MCM – Wives & Daughters Week pt. 1: All the Hot Boys


Every time we have posted something related to Wives & Daughters on this here blog or over on Facebook/Twitter, many of you get excited … and it’s no wonder, because while knowledge of this BBC miniseries has faded, it’s a classic, and it needs to be resurfaced. The 1999 adaptation of the novel by Elizabeth Gaskell (who also wrote North & South) is nearly perfect: interesting characters, a story that takes its time and doesn’t always go where you think it will, and faaaaaabulous 1830s costumes. Today we’re kicking off a whole WEEK of celebration of Wives & Daughters, so join us for the ride as we look at all the hot boys, why this series rocks, and then the wardrobes of our main characters!

I really should start by just talking about the series in general, but it’s Monday and you know what that means: MAN CANDY. So, I’m doing things slightly out of order by celebrating all the male hotties of Wives & Daughters today. Then tomorrow, we’ll get to the series in general. So if you’re not familiar with W&D, sit tight, appreciate the Man Candy, and tune in tomorrow for a better introduction.

There are a number of great male characters in Wives & Daughters:

Wives & Daughters (1999)

Bill Paterson (Amazing Grace, Miss Potter, Outlander) as Mr. Gibson, ALMOST the world’s perfect father…

Wives & Daughters (1999)

Michael Gambon (second from right — The King’s Speech, Emma, Brideshead Revisited, Cranford, Gosford Park, Sleepy Hollow, Plunkett & Macleane) as Squire Hamley, crusty and old-fashioned but with a sweet heart underneath it all.

Wives & Daughters (1999)

Tom Hollander (Pirates of the Caribbean, Desperate RomanticsPride & Prejudice & Pigs, Doctor Thorne) as Osborne Hamley, whose soul is full of poetry…

Wives & Daughters (1999)

… and romance!

But really, there are two guys we need to focus on, and their characters are almost polar opposites:

Iain Glen as Mr. Preston in Wives & Daughters

I’ve raved about him before, but let’s expand: Iain Glen (who you know from Game of Thrones as well as Downton Abbey and Borgia) plays hottie/baddie Mr. Preston. He’s not quite a date rapist, but if he knew about roofies he’d be totally down. He’s one of those confused guys who doesn’t understand about the male gaze and the patriarchy — i.e., he IS the male gaze, but he doesn’t get it and doesn’t see why it’s a problem. He thinks he’s in love with then-very-young Cynthia, but instead of considering how inappropriate that might be, he strong-arms her into a very uncomfortable position. It’s actually kind of sad watching him try to figure out where he’s going wrong and applying all the wrong techniques to try to fix his situation, but at the same time you just want him to go AWAY.

Except, he’s hot. And bad. And I get all conflicted! Because he’s Not a Good Guy. But he’s all pretty and looks great in a top hat.

Wives & Daughters (1999)

Mr. Preston glowers…

Wives & Daughters (1999)

Smizes when things are going his way…

Wives & Daughters (1999)

Tries to be the gentleman…

Wives & Daughters (1999)

Rocks the top hat…

Wives & Daughters (1999)

Doesn’t get where he’s going wrong…

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Is all tousled and pretty!

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But also ominous!

Anthony Howell as Roger Hamley in Wives & Daughters

Then you’ve got the Ultimate Cutie, even if he is kind of confused about his priorities, Roger Hamley. Played by Anthony Howell (Mr. Selfridge, The Other Boleyn Girl), and this was his first screen credit! Roger. Roger, Roger, Roger. He’s handsome. He’s sweet. He’s the overlooked younger son. He’s smart as a whip and into SCIENCE and exploration and stuff. Okay, so he’s distracted by a pretty face! No boy can be perfect, right? RIGHT? (Molly isn’t listening, is she?)

Wives & Daughters (1999)

So cute!

Wives & Daughters (1999)

But also handsome!

Wives & Daughters (1999)


Wives & Daughters (1999)


Wives & Daughters (1999)

Adventurous and gets his kit off!

Wives & Daughters (1999)



Who’s your favorite hottie from Wives & Daughters?


About the author



Kendra has been a fixture in the online costuming world since the late 1990s. Her website, Démodé Couture, is one of the most well-known online resources for historical costumers. In the summer of 2014, she published a book on 18th-century wig and hair styling. Kendra is a librarian at a university, specializing in history and fashion. She’s also an academic, with several articles on fashion history published in research journals.

27 Responses

  1. ladylavinia1932

    I think Cynthia used Mr. Preston and spent the next five to six years regretting her actions. And I think Mr. Preston was too infatuated or obsessed to realize he had been used . . . until that conversation between him, Cynthia and Molly in the woods.

    And if I must be brutally honest, I’m not a big fan of either Squire Hamley or Dr. Gibson. To me, the former is the “parent of hell”, no matter how lovable he is. And the doctor strikes as a bit too judgmental and controlling.

    • Kendra

      Squire Hamley — he’s a really difficult character, because you can tell that underneath all the crust is a great heart. But I like that he’s complex! Real life people are complicated.

      Dr. Gibson — practically perfect, but not 100% I love how he thinks he marries Hyacinth for Molly when really it’s for himself…

      • themodernmantuamaker

        But quickly comes to regret his hasty choice of bride!

        I think it’s quite possible that Cynthia did use Preston at first but let’s remember she was 15 at the time! She probably didn’t really realize what she was doing (underdeveloped hypothalamus an’ all) and Preston, who was older and more worldly totally took advantage of her right back – which was pretty smarmy considering how young she was and her vulnerable emotional and economic situation. Cynthia is far from a saint (for which I love her!) but you can’t hold a 15 yr old to the same standards of behaviour and accountability as a 20-something.

        But I totally get the conflicted reaction to Iain Glen – bad guy for solid reasons but so hawt.

  2. Melanie Clark

    Oh, Roger. The first time he sees Molly at the Towers I just swoon! And I adore Squire Hamley, even though he basically ruins Osborne’s life. If only Osborne had told him the truth!

    • themodernmantuamaker

      I have a soft spot for Squire Hamley. It’s really true that beneath the crustiness is a great big generous heart. And he also periodically demonstrates more keen powers of observation than he gets credit for. But he’s also his own worst enemy. How could Osborne have told him the truth considering the rages into which his father so often flew over the very issues that touched Osborne most?

  3. Susan Pola

    W&D is one of my favourite series. Costumes, Hunks (Team Roger) & Francesca Annis.
    One of the things that I love about it is how timeless Ms Gaskin’s book is. You have pushy type moms (Hyacinth’s app tempts to get Cynthia married well) who’s criticism contains barbs said so sweetly…

    But back to the MC as this is MCM. Mr Preston is although a hunk, seems to be attracted to underage girls (Marriage Age was around 17-18 for the gently born and both Molly and Cynthia would be considered that). What makes him so creepy is how thick he island his perpetual stalking of Cynthia. I don’t really think Cynthia used him to get a party dress, however, she didn’t say ‘No’.

    Osborne Hamley, although handsome, soulful (loves poetry), doesn’t seem to be qualified to do anything, but write bad poetry, fall in love with a French Catholic, Aimee (Squire view is ‘Horrors’), and look beautiful.

    My favourite is Roger Hamley. Handsome, has interesting opinions, is eminently shagable, and you can actually have a conversation with about things.

    The doctor has needed a good shag, but trying to raise Molly make him an ideal choice for Hyacinth.

    Squire Hamley is what I believe is the ideal grandfather. Despite his normal English views on the French, he loves his family and wants their best. Also he is a man of honour. Something Mr Preston will never be.

      • Susan Pola

        Another auto-correct error. I know I typed Gaskell, but apparently the idiot savant of my phone’s dictionary didn’t recognise the word and used Gaskin instead.

  4. Heidi Lindner

    Anthony Howell was pretty awesome in Foyle’s War too.In addition to that just being a pretty great series in general. :)

  5. Susan Pola

    Molly, according to Lady Harriet, is perfect as she is.Good, Kind, Thoughtful, Intelligent, and Loving. I’m a huge fan of Molly.
    But Roger was momentarily bowled over by Cynthia’s SA (sex appeal).

  6. janette

    Thank you for this early Christmas Pressie. Wives and Daughters is one of my favourite of favourites. It does not age or grow stale and I watch it often.Last watch was only about two weeks ago.
    So to the subject of this blog, the menfolk. Squire Hamley, for all his faults is so lovable and it is such a fine performance from Michael Gambon that his acting alone would make the series memorable if it wasn’t for all the other fine actors. Doctor Gibson has a sharp eye, a keen sense of humour and a Scottish accent. What is there not to love. Like the squire his has his failings especially as a parent but what parent doesn’t?
    Tom Hollander is another of my favourite actors. HE is never less than brilliant in anything i have seen him in. Osbourne is trapped by his father’s ambition for him and social expectation. It is his inability to be his own person that grinds him down. Also he may not be such a bad poet. The character was inspired by Keats whose work was undervalued in his own lifetime and Molly said the poems were good and Molly doesn’t lie,.
    Rodger, like Molly is at the centre of the story and personifies the values that the book is about, honesty, empathy and intelligence. The casting is perfect too. He fits the character as described in the book.
    No mention of Molly and Cynthia’s spurned admirer, Mr Coxe played by Richard Coyle, not a hottie in W^&D but much cuter in Lorna Doone.

  7. Susan Pola

    Didn’t know Osborne was based on Keats and I’ve watched the DVD gazillions of times. I agree that Osborne was trapped by his father’s ambition and social expectations.

  8. ladylavinia1932

    Molly, according to Lady Harriet, is perfect as she is.Good, Kind, Thoughtful, Intelligent, and Loving.

    Oh dear. She sounds like a Mary Sue.

  9. Susan Pola

    Molly isn’t perfect. She has her faults. But these faults, like her introverted nature and never holding a grudge, works for her. She considers her response to not hurt people & while not being Cynthia and flirty,is actually a positive.
    I don’t view her as being a Mary Sue. To me, she strikes as a complete individual with faults and good qualities. The good qualities outweigh the faults.

  10. Tamara

    I see you gals have learned how to use IMDB LOL. You waste a few minutes on podcasts wondering where you have seen actors before. (Much love though!) I have never paid mind to the fact that in the book Roger is supposed to be not handsome and Osbourne is supposed to be super handsome. I love Roger Hamley in this movie! LOVE! My favorite movie hero of all time. I like the sweet ones! His voice is perfection. And this is my favorite movie ever, despite it being just a miniseries.

  11. ljones1966

    But back to the MC as this is MCM. Mr Preston is although a hunk, seems to be attracted to underage girls (Marriage Age was around 17-18 for the gently born and both Molly and Cynthia would be considered that). What makes him so creepy is how thick he island his perpetual stalking of Cynthia. I don’t really think Cynthia used him to get a party dress, however, she didn’t say ‘No’.

    So . . . if Cynthia had been two years older, Mr. Preston’s interest in her wouldn’t be creepy? I find that hard to swallow. It was okay for Ross Poldark to marry the 17 year-old Demelza after having sex with her, but it wasn’t okay for Mr. Preston to be interested in marrying Cynthia since she was 15 years old? I mean . . . despite the fact that he didn’t have sex with her and decided to wait until she was older to marry her?

    • The Scrivener

      What makes Mr. Preston creepy is not just the age difference, but the fact that he was apparently courting her mother (Cynthia talks about how “intimate” they were, and I think Lady Harriet comments to Molly that some people thought him too young for the mother and too old for the daughter) and his obsession with her. He gives Cynthia the 20 pounds saying it’s what her mother would have expected, then tells her she won’t have to repay it if she marries him (knowing that she doesn’t have the money to repay him anyway), and basically hounds her in multiple letters/conversations until she finally agrees. It was a coerced engagement. Yes, Cynthia acted stupidly but Preston is like that “nice guy” who thinks you owe him sex because he paid for dinner.

  12. ljones1966

    By the way, Mr. Preston DIDN’T strong arm Cynthia into forcing her to accept his marriage proposal. When she accused him of doing so, he argued that he did no such thing and she immediately admitted it.

    Is this what feminism is all about? We championed women having rights and demanding justice when we are mistreated? But when we do something wrong, we’re not expected to take responsibility for our actions? Because it seems to me that many DO NOT want Cynthia to face what she had done to Mr. Preston. He may not have handled Cynthia’s final rejection of him very well, but what she did was worse. She used him. I don’t care if she was 15 years old or 25. She was old enough to know what she was doing.

  13. ZelM

    I loved this show!
    This may sound a little sad, but this mini-series was the first period drama adaptation I saw that wasn’t Austen, Bronte or Dickens- & it blew my mind. Between this & North & South, I was amazed by the writer’s skill & sense of world (the film versions could be very different to their original, written counterparts- I haven’t read them, however) because they didn’t have the same ‘formula’ of an Austen (but I will be honest, certain parts did make me think of Sense & Sensibility, just a little), which made me more intrigued as the stories unfolded, because they felt more unexpected in the direction they took.

    In terms of the characters; I don’t get why people called Molly a ‘Mary Sue’; she’s far from perfect- she’s an introverted character (something I identified with in a strong way), good-natured, considerate & intelligent- I liked that she wasn’t some cliche, sassy ‘modern’ heroine; she makes mistakes: like when she tries to defend Cynthia, despite how in the wrong she was, & said defence impacted on her relationship with her father.
    I have to say I never liked Cynthia- she had a habit of using people, was the impression I got, & not accepting responsibility for her part of the fiasco with Preston- & I think she got something of that ‘quality’ from her mother- the way she connived to get Molly to do her dirty work, of trying to confront him (I felt a little sorry for him- don’t misunderstand, I can’t forgive the threat to Molly- & he had some douchey moments, but the poor guy was infatuated for years with someone who hadn’t wanted to look poor at a party)- which endangered Molly’s rep was unforgivable – I know Lady Harriet wove her magic to dispel scandal, but that doesn’t make up for it. And as for people saying ‘she was “only” 15’ – exactly, she was 15 not 12- old enough to know that she was doing
    Hyacinth would be the definition of a sugar-coated btch (no hate on the actress, btw)- & Lady Harriet & even her mother were awesome- not the stereotypical ‘rich btches’; they had a sense of justice & fairness, even when Mama was being snarky.
    Sorry for the long post, lol.