How Historically Accurate Is 'The White Princess'? The Stories Are Given A Woman's Perspective
Starz is following up the 2013 British miniseries The White Queen with a sequel called The White Princess, which premieres on Sunday, April 16. Both are based on Philippa Gregory's historical novel trilogy, The Cousins' War, which dramatizes the Wars of the Roses, a series of wars spanning 30 years in the late 15th century for control of the British throne. Shakespeare's histories prominently document them, as well, and if you're familiar with them, you'll recognize some of the players in the Starz series. So how historically accurate is The White Princess? It tells the story from the women's perspective, which pretty much answers the question.
Since we don't have a host of primary sources on women of the era, little is known about the actual psychological motivations of the first Tudor queen. The White Princess portrays Elizabeth of York, or Lizzie, as she's called on the show, as cunning and manipulative, working in the early days of her marriage to usurp power from her husband, King Henry VII, who destroyed her family to unite the kingdom. Elizabeth was the daughter of King Edward IV of the House of York, who was overthrown by Henry's family, the House of Lancaster. In an effort to unite the Houses of York and Lancaster under the Tudor throne, Henry VII and Elizabeth married, ending the Wars of the Roses.
But in the midst of the fighting, Elizabeth's two brothers, who would have been princes with rightful claims to the throne, disappeared at the hands of the Lancasters. So, obviously, she wasn't exactly thrilled to be married to the guy whose family presumably ordered them dead.
(If this whole disappeared princes/bitterly united houses/competing claims to the throne thing sounds familiar, the Wars of the Roses is what Game of Thrones is based on.)
Insofar as it depicts the struggle for power between the Houses of York and Lancaster, and King Henry VII's tenuous grip on the kingdom after his marriage to Elizabeth, The White Princess is historically accurate. It also takes some creative liberties, however. For example, it imagines Elizabeth as the lover of her uncle, Richard III, and, while it was rumored that they might marry when Richard's wife was dying, there is no historical evidence that they ever had a romantic relationship. The White Princess depicts Lizzie as still being in love with her uncle while she's married to her husband, King Henry VII.
The White Princess does beef up the backstories of all the key female players in the Wars of the Roses, but it's still a useful dramatization to understand how the House of Tudor rose to power. And, if you're a Game of Thrones fan, it might be fun to see the source material play out.