Programme-makers behind the BBC’s four part adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s novel Wolf Hall have spoken about the lengths they have gone to ensure that the Tudor story is told with great historical accuracy. Critics have previously complained about unrealistic levels of hygiene and dentistry in period dramas, such as last years The White Queen, based on the Wars of the Roses.
Although most people might expect to see rotten, stained teeth in a Tudor story – given the lack of toothpaste in that era, author Hilary Mantel insisted that the actors should have white, healthy teeth, as the drama is set in a time when sugar was not widely available in England. Wolf Hall has been adapted for the screen by Peter Straughan and Ms Mantel told cast members, including Damien Lewis as Henry VIII, that they ‘do not have bad teeth’ and that they would not be dirty either.
Mantel said that ‘there are two ways in historical drama; either glamorise them impossibly or rough them up in some picturesque way so they all have bad teeth.’ She maintains that people ‘at this stage in history’ did not have rotten teeth because they ate so little sugar.
Wolf Hall premieres on BBC two this week and it chronicles Thomas Cromwell’s rise to power as well as Henry VIII’s attempts to annul his marriage to Katherine of Aragon.