Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Not My White Princess

The popularity of the Starz series The White Princess has raised some questions about the historical Elizabeth of York. Based upon a book by Philippa Gregory, this show would have people believe that "Lizzie" was a fiery character who plots against her own husband.

I have no idea where any of this comes from.

Elizabeth of York is, of course, near and dear to my heart. One of the reasons that I wrote about her was that she seemed to be a forgotten, yet vital, part of history. I wanted to shed some light upon her life and character, but I have to admit that this wasn't exactly the type of attention I was hoping she would get. The real white princess would not recognize herself in this production.

The real Elizabeth was pious, generous, and devoted to her husband. History remains silent on what Elizabeth's feelings were toward Henry Tudor before their marriage, but she would have seen it as her duty to build a good relationship with him. Their daily habits indicate that they were devoted to each other, often travelling together and spending more time together than many royal couples.

For an idea of what a day in the life of Elizabeth looked like, see this article that I wrote for Tudor Times.

Elizabeth had grown up during turbulent times. She went into sanctuary with her mother and sisters once when her father, Edward IV, was forced into exile by the forces of his cousin and one time ally, the Earl of Warwick, and again when her father died. She had watched the power struggle between her father and Henry VI, Warwick, and Margaret of Anjou. She had been there when her uncle became Richard III and her brothers disappeared. The last thing Elizabeth wanted to do was start it all up again. She and Henry strove for peace with their union and for the most part achieved it.

Did Henry and Elizabeth have marital ups and downs? Certainly. Who doesn't? They had the added stress of minor rebellions and pretenders claiming to be Elizabeth's brothers, so I think they kept their relationship together rather well. They are both noted for their faithfulness during a time when monogamy was not expected of men, and certainly not of kings. Frankly, to suggest anything else is disrespectful of their relationship.

If you are watching The White Princess for light entertainment, enjoy. Just remember that behind the Hollywood story there is a real historical couple whose truth is just as interesting as fiction.

26 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing with us!! Tudor history is one of my favorites and while the White Princess is entertaining, I agree keeping in mind its not factual is imperative. Elizabeth has always seemed to me a strong women in a turbulent time, striving for a peace for her children that her and Henry did not have in their youth. Thanks again for the article. **Also love your mantra at the top "living on the wrong side of the pond"...A lady after my own heart!!**

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    1. Thanks, Cindy! I hope that watching these fictional series does inspire many people to look into the real history.

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  2. I've read only a couple of PG's books, I just don't like her books. I'm now on your 3rd book Mary I, Love your books. Can't wait to see what you'll write on next. Love to see you write one on Katherine or Aragon.

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    1. Thanks, Terrie! I have a few novellas in the works right now, exploring some of the secondary characters in Plantagenet Embers. :-)

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  3. I tend to avoid these series. I just don't understand the need to change the story when the history is so interesting on its own. I watched the entire Tudor series, hoping that the writers would get over it. While it was a fun series on its own, it had so many blatant and unnecessary errors. I've read the novels, and just can't go through it again....

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    1. I agree! The real stories don't need improving. Thanks, Lauren.

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  4. The only thing I disagree with is your last sentence! Their truth is MORE interesting than fiction! Good blog. Thanks!

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  5. Good article. I find fiction entertaining. History and fiction kept me sane -and still do- at a point in my life where it got really tough but by the end of the day it is fiction. However, it does get troubling when authors confuse their books with fact. I have read plenty of fiction where authors make a good distinction between the two instead of blurring the lines and are also honest about what sources they used, etc. The problem with The White Princess and other books in the cousins war series is that there is no distinction between the two, the line between fact and fiction is purposefully blurred. The way it has been advertised on TV, magazines and other outlets that for some reason have been taken as credible assessments of a topic they are out of their league to talk about, is incredible and downright sad.
    It is nothing more but another conspiracy theory fest.

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    1. I love historical fiction too - that's obvious I guess. ;-) But so many people don't understand what an author has made up and what is true. PPTQ has a review stating that the reader was confused after reading it and PG's because they didn't know what to believe. We have to show some respect for the real historical figures we are writing about.

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  6. I am so glad someone wrote the truth about "The White Princess" it is a TV show and a work of fiction with some historical facts thrown in for entertainment.

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  7. I watched The White Queen without knowing much about the Plantagnent royals, I only knew about King Richard III's serve case of scoliosis, because I had it at one time too! I recently got Alison Weir's book about Elizabeth Of York and read it before The White Princess, within the first episode I wanted to throw my remote at the TV! I've even discussed it with my mom (which just goes over her head!) because not every princess or Queen needs to be a badass character like they're portraying her out to be. It's just wrong, but I am still watching it so I feel like a hypocrite lol

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    1. Nothing wrong with watching it, but I'm glad you researched the real Elizabeth too! There is a trend of making historical women into a modern feminist mold, but Elizabeth of York definitely would not define herself that way.

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  8. i read the book by Gregory. Am not an expert on British history but... the Elizabeth i read seems so dull... as if all she ever did was repeat what her husband says ... or throws him back the question when he is suspicious. Maybe she was more fiery than the fictional representation?

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    1. Her character seems rather different in the book than in the show based upon it.

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  9. I dont mind historical fiction but if they make the characters do something thats bad like rape just so they can sell a book i know king henry the eighth was a tyrant but im not sure he was a rapist as pg said in one of her books

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    1. I absolutely agree! Did she make Henry VIII a rapist too? I know she did with Henry VII. Just not right.

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  10. I think it's actually sad that the real story and events get manipulated for the greater good of an exciting tv or film . I often think the true events are exciting enough and don't need to be twisted . This period is full of intrigue and true events that make you gasp at how difficult times must have been to live through . Imagine members of the Royal household seeking sanctuary and kings hiding away in foreign lands until the time is right to win back their former position . Surely it's exciting enough without making up bits . As certain periods aren't covered in schools , what people see on tv they believe to be pure fact . How would they know which bits are fact or purely fabricated for drama . I've been watching Versailles and mostly enjoy the programme after where they discuss the factual parts , at least here you understand how the production team have dressed it up for pure tv effect .

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    1. You are right! No need for falsehoods with Tudor drama.

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  11. Would you believe, I am reading Alison Weir's "Elizabeth of York" for the second time at the moment. My impression is of a typical female of the times, brought up to believe that females were inferior to males in every respect, and virtually had no say at all. Plus she lived in turbulent and often cruel times. I think Elizabeth and Henry worked together for peace and had a mainly happy and meaningful marriage.

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    1. Weir's is the most comprehensive biography of Elizabeth that I have found.

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  12. Well said. We should never assume that a Hollywood treatment is the actual story

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    1. Thanks, Christoph! I sure hope people who enjoy the show dig deeper into the truth.

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  13. I don't live in the States so haven't seen White Princess, but I have read the book and reviews. I have also seen some previews and from what information this gives me I doubt I will be watching it. BBC White Queen was actually quite good, save the Battle of Bosworth, which was 12_men in a wood. I could even forgive Philippa Gregory's obsession with the entire female side of the House of York being witches, as it was great drama. The White Princess, the story of Elizabeth of York and Gregory has gone over to the dark side and the production sounds awful. Elizabeth of York did her duty and married Henry Tudor, but there is no evidence that he raped her. They may not have been a love match but they appear to find common ground and a raport. Elizabeth supported Henry's myth of being the saviour King coming like a new King Arthur and in the background she strengthened his claim and kingship. No doubt they had many crisis, they faced several people claiming to be either Richard of York or the Earl of Warwick in the Tower. Elizabeth had to flee with her dix years old son Henry and young children to the safety of the Tower when the Cornishmen threatened London. She risked her health and her life after Arthur died to attempt to give her husband another son. This birth did kill her a few weeks later. You don't do this of your own choice, and it was her idea if you are plotting to bring down your husband. I am certain Elizabeth was a strong woman, but as a Queen, she also took on a traditional role, as patron, pius role model, mother, wife, intercession, adviser, the image of bounty and compassion and she was loved because of these qualities. After her death, Henry was a changed man and didn't remarry. Elizabeth was mourned by her husband and children. She was greatly honoured. You don't honour a woman who tries to destroy your dynasty with witchcraft. I loved your book on the real Elizabeth of York.

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    1. Thank you so much! It is not always easy to discover the real personality and motivations of historical figures, yet historical novelists have a duty to try, I believe. Making a Hollywood spectacle out of falsehoods just seems terribly wrong. Certainly, none of us would think it was alright if these stories were made up about us!

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