THE Wars Of The Roses was one of the bloodiest periods in English history and saw two sides of the same family - the houses of York and Lancaster - fighting a long and violent conflict over who was the true king.
The White Queen tells the story of the War of the Roses
The Wars Of The Roses was one of the bloodiest periods in English history and saw two sides of the same family - the houses of York and Lancaster - fighting a long and violent conflict over who was the true king.
The stakes couldn't be higher but when the House of York's handsome King Edward IV falls in love with - and then secretly marries - a beautiful young Lancastrian widow Elizabeth Woodville, his grip on the throne begins to slip.
So begins an epic tale of love and hate, treachery and loyalty, beginning in 1464, and now dramatised in ten parts by the BBC as The White Queen and based on Philippa Gregory's bestselling The Cousins' War novels.
The drama stars Max Irons as the young king and newcomer Rebecca Ferguson as his queen. Edward's decision to marry Elizabeth had huge repercussions for England.
"He was supposed to be marrying a French princess which would have solidified a relationship with the French, which would have secured the Yorkists on the throne," says Max. "Instead he decided to marry a commoner from the Lancastrian camp.
"It was a marriage born out of love and many people saw it as the first sign of Edward's downfall."
It's a massive profile-raising role for 27-year-old Max, son of actors Jeremy Irons and Sinead Cusack - and he threw himself wholeheartedly into the gritty battle scenes.
"I got to do lots of horse riding and a fair bit of sword fighting," he says. "I dislocated my shoulder during a fight scene - but it popped back in, although it still hurts a bit."
Max Irons plays Edward IV in The White Queen
Being naked in front of 50 people definitely took some getting used to but by the end I was happily walking around starkers!
Max - whose character ages in the drama from 22 to 44 - says he found the love scenes tough to film at first.
"Being naked in front of 50 people definitely took some getting used to but by the end I was happily walking around starkers!" he says.
The actor says he refuses to be daunted about how his lead role will be received, or it would "eat him up." His co-star Rebecca, 29, is equally enthusiastic. Playing Elizabeth Woodville is her biggest role to date.
"This is massive for me," says the Swedish actress, who lives with her partner and their six-year-old son. "I was very nervous when I met everyone for the first time - but we all just clicked, particularly Max, Janet McTeer (who plays Elizabeth's mother, Jacquetta Of Luxembourg) and I. Then we spent the next six months working and living together.
"Bruges was just the most incredible place to film. My favourite location was the place we used as Grafton Manor, Elizabeth's home, which was the most amazing castle with moats around it complete with swans."
The White Queen begins with the recently-widowed Elizabeth whose Lancastrian husband has been killed.
"She has two young sons and has to beg the York king, Edward IV, for the return of her confiscated lands," explains Rebecca.
"But up comes this beautiful man (Edward) and she falls madly in love with him. It's a fairy tale but turns into a political thriller."
In the story Elizabeth ages from 27 to 42.
"I'd sit and have ageing make-up done for a couple of hours for her later years. You'd see yourself getting older and older and really ugly. It looks really good," says Rebecca.