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Warrior Women: Historical TV Heroines Who Could Really Kick Ass (by Jerome A. Holst © 2004)

Keira Knightley as Guinevere - © Touchstone PicturesI just watched a movie trailer for the film King Arthur scheduled for release to theaters in July. In this 2004 retelling of the Camelot legend, Keira Knightley plays the role of Guinevere, a slender, tough, Dark Ages noblewoman who handles a bow and arrow and hatchet with the élan of any man. In one scene, on the brink of battle, a male says to Guinevere, "There's a large number of lonely soldiers out there" as if to intimidate her. But having none of that, she quickly retorts "Don't worry, I won't let them touch you."

With my spirit lifted at such an exchange, I decided to dig into my archives of TV program facts and find more feisty females who roamed the historical landscapes of prime time television.

So, here is my list of the top "dyn-o-mite" dames who stood tall in the historical heat of battle and effectively did their duty for God and country - despite the perils and the sometimes idiotic men who surrounded them.

Covington Cross/ABC/1992

Ione Skye as Eleanor GreySet in 14th century England, Covington Cross tells to tale of the medieval Grey family. Eleanor is the only girl in a family of three boys and a widowed father. Like her brothers, Eleanor is quite capable and can handle a cross bow or sword as well as any man in the shire. Although the customs of the time would dictate that Eleanor act more like a "Lady," Eleanor is not yet ready to settle down to the more tame domestic pleasantries of castle life but instead, she would rather do the rough-and-tumble with her brothers and anyone who thinks they can best her. Eleanor stands ready to protect her home from anyone who threatens it especially, the local Baron John Mullens, who continually seeks to ruin her father, Sir Thomas and take their land. Eleanor's closest feminine influence comes from a nearby castle owned by Lady Elisabeth with whom Eleanor's father has romantic interest. Note: The series filmed on location in England: The exteriors are shot at Allington Castle in Kent; the interiors, on two huge London sound stages.

(Female Cast Members)

Ione Skye as Eleanor  Grey
Cherie Lunghi as Lady Elisabeth

Maid Marion and Her Merry Men/BBC/1989-94

Kate Lonergan as Maid MarianHistory reports that Robin Hood was responsible for all the hanky panky in Sherwood Forest. But in this comedic retelling of medieval mania, we learn that it was actually Maid Marian who proved to be the real brains in the Hood. Turns out that ye old Robin Hood was a bumbling, cowardly tailor from Kensington who didn't have the required smarts to fight for freedom in the early days of England. So, with the help of "her" Merry Men, Marian lead the battle against the notorious Sheriff of Nottingham who took his orders from the evil King John, the usurper of Britain's throne.

(Female Cast Members)

Kate Lonergan as Marian
Hilary Mason as Gladys
Siobhan Fogarty as Rotten' Rose Scargill

Queen of Swords/SYN/2000-01

Tessie Santiago as Queen of Swords

Maria Theresa "Tessa" Alvarado is a Spanish aristocrat who returns to California in 1817 after many years of living in Spain to claim her family's birthright. Unfortunately, she learns that the land is being ruled by an iron-fisted military dictator, since her father's suspicious death from a fall from a horse. In the tradition of Zorro, Tessa dons black fencing clothes and a mask made from a piece of her mother's lace shawl to become The Queen of Swords, an avenger for the downtrodden who uses her sword and whip to battle the local tyrants. Marta is Tessa's gypsy governess and confidante who aids her with her with mystical powers.

(Female Cast Members)

Tessie Santiago as Tessa Alvarado
Paulina Gálvez as Marta the gypsy
Elsa Pataky as Senora Vera Hidalgo


Vera Farmiga as CaitlinIn the year 400 A.D., the Roman empire still occupied ancient Ireland. But there were those willing to stand up against these oppressors. Among them was Caitlin, strong-willed, fearless fighter and runaway slave who was a better warrior than most men. With the aid of her compatriots, Tully, a black apprentice magician, Conor, a 20-year-old orphaned Celtic prince, his mentor Fergus and the sage counsel of Galen, who possessed secrets of magic, Caitlin battled the forces of evil that had landed on fifth century Ireland. Caitlin's worst fear was Diana, an evil power-hungry Roman Queen who used magic and the sorcerer Longinus (a 400-year-old Roman Centurion cursed with immortality) to suppress the local tribes.

(Female Cast Members)

Vera Farmiga

as Caitlin

Lisa Zane

as Queen Diana

Melissa George

as Molly

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World/SYN/1999-2002

Jennifer O'Dell as VeronicaHigh atop a hidden plateau in South America sits a "lost world" of dinosaurs and danger. Among those living in its jungles is Veronica, a blonde Tarzan-like female whose botanist parents discovered the plateau at the turn of the last century. Then one day they went off searching for specimens and never returned so Veronica quickly learned to survive a savage landscape, filled with mysterious tribes, cannibals, giant bees, man-eating plants, strange vampire women, a race of dinosaur-men and more. When a new expedition to the plateau headed by Professor George Challenger becomes lost, Veronica comes to their aid. She shows them how to live safe among the trees in a spacious tree house (built by Veronica's parents 11 years earlier) and fend for themselves until such time that they could find a way out of this Lost World. The only female in the Challenger group was Margaret Krux, a mysterious heiress who financed the expedition. She has no scruples and will betray anyone if it advances her cause.

(Female cast Members)

Jennifer O'Dell as Veronica
Rachel Blakely as Margaret Krux
Lara Cox as Finn

Warrior Queen/THA/1978

Sian Phillips as Warrior QueenIn 61 A.D. Queen Boudica (Boadicea) lead the British in revolt against the Romans who were occupying the Celtics land. Roman historian Tacitus said of Boudica "The whole nation took up arms, under the command of Boudica, a woman of royal blood...and after pursuing the soldiers scattered among the Roman forts and capturing the garrisons, they invaded the colony [Colchester] itself, as the local center of servitude; no sort of barbarian cruelty was overlooked in the hour of victory and Alex Kingston as Warrior Queenvengeance." In 2003, Exxon/Mobil Masterpiece Theater on PBS aired a retelling of Britain's Warrior Queen with Alex Kingston (Moll Flanders, ER) as Boudica,, wife of King Prasutagus of the Iceni tribe (in what is now East Anglia) who takes the throne upon the mysterious death of her husband and then proceeds to rally her people against the Romans. Note: In the ancient Celtic language "Boudica" means "victory." On February 28, 1988 the grave of Boadicea, the warrior queen was located by archaeologists under Platform 8 at King’s Cross railway station, London.

(Female Cast Members)

Siân Phillips as Queen Boudicca (1978 Series)
Alex Kingston as Queen Boudica (2003 Movie)

Xena Warrior Princess/SYN/1998-2002

Lucy Lawless as XenaXena was lead into a life of bloodshed when her family was killed by marauding mercenaries. Taking up arms against her oppressors, Xena soon became the savior of others and a vigilante to those who would hurt the down-trodden. Accompanied by her trusty warhorse Argo, and her devoted sidekick Gabrielle, Xena roamed the ancient landscape battling rouges, demons, gods & goddesses alike. Hudson Leick as CallistoHer favorite weapon: a tossing device called a chakram that was shaped like the letter "O" and measured about 12" in diameter. When thrown, the chakram (a.k.a. "round killing thing") whooshed through the air and sliced or bonked the helmets and armor of enemy soldiers. Like a boomerang, the chakram always returned to Xena's hands. Xena most formidable female foe was Callisto, who sought vengeance upon Xena who ironically killed Callisto's family.

(Female Cast Members)

Lucy Lawless as  Xena
Renée O'Connor as Gabrielle
Adrienne Wilkinson as Livia/Ede
Hudson Leick as Callisto

NOTE: This article may be linked for distribution to other Internet publications with the agreement that you credit the article to the author, Jerome A. Holst and mention its URL source.

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