The White Queen- Episode 3

Warning: This post contains spoilers.

When creating a fictional universe, if you create a rule you must stick with it. Every detail, no matter how small must be consistent throughout, or the audience will become confused, and will stop paying attention.

When taking notes for episode 3, I noticed that there was a lot of the same from the first two episodes Women were not allowed to handle their own fates, there was misuse of the name Tudor, and Margaret Beaufort acted like a crazed zealot. Some of the new historical changes are just elaboration of the ones we have already seen, so I am trying to avoid repeating myself if I can.

First of all, Edward was never taken as Warwick’s captive. The entire plot of his capture, Elizabeth’s concern, and Edward’s escape are fictional. But compared to the weak Edward of previous episodes, this Edward seems to have finally grown a pair. He stands up to Elizabeth, and doesn’t need to explain why he takes certain actions because he is the king. I like him more already, and I guess Duchess Cecily does too- he is “a man again.”

When Warwick is fighting with “parliament” it looks more like a Privy Council argument. Parliament includes all the members of the House of Lords and the House of Commons; even back then this was hundreds of men in total. A small group of 10 is not a full parliament. What it looks like is a preliminary discussion before taking the vote to parliament. In the end, it did not seem to be a parliamentary decision.

At this time Jasper was still in exile. If he wrote a letter of support to Warwick or George, it wouldn’t have made any difference. That Margaret would write a letter to them… I have a hard time believing. She would know that any document where she was professing support to someone rebelling against the king would result in arrest and punishment. Any support she attempted to give would have been assumed to be under the direction of her husband, who would have been arrested for treason. Even if they would have been kinder to her because she was a woman, as Richard III did in 1483, she would still be punished in one way or another, and if her husband was attainted she could lose everything. This is the modern, determined Margaret, the one who wishes she could be Joan of Arc and believes that God is going to put Henry on the throne. There is no parallel to the actual history.

As Elizabeth rails at Edward about his treatment of Warwick and Clarence, Edward adds Henry Tudor in with his list of opposing claimants to the throne. This is misleading. While yes, Henry was technically in line, he was so far from it that even Richard III didn’t consider him a claimant in 1485. There was Edward IV and any sons he would have, then his brother George and his sons, and then Richard and his sons. Then there was Henry VI and his son Edward, and any children Edward might have had. Then there were some other Plantagenet cousins, including the Earl of Warwick. Henry, being half-English, 1/4 French and 1/4 Welsh and his descent from Edward III being through the Beauforts, who were “noble but not royal,” in all honesty was very far from the throne. He comes to it almost through pure luck and chance, so at this point nobody would have ever thought he could claim it, especially as Lancaster still had “mad old” King Henry and Edward had a cadre of men around him that could claim it.

Margaret seems perfectly happy to point out that Henry VI was “anointed by God” and to ignore that Edward IV had been anointed as well, but if we believe that she is fighting only for the ascension of her son Henry, she doesn’t want Henry VI on the throne either, even though he was “chosen by God.” Why? Because he was one person in front of her son, and Edward Prince of Wales was another. Again the only way for Henry Tudor to be king is if they are somehow removed. To pray for her son to take the throne is to pray for the anointed king to die and for those of his own line to die as well. For Jasper to encourage this behavior is nonsense. Henry VI is his half-brother, and Edward, Prince of Wales, is also his nephew. In the actual history of the wars his entire focus is on the return of his brother to the throne, not the placement of his “Tudor” nephew in the place of them. He tells Margaret that “they will turn to Lancaster and make a chance for your boy.” Not a single man on that field would have ever fought to put a Welsh Beaufort-Tudor on the throne.

The death of Richard Welles is not true to the history. If we assume that Richard is a replacement for John Wells, the events of that night are fiction, as John Welles lived until 1498. In the show, Richard Welles is encouraged to join the battle by his sister, Margaret, who tells him that in one of her visions God said that He wants Welles to fight for King Henry. As the army camps for the night, Jasper explains the plot to him- that Warwick and Clarence are going to turn-coat and kill Edward- and Welles no longer believes he is part of God’s Will. Disillusioned, he runs from one camp to the other, slipping and falling down on the grass. When he makes it to Edward’s camp, the guards stop him and Welles cries out that he needs to see the king. Edward comes forward, his face a storm, and as soon as Welles is done telling him of the treachery, Edward stabs him in the stomach, killing him. If Edward was receiving news that would change the battle for him, he would have appreciated the warning and treated Wells as a loyal spy and thanked him for the information. Even though Wells was the “messenger,” Edward would not kill him. If the conversation had gone badly, Edward would have accepted Welles’ surrender and held him for trial. This is not a king I would want to give my support to, because he couldn’t be trusted. This is a problem that Richard III had to deal with, because after the execution of William Hastings no nobleman knew if they could trust the king to keep his word or obey the law. This entire encounter is fiction, but its ramifications run deep.

When a very calm Warwick and George are “fleeing” for their lives, Warwick calls Welles “the Beaufort Boy.” Margaret’s mother was a Beauchamp, and it was Margaret’s father who had the name Beaufort. Any child from Baron Leo Welles would never been called a Beaufort, because they were not family. Warwick could have said, “Margaret Beaufort’s brother,” but he would never have been called a Beaufort.

After Warwick tells his family that they must leave for Calais, Isabel tells her father that she cannot go because she has entered “my confinement.” As I explained in my post about episode 2, Isabel is not following any of the rules of confinement if she is up and wandering about the castle. This may have been an actual complaint of hers, if she had been locked away and was being told to move, but she would not have just been hanging out and waiting for the baby to come while she sat in the dining hall. The death of the infant would have been blamed on rushing and leaving confinement, since it is exactly what confinement is supposed to protect against. In Britain’s Royal Families: The Complete Genealogy, Alison Weir says that the baby born to Isabel  in a ship outside of Calais on 16 April, 1470, was a girl which she gives the name of “Anne.” However, she also says, “Some sources state that the child born at sea in 1470 was a son (138).” The sex of the lost baby is debatable.

George boasts that Isabel will see “the best physician in France.” Women in labor did not see physicians; they were taken care of by midwives. Today we see midwives as these women who are below doctors and can’t take care of women who are high risk or have complications. This was not the case 500 years ago. Midwives handled every birth, every time. They were the ones who helped in dangerous births, and had assisted with or been present at almost every kind of birth imaginable. By contrast physicians had nothing to do with labor or birth, since it was not viewed as an illness that would require medical treatment. Even if things went wrong, it would be highly unlikely that a physician would have been called, or that they would have taken care of Isabel, as they probably wouldn’t have known what to do.

The Henry Tudor we see in this episode is older, more educated and has better manners. He is polite with his mother, showing her and his step-father respect. He may seem a little cold, but he is treating his mother as he would be expected to. If he wanted to show her affection, he would have to greet her properly first. I like this Henry. But Jasper sneaking back into Pembroke Castle without anyone knowing? That would be a cause for alarm, since nobody should be able to sneak into such a fortress, even the man in charge of it!

These were the largest changes from the historical record in this episode. I look forward to your comments!

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