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BBC’s The White Queen Episode Five Review

July 15, 2013

There will be a change today, no spoilers, so if you haven’t watched this episode yet, feel free to read on without worry.

So far, we have seen trouble in the kingdom of Edward IV, who himself stole the crown from Henry VI. He marries Elizabeth Woodville, who is disliked by some, some of whom even call her a witch. Edward has to constantly fight to keep his throne, a fight which has seen women be married off to not very nice men, a queen giving birth in the sanctuary of Westminster Abbey and brothers turning against brothers. Maybe episode five can bring peace to the country.

Episode five is largely about the battle to the throne, first between Edward and the Earl of Warwick and then Edward against Margaret of Anjou, Henry VI’s wife and her son, also called Edward. Edward comes back to England, despite rumours of his death, he visits his wife Elizabeth in sanctuary, and is not happy with her situation, but is pleased with his new born son. However, he has to leave for the battle with Warwick at Barnet, and his forces must go and intervene Margaret of Anjou before she reaches Henry Tudor for support. Meanwhile, Margaret of Beaufort’s husband, Henry Stafford chooses to fight, but for the wrong side according to her wife, he fights for York, in order to restore peace in England, Margaret is horrified by her husband’s position, saying that he has put her in the middle, having to choose between her husband and her family. However, in the end, she has to deal with the catastrophic results of this war.

This episode sees a lot of war, it seems to be fairly repetitive war, Edward arrives back in London, then back off to war again leaving Elizabeth fearing for what will happen to herself, her husband and her children.

This episode brings up two things that I would like to discuss. the first is the fact that men were willing to give up their lives for other men to be put on the throne or for peace. Henry Stafford wants peace, and so he chooses his side accordingly, he goes into battle knowing there is a chance he might die, but bravely fights on. Whether men were brave on the battlefield or not, I’m sure some were, but I’m also sure some were not, these men cannot be blamed for not enjoying the woes of battle. The King, rode into battle with his fellow soldiers, knowing that if he died, so much would be lost, Warwick demonstrates this well in this episode. He kills his horse in order to demonstrate to the men that he would not flee should the battle look to be lost. This gives courage to his men, but also means that he was clearly willing to die for his cause.

The other item I would like to discuss is the role of women in this programme. First, we have Margaret of Anjou who attempts to lead the battle, she is a stronger character than her son. The actress is amazing, she really puts into this character what is needed, she is a strong independent, willed women, and although named the bad queen, I think the fact that she stands up for herself is brilliant. We often think of women in the middle ages as being weak willed and simply doing what they are told first by their father and then by their husband, but some show that this is not the case. What we seem to forget, as we see here, is that women had to hold the fort when their husbands left for battle, they had to organise the household, make the major decisions and be the head of their staff. I hope more women were like Margaret of Anjou, not bad as she is in the series, but strong.

The episode ends on an interesting note, one which I do not wish to spoil so I won’t, but if you can get through the repetitiveness of the battle scenes, then watch the ending.

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