Review: 'The White Princess' beautifully charts turbulent and bloody Wars of the Roses
England, mid-15th century. The battle for the throne has been waging for decades, pitting family against family for over a generation. Everyone seems to have a legitimate claim to the crown and is willing to slaughter their adversaries not matter how closely related.
No, this isn't Game of Thrones. It's the Wars of the Roses, portrayed in Starz The White Queen and its newest series The White Princess. The next and final chapter in the network's Wars of the Roses series is deliciously intriguing with all the trappings of a successful period drama: love, scandal and political strife.
The Wars of the Roses is fascinating, but can be difficult to make sense of, especially with the big players all named Elizabeth, Edward, Richard and Henry. The new series, premiering Sunday night, deftly brings life to these medieval characters and tells their stories through the eyes of the powerful women who plotted and schemed to win the wars.
Of course, you'll also gush over the lavish apparel and decadent 15th century English decor of this elegant period piece.
The White Princess is based on The Cousins' War novels by Philippa Gregory and stars Jodie Comer as Elizabeth of York, the oldest daughter of Queen Elizabeth and daughter of King Edward IV.
When Edward's brother Richard III, who claimed the throne after Edward's death, was defeated at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, the Wars of the Roses seemingly came to an end. Henry Tudor (Jacob Collins-Levy) — King Henry VII — took the crown, becoming the first Tudor king.
The series follows the headstrong and intelligent Elizabeth as she's forced into marriage to Henry Tudor, a member of the family who caused hers so much heartbreak. Her mother, Elizabeth Woodville (Essie Davis), loves her children more than anything but still uses them as pawns for her own ambition.
The same can be said for Henry's mother, Lady Margaret (Game of Thrones' Michelle Fairley). She's an uptight, pious woman who believes it's God's will for her son to sit on the throne of England.
In short, they're both mother-in-laws from hell for Elizabeth and Henry.
Elizabeth soon learns it's not easy being queen. In just three episodes, she quickly evolves from steadfast loyalist to her York family with a hatred for her new husband to becoming a Tudor with the birth of her son, Arthur, and possibly developing a fondness for Henry.
The marriage of Elizabeth and Henry unite the white rose of York and the red rose of Lancaster, but the families' personal and political rifts run deep, threatening to tear the country apart again. And rumors start circulating that Elizabeth's brother, Richard —the rightful heir to the throne — is still alive and making plans to claim his kingdom.
Like Gregory's novels, the series excels in its authentic portrayal of its characters, particularly the women. Call it a feminist Game of Thrones or just giving credit where credit is due, but The White Princess succeeds by focusing on the women whose influence reached much farther than the men they helped put on the throne.
Contact Chelsea Tatham at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @chelseatatham.
The White Princess premieres at 8 p.m. Sunday on Starz.