Winchester historians lend their expertise to new TV series on history's disrupter queens

4 Aug 2023

Two University of Winchester royal experts will be seen on TV screens around the world after taking part in a documentary series about six of history’s most powerful women.

Dr Elena (Ellie) Woodacre, Reader in Renaissance History at the University, and Dr Gabrielle Storey, a Visiting Research Fellow, appear in Queens That Changed the World which starts its six-week run on Channel 4 this week.

The series was made by Woodcut Media and is being distributed worldwide by Abacus Media Rights – it has already been sold to BBC Select (U.S. and Canada) and broadcasters SBS (Australia), AMC Networks International (Spain and Portugal), NRK (Norway), DR (Denmark), SVT (Sweden), Czech TV HOT8 (Israel) and Viasat World (Central and Eastern Europe, Scandinavia, Baltics and CIS).

Each of the six episode focuses on a different ruler and Ellie was interviewed for five of the programmes, talking about Elizabeth I, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Queen Anne, warrior queen Boudica, and female pharaoh Hatshepsut. The other episode is on Queen Victoria.

Ellie said: “It was very exciting to be part of this series which brings together six very different queens from ancient Egypt to the very beginning of 20th century Britain.

“These episodes not only reveal their very fascinating individual lives but demonstrate how each woman had an important impact on the eras they lived in and on generations to follow.

“Viewers will take away an understanding both of these individual queens and how they shaped the practice of queenship.”

Gabrielle was interviewed for the episode on Eleanor of Aquitaine, wife of King Louis VII of France and Henry II of England.  Although Gabrielle has appeared online and in podcasts this will be her first time on TV.

She travelled to France to film her segment. Shooting took place at Fontevraud Abbey (Eleanor’s burial place) Chinon Castle, and Poitiers - all seats of power for Eleanor and her family.

In addition to the various queens’ individual struggles each programme deals with wider themes such as women’s changing position in society and what this meant across the centuries.

Speaking to Variety, series producer Angie Cox, said: “The women featured in this fascinating docu-series were the disrupters of the day – all standing out as towering figures in history and achieving incredible notoriety for their achievements and never shunning away from adversity in what was a male dominated era.”

The first episode of Queens That Changed the World, on Elizabeth I, is due to air on Saturday (5 August) at 7.15pm on Channel 4.

About Dr Elena (Ellie) Woodacre

Ellie is the founder of the Royal Studies Network and has been one of a team of editors for Palgrave Macmillan’s four-book series on English consorts: Power, Influence and Dynasty. She has published extensively on queenship and royal studies including her recent biography of Joan of Navarre and her book Queens and Queenship for ARC’s Past Imperfect series.

About Dr Gabrielle Storey

Gabrielle is a historian of medieval queenship, specialising in the 12th and 13th centuries. She is currently working on a biography of Berengaria of Navarre, queen of England and wife of King Richard I. 

Pictured above: Queen Elizabeth I, one of the Queens featured in the new series. Painting of Elizabeth circa 1600 by unknown artist after the style of George Gower.

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