladies gave the better performance. To be honest, I would see both of these movies and enjoy them for completely different reasons, which is how it should be.
What is bothersome is that one of the two categories that Mary, Queen of Scots is up for(Hair and Make-Up) won't be shown during the Oscars live broadcast. At least some of this movie's work will be featured in Best Costume Design that evening.
Anyhow, since three UK queens are being represented on Oscar night, I thought that finding a fictional representation for each of them would make for nice bedside reading as we wait for the Academy Awards:
From living down the legacy of her executed mother Anne Boleyn to being accepted at times and rejected at other due to the whims and/or political schemes of those vying for Henry the VIII's favor, Elizabeth proves herself to be a formidable survivor.
Yet, the emotional cost of hardening her will does take a toll on her. Watching the rise and fall of her father's regal brides, Elizabeth prefers not to be placed in such a precarious position as any man's future wife, despite having a few romantic longings herself. Weir does adore this period and it shows in her writing while making such facts come to page turning life for readers and offers a good introduction to this most iconic queen:
Her novel about Mary, Queen of Scots is set during the period when she is held as a "guest" of George Talbot, the Earl of Shrewsbury, and his wife, Bess of Hardwick. Bess hopes to earn herself a better place on the influence ladder by having Mary held on their estate while George finds his loyalties being slowly but surely divided.
Mary does what she can to use those standing in her way to escape from the trap her regal cousin has placed her in but to no avail as time drags on. Gregory tells the story from each of their points of view and captures the steadily growing twists and turns that fate has in store for all of them in the rather bitter end:
Fortunately, it's still readily available and can no doubt be read separately from the other titles in that series(although you might want to try a couple more). The original title was The Queen's Favorites and yes , it does cover that point in Anne's reign when the influence of her best friend Sarah Churchill was challenged by the arrival of Abigail Hill.
While this novel may not have the sharp edges that the current film possesses, Plaidy/Hibbert was an author with strong narrative skills who knew how to make period pieces feel lively and engaging. I've read some of her work as Victoria Holt(gothic romances for the most part) and her take on royalty should be just as riveting and perhaps historically enlightening as well:
Well, this trio of books ought to be as entertaining as these Oscar nominated films are and hopefully one or two of the onscreen queens will be crowned with Academy Award gold that evening. As for more fictional film looks at British ladies in charge, you'll have to wait for the small screen as Starz plans to have a new Philippa Gregory adaptation on it's spring schedule.
The Spanish Princess combines two of Gregory's books to bring a fresh face to the story of Catherine of Aragon, the first of the Tudor Queens to start off the pivotal path that the other wives of Henry VIII have had to follow. With any luck, maybe this miniseries might earn some Emmy love for next year, we shall see: