Harlots (TV series)
Harlots is a British-American period drama television series created by Alison Newman and Moira Buffini and inspired by The Covent Garden Ladies by British historian Hallie Rubenhold. The series focuses on Margaret Wells, who runs a brothel in 18th-century London and struggles to secure a better future for her daughters amid an unpredictable environment.
|Series title over an image of legs spread open|
|Based on||The Covent Garden Ladies|
by Hallie Rubenhold
|Country of origin|
|No. of series||3|
|No. of episodes||24 (list of episodes)|
|Production location(s)||London, England, Hertfordshire, England|
|Running time||44–50 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Monumental Pictures|
|Original release||27 March 2017 –|
The series premiered on 27 March 2017 on ITV Encore in the United Kingdom, and on 29 March 2017 on Hulu in the United States. It was subsequently renewed for a second series that premiered on 11 July 2018 in the United States. On September 24, 2018, Harlots was renewed for a third season, which premiered in the United States on July 10, 2019.
In 1763 London, women's opportunity for economic advancement is either through marriage or becoming a sex worker. The city’s brothels are run by canny and determined businesswomen, such as Margaret Wells and Lydia Quigley, but there is a new morality on the rise. Religious evangelists demand the closure of brothels, and the constables are happy to launch brutal raids.
The show revolves around Margaret Wells' determination to improve her life and the lives of those in her "family" by moving her brothel to Greek Street in Soho to serve a wealthier clientele in Georgian society. Margaret's move to Greek Street puts her into direct conflict with a rival madame, Lydia Quigley, for whom she had previously worked. Lydia Quigley operates an elite brothel in Golden Square that serves rich, influential people.
Cast and charactersEdit
- Samantha Morton as Margaret Wells, the intelligent and strategic madam of an up-and-coming brothel who is determined to improve her fortune, and former sex worker for Lydia Quigley
- Lesley Manville as Lydia Quigley, the ruthless madam of a posh brothel with clients from the judiciary, nobility, and upper echelons of Georgian society
- Jessica Brown Findlay as Charlotte Wells, the eldest daughter of Margaret Wells and a witty sex worker who is coveted by society's elite
- Eloise Smyth as Lucy Wells, the youngest and favored daughter of Margaret Wells who is a reluctant sex worker that earns an arrangement with Lord Fallon
- Dorothy Atkinson as Florence Scanwell, a religious zealot who opposes sex work and becomes a pawn for Lydia Quigley
- Pippa Bennett-Warner as Harriet Lennox, a former slave of Nathanial Lennox (a former lover of Margaret Wells) who is brought to England as the wife and mother of two children, and becomes a sex worker for Margaret Wells
- Kate Fleetwood as Nancy Birch, a longtime friend and neighbour of Margaret Wells, whose sex work specialty is bondage and domination
- Holli Dempsey as Emily Lacey, an impulsive sex worker who deserts Margaret Wells for what she believes are better prospects at Lydia Quigley's brothel, and love interest of Charles Quigley
- Douggie McMeekin as Charles Quigley, the inept son and aide of Lydia Quigley who takes a liking to Emily Lacey
- Edward Hogg as Thomas Haxby, the estate manager of the house where Sir George Howard has Charlotte Wells live (season 1)
- Richard McCabe as Justice Cunliffe, who does the bidding of The Spartans (season 1)
- Danny Sapani as William North, the loving partner and common law husband of Margaret Wells, and a father figure to Charlotte and Lucy, who was born a free Black man in England to a woman who was a slave
- Hugh Skinner as Sir George Howard, an aspiring Member of Parliament who has an arrangement with Charlotte Wells to receive her exclusive services (season 1)
- Sebastian Armesto as Josiah Hunt (season 2)
- Liv Tyler as Lady Isabella Fitzwilliam (season 2–)
- Julian Rhind-Tutt as Harcourt Fitzwilliam, Marquess of Blayne (season 2)
- Roy Beck as Mr. Abbadon
- Rosalind Eleazar as Violet Cross, a Black sex worker and adept thief who works for Nancy Birch
- Rory Fleck Byrne as Daniel Marney (season 1)
- Tim McInnerny as Lord Repton (season 1)
- Fenella Woolgar as Lady Repton (season 1)
- Con O'Neil as Nathaniel Lennox, a plantation and slave owner who is a former lover of Margaret Wells (season 1)
- Bronwyn James as Fanny Lambert, a full-figured and good natured sex worker for Margaret Wells
- Jordon Stevens as Amelia Scanwell, the daughter of Florence Scanwell
- Alexa Davies as Betsey Fletcher, a sex worker who works for Nancy Birch (season 1)
- Poppy Corby-Tuech as Marie-Louise D’Aubigne, a French-speaking sex worker in Lydia Quigley's house who decides to work for Margaret Wells (season 1)
- Josef Altin as Prince Rasselas, a molly boy who is an informant for Lydia Quigley
- Jordan A. Nash as Jacob Wells North, the young son of Margaret Wells and William North
- Ellie Heydon as Anne Pettifer, one of Lydia Quigley's girls
- Steven Robertson as Robert Oswald
- Timothy Innes as Benjamin Lennox, the eldest child from Nathaniel's former marriage
- Ziggy Heath as Sam Holland
- Ben Lambert as Lord Fallon, an aristocrat who takes an interest in Lucy Wells.
- Gerard Monaco as Mr. Armitage
- Sean Hart as Sir Christopher Rutledge
- Amy Dawson as Mary Cooper (season 1)
- Eleanor Yates as Lady Caroline Howard, the wealthy wife of Sir George Howard who uses his dalliances to her advantage. (season 1)
- Lottie Tolhurst as Kitty Carter, a sex worker for Margaret Wells
- Actors credited among the main cast only in the episodes in which they appear.
|First aired||Last aired|
|1||8||27 March 2017||15 May 2017|
|2||8||11 July 2018||22 August 2018|
|3||8||10 July 2019||28 August 2019|
Series 1 (2017)Edit
|Title||Directed by||Written by||Original air date||US release date|
|1||1||"Episode 1"||Coky Giedroyc||Moira Buffini||27 March 2017||29 March 2018|
|Brothel owner Margaret Wells plans to move up in the world by taking over a house in Greek Street. Rival brothel owner Lydia Quigley enlists religious crusaders and constables to raid the brothel. After paying a £100 fine, Margaret cannot make the final payment on her new house, so she plans to auction off the virginity of her youngest daughter, Lucy, to the highest bidder, just as she did with her oldest daughter Charlotte. Sir George Howard expects Charlotte to sign a contract to formally become her "keeper," but she refuses to sign; in a fit of jealousy, he successfully bids for Lucy's virginity. Charlotte makes the acquaintance of an aspiring male harlot. Emily Lacey deserts Margaret to work for Lydia.|
|2||2||"Episode 2"||Coky Giedroyc||Moira Buffini||3 April 2017||5 April 2018|
|Margaret discovers one of Lydia's girls, Mary Cooper, on the streets dying of French pox and plans to use her to get revenge against Lydia. On the behest of Justice Cunliffe, Lydia tricks and procures a virgin girl for a secret group of wealthy men referred to as "The Spartans" so they can rape her. Margaret's former lover, plantation and slave owner Nathaniel Lennox, returns from America with his "wife" and two children and agrees to invest in her new house. Sir George leaves his servant, Haxby, to watch over his property, including Charlotte. Lucy's virginity is sold thrice.|
|3||3||"Episode 3"||Coky Giedroyc||Cat Jones||10 April 2017||12 April 2018|
|Margaret's move to the Greek Street house is initially thwarted by a group of thugs hired by Lydia. Nathaniel Lennox dies, which reveals that his marriage is a sham, his wife Harriet's freedom is a lie, and their two children are enslaved by Nathaniel's son from a former marriage. Lucy is hired to spend a few days with the sadistic Lord and Lady Repton at their country estate and finds herself out of her depth. Sir George Howard's wife tries to come to an agreement with Charlotte. Lydia has left the dead body of Mary Cooper as a surprise in Margaret's new house for her to find. Emily Lacey, having earned Lydia's displeasure for her attitude, is starved and later required to service Lydia's most feared and abusive client, Mr. Osborne. Justice Cunliffe is looking for a new, virgin girl for a wealthy client, but Lydia is reluctant to provide one without some assurances.|
|4||4||"Episode 4"||China Moo-Young||Debbie O'Malley||17 April 2017||19 April 2018|
|Margaret's business suffers from Florence Scanwell's endless religious tirades, ordered by Lydia. Charlotte suggests a masquerade party to save her mother's business and goes to The Cocoa Tree seeking potential guests, especially Lord Fallon. Lucy is failing to thrive in her new role and can't attract a keeper; she turns to her sister, Charlotte, for help, but continues to seem out of place. Emily tries to run away and rejoin Margaret's brothel. A rift between Charlotte and Sir George widens due to jealous spite, and he has sex with Lucy. The 'hellish' bacchanal brings together many unexpected guests and girls. Harriet Lennox, now a maid in Margaret's house, uses her charms on Lord Repton to promote herself to harlot. Charles stands up to his mother and bans Osborne from Lydia's brothel. Amelia Scanwell, befriended by Violet, joins the party for a glimpse of Margaret's brothel. Lydia finds and imprisons another virgin for The Spartans in exchange for one of their names.|
|5||5||"Episode 5"||China Moo-Young||Jane English||24 April 2017||26 April 2018|
|The wildly successful masquerade party leaves Margaret's coffers flush, and she visits Lydia to offer a resentful truce and pay the debts of Marie-Louise, who has deserted Lydia for Margaret's brothel. Beaten and bloodied by Lydia, Emily manages to escape the brothel by drugging Charles with laudanum, but can find nowhere to go. Charlotte is desperate to attract a new keeper, while Sir George's outrageous behaviour escalates to violence and social scandal when Charlotte tries to leave him. Harriet Lennox excels in her new position, but Nathanial's son puts an impossible price on her children that he has inherited. Lydia is in a panic when the only trace of the latest virgin is blood on the door after The Spartans visited. Lord Fallon wishes to be Lucy's keeper, to the delight of Margaret, but his strange aggression alarms Lucy. Violet and Amelia continue to meet. Emily is taken in by Nancy. Lydia refuses to procure more girls when she realises Justice Cunliffe is just a lackey.|
|6||6||"Episode 6"||China Moo-Young||Moira Buffini||1 May 2017||3 May 2018|
|Margaret is faced with an ever mounting tide of problems, and she is left with her finger in the dam to try and stop the flow. Benjamin Lennox demands immediate repayment on the loan his father gave the brothel and plans to leave for Virginia, taking Harriet's children with him. Charlotte has left Sir George, penniless, and wishes for the freedom of America. Lucy refuses to take Lord Fallon as her keeper, without whom they will not have the money to pay Lennox. Lydia is spying the house night and day for signs of Emily Lacey. Fanny is pregnant and too far gone to have an abortion. To spite Charlotte, Sir George appears and demands to be a reluctant Lucy's keeper, paying Margaret handsomely for the privilege and seemingly solving all of their problems. Lucy lashes out and Margaret takes responsibility to keep her daughter safe, putting all of the house occupants in danger. Lydia recaptures Emily after Margaret betrays her whereabouts to gain time to save Lucy. Florence confesses her past as a sex worker to Amelia in an effort to break free from Lydia, to no avail. Lydia is back on board with providing girls for the Spartans, who have grown more bloodthirsty.|
|7||7||"Episode 7"||Jill Robertson||Cat Jones||8 May 2017||10 May 2018|
|Decisions and consequences. Saving one daughter may have condemned the other: Sir George is found murdered and Charlotte and Daniel Marney are arrested in place of the true culprits. Margaret's world starts to crumble as William and Jacob have disappeared, the harlots in her house rebel, and Margaret comes closer than ever to becoming what she despises most. Lydia has captured Emily Lacey with foul intentions in mind. Charles grows disillusioned with his mother and chooses to grow more independent and act behind his mother's back. Charlotte must decide whether to throw Daniel Marney to the wolves to walk free, or trust that he won't betray her in turn for his own freedom. Florence seeks an alliance with Margaret to save Amelia from Lydia's threats. Justice Cunliffe seeks reassurance and a seat at the table from The Spartans behind Lydia's back. Harriet Lennox blackmails Margaret for the money to recover her children before they are taken to America by Benjamin. Lydia discovers where Sir George was murdered. Fanny is about to give birth.|
|8||8||"Episode 8"||Jill Robertson||Moira Buffini and Jane English||15 May 2017||17 May 2018|
|Betrayals and new alliances. Lydia's motivations for saving Charlotte are revealed: she wants Charlotte to abandon her mother and join her house instead. Lady Howard, now free as a widow, sides with Charlotte over Haxby and arranges Daniel's freedom. Justice Cunliffe betrays Lydia for acceptance by The Spartans. They'll take him, on condition he produces a girl who is a virgin. William and Harriet team up to recover her children, and end up doing so. Emily Lacey returns to pair with Charles against his mother and they find a new independence together. Margaret must decide if she'll do the right thing, or take the final step to becoming like Lydia and deliver Amelia to the Spartans to save herself. Lydia pulls off a double cross with an unexpected outcome for Justice Cunliffe, who is murdered by Fallon. Charlotte has decided to disown Margaret and Daniel and remain with Lydia, although she reveals to Daniel that she aims to take down Lydia's house from the inside. Fanny gives birth to a daughter. Lucy remains at her mother's brothel newly wiser.|
Series 2 (2018)Edit
|Title||Directed by||Written by||Original air date|
|9||1||"Episode 1"||Coky Giedroyc||Moira Buffini||11 July 2018|
|Charlotte settles into life at Lydia Quigley's house, while secretly plotting against her. Lydia Quigley is put in jail. Margaret kicks Harriet and her children out of her house, as she suspects that Harriet wants to be with William. Margaret and William's marriage continues to crumble in the wake of the murder of George Howard. Kitty is murdered.|
|10||2||"Episode 2"||Coky Giedroyc||Cat Jones||11 July 2018|
|The women all react to Kitty's murder. Charlotte bails Lydia Quigley out of jail. Nancy is arrested and flogged.|
|11||3||"Episode 3"||Coky Giedroyc||Jane English||18 July 2018|
|Lydia Quigley is no longer allowed to conduct her business at Golden Square. Emily Lacey tries to organize with Charles a competing house where she is the head bawd. At a party at Pleasure Gardens, Margaret punches and knocks down Lydia. Lucy walks into the house of Lord Fallon to become his kept woman.|
|12||4||"Episode 4"||Philippa Langdale||Emer Kenny||25 July 2018|
|Quigley gains a powerful protector in the head justice, who she has sex with.|
|13||5||"Episode 5"||Philippa Langdale||Jane English||1 August 2018|
|Charlotte goes along with Quigley, who entraps a poor virgin girl and forces her into a life of sex work, where her first sexual encounter will be sold to the highest bidder. Charlotte tries to save the virgin, and devises a plan whereby Noah Webster will disguise himself as a wealthy businessman, and they will give him enough money to buy her. Then instead of taking her virginity, they will free her. However, Quigley figures out the ruse, throws Noah out, and awards the Marquess of Blayne the "honor" of taking the girl's virginity.|
|14||6||"Episode 6"||Philippa Langdale||Moira Buffini||8 August 2018|
|Rasselas tells Charlotte that Lord Fallon was responsible for the murder of Justice Cunliffe. This is overheard by one of Quigley's girls, who tells both Quigley and Lord Fallon what Rasselas has said. Lord Fallon runs after Rasselas to murder him, but as he is about to stab him, Amelia Scanwell accidentally steps in front of Rasselas, and she is stabbed instead. Isabella reveals to Charlotte that she has a secret, illegitimate child who she sends to a boarding school away from them. Meanwhile, Margaret Wells, in order to protect Lucy from being blackmailed by Lord Fallon, "confesses" that she is the one who murdered Sir George.|
|15||7||"Episode 7"||Jill Robertson||Cat Jones||15 August 2018|
|In a court hearing, Lucy provides an alibi for Lord Fallon, who walks free and has the charges of stabbing Amelia Scanwell dropped. Margaret Wells is scheduled to hang, but in the middle of the execution, Josiah Hunt changes his mind and rescues her. Hunt sends Margaret away to America.|
|16||8||"Episode 8"||Jill Robertson||Moira Buffini||22 August 2018|
|William North and Harriet Lennox attempt to search for Margaret Wells' body, but turn up empty handed. They confront Josiah Hunt, who admits that Margaret was not executed, but was instead shipped to America. Quigley is committed to a mental institution by her son. Lord Fallon attempts to finish off a recovering Amelia Scanwell, but is instead captured by Nancy, Charlotte, and Violet. Lord Fallon is later found and rescued by the Marquess of Blayne, but is persuaded to kill himself so that their secret gentleman's club can continue.|
|Title||Directed by||Written by||Original release date |
|17||1||"Episode 1"||Robin Sheppard||Moira Buffini||July 10, 2019|
|18||2||"Episode 2"||TBA||TBA||July 17, 2019|
|19||3||"Episode 3"||TBA||TBA||July 24, 2019|
|20||4||"Episode 4"||TBA||TBA||July 31, 2019|
|21||5||"Episode 5"||TBA||TBA||August 7, 2019|
|22||6||"Episode 6"||TBA||TBA||August 14, 2019|
|23||7||"Episode 7"||TBA||TBA||August 21, 2019|
|24||8||"Episode 8"||TBA||TBA||August 28, 2019|
On 26 May 2016, it was announced that Hulu and ITV had given the co-production a series order for a first season consisting of eight episodes. The series was set to be written by Moira Buffini and based upon an original idea by Buffini and Alison Newman. Directors were expected to include Coky Giedroyc and China Moo-Young. Lawrence Till was set as producer, with Alison Owen and Debra Hayward also on board to executive produce alongside Alison Carpenter, Buffini, and Newman. Production companies involved with the series include Monumental Pictures.
On 27 July 2017, it was announced at the annual Television Critics Association summer press tour that the series had been renewed for a second season. On 23 April 2018, it was announced that the second season would premiere in the United States on 11 July 2018.
On April 12, 2019, it was announced that the third season is set to premiere in the United States on July 10, 2019.
Alongside the initial series order announcement, it was confirmed that the series would star Samantha Morton, Lesley Manville, and Jessica Brown Findlay. On 7 July 2016, it was announced that Eloise Smyth had been cast in a series regular role.
Principal photography for season one was expected to commence in June 2016 in London.
The first season of Harlots received a positive response from critics. On the review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, the season holds a 94% approval rating with an average rating of 7.14 out of 10 based on 47 reviews. The website's critical consensus reads, "Harlots uses its titillating subject matter to draw the viewer into a deeper drama about the intersection of survival, business, and family." Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned the season a score of 74 out of 100 based on 17 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews."
The second season holds a 100% on Rotten Tomatoes based on seven reviews for an average rating of 7.5/10.
- "Harlots Renewed for a Third Season". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved November 22, 2018.
- "Hulu's Spring/Summer 2019 Programming Slate". The Futon Critic. April 12, 2019.
- Alison, Graham. "Radio Times". Retrieved 28 March 2017.
- Petski, Denise (23 April 2018). "'Harlots' Gets Season 2 Premiere Date On Hulu". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 24 April 2018.
- "Harlots Listings". The Futon Critic. Retrieved June 16, 2019.
- Jaafar, Ali (26 May 2016). "Samantha Morton, Lesley Manville & Jessica Brown Findlay Are 'Harlots' For ITV And Hulu". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 24 April 2018.
- Spangler, Todd (26 May 2016). "Hulu, ITV Order Brothel Drama Series 'Harlots'". Variety. Retrieved 24 April 2018.
- Goldberg, Lesley (26 May 2016). "Samantha Morton to Star in Hulu/ITV Brothel Drama 'Harlots'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 24 April 2018.
- Pedersen, Erik (27 July 2017). "'Harlots' Renewed For Season 2 On Hulu – TCA". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 24 April 2018.
- Petski, Denise (7 July 2016). "'The Blacklist: Redemption' Casts Adrian Martinez; Eloise Smyth Joins 'Harlots'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 23 April 2018.
- Andreeva, Nellie (26 October 2017). "Liv Tyler Joins Hulu Drama 'Harlots' As Series Regular For Season 2". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 23 April 2018.
- "Harlots: Season 1 - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 19 December 2018.
- "Harlots: Season 1 - Metacritic". Metacritic. Retrieved 24 April 2018.
- "Harlots: Season 2". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 19 December 2018.