"It's a story that we really hadn't seen, women vying for power in a time and place where power wasn't available to them," said Carmi Zlotnik, managing director of original programming at Starz. (The series premiered earlier this summer in the U.K., where it received middling reviews, as it has in the U.S.)
Gregory, who says she was "without doubt born a feminist," has made a career out of writing female-oriented historical fiction, like the novel-turned-film "The Other Boleyn Girl." In her estimation, women like Elizabeth Woodville have gotten "terrible bad press" in the history books, thanks to the chaste monks who wrote them.
"They're not going to describe powerful, active, sexy, ambitious women in tones of anything other than horror and terror," Gregory said in an interview at the recent Television Critics Assn. gathering in Beverly Hills.
"The White Queen" is also somewhat novel in its focus on England's Plantagenet monarchs, who ruled for more than three centuries, yet haven't captivated the popular imagination in quite the same way as their Tudor successors, Henry VIII and Elizabeth I.
But fate, it seems, is conspiring to bring them back into the limelight: Just as production on "The White Queen" got underway in Belgium last September, the remains of the last Plantagenet king, Richard III — thought by many, including Shakespeare, to have orchestrated the murder of two of Elizabeth Woodville's sons — were unearthed after five centuries in a parking lot in Leicester.
Then there's HBO's hit fantasy series "Game of Thrones," inspired in part by the Wars of the Roses, whose ongoing success suggests viewers have an appetite for the complex, internecine struggles that defined this particular era in history. (The Starz version of the series even includes additional dialogue to help American viewers keep track of all those Edwards, Richards and Henrys.)
"This is an extraordinary family," mused Gregory, "fantastically bad and mad and sexy and violent."