Men Go To Battle, Women Wage War – especially in England, and specifically in the new series on Starz – The White Queen. The series is set during The War of Roses which puts it in the mid 1460’s. Two royal houses – The Lancasters and the Yorks will fight a long and deadly war to get their mitts around the Kingship as well as their best man’s ass on the throne.
As the series opens, Edward has just defeated Henry and is the King. To avoid confusion – yours as well as mine, we shall dispense with the Roman numeral designations used to separate the kings. So we will just go with Edward played by Jeremy Irons‘ son Max Irons. We might even give him a nickname – Fast Eddie.
He was fast especially in getting women to sleep with him. In this case, his targeted female is Elizabeth Grey, nee Woodville. She’s played by Rebecca Ferguson. It seems she is a widow, with two young sons, and is now landless as well. About all she has to do is to stand by the roadside, and soon enough Fast Eddie is halted in his tracks by the sight of her. His army and retinue must likewise come to a halt.
Invited back to the Woodville estate for a drink, Edward goes along readily, accompanied by the kingmaker – one Lord Warwick. The army is sent ahead. Elizabeth’s mother Jacquetta, played by Janet McTeer, makes a neat remark to Edward, There’s not a man alive that could ride past my daughter and not stop.
Edward is instantly smitten. After a quick taste of the Woodville ale, he agrees to come back the next day (alone) to pick up Elizabeth’s Writ of Give Me Back My Land.
Fast forward to the next day and then, Edward shows up, accepts the writ, and asks to be shown around the Woodville rose garden. Soon enough, we will hear from Edward, I must have you. I must have you right now.
Whoa, they don’t call him Fast Eddie for nothing.
Nothing happens as they are only strolling in the Woodville Rose Garden, or said in a different way, they’re out behind the bushes. Refused, but not beaten, Edward asks Elizabeth to meet him on Day 3 beneath the big Oak tree. Here his advances are much more forceful, and Elizabeth doesn’t quite fight him off as much as she gets his knife and threatens to slit open her own throat rather than giving in. So it is still a stand-off.
But Eddie has another trick up his sleeve. If you won’t be my mistress, then I will make you my wife. Now that gets Elizabeth’s attention. A hastily arranged chapel wedding is booked for the next day. No media or press or family other than Elizabeth’s sons and Mother are invited. We aren’t sure, but maybe the officiating priest ‘s documentation may or may not be real.
Either way, Elizabeth believes she has legally married. Soon enough she’s installed in Edward’s royal apartments where she immediately makes 3 enemies – Lord Warwick, Duchess Cecily who is Edward’s mother, and a rival – one Lady Margaret Beaufort played by Amanda Hale.
And that is where we are at the end of the 1st episode. The War of the Roses will continue for sometime, likely at least as long as the series, but the series is much more concerned with the intrigues and machinations of the court players which not only includes Warwick, Beaufort and Duchess Cecily, but also include Elizabeth herself as well as King Edward. These seem way more interesting than the killing fields.
So we shall have 9 more episodes of back stabbing, plotting, and royal intrigue and name calling, all hatched around the well, or in the corridors of power, as well as the many bedrooms as this sordid tale plays out. I must say it is visually a treat. Everyone is sparkling clean, wears all the designer threads of the period, and no one has blackened teeth. We see candles a-flutter every where night or day – just think of the cost of all that wax. Let’s also not forget the cost of mounting the project which was actually shot in Belgium and the fair city of Bruges.
Ferguson and Max have at least three bedroom scenes in this the 1st episode, with more to come. Nudity occurs about once every 15 minutes. As I said, the show is visually delightful, but the writing isn’t anywhere near as good. As for historical accuracy, I’ll pass on that one. This is a BBC/ Starz drama not the History Channel. Nor is it the Britannica or even the Wikipedia.
I’ve always been a fan of these types of period dramas and I can rattle off a lengthy list of the ones I’ve seen beginning with the 1938 Adventures of Robin Hood, A Man for All Seasons, Beckett, Anne of the 1000 Days, Braveheart, The Other Boleyn Girl, the two Elizabeth films that starred Cate Blanchett, the Kevin Costner Robin Hood film, and the Russell Crowe Robin Hood.
I mean most of the above were good, or better, but none can compare to The Man for All Seasons for the brilliance of the writing, or The Adventures of Robin Hood for its wit, its action, and wonderful Errol Flynn was as Robin Hood.
I mean to this day, I can still see in my mind’s eye, Flynn as Robin Hood entering that Beer and Boar fest (The meeting of the Barons) at Nottingham Castle otherwise known as the home of Sir Guy Gisborne . With a slain deer draped around his neck, he marches right in and dumps the deer’s carcass right on the table straight in front of Prince John. Just as all the king’s men make ready to capture Robin, Prince John puts up his hand.
Let him approach. By my faith, you’re a bold rascal, Robin. I like you.
Of course this Robin Hood adventure was set nearly 300 years earlier than the setting of The White Queen. Additionally, the days of Robin marked the strife between the Saxons and the Normans, rather than the Lancasters and the Yorks. Also, for those of you keeping track, Prince John had to use terms like ‘saucy fellow‘ and ‘bold rascal‘ because the expression dirt-bag had not yet come into vogue
I don’t think we are going to get too much in the way of brilliance from The White Queen. More likely we’ll see some serious intrigue and many bedrooms scenes with the sounds of passion and some bare skin as the main highlights. With a little magic tossed in for seasoning.
Unlike Game of Thrones, which is all fantasy, this show will have some factual history in it. But unlike The Adventures of Robin Hood, there will be little in the way memorable action sequences or characters we will love. Elizabeth will be at the center, but this Liz is a simply a gold digger, at least so far.