WARNING: This post contains spoilers.
FYI: I learned this week that Starz will be producing and airing “The White Princess,” a follow-up miniseries to “The White Queen.” It will be based on the book by Philippa Gregory of that name. As of right now I have not read it yet, since friends have given me their reviews of it, which did not appeal to me. Because it covers Henry VII’s reign I will pick it up at some point, but so far the reviews have deterred me from it. As fictional as “White Queen” has been, if “White Princess” follows the plot of the novel, expect even more deviations.
I will not go into the repetitions of the nickname “Kingmaker,” by or around Anne Neville. Nor will I harp on about Henry and Jasper being called “Tudor.” Let us compare the plot to the known history instead.
One of the biggest deviations from the timeline is the lack of time that has passed between the last episode and the restitution of Henry VI and the Battle of Barnet. I have joked to my friends that “Edward had a nice long weekend in Flanders,” because the passage of time has been cut so short. King Henry VI was restored to the throne on the 30th of October, 1470, but was not deposed until April of 1471, being on the throne for almost six months.
I do not know why the show places Elizabeth Woodville and her children in the crypt of Westminster. There was a physical building called The Sanctuary, and it was there that she, her daughters and her mother lived while she claimed sanctuary. According to luminarium.org, “The Sanctuary was a large square keep two stories high, with thick stone walls and only one exterior door, made of heavy oak. The building contained two chapels, and a few residential rooms. It was constructed to withstand an attack, and was quite the safest place to resort to, if one was in danger.” Not the same as a dirty, wet and open basement we are shown.
The Battle of Barnet was very different from the drama we are treated to. It was a full scale battle, with approximately 17,000 to 45,000 men on the field, not a squabble in a forest of birch trees. It is always very hard for historical drama to show a medieval battle as large as it was, because putting that many actors together is expensive, time consuming and distracting. It could be achieved with CGI, as it was done in the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. However, most battles we see on the screen are a few hundred men.
The battle was entered before dawn, and the field was covered in fog when the sun came up. This caused great confusion. Warwick’s speech about staying to die with his men, killing his horse so that his troops knew he would not leave them, is pure fiction. The real Warwick was killed by York soldiers as he tried to climb onto his horse to flee the battle. Edward had ordered that Warwick be taken alive, but in the confusion he was killed. This means that the description given to Anne Neville by the Duke of Somerset in this episode is fiction as well.
We are not shown the Battle of Tewkesbury, but the actual battle was very brutal, leaving thousands dead on the field. Tewkesbury took place month after Barnet, with fewer men than Barnet. Edward’s army not only fought but chased and hunted down men as they tried to flee the battle. Soldiers drown trying to cross rivers to get away from the fighting. It was the actions taken by the Yorkists after the battle which were so harsh. We know that the nobles and knights of the Lancastrian army ran and sought sanctuary in Tewkesbury Abbey, but then sources diverge. One version of the story says that Edward pardoned the men hiding in the Abbey, and gave thanks at the alter for his victory. The darker version is that he had already begun slaughtering the Lancastrians when a priest intervened, holding up the Eucharist. We do know that the Abbey had to be re-consecrated, because so much blood had been spilled there. The leaders who came out of the Abbey had been promised pardons, but Edward changed his mind and they were later executed. Somerset was executed, as was Edward, the Lancastrian Prince of Wales.
Henry VI was captured at the end of the battle and taken back to the Tower of London as a prisoner. He was not left there “for safekeeping” by Warwick, as he is in the episode. Most sources say that he was killed with a blow to the back of his head, not by smothering with a pillow. The audience sees this though Elizabeth, who follows Edward form their bed to the Tower, though I doubt she was an actual witness to Henry’s death. She watches as Richard and George fiendishly hold Henry down and Edward holds the pillow over his face. Edward and George are not listed in sources as being in the Tower at the time of Henry’s death, though Richard of Gloucester was. Distributing the blame for the execution of Henry VI between all three brothers may be another attempt to soften Richard, to keep him from looking like one of the antagonists.
This is not the first time smothering with pillows has been referenced by the show. Anyone who has read about the two “Princes in the Tower” knows that the official description given by Tyrell of their deaths says that they were smothered with pillows in their sleep. Nearly every episode of this show so far has had a reference to smothering in it. Smothering Henry VI makes it seem as though the smothering of the princes’ in the same way was an act of revenge.
Deposed kings could not be killed in any way that would leave marks on the body. Because they were anointed by God, only He could do away with them, so there could be no signs of physical injury. Richard II is believed to have been starved to death. Edward II was said to have fallen, but some sources say that a hot poker was thrust up into his bowels. There was not any mark on either of their bodies that would have shown after they were dressed for burial.
The episode does not show much of Margaret Beaufort, other than short scenes of her fighting with her husband, Henry Stafford. He shows his good nature by praying her for and giving her his blessing when she will not give him hers. Later we see Margaret go to Tenby to say goodbye to her son Henry and his uncle Jasper as they leave Wales to go into exile. We do not have any sources that place her there, but adding her to this scene gives it more emotion. Stafford dies when Margaret returns, begging her to stop trying to be “Margaret Regina.” As I have said in other posts, the R after her name which she used after 1485 may have stood for Richmond, not Regina, and there is no evidence of her trying to put Henry on the throne, let alone herself, before 1483.
Margaret and Anne are both widows. Edward is king again, and Henry VI and his son are dead. Jasper and Henry Tudor are gone. George of Clarence is restored in favor and is now the highest duke in the land. Elizabeth is queen once more. We will have to see where they go from here.