Tag Archives: Anne Neville

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

Image

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?”

3 Comments

Filed under Starz The White Queen

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…

Leave a comment

Filed under Starz The White Queen

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.

.

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.

1 Comment

Filed under Starz The White Queen

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!

Leave a comment

Filed under Starz The White Queen

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?

Leave a comment

Filed under Starz The White Queen

The White Queen- Episode 5

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Starz The White Queen

The White Queen: Episode 4

WARNING: This contains spoilers.

Much like in Episode 3, most of the deviations from the historical record are either repeats of changes already made, or expansions of previous changes. There were a lot of plot reruns, where one character fills another in on something that already happened or has already been set up to happen. Here are a few of the newest changes, and explanations as to what happened in the history.

It has become very hard to follow the timeline, after the “3 years later” in Episode 2. Sometimes it seems like too much time has gone by, other times it seems that time is standing still. I have tried to use the clues we are given with the events to determine the dates, but they are not necessarily in the right order, which makes it confusing. The Neville flight to France may have been made earlier for timing, or newer events have been sped up to compensate.

I am going to start in Wales. We see Henry Tudor still at Pembroke Castle with his mother and step-father. Unfortunately I am not sure how much time has passed since the end of the last episode, but I am guessing about 5 months. The last real benchmark we have is the miscarriage of Isabel Neville and George of Clarence’s child, which was in 1470. This becomes important because Sir William Herbert comes to Pembroke to take Henry as his ward. In the episode there is no siege of the castle. Herbert walks in and starts talking to Henry Stafford and Margaret Beaufort about gaining possession of Pembroke and Henry Tudor becoming his ward.

As I wrote in the blog for Episode 2, Herbert was made into the Earl of Pembroke in 1461 when he was four. Herbert sieged the castle when he took possession of it, and was given Henry’s wardship at the same time. What makes his appearance in the show even more surprising is that he was executed in 1469, following the Battle of Edgecote Moor.

I loved that we were able to see more of Duchess Cecily, and that she was as spunky as ever.  I agree with her that George is being painted “as a villain,” but I do not think that is something she would have actually said. The origin of the word “villain” meant “someone from the village,” and was often a slang term for saying that someone is of a lower class. It morphed into the definition we have today from this usage. But I believe in 1470-ish it would have still meant a villager, not the bad man of the story. In my opinion, George is being made into a worse person so that compared to him Richard III comes off looking nicer.

What I know of Clarence, he was a heavy drinker and almost as amorous as his brother the king. Warwick making an arguably mild complaint about his “bed sport” with prostitutes would probably have never happened. The higher up in status the man was, the more he was expected to sleep around and produce a good number of bastards. To not do this would be held against them. Look at King Charles II, and how many bastard children he had while not having a single legitimate one. Of course Warwick would want a grandson, but he would have understood that a duke would be expected to get active with a whore, and would see it as mere fun that would not interfere with making a child.

One of the things this show is doing wonderfully is how it shows the Tower of London. When we Americans hear the name, usually we think of dank, dark dungeons where lots of dirty people in rags were tortured for no crime worse than saying that a shirt doesn’t look good on the king. While there were dungeons in the Tower, and torture did happen there, in 1470 it was still a functioning palace and was one of the places that noble criminals were sent. There was a royal apartment which would have been just as warm, furnished and regal as any apartment in another palace. Because the Tower was one of the hardest places to escape from or to siege, it was the most common place a threatened royal family would run to for safety, and they would live there in comfort with their own cooks making their meals and their own servants waiting upon them. When a nobleman was arrested, they were given similar accommodations, unless the crime was so severe that they were to be punished. In those cases they might have a less-furnished room and had to be fed from the constable’s kitchen. Of course lower class prisoner would have a worse time there, but we often forget how nice it could have been. And it wasn’t just for short-term lodging. Clarence’s son, Edward, the Earl of Warwick spend nearly his entire life living in the Tower. The show has spent some time showing us this more luxurious side of the Tower, which I appreciate.

The actual cause of death for John Beaufort, Duke of Somerset and father to Margaret Beaufort, is unknown. Compared with his illustrious grandfather, John of Gaunt, Somerset was not much of a knight. He returned home from the wars in France in shame, and died soon after. Some sources hint at a possible suicide, others claim illness or wounds from battle. Could Margaret have known what his true cause of death was? Maybe. But if it had been a suicide it would have been very well hidden, as he was given a Christian burial, which suicides were denied.

I was pleased that the Countess of Warwick understood and explained that marriage was a contract between two families, and daughters had little to no say in who they were betrothed or married to. That she explains it to Anne as a “duty” to be done by her for her family and the production of children is one of the most honest descriptions of marriages in the middle ages that have come from this show yet. Instead of crying about being forced to marry a man she called “a monster,” (I do not know what Anne’s personal opinions of Edward, Prince of Wales were), Anne sucks it up and marries him, just as she should have.

Another moment that the show captures very well was Elizabeth’s nighttime flight into sanctuary at Westminster Abbey. A person claiming sanctuary could not be injured or killed, and could not be forced to leave the church to their doom. Invoking sanctuary was a serious thing in their time, and violating it was one of the worst mortal sins someone could commit. Elizabeth was no fool; she knew that making it to the Abbey was her one shot to save herself and her children from Warwick’s wrath. Even though the Tower was nearly impregnable and could withstand a very long siege, safety there was reliant upon the soldiers not being compelled to open in the name of King Henry, which Elizabeth would not trust. The mad dash through the streets with only what they could carry was shown in a heart-pounding and dramatic way that must have been close to how it actually felt that night.

Margaret Beaufort’s story in this episode is tied to her son Henry’s involvement with William Herbert. It is hard to continue to comment on the activities of Henry and Herbert, because the history is just so different. However, at Henry’s age he would not have been fighting; he could have squired for Herbert, but he would not be a soldier himself. For him to save his own life by shouting “I am Henry Tudor,” repeatedly could never have happened. He may have said “I am the Earl of Richmond,” but even that would have been a stretch, especially as George of Clarence was there and had been granted that title. His age would have given him some protection, because he was not old enough to fight and already would have been on the side of Lancaster. His willingness to go with Herbert and fight for York could only have been born out of his time at Raglan Castle, but the show has altered and removed it, leaving a hole.

The gaping holes where people or events have been removed or otherwise drastically altered are a common problem for historical fiction or drama. Sometimes it has to do with continuity, sometimes with the difficulty of fitting that person or event into the fiction you have created. One of the most classic cases comes from the Showtime show “The Tudors,” when they removed Henry VIII’s sister Mary Tudor entirely. The reason that Michael Hirst (creator of the show and many other historical dramas) gave for pushing the two sisters together and calling them Margaret was that it would be too confusing to have two Princess Mary Tudors on the call sheet. I understand what he was saying. In most cases of historical characters with the same name they can be called by their title instead.  But with both Marys having the literal title of princess, how could he have differentiated between them? Margaret Tudor never lived in Henry VIII’s court, as she was sent to marry King James IV of Scotland under the orders of their father, Henry VII. The conjoining of the two sisters, and having Margaret marry Charles Brandon causes a long-term issue of how the Tudors are related to the Scottish kings, and had the show continued into Henry VIII’s children, how Mary Queen of Scots could have claimed the English throne would have been virtually unanswerable. In “White Queen,” the removal of Herbert from Henry’s upbringing and the removal of William Hastings have ramifications that I believe will continue until the 10th episode.

I do not know enough about the trial of Jacquetta of Luxembourg to comment on the history of it. If you have this information, please pass it along. If there is a record of the proceedings that survived, it would an interesting comparison.

I look forward to the next episode!

Leave a comment

Filed under Starz The White Queen

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!

Leave a comment

Filed under Starz The White Queen

The White Queen- Episode 2

Warning: This post contains spoilers.

The first thing that we see is Elizabeth Woodville preparing for her coronation. Imagine that Elizabeth’s coronation is like her modern wedding day. Anyone who has been a bride knows that she has planned the day to exactly what will happen, at what times and in what order. They agonize over it, everything down to the smallest detail. Elizabeth clearly has been planning and preparing for this day, since she bathes (something that was not an everyday occurrence in those times) and has a dress so intricate that I can’t even fathom how many hours it would have taken to decorate. The woman who commissions such a thing and prepares in such a way understands everything that is going to happen, and does not need the Earl of Warwick to explain things to her.

By the same token, saying that Warwick’s daughters “were trained” to escort the queen is not something special; all of the ladies at court would have been trained for such an event, and her escorts would have been picked well ahead of time. There seems to be a lot of needless explanations going on at this court, since Edward has to explain to Elizabeth’s Grey sons that she is wearing her coronation robes.

Elizabeth is pregnant with  Princess Elizabeth of York, but Edward has no problem taking her to bed. Sex was not an option in the middle ages for a couple at this time, because it was believed to harm the baby. Since there was no way to know if the baby was a boy or not, no king would put his own pleasure above the health of his future son and heir, or risk a miscarriage by attempting to have sex with the mother. This phobia of harming the baby continues today. I have several friends whose husbands refused to touch them once they were pregnant. It’s not too hard to understand the medieval beliefs.

There are several references to Warwick’s actions as “king-making” which are faulty. Today we think of Richard Neville, the 16th Earl of Warwick as “the Kingmaker,” but Warwick was not called this in his own lifetime. Gregory seems much attached to this nickname, and it’s used in the title of one of Gregory’s books this series is based on, The Kingmaker’s Daughter. It is just not a contemporary way to look at him. Yes, his troops and skills could sway the battle, but he was not called that in his own time.

At the outdoor post-hawking dinner, Elizabeth tries to tell her mother to back off of the political stuff, only to have Edward tell her that she should build up as much political power around her as possible, and that this would be best done by arranging powerful marriages of her younger siblings. This makes Elizabeth into a wishy-washy woman who has no political drive or ambition, which is not what we know of her. The marriages of her younger siblings into families of power were one of the main reasons some of the people at court hated her. The Duke of Buckingham, who we see marrying her little sister Katherine when they were children, deeply resented this union and hated the Woodvilles. It was one of the reasons he put his support initially behind Richard III and helped to remove Edward V. Was this practice initially not only okay with Edward, but his idea? Was Elizabeth against it from the start? I can’t imagine that. The only reason to make Elizabeth less ambitious is if ambition in a woman is a bad thing, only living in the villain Margaret Beaufort.

Pushing the next scene involving Margaret aside for the moment, the next time we see Elizabeth she is very pregnant and asking Warwick why his daughters have not yet joined the queen’s ladies. Warwick tells her that they have to decline this offer, as his daughters are “to be wed.” If they were genuinely looking for husbands, the best place to be would be the household of the queen. Life at court was lively, and they would have more opportunity to catch the eye of a peer if they were constantly around them, not living alone in their castle with their mother. Beyond that, declining the offer of a queen other than cases of illness. This would be the worst faux-pas that Warwick could commit, insulting not only Elizabeth but Edward as well. This was not a situation where he could have refused her. She says that she wants them, he asks when they can be delivered into her care.

At this time Elizabeth is heavily pregnant, but does not go into an actual confinement. Most of the traditions of noble births are very archaic today, but they had to be followed to the letter or else risk “harming the baby.” This includes a special suite for the queen with all the windows covered and a roaring fire being constantly fed no matter the season. Only women could come and go from this chamber, and after entering it a month before the baby was expected to be due the mother would not be permitted to leave until the baby was born. A queen who is that far along in her pregnancy would not be allowed to walk around the court until she starts her labor. Her father would not have been in her apartment after she had entered confinement.

My husband was watching this episode with me while I scribbled my notes, and when Edward is so happy about having a daughter my husband called “B.S.” Anyone who is familiar with the stories of Henry VIII’s divorce, separation from the Catholic Church and the fates of his wives knows that producing a male heir is the first priority of a queen. Edward seems pleased and utters a variation of a phrase that actual originates with his grandson, Henry VIII, who said it to Katherine of Aragon- “We are still young, and boys will follow.” For Edward, who has displaced Henry VI and is in an unpopular marriage, the production of a daughter could be seen as proof that God did not want him on the throne.

A secondary plot in this episode was the “spiritual awakening” of Margaret Beaufort. We see the beginning of her religious fundamentalism when we first see her and she tells Henry Stafford that she lives “on prayer.” Margaret becomes a zealot, practically becoming orgasmic when the light hits her in the church where she fell asleep praying for “a sign.” She ends the episode by telling Henry that God gave her a vision of him becoming king and calling herself “Margaret Regina.” Of course none of this is based in the history, and all the information we have about Margaret shows that she did not even want Henry to be king; it was only after Richard III took the throne that it became a cause for her. She was never called Regina, which is reserved only for the actual monarchs, and the “R” she signed after her name could have stood for “Richmond,” her title.

One of the things that stand out in my mind from this episode is how Anne Neville is just a puppet for her sister Isabel. In 1465 Anne was about 9 years old, but the same adult actress plays her through the whole show. She acts as a child, calling Margaret of Anjou “The Bad Queen,” and constantly asks her sister for validation. Anne becomes a strong woman, but at this point she is still a child.

Like Anne, Margaret is way too old. Margaret gave birth to Henry when she was 13. In 1465 Margaret would have been 22-years-old, and in the first episode she was just 18. I suspect that since she has been singled out as the antagonist, she was made older so that the audience would not sympathize with her. That would have made them pity her, and the audience is supposed to hate her.

The next difference is her burning love and desire for Jasper. Could she have seen him as her savior, since she was under his protection when Henry was born? While that’s possible, Jasper was for all intents and purposes her brother. Margaret’s complaint to her mother for not allowing her to marry Jasper would have been beyond inappropriate, as is her mother’s answer that Stafford was “a better match.” Everyone would have understood that their affinity was now so tight that the church would forbid their marriage, making Jasper a bad match. If that had not been the case, Jasper, the Earl of Pembroke, was the 2nd highest ranking earl in the land, with only dukes and the title Earl of Richmond, held by his brother Edmund and then Henry, between him and the royal family. Stafford had no title. This is all a moot point though, because the church and the state viewed them as siblings and any union between them would have been viewed as incest. Margaret would have known this, and would have seen Jasper as nothing but a brother and uncle to her son.

The dates the show gives us, 1465 and 1468 (not knowing exactly how much time passes between the beginning of the episode and right before we are told “three years later”), put some of the events at the wrong time.

That Jasper was still in Wales and Henry was still in his care is a major departure from the actual timeline. In 1461 when Edward was crowned king, Jasper was charged with treason, his title forfeited and given to Sir William Herbert, who also was given the wardship of Henry. Henry’s title, Earl of Richmond, was taken before 1462 and given to George of Clarence, not in 1465. Between 1461 and 1470 we do not know of the exact locations of Jasper, but he was in exile, popping up in France, Brittany, Scotland, but constantly moving. As he had already been found to be a traitor by an act of parliament he could not remain anywhere without Edward’s grasp or risk execution.

Henry had been put into the care of William Herbert when he was 4-years-old. In 1461 Herbert seiged Pembroke Castle and took possession of it, but continued to live at Raglan with his family and Henry. Herbert was paid a small fortune for Henry’s wardship, and Herbert raised him with the education and training fitting his title, even though it had been stripped from him. Herbert went so far as to have his household continue to refer to Henry as “Richmond.” Henry was very close with Herbert’s wife, Anne Devereux, and remained close to her after he became king in 1485. Margaret was allowed to write to Henry and to visit him at Raglan. Henry remained in Herbert’s care until 1469, when Herbert was executed.

In the show Margaret sees her mother again, and introduced to “her half-brother, Richard Wells.” Richard Wells was not her half-brother, he was her step-brother. John Wells was her half-brother. Her and her mother have a fight, where she points out that she did not choose to marry Stafford, and her mother reminds her why and says, “I do not care if you are happy.” Margaret would never have chosen her husband if her mother was alive, especially since she marries Stafford right after Henry was born when she was still very young.

The show flashes us forward 3 years, when Elizabeth has a happy trio of little girls, and Edward doesn’t seem to mind. We are quickly told that Warwick and Clarence are planning a rebellion against Edward. The worst fruit of the rebellion is the executions of Earl Rivers and his son John Woodville. Historically, they were captured after the Battle of Edgecote Moor in 1469, given a very hasty trial and then executed. William Herbert was executed folling that battle as well. Jacquetta and Elizabeth focus on how it was an illegal trial done without trial or a charge, which of course makes it all the more upsetting.  The reaction that the audience has to their upset over the illegality is why I believe that William Hastings has been removed, because he actually was executed by Richard III without charges or trial.

Their deaths lead us into Elizabeth doing a spell for herself, blood magic to avenge her father and brother. Beyond the whole “was she a witch” thing, she signs him “George Plantagenet,” which at first seems very strange, as the kings and their families did not use surnames. But it is something the show gets right- his father, Richard, Duke of York, was the first person to use Plantagenet as a surname, to show how close he was to the throne. It originates with Geoffrey Plantagenet, father of Henry II, and was a nickname given to his father, Folk of Anjou, for the flower he wore in his hat. This means that though we count every king from Henry II to Richard III as “Plantagenet,” the only ones who had that surname were Edward IV and Richard III.

So that’s it for episode 2! Let me know if you agree, disagree, or if I cut something you want to discuss! Thanks for reading, and I can’t wait to come back and write about Episode 3!

Leave a comment

Filed under Starz The White Queen

“The White Queen” Miniseries: Background

WARNING: This post contains explanations and spoilers.

From the title of my blog, you may have an idea of my view of the Starz series “The White Queen.”  Because it deals with the period of time that I study, and portrays some of my favorite people in this period, I very much wanted to love “WQ.” But in execution it was not all that I wanted it to be. And since it has aired in the US, more internet “scholars” have come out in support of the show as “a perfect work of history.” This is just not the case.

Here in the US, the “WQ” miniseries is hosted by Starz, and it is based on the Cousins War books by Philippa Gregory. There has been a bit of press about this program, because it was a collaboration with the BBC, but Starz wanted more nudity and sex so they shot two versions of the scenes, one for each network. Starz was looking for something to replace the Michael Hirst production “Camelot,” which had been cancelled, and for something to compete with HBO’s “Game of Thrones.” This was a mighty tall order to begin with, as “GoT” has become such an influential and well-loved show.

“GoT” is a very violent, very masculine production, and “White Queen” was made to be the “women’s” program. This was done under the assumption that a) “GoT” does not attract female viewers, and b) women want to see more sex and less violence. These assumptions are false, and I know just as many women who are all about “GoT,” including myself, who don’t mind the violence or even enjoy it. “WQ” may have been doomed from the start to not live up these high expectations.

“WQ” is based on three of Gregory’s books- The White Queen, The Red Queen, and The Kingmaker’s Daughter– which are fictional accounts of the lives of three women in positions of power during the Wars of the Roses. The colors- red and white- are a reference to the rose badges that the retainers of both opposing sides, Lancaster and York, wore, though this reference is not contemporary. Elizabeth Woodville, the “White Queen,” was the wife and Queen of King Edward IV. Margaret Beaufort, the “Red Queen,” was the mother of King Henry VII. And Anne Neville was the daughter of Richard Neville, the “Kingmaker” as he was called a hundred years after his death, and she was firstly the wife of Edward, son of Henry VI and Prince of Wales, and then became Richard III’s wife and Queen. Gregory has attempted to add a feminist spin to what we know of these women,  to make them all into heroines who stand up to the men that run the country, pushing their own interests forward and gaining support for themselves and their causes. The books have been very popular, which is why they were turned into the miniseries.

The show seems to be gaining more popularity in the US than it did in the UK. In addition to the “saucier” aspects of it (the nudity), Starz took out a large amount of marketing for the show. There were ads on other TV stations, in magazines, and online both from static ads on search engines to videos on YouTube. This domination of advertising gathered an audience and the first episode had a large viewership. It may have also been easier to get interest in the fiction in the US because most Americans tend to have a large black hole when it comes to anything English. We do not focus on English history in our public schools, and it is not even a common course at the university level. As I’ve already said, I’ve been discouraged from studying this period by college professors. Finding an American with any grasp of English history is rare. Some might have an idea of who Henry VIII or Elizabeth I were, may have seen “The Tudors” on Showtime or “Elizabeth” when it came out in 1998, but beyond the 6 wives and the Virgin Queen, it is hard to find an American with any other knowledge.

This makes us a perfect audience for this miniseries. While the BBC’s audience was made up of viewers who were educated in the history of the Wars of the Roses and could then spot problems immediately and who reacted to them by turning off the show, it’s harder for Americans to know when it is factual and when it’s author opinion. As such, “WQ” continues to do well here, and more Americans have stuck with it. There may even be some who will be disappointed when the miniseries is over. The production company should have waited to make the choice not to create a follow-up series to it, based on Gregory’s White Princess, until after the Starz run.

The ignorance of the American audience is more of a challenge for me, and my like-minded Wars of the Roses obsessed friends. It is easier to find Americans who are willing to “wax poetically” about how much they’ve learned from this series, and who are not keen to be educated on the reality. Americans also view something like this series as “educational” instead of entertainment (I have wondered if this could be because of the British accents?). It seems to be in the US where Gregory is most lauded as a “historian” instead of a novelist. Many Americans are first exposed to English history in the form of historical fiction, but the larger percentage never makes it to reading the non-fiction. When Gregory’s previous novel, The Other Boleyn Girl, became a feature-length movie there was a surge in interest about Anne Boleyn, but the majority failed to get very far away from the fiction.

What compounds this is Gregory’s insistence that “this is what really happened,” or “this is the real story behind this period.” In interviews and documentary programs she continues this stance. Sometimes her explanations for why she thinks her fictional versions are the reality get very wild. Her explanation of how she believes that Anne Boleyn had sex with her own brother in a moment of desperation to conceive a child, as they do in The Other Boleyn Girl, is very weak. “Well, they weren’t raised together and met as strangers when they were adults-“ she says in the BBC program “The Last Days of Anne Boleyn.” She acts as if that was an uncommon situation for siblings to not be raised together in the 16th Century. It wasn’t. And no matter how siblings are raised they still do not commit incest.

Her answer is similar for why she believes that Richard, Duke of York, the younger of the “Princes in the Tower” was switched out for a common boy by his mother, Elizabeth Woodville, so that he could be saved from the same murder that his brother, Edward V received, in the novel The White Queen (in the US we have not gone that far yet in the miniseries). How was Elizabeth able to switch the boys? Because Richard III, just being their uncle, clearly wouldn’t know them well enough, and couldn’t tell that the boys were switched. Gregory insists that, since Richard didn’t see the boy often, he wouldn’t know what he looked like or acted like, making it possible to leave a complete stranger in his care with him being none the wiser. As the aunt of 5 nieces and 3 nephews, I find this logic insulting. My brother’s children live in Texas, and I see them about once a year. But if anyone switched one of them out with another child, I’d know right away. Even if they were a perfect doppelganger these faux-children would still not have the same mannerisms or speech. Her insistence that this was not just possible but actually what happened bothers me more than almost everything else she had done, combined together. I will go further into the problems with the books either when I cover those parts of the miniseries or when I can focus on these books themselves.

In “The Real White Queen,” a program created by the BBC and aired in conjunction with “WQ,” Gregory takes a firm stand on many of the other questionable parts of the show and her books. She walks us through the sets, and is interspersed with a few other writers and one historian, who are parroting what she says or being edited to look as though they are. This program should have been a sounding board, where she explains why she takes this position or that, maybe explains the inspiration for why she wrote it this way. But it isn’t. Instead, it is used as an attempt to buttress the show’s insistence of being completely factual. It is one of the worst disservices done to the viewing audience.

I have encountered a few of Gregory’s fans in online forums, who say that none of this is true. They say that Gregory has never insisted that any of her work is factual, that she has said that this or that is completely made up. Oddly, they have never watched the interviews or the various productions she has taken part in. Once they watch the above referenced programs they change their tune, taking the side of her critics.

I am not sure how much of this insistence that fiction is fact is Gregory herself, and how much of it is outside forces compelling her to make such statements. I do not know if, for example, her publisher tells her that it would sell more books to claim that she only “fills in the conversations.” I do not know if the production company had mandated that she appear in other BBC programs and never sway from her statements that she has created a completely factual account of what happened, for the purpose of gaining an audience. If that is the case, then I would apologize to her for being so critical, and hope that she gains the freedom to stand up and say that she’s a good storyteller and not to take her own work so seriously. But until that clarification comes, I have to fight to set the records straight. It does neither her nor her fans any justice to bury our heads in the proverbial sand and pretend that it is alright to claim that her fiction is fact.

1 Comment

Filed under Starz The White Queen