I am a big fan of the history of the British monarchy, and while usually that excitement is focused on the Tudors and the Stuarts, I’ve always had a soft spot for the Yorks and Lancasters because it was the War of the Roses that brought about the Tudor dynasty. I could never really enjoy watching Showtime’s Tudors because I would get angry about the inaccuracies and sad when they didn’t focus enough on my favorite historical figures (I admit I may have only watched about three episodes before giving up. Henry didn’t even have red hair!). But when a friend recommended I check out the 2013 series The White Queen about the War of the Roses, I was intrigued.
As I sat down to watch The White Queen, I quickly realized how much I didn’t know about all of the intricacies of the War of the Roses. This was good news, because any liberties taken in The White Queen would be less likely to bother me. Also, because The White Queen is based on three of Philippa Gregory’s novels about the War of the Roses, I knew it would be heavily focused on the women and their stories. In short: even before I started watching The White Queen, I was pretty sure I was going to enjoy watching it. And I was right.
The White Queen focuses on three women: Elizabeth Woodville (“The White Queen”), Margaret Beaufort (“The Red Queen”), and Anne Neville (“The Kingmaker’s Daughter”). Elizabeth is the wife of Edward IV, Margaret Beaufort the mother of Henry Tudor, and Anne Neville the daughter of the Earl of Warwick who goes on to marry Richard III. The three women leverage most of their power by manipulating the men around them, while also struggling against each other to gain power. This is a 10-part series that covers about twenty years of history, so naturally allegiances can seem to shift quickly at times, and depending on how well the makeup department did aging a particular actor, it’s sometimes hard to tell just how quickly they are changing their colors from Lancaster red to York white, or vice versa.
I found myself invested in these women’s stories, despite the melodrama that was sometimes included with the history in The White Queen. These were women who helped to shape the history of England as we know it, and while I’m sure a lot of things in this miniseries come nowhere close to the reality, it’s still interesting to imagine a little bit of what their complicated lives may have been like. So if you are a fan of period dramas, and powerful women, I highly recommend you find a way to watch The White Queen when you’re looking for your next weekend binge-watch (I watched it through the xfinity app, but it’s also out on DVD). Now the only question that remains is who will you root for: York, Lancaster or Tudor?