Is 'Becoming Elizabeth' Based on Historical Fact? 'I Was So Amazed'

Becoming Elizabeth is the new historical drama on Starz, which fans of The Crown, The Spanish Princess and Versailles will not want to miss it.

The eight-part series airs every Sunday on Starz and explores the formative years of Queen Elizabeth I (played by Alicia von Rittberg) and her two half-siblings, the future King and Queen of England and Ireland, Edward VI (Oliver Zetterström) and Mary I (Romola Garai) respectively.

Effectively orphaned after their father, Henry VIII, died and nine-year-old King Edward VI took to the throne, the siblings found themselves not only embroiled in the politics of court but also with religion and romance.

So, is Becoming Elizabeth based on historical fact?

Newsweek spoke with the cast and creator Anya Reiss to find out more.

 Alicia von Rittberg Becoming Elizabeth
Alicia von Rittberg portrays the titular character Queen Elizabeth I in Becoming Elizabeth. Starz

Is Becoming Elizabeth Based on Historical Fact?

Becoming Elizabeth is grounded in historical fact, however, there are inevitably elements of fiction for dramatic purposes.

Of course, much of the dialogue is imagined and some events are exaggerated or omitted from the story but overall, it is fair to say Becoming Elizabeth is based on historical fact.

Speaking to Newsweek, Becoming Elizabeth creator Anya Reiss, shared she poured over numerous letters, speeches, and historical documents to create the show and worked with a historical advisor in the writer's room to create Becoming Elizabeth.

Reiss shared she was inspired to tell the story of a young Elizabeth I after she first heard it, and realized she knew nothing about Elizabeth's younger years.

She told Newsweek: "I was so amazed that I didn't know it. I felt that it was a really exciting thing to tell the story slightly backward, where you know what happens down the line and you get to explore the motivations and pieces of it all and what makes the person."

Most importantly, the people at the center of the story are real historical figures.

Elizabeth I, King Edward VI and Queen Mary I were all children of King Henry VIII and they would all eventually ascend to the English throne.

King Edward VI, the son of Henry VIII and his third wife Jayne Seymour succeeded his father aged 9 on January 28, 1547. However, his reign was short-lived as he died at 15 years old on July 6, 1553.

Mary I, the only child of Henry VIII by his first wife Catherine of Aragon, then ruled from July 1553 until her death in 1558.

Elizabeth I, the daughter of King Henry VIII and his second wife Anne Boleyn succeeded Mary I, ruling England and Ireland from November 1558 until her death in March 1603.

Alice von Rittberg who plays Queen Elizabeth I, shared what Elizabeth's relationship might have been like with her two half-siblings as the history books will tell they did not always see eye to eye.

King Edward VI was a devout protestant and the first British monarch to be born under the protestant rule. His father, Henry VIII was responsible for the Protestant Reformation which saw the church of England break away from the Roman Catholic Church.

On the other hand, Mary I was a devout Catholic, and her half-brother, King Edward VI, saw it to that she was removed from the line of succession. When he died in 1553, Lady Jane Grey (Bella Ramsey) ruled as Queen of England for nine-day period, before Mary successfully removed her.

Queen Elizabeth I was also a protestant and the last member of the Tudors to reign over England and Ireland. She saw to it that the Protestant Reformation was restored.

In Becoming Elizabeth on Starz, viewers will get an insight into what their relationship may have actually been like behind closed doors.

She said: "We just really enjoyed how you never forget that they actually more or less grew up together, and that no matter how difficult it is and again, later on, they have so much in common because they did grow up together, they were still family. So there is always love and you take that as a base no matter how difficult it's gonna get, how much maybe love-hate there is later on, how much betrayal and deceit.

"There's always this phase of family, and I think to allow that rather than going with 'she's the hero and she's the villain, and he was difficult,' going with all the beauty of family is something I think is really, really special in this project."

To prepare for the role of playing Elizabeth I, Rittberg worked on her accent with a dialect coach, dyed her real hair, learnt calligraphy, and to dance the Voltaire, Elizabeth I's favorite dance.

romola gari becoming elizabeth
Romola Garai as Queen Mary I in Becoming Elizabeth on Starz. Starz

Romola Garai, who played Queen Mary I, read biographies and "devoured" the scripts to learn all about Mary I.

She added: "I mean, I think like a lot of people I was like [the show is about] 'The Tudors?' We know a lot about the Tudors but I was amazed. I mean, I would read anything that Anya [Reiss, creator] wrote, she is such a unique talent and such an incredibly interesting writer.

"To have a historical piece written like this by such an incredible young woman who is so much closer in age to Elizabeth herself and therefore so much closer to her predicament, it's not hard to imagine what it was like for a 15-year-old woman to go through these things. It immediately changed all of the dynamics in the shows and the way that she understands the relationships is completely new and unique and that was very apparent in the writing.

"When I started to read the scripts I realized that [it was] Mary particularly who I basically knew nothing about at all, [an] incredibly interesting woman and was an absolute joy to play and I literally you know, was kind of racing through the scripts."

Garai also revealed she knew very little about Mary I until reading the scripts, and she was not surprised there is a whole backstory people may not know about it, particularly her relationship with her father.

Garai said: "I didn't know very much about her. I think that is probably the case for quite a lot of people. Even though we're very familiar with the Tudors, I think she is usually excluded from dramatic interpretations but that's because she's largely been ignored by the history books.

"And that is not an accident, as the great kind of project of her reign, which was to restore Catholicism meant that obviously, Protestant historians kind of wrote her off as either a very weak queen, or a very violent queen. She was never really kind or given that much thought, but she was an incredibly interesting woman and her story is really rich."

In Becoming Elizabeth, it is also implied Elizabeth and Thomas Seymour (Tom Cullen) embarked on a romantic relationship, but this has never been proven.

Episodes of Becoming Elizabeth air every Sunday on Starz, so the good news is, that there is a lot of history for fans to sink their teeth into.

Becoming Elizabeth airs Sundays on Starz at 9 p.m. ET.