I’ve spent the last couple of days immersed in the last twenty years of The War of the Roses, a volatile time in English history, whereupon the death of King Richard III resulted in the end of The Middle Ages and the beginning of the reign of The House Of Tudor. The White Queen is based upon the three novels by Phillipa Gregory, collectively titled The Cousins’ War and individually are: The White Queen, The Red Queen, and The Kingmakers Daughter.
I haven’t actually read these novels (yet), but there are two that bracket these three that I am keen to read asap. The White Princess, which effectively continues this story on and The Lady of the Rivers, which comes before The White Queen. Due to time constraints, I may rely on the series for the middle three novels. Depends how swept up in The Lady of the Rivers I get. I do like Phillipa Gregory so I may just re-prioritise my book commitments. You never know.
Onto the mini-series. There are 10 episodes and it tells the whole story comprehensively. It was released in 2013, so it’s definitely not new and it’s pretty typical of me to discover things after they’ve had their heyday. I really enjoyed this series, particularly how it was all condensed down into one production. My time is so limited, and while I love a good historical drama, I just can’t commit to multiple seasons. The Tudors, for example, took me ages to get through, it just kept going, and while I loved it, I really needed to get to the end. It was taking up too much of my reading time. These ten hours for The White Queen were much more do-able.
The costumes were gorgeous, but one thing I did note, was that the female characters wore their dresses more than once. How refreshing, and probably more authentic to the times than only ever wearing a dress once! I found the complicated storyline really well laid out and easy to follow. The characters all seemed well cast with a few familiar faces popping up. Most notable of these is James Frain, cast as the Kingmaker, Warrick. He was of course Cromwell in The Tudors. He really does do ‘king making’ and treason well. There was also Eleanor Tomlinson, who is of course Demelza in Poldark, and David Oakes, who plays Ernst in Victoria. I like seeing these good actors popping up in other period dramas. A special mention needs to made for the mothers: the dowager Queen who was played by Caroline Goodall, and Queen Elizabeth’s mother Jacquetta who was played by Janet McTeer. Both of these women played their characters superbly, individualising them and giving them a solid presence to every scene they graced.
The three women at the centre of all of this turmoil, Elizabeth (the White Queen), Margaret (Henry Tudor’s mother), and Anne (the Kingmaker’s daughter married to Richard III), were all equally as engaging. I neither loved nor disliked one over the other. They each had a presence, they each roused my sympathies, and they each had their rise and fall. Richard was my favourite in the end. He was so honourable, yet constantly misjudged and rarely given the benefit of the doubt. A reluctant King, he was too far removed from the crown to have ever lusted after it, yet there it was, placed onto his head. He loved Anne, yet her guilty conscience over the disappearance of the two princes in the tower caused her to push him away, disintegrating what had been depicted as a solid marriage. I felt for Richard, so many times, as he lost both of his brothers, his son, and then his wife, not to mention the betrayals he suffered, over and over. I shed a tear for him when he died in battle – nobody else was! More’s the pity. I think he might be my favourite king from history now. Welsh actor, Aneurin Barnard, brought Richard to life well, with his broody good looks. As the episodes progressed, he seemed to become even more handsome – what is THAT about?!
If you haven’t seen The White Queen and you enjoy historical drama, this will not disappoint. If you have seen it, did you enjoy it? I’d love to hear what you thought, either about the series or the books.