BBC Adds 12 to Cast of 'King & Conqueror' as Filming Begins

Eddie Marsan in "The Winter King", ClEddie Marsan in "The Winter King", Clemence Poesy in "Gunpowder" and Emily Meechum in "Merlinemence Poesy in "Gunpowder" and Emily Meechum in "Merlin

Eddie Marsan in "The Winter King", Clemence Poesy in "Gunpowder" and Emily Meechum in "Merlin".

(Photo: BBC/MGM)

Filming is officially underway on King & Conqueror the BBC's sprawling historical epic that digs into the lives of several of the medieval period's most fascinating and influential figures.  

The eight part series will follow the lives of two men who will ultimately face off in a battle that will shape the identity of England --- and the future of Europe --- for hundreds of years to come: Harold Godwinson, Earl of Wessex, King Harold II, and the last crowned Anglo Saxon ruler of England, and William, Duke of Normandy, otherwise known as William the Conqueror, whose defeat of Godwinson at the Battle of Hastings in 1066 ushered in profound changes that shifted the Church, the aristocracy, the government, and even the language in England forever afterward. 

When Edward the Confessor died, a succession crisis followed, as Harold Hardrada, the King of Norway and William of Normandy both attempted to take the throne. But the man who emerged victorious was Godwinson, brother in law of Edward, who managed to get himself crowned just a day after the king's death. Unfortunately, this didn't do him a lot of good, as he would go only to rule for just nine months before his death at Hastings. (Popular myth says he was slain via an arrow through the eye, but this is a subject of some debate among historians.) However if the characters and descriptions are anything to go by, King & Conqueror isn't all that concerned with Hastings and its aftermath, but who the two men who would share that fateful meeting on the battlefield were before hand. 

James Norton (Happy Valley) is set to play Harold Godwinson (the show's marketing materials very much want you to call him Harold of Wessex, but no one does this in real life so we won't either), while Game of Thrones alum Nikolaj Coster-Waldau is William of Normandy. They'll be joined by a positively sprawling cast of characters that range from Viking kings to French queens.  

Here's the series description.

King & Conqueror is the story of a clash that defined the future of a country – and a continent – for a thousand years, the roots of which stretch back decades and extend out through a pair of interconnected family dynasties, struggling for power across two countries and a raging sea. Harold of Wessex and William of Normandy were two men destined to meet at the Battle of Hastings in 1066; two allies with no design on the British throne, who found themselves forced by circumstance and personal obsession into a war for possession of its crown.

The series sprawling ensemble cast includes an intriguing mix of familiar faces and acting newcomers, so we'll attempt to break down for you who everyone is most likely playing: 

  • Emily Beecham (1899) will play Edith Swanneck, also known as Edith the Fair. Harold's wife, she's the mother of his daughters Gunnhild and Gytha
  • Clémence Poésy (The Essex Serpent) is Matilda, the wife of William of Normandy, and eventual mother of two kings (William II and Henry I). 
  • Eddie Marsan (The Winter King) plays Edward the Confessor, King of England.
  • Juliet Stevenson (Professor T) is Lady Emma (presumably Emma of Normandy, Edward's mother and Queen of England, France and Norway at various points in her life)
  • Jean-Marc Barr (The Big Blue) plays King Henry (presumably King Henry I of France)
  • Luther Ford (The Crown) as Tostig Godwinson, brother of King Harold. After Harold exiled him, Tostig threw his support behind Norweigian king Harald Hardrada's invasion of England and was killed alongside him at the Battle of Stamford Bridge in 1066.
  • Geoff Bell (Top Boy) is Godwin, father of Harold 
  • Joseph Mawle (The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power) is Fitzosbern (this is most likely William FitzOsbern, 1st Earl of Hereford, one of the great early magnates of Norman England who was friends with William of Normandy)
  • Elliot Cowan (Black Cake) is Sweyn (presumably this is King Sweyn II of Denmark, but Harold also had an ollder brother who was killed upon returning from a pilgrimmage to Jerusalem, so who knows!) Like many people during this period, Sweyn also had a tenuous claim to the English throne and feuded with Harold Hardrada
  • Bo Bragason (Renegade Nell) is Queen Gunhild (presumably if the above is King Sweyn, this is his wife)
  • Bjarne Henriksen (Borgen) as Earl Siward, Earl of Northumbria 
  • Clare Holman (Inspector Morse) as Gytha, Harold's mother
  • Oliver Mascucci (Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore) as Baldwin (most likely Baldwin FitzGilbert, another longtime supporter of William the Conqueror's who held a largest fiefdom in Devon once he was king) 

King & Conqueror is created, written, and executive produced by created and executive produced by Michael Robert Johnson (Sherlock Holmes), with Baltasar Kormákur (Everest) directing the premiere episode and overseeing the series' creative. Both will also serve as executive producers alongside Norton and Kitty Kaletsky for Rabbit Track Pictures, Baltasar Kormákur for RVK Studios, Robert Taylor for The Development Partnership, Dave Clarke and Richard Halliwell for Shepherd Content, and Ed Clarke, Robert Jones, Coster-Waldau and Martin.

Production is currently under way in Iceland, though it's unlikely we'll see the series before the end of the year. 

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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