Fine, Whatever, Becoming Elizabeth, Meh

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People have emailed and commented at us asking for reviews of the costumes for the upcoming Starz series Becoming Elizabeth (2021?). These requests have been based on behind-the-scenes photos floating around the internet, but nothing from official sources. Now, not only am I almost entirely uninterested in this series (I’ll get to why in a minute), but we just can’t use those unofficial photos anymore or we risk getting legal nasty-grams from the paparazzi who took them. It’s can be a gigantic hassle that I don’t want to mess with.

However, this week, Starz dropped an official teaser trailer and promo photo for the series, so I guess that excuse doesn’t work anymore.

Color me underwhelmed. But, BECAUSE I LOVE YOU FUCKERS, here I go, doing a deep-dive into this shallowest of waters. First up, the promo pic that was released with the video:

Becoming Elizabeth (2021)

I believe that’s Elizabeth (played by Alicia von Rittberg), but no idea which dude it is, maybe Thomas Seymour (Tom Cullen) since he’s older? Anyway, THE HAIR. The story probably has this as an “intimate, private” scene between the two, thus her hair being down is symbolic of their closeness, blah blah blah, I don’t care. Her hair would be taped up in braids anyway if it was uncovered.

OK, on to the video itself, here are my high / low points, such as they are.

Becoming Elizabeth (2021)

Since this is about Elizabeth Tudor’s youth before she’s queen of England, the period would be the 1540s to 1550s, prime time for French hoods. And they generally look good! Especially when compared to 98% of French hoods in movies and TV — because here, they’re using Tudor Tailor patterns, and Ninya Mikhaila, co-founder of The Tudor Tailor, was hired to consult on the series for one day and worked with costume designer Bart Cariss.

All of us at Frock Flicks love Ninya and her Tudor Tailor work as everything they do is incredibly well researched and historically accurate. I’ve made French hoods according to their book pattern, and they come out beautifully and really do resemble portraits. Now there is research suggesting that some parts of the hood were separately assembled and pinned together, not sewn together as in The Tudor Tailor, but for a compromise between accuracy and ease of use, you can’t beat Ninya and company’s designs. So that’s one thing Becoming Elizabeth gets right.

The second arrow is pointing out that she’s wearing a black velvet partlet over a black velvet gown, and the partlet is lined in white (which you can also see at the neck). The preponderance of this style of partlet is typical of this period and is a nice touch. Because it’s not a kicky shrug!

Becoming Elizabeth (2021)

I want to see more of this burgundy gown, it looks lovely, and I like the use of a brocade for the big turnback sleeves. But I’m not impressed by the men’s hairstyles and lack of hats.

Becoming Elizabeth (2021)

Braided-up hair, you’re doing it right!

Becoming Elizabeth (2021)

This looks fine. I guess someone could complain about her slightly messy hair, but I’m just happy it’s pinned up and center-parted.

Becoming Elizabeth (2021)

YAY, French hoods that are NOT headbands! This is the “hood” that goes in the name, folks.

Becoming Elizabeth (2021)

OK, here’s our first hint of WTfrock. Lady-on-the-left has a kinda crappy hood, looks a bit like a generic visor. Lady-on-the-right has a pretty dress, but those poufy sleeves are 50 years ahead of fashion (unless you removed the farthingale, shortened and straightened the bodice a bit, ditched the French hood, and then maybe you’d have an Italian 1530s gown? IDK, but that seems like a stretch).

Becoming Elizabeth (2021)

The other kind of partlet, worn underneath a gown’s bodice. Both were common.

Becoming Elizabeth (2021)

One guy is wearing shoes, not boots, good for him! But he’s in livery, so not a high-ranking sort. The rest of the dudes could all be rocking the tall books inappropriately, who knows. A few fellas are wearing hats, proving it is possible.

Becoming Elizabeth (2021)

A 16th-century shirt. Hard to fuck that up.

Becoming Elizabeth (2021)

WHOA. Catherine Parr with beachy waves? WHY?!? Maybe this is just because it’s a behind-the-scenes video and she was caught on her way to the hair & makeup trailer. Maybe? Yeah, I don’t think so. Bummer, because that gown looks gorgeous with an appropriate-to-the-period gold brocade, fur sleeve turnbacks, and a burgundy velvet partlet.

Becoming Elizabeth (2021)

Edward VI has a puppy. Kendra will be pleased.

Becoming Elizabeth (2021)

I’m interested at what looks like piercing or pinking on the doublet worn by dude-on-the-left. Nice historical surface treatment. Another decent French hood for young-lady-on-the-right, plus another lovely burgundy velvet gown with matching partlet. At least the color schemes for this production’s costumes are right out of historical portraits, and the series doesn’t seem to be raiding the upholstery remnant bin at Jo-Ann’s like so many other efforts by Starz.

Becoming Elizabeth (2021)

This Edward VI (Oliver Zetterström) wears a good reproduction of Edward’s outfit in the portrait by William Scrots circa 1550.

Now for why I’m so totally MEH about this production overall, even though the costumes look remarkably not terrible: have we not seen enough of Queen Elizabeth I of England onscreen already? From her birth to her death, it’s been well covered, trust me, I’ve seen a ton of the bazillion movies and TV shows about her and reviewed them for this blog. Sure, she’s one of my favorite historical figures! I get it, she’s popular, she’s recognizable, Starz is probably thinking it’s easy money to make the bazillion-and-first production about QEI. But c’mon! It’s 2021, let’s try something different in the 16th century!!!

And can we not just “update” the same old stories by shoe-horning in modern storylines? History is full of fascinating, complicated, juicy, dramatic untold stories centering women, people of color, and queer people in every century, and FFS, the 16th century even had other somewhat interesting white people than Queen Elizabeth, Henry VIII, or Mary Queen of Scots. Our whole Forgotten History category is devoted to lesser-known biographies that would make great movies and TV shows, so seriously, Hollywood, BBC, et. al., check it out, because as our tag says, clearly you are out of ideas and Becoming Elizabeth is yet more proof.

Oh hey, there’s also a massive field of literature — period and current — set in the 16th century, and I hear historical fiction onscreen can be popular too, like, oh Outlander or Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. Or just write something totally new set in that period, a la Downton Abbey, and with 16th-century gentry / peasant contrast instead of upstairs / downstairs. There’s plenty of possible ideas that don’t rehash the same old stories, but y’know, making TV and movies is a business, and business thinks remakes and reboots are safe bets. UGH.

Now, will I end up watching this latest show? Yeah, probably. And I’ll write something up for you, dear readers, but it’s not looking like a Philippa Fucking Gregory shitshow (this one is created and written by playwright Anya Reiss). Probably not much good for snark, alas. Becoming Elizabeth looks boring for anyone who already knows anything about the period.

 

What do you think of this preview video? Will you watch Becoming Elizabeth on Starz?

38 Responses

  1. Barbara

    I just about rolled over laughing when someone in the trailer was like “it’s so great to make a series about a period that most people aren’t familiar with” … are you effing kidding me? If any period, any story, has been done to death, it’s this one. But our Lady of Bear Island is making an appearance, so I’ll probably check it out.

    Reply
    • florenceandtheai

      That’s where I recognized her from. Thank you.

      Jessica Raine played Lady Rochford in one of the endless Tudor-related thingies. Wolf Hall? She’s changing it up, I guess. I miss her on Call the Midwife. It got a little silly after she left, Chummy notwithstanding.

      Reply
      • MJ

        What intrigues me here is Catherine Parr, Edward, Jane Grey….all of whom I feel like get the short end of the stick generally when telling this story. Of course, since this is “Becoming Elizabeth” we still won’t get a fully fleshed out Edward or Catherine (I am really concerned, with that picture of Thomas Seymour and Elizabeth, that Catherine is about to get butchered all over for her possible role in that affair….I hate that so much). The casting, though, will likely be enough to draw me in. And hey, no windmill dress, so there’s a plus? 😕

        Reply
    • M.E. Lawrence

      Just what I was about to comment on, that “relatively unfamiliar period of history.” Jesus lordy. And the actress looks nothing like E., apart from the hair we see too much of. I don’t think the occasional guy’s outfit–that nice shirt!–are enough to save this one. (Has Starz ever done an all-the-way decent series? I tried watching “Dublin Murders,” non-historical drama based on the great Tana French’s first two crime novels, and thought they left out almost element that makes her books so good.)

      Reply
  2. Guest

    If they to decide to portray the truth about how Elizabeth was a victim of CSA by her guardian Thomas Seymour, then that would honestly be a breath of fresh air, and a genuinely good reason for another series about her, because the other Elizabeth portrayals I’ve seen usually either ignore it, or decide to turn it “romantic! (🤢🤮) instead.
    And it is an important topic, Elizabeth I was one of the highest ranking women in the land, she was the daughter of Henry VIII, and the sister of Edward VI, and she was still molested by her step-mother’s husband. And 500 years later, some people are still trying to defend Seymour, or claim 14year old Elizabeth “wanted” his attentions (despite the record showing that she would wake up earlier and earlier to escape him coming to tickle her while she was still in bed, and her “let him not touch me” message to Catherine Parr)

    Reply
    • Frances Germeshausen

      And the creepy incident of Catherine Parr hold her as he cuts up her dress with garden tools – between that and what happened to her mother, it’s no wonder she never married! Sheesh.

      Reply
    • M.E. Lawrence

      Good point. Young teenagers were considered marriageable–or at least betrothable–then, but that doesn’t mean Elizabeth wasn’t terrified, however attractive Seymour was. I tried to read a Philippa Fucking Gregory novel about all this, and when it became obvious that she was slut-shaming E, back it went to the library with a 0-stars review,

      Reply
    • Roxana

      People tend to confuse the 25 year old queen with the 14 year old girl. Yes Elizabeth loved to flirt, but what they miss is as Queen she was in charge! She decided how far the horseplay would go and if she said stop it STOPPED. The 14 year old princess had no control at all. Seymour intruded on her at will and did what he liked and ignored her noes. She may well have had a teeny bopper crush on her step-stepfather that didn’t mean she welcomed being embarrassed and molested by him! She did try to avoid him. She called her maids in to protect her and hid behind her bed curtains. But the worst part was the women she loved and depended on did NOTHING to protect her!!! Ashley, her governess, seems to have been crushing on Seymour herself and thought he was the perfect man for Elizabeth. Catherine Parr was clearly in massive denial not wanting to face the fact her dream lover was a scuzzball. Elizabeth must have doubted the validity of her own feelings when governess and stepmother alike were all but telling her the behavior upsetting her was no biggie!

      Reply
  3. Frances Germeshausen

    Two things caught my eye: little Lady Marmont as Lady Jane Grey, and a puppy. Might watch for those. I need a puppy. (Well, a young adult dog, but that’s OT.)

    Reply
  4. Natasha Rubin

    I agree that Elizabeth’s story has been told over and over and other historical figures should get a chance, but I will say in fairness that this part of her life doesn’t tend to get covered much. Elizabeth (1998) and The Virgin Queen (2005) both start with her being taken to the Tower during Mary’s reign. Elizabeth R starts with Henry’s death, iirc, but then it skips over most of Edward’s reign. The only movie I know of which focused on that period was Young Bess, which was almost 70 years ago(!) and took a lot of historical liberties, from what I know.

    So if we were getting another Elizabeth series, I’m glad it’s at least focusing on a period in her life that tends to get less attention. There’s a lot of interesting ground to cover – and i’m hoping, for example, that in this day and age we can see a nuanced and thoughtful portrayal of how what Thomas Seymour did was taking advantage of her, instead of it being romanticized. Let’s hope that’s not too much to ask of this series!

    Reply
  5. Carrie

    In terms of historical fiction, I would love to see Sharon Kay Penman’s books turned into series. The Plantagenets were pretty interesting characters!

    Reply
    • Tanya Stewart

      Indeed! An adaptation of “The Sunne In Splendour” would be THE one to begin with. Penman’s take on the battle for the English throne between the Empress Maude and Stephen, “When Christ and His Saints Slept,” would be an excellent study of male resistance to the idea of a woman as Queen Regnant. I’d also like to see Elizabeth Chadwick’s three books on Eleanor of Aquitaine brought to the screen, as well as her series on William Marshall.

      Reply
      • Kathy

        I loved Chadwick’s Eleanor of Aquitaine trilogy! A screen adaptation of those would be great.

        Reply
        • Abby Chandler

          I’ve wanted a film version of Penman’s “Here Be Dragons’ for years- particularly that scene when Joanna curtseys to Llewelyn in front of the entire English court. Drama, tangled family loyalties, gorgeous scenery (I visited what is thought to be Joanna’s coffin on Anglesey once)- move aside, Tudors!

          Reply
      • M.E. Lawrence

        “The Sunne in Splendour,” yes! I reread it every several or so years. (Even though Anne Neville says at one point that her mother was never there for her.) Penman’s battle scenes are marvelous; you can describe well and provide decent dialog, but action is hard to write.

        Reply
      • Kaite Fink

        I highly agree. I adore both of these authors. It’s really time to go and give some attention to that time period.

        Reply
  6. Yanina

    Won’t touch it with a stick. But if Starz producers want to scratch that itch by making something strictly Tudor and court related, they’d better make series about Anne of Cleves, told entirely from her perspective and including her family from Germany, life after divorce etc. That would be hundred times more interesting.

    Reply
    • Colleen

      And leave out that she apparently had sex with Henry, because that NEVER happened (I’m looking at you, The Tudors).

      Reply
      • Roxans

        Henry made a huge point of how he couldn’t manage to get it up for Anne, and that’s not the kind of thing a man likes to admit to.
        Anne herself seems to have believed their abortive night or two together was ‘consummation’ and was vastly relieved when Henry left off trying. They continued to share a bed nightly but according to Anne herself physical contact was limited to good night and good morning kisses which was TOTALLY fine by her!
        She either believed that this, and the unpleasant feeling up she’d suffered on her first few nights of marriage, was all that was necessary for conception or possibly she was putting her ladies on. Either way she readily supported Henry’s story of non consummation.

        Reply
    • Roxana

      I agree with you! Anne is one of the most interesting of Henry’s wives because she’s the most successful. The marriage was terrible but the divorce was grand! She got a generous settlement, the status and precedent of The King’s Sister and even Henry’s friendship and favor. It was a total win!
      After Henry’s death things got rougher for her. She suffered from the disastrous Edwardian economy and may have had an attack of homesickness but she was favored by Mary I and treated as a member of the Royal family, riding with Elizabeth in Mary’s coronation procession and being buried in Westminster Abbey, the only one of the Six Wives so honored.

      Reply
  7. :/

    Why aren’t there any dramas done about Catherine Howard? She’s probably the most underrated of Henry’s wives, and it would be way more interesting to have a show or movie focusing on someone who’s not always Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII, or Elizabeth I.

    BTW, there’s another Tudor-related drama on Channel 5 about Anne Boleyn, and it’s…controversial.

    Reply
    • CJEH

      I would love a good show about Howard, especially if they focused on how truly effed up her story is, and not “Behold the young vixen!”

      And I agree with Natasha, this is a part of E’s life that we don’t hear much of. Most of the Yay QEI movies are adulthood. It’ll be interesting to see a perspective from when he brother is on the throne.

      Reply
      • Roxana

        Little Cat Howard was, like Elizabeth, molested as a pubescent and exposed to a fairly wild sexual scene in the maiden’s dormitory. It seems clear she was intent on catching herself a decent husband, that being her only hope of any kind of a life, and she had to do it without a dowry or much in the way of connections, being just a poor relation of the Howards. Francis Dereham must have struck her as just about the best she could hope for. She does not seem to have grasped the fact that she had pretty much married herself to him however irregularly because she eagerly grasped at a chance to do better at court. And you can certainly understand why any girl would go whole hog for the chance to be Queen of England.
        Unfortunately Catherine was bright or educated enough to understand how her past put her at risk. She definitely should have settled for being a mistress! Too many people knew about her and Dereham for marriage to Henry to be safe. And her family certainly didn’t give her any guidance!
        But you can’t call a girl who most likely slept with only two men in her life, and was after a fashion married to both, promiscuous! The affair with Culpeper was seriously stupid, and was he ever a piece of work!

        Reply
  8. Lynn

    As far as young Elizabeth, to this day I will take Mercedes Lackey and Roberta Gellis’ version with elves over ANYTHING written by PFG. It was INCREDIBLY well-researched and plausible, even down to whether Denno saved her ass as many times as he did. :) (Seriously, her youth was so incredibly fraught that I’m fairly certain God intervened a few times on her behalf – so elves aren’t all that implausible.) If you’ve never read it, they’re each fat, luscious books… starts with This Scepter’d Isle about Harry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond. https://www.thriftbooks.com/series/doubled-edge/48240/

    Reply
    • JustaTech

      I’m not the only one! I love love love that series and re-read it about every other year. The clothes! The politics! The pretty pretty elves!

      And you can buy the e-books DRM-free from the publisher (Baen).

      Reply
  9. Michael McQuown

    If you want an idea of the potential for films about intelligent, powerful, charismatic women for the 16th century alone, read “Game of Queens: the women who made Sixteenth-Century Europe” by Sarah Grestwood. Enough material there for, well, a century of good movies/

    Reply
  10. Kathy

    I have to say, even this period of Elizabeth’s life has been covered in a non-romanticized way before. The first episode of Elizabeth R covers her life from her father’s death to her becoming queen. So while the production values look decent, this is well-trodden ground.

    Reply
  11. Saraquill

    I don’t have Starz, and this sneak peek doesn’t compel me to get it

    Reply
  12. Nzie

    Some of these look really quite good, but based on the preview… I’m a bit skeptical. I can’t say I have a particularly deep knowledge of 16th century England, but come on, Henry VIII, his wives, and his daughters (and grandniece) have been the subject of a lot of movies, tv shows, and plays. I don’t get the channels that do this stuff, so I look forward to seeing your costume review here when you get to it.

    Also can I just say, I love the whole dress+partlet thing. Can that be a look again?

    Reply
  13. Susan Pola Staples

    The Pastons what about them? Over 100 years of great commentary. Or Morocco?

    Reply
  14. Jamie Jo LaMoreaux

    I’d watch a show on the Dudleys, Walter Raleigh, wm. Cecil, James 1 of England, ANY of the monarchs in europe, Elizabeth Bathory or anyone except for the murdering Tudors (regicides all )

    Reply
    • Roxana

      Very interesting video! Her hoods look very good. Startling idea that the crescent part lay flat.

      Reply
  15. Hooley

    I want a TV series based Dorothy Dunnett’s Francis Lymond books NOW!

    Reply
    • Jenny

      Game of Kings was picked up by the people who did Poldark, and BBC were looking for a US co-production company, but nothing’s been heard for a couple of years.

      Reply
    • Gill O

      My thought too. Just imagine the gorgeousness of the scenes in Constantinople! (And the horror…) Slata Baba and Ivan the Terrible! The Tour des Minimes. Even just GoK has some amazing bits in it – Hexham Abbey, for example.

      Alternatively I would love a series based on the actors and writers who were Shakespeare’s friends and colleagues. Not a comedy, fun though “Upstart Crow” is, but a proper historical series. There are so many great stories.

      Reply
  16. Roxana

    The only complaint I have about the French hoods is they aren’t as ornately trimmed as they should be. But then neither are the gowns. Where are the pearl and jeweled billiments and borders?

    Reply

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