The White Queen: Life and Death

p01cyznpPreviously on The White Queen: Margaret of Anjou was finally defeated, Anne was made a widow, and Edward rid himself of Henry VI.

As Richard promised, Anne has been brought to court and now she’s being presented to the king and queen, under the watchful eye of…everyone, really, including Isabel. Elizabeth’s giving off such an extreme chill I suddenly feel compelled to get a hot water bottle, which seems a bit unfair. Elizabeth has to know that Anne really had no say in her own fate here. I mean, we can’t all have witchy mothers who control the future with little charms, right?

Anne begs the king’s pardon, explaining that her father commanded her to marry Margaret’s horrible boy, and Edward being Edward, he readily forgives her, which shocks Elizabeth, because she’s an idiot with the memory of a goldfish. Seriously, why is she surprised? Edward forgave Warwick and his brother, who rose up in open rebellion against him!

Anne pushes her luck and brings up her mother, who is still kind of stuck in sanctuary. Edward’s forgiving mood apparently doesn’t extend to the Countess, for some bizarre reason, so Anne strikes out.

Afterward, Anne catches up with Isabel, who tells her that she’s to serve as Isabel’s lady-in-waiting, which sounds like a huge step down for a former Princess of Wales. Anne ignores that and reminds Isabel that their mother is imprisoned, and that she keeps writing, begging Anne to help her. Isabel says their mother writes to her too, but they need to play their politics smart just now and make a big show of loyalty to Edward. They run into George, who tells Anne that he’s been appointed her guardian. She thinks that’s a joke, since she’s pretty old to have a guardian, but he reminds her that she’s the widow of a traitor, so she needs looking after.

Elizabeth rages about Edward forgiving Anne to her mother, which really makes no sense at all, as I’ve said. And because she’s petty as hell, Elizabeth whines that her mother must begrudge the Neville girls their happy reunion, after their father killed Elizabeth’s dad and brother. So, to keep this straight, Elizabeth now thinks that Warwick’s daughters should be punished for all his sins, because apparently him dying wasn’t punishment enough for her. I’m starting to think that Warwick was right to want to keep this childish harpy far away from the throne. Jacquetta tells her to just get over it already, and Elizabeth squints in confusion.

Anne joins her sister, who’s sitting at her embroidery frame, and asks Isabel if she’s going to have a dowry, in case she ever wants to remarry. Isabel dismissively tells her not to worry her pretty little head about such things, because George is going to take over all their financial affairs. Anne asks what happens to her inheritance if she doesn’t marry and their mother dies. She tells Isabel that it’s clear the Yorks are keeping their mother in sanctuary and Anne under their thumbs so they can control the largest fortune in the country. Isabel refuses to believe it and tells her to shut up already, but Anne will to be silenced, and when Isabel slaps her, she bites back, shoving her sister to the floor. Isabel gets up and coldly sends her sister to her room, telling her she’s not fit to be in the company of ladies.

Margaret whines to a priest in the confessional that she’ll have to make peace with the Yorks in order to bring her son home. She thinks she needs a sign for…something, she’s kind of just rambling here, and I swear that priest is either an effigy or just asleep, and I can’t blame him. They must hate seeing her coming. They’re interrupted by the arrival in the church of Sir Reginald, the underling who brought her news of Stafford’s wounding and is, presumably, some kind of high up official in her household. He apologises for interrupting her prayer and informs her that her mother, Lady Beecham, is very ill. Margaret, as is her wont, drops to her knees, and praises the grace of God. Wow, Margaret. I know the woman was pretty horrible, but all the same…wow.

Because she’s a martyr, Margaret goes to her mother’s bedside, where she immediately tells the old woman she smells like putrefying flesh. Charming. Lady B wearily asks her daughter to just forgive her for whatever Margaret thinks she’s done. Not the best start there, Lady B. You know what she resents you for. Margaret snaps that she sent a child to do a woman’s duty (true—Margaret was married off to Tudor at a very young age and gave birth to her son at 13 years old, which was pretty messed up even by the standards of that time). Her mother says it was God’s will she should bear a Lancastrian heir, and Margaret snaps that she knows that, but I don’t think that made it any easier when she nearly died in childbirth. Lady B observes that Margaret also wanted to have Jasper Tudor, and that she wanted to marry for love and be adored. She chuckles at how Margaret’s saintliness must be at odds with her vanity (wanting to be loved is vain?) and tells her daughter she should be grateful, because Lady B saved her from herself. Amazingly, Margaret does not smother the woman with a pillow. Instead, she seriously tells her that God will take her soon, and as soon as he does, she will be reborn. And with that, she leaves.

Elizabeth goes into her husband’s study, where she finds George cuddling her son. She wastes no time taking him and sending him away with the nurse, and George resentfully takes the opportunity to share the news that the boy’s soon to be sent away to Ludlow Castle in Wales, to start his own household, which was highly common practice at the time (and after). But Elizabeth—say it with me—is surprised by this, and Richard has to wearily tell her that the young prince of Wales needs to be in Wales. Elizabeth insists on appointing his guardian at least, and though the men seem to think this is a poor idea, she stomps out before they can really object.

Anne tries to go see her sister, only to find the door blocked to her.

Elizabeth watches the royal brothers playing in the courtyard and sulks and complains about George to Jacquetta. Her mother sensibly tells her that when she married into the royal house, she married their customs as well. Elizabeth complains that Edward’s been distant ever since he came back from war, but Jacquetta knowingly says he hasn’t been too distant, because apparently Elizabeth’s pregnant again. She suggests Elizabeth chill out and go tell her husband the happy news. Elizabeth gets up and rushes off to do just that, but in Edward’s room, she finds him in bed with a comely young blonde. Wow, he managed that quickly, considering he was just playing with his brothers in the courtyard not two minutes ago. They spot Elizabeth and she rushes out.

She later tells her mother and Anthony about the blonde—Jane Shore—whose name is all over the court these days. Jacquetta—who is clearly over her daughter’s sulky naivete, joins with Anthony in telling Elizabeth just to look the other way. Elizabeth insists that this woman’s different, and that Edward cares for her, which apparently she could tell from the few seconds of coitus she caught.

Margaret writes a letter to Jasper, telling him that she’s all free and clear now she has no husband and no mother. She offers to come and join him abroad.

Anne finally manages to get in to see George and Isabel and asks to go see her mother. They refuse her permission.

Anne returns to her room, where she eats alone and receives a letter from her mother, castigating her for failing to help her.

Isabel goes to see her husband and ask for permission to keep Anne by her side, so she can make sure she behaves herself. George shortly tells her that Anne will not be joining them for whatever festivities are coming up. Isabel says she doesn’t mind if Anne comes, but apparently George does, and he tells her to just leave it, because they can’t have Anne saying crazy things about being imprisoned. Isabel backs down and asks only if Anne may attend chapel. That she may do.

As Edward and his brothers pass in the hallway, Anne bows to them. The others continue on, but Richard pauses, and Anne immediately accuses him of having brought her to prison, instead of helping her, like he said he would. Keeping her locked up was apparently not his intention at all, and he asks her to meet him later, in the yew garden, so they can talk.

It’s Christmas, so I guess those are the festivities George was talking about. Jacquetta, who’s looking worn out, dozes by the fire as Elizabeth comes in and asks her if she’s feeling all right. Jacquetta admits that she’s a bit tired and might sit out the party. Elizabeth offers to call the physician, and Jacquetta lays it out: she’s got some sort of heart murmur and knows her days are numbered.

In the great hall, the courtiers are dancing as Edward and Elizabeth enter, she clearly still reeling from her mother’s news. She takes note of Isabel, and Anthony, and Jane Shore, who’s there all blonde and pink and pretty and looking an awful lot like Catherine Howard in The Tudors. Elizabeth stares creepily and obsessively at her.

While they party, Anne goes to the chapel and prays. After a while, she gets up and sneaks out to the garden, where Richard’s waiting for her. He begs her forgiveness and swears he had no idea what George intended for her. Anne asks him what the hell he’s been doing for the past six months, while she’s been shut away. He says he kept asking about her, but was always given some excuse, usually illness related. And then George said she was too deep in mourning for her husband to be seen, but Richard knew that was a lie, so he figured something was up. Anne tells him about George’s plan to keep her locked up so he can control her fortune and Richard looks both ashamed and unsurprised. Anne adds that her sister’s colluding in this, that she and George are just trying to break Anne’s spirit. Richard advises her to keep her head down and pretend to be friends with George and Isabel for a little while, while Richard tries to get a chance to talk to his brother Edward on her behalf. Anne asks him why he’d do this for her and he actually responds with ‘why do you think?’

Jacquetta’s in bed, being attended by Elizabeth. And by ‘attended’ I mean she’s comforting her daughter, who’s weeping, and using up the last of her energy reserves to do so. Nice, Elizabeth. Elizabeth asks her mother to tell her future and Jacquetta tells her she’ll have another son, and he’ll be great. Elizabeth begs her to stay, as if Jacquetta has any control over such a thing, but Jacquetta seems pretty much ready to go. Elizabeth says she’s not ready, and she’s really doing a marvelous job of making this all about her. Jacquetta tells her that nobody’s ready.

Jasper sends Margaret a letter telling her it’s not at all necessary for her to join him. Ouch.

She rebounds immediately by going to Sir Reginald and telling him she plans to marry into the York house, and she needs him to go to court and make inquiries. She suggests he approach Richard and the startled man agrees. Just before he leaves, she asks him what else might be mentioned that could result in a match, and he asks if she has anything besides a handsome bank account that could recommend her. She stiffly tells him that he can put the word about that she’s had ‘saints’ knees since childhood.’ Oooooh, too many easy jokes there.

Anne takes Richard’s advice and goes to Isabel to start buttering her up, which she does admirably. And Isabel falls for it like a stone and gives Anne permission to leave her room more often.

In the courtyard, a hunting party is getting ready to head out. Edward’s showing Jane some new bow, while Elizabeth gives them the gimlet eye from a distance. Anthony joins her and asks if Edward’s relented over sending the baby to Wales. He has not, but Elizabeth’s made up her mind to have Anthony be the boy’s guardian. He doubts the Yorks will agree to such a thing, but she says they’ll just have to.

The hunting party moves out, and while they’re on the road, Anne notes Sir Reginald putting Margaret’s suit to Richard. Once they return, Richard falls into step beside her and tells her what Reginald was talking with him about. Anne sneers that Margaret is ancient, ugly, and fanatical. Wow, Anne. First, Margaret was only about 28 years old at the time, and while she wouldn’t be winning any beauty contests, she wasn’t a hag, either. As for fanatical, well, you may have her there. Richard laughs and tells her that Margaret’s also superrich. Anne now sneers at him for being so venal and tells him that, if she wasn’t a prisoner, she too could marry whomever she chose. She guesses he hasn’t had a chance to talk to Edward, and he reassures her that he will, but she’s done relying on other people.

Inside, Anne runs into George and asks him for a word. Right in the hallway, she asks him for some clarification of her position, and also wants to know what the procedure would be if she wanted to marry again. He hems and haws and is soon rescued by Isabel, who interrupts to try and hustle Anne away. But before they can go, George suggests sending Anne away to live in an abbey. Wow, did that ever backfire on her. Anne begs Isabel for some help here, but Isabel just tells her to go to her room and sweeps away.

Reginald reports Richard’s apparent refusal to Margaret and suggests a replacement: Lord Stanley. She laughs  at the idea, because Stanley’s a turncoat who used to be a Lancastrian who turned to the York side once it was clear they’d win. Reg tells her that Stanley and his brother have a system: one of them remains on each side, so no matter what the outcome, their family’s allied with the winner. But, also allied with the loser, right? How long do they honestly think they can keep that up before one of them either gets kicked out of court in disgrace or beheaded? Margaret is unconcerned with this possibility and tells Reg to go ahead and arrange a meeting. Reginald adds that news about court has it Jacquetta’s not expected to live out the week. Margaret can’t believe that the great witch could possibly ever die, and because she’s pretty morbid, it makes her happy.

Elizabeth cuddles her mother in bed while Anthony looks on from a slight distance. Elizabeth offers to stay with her mother all night, but Jacquetta sends Elizabeth off to spend the last night before her confinement with her husband. Historically, she wouldn’t be doing that at all—no man of status had sex with a pregnant woman because it was thought to be unhealthy for the baby and could cause miscarriage.

Richard plies George with wine and asks what his plans are for Anne. George asks why he’s interested and Richard turns the question back on George, who simply warns him to stay away from Anne Neville. Instead, they should focus on the problem of Elizabeth appointing Anthony the prince’s guardian. Speak of the devil, in Elizabeth comes. George meanly tells her that, if she’s looking for Edward, he’s with Jane Shore. Richard gives him a ‘you little shit’ look after Elizabeth leaves.

A servant brings Anne her dinner, and she hastily dashes off a note to Richard, asking him to meet her in the garden.

Later, Anne sneaks out, with some difficulty, since she manages to run into George, and then finds nothing but locked doors. But she finally manages to get outside and finds Richard waiting. She quickly tells him that George plans to put her in a nunnery. Again, he’s not surprised. He warns her that George won’t hesitate to do what he’s threatened, and running away might be her only salvation now. Anne’s ready to go, whatever it takes. Richard asks her to marry him, and Anne immediately guesses he just wants her fortune. He admits it’s true that marrying her would make him rich, but she’d gain as well through the marriage: she’d be a royal duchess, and he’d be a true, loyal, and loving husband. She asks if he really loves her and he says he does. She accepts his proposal, and they kiss and it’s all quite sweet. Also, surprisingly sexy.

As they walk back to the castle hand-in-hand, Isabel goes to her sister’s room and knocks unsuccessfully, finding her sister missing.

Reg has set up the meeting between Margaret and Stanley, who’s played by Rupert Graves, which also gets a little bit of a squee! from me, because I rather like him. They quickly get down to brass tacks: this will be a marriage in name only. Margaret wants a position at court. Stanley’s cool with all this—he already has sons so doesn’t need more, and he rather likes the idea of being stepdad to a possible future king. He does tell her that Jasper will have to remain in her past, and that she’ll have to serve the house of York faithfully, with no eye rolling or unpleasantness. Margaret’s face twitches even more than usual at the thought, but she agrees. So, I guess it’s a marriage, then.

George runs to Edward and tells him that Richard’s run off with Anne. Edward laughs, because it’s pretty rich for George to be complaining about someone marrying a Neville without permission. And wouldn’t you know it, in comes Richard to ask Edward for permission to marry Anne. Before Edward can make a ruling, Elizabeth’s sister arrives and tells him that the baby’s coming early, and they’re afraid Elizabeth won’t make it. Edward rushes off to be at his wife’s side, which, no. I’m sorry, I try not to be one of those people who obsesses over anachronisms, but this is a bit absurd. Men most certainly did not enter the birthing chamber at this time. Not royal men, certainly. Actually, no man attended a royal lady while she was in her confinement—all the duties that normally fell to men were given to women for the time. It just wasn’t done. And it would have almost been considered obscene for a man to even want to be around his wife at such a time.

All right, rant over. Elizabeth delivers a baby, but it’s unlikely to live. So, she wraps it up and takes it to her mother, laying it in Jacquetta’s arms and asking her to look after it. As Edward looks on, Jacquetta dies, and I guess the baby does too, and Elizabeth collapses in tears. Edward goes to her and embraces her sweetly.

Meanwhile, Richard and Anne and Margaret and Stanley are married. And later, Anne gets to have a much better wedding night with her second husband. Margaret, instead, has a rather awkward encounter in the hallway with her husband, she unsure how she’s supposed to spend the evening. He laughs, pats her on the shoulder, tells her not to worry, because he intends to respect her wishes, and bids her goodnight. Margaret gets a look on her face that suggests she’s already regretting those wishes.

Isabel goes to see Anne, now her sister-sister-in-law. She apologises, and Anne, taking a page out of Edward’s book, immediately forgives her. She also says she wrote to her mother, telling her of the marriage, and the countess sent back a curse. That seems…really stupid, seeing as how Anne’s finally in a position to be of some help to her. Why would she do that? Isabel tells Anne she doesn’t need their mother’s blessing, because she has a loving husband and a sister who will never let her down. Anne tells her they’re going to live at Warwick Castle and asks Isabel to come visit them. Isabel promises and they hug and cry.

Elizabeth and Edward lie in bed together, he trying to comfort her a bit by saying that her mother and the baby are together at least. She takes this as an opportunity to castigate him for cheating on her, after she stood by him, no matter what he did. He’s surprised that this has been bothering her so much, but she insists that he seemed like he loved Jane, and I don’t know what the hell she’s basing this on, but frankly, she needs to chill the heck out. I’m not saying adultery is fine or anything, but it was pretty much expected of kings at the time, and it’s not like it was some sort of secret. As long as their husbands were discreet, dignified wives were expected to look the other way, and they mostly did (in fact, Elizabeth in the book did—I don’t remember any of this nonsense). What’s she so worried about anyway? What does it matter if Edward loves Jane or not? It’s not like it was considered feasible at the time for a king to divorce his wife and marry his mistress, that was still a couple of generations off. So chill the eff out, Elizabeth. Edward insists that Jane couldn’t possibly take Elizabeth’s place. She reminds him that he spent the last night before her confinement with Jane, not her. Edward reminds her that she knew he was a horndog when she married him. Fair enough. But he still loves her lots and she’s what keeps him going. She accepts that and forgives him, because that’s what they do in this family.

Margaret arrives at court, ready to take up her new duties, and finds Elizabeth in the courtyard, introducing her baby son to his new pony. Elizabeth catches sight of her, smirks, and kisses her son, which seems like an unnecessary slap at a woman whose son has been in exile for some time now. But like I’ve said, Elizabeth’s petty as hell.

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