Historical Context: This series takes place during the bloody feuds of England known as the War of the Roses. These dynastic wars were fought between the houses of Lancaster and York for the throne of England.
(Click here to read the introduction to The White Queen)
Episode 1 Recap:
Beautiful Lancastrian commoner, LADY ELIZABETH GREY, is determined to reclaim the land that was taken from her when her husband died in battle. So she goes to speak with the King, EDWARD OF YORK. Edward is bewitched by her at first sight. Or, in the words of Edward’s advisor, Lord Warwick: “The King is fogged by lust!”
But Edward just can’t take “NO” for a “NO.” He tries to force his way with Elizabeth, but that goes awry.
Elizabeth replies: “I draw the blade upon myself. If you come one step close, I will cut my throat and die.” But he doesn’t believe her. He thinks she’s “play acting,” and warns her that he can easily grab the knife from her.
To prove to Edward just how serious she is about killing herself, Elizabeth cuts her throat. Edward looks terrified. She tells him, “I’m sorry if I misled you in my coming, but I will not be your mistress. Don’t doubt my courage, your grace. I am match for any man.”
Edward, feeling like a fool, takes his leave with his tail between his legs.
When Elizabeth accounts of the seduction-gone-awry incident to her mother, we learn that Elizabeth still has feelings for Edward: “He asked me to lie with him and I refused. And if he dies I’ll regret it forever. I regret it now.”
Jacqueline (Correction: Mother’s name is Jaquetta) replies that Elizabeth shouldn’t sell herself so short: “You are a girl from the House of Lancaster. And you live in a country that is divided. You may not fall in love with a York King unless there is some profit for you…”
One day over a meal, Elizabeth’s mother convinces her family that they should go wave the prince and his army off to battle. The mother and daughter exchange discreet smiles. Clearly, Elizabeth is pleased to be given another opportunity to meet Edward. As the army passes the family by, Edward stops to speak with Elizabeth. Despite his vow never to see her again, he confesses that he still has feelings for Elizabeth.
King: I cannot sleep. I haven’t slept since I last saw you
Elizabeth: Nor I.
King: Nor can I eat… ‘Cause of me?
King: So is this love then? Is this what it feels like?
Edward concludes that if he can’t have her as his mistress, then heck, he’ll have her as his wife.
They get married in secret. Edward warns Elizabeth that, for the sake of her safety, until the battle is won she must say nothing of this marriage in the case that he gets killed. So, trusting Edward, Elizabeth is satisfied with their secret marriage.
However, her brother plants doubt in her. He tells her that the marriage was a trick, that Edward has done it before resulting in an illegitimate son. Edward is Warwick’s puppet, after all, and as his puppet he’ll be “officially” married to a princess, not a commoner.
As time progresses, Elizabeth’s doubt grows. In Edward’s letters to her he seems unwilling to announce their marriage even after winning the battle. When they meet, she presses him to tell Warwick about their marriage, but Edward replies with a smile, “We must keep our secret a little while longer.”
But just as we’re led to assume that Edward will marry the princess Warwick has chosen for him, Edward rebels against Warwick’s authority and announces in court that he is already married to Elizabeth. “She is my queen of choice,” he declares.
But this is something Elizabeth’s mother has prepared her for. Jacqueline warned Elizabeth that her marriage is a battle: “The king has done what he should not. He has married another house and a commoner at that.”
The episode ends off with Elizabeth having a “sight.” Her mother demands what it is Elizabeth is foreseeing. And Elizabeth answers that she sees a woman: “There was blood on her hand… I think it was mine.”
DUN DUN DUN!
First Impression: I really, really wanted to like the first episode… but it was a little bland for my taste. As of yet, I haven’t particularly warmed up to Elizabeth – or any other character. It’s only the first episode, though, so that’s probably why. The “sighting” Elizabeth has at the end of the episode is what makes me want to watch more. Because I haven’t read the book, I have no idea who the woman in Elizabeth’s vision is, and why that woman’s hand is soaked in Elizabeth’s blood. I always love a good court intrigue! I just hope this series gets it right, or I’m switching off.
As for its historical accuracy, as I haven’t studied this period too deeply, I actually don’t know. But what I’m hearing so far is that this series will make historians cringe… that doesn’t sound like good news.
Episode Two will air next Sunday. Here’s a preview: