The first minute or so of this episode takes us back to the events of the series finale of The White Queen. We see flashbacks to the death of King Richard III, and his love affair with Lizzie, the White Princess. Soldiers suddenly break through Lizzie’s reverie and she goes running to warn her mother, Elizabeth Woodville. Elizabeth forces her young son Richard to hide as the new Tudor rulers believe he is dead. The soldiers then arrive to take Lizzie and her family back to London—back to her betrothed, Henry Tudor.
Meanwhile, another group of soldiers round-up other members of the York family and inform them they are now traitors to England. Once they arrive in Westminster, they are forced to renounce Richard and pledge their loyalty to Henry, or face the Tower,
We are Yorks, Eliza. We do not quake in fear. – Elizabeth Woodville
Throughout the episode, it becomes obvious Henry does not want to marry Lizzie. He knows of her love for Richard, and uses this against her more than a few times—he calls her a whore, and suggests there are many European princesses ‘purer’ than her. His mother Lady Margaret (played by the fantastic Michelle Fairley from Game of Thrones) is insistent that God chose Henry to be king and for Lizzie to bear the next King of England.
Speaking of parents, Lizzie’s mother is using the stable hand, Ned, to find out news about her son Richard. She and Margaret go head-to-head with one another for the first, but certainly not the last time in this episode alone.
Lizzie and Henry have their first ever meeting in the dark and somewhat dingy quarters her family has been given. Elizabeth is the perfect future mother-in-law, but Lizzie is less than enthralled by Henry. He asks her to dance for him, but then changes his mind and asks her younger sister Cecily to dance instead. Elizabeth, in all of her wisdom, recommends the two of them dance together. Lady Margaret reveals her motto for Lizzie:
Humble and pertinent. You would do well to abide by it. – Lady Margaret
Henry discusses his proposed marriage to Lizzie with his council members. After a talk with his mother, Henry orders Lizzie to visit him in his rooms that night. Once there, Henry reveals Margaret told him to see whether Lizzie is fertile and if not, there will be no reason for them to be wed.
Returning to her rooms in anger, Lizzie talks with her mother about the situation she is in. Her sister then sneaks off to proposition Henry, who tells her she should be more loyal to her sister.
All the while, Lady Margaret is assuring everyone that her son’s claim to the throne cannot be challenged. She offers to look for the bodies of Elizabeth’s sons herself—for they are the biggest threat to Henry’s reign. She speaks to Lizzie about becoming friends, and of her belief that it is Lizzie’s fate to bear Henry a son.
Henry’s coronation soon takes place, to which Lizzie and her family are not invited. The York family are not the type to sit around and wallow, so instead Lizzie enlists the help of her cousin when she realises her ‘monthly courses’ have not arrived. She tries to use mandrake to stop her pregnancy, but her cousin is caught with it by Elizabeth before it can be delivered. Previously, Elizabeth had learnt from the stable boy Ned that her son Richard is missing. Elizabeth promises Lizzie that her son will be one of theirs, and not Henry’s.
With the King and his mother made aware of the pregnancy, Elizabeth steals a hair from Lady Margaret. She uses the mandrake of Lizzie’s which can only serve two purposes—to stop a pregnancy or to give someone else bad dreams. She uses it to torment Lady Margaret with the knowledge that a York son still lives and will one day claim the throne from Henry.
The episode ends with Lizzie and Henry’s wedding, which causes Lizzie to swear to her mother that she will sabotage the Tudor’s from within her marriage. After the marriage scene, the couple are prepared for bed, as was custom. After everyone has left the room, Henry cuts Lizzie’s foot and drops the blood onto the bed to ‘keep her reputation’. After he leaves a few moments later, Lizzie drops more blood onto the sheets and whispers her motto—”Hidden and patient.”
All in all, this was a good first episode and it shows promise for the rest of The White Princess series. I get the feeling myself and many others will seriously be shipping Henry and Lizzie together, even by the end of the next episode as their dynamic is already intriguing. Honourable mention to Essie Davis who is an absolute joy as Elizabeth Woodville, just as she is in everything else. There are also certain characters which should be interesting to watch over the series, and I am excited to see what happens to them all.
The White Princess returns next week with ‘Hearts and Minds’.
What did you think of the first episode of The White Princess? Let us know in the comments below!
Image Credit: STARZ