Previously on The White Queen: Edward died, and Elizabeth fled to sanctuary but was forced to give up both her sons (one to the Tower, the other to secret exile). Margaret started working to put her son on the throne, and Richard named himself king, to Anne’s delight.
Richard has Stanley, Buckingham, and Brackenbury lined up in front of them so he can thank them for their loyalty. Brackenbury is named Constable of the Tower, Buckingham is Lord Chamberlain, and Stanley is Lord High Constable. Not a bad deal for any of them. Margaret certainly looks pleased. Stanley also gets the Order of the Garter. They all swear their loyalty to Richard.
Afterwards, Anne reassures Richard that the country will grow to love him. The south is a bit slow to get on board with this particular bit of usurpry, but she’s not stressed about it, because they have the north and soon the south will fall in line. And once that happens, they’ll invest their son as Prince of Wales and have a whole new dynasty the likes of which even her father couldn’t have imagined. She swears that nobody wanted that icky Rivers prince on the throne anyway. Richard kisses her hand and goes about his business. Margaret steps forward and comments that nobody ever mentions the two princes in the Tower or Elizabeth in the Abbey. Anne snaps that nobody is allowed to mention them, but that doesn’t mean they are forgotten.
At the Abbey, Elizabeth bitches about the coronation bells ringing endlessly and angrily says that England will never accept this new king. Lizzy asks if her mother’s received any letter from Prince Richard. She has not. Lizzy’s in a mood and caustically remarks that he may be dead, and maybe they’ll all die, now that there’s nobody to protect them. Elizabeth fiercely tells her daughter that’s not going to happen.
Stanley, looking a bit conflicted, is joined by Margaret. He tells her he’s received word from Buckingham, laying out his terms for betraying Richard. Margaret promises to pass the word along to Elizabeth and they can get to work busting the boys out of the Tower. Stanley tells her that the boys are a bit of a problem, because even though they’ve been declared illegitimate, the people still support them. And that means they won’t support Margaret’s son, Henry.
In the Tower, the boys play chess in their room. Anne shows up and asks Brackenbury for a chance to see the kids briefly. He opens the peephole and she peeks in. He asks her what’ll happen to them and her answer is essentially: I have no idea. The people still support them, but she can’t very well wish them dead, since they’re kids and all. Brackenbury reminds her that boys grow up eventually. Anne stiffens her spine and says she does want them dead, then, because otherwise she and Richard will never be safe.
Margaret’s doctor pays a visit to Elizabeth, who tells him that Richard promises the boys will be returned to her and she’ll be allowed to live in peace in the countryside if she leaves sanctuary and goes off to some estate somewhere. She doesn’t trust him, though, and won’t agree to anything unless her sons are given to her before she leaves sanctuary. The doctor warns her that Margaret thinks Richard is playing Elizabeth. He also tells her that Buckingham is prepared to turn against Richard and attack the Tower. Elizabeth cannily asks what Buckingham’s price is for this betrayal. He asks for Prince Edward to marry his eldest daughter, and he wants to be regent until Edward’s of age. And Margaret wants her son Henry back in England, married to Lizzy, and named heir after Prince Edward. Is Prince Richard being totally overlooked here? The doctor tries to sell it by reminding her that this means her daughter could be queen and the marriage would unite the houses of York and Lancaster and end all this strife. Elizabeth agrees, as long as her remaining son can go along on the rescue mission to make sure nothing untoward happens.
Margaret writes to Henry and Jasper, telling them all the news. They receive the letter while watching some of their men train. Margaret smiles almost giddily as she writes.
Later, she’s joined by her husband as she prays. Stanley tells her he’s selected the men who will join the attack on the Tower, and now he wants to know what she wants to do. She replies that her will is God’s will, which is kind of a cop-out answer. He clarifies: does she really want these princes to come out of this alive? She reminds him that Elizabeth’s son, Thomas, will be along, so it’s hard to put a toe out of line. Stanley airily says he can be killed off just as easily and points out that getting rid of the boys puts Henry two steps closer to the throne. Margaret’s face twitches and she remembers that she brought Richard miraculously back to life herself. Stanley says that war is hard and she needs to make a decision here. She’s obviously reluctant to order the deaths of two young boys and Stanley laughs at her for being softhearted, then shouts at her to choose: save or slaughter. She picks slaughter. Stanley smiles, a bit creepily. She looks like she’s going to be sick.
Stanley’s son, who’s a young man, reports to his father that the men going to attack the Tower are ready. Stanley tells his son to wait until they’ve reached the gate, then send a message to Brackenbury, telling him of the attack. This is essentially to cover his ass, in case things go all pear-shaped. Margaret asks for reassurance that this won’t go all wrong, but Stanley won’t give it to her. And to be fair, it’s an impossible promise to make. We’re talking about a handful of men doing a prisoner rescue in the Tower of London. Have you been there? That place was secure.
Thomas Grey visits his mother, along with a loyal family retainer, Sir John. Thomas tells her that they can’t lose, if they really have Henry Tudor on their side. She tells him to just bring her sons to her. Actually, she slips up and says ‘just bring my boy to me,’ which gives away the fact that only one of those kids is actually hers. Not that either of the men seem to notice.
The Tower attack commences, and it seems that the guards were ready for them. The fighting is fierce, and the boys are bundled elsewhere while Thomas shouts for them to be brave and wait.
Later, Thomas and Sir John go to the Abbey and report to Elizabeth that they’ve failed. Sir John recommends a full-on uprising and Elizabeth remembers that Buckingham’s on their side now. Lizzy asks if she really trusts all these new-found friends, who go to rescue the kids and then don’t quite manage it. She reminds her mother that all these supposed allies also feast at Richard’s table. Elizabeth snaps that she can’t choose her friends these days, and she’d partner with the devil himself if that’s what it took to get her kids back. Lizzy sniffs that she thinks her mother already has.
Up north, Richard receives word of the attack from Brackenbury. Stanley pokes his head up and Richard tells him that word of the attack came from his son, and he’s grateful to the Stanley family for their loyalty. In a rather amusing momentary show of loyalty one-upmanship, Buckingham immediately says that the perpetrators must be punished immediately. Anne’s sure Elizabeth is behind this, which is really the only sensible assumption, and I’m pretty sure everyone else would have made it by now. Who else would have the influence and determination to get those kids out of the Tower? She tells Richard that they need to invest their son as Prince of Wales ASAP so there’s no question of who’s next in line.
Margaret prays, asking God if he really wants these kids to live after all. She promises she’s God’s obedient daughter, and if it’s His will that the boys take the throne, she’s fine with that, but she needs a sign right now. Naturally, nothing happens. She weeps.
Margaret hits the road and meets up with Stanley in the middle of a rather lovely birch forest. He immediately accuses her of botching the rescue, like she was the one who planned and executed this thing. Also, how the hell are these people moving between London and York so quickly? Didn’t Stanley leave London just as the attack was getting underway? And why are these two meeting in secret like this? They’re husband and wife, it’s not as if it would have seemed strange for the two of them to speak at any other time. This is just going to seem suspicious if anyone finds out, which is stupid.
Anyway, Margaret tells him that his damn letter was probably what sank this thing. Stanley tells her that Richard plans to move the boys to the north, so they need a new plan, and quickly. Margaret says she has one, but she’s not willing to share it with him, in case he gets the sudden urge to send some more letters. He tells her he risked his neck to have this meeting, so she really shouldn’t exclude him now. She says she’s meeting Buckingham, who has access to the Tower.
And meet him she does. Buckingham asks if she really thinks they should really risk so much to restore these boys. She says they should, if they’re legitimate, but since Richard says they’re not, maybe it isn’t worthwhile after all. She admits she does fear for their lives, and Buckingham asks if she really thinks Richard would murder the boys. God forbid, says Margaret, though it would mean the end of the Rivers line. Buckingham’s cool with that, since he’s still smarting over having had to marry Elizabeth’s little sister many, many years ago. Jesus, man, get over it. And his claim that the child was a ‘yokel’ seems a bit much. The poor little girl was, what, five when they got married? Surely she’s acquired a bit of polish by now? Margaret comments that, if someone else were to murder the boys in Richard’s name, then all the blame would fall to Richard. Buckingham picks up on what she’s saying and continues that the ensuing rebellion to overthrow Richard would leave the throne wide open for someone else: either Henry Tudor or Buckingham. Margaret tells Buckingham he could be king, or he could help put Henry on the throne and revel in lots of royal gratitude and riches. Buckingham accepts in a blink. Margaret accepts his fealty on behalf of her son.
Richard prepares his son for his investiture. The kid says he doesn’t want to be king if it means his dad will be dead. Richard promises he won’t die for a really long time. Anne watches this cute scene from a distance, and then calls them to the ceremony.
Elizabeth thinks back on the day she sent Richard away, and how he swore to come back and avenge her someday. Behind her, Lizzy flings a letter about and reports that the boys haven’t been seen since the raid, and their letters are returned unopened. Yeah, those are bad signs. But Lizzy’s being such a snotty little bitch about it it makes me wonder if she really just hates her brothers or something. She doesn’t actually seem all that concerned, she’s just pissy about being cooped up. Elizabeth insists that the usurper will die and Lizzy turns her wrath fully on her mother and tells her that this is her life too, and her sisters’, and they’re just being caught up in their mother’s madness and determination to have the throne, even though she doesn’t have any idea whether or not she has a boy to put on it anymore.
Elizabeth fetches one of her husband’s old jackets and breathes in his scent, remembering when they were young and having sex all the time.
Thomas comes to see his mother again, this time with a note from Flanders from Prince Richard, telling her he’s safe and well. Elizabeth weeps with joy.
Margaret, stupidly, writes to Henry that the Stanleys’ London house is now the headquarters of their secret rebellion. Jesus, Margaret, please tell me you’re at least employing a code here. She goes on to say that she and Elizabeth are in regular contact, and that Buckingham has been secretly arming and will meet Henry when he lands in Wales. But Henry is to wait off the coast until Richard and the rebels have their battle, and then Henry can fight the victor.
Anne goes to see Richard, who tells her that Henry Tudor has been betrothed to Princess Elizabeth. And how does he know that? Stanley’s totally sold out his wife. Damn, Stanley. That was cold. And, I have to admit, unexpected. Richard is insisting that the Duke of Brittany hand Henry over. He thanks Stanley for his loyalty and Stanley departs. Anne asks Richard why he trusts Stanley, when he’s willing to betray his own wife. Richard reminds her that Stanley did give them some pretty key info just now. She insists that Richard lock Margaret up immediately and he snaps at her to stop bossing him around. He’s afraid that locking up a woman renowned for her piety will only make him more enemies. He calms down and says he’ll have Margaret spied on. And in the meantime, he’ll prepare for war. Great, just what this country needs.
Someone hands a shadowy figure some keys.
Buckingham looks thoughtful.
Brackenbury watches the shadowy figure walk down a corridor. It enters the room where the princes are sleeping.
Stanley wakes Margaret in the middle of the night and tells her that Richard suspects a rebellion and thinks she’s at the centre of it. He asks her if the princes are dead, and she says they are, though she hasn’t seen the bodies. He asks how she’s sure they’re dead and she tells him that she and Buckingham agreed to it. He asks how she can be sure Buckingham held up his end of the bargain and she reminds him that Buckingham would have nothing to gain by these boys remaining alive. There’s a long moment where the two of them stare at each other and she tells him that he’d better be loyal and fight for Henry. Stanley leaves without answering.
Back in York, Richard bursts into Anne’s room and tells her that Margaret’s intercepted letters have revealed that Buckingham is a traitor. He can’t believe it, because he’s given this guy everything he ever asked for. Hmm, kind of like how Edward gave Warwick and George everything, and yet they kept on rebelling again and again and again? Will this family never learn? Richard will now have to postpone his parliament, which disappoints him because he wanted to get a chance to show England what an awesome king he’d be. Anne promises he will, and he’ll defeat this uprising as well. He tells her that the worst part is that Buckingham is spreading a rumour the princes in the Tower are dead by Richard’s hand. Anne asks if they are dead and Richard, who clearly knows nothing about the kids’ fate, insists they aren’t. Anne asks if someone else would have done this, to win favour with him. Richard says he’s written to Brackenbury to check on the kids, and right now, he needs to get back to his war prep. Anne, remembering what she told Brackenbury about wishing the boys dead, looks like she’s going to throw up or cry or both.
Sir John goes to Elizabeth and immediately offers his condolences on the loss of the boys. This is all news to her, and she simply can’t believe it. He promises the rebellion will go on, but now they’re fighting for Henry Tudor. All the pieces suddenly fall into place in Elizabeth’s head and she realizes she’s just been played big time. She fiercely tells Sir John to go back to Kent, raise his men, and destroy Richard and take vengeance for her and her sons. He bows and hastens away. Once she’s alone, Elizabeth slides down the wall and weeps helplessly.
Anne goes to Richard and asks to give him a wife’s blessing before he goes off to Wales to engage Buckingham and Tudor. He kneels before her and she blesses him.
Margaret’s doctor confirms to Elizabeth that the boys are almost certainly dead, and Elizabeth foolishly whispers that Prince Richard, at least, is safe. That confuses the doctor, but she hurriedly covers. She wonders why Buckingham would be rallying men to rescue the boys if they were already dead. Doctor says it’s so everyone would know that it was King Richard who had them killed, which makes no sense whatsoever. It’s almost like he answered a completely different question there. He changes the subject and asks what she meant when she said Richard, at least, was safe. Elizabeth asks him if he’d stash all his valuables together if he was afraid of thieves? Oh, she’s canny, this one. Jesus, Elizabeth, just a second ago you were showing signs you didn’t trust these people and now you’re flat-out admitting that Prince Richard has been stashed somewhere? Not smart. Doctor is shocked, because he heard that two boys were killed in their beds. Elizabeth asks how he could know that much detail and accuses him of having had a hand in this. She screams that he’ll go to hell if he did and he gets the heck out of there. Lizzy joins her and asks what’s happened. Elizabeth asks if she’s heard any noises, the way she did the night Anthony and the other Grey boy were executed. Lizzy says she hears something faint, like a lullabye. Elizabeth tells her about the rumours that Prince Edward is dead, and that it looks like the people they relied on are actually working against them. So, their only hope seems to be on Buckingham and Henry Tudor losing this battle. How do you figure, Elizabeth? They win, well, your daughter’s still betrothed to Henry Tudor, so things could pan out all right for you. At least, they won’t come out any worse than they are right now. But if they lose, you’re still at Richard’s mercy, stuck in the Abbey until kingdom come, which sucks for everyone.
Whatever, Elizabeth’s turning against Buckingham and Tudor and goes to write Thomas Grey and tell him so.
The doctor goes immediately to Margaret and tells her he thinks Elizabeth has Prince Richard stashed safely. He asks Margaret if it’s true that the boys are dead and she only says that they’re in the hands of God, like everyone else. Back inside she goes, while her poor doctor looks like he’s considering demanding a pay upgrade.
Lizzy wakes and finds her mother standing by the window, staring out. She asks where Buckingham and Tudor are meeting and learns that it’s in Wales, where they’ll cross the river. Lizzy says they’ll have to do something, then, and wishes up some rain. And since these women are, absurdly, actual witches, it does rain. A lot.
In York, Anne reassures her son that his father will be home soon.
Elizabeth and Lizzy observe that Buckingham will be waiting, but Henry won’t be able to sail in such bad weather. Sure enough, we see Henry looking at the gathering clouds and cursing his bad luck.
Anne receives a letter from Richard, who tells her the march is going badly, what with the awful weather.
Lizzy guesses Buckingham will be forced to fight Richard alone, and Elizabeth guesses that men will start deserting in the bad weather.
Buckingham writes to Margaret that he can’t win against Richard with these numbers, and now he’s a hunted man. As soon as she receives it, she starts gathering up all her incriminating letters. She burns them, which she really should have done as soon as she received and read them. I can’t believe she was dumb enough to hold onto those after she’d already been searched and had a close call once.
Richard, meanwhile, pays a visit to the Tower and searches for the boys, but of course, they’re nowhere to be found. He somehow meets up with Anne, who I guess is now down in London for whatever reason. She urges him to have the traitors executed, but he’s still obsessing about the missing boys. She thinks Elizabeth witched them away and tells him to drag her out of sanctuary and punish her. She begs him to name the traitors and execute them so he can start being a great king and they can be happy. Richard goes on to say that the guards say the boys were put to bed, and in the morning they were gone. He guesses Buckingham was behind this and coldly says he’ll execute the man for ruining his good name and his peace.
Sure enough, Buckingham is dragged to the scaffold. Way to help make your baby sister a widow, Elizabeth. The widow of a traitor, no less.
Stanley goes to Margaret and tells her that Richard knows she’s been working with Elizabeth. That’s treason, punishable by death. Margaret shrugs that if Stanley’s on Richard’s good side, everything’s fine, right? Wrong. Stanley tells her that Buckingham’s been executed, and if she hadn’t heard that by now, she’s really, really poorly informed. Margaret pales and gasps that she could run away to Brittany. Stanley, however, has other plans. He’s been named her jailor, and all her lands and money will immediately go to him. Woah. Margaret immediately realizes that Stanley led her into this trap so he could get his hands on her wealth. That’s some serious chessmastering right there. Stanley coolly tells her that her servants are being dismissed and she’ll remain under house arrest in the countryside. She’s not to meet up with anyone. And really, she should thank him, because he saved her from a traitor’s death. Oh, and in the future, all her letters will go through him. I think we could have assumed that.
Richard goes to see Elizabeth, who allows him in, probably out of an intense sense of curiosity. He immediately asks her if she has Edward and Richard hidden somewhere and promises that he won’t hunt them down, he just wants to know if they’re safe. She says they aren’t, and he swears that the rumours are false—he didn’t kill the boys. He reminds her that when he and Edward killed the old King Henry, they displayed his body so everyone would know that his line had ended. Why not do the same now? Well, I’d say it’s because you’re terrified of a massive backlash-fuelled uprising that wouldn’t really have been a threat back when an enfeebled, lousy king was done away with. But that’s just me. Elizabeth believes Richard. He tells her that he’s sorry for her loss and that she has nothing to gain by remaining in sanctuary. He’ll make an agreement with her, to allow herself and her girls to come out of sanctuary. But Elizabeth will have to remain under house arrest, because he can’t have her becoming a figurehead for some other rebellion.
Lizzy and her younger sister, Cecily, appear, and Richard observes that Lizzy’s grown quite beautiful. Hmmm. Elizabeth sends the girls away, but before they go, Richard insists to them that he didn’t kill their brothers. Elizabeth promises to curse whomever killed her sons. Lizzy chimes in that they will both curse them, down the years, until all their sons die out. Is this supposed to be some sort of witchy explanation for Henry VIII’s lack of sons and the eventual end of the Tudor line? Because if so, these women’s curses aren’t terribly effective when you consider that, technically, a descendent of these people still sits on the throne to this very day. And clearly having boys is no longer any kind of issue. Richard warns them to take care, because their curses last too long and may turn on someone they love. Whatever.
Anne goes to confession and admits she’s afraid she’s done a terrible thing. She still thinks that her words condemned the boys to death.
Elizabeth and Lizzy go out to the watergate and Elizabeth coaches her daughter on how to cast her very first curse. Awww, little girl’s growing up! They urge Melusina to take the firstborn son, and all the grandsons of whomever had their boys killed. Ok, but it was Margaret who had the boys killed, right? Technically? And Henry VII lived to a ripe old age, and though his eldest son died, his younger son, Henry, also lived to middle age (which isn’t bad, considering all his health problems). Curse fail, ladies. And if this is supposed to refer to Henry VII, then it’s still a fail, because yes, his firstborn died, but not all of his grandsons did. The descendent of one of them eventually became James I of England. Again, fail.
Nevertheless, they burn their curse and set it in the water.
Richard lies in bed, looking depressed. Anne comes to fetch him for his first parliament. He mumbles that Elizabeth has no idea where the boys are and that she promised to curse whoever took them. Anne freaks out that Elizabeth cursed them, but Richard fiercely tells her it wasn’t them, because he would never have killed the boys. Richard goes on to say that Elizabeth is going to be allowed to come out of sanctuary and go to Grafton, while her elder girls will come to court. He wants Lizzy close to him. Squick. Anne asks him what he’s doing, bringing witches to court and reminds him that Elizabeth rose up against him and only ‘God’s rain’ saved him. Richard refuses to speak to her.
Elizabeth receives word that Thomas has made it to Brittany and been welcomed into Henry Tudor’s court. Lizzy snits that at least she doesn’t still have to marry Henry, but Elizabeth has written to Margaret, insisting the betrothal stand. Come again, Elizabeth? Why the hell did you actively work against this guy if you still wanted your daughter married to him, presumably in the expectation that she would be queen someday? You just staved that day off waaay into the future. This woman’s actions make no sense at all. Lizzy is not happy about this, but Elizabeth is still determined to have one of her kids on the throne. Lizzy insists that she won’t marry Tudor, no matter what her mother says. She prays for fortune to send her someone else, then goes back to her game of solitaire or whatever.