The White Queen airs Saturday nights on Starz.
Spoilery review to follow.
The latest in a growing line of dramatized historical pieces, this one is based on the book of the same title by Phillipa Gregory, and it looks like it's off to a great start. It's beautifully decorated and looks close enough to accurate (though probably cleaner) that it feels like a depiction of a series of real events, it's well acted, it's tense and unfair and dramatic and even a little romantic. If the rest of the season holds to this first episode, it should be amazing.
We come into the story as Lady Elizabeth Gray is waylaying the new King Edward to petition for a return of the lands taken away from her when her husband died on the opposite side of the war that's ravaging the kingdom. She wants them back so she can support herself and have an inheritance for her two sons, who are legitimate, but out of favor. Since her husband's death, she's been living with her mother, Lady Jaquetta Rivers, who does magic and is closely related to important people in Burgundy, and who married a man given titles that most seem to think he doesn't deserve. She, however, is sharp and ambitious, and when her daughter is smitten with the king who wants to bed her, she encourages her to suck it up and do what needs doing.
At first, Elizabeth denies his attentions; she won't be his mistress, and there's a great scene where he tries to get what he wants anyway and she pulls a knife on him, threatening to cut her own throat before she dishonors everyone she knows like that. He tells her she'll never see him again, but when her father is required to send troops for the next battle, they, of course, meet again, and he tells her that he can't go to war wanting her so badly. If she won't be his mistress, she'll have to be his wife.
They get married secretly, and Elizabeth's brother Anthony believes she's been tricked--the king has done this before and has a bastard son because of it. Elizabeth doubts, but doesn't want to, and chooses to believe in her husband the King; it pays off when she's announced as his Queen right in the face of the French Princess he was supposed to announce his marriage to for the purposes of gaining French aid in the war.
The Court is not pleased. Warwick, who is doing his best to be the power behind the throne wanted the French princess, Duchess Cecily, Edward's mother, threatens to disown him and put another son in his place. Everyone else thinks he's been captured by a common upstart.
And there's another King's queen and son on the run, gathering help wherever they can.
So, needless to say, a lot of story to fill the next eleven episodes of this show's first season! The way it's handled through the point of view of a strong woman who knows her own mind and wants the best for her sons, but who happens to also have a soft spot for semi-lecherous Kings and sparkly futures gives us an in to a world most watchers would probably be somewhat familiar with, but not necessarily completely clear on. I hope, however, that she isn't so easily swayed from "oh god, he's raping me" to "let's get married" in the future, though, however accurate that might be to the time-frame's actual treatment of women.
If you've watched The Tudors, you'll already know at least some of this history; but this predates The Tudors and comes from a different source, so the sex is less explicit, and so far there's not really any battle. It has a certain amount of a Game of Thrones flavor, what with the mother who does magic, and Elizabeth's newfound habit of seeing premonitions, one of which warns of her own death at the hands of a woman in red, but it's much closer to actual historicals than that. And some of the GoT-ness can just be from the fact that a lot of the basis that the Westeros world was built on comes from this and similar times in history.
There is a lot to keep track of. Dozens of people were introduced here, many of them with the same or similar names, either to people in the show or to other famous people in history. But Elizabeth doesn't know what she's getting into, and that means that we'll find out just how complicated the world is as she does--and that's a perfect way to bring the audience into a series.
So! Will Edward survive this daring and romantic and totally unadvised choice of queen? Will Elizabeth be able to give him a son before people start moving in on her and / or Edward winds up dead mysteriously or in battle? Will the Duchess disown him after all? Will his own brothers move for the throne? Will Warwick go totally bonkers and try to take over for himself? Will the other queens floating around kick up a fuss, and how will they do it? How much war will these people face? How long before assassinations start happening? Will Lady Rivers get caught and burned as a witch? What about those who previous sons? Will Elizabeth's seven sisters have names?
Let's keep watching and see!
Did you watch the premier of The White Queen? What did you think of "In Love With The King"? Share your impressions and opinions below.