Harlots is the new 8 part drama from ITV Encore and Hulu, here is a run down of just who is who.
Margaret Wells played by Samantha Morton
Shrewd, indomitable and humorous, Margaret is the centre of Harlots. She has risen up from the streets and is proud of the way she runs her family and her house, tough and loving in equal measure. She is hungry for success and thrilled when she achieves it – even when her ambition begins to threaten everything she cares for. Margaret is the product of generations of whoring. She runs a popular middle-class brothel in Covent Garden. She works hard to find new clients and to keep her position on Fortune’s slippery wheel. Margaret retains a bruised humanity. She uses laughter as a weapon and a shield. She treats her employees fairly, by the standards of the day. Although she takes a massive cut of everything that they earn, she encourages them not to drink and to save their money. She is also deeply ambitious for her two daughters.
Lydia Quigley played by Lesley Manville
Lydia is Margaret’s rival. The Lady Macbeth of brothel keepers. She runs a lavish seraglio in Soho, full of well-groomed girls with the kind of accomplishments normally reserved for high-class young ladies. Her brothel is not a happy place to work; she keeps her girls locked in. But her clients are from the highest echelons of society and walk the corridors of power.
Lydia has a decades old feud with Margaret, which reignites when our story starts. The harder Margaret tries to climb up, the more Lydia is determined to keep her down. Her loathing knows no bounds. Lydia’s Achilles heel is her spoilt and dissolute son, Charles.
Charlotte Wells played by Jessica Brown-Findlay
Charlotte is Margaret’s eldest daughter – fashionable and beautiful, a London celebrity and ‘the meteor of the hour.’ She is a fiery and rebellious spirit who cannot buckle down to obey her keepers – so her relationships are all short lived. Her success is increasingly precarious, as Charlotte has a dangerous self-destructive streak. She cannot bear the possessiveness of her current keeper Sir George Howard and across our series their relationship will implode with disastrous consequences.
Lucy Wells played by Eloise Smyth
Lucy is Margaret’s youngest daughter – a teenager whose entrance into the family trade was decided at birth because of her gender. She’s always imagined she’ll follow in the footsteps of her thriving and successful older sister. But Lucy finds her new profession more of a struggle than she ever imagined. What other options are open to a girl bred to please, when she finds that she’s utterly unsuited to the task?
Nancy Birch played by Kate Fleetwood
Nancy is Margaret’s oldest friend. In their youth, they both worked in Lydia Quigley’s house. She’s loyal, darkly funny and moral. Nancy abhors the bullying ways of brothel keepers like Lydia Quigley. Nancy is a strong presence who rules the streets unbothered – for she’s a dominatrix who specialises in using the rod with her clients. She rents rooms in her dingy house to women at the lower end of the market. And although Nancy isn’t the maternal type she cares for these girls in her way, and has saved many a girl from the dangers of the streets.
William North played by Danny Sapani
William is Margaret’s partner. He is her lover, the house ‘bully’ (doorman) and is also on hand to serve the occasional female client. North is strong, characterful and loyal. And in him, Margaret Wells has met her match. This is a relationship without jealousy and they are both grateful for it. Margaret and North are not married but they have a ten-year-old son, Jacob, who works in the house as a pageboy.
Charles Quigley played by Douggie McMeekin
Charles is Lydia’s only child. He lives off his mother, spends what he can and sleeps with who he likes. Charles is a social-climbing hanger-on, provider of girls and drugs to those more dissipated than himself. If he wasn’t such a laugh, he would be loathsome. He’s a spoiled manchild, kept under his mother’s thumb by her indulgence.
Sir George Howard played by Hugh Skinner
Sir George is a baronet. He’s only recently married Lady Caroline Howard and is merrily spending the money she brought to the match, gambling, drinking and whoring. Though he isn’t brutal or cruel, he has a vicious streak. He is obsessed with Charlotte and is prone to jealous rage. He wants to possess her entirely.
Thomas Haxby played by Edward Hogg
Thomas is the estate manager and loyal servant of the Howard family. Haxby sees himself as the true protector of the family’s prosperity and dignity. Yet he has been installed in his London house by George Howard, and set the demeaning task of indulging and looking after a whore who fritters away the family money.
Daniel Marney played by Rory Fleck-Byrne
Daniel is a charmer. Both clever and canny, and at ease amongst harlots and courtiers. He begins our series as a lowly sedan chairman but Marney’s decision to become a whore will take him on a trajectory to the highest reaches of society, and in ever closer proximity to the famous Charlotte Wells.
Harriet Lennox played by Pippa Bennett-Warner
Harriet is an American slave, living as a ‘wife’ to her owner Nathaniel; mother to two of his children. Her calm obedience hides a fiery nature and when circumstances leave her friendless on the streets, she determines to survive, how best she can. She resolutely sets about earning the money she needs to provide for her family.
Kitty Carter played by Lottie Tolhurst
Kitty is the daughter of a respectable bookseller. Ruined as a teenager, she has been working in Margaret’s brothel for years. Kitty is loyal and reliable – an educated girl – she knows the ways of a family business, and is brilliant with accounts. Far better in fact than Margaret, and this makes her an invaluable member of the Wells household, although she begins to feel that Margaret doesn’t truly recognise her worth.
Fanny Lambert played by Bronwyn James
Fanny is a much loved member of Margaret’s house, a pretty and guileless girl who – though she doubts herself – is always popular with the punters. Fanny is a child of the streets, she’s spent time in workhouses, and been in far worse places than Margaret’s, so she is grateful to be where she is. And Fanny is good at her job, which, though she doesn’t know it, makes her an asset to the house.
Emily Lacey played by Holli Dempsey
Emily is a popular, successful, but brittle girl whose ambition knows no bounds. She is the top earner of Margaret’s house and has thrived there but sees it as a stepping stone to greater things. She thinks she is better than the other girls.
Betsey Fletcher played by Alexa Davies
Underneath the grime, Betsey looks like an angel but she’s still tough as old boots. Betsey rents a room from Nancy Birch, works the streets to pay her way and is unlikely to rise any higher as she continues to drink away her profits.
Marie-Louise D’Aubigne played by Poppy Corby-Teuch
Marie-Lousie is good at pretending that she doesn’t care. She is a disdainful French girl working for Lydia; but her hauteur hides her unhappiness. She is anxious to leave Lydia’s employ and when the opportunity presents itself, she had no compunction about going.
Violet Cross played by Rosalind Eleazar
Violet is a street-girl and one of Nancy’s tenants. She’s bold and unashamed, street-smart and funny. And Violet is trouble. She’ll take what she can get when she can get it, and that includes the pocket-watches and purses of clients and passers-by.
Florence Scanwell played by Dorothy Atkinson
Florence is a religious zealot whose life’s mission is to rid the streets of harlots. But hers is not a message of redemption, it is a message of damnation. Florence’s blindness means her daughter Amelia is a constant presence beside her mother, caring for her, preaching with her. They have very little and rely on charity and the church to survive.
Amelia Scanwell played by Jordon Stevens
Amelia is a young, poor, pious woman, repressed through religion, her upbringing and society. Amelia has little choice but to care for and support her blind mother, and take part in her religious campaigns. Yet Amelia finds herself drawn to the harlots she is meant to be damning.
Prince Rasselas played by Josef Altin
Prince Rasselas is a young molly boy who plies his trade on the streets of Covent Garden. He longs to befriend the street-girls, but Rasselas also earns coins selling information to the likes of Lydia Quigley. He’ll do what he has to survive, and to keep those he loves safe.
Harlots an ITV Encore and Hulu Original Show will premiere soon.
Kick-Ass TV Heroines: Xena – Warrior Princess
What was not to love about Xena? As Lucy Lawless says: “Xena is a bad-ass, kick-ass, pre-Mycenaean girl.” Evildoers, clearly, must stand down, but not only bad guys (and girls) have Xena-phobia. Even heroes quake when she swings her broadsword.
Originally created as a syndicated complement to Kevin Sorbo’s Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Xena pretty much kicked Herc to the curb. It was like when the Bionic Woman made us lose interest in the Six Million Dollar Man–only more so.
Unlike Lindsay Wagner’s early half-woman, half-machine, Xena wasn’t prone to frailty. Nor did she need robot parts. In fact, the Warrior Princess never lost. If she’s down, it’s not for long.
Plus, she was in touch with the dark side: This big-boned bruiser had definite moments of blood lust, as well as lust of some other varieties. Garbed in a leather miniskirt and armed with her trademark razor-edged, boomerang-action chakram, we watched Xena single-leggedly kick down entire platoons of Roman soldiers.
Sure, there were murmurings about Xena and her softer female sidekick, Gabrielle (actress Renée O’Connor). So what if they liked to conserve bathwater by doubling up? And what’s wrong with close friends frenching once in a while?
Then again, maybe it was true–and there’s anything wrong with that.
Actress: Lucy Lawless
Show: Xena: Warrior Princess
Classic TV Revisited: McMillan And Wife
Starring Rock Hudson and Susan Saint James, McMillan and Wife was a super cute crime-solving saga from the 1970s made for the NBC’s Mystery Movie series.
Who were they?
Hubby was the debonair San Francisco police commissioner Stewart McMillan.
Sally was a foxy, rather scatterbrained dame with a knack for finding corpses.
Worked down the morgue did she?
Hardly. Sally’s finds were usually in some glitzy mansion which the couple were frequenting for a weekend cocktail party. She also had a habit of getting her life threatened or being kidnapped.
Who was in it?
Tragic Hollywood star Rock Hudson no less. He took on Stewart McMillan in his first TV role, after years as a matinee idol with movies such as Giant.
Fans of the lantern-jawed star were dismayed when he went public about having Aids. He had long kept his homosexuality secret. He carried on working in ’80s glam drama Dynasty, but make-up could not disguise the deterioration of this once-statuesque man. He died in 1985, aged 59.
What about Sally?
That role fell to raven-locked Susan Saint James. The Ali MacGraw lookalike was previously in shows such as Alias Smith And Jones and The Name of the Game.
A vital ingredient to McMillan And Wife was sharp-tongued housekeeper Mildred, played by Nancy Walker. Somebody needed to keep the place tidy while they gallivanted about solving crime.
Famous guest stars?
The couple’s conception?
Like Hart To Hart, the idea was borrowed from Dashiell Hammett’s Thin Man books of the ’30s.
Gritty crime drama?
Hardly. These were cosy whodunnit cases, where the brutality of murder was never portrayed. The show was more about the interplay between McMillan and Sally.
Had viewers arrested?
Certainly in the US. It was the fifth highest-rated show in 1972 and 1973.
Fate of the golden couple?
Susan Saint James quit in 1976 over a contractual dispute. Nancy Walker also packed away her duster as housekeeper Mildred.
The dame’s exit was a fatal blow?
Certainly for the character of Sally – she was killed off in a plane crash. But Rock soldiered on with new assistant Sgt Steve DiMaggio (Richard Gilliland). The show became McMillan.
Audiences dwindled and the plug was pulled.
Cosy pillow talk, cocktail parties, Rock Hudson, pyjamas and numerous corpses.
Let’s go to bed. Turn the light out, darling.
Must you eat toast in bed, darling. Apologies, but I’ve got terrible flatulence. Separate bedrooms.
Not to be confused with
My Wife Next Door, Harold Macmillan, The Merry Wives Of Windsor and Mr And Mrs.
Classic TV Revisited: The Royal
The Royal was an ITV drama commission and was inspired by its sister programme Heartbeat.
The lowdown: This nostalgic family drama is set in the swinging 1960s and centres on the staff of a cottage hospital in Yorkshire. Newly qualified doctor David Cheriton (Julian Ovenden) is determined to make a difference to the world and arrives at St Aidan’s Royal Free Hospital in Elinsby full of big ideas. But he clashes with the hospital’s secretary TJ Middleditch (Ian Carmichael) who is determined to run things his way. Then there is the Matron (Wendy Craig) who rules her nurses with a rod of iron and tries in vain to stop them being distracted by the handsome arrival.
Memorable moments: Watch out for former Heartbeat favourite Bill Maynard who crosses dramas and continents as Claude Jeremiah Greengrass. Greengrass has returned from a Caribbean holiday with a mystery illness but that doesn’t stop him trying to earn a fast buck. It doesn’t take long before Claude attracts Matron’s ire.
Trivia: The Royal is a family affair for real life husband and wife Robert Daws (Ormerod) and Amy Robbins (Weatherill). No fewer than seven members of their clan have appeared in the series including their daughters and stepson.
Michelle Hardwick, who played receptionist Lizzie, says her favourite moment in the whole series didn’t come on screen but in the actors’ green room. She says: “I was sitting in there with Wendy Craig and Honor Blackman and we were having a lovely conversation. I sat back and thought ‘Wow, this is great, I can’t wait to tell my gran’.”
A modern day set version called The Royal Today aired 7 January – 14 March 2008.
First broadcast: 2003
Starred: Wendy Craig, Ian Carmichael, Michael Starke, Robert Daws and Julian Ovenden
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