'Becoming Elizabeth': Starz Period Drama Casts Its Tudor Princess

(Photo: Netflix)

German actress Alicia Von Rittberg has been cast to play the famous Tudor princess in the upcoming Starz period drama Becoming Elizabeth​.

The eight-episode series will focus on a time period that isn't often covered in onscreen adaptations of Elizabeth I's life: Her youth.

To be fair, this isn't a time period that's covered often in onscreen adaptations of her life, largely because the scheming political and likely sexual intrigue she engaged in is such a stark contrast to the fated "Gloriana" image of her later reign. 

The daughter of King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth saw her mother beheaded when she was just two years old. Though her parents' marriage was annulled and she was declared illegitimate, Elizabeth spent most of her childhood being alternately welcomed to and banished from court, living in a variety of royal houses and meeting what must have seemed like an endless stream of stepmothers.

Following her father's death, Elizabeth watched warring factions struggle to claim influence over her sickly younger brother, King Edward VI, and found herself embroiled in a variety of schemes and intrigues in an attempt to secure her own place in the royal succession. Her sister, Queen Mary, even threw her in the Tower of London at one point as a result of her plotting, but the extent to which she was personally involved in any threat to either of her siblings' reigns is largely unclear and often depends on what history you read. (And how a particular historian may or may not have felt about Elizabeth.) But it's certainly a time that's full of conflict and drama, even if Elizabeth did go on to rule England for 45 years afterward. 

Von Rittberg may be familiar to some period drama fans due to her role in the German drama Charite, a series set in a Berlin hospital in the late nineteenth century. (Let me put it this way - Netflix recommends this show to me a lot.) But the actress is a winner of German national as well as international acting awards and seems an intriguing enough choice for the role.

Playwright Anya Reiss will serve as head writer and executive producer on the series, which will also feature an all-female writing team. Honestly, the only downside to Becoming Elizabeth is that it's not being brought to us by the same folks that have been responsible for Starz's successful series of female-focused Tudor dramas The White Queen, The White Princessand The Spanish PrincessThese shows, all from showrunners Emma Frost and Matthew Graham, are based on the bestselling books of author Philippa GregoryBecoming Elizabeth, though also obviously a Tudor drama, will have no real connection to these other series. 

This is a shame, if only because Frost and Graham's work is so thoughtful and I'd love to see what they'd made of a young Elizabeth. But, there are certainly plenty more books in Gregory's catalog, so maybe if we're lucky we'll get to see them tackle a few more underappreciated women from this period, such as Anne of Cleves, Katherine Howard, or Mary, Queen of Scots. Fingers crossed, anyway. 

What do you think of Becoming Elizabeth? Have you seen any of Von Rittberg's work? Let us know in the comments.

Lacy Baugher

Lacy's love of British TV is embarrassingly extensive, but primarily centers around evangelizing all things Doctor Who, and watching as many period dramas as possible.

Digital media type by day, she also has a fairly useless degree in British medieval literature, and dearly loves to talk about dream poetry, liminality, and the medieval religious vision. (Sadly, that opportunity presents itself very infrequently.) York apologist, Ninth Doctor enthusiast, and unabashed Ravenclaw. Say hi on Threads or Blue Sky at @LacyMB. 

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