White Queen

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - THE SO­CIAL PAGE -

As the in­tri­cately wo­ven yarn be­gins, dash­ing young Ed­ward IV (Max Irons) of the House of York has been crowned king, thanks in large part to the ruth­less ma­nip­u­la­tions of his cousin, Lord War­wick (James Frain), a.k.a. the King­maker.

But War­wick’s plan to guar­an­tee a long reign for the Yorks and a com­fort­able fu­ture for him­self is side­tracked when, dur­ing a ride through the coun­try­side with his troops, Ed­ward en­coun­ters the beau­ti­ful young Lan­cas­trian com­moner El­iz­a­beth Woodville (Re­becca Fer­gu­son), with whom he’s im­me­di­ately smit­ten and to whom he will soon be se­cretly wed.

De­spite her rel­a­tive youth, El­iz­a­beth is a widow (her hus­band was killed in bat­tle against the Yorks) and the mother of two young sons. Ed­ward is un­con­cerned by this, and when she re­buffs his at­tempts to take her as a mis­tress, the love­struck king feels his only re­main­ing op­tion is to pro­pose.

El­iz­a­beth’s brother is en­raged, telling her that she has been duped by a se­rial wom­an­izer and that the pro­posal and se­cret wed­ding are a hoax. But af­ter lead­ing his forces to vic­tory in bat­tle, Ed­ward makes a pub­lic dec­la­ra­tion about his mar­riage to El­iz­a­beth (much to the cha­grin of War­wick, who has spent years try­ing to ne­go­ti­ate an ar­ranged mar­riage for his cousin to a French princess) and sum­mons her to court.

And so be­gins a fren­zied pe­riod of in­trigue, royal dou­ble-deal­ing, fra­ter­nal be­tray­als and, most im­por­tantly, fem­i­nine schem­ing and the stab­bing of as­sorted re­gal backs.

Stick­lers for his­tor­i­cal ac­cu­racy will surely find The White Queen to be want­ing on sev­eral fronts — most no­tably, its de­pic­tion of 15th-cen­tury Eng­land as pop­u­lated al­most ex­clu­sively by win­some, at­trac­tive and con­sis­tently clean-bathed peo­ple with lovely hair and straight, white, per­fect teeth.

But this is tele­vi­sion drama, af­ter all, and view­ers have al­ways favoured style and siz­zle over squalour and stench. On the “siz­zle” front, The White Queen cer­tainly presents its char­ac­ters — par­tic­u­larly Ed­ward and El­iz­a­beth — as a rather randy royal bunch, serv­ing up sev­eral scenes in each episode of un­clothed char­ac­ters in a va­ri­ety of car­nal cas­tle-bed clinches.

But if you can look be­yond these mi­nor dis­trac­tions and fo­cus on the story at hand, you might dis­cover that The White Queen is a sat­is­fy­ingly com­pelling, well-ap­pointed tale, filled with in­trigu­ing char­ac­ters brought to life by ac­tors at the top of their game.

It isn’t likely to top­ple Game of Thrones from the lofty perch it oc­cu­pies in pop-cul­ture con­scious­ness, but The White Queen cer­tainly earns its place of honour in TV’s his­tor­i­cal­drama lin­eage.

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