The White Princess Recap: Character Assassination

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It’s almost been a month since I covered one of the White Princess episodes and I’ve had it on my “to-do” list to finish off the rest of the series. Despite not particularly enjoying it, once you start something, etc. etc. But after watching the fifth episode in the series I’m actually going to stop because I think this show crosses a line. I don’t know how many of these issues are  unique to the TV version of this story, or if they are following the lead of the books on which they are based, but there is a fine line between historical fiction and character assassination and this is the latter.

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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.

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The White Princess Recap: I Don’t Think I Should Like to Be Queen; The Clothes Are Too Ugly

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You know, I sat down to write this with the goal of being positive, calling out what the show is doing well since I’ve already outlined what isn’t working for me. But then I saw this episode and that’s over now. The first half is essentially a couple scenes of casserole in which every notable character is thrown around the same place to make it interesting. I have no idea if this comes from the book or is from the show, but let’s start with the basics.

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The White Princess Recap: Your Moves Are Far Too Obvious

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Okay, round two, here we go. The episode opens with Lizzie being pretty creepy, smiling insipidly every time Henry speaks and generally trying to prove to him that she’s a loyal and loving wife. And I guess it works? But she starts to look borderline crazy and I think there’s a lesson in here for all the men that like to tell women to smile. Don’t. It doesn’t look right.

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The White Princess Recap: He is a Horrible, Bad Man

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I debated whether I was going to cover this series for a couple reasons: 1) it’s based on a book I haven’t read; 2) it’s most certainly not going to even attempt accuracy; and 3) it’s all a bit much. But there’s value in considering how history is being dramatized, if for no other reason than to be aware of what false bits are going to become lodged in the public consciousness. In this case that’s not really a huge concern as I don’t think most people are watching this show, but if it’s not a worthwhile exercise it’s at least an interesting one.

As some background, the White Princess is meant to follow a 2013 series called the White Queen, which covered the life of Elizabeth Woodville, consort of Edward IV, from 1464 to 1485. If you would like to know who that is then I would direct you here, here or here. The White Princess dramatizes the life of their eldest daughter, Elizabeth of York, who married Henry VII in 1485. For more on her actual background, you can read more here.

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Victoria Recap: A Palace This Size Can Never Have Too Many Teaspoons

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Victoria, Episode 8 – Victoria (Jenna Coleman) ©2016 ITV

“I’m so bored of this,” Queen Victoria says to Prince Albert in the opening scene. She’s referring, of course, to her pregnancy, and though the show skipped from her first trimester to her third, by the end of the episode you will be bored of it too. The Queen, you see, does not much care for pregnancy – she doesn’t like what it’s done to her figure, she doesn’t like that all anyone cares about is the baby and she doesn’t like how it’s slowed her down.

Prince Albert, who has seemingly suffered through nine months of this, is less than sympathetic and more interested in his periodical (which, you should know, he is not reading for enjoyment). “We are not amused,” Victoria says at his lack of attention, which is a thing the real Queen Victoria never said. It is, if you will, the “Let them eat cake” of Victorian Britain.

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Victoria Recap: Don’t Talk Railway At Me

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First of all, where is Lord Melbourne? He didn’t stop being Prime Minister when Queen Victoria married. Nor, indeed, did the Queen stop meeting with him. I will be most miffed if he doesn’t reappear for next week’s season finale.

Anyway, there’s no polite English word for it, but Victoria is pregnant. In the opening scene of “The Engine of Change” our 20-year-old monarch abruptly runs from a classical music concert because she is to be, in the words of her household, “indisposed out of her mouth.” The doctors soon confirm it: There is to be a royal baby. Prince Albert is over the moon and Victoria is afraid, the shadow of Princess Charlotte dying in labor looming large.

She announces it 1840s monarch style, which is to say not on Facebook, but in an audience chamber, from her throne, with members of her government assembled before her to clap when she has delivered her news. It’s most civilized and, frankly, has given me a lot of ideas for my future pronouncements.

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Victoria Recap: The Dogs Wear Jewelry

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Behind every successful queen there is a man wondering what the hell his job is. Well, not Elizabeth I, mind you, but certainly our favorite 19th century monarch, Queen Victoria. The honeymoon is over and it’s back to Buckingham Palace they go to be interrupted by Baroness Lehzen in bed, separated by blood princes walking into dinner and lampooned by political cartoons depicting poor Albert as a German sausage.

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Victoria Recap: You’ll Never Want for Handkerchiefs

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But you may want for a lot of other things, Albert. Anyway, look, I’ve warmed up slightly to our second favorite German prince since last week. And I say second favorite because I think we can all agree Ernest is first, from his unsubtle ruses to let his brother and Victoria have alone time to taking Albert to a “house of ill repute” in the lead up to the Great Royal Wedding of 1840. #ForGodandCountry

Episode 5, “An Ordinary Woman,” opens with some stilted conversation between Victoria and Albert before Ernest leads away the Queen’s lady-in-waiting and our future figureheads for propriety make out behind a random sheet hanging inside a rotunda. But the bliss is short-lived, because inquiring minds want to know: How much money will Albert be given? What will his title be? Who will make up his household? I don’t want to have to ask for money every time I need to buy a handkerchief, Albert says. But the Palace has loads of handkerchiefs! Victoria is bewildered, quite possibly because when she turned 18 she was handed the British Empire, but who’s to say?

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Victoria Recap: I Am So Vexed I Could Scream

Same, Victoria, same. Well, it’s happened. In the span of one episode Albert went from her rude, dull first cousin to our favorite British queen’s fiance. This episode also served as a good reminder of why I really don’t like Prince Albert, so, in that sense, well done Victoria – you’ve captured his essence perfectly.

Let’s get into it, shall we? Episode 4, “The Clockwork Prince,” begins where the last one left off, in the drawing room with Prince Albert walking up to the Queen to turn the page of her piano music for her. Dash immediately starts barking to which I say, good for Dash. He is a rival for Victoria’s affection and maybe also a tyrant. Dogs are never wrong. Anyway, Victoria isn’t feeling it, so when it’s suggested that she show Albert and his brother, Ernest, around she uses Lord Melbourne to get out of it with some urgent dispatches that require her “full attention.” I like this excuse. I’m going to use it going forward.

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Uncle Leopold (Oh right, he’s still here) debriefs with his nephews. No, he says, Ernest, though better with women, can’t swoop in to woo Victoria instead. This is Albert’s destiny. So, basically, Albert has been chilling in Coburg waiting to get his Mrs. degree. Or he’s like Kate Middleton circa 2006 (yes, that was mean). Anyway, HOW embarrassing for a man that thinks so highly of his own intellect. “You’ll be the King of England!” Leopold tells him. “No, I’ll be the Queen of England’s husband,” he responds. How prescient.

Victoria, for her part, says of her cousin, “He never smiles. I wonder if he can.” Honestly, who knows? But photographs from his life indicate no.

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