Monthly Archives: October 2013

The White Queen- Episode 10, The Finale- Part Two

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The cast of “The White Queen,” as themselves.

 

…A continuation of White Queen Episode 10- Part One

The show’s version of the Battle of Bosworth Field has several inaccuracies in it. In the show it takes place in a forest, though quite clearly by definition it was at Bosworth Field.  The snow on the ground and the bare trees makes it look like the episode was filmed in winter. The actual Battle of Bosworth was on August 22, and there is no snow mentioned in any reports. We are shown a battle that was very small, at most two dozen men fighting, and that Henry had little support from any Englishman or Welshman. The actual estimates from the battle total almost 20,000 men, divided roughly into 5,000 for Henry, 10,000 for Richard, and about 5,000 with Thomas and William Stanley.

When Richard says that he will wear his battle crown so that “Tudor can find me,” it’s clear that they have removed the standard bearers. Bearers were important in a battle since they stood next to the king and kept his standard up so that the men knew he was alright. It was a position of great honor, and it was very dangerous. If you handled the standard you could not wield weapons. The advancement of Charles Brandon, the Duke of Suffolk, is due to his father, William Brandon, having died at Bosworth holding Henry VII’s standard, possibly cut down by Richard himself. Charles was a toddler at the time, and the king took responsibility for his upbringing as a thank-you to his father’s sacrifice.

John Howard, the 1st Duke of Norfolk has been removed as well, and his void seems to be filled by Sir Robert Brackenbury, who also died at Bosworth. After the betrayal of Buckingham, Norfolk was one of Richard’s few remaining friends, and had been raised in the peerage by the king. His death at Bosworth is considered one of the turning points to Tudor. He was the great-grandfather of both Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard.

There is debate about the location of the two Stanley armies, but the show has deleted William Stanley entirely, even though he has been referenced in dialog. The Stanley brothers were pivotal to the outcome of the battle due to the size of their armies, but nearly sat at the sides for the entire time. The actual events, as best we know from accounts, are as follows:

The battle started with Henry shooting his cannons. Richard and Henry sat towards the back of both sides, as the lords took out their regimens. Richard sees that Norfolk goes down, and begins what some historians have called a “suicide run” toward Henry. He makes it far enough to possibly kill Brandon, and Henry’s standard begins to slip. When William Stanley sees it start to go down, he starts his charge on the side of Henry. Seeing his brother go to battle, Thomas Stanley orders his charge. Richard is taken out by unknown soldiers. The battle is over, and Henry is the victor.

There is a very pretty myth that Thomas Stanley sees Richard’s battle crown on a bush, picks it up and places it on Henry’s head. Then the whole field kneels to their new king. There is no contemporary evidence of the origin of this story, but it does create a striking picture.

The fate of Richard’s body has been in the news recently, after his skeleton was discovered buried under a parking lot in Leicester. After Bosworth, Richard’s corpse was found on the field and Henry ordered that he be given a proper, Christian burial. That’s not what happened. Instead it was stripped, slung over the back of his horse (which is said to have been “limping”), and paraded around the county before being dumped into a grave in Grey Friars’ church yard. Why was he treated so badly? The stories about how he was such a great and loved king, that the hatred of him is all propaganda, is not true either. Remember the execution of Lord Hastings? It is one of the most important moments in Richard’s reign, because with that one action, the lords turned on him. They didn’t trust him, which is a separate issue than the disgust they felt if they believed that he was the one that ordered the deaths of his nephews. This enmity ran deep, so when the lords were left to deal with Richard’s burial, they wanted to disrespect him as much as they could. On a political level, showing the people his corpse ensured that nobody would claim to either be him or to rise up in his name.

This of course brings us to the show’s battle aftermath, when Margaret Beaufort comes out and orders that everyone stay on their knees, since she was now “Margaret Regina.” The insistence that everyone must bow to her, as a queen, is nonsense. Her official title at court was the Countess of Richmond and Derby (after Thomas Stanley became the Earl of Derby), and Henry bestowed on her the title “Our Lady, the King’s Mother.” She signed documents as “Margaret R”, but that may have stood for Richmond. She was an influential person at court, but while Elizabeth Woodville was there, she deferred to her, following her in processions and giving her precedence at events. She was not a monarch. After Elizabeth of York died, Margaret took over some of her duties, which should have been temporary. Once Henry remarried those duties would have been taken over by the new queen, but he didn’t marry again, so Margaret continued with them until 1509.

After the battle Henry became King Henry VII, dating his reign from the 21st of August, so that he was the monarch on the field, not Richard. He married Elizabeth of York, and the marriage grew to be one of love and support. They had four children who lived to adulthood, though the eldest, Arthur, died when he was 15. Elizabeth died almost a year later, and Henry never got over the loss. He was known for his business sense and for his thriftiness, and left his son, Henry VIII, a fortune. Henry’s reign became the age of the “Tudors,” who reigned for 118 years, and gave us two of the most well-known monarchs in English history- Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. He is the ancestor of the current royal house, through his daughter Margaret and the Stuarts. Not bad for a man who spent 14 years in exile, never knowing if he would return home or get his title and lands back!

Starz has bought the option for creating another miniseries based on Gregory’s book The White Princess. I do not know when the production will begin on it, but I look forward to seeing how that stands up to the history!

Further reading:

The Tudor Tattler- “The Tudor Tart: Elizabeth of York”

CNN- “New mystery at Richard III burial site: a coffin inside a coffin”

The Creation of Anne Boleyn- “Is Elizabeth Woodville Philippa Gregory’s Apology to Anne Boleyn?”

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The White Queen- Episode 10, The Finale- Part One

ImageThe Cast of “White Queen” in their costumes.

 

WARNING: This contains LOTS of spoilers.

This post has been cut into two parts, for ease of reading.

The episode starts with the restoration of Elizabeth Woodville to a peaceful life away from court, and Elizabeth and Cecily of York to positions in Anne Neville’s household at court. Margaret Beaufort is still under the care of her husband, Thomas Stanley, who enjoys taunting her about her possessions and the state of her rebellion. Richard III and Anne’s son, Edward, becomes sickly and dies. In the show, Anne takes his death as evidence that Richard was the one who killed the princes. Richard is not able to convince her that he is innocent. Anne falls ill after her son passes, and eventually dies at Westminster.

The show capitalizes on a budding romance between Elizabeth of York and Richard III, started before Anne has died. Richard claims that he is encouraging rumors of their affection so that Henry Tudor will be shamed and lose the support of those loyal to Elizabeth. Richard says that there is no actual love between them but we quickly see that this is not true, as Elizabeth tells Richard, “I’m in love with you,” and they start kissing. He loses his temper and throws her out of court when Anne dies, because her presence has caused rumors to circulate that the king has murdered his wife to make way for his niece, which hurts his honor.

This relationship is not a complete invention of Philippa Gregory, but very close to it. The origin of this story is from the reign of James I, based on a letter which is now long gone, so we do not know exactly what was said and how much of it was up to interpretation. Because we don’t know what it said, we are left to guess, which is what Gregory has done with this plot. If the standard of evidence we require becomes none that say it’s not true, we can make any statement and stir up doubt. I can say that when Richard III was a baby, his father dropped him and that’s what caused his spine to curve. It’s something I made up, but since you can’t say beyond a shadow of a doubt that it didn’t happen, it quickly becomes accepted as truth. In five years, students coming into college courses will ask their professors about how Richard was dropped as a baby. Enough years go by, and it’s accepted as fact.

Let me be very clear here- it is not based on any evidence we actually have. This relationship is supposed to be romantic, but it’s disturbing. The papal dispensations which were granted so that cousins can marry are twisted to include uncles and nieces, as if this could have been a viable option. It wasn’t. Since the pope did not always grant dispensations to cousins, and I can’t imagine any pope supporting the marriage of two so closely related. Oedipus has nothing on this story. As for the marriage to her, he was recorded as trying to arrange a marriage for her outside of England, and anything involving the two of them is only rumor without evidence to bolster it.

This reaches its climax when Elizabeth of York sneaks out of her mother’s house to Richard’s tent, to have sex with him. She returns and her mother smiles at her, as if she were pleased that they were now lovers. I have only one reaction to this: EW. It’s disgusting.

Thomas Grey is not just still in England after the 1483 rebellion, but free to roam where he pleases. Elizabeth Woodville charges him with traveling to Flanders to collect “Perkin” from the Warbecks. As I stated in earlier posts, there is no evidence that either she or her children had any connection with Perkin Warbeck. At the end of the episode, this boy comes to Grafton, and when he vows revenge for the death of his brother, Elizabeth tells him that she wants him to live with her in peace. The real Perkin Warbeck didn’t step foot in England before 1495, and then he was in Scotland. He was not raised in the English countryside. This twist only makes his claim to be Richard, Duke of York, even more implausible. This scene shows Elizabeth very disinterested in the politics, and it does not seem as though she even wants to return to court, preferring to stay at Grafton. After Henry VII’s victory, she came with her daughter and was very involved with the politics of court until she retired to Bermondsey Abbey in 1487.

We see Henry and Jasper selecting prisoners from a French prison, but the show doesn’t explain how they got to France or why they left Brittany. After the rebellion of 1483, the number of men surrounding Henry swelled into the hundreds, as nobles and their retainers fled from England. Richard was not sending any money to Brittany to help cover Henry and Jasper’s expenses, so the cost of this mock-court rested on Duke Francis II. The upkeep was very expensive and caused resentment in the Duke’s advisors. In 1484, Francis fell ill again, and his advisors made a deal to turn Henry over to Richard. Jasper, who had more freedom than Henry, was the first to cross into France, and two days later Henry and a group of 5 to 13 men followed.  He joined with Jasper in Anjou, and they were welcomed by Charles, given lodging and money. Henry left behind more than 400 English exiles, and once Francis was well enough to know what had happened, he permitted them to travel to France to be with Henry. It was King Charles who supported Henry’s final campaign in 1485.

The show has Margaret and Elizabeth of York fighting and torturing each other. There is no basis for this. Some historians believe that because of her strong personality and influence over her son, Margaret was, as David Starkey called her, the “Mother-in-law from hell.” Others think that she was one of Elizabeth’s most trusted friends. It comes down to a matter of opinion.

Elizabeth of York is not the only one to sneak around to the battle camps. In the episode, Margaret makes a trip to see Thomas Stanley, and when she leaves she runs into Jasper Tudor. He takes her to Henry’s camp, and she stays there until the end of the battle. In reality Margaret was not at Bosworth, nor are there any records that say that she saw Henry before his victory. On the contrary, one of the first things he did once he won was to go and see her, since it had been 14 years since they were last together.

To be continued…

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The Maligned Margaret

Wonderful blog by Susan Higginbotham, about how Margaret of Anjou has been portrayed in fiction.

The Creation of Anne Boleyn

Susan Higginbotham is the author of five historical novels set in medieval and Tudor England, including “The Queen of Last Hopes,” a novel about Margaret of Anjou. Her first nonfiction book, “The Woodvilles,” about Edward IV’s queen and her family, was published this month. You can read more about her work at her website and her blog. This post is a part of “The Women Behind the Fictions” blog series.

In the recent series The White Queen, based on the novels of Philippa Gregory, Margaret of Anjou, queen to the unfortunate Henry VI, makes only a brief appearance. It’s an odd omission in a series that focuses on the women of this period, chiefly Elizabeth Woodville, Margaret Beaufort, and Anne Neville. If the scriptwriters were looking for a formidable woman, surely Margaret, who struggled ceaselessly over the years to uphold her husband’s…

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The White Queen- Episode 9

WARNING: This post contains spoilers.

This was the first episode of “White Queen” that I turned off mid-show in disgust. I had to force myself to watch it in its entirety, so I could write about it. I now understand what all my friends have said, that they gave up on it after a certain point. This nearly was my point.

The main focuses of this episode are on the disappearance and death of the princes, and Buckingham’s rebellion. Some of it was done very well, specifically Margaret Beaufort and Elizabeth Woodville working together through their physician, Dr. Lewis Caerleon. Some of it has been altered so far from what the sources say that it is nearly unidentifiable. Much of these alterations are due to changes from earlier episodes, but some are due either to bias towards or against a character, or for unknown reasons.

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As the episode starts up, we learn that Elizabeth’s son Thomas Grey has delivered her son Richard, Duke of York, to Flanders, and she later gets a letter from him. Of course there is no documentary evidence of this. Thomas did not give support to Perkin Warbeck, which is further proof that he was not Richard of York, and that Richard did die in the Tower.

After the unsuccessful attempt at rescuing the princes from the tower, all of our main characters become involved in the plot. Anne Neville has already wished that the boys were dead, because only then could she and Richard be “safe” on the throne. Thomas Stanley has forced Margaret Beaufort to choose between “save and slaughter,” of which she chooses death, though at least she seems torn about it.

Here is the real history.

Henry Stafford, the Duke of Buckingham had been one of Richard III’s best friends. He helped to put Richard on the throne, and had a healthy amount of anger at the Woodvilles, since he had been married to Elizabeth’s sister since childhood and resented it. At some point during 1483, Buckingham fights with Richard and leaves the court. It was then that he throws his support with his wife’s family and with Margaret. His motivation and personal objective in the rebellion are not known. He had a claim to the throne himself, and even though the show has him swearing fealty to Henry, we do not know if he intended to support Henry or if he was fighting for himself.

The rebellion was hashed out by the three we see in the show planning: Elizabeth Woodville, Margaret Beaufort and Buckingham, but the actual events are out of time or are not based in historical evidence. By the time Buckingham left Richard’s court, the princes had already gone missing. Who killed them, or ordered their deaths, is still a mystery. According to Thomas More, who researched the case for Henry VII, Richard ordered their deaths and they were smothered with pillows as they slept. I personally believe that it was Buckingham, who either did it on Richard’s orders or because he thought it was what Richard wanted. For me, this also explains his removal from court. Some believe that the princes were still alive when Henry VII became king two years later, but I have a hard time believing that. If they were still alive and Richard had them, why didn’t he show them off to the public to prove his innocence? Naysayers claim that if he had killed the boys, Richard would have displayed their bodies, to prove that they were in fact dead and that he was the only remaining heir. I do not believe that he would have shown off their corpses because they were boys, which is not something the people would want to see. Margaret was not even a suspect until the misogynistic James I was on the throne, who disliked her Catholicism and her power, but there was no actual evidence that she was involved in any way.

Elizabeth involved herself in the rebellion because she believed her sons were already dead. Henry Tudor was officially betrothed to Princess Elizabeth, and the Woodvilles joined in the rebellion. Richard Grey and Anthony Woodville were killed for their participation in the rebellion. Elizabeth’s son Thomas and brother Edward ended up in Brittany with Henry Tudor after the failure, as did the other rebels. Many of the men who went to Henry were put into positions of importance once he became king, and they prospered into the reign of his son, Henry VIII.

The show has Buckingham waiting to meet Henry in Wales, so that their two armies could combine and then challenge Richard. This is not how the rebellion was planned to start. The Woodvilles and those loyal to Edward IV were to rise up at the same time as Buckingham so that there were multiple fronts for Richard to try to deal with at the same time. Henry was to land on the eastern coast of England to create another front. The hope was that as the armies fought Richard he would lose men, arms and support trying to fight them all, so once they were able to join together he would be done. The Woodvilles and rebel Yorkists did rise up, but Buckingham got stuck in the west due to the weather. They lost, and Buckingham was executed on November 2nd.

We see Henry in Brittany failing to depart because of the storm on the English Channel. The real Henry actually did sail, and the storm didn’t start until he was already at sea. Though he lost some of his ships and men due to the storm, his remaining boats made it to Plymouth Harbour. Henry was met by a group who told him to wait because Buckingham was coming to meet up with him soon, so he sent a group of Bretons to the beach to see what was happening. Once he received word that Buckingham had already been executed, Henry took off back across the Channel, leaving the Bretons to be taken prisoner by Richard. Because of the bad weather, Henry lost more ships and ended up in France. He had to wait for King Charles VIII to give him permission to cross back to Brittany by land, because Richard had sent ships into the Channel to hunt for him. That permission was granted, and Henry and Jasper went back to Brittany, sending a few boats out to serve as decoys.

There are several problems with the curse that Elizabeth Woodville and Elizabeth of York perform at the end. Richard, in a private visit to try to prove that he wasn’t the one who killed the boys, tells them that the curse may “turn on someone you love.” If Richard heard them talking about doing witchcraft, it would not have been taken lightly. Even though he refuses to pull them out of sanctuary when Anne demands it (as if she did not know it would be a mortal sin to do so), he would not be able to look the other way when they admit to him that they practice witchcraft.

The curse is supposed to kill the first-born son of the person who murdered the princes, and the first-born grandson, and so on. Additionally, they would be able to see who the guilty party was because of the curse acting through the generations. If we are considering that Margaret Beaufort and Henry Stafford are the ones who killed them, as the show says, why didn’t Henry VII die, or Stafford’s son Edward, being the eldest sons of the murderers? If we look at this curse in a literal way, the person who has a first-born son die right away is Richard III, whose son Edward died in 1484. We are being told that because Henry and Elizabeth of York’s son Arthur died at the age of 15 in 1502, and because Henry VIII’s son Henry by Katherine of Aragon died when he was a month old in 1511, those events prove that Margaret was guilty. But it doesn’t make much sense when you look at the scope of the suspects and how this curse should have punished them. Instead, we are told that the evidence that supports this theory is correct, but any contradictory evidence is not worthy of attention.

Elizabeth Woodville tells her daughter Elizabeth that she is still betrothed to Henry, but the princess refuses to accept it. She plays with a deck of cards, saying that fortune will give her another husband. She pulls a card, which shows a king, and places it down next to the card with a blond queen. Which king is this? We are told in the next episode, and I will wait until then to discuss it. Also in the next episode we will see the brief peace under Richard, Henry’s return, the Battle of Bosworth and his rise to become Henry VII.

Further reading:

Bank St. Irregular: “The Princes in the Tower and the King Under the Car Park” 

Amy Licence for New Statesman: “New Evidence: Was Richard III Guilty of Murdering the Princes in the Tower?”

The Unromantic Richard III: “A Belated Buckingham Blog Post, With Help From the Bard”

Wars of the Roses: “Buckingham’s Revolt (1483)”

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The White Queen- Episode 8

WARNING: This contains spoilers.

King Edward IV died suddenly on the 9th of April, 1483. The actual cause of his death is unknown, but guesses range from a flu virus, to fishing on the Thames at Easter, to having eaten too much raw fruits and vegetables. He made Richard of Gloucester and William Hastings promise to work together to put his son, now Edward V, on the throne and assist him until his majority (“minority” being when he was still a child, “majority” being when he becomes an adult), setting up Richard as Lord Protector and guardian of the new king. It is Edward’s death that created a power vacuum that escalates the tension between York and Lancaster.

The show has Henry on a boat, ready to return to England, and he only stops when he learns that Edward is sick. Henry never once stepped foot on a boat from 1471 until Buckingham’s rebellion in late 1483. There were several times that the advisors who were running Brittany for Duke Francis attempted to ship Henry back to England, but each time he was able to stall and never was put on the ships. As I explained in the blog for episode 7, Henry never accepted any of Edward’s attempts at pardons and restitution.

We later see Henry making love to a woman on the boat. She is not named, but the way she holds his face and kisses him, and how he holds and kisses her, shows that she is not some random street whore. Jasper also hints that she is more when he tells her that “this isn’t goodbye.” To me, there is only one woman that can be, an unnamed woman he was involved with and in love with in Brittany, possibly the mother of Roland de Veleville. This is very controversial, because de Veleville’s parentage has been questioned, as has any romantic entanglements Henry would have been involved with while in exile. After looking through the evidence, I do believe that he is Henry’s son, as he occupies a very bizarre place in Henry VII’s court without official explanation. Even if did not create a love child, it is not hard to imagine that a man in his 20s would start a relationship with a local woman he was attracted to. We do know that he was a very loyal and romantic husband to Elizabeth of York, so for him to act that way with someone else is plausible.

Edward is alone with Elizabeth in his room when she catches him getting sick. Kings and queens always had servants around them, whose job it was to watch over them. They had body servants who would have been there at the first hint of illness, ready to get him into bed and nurse him back to heath, with the physicians of course. This show has shockingly few servants in the royal household.

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After Edward’s death, Duchess Cecily says that she is now equal to Elizabeth, since they are both “mothers to a king.” That could not be less true. Cecily is a Dowager Duchess, and Elizabeth is a Dowager Queen, who outranks a Duchess. The only woman Elizabeth would be second to is a new Queen; she is still the highest-ranking woman in the country.

Safely at Westminster, Prince Richard, Duke of York, says that the Battle of Barnet was “the greatest victory in English history,” but he seems to be forgetting a few. Like the Battle of Hastings, or Agincourt, or Crecy, or Poitiers. These stories would have been told to him over and over again, as great victories.

Jane Shore is removed from court. In the history, she goes to William Hastings. As there is no Hastings in the show, she goes to Anthony Woodville. Anthony takes Hastings’ place at another key moment: the execution of Hastings. This alteration becomes one of the biggest pieces of fiction in this episode. The arrests and executions of Anthony Woodville and Richard Grey are shown as the spark that lights the powder keg before Buckingham’s rebellion. The real spark was actually Hastings’ execution. Richard had already named himself as king, and was having a council meeting in the Tower, of which Hastings was a member. The stories differ on what happened at the meeting, but as he was leaving the Tower, guards grabbed him and cut his head off. This was an illegal execution, because he was not charged and not given a trial. It gave every man in England reason to fear Richard as a king, because if he didn’t follow the law that time, what proof was there that he would in the future? Anthony and Richard Grey were captured and executed, but not until after Buckingham’s rebellion. Without the execution of Hastings, there is no motivation for Buckingham to rebel.

The other piece of fiction is that Elizabeth sent her son Richard, Duke of York, away and put another boy in his place, and that Richard became Perkin Warbeck, a pretender to the throne under Henry VII. There is no reason to believe that Warbeck was actually Richard. Neither Elizabeth Woodville nor Elizabeth of York ever claimed that they had sent Richard away, and Elizabeth of York did not support Warbeck. If he had been sent away, why wouldn’t they have spoken of it? Besides that, why did Richard III not recognize that this boy wasn’t his nephew? Why did Edward V call out that it wasn’t his brother? Was there some sort of emergency family plan: “If your uncle takes you to the Tower and I send a random boy in and he says he’s your brother, go along with it so that at least your real brother won’t die. But you probably will, so, sorry for the bad luck.”

Richard becomes more of a monster here, riding like a demon to get his nephew for no other reason than his mother was trying to get him first. For a man who talks about only wanting his honor, he is very willing to act dishonestly. Anne Neville and Duchess Cecily don’t have to push him very far for him to believe the bigamy charge against his brother and take the throne. I have always been bothered by Richard’s easy belief in the lack of legality behind Edward and Elizabeth’s marriage, because he took part in convicting George as a traitor for saying the same thing. If it was now believed to be true and the princes were bastards, Clarence’s charge of treason was invalid and his attainder should have been lifted, so then his son should have been king. No matter how you look at Richard’s assent to the throne, there is always someone that should have had it instead of him. I do not know how much of his motivation was his wife Anne whispering in his ear that he should be king, but it is possible.

There is still more to come. The next episode centers around Buckingham’s rebellion and the involvement of both Margaret Beaufort and Elizabeth Woodville, so there will be much to discuss.

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The White Queen- Episode 7

WARNING: This contains spoilers.

This episode picks up a year later, in 1473. We see many things that are the same. Edward IV is still whoring around. Elizabeth Woodville is pregnant again. Margaret Beaufort is a maid in her household. Thomas Stanley seems to be filling the void we have without William Hastings, as a courtier who encourages Edward’s excessive pleasures and takes part in them as well. Both Richard of Gloucester and George of Clarence are not happy with Edward’s behavior but are still participating with him.

Elizabeth gave birth to Prince Richard, Duke of York, on August 17th, 1473. The scene where Margaret brings his dead body to life is fictional. Earlier when Margaret had been kicked out of the birthing chamber by an angry, laboring Elizabeth, she utters one of the worst lines in the entire series: “She loves only her own vanity!” Firstly, as the Elizabeth in the show has no vanity, the line becomes even odder. Secondly, this is telling of her character in Philippa Gregory’s book, The Red Queen– a woman who is slightly insane and thinks that everyone else is evil, but she’s perfect and good. She does or says the exact same thing as Elizabeth, but Elizabeth’s a “whore” and a “sinner,” while Margaret thinks she should be a saint. It makes her into the perfect antagonist, but this personality is completely an invention of the author.

This “do as I say, not as I do” description also applies to Richard of Gloucester. He is very self-righteous, and in this episode steals the Countess of Warwick so that George can’t steal her. His wife, Anne Neville, points out this hypocrisy to him, but he doesn’t get it. He says that he marries Anne for love, but he works very hard for her money. He even tells Anne that he doesn’t care about having children; he just wants her and his “honor.” I still believe that most of this is an attempt to make him more likeable, but he is so condescending, disingenuous and scheming that you just can’t like him at all.

Clarence descends into madness as the episode goes on, from paranoia to hiring his own magician to combat Elizabeth’s “dark arts,” to fighting with the king in public. In 1478 he was found guilty of treason and executed. I agree with David Starkey that George being the “2nd person” to Edward was the source of his downfall. Starkey says that because he was next in line to the throne, he was the center of so many plots. If Edward’s marriage to Elizabeth was invalid because he was already married to another woman, his children would be bastards and could not inherit the throne, leaving it instead to George (this is the story that got him executed, not that the queen is a witch). George was rich, he had men, and his title was the one traditionally given to the king’s second son. The only thing standing in his way was Edward and his sons. Plots to put George on the throne wouldn’t stop as long as there were people who wanted Edward gone. He is doomed from the start to eventually be executed because he is just in a place of extreme risk.

A side note on the actor who plays Clarence, David Oakes. He was on the Showtime show “The Borgias,” as Juan Borgia, the second son of Pope Alexander VI. In the show and in the history, there was a bull on the Borgia crest.  In the scene where they are celebrating Edward’s 15-years on the throne, the mask George is wearing is a bull. It’s an interesting coincidence.

Clarence’s execution sets up one of the best performances in the show. Duchess Cecily of York, played by Caroline Goodall, is so devastated by the execution of her “favorite” son that she screams, cries, demands, and threatens Edward to pardon George. She lays face down, begging him with her arms out in supplication. When he tries to get away from her, she grabs onto his legs and he can’t get her off. It’s wonderfully done. You pity her in her desperation to save him.

Clarence’s death in the keg of wine may be true, but it’s up to debate. When he was sentenced, Edward gave him the choice of to pick the method of his execution. The story is that he chose the malmsey wine both because he was a drunkard, but also because it was so ridiculous that he did not think Edward would approve pardon him instead. It didn’t work. He was still executed, but if he was actually drowned in wine or was killed in a different way is still open to debate. Dramatically it is far more interesting than the standard beheading, because the red wine becomes very visual. There is no blood, but parts of his shirt become dyed red and the red liquid sloshing around looks amazing.

Clarence’s children’s come to sad fates. His son, Edward, became Earl of Warwick after his grandfather. He was kept in prison by Henry VII, being the last legitimately born male of the house of York. He was found guilty of treason after attempting to support Perkin Warbeck, and was executed in 1499.  Clarence’s daughter Margaret married Richard Pole, had children, and became Countess of Salisbury after her father. Under Henry VIII she was found guilty of treason, as was her family. Her son Henry was executed in 1538, and she followed in 1541. Her grandson Henry was imprisoned for the rest of his life, until he died in 1542. Being so close to the throne was deadly.

After George has died, Edward promises that if Henry Tudor comes back from Brittany, his land and title will be restored. Edward dangled this promise to Henry many times while he was in exile. Some of his letters to Duke Francis of Brittany and some of Margaret’s letters have survived, so we know that this was offered to Henry. Not only was he being promised restitution and safe passage to Wales, but he was offered one of Edward’s daughters in marriage, so he could become part of the royal family. There is no reason to doubt Edward’s sincerity in this offer, since he was very secure on the throne, and Henry had such a dubious claim to it. In the end Henry did not accept the offer, and his reasons for staying in exile are more complex. I believe that he was heavily influenced by his uncle Jasper, who could not return to Wales. Jasper had already been attainted, and he had no love for or trust in Edward. Henry may have been influenced by Jasper, which is why he chose to remain in exile instead of returning home, even with all of the effort Margaret had been putting into his cause.

Thomas Stanley points out to Margaret that her son has to walk past five coffins to get to the throne. The show hints at Margaret figuring out how this can be achieved, by praying about it and putting a candle out with her tears. This should only serve as a reminder of how amazing it was that he could have a chance at the throne. It was not a goal until Richard III’s usurpation of the throne. This early and with so many in line before him, it was not even a hope. All the real Margaret wanted was for him to be allowed to return to his lands in Wales and live there safely with his title returned.

The next episode is going to set up the events that push Henry toward the throne. See you then!

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The White Queen- Episode 6

WARNING: This contains spoilers.

The episode opens with Anne Neville begging for a pardon from Edward IV. She professes that she had no choice but to marry the now-deceased Edward, Prince of Wales, as her father forced her. Edward responds with “that’s good enough for me, I forgive and pardon you.” Of course her father “made” her marry him; her father was the one who arranged her marriage. The show is obsessed with a girl-power image for these women, which is just not contemporary.

When Anne learns that George, Duke of Clarence, is her new guardian she retorts “I’m old enough to be a widow.” She was 15-years-old when she became a widow so still marriageable, and since her father had died she needed someone else to manage her income and set up her next marriage. George was her brother-in-law, part of her family, so it is very natural that he would become her guardian. Having her as a ward would also be income for him, and since he was the brother of the king it is not surprising that he would receive jobs and titles.

The scene where Anne confronts her sister Isabel about George’s control over her contains one of my least favorite moments in this episode. After their “cat-fight” Isabel says that Anne is behaving “like a rabid dog.” Rabies was not discovered as a disease at the time. The first cases of it were recorded in the mid-18th century, and it originated in the Americas.  The term “rabid” outdates it, but it first entered common language in the early 17th century.

We join back up with Margaret Beaufort when she receives the news that her mother is on her deathbed. Margaret’s mother, Margaret Beauchamp, died in August of 1483. This episode takes place in about 1471, as we are told that the next episode starts in 1473. I can only guess that it has been moved forward so that her death becomes a sign from God for Margaret, but it is more than a decade too early. Her early death means that Lady Beauchamp had nothing to do with her daughter’s fourth marriage. There are varying dates for Margaret’s marriage to Thomas Stanley, but most say that the ceremony happened before October of 1473, when Lady Beauchamp was still alive.

Elizabeth Woodville has problems with Edward IV several times in this episode. She fights with him about sending their son, Prince Edward, to Ludlow Castle in the Welsh Marches, which was what is done with every Prince of Wales. Her mother, Jacquetta, has to remind her that “When you married into the royal house their customs became yours.” It’s a beautiful line, but Elizabeth would have understood that her son would leave her house from the moment she became queen. At Ludlow he would have been with tutors, and had a mini-court of other children around him. It was the prince’s chance to learn how to govern, so when he became king he would already have practice.

When Elizabeth walks in on Edward making love to “Jane” Shore (her given name could have been Elizabeth, so calling her Jane may have been a way to differentiate from the queen), it is as if Edward had never taken another mistress. Edward was a very amorous man, and had been involved with other women for their entire marriage. Jane was not his only mistress, nor even the only mother of his bastards. Anthony Woodville explains it to Elizabeth, “Whoring is merely sport to Edward,” which is very true. Kings were expected to keep mistresses, and to have none was seen as a defect in his character. Richard II may not have had any bastards and Henry VI did not have any, and both were deposed. Henry VII’s illegitimate son is a source of controversy, and was born before he became king. His lack of mistresses and bastards was used as a critique against him by contemporaries. At the end of the episode Elizabeth confronts Edward after the death of their baby and of her mother, about the affair. His romantic assurance of how special she is because she is his “home” makes her forget there ever was another woman.

Margaret Beaufort requests a marriage to one of the king’s closest confidants, as “only a man at the heart of the court is of any value to me.” Anne Neville’s exclamation when she hears this inquiry makes my skin crawl: “She’s ancient! Ancient and ugly and fanatical!” When Margaret married Thomas Stanley, she was only 28-29, which is hardly ancient, even for their time. She was considered one of the most beautiful women in England, and while devout was not fanatical. She became more devout later in life, as many noble women did.

Margaret’s marriage to Thomas Stanley is not completely accurate. Yes, Thomas already had sons, but he would not have objected to having more. Sons died all the time, especially since the Wars of the Roses had not truly ended and young men often died in battle. While Margaret had not given Stafford any children, she had given birth to a son before that marriage, so there would be no reason to believe her to be infertile. We now know she was infertile because having Henry at such a young age damaged her body, but at the time it would have not been assumed so. There is no proof that the marriage was not consummated. The belief that it was a marriage based on politics and money comes from how it ended, in their separation and Margaret’s vow of chastity. This does not mean that the marriage started that way. Their chastity pledge was entered in 1499. If the marriage had not been consummated, it could have been annulled at any time, which makes it very unlikely that it wasn’t. Other writers have envisioned that Margaret and Thomas started their marriage deeply in love, which is just as likely as them hating each other.

Here is an interesting bit of trivia about Thomas Stanley, since he has now become a main character. His first wife, Eleanor, was a Neville and a sister to the Earl of Warwick. His son and heir, George, was married to Joan le Strange (he received the title Baron Strange from his father-in-law). She was the daughter of Jacquetta Woodville, Elizabeth Woodville’s sister. This gives their involvement with Edward IV and the cause of York a different meaning.

The birth of Elizabeth’s son too early and the juxtaposition to Jacquetta’s death are not accurate. Not only does Elizabeth not enter any form of confinement, but Edward running in to help her through the birth is completely out of place. Today we have men who hold our hands and feed us ice chips, but as I have already stated, in the middle ages men stayed far away from births. Even if they had feared for Elizabeth’s life, Edward would not have been allowed to enter the birthing chamber.

The history is very different. Elizabeth gave birth to a baby girl named Margaret on the 10th of April, 1472. The baby died on the 11th of December of the same year, not the same day. Jacquetta of Luxembourg died on the 30th of May, 1472. Having a boy born and die on the same day that Jacquetta died is very dramatic, but not accurate.

We are left with two newlywed couples- Richard and Anne, and Margaret and Thomas. Margaret comes to court to be a part of Elizabeth’s household. George is frustrated by Edward’s lack of delegation of power and that his financial hopes have been dashed. Coming up we have George’s death, Edward’s death, Richard’s usurpation and Henry Tudor’s eventual return and winning of the crown at Bosworth.

What do you think? What did you enjoy or dislike about the episode? What part of the actual history do you find interesting?

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