If you’re missing ‘Game of Thrones’ badly, look no further. ‘The White Princess’ is here. A forced marriage between King Henry VII and Elizabeth of York leads to the birth of the Tudor dynasty, but here’s what you didn’t read in the history books.
Note: The White Princess is based off Philippa Gregory’s 2013 historical fiction novel of the same name and a sequel to The White Queen.
The year is 1485. It’s been two days after King Richard III was killed at the Battle of Bosworth by Henry Tudor’s army. Princess Elizabeth of York (Jodie Comer), who is also known as Lizzie, is in love with Richard and still reeling from his death. She is promised to the new Tudor King, but Henry (Jacob Collins-Levy) and Lizzie have never met. Now that’s awkward…
At Woodville Manor, Henry’s soldiers have come to fetch Lizzie and bring her back to London. Her mother, Elizabeth Woodville (Essie Davis), quickly hides Prince Richard, her only living son and a claim to the throne, so Henry’s men won’t kill him. Elizabeth tells her son to find Jan Werbeque and pose as his son. She promises to find him and make him king one day.
Lizzie tries to put up a fight against Henry’s men, but Elizabeth remains the epitome of calm, cool, and collected. She knows how to play her cards right, as we saw in The White Queen. Elizabeth stresses to Lizzie that she is not to speak of her relationship with Richard. After all, he was her uncle. Ew.
Traitors & A Forced Marriage
Over at Wingfield Castle in Suffolk, Henry has ordered his traitors to be brought to London. This includes King Richard III’s sister and mother. A very clever Henry has declared that his reign began before the Battle of Bosworth, so everyone who fought against him is deemed a traitor. Henry really wants to see the young Earl of Warwick, Teddy Plantagenet, to decide if he should execute this threat to his throne.
Speaking of Henry, the new king is dashing but a little paranoid. He’s more than a little stressed after gaining all this responsibility. His mother, Margaret Beaufort (Michelle Fairley), is devoutly religious, controlling, and overbearing. She is all up in her son’s business, even taking the Queen’s rooms. While Margaret always envisioned Henry on the throne, he did not. He was practically raised by his uncle, Jasper Tudor (Vincent Regan), in France.
Lizzie and her family are stuffed away in a set of rooms not fit for royalty. Elizabeth stresses to Lizzie that nothing can change her impending marriage to Henry. It’s happening, whether she likes it or not. However, Lizzie’s sister, Cecily (Suki Waterhouse), adds that Henry may not like her and could choose to marry someone else.
The traitors are brought before King Henry. The Earl of Lincoln pledges his allegiance to Henry. Duchess Cecily, the mother of Elizabeth Woodville, refuses to submit. “You are not the king. In law nor in God’s eyes,” she spits at Henry. “And while you may have killed my son and stolen his crown, you are descended from a servant.”
Her other daughter begs her to take back her words, but Cecily remains strong. She’s taken to the Tower. Henry asks if the two York princes — Richard and Edward — are truly dead. His mother says Richard III killed both in the Tower of London, but she is WRONG! Prince Richard lives! Teddy and Margaret Plantagenet, the kids of the Duke of Clarence and the nephew and niece of Richard III, are up next. He’s the last York heir. The young boy says he’ll be king one day, much to the shock of the entire room. This could have been the end for Teddy, but Margaret gets her brother to renounce his claim with a clever trick.
Henry gets upset over Cecily’s words. His mother says it will take time for the people to accept him as England’s king. With Lizzie — a York girl — as his wife, this will only speed up the process. Well, he’s not exactly Lizzie’s biggest fan. He calls her a whore and clearly knows about her romance with Richard III.
Humble & Penitent? Not So Much
Elizabeth writes a secret letter to Jan and sneaks away to take it to Ned, one of the stable boys who is still Team York. She takes off one of her rings and asks him to send it back when he has news from Jan. On her way back from the stables, she comes face-to-face with Margaret. Even though Margaret is the mother of the King of England, Elizabeth refuses to bow. The shade is real!
Henry and Margaret go visit Lizzie and her family. Lizzie catches Henry’s eye the second he arrives. He asks Cecily to dance for him as a dig at Lizzie, but Elizabeth gets Lizzie in there. Once again, their eyes meet. They’ll probably try to deny it, but the pull is real between these two. Margaret gives Lizzie a motto: humble and penitent. Oh, Margaret, Lizzie is none of those things.
Henry goes to Parliament to try and get out of marrying Lizzie. As much as Lizzie doesn’t have a choice, Henry doesn’t either. If he refuses to marry Lizzie, it will be seen as a slap in the face to the York supporters. They urge him to take a mistress, but he has to marry Lizzie. He’s not the people’s king, so he has to do what he can to become a king in their eyes.
Henry and Lizzie have dinner, and it just goes downhill from there. They taunt each other with subtle barbs at the table. When Lizzie makes sexual references to Richard III, Henry drags her to his private room. They both don’t want to marry each other, that much is clear. But they have to produce an heir. Before she sits on the throne beside him, he has to know if she’s fertile. A shocked Lizzie accuses Henry’s mother of telling him to rape her. With no choice for either of them, Lizzie opens her legs for Henry to get it over with as quickly as possible. He does his business and steps back. “I barely even noticed,” she seethes. “I thought about your sister, Cecily,” he retorts. That pushes Lizzie over the edge. She slaps him and runs back to her room.
Noticing an opportunity, Cecily runs to Henry and tries to make a move on him. Girl, you are brave. He shuts her down immediately. “You should show more loyalty to your sister,” he tells Cecily. Burn.
An Heir To The Throne
Margaret begins to notice that Henry hasn’t been confiding in her. Jasper assures her that he’ll open up eventually, but she has to remember that it was just Henry and Jasper for a long time. Margaret doesn’t waste any time moping. She asks for a meeting with Lizzie to declare a truce. Margaret believes that Lizzie is the key to the success of the kingdom by producing a son.
Lizzie, Elizabeth, Cecily are not invited to Henry’s coronation. Henry and his crew didn’t want to risk any York drama. During the coronation, Lizzie discovers she’s pregnant. She asks Maggie Plantagenet to get her some herbs so she can get rid of the pregnancy!
Meanwhile, Elizabeth gets her ring back from Ned. Jan has not seen Richard. Soldiers were ordered by Margaret to execute any boys at Woodville Manor, but there weren’t any bodies there. Prince Richard is still alive!
Elizabeth catches Maggie with the herbs. She immediately confronts her daughter. Lizzie despises Henry and wishes she was pregnant with Richard III’s child. “That part of your life is over now, Lizzie,” Elizabeth says, preaching to the choir. She reminds Lizzie that this baby won’t be all Tudor. He’ll be half York, too.
Elizabeth does take a piece of the herb to poison Margaret’s dreams. She does some witchy voodoo to get under Margaret’s skin. Elizabeth knows Margaret is looking for the bones of the York princes in the Tower. Elizabeth swapped out one for a servant boy. She warns Margaret that Prince Richard will come after Henry’s throne.
The Beginning Of The Tudor Dynasty
Lizzie reveals to Henry that she’s pregnant. For the first time, Henry actually seems excited about something that concerns Lizzie. Margaret declares that the boy will be named Arthur. The wedding must be soon so Lizzie and Henry’s child isn’t declared a bastard. Later, Margaret asks Henry to imprison Elizabeth once the child is born. She claims God is telling her that Elizabeth will poison Lizzie against him. Too late.
Lizzie’s wedding dress is not what you’d ever expect — it’s red and black. “Today I am a whore and a martyr because that is what he’s made me,” she says. “He is my enemy and so is his mother. I will fight him from within my marriage and they will not even know it. I will plot to bring my brother back, or if he is gone another who will kill this monster Henry Tudor. Humble and penitent may be damned. Hidden and patient, that will be my motto.”
Lizzie and Henry get married. They’re left to consummate their marriage in his room. Unbeknownst to most, they’ve already been intimate. He takes out a knife, and she doesn’t even flinch. He cuts her foot to spill a little blood on the bed so everyone believes she was a virgin when they first had sex. He leaves her in bed alone. “Hidden and patient,” she says after Henry walks out of the room.
Lizzie is not to be messed with. She is formidable and strong amidst the back-stabbing and power struggle. Tudors, watch your back. Lizzie is here and she’s not holding back.
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