Tag Archives: Henry Stafford

The White Queen- Episode 9

WARNING: This post contains spoilers.

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

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

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

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

Here is the real history.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Further reading:

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

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

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

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

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The White Queen- Episode 8

WARNING: This contains spoilers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The White Queen- Episode 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.

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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!

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The White Queen, Episode 1 Part 2

Please note that this post contains spoilers.

This is a continuation of my previous blog, “The White Queen, Episode I Part 1.”

The scene where Elizabeth defends her virtue against Edward by removing his dagger and threatening him with it is based on a legend. The story goes that he attempts to have his way with her, but she refuses. To get him off, she holds the knife out at him, and he leaves in anger. In this show’s version, she turns it on herself, uttering the “girl-power” line, “Don’t doubt my courage, Your Grace, a match for any man.” This story sounds great- a woman standing up to the most powerful man in the country because she won’t sleep with him outside of marriage! We don’t know what really happened that day, but the earliest version of the story about the knife didn’t show up until 1483. I have seen many different versions of this story; where there is no knife, where he holds the knife to her throat, where she holds it to his, but the origin is not known. Again, the absence of evidence does not become proof.

In this episode, Elizabeth has no spark. She’s a beautiful woman, and the actress plays her very sweetly, but too naive. The real Elizabeth, though often depicted in a large range from “evil bitch” to intelligent but crafty in other fictional works, the Elizabeth of “WQ” not only seems to have no ambition and is very dismissive. Her brother Anthony is the one who tells her to question the honesty of Edward after their secret marriage, and she acts as if she never thought of the consequences if Edward had acted dishonestly. She is shocked when it occurs to her that he may refute the marriage and cast her aside. There is not much in her personality that shows a woman who was willing to do what it took to become the queen, to advance her sons and her family. This characterization of her is like a blade of grass, blowing in the wind that she has no control over. I cannot believe that she could have been this diminutive. Nobody who advances so far in life does so by being passive and letting others have their way.

One thing that Edward repeats several in the first few episodes is that “King Henry MURDERED my father and my brother!” or that Margaret of Anjou ordered their deaths. While there are some stories about how Edmund, the Earl of Rutland, was killed in 1460 trying to flee the Battle of Wakefield, his death is just listed as one of the casualties of the battle. Their father, Richard, Duke of York, did fall on the field. There is nothing to suggest that he had been hunted down, that had he survived the actual battle, had been taken hostage and then had been executed. He was not murdered, unless every man who dies in battle is considered a murder victim. As it was Duke Richard who took up arms against Henry VI first, he could be blamed for his own death. Ralph A. Griffiths and Roger S. Thomas in their book The Making of the Tudor Dynasty hypothesize that the execution of Owen Tudor at Mortimer’s Cross may have been retaliation against Henry VI, as Tudor was his step-father. This argument intrigues me, but it does not give any credibility to an Edward crying out in anguish that Henry VI murdered his father.

Towards the end of the episode we are introduced to Margaret Beaufort for the first time. When I first saw this episode my initial gut reaction was that the actress was way too old. In 1464 Margaret was about 21-years-old, though already a widow and a mother. In the show Jacquetta speaks to her, but she addresses Margaret incorrectly, and I do not mean that literally in the script she is corrected by Margaret. At first Margaret is called “Lady Tudor,” and then Jacquetta is corrected to say “Lady Stafford.” The name Tudor was not used at this time, and wasn’t even the surname of Owen Tudor, as we call him. He was named Owen ap Maredudd ap Tudur: Owen Tudor is the Anglicized name he was given by the English court, though with the correct placement his surname should have been Meredith. The last name of Tudor was not used in their lifetimes, and is the modern way we describe this period, and the literal translation into Welsh is “Theodore”. They did not call it the “Tudor family” or “Tudor Dynasty,” and Margaret Beaufort wouldnot have been called “Lady Tudor.” She would have been called the Dowager Countess of Richmond, her title which she retained after Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richmond died. As Henry Stafford did not have a title, Lady Stafford would have been the best way to identify her at the time, but use of her title would have been just as acceptable.

Toward the end of the episode Elizabeth is introduced to courtiers, and eventually ends up in a room with a seated Cecily, Dowager Duchess of York. That she remains seated, and her attendants remain standing, is a grave insult towards the “King’s Wife.” What is not given in this scene is that Cecily is half-Beaufort: her mother was Joan Beaufort, daughter of Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt. She would have been very, very sensitive to words such as “whore” and “bastard,” for no other reason than her own mother had started her life as a bastard. As the treatment of Margaret shows the Beauforts never escaped that association, and the descendants of the Beaufort line were supposed to be barred from the royal succession. To have her sitting there, threatening to make her son illegitimate is just too much, which is a shame, because I do like everything else about this portrayal, and she may be one of my favorite characters. Caroline Goodall puts in a wonderful performance.

The conclusion of this episode leaves us with one more major problem. After yet another sex scene with Edward, Elizabeth enters into the room where her mother is practicing some more magic and her two sons are sleeping. When Elizabeth catches her own eye in the mirror, she freezes and as if in a trance she talks about a woman in red with “blood on her hands.” When Jacquetta pushes her, asking whose blood it is, Elizabeth exclaims that it’s “mine!” Of course this is a straight arrow directed right at Margaret Beaufort, as the “Red Queen,” but remains slightly vague enough that the blood they are referring to could be Elizabeth’s, or it could be her son’s. Both options are faulty. Elizabeth is not killed by Margaret, though some historians have said that her removal from court was due to Margaret’s influence on her son, as David Starkey in “Monarchy” says, there is no room for “two Queen Mothers.” Elizabeth has her lands removed and leaves the court, and she dies at St. Saviour’s Abbey in 1492. This also hints at Gregory’s stance that Margaret was the one who ordered the death of the two “Princes in the Tower,” and may be an attempt at foreshadowing this conclusion. My guess is that it’s sufficiently vague so that we have to guess at the meaning, but none are factually based.

Thus concludes the first episode. Compared with later episodes, this one may be the best. Even though I have compiled a large list of problems, there was enough of the truth in it to at least get us into the story and ready to watch the next episode. We are introduced to the actors, who each give an amazing performance. Max Irons as Edward does a great service to the king, as he is both commanding and emotional. James Frain, who somehow always seems to end up in historical dramas (“Elizabeth I”, “The Tudors”…), also gives a great and commanding performance. Robert Pugh, as Richard Woodville, looks how I always imagined Owen Tudor to look in my head. We meet most of the characters we will be rooting for or hating for the next 9 episodes. The sets, costumes and makeup are all delicious. There are a lot of characters with the same or similar names, but so far I think it is not too confusing as to whom everyone is.

For space I have just focused on the most major problems I have seen. Did I not focus on the one that drove you up the wall? Let me know in the comments section! I look forward to inspecting Episode 2 with you!

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