Samantha Morton (Fantastic Beasts), Lesley Manville (Mum) and Jessica Brown Findlay (Downton Abbey) lead the cast of ITV Encore’s Harlots.
Set against the backdrop of 18th century Georgian London, the eight-part series is a powerful family drama offering a brand new take on the city’s most valuable commercial activity – sex.
Inspired by the stories of real women, the series follows Margaret Wells (Morton) and her daughters, as she struggles to reconcile her roles as mother and brothel owner.
When her business comes under attack from Lydia Quigley (Manville), a rival madam with a ruthless streak, Margaret fights back, even if it means putting her family at risk. Brown Findlay will star as Charlotte, Margaret’s eldest daughter and the city’s most coveted courtesan who begins to grapple with her position in both society and her immediate family.
Monday 27 March 2017, 9pm
London 1763, the capital of the world, the most cosmopolitan place on Earth. One in five women in London is making her living selling sex. In some areas brothels, run by indomitable Madams, are to be found on almost every street.
Margaret Wells’ brothel is in a down-trodden area of the capital, but she’s making her move upwards, aiming to move her family and her girls and take a new house in the vibrant new area of Soho. Margaret is determined to take her piece of the wealth of this great city. She is hungry for success – even when her ambition begins to threaten everything she cares for.
But Lydia Quigley – owner of one of the most fashionable, successful, and unhappy brothels in Soho – has other ideas. When Margaret’s brothel is raided, Margaret realises her ambition has roused an enemy, and stirred up an old feud.
As they risk losing everything, how much will Margaret and her daughters have to sacrifice to keep the brothel, and the Wells family afloat?
Monday 3 April 2017, 9pm
When an old friend arrives in town, Margaret’s hopes for the Soho move rest on whether she can tempt him to invest. But Nathaniel Lennox seems interested in a lot more than Margaret’s business nouse. With her days as a harlot long behind her, just how far will Margaret be willing to go?
Nancy’s discovery of the once famous courtesan Mary Cooper offers Margaret a glorious opportunity to destroy Lydia Quigley’s reputation. But hitting back against Lydia is a dangerous manoeuvre, one that threatens to disrupt all her plans with Nathaniel Lennox.
Justice Cunliffe makes Lydia an intriguing but potentially perilous offer. Is it worth her while?
Meanwhile Emily is adjusting to the constraints of life in the Quigley household, and she’s going to need an ally in her confinement – but befriending Lydia’s son Charles could be a very risky move.
After Howard’s bid for Lucy, both Wells sisters are left reeling. Can Charlotte use Howard’s contrition to suit her own aims? And how will Lucy cope now she has been launched into the trade?
Monday 10 April 2017, 9pm
Lucy is hired to spend a few days with Lord and Lady Repton – this could be exactly the type of relationship that could launch her career as a high class courtesan. But the Reptons have peculiar tastes, and Lucy is unsure of herself in this new world outside London.
The brothel move is on, but when the Wells family is met by a baying mob outside their new home, Margaret fears she might be reaping the rewards of her public attack on Lydia Quigley. She’ll fight tooth and claw to move up in the world, but at what price?
An unexpected death leaves Harriet in a terrible predicament, and to survive she will need to look for allies in the most surprising places. Emily is determined to challenge the constraints of Lydia’s brothel, but ignoring Charles’ warnings could prove disastrous. And Charlotte receives a visitor who could threaten her newfound contentment with Sir George.
Monday 17 April 2017, 9pm
Margaret’s debts are mounting. Lydia’s campaigns against her and Florence’s religious tirades outside the brothel are taking a toll on business, and if Margaret and North can’t find a way to entice new clients the business could soon flounder. Can they embrace their notoriety, and use it to their advantage? An illicit masquerade could provide just the right type of publicity, but will it make them or ruin them?
Lucy has always imagined she’ll follow in the footsteps of her thriving and successful older sister. But she is finding her new profession more of a struggle than she ever imagined. Charlotte is determined to help introduce her younger sister to the highest echelons of society. But Charlotte is sailing close to the wind with Howard, and Lucy is in danger of becoming a pawn in their power play.
The masquerade could have other far reaching consequences – bringing Amelia closer to a surprising new friend, and offering Harriet an unexpected way to fight for her children. And though her orders are to keep up her nightly protests outside the Wells’ brothel, can Florence finally extricate herself from Lydia’s clutches?
Emily is struggling with life under Lydia’s rule, and she’s desperate to escape. Can she persuade Charles to help her? Lydia’s attention is engaged elsewhere as she continues to procure unsuspecting girls for Cunliffe.
Monday 24 April 2017, 9pm
Emily is desperate to escape Lydia’s house, but when Lydia catches her, Emily is brutally punished. All her hopes rest with Charles, but should she risk his life in order to spare her own?
Lydia has other troubles to deal with when she discovers one of the girls she procured has disappeared. What is Cunliffe really up to and can she risk being a part of it?
Margaret is thrilled when Lord Fallon shows an interest in Lucy. But she will have to overcome her aversion if she is finally to snare herself a keeper. Charlotte is also on the hunt for a new keeper, determined to leave Howard. But when Haxby discovers her intentions, events take a horrifying turn.
Florence is recovering, and desperate for Amelia to continue their preaching, though terrified the work could place her in harm’s way. As Amelia’s new friendship with Violet blossoms she finds herself pulled apart by the two women in her life.
Monday 1 May 2017, 9pm
When Howard offers to be Lucy’s keeper, Margaret is delighted. Charlotte and Howard’s arrangement is over, and this could solve all Lucy’s problems. But when Lucy discovers the deal has been done, her reaction will plunge all three Wells women into terrible danger.
Fanny makes an announcement that could threaten her position in the house. Harriet is horrified when she discovers Benjamin’s latest plans for her children. And Nancy is determined to keep Emily Lacey out of Lydia’s clutches.
Lydia is out for revenge, and will stop at nothing to catch her prey. With so many in her power, who will Lydia persuade to betray the girl, and at what price?
Monday 8 May 2017, 9pm
North and Jacob have gone missing, and after the events of the previous night, Margaret is desperate to find them. But when her friends discover her betrayal of Emily, Margaret will have to search alone.
Lydia can finally take her revenge on Emily, who finds herself in terrible danger. Nancy will have to race against time to find her – though help comes from the most unexpected quarter.
Charlotte and Marney are planning a future in America, but when a discovery is made, all three Wells women fear they will come under suspicion. With Margaret’s daughters in peril, can she find a way to save them all?
Monday 15 May 2017, 9pm
After Rasselas’ revelation, Lydia can put everything in place to take down Margaret Wells once and for all. But she’ll need Cunliffe’s help and her discovery that Emily has escaped could bring her plans crashing down. If Cunliffe has now become her enemy, Lydia must act quickly to deal with the threat. Which of them can earn the Spartans’ trust?
Harriet and North unite in one final attempt to steal her children back from Benjamin Lennox.
Lucy learns a new skill which could change her future. Will Margaret make a decision for Fanny that’s popular in the house?
With the evidence mounting against Margaret, Charlotte is finally set free. But she will have to make friends in unexpected places if she is to save Marney from the noose. As events escalate, Margaret finds herself alone and in trouble. She’s faced with a terrible choice – to preserve her own life might cause massive repercussions.
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