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4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 26 April 2013
Helen Castor presents the history of women 'kings' in a very clear and understandable words. This is a good dvd that only BBC can make. The only draw back is that it does not have subtitles. But, it is largely compensated by the clear pronounciation and good english of Helen castor.
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on 2 March 2016
Helen, has been there, done it and bought the tee-shirt, this is a brilliant presentation, if history floats your boat, buy this.
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on 31 May 2017
Interesting insight into England's early Queens and the politics surrounding them
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on 5 June 2017
Excellent- a must for history buffs
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on 28 May 2017
Very enjoyable series.
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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.
Most of the series consists of Dr Castor telling the life stories straight to camera, against the backdrop of some stunning mediaeval castles and churches - many of them in France, for chunks of France were ruled by the same kings as England at the time (the use of several maps helps to make this clear). There's also some odd use of archive footage now and then; snapshots of rolling fields and rising suns are often used at appropriate moments, but sometimes the visuals don't quite match the voice-over!
Dr Castor frequently draws from Anglo-Saxon chronicles and the few written accounts of the time, and she makes a point of underlining when evidence is scare, and all we can do is conjecture. She also highlights when the morals and accepted practices of the time would have made certain behaviours 'normal', or not. So we're helped to actually understand what happened and why, and how society has changed and was changed by these events. We also learn that if a bishop promises to support one claim to the crown one month, then he's very likely to withdraw that support the next!

In the end, as with today's female political leaders, we're left to ponder the consequences of women holding power in what is still a male-defined hierarchy - whether holding power inevitably demands a loss of femininity.
A thought provoking and detailed series. Not flashy, but very fulfilling.
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on 31 March 2017
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on 19 December 2012
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.
Click the buy button now!
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on 8 January 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."

Margaret of Anjou was one of the key and most aggressive players of the War of the Roses who would stop at nothing and cut down anything that stood in the way of the interests of her husband, the timid and half-mad Henry VI and her son Edouard, Prince of Wales.

Mary I (Bloody Mary) had hundreds of Protestants burned to try to reimpose Roman Catholicism back on England, while Elizabeth I, perhaps one of England's greatest monarchs engineered a religious settlement on England that was acceptable to most and led England against the invasion by Spain of the Spanish Armada. "I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart of a king and king of England too'
Magnificent footage of castles, palaces, churches and landscapes in France and England. Dr Castor is not only knowledgeable, but is an excellent narrator and presenter, making this valuable insight for anyone with an interest in the history of the period. At a time when English history is being downscaled in schools and universities in order not to offend certain groups, the English children and young people are being robbed of a central part of their heritage and identity. Series like these are welcome and refreshing.
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on 17 July 2013
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 doing the rounds.In fact I was surprised at the amount of (dare I say it!)guesswork,the "not 100% sure bits!"...Heck, we know it was a long time back and very difficult to find evidence concerning these women,but I cannot really recall anything historically important or any new facts after watching the whole series,the only thing I can recall is Dr Castors orange scarf..

By the way I do have all Dr Starkeys' DVD's running in a similar vein,Monarchy etc,and I prefer his in all honesty, and he is not my liege man(with humour!!).

The much too many background shots of modern cities with their horrible modern concrete buildings did nothing for me.I have a good imagination but I could not see the analogy of the scenes, as hard as I tried, of a medieval Royal gathering put against city roads with lorries and cars hurtling past,including the thunderous noise the vehicles make.
That many of the facts that were presented were too stretched,too weak and thin to be historically accurate was also off-putting..
However others may well love this series,sadly I cannot.
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