Elizabeth Woodville as shown in painting from the Royal Collection.
Click on picture for larger version.
August 11, 2013


The White Queen

This is the mini-series currently showing on the Starz network. The series has already shown in Britain, where, according to Wikipedia, it received generally negative reviews. The mini-series is available on both DVD and Blu-ray.

Rebecca Ferguson as Elizabeth
Woodville, the White Queen of the
story.
The story centers on the women involved in The War of the Roses. Elizabeth Woodville, shown above, was married to a nobleman on the Lancastrian side of the war, but upon being widowed was wooed and wed by Edward IV. The novel and the mini-series both go up to the death of the princes in the Tower, or the reign of Richard III (r. June 26, 1483-August 22, 1485).

The producers have cast Rebecca Ferguson as Elizabeth, and if the painting from the Royal Collection is accurate, she does bear a fair resemblance to the original. One of the brothers of Edward, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, who succeeded Edward as Richard III, is portrayed as a young man of normal stature, i.e., not the deformed dwarf of St. Thomas More and Shakespeare.

The story has Elizabeth deceived into what may have been a phony marriage to Edward. Given that Edward, even at the age of 21, his age at the time of the story's opening, had achieved a reputation as a ladies man, and that Elizabeth was 27 and a widow with two children just how naive would she be? Would she seriously believe that a secret marriage was anything other than a way for Edward to get into her knickers? She seems relatively naive in the opening episode.

Her female opponents, particularly Cecily, seem vaguely reminiscent of powerful women from other fiction, such as Livia from I, Claudius, or any of the mature women from Game of Thrones. Like Game of Thrones there's some magic involved. In the first episode this involves Melusine. Elizabeth's mother, Jacquetta, Lady Rivers, may well have believed that her family was descended from the river goddess. She was accused, but acquitted of charges of witchcraft in 1470. Charges that were revived under Richard III. However, despite the fact that Jacquetta may have believed in her family's descent, I find the pagan/magical element less convincing than I do in Game of Thrones, which strikes me as the better series. That observation, that GoT was better, was also given by some of the British viewers of the series.

If you've watched a fair amount of British television, as I have lately, you may notice that some of the older actors, despite the wonders of the National Health Service (NHS), have bad teeth. Apparently orthodontia was relatively unknown in the British Isles at one time. Those older actors would have been perfect for the cast of The White Queen, but alert viewers over there pointed out that not only did the cast have good teeth, but they were also notably clean. Additionally, while England is a lovely place, and many of the original palaces, castles, abbeys, and churches are still, despite the depredations of Henry VIII, of despised memory, relatively intact, the show was shot in Belgium.

So you have a program with a young, attractive cast, but shot in an alien land, with unrealistic costumes, overly good teeth, and an unconvincing use of magic. My wife and I will probably watch it, but it's not high on my list of must see programs.