The White Queen: Episode 8

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Oh no, Edward is dead. In the power vacuum left by his death, everyone struggles to consolidate their own power.

And, unbeknownst to them, Margaret Beaufort is at the center of it all.

 

I have to say, I really like this interpretation of events. Through a few well-placed words and the pretence of friendship, Margaret has managed to convince everyone to follow her agenda, without a single one of them realizing it. This is a woman who knows how to use the court to her advantage. The shows of politeness, the whispering, the way nobody can trust one another... instead of shouting and cursing and inspiring hatred, she moves subtly and slowly, until everyone is tangled in her web but no one suspects it might be hers.

Richard genuinely seems to want what's best for England and the throne. He wants to be a good lord protector, but he knows that Elizabeth is likely to move against him, and so he must take steps to stop her. Elizabeth and Richard could easily have been allies, but their distrust of one another, and their determination to make a move to protect themselves before the other can act, destroy any potential cooperation, even before Margaret gets involved. Elizabeth thinks that Richard might be an enemy, and so she will not hang around to see if he will be a friend. And in response, Richard is advised that Elizabeth is acting against him because she is devious, rather than because she is defensive and afraid.

We also got to spend time with two characters we haven't really met before, in Jane Shore and Princess Elizabeth. We've seen Jane Shore before in numerous episodes, as Edward's mistress, but she played a pretty silent role, a target for Elizabeth's jealousy and resentment, rather than a character in her own right. Now she finally got the chance to speak, as a woman with even less power than Elizabeth and Margaret who gambled for influence and lost. It's historical fact that being the King's mistress could be an excellent way to raise your family's position and level of influence at court, but that the fall from favor could be swift, especially when the throne changes hands. Fortunes at court rise and fall with the king, and this is more true for the women close to him than anyone else. In an instant, Jane goes from a favorite at court to cast out, homeless and penniless, because she has no position of her own, no security, only favor.

I knew very little about Jane Shore, but a quick Google has actually made her seem one of the most interesting and likeable characters so far. She was the daughter of a merchant, but learned the manners of high-born ladies through her customers. She was Edward's mistress for many years, but never took rich gifts or advantages for herself -- instead, she used her position to help win pardons for those who had fallen out of favor. After Edward's death, she was charged with conspiracy for bringing messages to Elizabeth Woodville, with the consequences we saw on screen.

Meanwhile, the Princess Elizabeth is also given the chance to speak, and she has a lot to say to her scheming mother and her desperation to hold onto the throne. She sees the danger of playing "the game of thrones" (for lack of a better phrase), that it will kill her brothers, and that if she is forced onto the throne, it won't be a moment of victory (as Anne Neville seems to think), but one that will put her and her family at even greater risk.

Of course, that isn't actually the case, but it seems a fairly reasonable assumption, given the court she's grown up in, and the criticism and hatred her mother has received, simply for being a Woodville queen. Fingers crossed she'll have more to say in the future.

And now Richard and Anne are on the throne, the princes are in the tower, and Henry Tudor is preparing for battle. After a shaky start, this show has really come into its own. Can't wait for next week!