A stunning depiction of a mother’s love, Under the Queen’s Umbrella is a new twist on old palace politics. In a place brimming with princes, there is never a time when the Queen doesn’t have to protect and look out for her sons’ futures and lives. Let us meet the reasons our queen must fight fiercely for those she loves.
It is rare I feel a deep connection with a mother in a sageuk, especially the queen. Without spoiling too much about the Queen and her five sons, let’s just say I walked in her shoes for a moment and felt her terror and the immediate need to protect her babies. Kim Hye Soo is killing it in this role. She’s strong and determined and has made me bawl my head off each time she breaks down in anguish for her children. She doesn’t just wring her hands and worry — she gets things done.
The Queen’s Sons
The Crown Prince is the firstborn from the Queen and heir to the throne. He is the perfect student, husband, and father. His only visible flaw is suffering from an illness that once killed his uncle, and there is no easy cure. His death would send the palace in chaos, because the other four Grand Princes are not up to the task of becoming the future king.
Grand Prince Seong Nam is next in line and has a temper. He’s never been expected to study or care about his future, but you can tell he is intelligent and might be hiding a little more attentiveness to his studies than he’d like people to know. His younger brothers — Mu Ahn, Gye Seong, and Il Young — are just as unconcerned about studying; they like sleeping in and girls. Gye Seong seems to want to please his mom, but he also doesn’t attend class regularly.
The king is a busy guy, and keeps adding new concubines from the maid staff every time he sees a new pretty face. Maybe he’s like Leo and doesn’t like anyone over twenty-five to share his bed. He has eight concubines and six more sons by them. I have no idea if there are little princesses hiding away somewhere because the show focuses on the boys. Out of princes, Prince Ui Sung (the king’s actual oldest son) is the biggest competitor and the biggest jerk. He likes to poke at the Grand Princes and even gets them to become physical with him, only for the Queen Dowager to intervene.
Queen Dowager Cho
Kim Hae Sook is not only nailing it as the evil mother-in-law, she makes me laugh with glee when she pulls off something horrible. I totally don’t mean for it to happen, because I am on her daughter-in-law’s side! But I just love it when a great actress plays a smart and capable foe. It’s clear she never liked her son’s pick for queen. She’s never been queen herself — she was a concubine and her son took the throne after his brother died of that mysterious illness. It’s clear she will do whatever it takes to secure a good future for one of her grandchildren, especially if he’s not from the Queen’s bloodline.
A Different Kind of Love
The Queen is old enough that we do not focus on her relationship with the king, nor are the concubines fawning over him for attention. The sons are born and grown, and the wives just leave the king to the newest concubine. The Crown Prince is also married and seems happy. That leaves us with the remaining gaggle of princes in the palace; no other women are on that character list except for maids. The show revolves around the mothers and the choices they make, but doesn’t relegate them to the typical harem tropes. This has made this watch very similar to The Red Sleeve, where we saw her life as a maid and really got to know that part of daily life.
The directing and cinematography is breathtaking. There is a scene at the end of episode three that made me gasp at its poignant depiction of a mother’s love. If it wouldn’t spoil something, I’d post it because it’s just so amazing. This show has the Queen on track to become one of my all time favorite Kdrama characters. Another side note, without giving too much away, is that this show has some amazing queer rep. It’s not the focus of the show, but it’s done really well. If you can’t decide if you want to watch, give this one three full episodes, and then decide if it’s right for you.
Until you need an umbrella,
Dramas With a Side of Kimchi