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The White Queen

June 21, 2013

Last night, Jane and I watched the first episode of the new BBC1 series, the White Queen. We really enjoyed it, and whilst I know it isn't (and doesn't claim to be) historically accurate, I look forward to gaining some understanding of the Wars of the Roses; I have already started my googling and Wikipedia searches.


Before I come to my main point, on the sex chess scenes, a diversion. I note that the programme was filmed in Belgium, apparently because the architecture there is more unscathed, and also because of the tax breaks which are said to be there, and (according to the article) weren't available in the UK. Both reasons sound somewhat implausible to me.…-as-fought-in-Belgium.html

Second, angry viewers have apparently vented their spleens because of several historical inaccuracies in the episode: bricks; zips; and sheer white clothes:

My interest was heightened when Elizabeth Grey, the future 'white queen' asks whether any of her family want to play chess with her. Alas, the production is also failing in its depiction of chess:



Using the above pictures, and also another which is on fleetingly and I couldn't capture, in which she places the first piece, a white pawn, on h2, Elizabeth has set the prices up wrongly, with a black square on h1, and also has the king and queen in the wrong places.

I have also done a bit of research on the board and pieces; but more could be done. Certainly, the producers haven't made the crass mistake of using the ubiquitous Staunton pieces which have only been in use since the mid 19th century; the pieces she uses could be of the correct period; I also think it is probably correct that by the 15th century the board was black and white, or at least coloured- rather than plain, as it is to this day e.g. in Chinese Chess. The other thing which mildly interests me is that it was about the very time the drama is set, the second half of the fifteen century, when the power of the queen dramatically changed from her weak one-squared antecedent to the most powerful piece she remains now: quite apposite, given the title of the series.

If Rebecca Ferguson, the Swedish actress [yes, English history filmed in Belgium starring a Swedish actress] wants chess lessons, she can apply to me through this blog.


  1. john permalink

    Flipping ‘eck, you’ll be getting your 16th century history from The Tudors next!

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Why are the squares on chess boards coloured, and why white on the right? | allanbeardsworth
  2. When did chess board become chequered? | allanbeardsworth

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