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The Crimson Petal and the White 

Set in 1870s London, a young prostitute finds potential power and status after becoming the mistress of a powerful patriarch.

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Series cast summary:
Romola Garai ...  Sugar 4 episodes, 2011
Chris O'Dowd ...  William Rackham 4 episodes, 2011
Amanda Hale ...  Mrs. Agnes Rackham 4 episodes, 2011
Shirley Henderson ...  Mrs. Emmeline Fox 4 episodes, 2011
Katie Lyons ...  Clara 4 episodes, 2011
Eleanor Yates ...  Letty 4 episodes, 2011
Elizabeth Berrington ...  Lady Constance Bridgelow 4 episodes, 2011
Richard E. Grant ...  Doctor Curlew 4 episodes, 2011
James Wilson James Wilson ...  Christopher 3 episodes, 2011
Clare Louise Connolly ...  Janey 3 episodes, 2011
Isla Watt Isla Watt ...  Sophie Rackham 3 episodes, 2011
Tom Georgeson Tom Georgeson ...  Henry Rackham Senior 3 episodes, 2011
Liz White ...  Caroline 3 episodes, 2011
Branwell Donaghey Branwell Donaghey ...  Cheesman 3 episodes, 2011
Blake Ritson ...  Bodley 3 episodes, 2011
Bertie Carvel ...  Ashwell 3 episodes, 2011
Gillian Anderson ...  Mrs. Castaway 2 episodes, 2011
Mark Gatiss ...  Henry Rackham Junior 2 episodes, 2011
Wendy Nottingham Wendy Nottingham ...  Miss Beatrice Cleave 2 episodes, 2011
Alan Williams ...  Colonel Leek 2 episodes, 2011
Maimie McCoy ...  Fireside Whore 1 2 episodes, 2011
Sarah Ridgeway Sarah Ridgeway ...  Fireside Whore 2 2 episodes, 2011
Izabella Urbanowicz ...  Fireside Whore 3 2 episodes, 2011


Set in 1870s London, a young prostitute finds potential power and status after becoming the mistress of a powerful patriarch.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Drama | Romance



Parents Guide:

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Release Date:

6 April 2011 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

The Crimson Petal and the White See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs




Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


The title comes from Alfred Lord Tennyson's 1847 poem 'Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal'. See more »

Alternate Versions

The DVD release includes a scene "The Twins of Drury Lane" which does not appear in the broadcast version. See more »


Featured in The Wright Stuff: Episode #15.70 (2011) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

4 February 2017 | by ReganRebeccaSee all my reviews

I have to admit, one of the only reasons I watched this is because I'm a huge fan of Romola Garai, but after the first episode I was completely hooked. It's well worth watching even if you don't care at all for any of the actors because everything about it is superb.

The Crimson Petal and the White is based on a neo-Victorian novel by the stupendous writer Michel Faber. The wonderful thing about neo-Victorian works is that they can revisit the Victorian age without being constrained by all the things that the Victorians liked to keep under wraps, like frank sexual talk. This comes in handy in The Crimson Petal and the White which is focused a great deal on sex and sexuality.

The main character is Sugar (Romola Garai, fantastic as always), a prostitute who has been working in the trade since she hit puberty (or maybe even before). Sugar has a deep distaste for men (she's working on a fantasy novel in which she tortures, maims, and kills her clients), but is well renowned because of her willingness to do anything (sexually speaking). She attracts the attention of William Rackham (Chris O'Dowd), a bumbling entrepreneur trapped in an unhappy marriage who is actually attracted to Sugar's mind as well as her body as she is self-educated and extremely literate and they both are well read. The more time Sugar and Rackham spend together the more they become obsessed with one another which leads to Sugar becoming more involved in Rackham's business and Rackham becoming concerned with keeping Sugar to himself.

There is a lot more to the plot than that, but it's a wonderful tale. The aspects of Sugar and Rackham's personalities are set down early, and as the story unfolds we see these aspects play out. Sugar, who is tough minded and hard, is also incredibly smart, has the capacity to grow and change and also to love. Rackham is weak and selfish and these aspects are exposed as he faces difficult decision after difficult decision.

The cast is excellent (special shoutout here to Chris O'Down whom I had previously only seen acting in comedies. He handles the darker material with ease putting to rest that lie about comedians not being able to handle anything but comedy). Beautifully shot and excellent costumes as you would expect from a BBC drama.

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