Tonight The White Queen came to a dramatic end, amidst blood, warfare, tears and death. And the question that is on everybody’s mind now is – What next? Will the sequel The White Princess get a televised outing?
BBC1’s drama The White Queen is the best that historical drama can be. Fans of Philippa Gregory will be familiar with her most recent series of books, detailing the lives of the women of the Wars of the Roses. Over the past ten weeks The White Queen has been captivating as it has told the stories of three of the women who were central to the Cousin’s War (as it was known at the time). Elizabeth Woodville, wife to King Edward IV and mother to the ‘two boys in the tower’, Margaret Beaufort, mother to King Henry VII, and Anne Neville, wife to King Richard III.
Tonight’s episode brought together the multiple strands of the narrative, and kept me on the edge of my seat, no mean feat considering I have both read the books, and have a little knowledge of the historical time period. Henry Tudor returned to England to stake his claim, following the deaths of Queen Anne and Richard III’s heir Edward, and it all seemed desperate until the final moments.
Part of the strength of the whole series has been its ability to give a voice to those traditionally silenced by history – the women. This final episode was no different, as audiences saw the death of Anne Neville, Elizabeth Woodville reunited with her son Richard, and Maragret Beaufort watch her son become King. The series ended with a sense of uncertainty, as if although the battle between Richard and Henry is over, the Cousin’s War is far from finished. With women at the centre of the narrative, the women acting these characters had to be thoroughly convincing for the series to succeed. Rebecca Ferguson played Elizabeth with the perfect balance of ambition, love and vengeance throughout, and her performance in the finale was no less nuanced. Similarly, Amanda Hale thoroughly convinced as Margaret. She conveyed the extreme piety of a woman convinced by God of her son’s right to rule. Faye Marsay was completely irritating as Anne, but as I found her very grating in the novels, this is a strength in her performance.
For the most part, the series has been faithful to the novels which are it’s source material, with some dialogue being pulled verbatim from the texts themselves. It has been a little frustrating throughout the series to see some of the streamlining that has been done – removing the births of two of the children of Isobel Neville and George, Duke of Clarence is one such example – but I can understand the time constraints of trying to fit three books worth of material into ten hours. In some ways I wish that the makers had extended the show to two or three series.
I hope that this show encourages more material like this to be made for the TV. Gregory’s books are rife with interesting and engaging characters, and I hold high hopes that her most recent book, The White Princess, is made into a sequel series.
The White Queen season finale is available on BBC iPlayer, and the series is available on DVD from tomorrow.