Tag Archives: Jacquetta of Luxembourg

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 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!

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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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The White Queen, Episode 1, Part 1

Please note that this contains spoilers. Because of the length of the total post, I have divided it into 2 parts for ease of reading.

The one thing I enjoy from this miniseries completely is the music. As a classical violinist, the theme is lovely. The intro was well done, with visual interest and a focus on the roses, both red and white. The acting is very good, and the actors are a good-looking bunch. I know there have been many blogs which focus on the inaccuracies in the sets and the costuming, pointing out zippers and rubber-soled shoes, and railings and glass panes. On the whole for me, just as with so many other programs, the sets are beautiful and the whole program is very visually beautiful, with lush green woods and sparkling water.

I first watched the BBC version of this episode twice on YouTube, prior to the beginning of the series on Starz. The copy was removed from YouTube about a week after I first watched it, for copyright violations. It has been the only episode that I have been able to watch as the BBC aired it, with limited nudity, though the additions of the bare breasts and male backside do not change the story. I have wondered why Starz demanded the changes, unless the publicity those changes garnered were the reason.

This episode is an attempt to explain to the audience how and why Elizabeth Woodville (otherwise spelled Wydville) became the Queen of England. It does not explain the causes behind the Wars of the Roses, other than a bit about Henry VI’s madness. We are quickly thrown into the world of the young widow who is trying to retain her lands from her former mother-in-law. This problem is not explained very clearly, though she repeatedly says how her lands have been taken away from her and her sons, but not by whom or why. Her father, Richard, at one point growles that she didn’t lose her lands, “they were TAKEN from her.” In my opinion, this is her primary reason for standing under a tree waiting for the new king Edward, not sleeping with him or becoming his wife.  As it is impossible to ever know what happens in someone’s head, this of course is up for argument. Philippa Gregory has taken the opposite view in her other books that Elizabeth was standing there to “capture” Edward. Her sons would be a testament to her fertility (“Look! I have already made boys!”), and the morning sun would put a flattering light on her beauty, the better to snare the young and randy king. The details are not known, but what we can say we know beyond a shadow of a doubt is that Elizabeth attracted Edward, and changed the monarchy for good.

The very first thing we are treated to in the episode is Elizabeth’s nightmare, reliving the last moments of her dead husband. Right away, I took issue with this. While Elizabeth’s mother, Jacquetta, held the title of Dowager Duchess and she would end up being the ancestor of the current monarchs, Elizabeth’s first husband was not a high-ranking peer. Sir John Grey was a Baron, the lowest on the pecking order of nobles, and his title was held by his mother. We do not know the exact way in which he died in 1461 at the second Battle of St. Albans, but it is fairly safe to bet that he was not chased away from the battle and beheaded by the king. Why? Because he was not worthy of royal concern. There were far more important people to locate and kill other than a country Baron. There were dukes and earls demanding his attention, especially the Earl of Pembroke, Jasper Tudor, half-brother to Henry VI. Pembroke was a very real threat because of the execution of his father, Owen Tudor (name explanation later in post), after the Battle of Mortimer’s Cross. Finding him would have been a top priority, and one that was not successful. There were other, lower ranking men who would hunt down Grey if he was fleeing, and Edward would be too busy to personally hunt for him. If he had been captured, being just a Baron he would have been held and ransomed instead of executed. There is a difference between Edward’s wrath this early in the Wars, and the bloodiness of later battles, such as Tewkesbury.

This dream is the beginning of a plot that is both in the show and in the books, that Jacquetta of Luxembourg, Elizabeth Woodville and her daughter Elizabeth of York were all witches. That makes for some great entertainment, watching them cast spells and bring up storms, but of course it is completely baseless. Gregory says that she discovered the story that Jacquetta comes from a line of women descended from the water goddess Melusina, and that of course they would have all be highly aware of it in her family. In her books Gregory has Jacquetta being married to her first husband John, the brother of King Henry V and the Duke of Bedford, because he wanted her to use her magic to assist in keeping France under English control (this is the first part of the plot of her book, The Lady of the Rivers). There is no evidence of this, and Gregory takes that to mean that it was deliberately kept secret, or anything that would have shown this was destroyed deliberately. When Jacquetta was charged as a witch, she was released and cleared, meaning that the charge was baseless. Other women, even of the noble class had been charged and found guilty, so there is no reason to think that she was practicing and someone the evidence wasn’t found. Of course this is not historical proof, and the absence of evidence does not constitute proof. Gregory has discussed this in several interviews, and in “The Real White Queen.”

I am much troubled by the removal of Sir William Hastings from the characters. He was the best friend of Edward, following him into exile. Hastings was a “bad boy” who kept up with the King when he was partying and whoring. He was with Edward when he first met Elizabeth, not the Earl of Warwick. His removal will cause problems in later episodes, as other characters try to fill the void his removal has left. Who will take over the care of Elizabeth (“Jane”) Shore when Edward dies? Who will Richard III execute out of nowhere to earn the enmity of the noblemen? We will have to wait and see.

When Elizabeth leads Edward and his gang back to Grafton, Warwick is very, very disrespectful to her mother. Likewise Elizabeth’s father and brothers are disrespectful to Edward until he announces his marriage to Elizabeth. This is not something that would be ignored. The Dowager Duchess of Bedford may have been married to a Baron but since she retained her title she outranked the Earl of Warwick. For him to mock her, to talk down about her husband would be massively insulting. He should have dismounted and bowed to her, but he doesn’t. And for the various Woodville brothers and Baron Rivers to not bow to Edward is unthinkable, as even if they didn’t recognize him as their king he was still the Duke of York. This level of disrespect can be best summed up with the phrase “fighting words.” To treat a person who outranks you in such a way was practically begging for a war. They would have been very conscious of this, and wouldn’t have behaved as such unless they wanted to “throw down.”

…To be continued.

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