This is a depiction of one of the most brutal times in English history: a tale of romance, deception, betrayal, politics and murder, told through the eyes of three ruthless women: Elizabeth Grey/Woodville (Rebecca Ferguson), Margaret Beaufort (Amanda Hale) and Anne Neville (Faye Marsay). In their quests for power, they will scheme, control and enchant their way onto the throne. Before the Tudors, England was in a civil war, the Wars of the Roses: a dispute between two factions of the same family, The House of York and The House of Lancaster.
York’s Edward IV (Max Irons) is crowned with the help of his chief spider, Richard Neville/Lord Warwick AKA The Kingmaker (James Frain). But when the young king falls in love with a commoner, the daughter of Lancastrian knight Sir John Grey, Warwick’s plan to control the king falls. A violent, barbaric, political struggle begins between Elizabeth, Lady Beaufort and the Kingmaker’s daughter, Anne Neville, pieces in one of the greatest yet violent games of chess England has ever seen, with each piece yearning for the crown.
I’m not fan of sovereignty and royalty, or what they stand for, but I find these historical royalty-centric period dramas incredibly invigorating. Vintage period dramas are my cocaine, and The White Queen is just one more in a long line. Based on the Cousins’ War book series by Philippa Gregory, BBC’s adaptation holds up. From the beginning, much akin to her books, the BBC have made these historical figures more than just caricatures. In both the books and television series, these figures have been brought to life in a wonderful fashion. In all aspects, this show wins and it is certainly binge-worthy. It’s not a show to watch weekly.
Essentially, it’s a ten-hour film and it’s one of the best limited series of the decade. I think it’s interesting to see how love, sexuality and lust can dictate decisions that affect the welfare of a nation. Women have many powers and it’s intriguing to see how they wield that power against those who seemingly hold more (men). Power is a social construct and the crown does not give you power. And our female characters exploit this illusion for all it’s worth. Elizabeth is intelligent, but her mother Jacquetta Woodville AKA The Lady of the Rivers (Janet McTeer) is smarter still. Love can co-exist in this world, opposite its enemy immorality. Though, this series shows that it cannot last. Power is the ultimate gain, and love does not give you checkmate.
Like many historical dramas, it is made to entertain, hence it is not a history textbook. It’s based on historical fiction! People needn’t take shows like this as fact. Much akin to Wolf Hall and Outlander, it achieves what it sets out to do, entertain! Riddled with angst, violence, sex and peril, The White Queen is certainly an unconventional show for the BBC (at the time of its release). The more time that passes, the less conservative the BBC becomes. They’ve come a long way since Pride & Prejudice (1995).
The White Queen is no small feat and the cast with the crew have done a solid job in both the aesthetic features, acting and storytelling. Philippa Gregory’s novels, especially the Cousins’ War series, were an inspiration to me. They’re the books that actually made history interesting. My only other encounters of history as a child were in a village private school being talked at by a teacher about how Churchill singlehandedly won World War Two… or that’s what it sounded like. From the Woodvilles to the Nevilles to the amazing Amanda Hale as Margaret Beaufort, everything about this BBC limited series is on point.
The Wars of the Roses is one of the most important events in British history. ‘The Battle of Northampton’ plonked Edward’s smug ass on the throne and led him to meet Northampton-born Elizabeth Woodville, a commoner born in the village Grafton Regis. The Cousins’ War is just as much a part England as World War One and World War Two. This show is necessary watching, not only for its performances and such, but more for its historical significance. It happened, historical fiction or not.