Starz Orders New Tudor Drama 'Becoming Elizabeth'

Portrait of Elizabeth I as a Princess (Photo: Royal Collection)

Premium cable network Starz has ordered the next in its series of historical dramas focused on the women of the Tudor family. New series Becoming Elizabeth will focus on the early life of one of England's most iconic rulers, Queen Elizabeth I. 

The only downside is that this series isn't based on a Philippa Gregory novel. The rest of the network's stable of Tudor-focused drama all take inspiration from several of Gregory's bestselling works. Hit dramas The White Queen, The White Princess and The Spanish Princess  told the stories of several influential women in what would ultimately become the Tudor family: Elizabeth Woodville, Elizabeth of York, and Katherine of Aragon. 

And while Gregory does have a book focused on Queen Elizabeth - The Virgin's Lover - it's about the queen at a much later stage of her life than it sounds like this series will tackle. (It's also almost entirely about her volatile relationship with Robert Dudley which, let's face it, is well-trod ground when it comes to onscreen adaptations of Elizabeth's life.) And though a young version of the princess appears in Gregory's The Taming of the Queen, that novel is actually told from the perspective of Henry VIII's last wife, Katherine Parr. 

Becoming Elizabeth aims to focus on the early years of Elizabeth's life, when she was still an isolated teenage princess and not yet a groundbreaking queen.

It's a time period that isn't often covered in onscreen adaptations, primarily because it's a rather difficult and dangerous period of her life, as warring factions struggled to claim influence over her sickly younger brother, King Edward VI. It's also one which is remembered differently based on which verisons of history you read. (And...whether the person writing that history liked Elizabeth or not.) But it's certainly a time that's full of conflict and drama. 

“The world of ‘Becoming Elizabeth’ is visceral and dangerous – judgments are rendered quickly and no one is safe,” Star CEO Jeffrey A. Hirsch said in a statement. “This series explores the Tudor Reign and young Elizabeth, who would become England’s ‘Gloriana’ and one of history’s most dynamic figures, through a new lens which we think viewers will find highly engaging.”

Starz's commitment to producing high quality, female-focused period dramas is honestly delightful to see, as its dedication that these series about female perspectives are both created and helped by women. Playwright Anya Reiss  will serve as head writer and executive producer on the series, which will also feature an all-female writing team.    And, you never know - we might get more than one next year. The Spanish Princess will be back for a final run of eight episodes in 2020, and who knows what might happen after that. Showrunner Emma Frost has certainly seemed determined to tell new stories about these often underestimated and underappreciated historical women, and Gregory has many more Tudor books in her back catalogue. (Yes, this is me desperately hoping to see Frost's take on the infamous Anne Boleyn and The Other Boleyn Girl.  I'm not ashamed.) But we'll have to wait and see.   Are you looking forward to more stories about the women of the Tudor family? Is there room for another telling of Elizabeth's story? Let's discuss 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 Twitter at @LacyMB