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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