This review contains spoilers.
We meet the King this week in the latter stages of his Raging Bull transformation. Two decades on the throne had turned him from a pin-up into a health warning; fat, bearded, and sallow-skinned, Edward was not long for this world. (In keeping with TV’s anchor man dynamic in which men get older but women’s faces are frozen just before they hit thirty, forty-six-year-old Elizabeth’s ageing was economically achieved by someone hiding her Touche Éclat).
The clock had fast-forwarded to 1483 in The White Queen. Edward and Elizabeth’s gaggle of princes and princesses had grown up, as had young Henry Tudor, whose exile in Brittany was approaching its end. To those new faces were added two more, Doctor Who and Broadchurch’s Arthur Darvill as the Duke of Buckingham, and Red Riding and Misfits’ Shaun Dooley as Robert Brackenbury. With its refreshed cast and next generation potential, it’s a pity The White Queen is almost over, especially because it’s grown into the perfect Sunday night viewing.
Once we’d got over all the “Oh look, there’s Baroness Farquingdon whose father supported the Yorkist Earl of La-di-dah and who is now married to Lancastrian Baron Ian of Turncoat, cooee Duchess!” dialogue, The White Queen settled down and got on with the business of royally entertaining us. Its backbiting factions and sulking Dukes made for a choice accompaniment to pyjamas and a glass of wine. It wasn’t taxing, looked intermittently beautiful, and schooled those of us whose history lessons skipped the Roses for more World-y wars with a who’s who of Edwards, Henrys and Elizabeths. Around the midway point, it started to be quite fun. By episode eight, I was very nearly moved by it.
That was thanks to Rebecca Ferguson, who’s been consistently good in the series, and whose grief as Elizabeth made Edward’s death an affecting one. As the King’s breaths became shallower, so did the Queen and her children’s security at court. As tense as a high-wire, and as fraught as, well, a dying King’s chamber packed with factions vying for his position, Edward’s final scenes were intimate, claustrophobic, and buzzing with unease.
Upon Edward’s death, Richard did what any good Lord Protector would by immediately kidnapping his nephew heir (the princes in the tower! I’ve heard of that bit), and gathering his allies. Elizabeth, becoming more vulnerable by the second, took sanctuary once more. So began a series of farcical events to rival even ‘Allo ‘Allo’s history of The Fallen Madonna with the Big Boobies. Accompanying the ‘will they/won’t they?’ crown Prince Edward intrigue were secret meetings between wives and mistresses, police raids, midnight escapes and body swaps, all topped off by a glorious campaign of whispers orchestrated by Margaret “don’t touch my bible” Beaufort. (A personal favourite was the moment Duke Rory came to fetch Elizabeth’s other prince, only to be deterred by his mum having written him a note to get him out of games. “Dear Lord Protector, Richard has a cold and so can’t be kidnapped today. Yours sincerely, Liz.”)
All was prelude to Richard III and Anne’s coronation, at which the Kingmaker’s daughter fulfilled her father’s schemes by taking the throne. Until that scene, The White Queen’s lighting team had insisted the new royal couple’s villainy throughout the episode. Each time the pair appeared, be it to exile Edward’s bit on the side, imprison his sons, or have his brother-in-law executed, they were back-lit like shadowy pantomime baddies. Now bathed in light and up to their elbows in robes, orbs and sceptres, Richard and Anne have finally made it. Long live the King!
Erm, about that…
Read Louisa’s review of the previous episode, here.
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