If you could not tell by my past reviews, I’m a big fan of Philippa Gregory’s books. The basis of this review is the Starz channel mini-series “The White Queen,” which was adapted for television from three of Philippa Gregory’s “Cousin’s War” novels. The books that the show is based on are “The White Queen,” “The Red Queen,” and “The Kingmaker’s Daughter.” Now, this TV series is a few years old, having aired in 2013. However, it is still such a good series that it’s worth the watch.
Warning: Contains historical spoilers! (If you wish to skip the spoilers, look for the all caps text)
The series starts off with Elizabeth Grey, daughter of Baron Rivers and Jacquetta Rivers, waiting for King Edward of York. Her family had been loyal Lancastrians for most of their lives. However, with the death of her husband in battle against the Yorks, Elizabeth was forced to live with her parents, having had her dower lands taken from her by her mother-in-law. She intends to beg the king to intercede on her behalf and get her and her son’s inheritance back. Little did she know that this would set off a chain of events that would eventually lead to the tyrant Henry VIII.
This chance meeting by the roadside grew into the love of the century. Edward and Elizabeth immediately fall in love with each other. They marry in secret, much to the fury of Edward’s main advisor, the Earl of Warwick. Edward declares his marriage and makes Elizabeth Queen of England.
This action causes Warwick to become bitter at his foiled plan to marry Edward to a princess of France. When Edward denies him the permission to marry his daughters Isabelle and Anne to the royal dukes George and Richard Plantagenet, Warwick plots with George and starts a war to remove Edward from the throne and put George on it. This is a battle that continues until the death of Warwick and, later, George (who had married Isabelle behind Edward’s back).
After Edward’s death, Richard declares Elizabeth and Edward’s marriage to be invalid, and thus deligitimizes Edward’s sons Edward and Richard. Richard becomes the infamous Richard III and puts the boys in the Tower of London. Supposedly, he’s the one who killed them, but the show makes it so that we don’t know who really ordered the death of the boys.
Richard’s reign doesn’t last long, for shortly after Anne’s death, Henry Tudor invades. The series ends at the Battle of Bosworth, where Richard was cut down and Henry Tudor becomes Henry VII. He eventually marries Elizabeth’s daughter Elizabeth of York, and they have many children, including the infamous Henry VIII.
REVIEW STARTS HERE.
First off, I’ve been reading the books in order along with the show, first starting with “The Lady of the Rivers,” then “The Red Queen,” and now “The White Queen”. I’ve been trying to read them in the order that the events happen in the timeline, but there are overlaps.
I do have to say that the show follows pretty faithfully to the books, almost down to the line. I love that they are able to pull from all three novels to create a seamless story. We get to see the viewpoint of Elizabeth, Henry’s mother Margaret Beaufort, and Warwick’s daughter Anne. Each of them was a queen in some form, with both Elizabeth and Anne both being crowned and Margaret becoming “My Lady the King’s Mother,” which was essentially calling her queen. Each of the women are strikingly different. Elizabeth is bold and determined to get exactly what she wants. Margaret is pious and certain that her young boy will be king. Anne starts off as a meek little thing but grows into her own. To be fair, as someone who isn’t really big on religion, I wasn’t a huge fan of Margaret, since I couldn’t relate to her intense piety. I felt that I connected more with Anne, feeling intense pity at her first marriage to the Lancastrian prince Edward which was doomed from the beginning. Elizabeth is someone to admire. I loved her fierce love for her children and husband, and never doubted that she would do anything it took to keep them all safe. I did disagree with her demand that her daughter Elizabeth should marry Henry Tudor, but do see that it was the only way to stop the Cousin’s War.
This show has a bit of nudity and a lot of violence, so if you do not like either, I would not recommend this show to you. However, if you do decide to watch it, it’s a very well-made look at the Cousin’s War. I’ve read many books on this era, and while these are very romanticized depictions, it’s a beautiful show that would be a great start to getting into the era.
One thing that sort of bothered me about this show was the lack of Richard’s twisted back. While I completely understand that this was made during or even before they discovered Richard’s skeleton and confirmed his severe case of scoliosis, it still slightly bothered me. I get it. I mean, they didn’t want to do the stereotype of the evil, hunchback king. Heck, most of the time I felt sympathy for Richard (minus the incest that the show portrayed, which isn’t confirmed to be true). They wanted to portray him in a good light. However, after watching the documentary about a team finding Richard’s skeleton, I wanted to see him portrayed more to what we know now is the truth.
If you are a fan of the show “The Tudors” or of this era in particular, I recommend watching this, albeit with a grain of salt. This is not a documentary. This is historical fiction. Enjoy it for what it is.
The sequel “The White Princess” is available on Amazon to rent or buy. It continues the story following Elizabeth of York, her marriage to Henry Tudor, and the constant onslaught of pretenders claiming to be one of the missing princes of the Tower. If you like “The White Queen,” definitely check out “The White Princess.” And, if you get curious, watch the documentary of the discovery of Richard III’s body.
“The White Queen” is free for Amazon Prime members here.
“The White Princess” is available to rent or buy on Amazon here.
The documentary of the discovery of Richard III’s body is available on YouTube here.