It is clear that there was not enough money left in the budget to have more than twelve actors in the Battle of Bosworth. A somewhat anti-climatic final battle (because face it, we all knew what was coming) led to an even more anti-climatic ending. The finale of The White Queen was just a whole lot of nothing.
We began with Elizabeth Woodville finally leaving sanctuary and going home. When Margaret Beaufort finds out Elizabeth has made peace with Richard she is horrified, and Stanley taunts her (as is his new fashion) that “God has chosen York and Rivers after all.” Henry remains in exile in Brittany.
Meanwhile, in the yuck area, Richard keeps gazing dreamily at his niece Elizabeth, who has gone to live at court with him. Anne has been turned into a colourless old shrew, nearing the end of her life, wracked with guilt at her supposed role in the death of the Princes. She even accuses Richard of murdering the Princes and lying to her about it after the death of their own son, ever paranoid about “witches curses”. Richard and Anne spend the last few weeks of her life bickering, which would be sad except that I am heartily sick of the both of them by this point.
In the missed opportunities area, the controversial decision Gregory made to include the alleged affair between Richard III and his niece Elizabeth of York played out in the books somewhat differently. In the books, we saw it from the perspective of Elizabeth Woodville, Margaret Beaufort, Anne Neville and finally Elizabeth of York. One of my favourite things about the series is the cross-over of perspectives. The intentions of Richard III were seen differently by each woman – and ultimately remained a bit of a mystery to the reader. Was he really in love with Elizabeth of York, or was he using her to make a fool of Henry Tudor, her betrothed? It was subtly done in the books and clumsily done here.
Brackenbury thankfully absolves poor old Anne of her guilt before she dies, but Richard in his own guilt at abandoning his wife sends young Elizabeth of York away from court. But not after we are subjected to a spot of incestuous snogging. Poor young Liz is stuck with Margaret Beaufort, who is still seething over Liz betraying her son Henry (yes they are still betrothed). After Margaret insists to Stanley she will not bully Elizabeth, Margaret proceeds to bully her.
Did anyone else enjoy the diabolical giggling of Stanley (Rupert Graves) in this episode? I shouldn’t have enjoyed him tormenting Margaret so, but I did.
Onto Bosworth. There is some good tension leading up to the battle. Richard is holding Stanley’s son Lord Strange hostage, and Stanley will not commit to Henry’s side while Richard has his son. “I cannot put your son before mine,” Stanley tells Margaret, who goes all hysterical and begs Jasper and Henry to flee. No one explained what she was actually doing near the battlefield in the first place, but apparently she is going to hang about and wail and such.
Back at Elizabeth’s home young Richard, the son she smuggled out of the Tower, appears for a tearful reunion. He tells his mother he will avenge his brother, but Elizabeth tells him “Vengeance brings only more vengeance and battle brings death. It is done”. It is done indeed, but to who? Cecily has helpfully reminded us that Elizabeth and Elizabeth’s curse will kill young Elizabeth’s first son if she marries Tudor. And grandsons, and so on.
The Battle of Bosworth may have been filmed nicely – there were a lot of good close-ups and they managed to make it violent and gritty – but the size of the armies was just hopeless. I am sure the Battle of Tewkesbury looked far bigger than this. To make it authentically Ricardian, we had to see Henry Tudor looking afraid and secretly wishing for his Mummy while Richard manfully brings down every foe that crosses his path. But then in the thick of the fighting, there is an excellent moment, when Stanley charges down (I am imagining “down” here by the way) and both Richard and Henry live in wild hope that Stanley has chosen their side. We all know how that went down. “For Tudor!” Stanley’s army bellows as Richard begins to scream “Treason!”
Historical note: For those of you feeling misty-eyed that poor Richard was trampled to death by yokels, the recent discovery of his remains shows part of the back of his skull was sliced clean off with a blade, so it would have been quick.
The Wars of the Roses, and The White Queen, is over. Margaret is shouting something bizarre at the sky but I can’t catch it over my loud scoffing at the completely insane look on her face. Then it just kind of finishes. Young Lizzie is scrying in a mirror (one last touch of magic before they leave us) and Elizabeth Woodville tells her “You will be Queen of England.” And we’re done.