The White Queen TV Poster Image

The White Queen

Riveting drama about medieval monarchy too sexy for teens.

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The series offers viewers a fascinating (if fictionalized) glimpse into the workings of politics and power in medieval England. Women take center stage, and the story is told mostly from their points of view. Gender roles are predictably traditional, but as the story progresses, it illustrates the power women wield over men –- and thus over politics –- behind the scenes. No character is above reproach, and some are downright diabolical, but most resort to manipulation only on behalf of their families' interests and their children's futures.

Positive role models

Some are motivated by greed, others by power, and still others by faith, and their designs on the throne differ as well. Women often wield power through sexual manipulation.


Battle scenes are brief, and most of the violence is implied rather than shown. A woman dreams of her husband's death by sword, but the scene cuts away before he's actually struck. The same is true for a series of beheadings; the victims are shown being forced onto the chopping block before the executioner raises his ax, and the scene ends. Even without the graphic violence, though, the story is very intense.


Full nudity in bedroom scenes shows everything but genitalia, and sex is graphic and steamy. Bedroom romps have couples tangling in the sheets, and simulated sex seems very real. In most cases, it's a tender and mutually enjoyed experience, but there are some occasions of men forcing themselves on unwilling partners.


"Goddamn," "bastard," "damn," "slut," and "whore" are heard, but not often.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Adults drink ale at meals, but there aren't any ill effects.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that The White Queen is a gripping British series set in pre-Tudor England that's marked by intense war drama, steamy romance, and devious manipulation among royal family members. Based on a book series by Philippa Gregory, the story pays homage to the gritty, drawn-out battles for the British throne during the Lancastrian/Yorkist conflicts, but it does so without a lot of gore, since most war scenes cut away just before the slicing and dicing begins. This isn't a series for teens, if for no other reason than multiple bedroom scenes with full nudity (only genitalia are obscured) and realistic simulated sex. Also concerning is how the characters use and misuse the affections of others, usually to their own gain and with little concern for the fallout for the victims. For adults, though, the story is an enticing blend of action, human drama, and love stories of varying degrees.

What's the story?

It's 1464, King Henry VI (David Shelley) has been deposed by young Edward IV (Max Irons), and the whole of England is divided in loyalty. Caught in the middle is Elizabeth Grey (Rebecca Ferguson), widowed when her husband died fighting for Lancastrian Henry, and whose claim to his land is in jeopardy now that Yorkist Edward holds the reins. She arranges a meeting with the young king to ask for his help resolving the matter, but what ensues is a passionate love affair that culminates in a secret wedding, making the commoner the new queen. The news thrills her family, but others are less enthused about Edward's choice, including his closest adviser, the manipulative Earl of Warwick (James Frain), whose influence over Edward is trumped by Elizabeth's presence. As the years pass, powerful foes gather momentum in an effort to unseat the king and queen, including loyal Lancastrian Margaret Beaufort (Amanda Hale), who will do anything to see her son, Henry Tudor (Oscar Kennedy), take the throne; and Lord Warwick, who uses his daughters as pawns in his own quest for power.

Is it any good?


Inspired by a series of novels from Philippa Gregory, THE WHITE QUEEN is a dramatic retelling of the Wars of the Roses from the point of view of three women: Elizabeth Grey, Margaret Beaufort, and Lord Warwick's daughter Anne Neville (Faye Marsay). Part soap opera, part war film, and part melodrama, this series is an intoxicating jaunt through a snippet of British history fraught with contentious loyalties and lethal power struggles. It was a time that turned brothers against each other and made enemies of parents and their children, but at the same time it reaffirms some tenets of human relationships that transcend time.

Historical dramas have a tendency to flounder when they aim only to please their target demographic, so it's easy to assume that this 10-part series about a mere few decades in England's dusty history books might not have what it takes to draw in the masses. Happily, that's not the case with The White Queen, which takes viewers on a sweeping tour of the past whether they come to it knowing Edward IV from Edward Cullen or not. Another bonus is the story's clear message about the integral role women play in this traditional patriarchal society. Sharp writing, a fantastic cast, and a claim to being "reality TV" give this dramatic tale the edge it needs to vie for the attention of a discerning mature audience.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how history is retold. It is said that history is written by the victors. Who emerges victorious in this story? How is victory measured in modern-day politics? Have our tactics changed much since the times of regicide and forced loyalties? How different are politics in other parts of the world?

  • This story shows women to be far more than pretty faces. How do they wield power even as they rank below men? Are their tactics admirable? How close are we to true gender equality in our country? How does changing gender roles affect the structure of families?

  • Were the sex scenes a necessity in this series? Is that kind of content always offensive, or is there a tasteful way to include it? Without the bedroom romps, would the series have been tolerable for a slightly younger audience? Would there be any benefit to their watching it?

TV details

Premiere date:August 9, 2013
Cast:James Frain, Max Irons, Rebecca Ferguson
Topics:Book characters, Brothers and sisters, History
TV rating:TV-MA
Available on:DVD, Streaming

This review of The White Queen was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Great handpicked alternatives

  • Glory Movie Poster Image
    Excellent Civil War movie has graphic violence, profanity.
  • Vikings TV Poster Image
    Violent, mature drama has amiable, legendary hero.
  • Farewell, My Queen Movie Poster Image
    Gripping, mature account of Marie Antoinette.

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Parent Written byLili_01 December 9, 2013

Not worth the watch..

This will make you very angry if you're watching this and you have any common sense. King Edward is so naive that it makes you want to cut the whole t.v. off; he doesn't have any will to protect his family from the treacherous schemes of his family and others who want to kill him for a spot on the throne. Furthermore, this is a sickening amount of incest going on in this series..I mean come on, the writer could have salvaged princess Elizabeth's character by keeping her a virgin and waiting on Henry Tudor (King-to-be), instead of sleeping with her uncle! Oh, and this is absolutely not for children or teens.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Teen, 14 years old Written bylogical_nonsense October 17, 2013

Alright; Slightly Overdone in the Romance Dept.

Assuming that everyone has read the description and pretty much gets the general idea of the storyline/plot of The White Queen, I'll just dive right into the review. The actors, and costumes are wonderful. They did a very good job of creating a truly riveting drama. Violence is minimal. The only thing is that there are 3 adult scenes in the first hour, which I found distracting and did not contribute much to the plot. As a teenager, I can't stand it when I have to skip over adult scenes and miss certain dialogue that happens during those scenes which, to a degree, could've helped me understand the story. Couldn't Edward and Elizabeth have had that convo somewhere else other than in bed together??? (Guess not.) I've only watched the 1st episode and it was decent, but I probably won't be watching any others because of those scenes. Hope I helped someone.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Teen, 14 years old Written bypurple unicorn May 18, 2014


I've watched all 10 episodes & it kept me hooked. I cried during some of it.. I really felt bad for Mary. After I finished the series, I went on the authors webpage and learned what historically happened. I'm only 14 but I'm a pretty mature one. Honestly there's too much sex and too little plot. But that's why it was only a mini-series!
What other families should know
Too much sex