Who run the world? Girls! Specifically princesses.
Starz delved into the historical fiction realm with The White Queen way back in 2013. The story of Elizabeth Woodville, queen to England’s Edward IV originated on BBC One and moved to Starz later the same year. Gentle reader, I must confess: I was only able to watch two episodes of that bloated, overwrought and dull series. Apparently Starz could only stomach so much as well; it only ran for a brief 10 episode season and disappeared from view after that.
But along came Queen Elizabeth Woodville and Edward IV’s daughter, Elizabeth of York, to put things right.
Where The White Queen failed, The White Princess more than makes up for its predecessor’s shortcomings. It still tells the story of an English king and queen and The War of the Roses (the Lancasters versus the Yorks). The divergence is in the tension between said king and queen…which was not there in The White Queen.
Elizabeth of York is the white rose: marriageable, eldest daughter of a true York king and one of the loveliest ladies in the land. The problem lies with her betrothed, Henry Tudor. As this is historical fiction, liberties were taken with the actual, factual story. Fiction: Henry Tudor bests the last York king Richard III at the battle of Bosworth. Riding in like a conqueror of old, he claims the throne of England through a v-e-r-y tenuous ancestor of his mother, Lady Margaret Beaufort. Reality: Henry’s army took care of Richard III’s army while he was miles away, safely ensconced at his camp. The v-e-r-y tenuous ancestral thread claim was true in both instances.
The problem with being a foreign king who claims a contested throne is everyone is your enemy. The War of the Roses didn’t end because a Tudor took to the throne-it escalated because a York princess was forced to marry him. Lizzie and Henry are oil and water, fire and ice. She loathes him, he detests her. Lizzie determines to take him down with the help of her mother, the White Queen, Elizabeth Woodville. Henry has the formidable assistance of his mother, the cold and calculating Margaret Beaufort as well as his most trusted family member and advisor, Jasper Tudor, his uncle.
Things begin to change when Lizzie gives birth to Henry’s heir, prince Arthur. The family unit of Tudor takes shape even further when “the spare” is born, prince Henry. The manipulation of Elizabeth Woodville to remove Henry from the throne pushes Lizzie further into ‘Team Tudor’.
The final episodes are filled with intringue, treachery and ultimately death. After a York impersonator (Edward V, one of “the princes in the Tower”) leads an army against Henry, Lizzie is the one to make the hard call to remove all impediments to her son’s future kingdom. It doesn’t matter that she okayed the execution of her feeble-minded cousin Teddy (the Earl of Warwick and a York heir). It doesn’t matter that she okayed the execution of Perkin Warbeck aka Edward V, a man who claimed to be her own brother (and someone she BELIEVED to be her brother). She steamrolled all comers and became a Tudor queen and matriarch.
This was a fun, fast summer binge. I managed to watch the 8 episodes in two days and was ready for more after I finished. 8/10, I definitely recommend.
The White Princess is streaming on Starz online and Starz On Demand