Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Is the White Queen losing her power?

Elizabeth Woodville was queen consort of England for 19 years and according to the history books kept her power for that whole time.  So influential was she that according to some versions of England in the 15th century, her brother in law Richard snatched her two sons who became the Princes in the Tower because he feared her ruling the country through them after the death of Edward IV.  So it was strange to see this fascinating queen reduced to a simpering bystander in last night's edition of The White Queen.

Elizabeth had a lot to deal with but did most of her coping in slow motion with fuzzy edges.  From finding hubby in bed with his mistress to watching her mother die, events rather overtook this feisty woman and turned her from medieval powerhouse to subject of a problem page.  There was none of the steel and grit that makes Elizabeth one of the most mysterious and admirable women in British history.  And none of the scheming and hard edges that let her survive this most turbulent of times.  I do hope she grows a backbone before next week because Rebecca Ferguson is doing a great job with the strange spin she's been given - it's certainly missing some of the grit Elizabeth showed in Philippa Gregory's novel.

Edward wasn't quite so smitten with his wife in this week's installment of The White Queen

But while The White Queen was having an identity crisis, The Red Queen was having a whale of a tmie. Mad Margaret Beaufort decided to get married after being rejected by Jasper Tudor.  With what passes for her heart broken, she sent a very skinny man wtih a strange beard off to court to get her a Yorkist husband so she could turn herself into a kind of crazy Trojan horse inside the enemy's camp.  Her shopping list for potential mate was hilarious and the scene with soon to be hubby number three, Lord Stanley, when they bantered their way to a medieval pre-nup was the highlight of the whole hour.  Rupert Graves and Amanda Hale are more than a match for one another and as Lord Stanley and mad Maggie were the real driving force into getting Henry Tudor on the throne, the dramatic denouement of the series is in safe hands.

Lord Stanley may be just about able to keep mad Margaret Beaufort under control

The Neville sisters, meanwhile, didn't have a great week.  Isabel, out of nowhere, went feral and had half an hour as a mini despot before remembering which show she was in and reverting to type.  Anne, annoyingly called Annie through most of the episode, seemed to be enjoying the most liberating of imprisonments of all time, constantly wandering around castles before being told to get back to her room.  It's a shame there wasn't time to bring to life her story between the death of Edward of Lancaster and her marriage to Richard of York.  The legend that has a Princess of Wales and future Queen Consort hiding as a maid in a London house to avoid being sent to a convent by George, Duke of Clarence is a fabulous tale that needs telling.

She might have ended up as Queen Consort but legend has it that Anne Neville had to do the dishes for a few months to save her fortune and her freedom from her brother in law

But that's part of the White Queen's problem.  There just isn't enough time for all these amazing stories.  The men got far more of a look in this week but they need to if we are to see the full implosion of the House of York that happened in the mid 1470s and which left Edward IV so exposed.  But then to do full justice to that we need to curtail the other big issue which brings us back to Elizabeth.  She is just too nice in this telling of her story.  A little bit of mean would go a very long way to bring this story fully to life.

Let's hope Edward annoys his wife even  more next week so we get a bit more steel from the rose of the House of York

And as we've just lost the marvellous Jacquetta we need something.  She's been the sensible voice of scheming ambition in this show.  Janet McTeer gave another star turn as the ultimate pushy mother fading into ill health and death.  She'll be missed as much as the woman she played was when she left the stage.  Her death left Elizabeth to weave her name into history on her own.  Hopefully next week we'll believe, once more, that she was capable of doing just that.

Jacquetta of Luxembourg, mother of a queen of England and grandmother of a second, took her final bow in this week's episode

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