Generally speaking, history isn't terribly kind to powerful women. Part of the reason for that is that history is almost always written by men, but it's also because for a large part of our time on this planet women have been as unnatural for wanting more the circumspect, proscribed roles that society has allotted for them. And even when women do achieve a modicum of power on their own terms, history prefers to remember them in very specific terms, as male ideals of what a great woman was. (See, for example, Elizabeth I, who we still vastly prefer to remember as England's gilded Gloriana in a ruff and facepaint, rather than as a scared young woman who spent the bulk of her life struggling to survive in a world that didn't believe she deserved her place in it.)
It's also why many powerful historical women are remembered as monsters. Call it the Lady Macbeth effect, perhaps, but it's always been easier to pretend a woman like Catherine de Medici, who was one of the most powerful female rulers in the history of France, worshipped the Devil or practiced dark magic rather than truly acknowledge her obvious intelligence and the real political skill that helped her survive in a foreign and often hostile court. But Starz's upcoming drama The Serpent Queen aims to change all that, giving one of history's most maligned women a chance to tell her story on her own terms.
And, who knows, maybe she'll turn out to be the villain of the piece after all (the series' key art does show her seated on a throne of snakes), but at least, for once, we'll see her story told from her perspective. Adapted from the biography Catherine de Medici: Renaissance Queen of France by Leonie Frieda, The Serpent Queen looks to be a historical drama that aims to embrace everything that made its titular ruler so infamous both in her own time and for centuries after her death.
Told with a distinctly contemporary flair, Catherine's tale unfolds through flashbacks as she defends her actions and unapologetically imparts the lessons she’s learned to her new servant confidant, Rahima (Sennia Nanua).
Watch the trailer for yourselves below.
Two-time Oscar nominee and general Anglophile favorite Samantha Morton (Harlots) stars as Catherine: a queen, a mother to three kings, and a woman who wielded significant influence in France for over 50 years despite the fact that she had no dowry, initially struggled to conceive a child, and suffered through an arranged marriage to a husband was already famously in love with someone else— and that person a woman twice his age.
The ensemble cast set to star alongside Morton is impressive, including Charles Dance (Game of Thrones) as Pope Clement, Ludivine Sagnier (Lupin) as Diane de Poitiers, Antonia Clarke (Catherine the Great) as Mary Queen of Scots, Liv Hill (Elizabeth is Missing) as the young Catherine, and more.
The Serpent Queen is set to premiere on Sunday, September 11 on Starz.