The Plantagenets review by Adrijan Arsovski - Cinema Paradiso
Here’s a list of some of the most famous actors’ names: Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Bette Davis, Cate Blanchett, Glenda Jackson, Sid James, and Charles Laughton. And they are important exactly why? Well, mostly because they’ve played Tudor monarchs (in one way or the other) across almost a decade-worth of TV screen time. All of which played either Elizabeth (the female actresses), or Henry VIII (the males). And so, the Tudors have been more or less imprinted in our brains as the one and only dynasty that is worth mentioning on the small screen. But, the Tudors’ reign is ‘dwarfed’ by another long-lasting dynasty of rulers – the Plantagenets, who firmly clinched onto the throne for a staggering 331 years. The Plantagenets are the main subject in this BBC-produced show of the same name.
The Plantagenets did not descend from Welsh or German ancestry (like the Tudors, Hanoverians or the House of Windsor respectively), but they were rather carrying French roots. The birthing spot of their family was the rather rich countryside of Anjou, cut in two by the burbling river of Loire in what seemed as the most remote place in the world (at that time). The first descendant to bear the name (or nickname) “Plantagenet” was certain Count Geoffrey of Anjou who was buried in 1151. On his tombstone in Le Mans, there is heraldry depicting shield-wielding lions, which, by circumstance or chance, were later used as the longest-lasting symbols of United England. Oh, besides being based on the broom plant “planta genista”, not one historian knows why Count Geoffrey assumed that exact name.
Before his death, there is ample amount of history to be told. Geoffrey’s marriage to the grand-daughter of William the Conqueror, Matilda, was deemed as the power-move which brought their son the right to ascend to the English throne. Soon, Henry II made that dream a reality, and with it came the long-lasting reign of the now barely-remembered Plantagenets. Henry II was both a sharp fellow and a fierce ruler, who made the largest territory conglomerate in England before the rise of the English empire in the 17th and 18th centuries. In other words, he was way ahead of its time.
But, there were no shortages of scandals, as the marriage between Henry of Anjou and Eleanor of Aquitaine, the greatest heiress Europe at that time. She assumed control over Aquitaine, which was stretching for more than two thirds in the kingdom of France and was one of the most influential monarchies in Europe by a significant stretch of a margin. Previously, she was married to the king of France, but the dissatisfaction from both sides turned their marriage upside down, and allowed for Henry II to enter the picture and firmly plant his rule.
For history buffs and those who want to know more about The Plantagenets, this series is a must-watch.