Well, it’s been a long time since The White Queen, and the actors are different, but the sequel is to be aired on UKTV Drama. And by the photograph above, we can’t expect much in the way of accuracy. Of course, being pure fiction, it would be difficult to have a “hero”, i.e. Henry VII, who looks like the back end of a bus, so we have Handsome Henry. But Henry wasn’t handsome, he was the back end of a bus. Elizabeth of York, on the other hand, was plumply lovely. At least, so her portraits suggest. Henry’s portraits can’t do much to flatter him. He was not photogenic…or brushogenic, whatever the correct term might be for what the artist manages to commit to canvas, wood or whatever.
So it will be difficult to watch the sexy bed scenes without sniggering. Sorry to say it, but it’s true. Sow’s ears do not make silk purses!
If you want the silk purse, bring back Richard III.
You would have had to have been locked a dark dungeon in the Tower not to have noticed that there is a new TV series out based on a Philippa Gregory bestseller. THE WHITE PRINCESS has hit the screens in the US (no dates for the UK this time; the BBC bailed after The White Queen.) In both book and series, the ravishing Elizabeth of York, here called Lizzie for short (an anachronism right there–girls called Elizabeth were normally called Bess or Bessy, with Lizzie not appearing for several hundred years) fights for the honour of the fallen House of York against the husband she loathes but has been forced to marry, the new King Henry Tudor (here anachronistically bearded and impossibly attractive) and his sinister, lurking mother, Margaret Beaufort (Catelyn Stark in a late medieval version of a Mickey Mouse hat.) The first episode has a brief flash back to Lizzie’s pre-Bosworth on-the-battlefield fling with Uncle Richard, and then much time is spent bemoaning the untimely death of her lost lover and fighting against the dastardly machinations of Henry and his mummy. And then, eventually, Lizzie and Henry fall in lurrrrve.
Now much of this scenario is fantasy, pleasing to neither the Tudorites, who frequently moan that ‘Philippa Gregory is anti-Tudor!’ because, amongst other things, she didn’t make the Henry-Elizabeth alliance an immediate Mills and Boon romance, and equally TWP is not admired by the Ricardians because of Gregory’s overblown use of the discredited idea of an affair between Elizabeth and Richard III, when it is known from existing state documents in Portugal that he planned to marry Joanna of Portugal and at the same time have Elizabeth wed Duke Manuel of Beja. Certainly it is true that Richard had to deny in public that he wished to marry Elizabeth, but it genuinely appears that this so-called proposed marriage was nothing more than gossip, much of it deliberately malicious, and the other possibly arising from pure misunderstanding. Why should anyone be surprised that courts were full of rumours about sex?- Look at how the modern press pairs celebrities up when they hardly even know each other!
Of course, Philippa Gregory is a fiction author so she is entitled to write whatever floats her boat. The public decides what it enjoys, and with her very hefty bank balance and millions of sales under her belt, people obviously enjoy her writing, accurate in historical content or not. Witchy Woodvilles, whistling down stormwinds isn’t exactly my thing, nor is the repetition of words/phrases and names that seem to be her trademark style, but clearly the easy to read, first person, female format appeals to many readers.
However, the problem seem to be of late that Ms Gregory has assumed the designation of ‘historian’ in interviews and documentaries, and this self-appointment has irked a few familiar faces, including the eminently irkable David Starkey and highly successful historical fiction author Hilary Mantel, author of Wolf Hall. Doctor Gregory, as many of her fans call her, indeed has a doctorate …but it is not in history, medieval, Tudor or otherwise. Rather, it is in literature. Certainly many laymen have great knowledge of history and have come up with new discoveries and theories missed totally by accredited historians, but the problem seems to be when the lines of fiction/non-fiction blur due to the author’s own self-promotion and self-accreditation. This is clear from the comments on the webpages dedicated to the new White Princess series; many viewers/readers are convinced that every word of the novel and the prequels (and their tv versions) is true because the author ‘researches everything SO thoroughly and is a historian.’
No, she is a fiction writer with a long-term interest in history, using a reasonable amount of historical facts alongside some intriguing historical fictions (and of course history itself is full of myth, rumour and outright lies!) in order to make a rousing story. If Gregory is as well-versed in history as she claims, she should be honest enough to at least admit that the affair between Richard and Elizabeth, as an example, most likely never happened. Instead, she points selectively to anything that might ‘back up’ her book and completely ignores any evidence to the contrary. That is just self-promo and is indeed a far cry from what she herself said when TWP was still a work in progress–that of all her books it contained ‘the most fantasy.’
(That said, I don’t 100% agree with Hilary Mantel, either, who said she thought historical fiction writers should not add bibliographies into their novels as it implied they were non-fiction and the contents therefore ‘true’. I believe a brief list should be included, in order to have the readers (hopefully) study more of the time periods involved and make up their own minds. )
So, dear viewers, please take the White Princess with a pinch of salt – the Bosworth night fling, the rather aged and silent Francis Lovell, who now appears mysteriously in the story after being completely invisible in The White Queen, a letter of Buckingham (who is long dead) and other gaffs, along with Ms Gregory’s amazing claim in the article linked below that Richard III was ‘terrified’ of Elizabeth Woodville (Awk, say what? Why, did her weird whistling magic bother him that much?) Enjoy it, if it’s your thing, but forget the ‘history’ part.
Fiction brings the past alive for many of us, me included, but let’s remember that’s what it is. Fiction. However, I fear this plea will be in vain. After all, look how many people still think Shakespeare was a historian and not a playwright!
Well, I vowed to myself that I wouldn’t post anything more about The White Princess, but the articles below proved too much for me. I will isolate a small paragraph from one of them, about Emma Frost, the writer of the series:-
“In writing this scene, Frost had to make a choice between accurately depicting horrifying historical facts, and adhering to more modern concepts of consent. She chose the latter.”
The horrifying historical facts in question entail Henry VII having raped Elizabeth before they were married. More than that, in the programme he apparently repeats this exercise until she’s pregnant, just so he can be sure she’s fertile! Yes, you read that correctly. It is, apparently, an unchallenged truth that he did this. How do they know? Did he appear to them at a séance and confess?
That Philippa Gregory wrote these scenes in her book I do not challenge. It’s fiction, and as a novelist myself I know the “rules”. But for this article to then describe these rapes as historical fact is taking it too far. Henry VII is being maligned as he himself maligned Richard III. Hm. Wait a tick, is that so bad? Perhaps the rotter deserves all he gets!
But no, not even I can be comfortable with this. It is possible that Henry and Elizabeth got between the sheets before their marriage. After all she gave birth to their first son only eight months after the ceremony. However, it is also possible that Prince Arthur was premature. Either version can be applied. But getting between the sheets does not mean rape was involved. Perhaps they couldn’t stand the sight of each other but had to at least try to find some common ground. Perhaps they had too many cups of wine, and…oh, dear, they bonked! Shock! Horror! But feelings must have been running high at the time, after all that had gone before, and perhaps neither of them wished to be attracted to the other. Loathing and sexual attraction can go together far more than we like to think.
So, regarding the articles to which the following links will take you, the rape/s cannot be taken as historical fact!