Tag Archives: Isabel Neville

The White Queen- Episode 6

WARNING: This contains spoilers.

The episode opens with Anne Neville begging for a pardon from Edward IV. She professes that she had no choice but to marry the now-deceased Edward, Prince of Wales, as her father forced her. Edward responds with “that’s good enough for me, I forgive and pardon you.” Of course her father “made” her marry him; her father was the one who arranged her marriage. The show is obsessed with a girl-power image for these women, which is just not contemporary.

When Anne learns that George, Duke of Clarence, is her new guardian she retorts “I’m old enough to be a widow.” She was 15-years-old when she became a widow so still marriageable, and since her father had died she needed someone else to manage her income and set up her next marriage. George was her brother-in-law, part of her family, so it is very natural that he would become her guardian. Having her as a ward would also be income for him, and since he was the brother of the king it is not surprising that he would receive jobs and titles.

The scene where Anne confronts her sister Isabel about George’s control over her contains one of my least favorite moments in this episode. After their “cat-fight” Isabel says that Anne is behaving “like a rabid dog.” Rabies was not discovered as a disease at the time. The first cases of it were recorded in the mid-18th century, and it originated in the Americas.  The term “rabid” outdates it, but it first entered common language in the early 17th century.

We join back up with Margaret Beaufort when she receives the news that her mother is on her deathbed. Margaret’s mother, Margaret Beauchamp, died in August of 1483. This episode takes place in about 1471, as we are told that the next episode starts in 1473. I can only guess that it has been moved forward so that her death becomes a sign from God for Margaret, but it is more than a decade too early. Her early death means that Lady Beauchamp had nothing to do with her daughter’s fourth marriage. There are varying dates for Margaret’s marriage to Thomas Stanley, but most say that the ceremony happened before October of 1473, when Lady Beauchamp was still alive.

Elizabeth Woodville has problems with Edward IV several times in this episode. She fights with him about sending their son, Prince Edward, to Ludlow Castle in the Welsh Marches, which was what is done with every Prince of Wales. Her mother, Jacquetta, has to remind her that “When you married into the royal house their customs became yours.” It’s a beautiful line, but Elizabeth would have understood that her son would leave her house from the moment she became queen. At Ludlow he would have been with tutors, and had a mini-court of other children around him. It was the prince’s chance to learn how to govern, so when he became king he would already have practice.

When Elizabeth walks in on Edward making love to “Jane” Shore (her given name could have been Elizabeth, so calling her Jane may have been a way to differentiate from the queen), it is as if Edward had never taken another mistress. Edward was a very amorous man, and had been involved with other women for their entire marriage. Jane was not his only mistress, nor even the only mother of his bastards. Anthony Woodville explains it to Elizabeth, “Whoring is merely sport to Edward,” which is very true. Kings were expected to keep mistresses, and to have none was seen as a defect in his character. Richard II may not have had any bastards and Henry VI did not have any, and both were deposed. Henry VII’s illegitimate son is a source of controversy, and was born before he became king. His lack of mistresses and bastards was used as a critique against him by contemporaries. At the end of the episode Elizabeth confronts Edward after the death of their baby and of her mother, about the affair. His romantic assurance of how special she is because she is his “home” makes her forget there ever was another woman.

Margaret Beaufort requests a marriage to one of the king’s closest confidants, as “only a man at the heart of the court is of any value to me.” Anne Neville’s exclamation when she hears this inquiry makes my skin crawl: “She’s ancient! Ancient and ugly and fanatical!” When Margaret married Thomas Stanley, she was only 28-29, which is hardly ancient, even for their time. She was considered one of the most beautiful women in England, and while devout was not fanatical. She became more devout later in life, as many noble women did.

Margaret’s marriage to Thomas Stanley is not completely accurate. Yes, Thomas already had sons, but he would not have objected to having more. Sons died all the time, especially since the Wars of the Roses had not truly ended and young men often died in battle. While Margaret had not given Stafford any children, she had given birth to a son before that marriage, so there would be no reason to believe her to be infertile. We now know she was infertile because having Henry at such a young age damaged her body, but at the time it would have not been assumed so. There is no proof that the marriage was not consummated. The belief that it was a marriage based on politics and money comes from how it ended, in their separation and Margaret’s vow of chastity. This does not mean that the marriage started that way. Their chastity pledge was entered in 1499. If the marriage had not been consummated, it could have been annulled at any time, which makes it very unlikely that it wasn’t. Other writers have envisioned that Margaret and Thomas started their marriage deeply in love, which is just as likely as them hating each other.

Here is an interesting bit of trivia about Thomas Stanley, since he has now become a main character. His first wife, Eleanor, was a Neville and a sister to the Earl of Warwick. His son and heir, George, was married to Joan le Strange (he received the title Baron Strange from his father-in-law). She was the daughter of Jacquetta Woodville, Elizabeth Woodville’s sister. This gives their involvement with Edward IV and the cause of York a different meaning.

The birth of Elizabeth’s son too early and the juxtaposition to Jacquetta’s death are not accurate. Not only does Elizabeth not enter any form of confinement, but Edward running in to help her through the birth is completely out of place. Today we have men who hold our hands and feed us ice chips, but as I have already stated, in the middle ages men stayed far away from births. Even if they had feared for Elizabeth’s life, Edward would not have been allowed to enter the birthing chamber.

The history is very different. Elizabeth gave birth to a baby girl named Margaret on the 10th of April, 1472. The baby died on the 11th of December of the same year, not the same day. Jacquetta of Luxembourg died on the 30th of May, 1472. Having a boy born and die on the same day that Jacquetta died is very dramatic, but not accurate.

We are left with two newlywed couples- Richard and Anne, and Margaret and Thomas. Margaret comes to court to be a part of Elizabeth’s household. George is frustrated by Edward’s lack of delegation of power and that his financial hopes have been dashed. Coming up we have George’s death, Edward’s death, Richard’s usurpation and Henry Tudor’s eventual return and winning of the crown at Bosworth.

What do you think? What did you enjoy or dislike about the episode? What part of the actual history do you find interesting?

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The White Queen- Episode 3

Warning: This post contains spoilers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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