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She-Wolves: England's Early Queens [DVD]

Helen Castor    Exempt   DVD
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
Price: £22.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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She-Wolves:  England's Early Queens [DVD] + David Starkey: The David Starkey Collection [DVD] + The Wars Of The Roses - A Bloody Crown [DVD]
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Product details

  • Actors: Helen Castor
  • Writers: Helen Castor
  • Format: PAL
  • Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 3
  • Classification: Exempt
  • Studio: Demand Media
  • DVD Release Date: 10 Dec 2012
  • Run Time: 120 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B008OH0OFW
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 25,271 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)


Product Description

In the Medieval and Tudor world there was no question in people's minds about the order of God's creation - men ruled and women didn't. A king was a warrior who literally fought to win power then battled to keep it. Yet despite everything that stood in their way, a handful of extraordinary women did attempt to rule medieval and Tudor England. On this DVD, historian Dr Helen Castor explores seven queens who challenged male power, the fierce reactions they provoked and whether the term 'she wolves' was deserved.

800 years ago, Matilda came within a hair's breadth of being the first woman to be crowned queen of England in her own right. Castor explores how Matilda reached this point and why her bid for the throne ultimately failed. Her daughter-in-law Eleanor of Aquitaine was an equally formidable woman. Despite being remembered as the queen of courtly love, in reality during her long life she divorced one king and married another, only to lead a rebellion against him. In 1308 a 12-year-old girl, Isabella of France, became queen of England when she married the English king. A century later another young French girl, Margaret of Anjou, followed in her footsteps. Both these women were thrust into a violent and dysfunctional England and both felt driven to take control of the kingdom themselves. Isabella would be accused of murder and Margaret of destructive ambition - it was Margaret who Shakespeare named the She Wolf. In 1553 for the first time in English history all the contenders for the crown were female. In the lives of these three Tudor queens - Jane, Mary and Elizabeth - she explores how each woman struggled in turn with wearing a crown that was made for a male head. Elizabeth I seemed to show that not only could a woman rule, but could do so gloriously, but at what cost?

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
55 of 55 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Serious and intelligent history TV series 11 Oct 2012
This is one of those `under the radar' BBC documentary series which is quietly superb. It doesn't feature all the frills of trendy factual TV (stunt photography, sweeping soundtrack, over-blown dramatics), but instead concentrates on an authoritative historian, exploring the theme of English queens in detail and with considerable insight. In short, it's proper documentary television. Clear, concise, revealing and informative, without being overly repetitive or speculative.

In three hour-long programmes, Dr Helen Castor reviews the lives of seven significant female monarchs from the middle ages onwards. She starts with queens who are almost unmentioned in mainstream histories; Matilda and Eleanor, who 800 years ago were the first women to strive to wear the crown in their own right. Dr Castor contrasts their different approaches and shows how it was not acceptable for a strong woman to behave at court in the same manner as a strong man: and how it was more acceptable for a woman to reign as a substitute for her son or husband, rather than as a genuine monarch herself. In the end, this episode shows how these early queens had to trade their own ambitions for the succession of their sons: they won the war, if not the battle...
The second episode continues these themes with the lives of Isabella and Margaret who continued to strive for independent power in the 1300s, when kings were still warrior-princelings, and who inspired the term `she wolf' in the first place. The series wraps up with the famous ladies of Tudor time, Jane, Mary and Elizabeth; but even here we are shown events from a different perspective, as finally a woman inherits the throne in her own right, and is acknowledged as a lifelong monarch.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intelligent Series 19 Dec 2012
By Anon
As a student of history, I watch a lot of documentaries across all scopes of subjects and time periods, but nothing grabs me quite like that of Medieval England. As you might think, that makes it easier for me to find faults and criticism on a series such as this, but it was brilliant!
Helen Castor portrays a time with confidence and intelligence, using facts rather than expensive reconstructions to tell the story of these extraordinary women. Whether it be discussing Eleanor of Aquatine's turbulent life involving love and conflict, or Lady Jane Grey's unfortunate predicament, Castor manages to weave all seven of these women together in an understandable and entertaining way.
The only criticism I would have is that the BBC didn't advertise this as much as it should, which is a shame as this really is an insightful and enjoyable series to watch.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Valuable insight 8 Jan 2013
An intelligent, and compelling series of three one hour documentaries by Dr Helen Castor who demonstrates a passion, understanding and deep knowledge of her subject. She focuses on the reigns of 7 phenomenal women, Queens of England. In a time when power was seen as the prerogative of men, the exercise of power by a woman was seen as unnatural, unfeminine and even monstrous and the early queens such as Empress Matilda, Eleanor of Aquitaine , Isabel of France and Margaret of Anjou were vilified as she-wolves, often demonstrating power and waging war, and certainly displaying ruthlessness but no differently from many kings of the same time.

All of these women were certainly multi-faceted, all , with the exception of the ill fated Lady Jane Grey, were capable of great ruthlessness. But perhaps Dr Castor if incorrect when she insinuates that Matilda was driven out of London because the people because the people did not want a woman ruler , when it was in fact because of the steep taxes she had imposed on the citizens of London, much as Margaret Thatcher finally lost power in 1990 after planning to impose a poll tax on the poorest in British society.

This collection focuses on relationships, and politics and war as well as religion and society. We get an understanding of what shaped a naive twelve year old child bride , Isabel of France into a ruthless power player dubbed the 'she-wolf' who seized England together with her lover Roger Mortimer, and possibly had her spouse, Edward II put to death. Of Isabel it was said "No man ever excited her resentment who did not perish under its effect; the king himself forming no exception to this fact.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great Women Hidden in Wolves' Clothing? 2 May 2013
Verified Purchase
This short documentary series was based on a book which I never read, but whose thesis was of great interest to me: The role of powerful and brilliant women in the paternalistic political and social structure of Norman-French and Plantagenet England, where custom and warfare dictated that women could not succeed to the throne of the male warrior-rulers. (When the Tudor Dynasty ran out of male candidates as rulers and women did actually rule, the problem became one of a struggle both to force a male consort on the ruling queen and prevent a foreigner from assuming that role.) Using the colorful Shakespearean term applied to his dramatic character Margaret of Anjou in Henry VI plays, the derogatory label of "she-wolves" was used by author Helen Castor to express her view that the inevitable verdict of history concerning powerful women was that they were vicious and unnatural. The author's historical commentary, indeed, presents a seldom-told tale of early female royalty attempting to fit the role normally reserved for their male husbands, fathers and sons. Because of the rarity of this perspective in recounting history, Dr Castor has done a service to the viewer, as is recognized in the well-argued reviews of the series accompanying this one.
I am not, however, so awed by the effect of Dr Castor's approach for several reasons: First, the label "she-wolf," was never applied to any of these women in their lifetimes, but borrowed from Shakespeare and then only applied to one of the women in his (fictional) historical plays.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Excellent all round, thanks
Published 2 months ago by Chris D
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant book
Helen Castor is brilliant - historically good and so easy to read - she makes history accessable but not dumbed down
Published 3 months ago by Heathcliffe
5.0 out of 5 stars brilliant series
Really interesting insight into female monarchs, Helen Castor is a fantastic presenter, and it doesn't rely on annoying re-creations of historical events using actors. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Emma B
3.0 out of 5 stars Not so good if you need subtitles
There are no subtitles available on these disks. Not very good if you are hard of hearing.
Otherwise a good series.
Published 10 months ago by grro
5.0 out of 5 stars She Wolves: Englands Early Queens DVD
The content is detailed and interesting and presented in an easy and engaging way. Helen Castor, the presenter, is a natural - she looks pretty gorgeous too.
Published 12 months ago by R D Pearce
3.0 out of 5 stars Sadly not for me.I was disappointed to be truthful.
Dr Castor gives an excellent commentary,her diction is very good,clear and concise.BUT!! the films did not tell me anything exciting or memorable,it really was the same old story... Read more
Published 14 months ago by Mrs. D. Surrey
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent
An excellent and intelligent presentation of some of the 'She-Wolves' of history by the 'foxy' Helen Castor. It will awaken your interest to learn more about these time periods. Read more
Published 16 months ago by crosscutsaw
5.0 out of 5 stars Very good lively presentation.
I like medieval history hence I very much enjoyed Helen Castor's expert and lively presentation.I have also read her books.
Published 16 months ago by Hakuin5
5.0 out of 5 stars She-Wolves: England's Early Queens
this is an excellent series written and narrated by someone who knows her stuff and presents the programmes in an informative way. Read more
Published 17 months ago by L. Evans
5.0 out of 5 stars She-Wolves
An excellent series (formerly on television) about early queens and the struggles they faced in a world in which women were deemed to be fit for breeding, but nothing else
Published 17 months ago by Sue Heard
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