It’s Stanley against the world! Plotting against Richard, plotting against the Rivers, his wife, Buckingham and his own beard, his delightful duplicity just about steals the show this week. I wasn’t sure whether or not to root for Stanley or feel sorry for Margaret Beaufort as he grins cheerfully and tells her she is under house arrest and her lands forfeit to him. The look of incredulity on her face when she exclaimed “You betrayed me to get my fortune!” was outstanding.
The Princes in the Tower are on everyone’s mind this week. Taking a moment out from swanning about scowling and sniping, Anne Neville stops to check on the Princes, only to have Brackenbury ask her if she would wish them killed. He tells her that she is too tender-hearted when she says no, because “Boys grow into men.” Anne then spits that she does wish it, for she and Richard will never be safe. Meanwhile Elizabeth is sealing a deal with the devil, promising her eldest daughter Elizabeth to Henry Tudor if Margaret and Buckingham will help her get her boys out of the Tower. While Margaret’s surgeon is attending to matters with Elizabeth in sanctuary, Margaret is being tormented by Stanley, as is his new fashion. He tells her that her boy will never get the crown while the Princes are alive. “Save or slaughter?” he bellows at her while Margaret, on the verge of tears, as she is for most of the episode, allows him to goad her into murdering them.
Stanley then nips off to betray her to Richard and foil everyone’s plans. After the first rescue/murder attempt goes wrong, Margaret prays to God for guidance as to why the boys have been saved but conveniently convinces herself that they must be sacrificed, turning to Buckingham to get the deed done. Thankfully we were spared the actual murder, but Rebecca Ferguson put on another harrowing performance to bring everyone to tears when she learns her boy Edward was murdered. When they realise Margaret has betrayed them, young Elizabeth decides it’s time for a spot of witchcraft, and mother and daughter rustle up some rain to keep Tudor from sailing, and lead Buckingham to Richard and his death. Not that anyone had time to get attached to Buckingham.
Richard goes mad after he discovers the Princes are missing (but remember young Prince Richard was thankfully spirited away) and goes to see Elizabeth in sanctuary. “I will not hunt them,” he promises, begging her to tell him if she had them safe. But then he spies young Elizabeth, and is instantly smitten. Oh, and yuck. Seriously. I am sure there is more yuck to come. Young Elizabeth vows to curse her brother’s murderer, while Richard tells her to “take care, your curses last too long. They may turn on someone you love.” Back at the castle, Anne and Richard begin to fall apart at the seams, Anne stricken with guilt that she somehow led Brackenbury to murder them, she and Richard snapping at each other over the Rivers women while he lays sulking in bed. Meanwhile, the two Elizabeths unleash their curse in the moonlight.
If there is one point The White Queen drove home this week, it was the reality of women’s lives in medieval times. We can judge what Elizabeth Woodville “should” have done from the comfort of our twenty-first century lounge-rooms, but we can’t truly feel what she would have felt in those months after her husband’s death. Like an animal trapped in a cage, terrified for her life and her children, her family torn asunder, father, brothers and sons murdered, her choices were few and her situation desperate. Was it truly ambition, or was it survival? Margaret Beaufort watched her life snatched from under her and all of her wealth turned over to her devious varlet of a husband. And Princess Elizabeth, forced to marry the enemy so her family can survive. “I will not marry him,” she insisted “Fortune will bring me someone else.” Perhaps fortune was all they could ever hope for, for there was little else in their lives that was a certainty.