ANNE: I had no choice but to obey.
We move forward to 1471, returning to the center of Yorkist power in the heart of London. In terms of cast, the losses were heavy this week, as Margaret, Elizabeth, and even Anne in a figurative all lose their mothers. Anne and Margaret seem born again in rejecting their maternal roots, but it is suggested that Elizabeth is unable to carry her son full-term without her mother. With the ending of a generation, the assumption of power of the following, and the birth of a new generation, the houses of York and Lancaster are further entertained. There is a growing sense that a long-standing peace in England is possible. As Jacquetta Rivers advises her daughter queen, “England needs peace. Everything else must be set aside.” Making peace and being thankful in the political and personal spheres seems the thrust in this tear-jerker of an episode.
With Henry Stafford out of the picture, Margaret Beaufort entertains the idea of a third husband, believing it is the will of God in order to facilitate her son’s ascension to the throne. As she intimates to Jasper Tudor, “I am now a widow, with no one to force or guide my hand.” Rejected by her once beloved, she goes in search of a third husband close to the king in order to get access to the inner circle. Thomas Stanley is an ideal match, too ideal actually. Adhering strictly to her stipulations not to have any children in their marriage, her rejects the wedding night ritual of consummation, surprising Margaret and her sense of vanity. In this we can find some satisfaction of poetic justice to a Margaret who has prided her piety despite being a woman desiring passionate love as well. In Elizabeth, who looses a mother and son in this episode, it is harder to see just desserts. Edward is caught cheating with a new woman as court, the very married and very young Jane Shore. They seem to reconcile after Edward is faced with the potential that he may actually loose his wife, but it is clear that the earlier primacy of their relationship is waning as other stars rise.
It is in the relationship between newly-widowed Anne and the youngest of the York princes that unexpectedly takes center-stage. While Margaret has found power in her widowed status, Anne only finds incarceration under the guardianship of George, brother to the king and husband to her sister. Isabel has clearly taken her father’s advice, obeying whomever it seems is most useful to her. She at first shuns her little sister under her husbands command, but once she and Anne are of equal status, they are immediately reconciled. It is a time of plenty in England, after all, where a long summer affords play, dalliance, and the potentials for love.
The series as a whole foregrounds the associations between romantic love and fertility, while companionate love is more closely associated with political fidelity. A suitably romantic match like that of Elizabeth and Edward is validated—and censured—by their virility. Anne, like Margaret, is rewarded by the men in her life by taking aggressive action. She is even willing to turn down a marriage proposal by a prince of England to maintain her own agency. But like Henry Stafford in last week’s episode, George engages rather than squashes Anne’s ability, imploring her to ‘buy herself’ more time:
RICHARD: Listen to me, Anne. You must buy yourself more freedom by going along with George. By pretending to go along with George. Flattery always works. He responds to nothing more sophisticated than flattery.
ANNE: Isabel, too.
RICHARD: That will at least gain you some freedom for now…until the time is right for me to approach the king and ask him to release George’s guardianship over you.
ANNE: You will approach the king on my behalf?
RICHARD: Yes, if you’d like me to.
ANNE: Why would you do that?
RICHARD: Why do you think?
ANNE: (Walks away self-consciously.)
I am reminded of how little romance there has been in this series after the first episode and that infamous roadside meeting. It makes the brief blush of love between Richard and Anne all the more earnest, compelling, and refreshing. It is in their relationship that we see the best balance between power—managing fortunes, titles, lands—and innocent, almost naive romance. It seems that in managing to demonstrate thankfulness in the interest of cultivating a peace, at least at the familial level, Anne and Richard benefit the most. As with the many political fortunes in this show, I wonder how long that can last.
- CITATION: “Love and Marriage.” The White Queen. Television. Directed by Jamie Payne. Written by Nicole Taylor. 21 September 2013. London: BBC One, 2013. STARz cable channel.
- Check out the BBC One promo video for this episode below:
POST SCRIPT: I couldn’t help myself. Ever since the peaches-and-salt cod episode I have been obsessed with displays of agricultural plenty. At a time of peace this becomes more pronounced, typically. Here are a few shots of Anne running through the kitchens to get to her late-night rendezvous with her soon-to-be-husband, Richard, the Duke of Gloucester.