The White Queen (2013)

 

Reviewer: Charity Bishop


Behind every powerful man is an ambitious woman... or so this miniseries would have you believe. While the men fight on the front lines, behind the scenes the women maneuver them like chess pieces on a board.

With the recent death of her husband leaving her impoverished and unprotected, Elizabeth Woodville (Rebecca Ferguson) seeks the attention of the new usurper to the throne. Edward (Max Irons) has chased away the rightful king in order to claim England as his own. In spite of the warnings of his advisor and the man known as the "Kingmaker," Lord Warwick (James Frain), and the fact that her husband supported the previous king, he takes an interest in Elizabeth. Her refusal to sleep with him outside of marriage inspires him to make her his queen…

Meanwhile, those who support the previous queen include the idealistic, god-fearing Margaret Beaufort (Amanda Hale), whose young son Henry Tudor was once in line for the throne. She isn’t the only one scheming to undermine Edward… when Warwick turns against him and involves his brother George (David Oakes) in political maneuverings for the throne, their lives are thrown into turmoil forever. Little do any of them know that the true threat is the quietly ambitious Richard III (Aneurin Barnard), and the woman he loves, Anne Neville (Faye Marsay)…

Historically, aspirations were cast on Elizabeth and her mother that their family was involved in witchcraft and spell-casting. Here, we find them guilty of it, which makes for a strange contrast -- they raise hellacious winds and curse their enemies one minute and speak of God’s mercy the next. The miniseries is based on a book series by historical novelist Philippa Gregory, best known for changing the female victims of history into power-hungry manipulators. Her talent for making historical figures hypocrites is fully illustrated here, in the sense that almost none of the female characters are likable and those that are don’t live long. The tagline for the series is “men go into battle, women wage war” – and they do, as they fight for the crown for their husbands, fathers, and sons.

From a purely cinematic standpoint, the series isn’t all bad. The quality and intensity of the storyline shifts between episodes so you’ll have a really good hour followed by a mediocre one; ironically, it seems to falter most when focusing on Elizabeth and Edward, whose “true and lasting love” stems from an attempted rape thwarted. Richard is given a more generous representation than most, and the historical fanatic in me squealed a little bit as I saw Henry Tudor’s mother maneuver her son to the throne. The cast ranges from superb to reasonably decent with a few stiff performances, but the costuming isn’t all that accurate and nothing fits very well. The biggest sin committed here (other than the rampant historical inaccuracies) is the abrupt ending that resolves nothing and gives very little emotional satisfaction to the main characters.  

       

  

Sexual Content:

There are a dozen sex scenes scattered over the ten episodes; most feature graphic movement and female nudity. Backside nudity is seen several times. There is one attempted rape and one on-screen rape.

  

Language:

Minor profanities.

  

Violence:

Battles are fought with some gruesome results (heads and arms are sliced off). It's implied two little boys are killed.

 

Other:

Characters cast spells and use witchcraft against their enemies.