|Jeremy Irons lookalike?|
'Oh, no. It's The Borgias,' she says (she is doing history A level so I guess this counts as homework).
I watched for a few minutes as Jeremy Irons and some improbably beautiful women plotted seduction, murder and church politics.
'Is it historically accurate?' says concerned mother.
'Um, yes, very.'
Ho-hum, think I.
She's also watching The White Queen because, she tells me, of the presence of Max Irons. We agreed that was about as realistic looking as The Tudors (Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Henry Cavill). Henry miraculously escapes corpulence as if he is the Tudor Dorian Gray. Readers, if you don't know who these three gorgeous guys are, they are worth a google (though that sounds vaguely rude so I apologise).
I have two historical points to make, which I hope you as followers of this blog will feel free to comment on, gainsay, challenge and generally kick about over a cup of coffee. The first is the way we see history, not so much in books, where it is easier to live with snagged teeth or a bad complexion. TV and film more often than not turn our ancestors into a cast of superheroes and villains (and surely it is no coincidence that Henry C is now playing superman after playing a super noble). Philippa Gregory is quoted on the BBC iPlayer website as saying 'It looked exactly as I imagined it.' Out of context, the website is inferring her blessing on the whole production which is far more sanitary than my imaginative rendering of the later Middle Ages, time of small pox, crop failures, no dentistry to speak of and low life expectancies. Too much for the living room? Possibly. But the Beeb is doing what we have always done: they have gilded our forebears with the rosy glow of what we would like them to have been like rather than what they were. Elizabeth even wears clear varnish on French polished nails. Check the trailer if you don't believe me. It's a gorgeous fiction based on fact so we don't care too much, just as no one really wants to ditch the mythical King Arthur for his historically more plausible contenders. As you can see, the medievals were also doing this to their predecessors.
My view is that the most powerful fantasies are always in truth about us and our real history. I tell young writers that fantasy is often about taking something from ordinary life and putting it in the laboratory of a fantasy world to run as an experiment on human behaviour. Personally I find Borgia politics depressing so do not watch or read any of those mentioned above. I prefer the more humane focus on the moral courage of the individual both in history and fantasy, so I'm a fan of Tolkien rather than George R. R Martin.
What's your historical/fantasy cup of tea?
My latest book, Dusk, set in World War 1 is just out. You can watch the book trailer below.
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