Review: The White Princess (Starz) – Overshadowed by the queens
By Robin Oatley on April 17, 2017
Starz’ miniseries is the sequel to its earlier series The White Queen. The latter combined three books by Philippa Gregory to tell the story of Elizabeth Woodville, wife of Edward IV; Anne Neville, wife of Richard III; and Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry VII, as they were rivals for power during the War Of The Roses – the fight for the throne between the Lancaster and York families.
picks up where The White Queen ended. Henry VII (Jacob Collins-Levy, Glitch) has defeated Richard III and has become king of England, thereby ending the War Of The Roses. His victory stems partly from his promise to marry Elizabeth Of York (Jodie Comer, ), thus tying the houses of Tudor and York. Elizabeth, however, would have rather married Richard III (who is also her uncle by the way, and now very dead given he has lost the war). She’s not happy marrying Henry, or not marrying for love in general. Understandable, since it is Henry’s fault her beloved Richard has perished. Juicy detail: she already spent the night with Richard, which was of course a big no-no back in the day.
Henry, for his part, also doesn’t exactly like having to marry a woman who openly despises him. But for him, this is the only way to reconcile the Lancasters and the Yorks and keep control of the crown, so he has no other choice. And neither does Elizabeth, as she is a woman.
But the women in this story aren’t as powerless as the previous sentence may lead you to think. In the background, there are many women working to get what they want. Henry’s mother (Michelle Fairley, ) has been waiting her whole life for the power her son’s new position will bring her, and Elizabeth’s mother (Essie Davis, ) – also named Elizabeth – still tries to recapture control of the crown from the Tudors. And Elizabeth may not have a say in her marriage, but she is certainly not the type to roll over and do as she is told without a sideways glance.
chronicles a story that is complicated – to say the least. There are many family names to remember, and just as much motives and incentives. Plus, the things you may know as normal goings-on for the time period are just slightly different in this instance. For example, because the Tudors want to make sure Elizabeth is fertile, she and Henry spent many a night together before they were wed so she could prove she was indeed pregnant. Imagine having that hanging over your head.
Even though the women in the series are not supposed to be powerful, the story is very ‘powerful women’ oriented. On the one hand, it is clear they have a disadvantage because of their gender, but these are not meek sheep. It makes for a refreshing series, which shows the women behind the men behind the families in power. Although the situations have been tweaked for entertainment purposes, it does give an idea of the life of princesses and queens in the days of old.
Jodie Comer is overshadowed by Michelle Fairley and Essie Davis every step of the way, which is a shame for Comer but a testament to the acting of Fairley and Davis. The latter two carry the series, although it is supposed to be about the princess and not the queens (they’ve had their series after all). But it matters not, because is all the better for it.
The White Princess airs on Sundays at 8/7c on Starz.