The White Princess Recap: You Are All I Have Now

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Well, that answers the Katherine Woodville question. Yes, she comes up, but about two years too late as a means for Lizzie to hurt her mother-in-law, Margaret Beaufort. Even so, the series is coming together in its narrative arc – primarily by playing up what about it is actually compelling. The evolution of Lizzie from York to Tudor, and what the actual ramifications were for a young woman to marry her enemy, have his children and realize the wishes of her blood family would come at the cost of her new existence.

So, let’s drive right in, because Episode 4 had quite a bit going on. The episode picks up two days after the death of Mary of Burgundy (a thing that actually occurred about five years before what year I assume they’re trying to make this – 1487). Cecily Neville drags her daughter from bed (she was never in Burgundy – I’m sorry, I can’t help myself) and tells her it’s time to get back to work. And that’s okay because Margaret of York (MOY) is ready to give Elizabeth the war she wants.

With the help of Francis Lovell she rounds up a group of English boys who she can pass off as “Teddy” (aka the Earl of Warwick, Maggie’s younger brother). In reality he’s in the Tower, but that’s no matter – no one has really seen Teddy and so it’s easy enough to convince the public he’s escaped and made his way to aunt in Burgundy.

Meanwhile, in London, Henry and Lizzie are warming up in the bedchamber at least – or they would be, if Margaret Beaufort wasn’t prone to bursting in whenever she wanted. “That doesn’t annoy you? Just a door between your room and hers?” Lizzie asks. But Henry is distracted by the news from Burgundy. “Something’s wrong!” he says. I mean, I’ll say.

Also, did anyone else have flashbacks to that scene from Sex & the City when Bunny walked in on Trey and Charlotte?

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Anyway, Lizzie soon has other issues to occupy her. Namely that Margaret is arranging marriages for the rest of her sisters and Maggie. She promises Maggie that she’ll do her best to find her a kind one, one who will let her live in London so she can be near Teddy in the Tower. What she still seems to be lacking is comprehension that she’s only nominally the queen. She doesn’t have the queen’s chambers and she doesn’t have the authority to marry off her relations.

She finds Margaret and her sister, Cecily, using chess pawns to represent family members as they plot out their marriages (a little on the nose, no?). Maggie has already been promised to Sir Richard Pole, a Welshman who fought for Henry at Bosworth and might have lost some fingers. Lizzie takes in the scene, as well as Margaret’s refusal to let her have the right chambers and evenly replies, “Jasper Tudor needs a wife.” Well played, Lizzie, well played, but we’ll get there.

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Henry, Lizzie and Maggie take a field trip to the Tower of London (a thing that would never have happened) to confirm that Teddy is in fact in the Tower and Burgundy is lying. Lizzie convinces him the real show of strength is to let him out, a manipulation she has used effectively in the past … and so it does yet again. But it’s a false argument because what else could be better than showing Londoners Teddy is still in England than literally showing them just that?

On the show, however, it’s portrayed as a dicey move – and sure, if you go from having him locked up to walking down a street as part of Cecily’s wedding procession, then I’ll grant you that’s stupid. Margaret and Bishop Morton pay someone in the crowd to shout for Warwick, Teddy responds gleefully, John de la Pole yells his support and a riot breaks out.

Back to the Tower for Teddy and Henry is mad at Lizzie for bad advice. Well, mad until Margaret convinces him that Elizabeth orchestrated the entire episode from Bermondsey Abbey and then he’s livid. Margaret puts Elizabeth’s execution on the table for the first time and Henry doesn’t disagree.

At Cecily’s wedding reception, Lizzie gets her ladies drunk and then sneaks out of Westminster to visit her mother. She tries to figure out if Elizabeth was behind the latest action from Burgundy, but Elizabeth maintains she has no ability to ferret letters in and out of the abbey. An interesting line considering just before Lizzie entered Elizabeth was, in fact, writing a letter.

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Lizzie returns to Westminster only to be met by a displeased Henry who, naturally, is having her watched. But she’s not upset about that; she’s upset that Elizabeth clearly doesn’t trust her anymore and knows that she’s truly a Tudor now. “You’re all I have,” she tells her husband. “[Our son] puts me on your side forever.”

Later she comes to Henry’s bedchamber with Arthur in her arms and begs him not to fight in the battle against Burgundy. She cuts hair off of the baby’s head and asks him to keep it with him. “How can I prove to you that I am with you except to ask you not to die?” she asks.

This divide between Lizzie and York is further cemented by a letter arriving from Elizabeth, proving that she can, in fact, still reach people. Elizabeth warns her that her “sight” told her Arthur will never be king. Lizzie views this as her mother ill-wishing her son and she confides the information to Cecily, having to know that the information will then reach Margaret. It’s the formal break between mother and daughter.

But Henry listens to her and doesn’t fight. He watches the battle from his horse, Arthur’s hair in his fist. The English easily win and the little York pretender MOY plucked from obscurity is captured and taken back to London. Henry spares his life and instead orders him to work in the kitchens (that is actually accurate). He also spares Elizabeth hers, though I do have to note that there was no public evidence given that Elizabeth was involved in this rebellion – to be clear, it has never been proven that she was. The idea that Henry would openly declare her a traitor is false, as is the idea that he would humiliate her or Lizzie by sending along his regards and news of his good health. It played a little Game of Thrones-esque and not in good way.

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The Henry and Lizzie story line with him asking his mother to vacate the queen’s chambers and gifting them to his wife. Which is lovely, except the true last scene is the real Richard of York showing up in Burgundy to see Cecily Neville and MOY. He’s baaaaack.

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A few odds and ends:

  • Margaret and Jasper have an entire story line in which Jasper asks Margaret to consider an annulment of her marriage on the grounds that it was a purely political match to help get Henry on the throne (a plot thread picked up from the White Queen). She appears to consider it until Lizzie confronts her that never having married Jasper is her true tragedy and so,  upon Jasper’s return from the battle, she coldly informs him she has found him a wife: Kate Woodville.
  • Cecily is pretty hilarious this episode, flouncing about in a huff that her wedding is being ruined. But her character has two real moments of poignancy, the first of which is in the sympathetic way she handles Lizzie’s horror that her mother has seen her son’s death. She’s selfish, she tells her sister – a thing Cecily has always seen and dealt with as a less-useful daughter. Later on she departs from court, blithely telling her sister that she’ll probably be happier than she, the queen, is. It reads as cold at first glance, but there’s a strand of wistfulness, too. And perhaps that’s fair – perhaps Cecily has every right to turn her back on her family and take a chance at happiness. Maybe, good for her.
  • Maggie is forced to marry Sir Richard Pole, but he turns out to be a kind man who understands that he is far below her station. He tells her he will try to be a good husband and that she can come to London as often as she wants so as to see her brother.
  • A quick notes on dates because, as I’ve said before, I just can’t help myself! Again, I’m assuming they mean this all to be 1487, but they’ve conflated two rebellions with de la Pole and Lambert Simnel (the pretender boy). Arthur is shown as though he is still a newborn, yet in two years Richard of York has shot up from a child to an adolescent. I know, I get it, it’s TV, but GOOD LORD.
  • Also, no, Lizzie wouldn’t have walked about with Arthur like that. That’s not quite how royal newborns were cared for in the Tudor era. In case you were wondering…

You can catch up on Episode 3 here.

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