Episode 2 of The White Queen is episode is extremely fast-paced and essentially flies through the 1460s. It begins with Elizabeth Woodville’s coronation…
After witnessing Elizabeth run an emotional gauntlet in Episode 1, Episode 2 opens with Elizabeth firmly on the path to consolidating her position. It’s the morning of Elizabeth’s coronation: she is pregnant and dazzlingly golden in her magnificent pearl and gold brocade gown. Warwick and Edward’s brother George (Clarence) meet up with her to accompany her to her coronation.
Still, despite the lacquered smoothness of George and Warwick’s words, their best wishes are hollow. Worse, Elizabeth unexpectedly learns Edward will not be there to support her on this most nerve-rackingly public day. As was the medieval tradition, Edward is at the abbey and will watch hidden from a distance. Yet, despite her trepidation, Elizabeth’s coronation goes flawlessly.
At the banquet afterward, George, Richard, the Kingmaker’s daughters, and Elizabeth’s sisters all sit together. George tries to charm the Woodville sisters (or “Rivers girls”) by likening them to “fish,” which comes across as, well, slimy. Richard however, warmly invites Anne to sit near him. Richard’s fondness for Anne shines through his piercing pale blue eyes – and we catch a first glimpse of Richard’s feelings for Anne.
While Elizabeth sits on the dais whispering with Edward and caressing his face, the Kingmaker’s daughters whisper about how common Elizabeth is to let herself behave so casually in public.
Warwick, however, cannot enjoy the banquet and only has his diplomatic schemes – the peace treaty with France – on his mind. Edward brushes these off and says they can wait until the next day.
The show cuts to later that night in the royal bedchamber. Before they make love, Elizabeth and Edward discuss how to secure their reign, the dangers Henry VI’s poses, and how the belongings of the former queen, Margaret of Anjou, haunt the royal bedchamber.
The next day Elizabeth and her mother remove the former queen’s possessions from the royal bedchamber.
Warwick’s mood is beginning to sour though and he can’t maintain his false mask so easily. Furious, after learning that Edward may trait with Burgundy instead of France, Warwick commands a man carrying a portrait of Margaret of Anjou “Burn her.” He then turns to Elizabeth and says, “I have no truck with a queen who thought to rule her husband and rule England through him. There’s no need for scheming women” he tells Elizabeth.
A few moments later in private, Elizabeth’s brother Anthony is quickly proving himself valuable to Edward. Anthony informs the king that Warwick is plotting with Louis XI. Elizabeth says, “So Warwick is plotting against you.” Edward corrects her by saying Warwick is plotting for himself. After Edward leaves, Anthony counsels Elizabeth to do the king’s thinking for him. Anthony warns her if she doesn’t stop Warwick, Edward will be ousted from the throne. Elizabeth astutely realizes they will all be in danger.
Sometime later, at an outdoor banquet, Edward, Warwick, the Woodvilles, the French ambassador, and Charles of Burgundy dine together.
Warwick goads George into showing up Elizabeth’s brother in a falconry contest. (History buffs can catch brief glimpses of men calling the majestic falcons withy whistles and see the ribbons used to tie the bells to their feet stream after the birds as they fly. ) George beats John Woodville. To reward George, Edward makes him Earl of Richmond – taking the title away from Margaret Beaufort’s son, Henry Tudor.
Still, this is not enough for the avaricious George, and he replies “And I was hoping for your crown.” Cavalierly Edward spoils George – bestowing a title on him for merely beating somebody in a hunting competition. This scene, however, provides more than just insight into how much Edward spoiled George.
Jacquetta gently reminds Edward, Margaret Beaufort will be upset her son lost his title. To which Edward flippantly replies that Henry Tudor is “nephew to the old King Henry so I must struck it from him.”
In the next scene, Margaret receives word that he has lost the title and is nearly hysterical. We feel her pain as she asks, “Is it not enough… that I cannot raise my son myself?” Even though the boy is barely five years old, she wants to go to her son and give him the terrible news. Stafford points out that her son is too young to understand – something Margaret can’t see at all. Stafford rightly worries about Margaret’s physical and mental state because Margaret is yet again fasting and is thin.
Later, back at the royal court, Elizabeth confronts Warwick because his daughters haven’t joined her household – even though it has been four months since she made the request. Warwick refuses to send his daughters on account that they are just about to be wed. Elizabeth sees through Warwick’s refusal and knows it is a snub. She then seeks her mother’s counsel in the matter. When she enters her mother’s chamber, Jaquetta is using paper dolls to plot marriage alliances with their children. Jacquetta’s advice is for Elizabeth to make her family strong by marriage. Richard Woodville walks in, announces Edward made him treasurer, and Elizabeth goes into labor.
Elizabeth’s sister Mary is at Elizabeth’s side as she gives birth. Much to Elizabeth’s tearful shock the baby is a little girl. Edward tries to hide his disappointment and still seems to be happy. Elizabeth desperately promises sons. Luckily, Edward supportively says they will do okay.
Warwick’s family, however, rejoice that Elizabeth had a girl since this means that Edward does not yet have an heir – everyone assumed that girls couldn’t rule. Better yet, Warwick has captured a great prize and expects the king won’t refuse any request.
Meanwhile, Jasper Tudor’s feelings for Margaret become clear. But, Margaret brushes him off because she is married. Henry Stafford walks in on them but is too upset to notice the intimate discussion. Henry is furious to learn his nephew, the Duke of Buckingham will be married to Elizabeth Woodville’s youngest sister. They’re upset because they feel the Woodvilles – despite Elizabeth being queen – are far too lowly to marry their nephew the duke. (Later in life, Buckingham deeply resented being forced to marry the Woodvilles.)
In the next scene, we see the bizarre medieval phenomena of a child marriage as Buckingham and Katherine stand before the altar and wed. Little Katherine is roughly six and Buckingham is only nine or ten. (Historically, this marriage caused a great deal of upset, and arguably, was one of the events that led to war.) Little Katherine beams but Buckingham is nonplused and rolls his eyes. We see a giddy Elizabeth. The other nobles, however, are seething: Elizabeth’s family have consumed one of the most eligible magnates with this marriage.
But before the insults start flying, Warwick arrives with the great prize: he has captured the former king, Henry VI! Edward is thrilled.
Countess Warwick tips off her girls that Warwick will request permission from Edward to marry his daughters to Richard and George. (Tradition, but not law, dictated great magnates request permission from the king before marrying.)
Meanwhile Margaret Beaufort confronts her mother and asks why her mother married her to Henry Stafford. Her mother spitefully replies she thought Stafford was a better match “and I do not care if you are happy.” Why can see why Margaret hates her mother.
Still at the same banquet, but later on in semi-private, Elizabeth and Edward argue over Warwick’s daughters marrying. Edward reminds Elizabeth that “Warwick is not the enemy.” Elizabeth doesn’t agree. She uses her sex appeal, in a scene that will turn your stomach, to persuade Edward not to permit Warwick to have these marriages.
Meanwhile, Margaret slips away from the banquet to the chapel to pray. Hysterical and weeping, she begs God to learn His plan for her. She pleads that her son may at least have a destiny. Throughout this episode, we are beginning to learn that Margaret has issues – and frankly, after her horrific experiences with childbirth at 13, who can blame her? At daybreak, Henry Stafford walks into the chapel, alarmed. After looking for Margaret all night, he finds her in chapel lying on floor, prostrated before altar.
Later on, back at Warwick’s castle, Warwick is furious. Edward refused Warwick’s request.
That night the kingmaker’s daughters sit on their bed like a medieval slumber party. The girls fret about who Isabel will marry and console each other in their disappointment.
Three Years Later
The story jumps ahead three years. Elizabeth is the woods with her children – joining Edward on royal progress. Elizabeth is surprised to be met by her brother and father in the forest who warn her Robin of Redesdale has instigated a rebellion against Edward. They inform her that Warwick paying the rebels: “thousands of men in arms under Warwick’s orders.” Warwick is “king making again.” (Robin of Redesdale led a rebellion in the north of England in April 1469. The rebels were openly critical of Edward’s government and wanted Elizabeth’s family removed from power.)
Isabel, decked out in rich brown velvet damask flecked with gold, gets married to George. As the two girls prepare for the ceremony, Anne is upset. She claims this is not because she didn’t get Richard, but she rather because wanted to be a duchess. Poor Isabel’s wedding seems cold. Her father brusquely tells her “Come let’s get this done.”
George and Isabel consummate their marriage and we see the horrors of medieval arranged marriages. George dispassionately consummates the marriage by lying on top of Isabel. Isabel is fully dressed in a white nighty and looks like she is tolerating it through gritted teeth. After, Isabel earnestly pleads to George she only wants to make him happy. George then reveals the true purpose of the wedding. Isabel runs into Anne’s bedchamber and pours out her heart: Isabel’s wedding was never for her at all. It was a sign from father men should rise against him.
The action switches again to Edward’s court where Edward is explaining the situation to Elizabeth. Edward rants over Warwick’s disloyalty – Edward has raised an army against Edward and his brother married Isabel against his express command. Edward, in a terrifying temper, exclaims that Cecily would support George because of the old rumor that he, Edward, is a bastard.
Meanwhile, Elizabeth goes on to Norwich in face of rebellion. Edward tells her to portray herself as queen confidently. Elizabeth holds court in her grey velvet and ermine trimmed gown with gold bejeweled crown.
Isabel and Anne metaphorically and literally take shelter from the storms around them: we see them hugging their whippet by a fire on a stormy night.
In the next scene, Edward is (bizarrely) riding alone and then Warwick and George take him prisoner – later to hold him at Warwick’s castle (presumably Pontefract).
Elizabeth receives word from Edward she must flee to London – she is in grave danger. He commands her to arm the Tower of London for a siege. Edward warns her, “If George has a son, we are lost.” But, then Anthony arrives and delivers Elizabeth “hateful intelligence” — to use the famous words of another king. Warwick and his men ambushed Elizabeth’s father and John (brother) and killed them. Elizabeth is inconsolable.
Meanwhile, Margaret is giddy with joy about Edward’s capture – and wants to deliver the news to her son herself. Margaret claims to have had a vision. She goes to her son, beaming, and announces to the young Henry will be king. Henry Stafford warns boy henry not to listen to his mother for it is treason. During this slightly unhinged exchange, we learn Margaret’s true motivations. She desires for herself above all – subservience from her mother. She says, “My mother will kneel to me and she will call me Margaret Regina.”
Meanwhile, Elizabeth can’t stop herself from imagining her father’s horrible decapitation. Anthony and Elizabeth go to Jacquetta and console her. Later, Elizabeth swears revenge on Warwick. Jacquetta is more accepting but still grieving. Jacquetta explains that Elizabeth’s father knew the risks and he sent Jacquetta a note before he died. However, Jacquetta is devastated about losing a son before he has lived a full life.
Elizabeth wails to her mother about her inability to form a bond with Warwick: “I tried to do it differently I tried to do what he asked. I tried to make them all my friends.” Grieving, inconsolable, and frustrated, Elizabeth – swears revenge on Cecily Neville. She will ensure George (Clarence) will die to avenge her father and mother’s death.
Jacquetta then instructs her how to make a curse by writing George and Warwick’s names in blood on slips of paper by the river side on the waning moon.
Episode 2 of The White Queen ends as Elizabeth curses Warwick and George to die “by her will.”
By Jamie Adair