Lady Elizabeth Grey wakes up with a start from a dream she was having where her (deceased) husband John was being chased by a pack of men on horseback and slain by an old oak tree. Frightened, she goes to check on her two sons Thomas and Richard when her mother Jacquetta comes into the room, bearing a necklace meant to give her daughter luck. She is to see newly crowned King Edward IV today in regards to the lands that were taken from her when her husband died, lands that belong to her sons and lands that would give them a place to live. Edward was responsible for the death of her husband and as such, Thomas doesn’t consider Edward to be his king, no matter if he’s on the throne or not.
Elizabeth waits with her sons by the same tree from her dream and soon enough, Edward and company come riding by. She airs her grievances and despite the protestations of Lord Warwick, Edward agrees to come home with her and discuss the matter further. They arrive at Northamptonshire’s Grafton Manor where Warwick exchanges insults with Elizabeth’s father Baron Rivers and Edward accepts Jacquetta’s offer for a glass of wine from Burgundy. After they toast, Elizabeth and Edward are left alone and get down to business on acquiring her lands. He questions whether she’s happy living with her parents, to which she mentions her independent streak and desire to run her own household once more; however, before she’s able to get her lands back, there is to be one more battle, as dispatched King Henry has gotten his wits about him and has rallied enough forces to put up a last stand. Edward is confident in himself on the battlefield, though, and tells Elizabeth to write down the details of her land and ownership, which he’ll collect the following day. He then kisses her hand and leaves.
That evening, Jacquetta leads Elizabeth through two rows of trees to another tree, this one by the lake. Attached to the tree are three fishing lines, each with something tied to the end. Jacquetta maintains that their connection to the river goddess has afforded her abilities and knowledge in the field of magic and she gets Elizabeth to pick one of the threads before cutting the other two. Each day, she is to reel the line in one foot until she sees what’s on the other end, what fortune awaits her future. The following day, Edward makes good on his promise to see Elizabeth, much to the chagrin of Baron Richard Rivers and Elizabeth’s brothers, who are none too thrilled to see the king to which they don’t bow before. The men intimate that Edward is no angel, having slaughtered nearly half of England, but Edward maintains that neither was Henry, nor his vicious wife Margaret, the latter of who killed Edward’s parents and presented their heads on spikes. Finally, Edward leaves the home and goes out to the rose garden with Elizabeth, where he mentions Henry garnering support from the French and tells Elizabeth that he’ll send a pageboy for her at sunset so that he shall have her. She denies the offer to be his mistress, even with the possibility of losing him for good in battle, but she does agree to meet him at sunset by the oak tree they first met at.
The men in Elizabeth’s family express worry that promiscuous Edward would have his way with her, though with the help of Jacquetta, she convinces them that she’s merely asking for justice and that she would act as they would have her. She goes to meet Edward at the time they agreed upon and he goes over to take down her hair. He takes off his cape and lays it down on the ground, sitting on it and asking her to join him. While she does, he forces her down on the ground and gets on top of her, reaching under her dress and between her legs. She manages to push him off of her, only to begin kissing again and have him unbuckle his pants and try to penetrate her. Elizabeth then grabs his blade and holds it to her throat, threatening to kill herself should he lay another hand on her. Embarrassed, he throws his belt at her and tells her to keep the dagger as souvenir, as he has been made a fool of and would never see her again.
Guilty over what she did and regretting not giving herself to her king, Elizabeth talks to Jacquetta about her feelings for Edward; her mother tells her not to fall in love with a York king, not if there is no profit to be made from the arrangement. As Elizabeth is Lancastrian, she will have to wade through blood and will be very familiar with the concept of loss should she give herself to him, though she would be able to have whatever she wants if she’s willing to deal with the consequences. That night, she goes to the tree and reels the line for the final time, revealing a ring in the shape of a crown.
At breakfast, Jacquetta suggests to Richard that they see the York army off – if Edward wins this final battle, it’ll look good that they were behind him, but if he gets taken out by Henry, no one will remember and they won’t be at any risk of losing their status among the Lancastrians. She also gets her husband to agree to giving Edward, a man who could control the fortunes and marriage of the entire family, a purse of gold, as well as wearing white roses as a symbol of their switching sides from Lancaster to York. Soon enough, Baron Rivers, the men he was told to provide for battle, and the entire Rivers family are outside waiting for Edward and company to show up, which they do. While Warwick and Richard spar over the former’s suspicions, Edward and Elizabeth slip off, where they confirm that they haven’t been able to eat or sleep since their encounter. As he could never have her as his mistress, he proposes to Elizabeth, claiming to be mad for her; she accepts, only to hear that they’ll have to keep the marriage a secret. The plan is to meet tomorrow morning at sunrise and have Edward’s chaplain perform the ceremony, which Jacquetta will act as witness to.
The following morning, Jacquetta and Elizabeth sneak out and the ceremony goes off without a hitch, with Elizabeth using the ring she reeled in as her wedding ring. The two stay at a nearby hunting lodge that Jacquetta fixed up and they spend much of their first hours as husband and wife making love. However, once they get together for supper with the family, Elizabeth’s brother Antony grows even more suspicious and catches his sister with the king the next morning. He tries to tell Elizabeth that Edward tricked her into having a fake ceremony (she didn’t know the priest, there were no witnesses from his camp, he told her they’d have to keep it a secret) to get her into bed, that he had done this before and got a bastard son out of the deal; while Elizabeth denies it to Antony, the thought of being played got her extremely worried, worried that he was right and that she had let herself be burned by Edward.
Before she can work herself up too much, though, she receives a message that says Henry had been defeated, fleeing to the Moors as a result, while Margaret escaped with her life, as well. Edward arrives home soon after and the two make love in celebration of his victory. However, he claims that it’s still not time for them to make their marriage public, since he still has to break the news to Warwick and get out of a potential marriage with Princess Bona of France, as England would be signing a peace treaty with the French soon. This gets to Elizabeth and she begins overanalyzing her correspondence with Edward, which she claims is filled with general business and lovers words, not anything that would indicate she was his wife. However, she will get her answers since her father and other nobles have been requested to attend court, presumably to hear Edward’s marriage to Bona being announced.
The day of the announcement, though, Edward takes Warwick aside and tells him of the marriage. Warwick, of course, freaks out about the king that he made marrying a Lancastrian commoner, but Edward stands his ground about his own choice in queen. He then goes out to a waiting crowd, which includes Baron River, Princess Bona, and several key noble figures, and announces that he is married to Lady Elizabeth Grey. Elizabeth then receives a message from Edward addressing her as queen and letting her know that he has chosen her. Quickly, she has to get ready to go to the palace and Jacquetta warns her that she now has a target on her back, since Edward messed up in the eyes of the Yorks by marrying a commoner and someone not from his own house. When she mentions sending the boys to live with relatives, Elizabeth has a vision that makes her wary of leaving them alone with strangers and Jacquetta agrees to take them along to the palace.
Elizabeth’s arrival causes quite a stir among the Yorks, with whispers following her everywhere she goes and Warwick’s wife speaking ill of her before their forced meeting. Lancastrian Margaret Beaufort runs into Jacquetta and expresses concern about the Rivers family changing alliances, but Jacquetta simply states that anyone speaking ill of the king is treasonous before leaving. Edward introduces Elizabeth to key York figures, including his own family, before proclaiming to all that she’s the Queen of England; Baron Rivers is just happy to be sticking it to Lord Warwick with this marriage, especially if Edward can keep Elizabeth happy.
But there’s one person that Elizabeth still has to meet – Edward’s mother, Duchess Cecily. When she’s finally in the woman’s presence, Cecily is decidedly cold and dismissive, unhappy about the marriage itself and the secrecy in which the union was hatched. However, Jacquetta steps up and claims that the marriage was less secret than private and that if Cecily is upset about her lack of invitation, she should take it up with Edward. Elizabeth’s mother also defends her age difference with Edward, claiming that she’s already shown to be fertile, but Cecily threatens to unseat Edward from the throne and insert her other son George instead. Jacquetta again stands up for her daughter, this time announcing to the room that she had heard rumors around the time Edward was born that he was conceived through an affair with an archer but that she always defended the Duchess whenever it came up. But apparently it’s true that he’s a bastard and she intimates that she would leak the information. Elizabeth then reminds Duchess Cecily that the proper custom when presented with the Queen of England is to curtsy, which she reluctantly does.
That night, Elizabeth visits Jacquetta and her boys, where the former is doing magic in front of the mirror to try and read into the future. Once she glimpses into the mirror, though, Elizabeth has a vision of a woman in red with blood on her hands.
Additional thoughts and observations:
-As a warning going into this season, I’ve not read any of the three novels the series will be based on, nor am I that knowledgeable about English history, so if there are any mistakes in terms of historical information, please look over me.
-I liked the opening credits, but the font they used for the names was hard to read. While I knew several of the actors who were involved, there were more than a couple that I couldn’t make out.
-Overall, I thought this was a fairly solid first episode, if a little slow at times. It was very heavy on premise and trying to make the moves to get Elizabeth into power, so now that she’s the Queen of England, it seems like the action could pick up. Once she arrived at the palace, it got noticeably better, especially the showdown between Jacquetta and Duchess Cecily (soapy costume drama done right – it felt like Revenge with headdresses) and the final reveal of Elizabeth’s vision, which I’m assuming means that Margaret Beaufort takes her out by the end of the series.
-The random close ups reminded me a lot of the Boss pilot, especially when it was on seemingly ordinary things like Elizabeth’s children eating fruit. The close ups during the Cecily/Jacquetta fight, however, ratcheted up the tension even more, so it was less jarring.
-Visually, though, the show was beautiful, especially in terms of color. Lots of green, lots of white, outstanding landscapes/scenery – Elizabeth walking with her kids through the field to meet with Edward was exciting, if only for the background color palette.
-Do you think we’ll get to meet Henry and Margaret of Anjou sometime this season? The latter sounds like a real peach, so I’d be interested in seeing who plays her and just how vicious they allow her to be. On a show populated with empowered female characters, it could be an interesting addition.
-Speaking of, what were your thoughts on Elizabeth marrying the man who sexually assaulted her? (Or, for that matter, the man who killed her husband.) While a part of me thinks it’s more than a little icky, I like how she’s entering into this marriage with her own agenda and seems to be playing the long game.
-Butt shots! I see you, Max Irons. Or Max Irons’ butt double. Edward seems like a mostly harmless character, if only a little dumb, quite entitled, and Warwick’s puppet, the latter of which should presumably bite him in the end. That being said, I did like how he was publicly embarrassed by Warwick yelling at him in the room and still went out to proclaim Elizabeth as his wife.
-Another thing I liked: Elizabeth’s dream at the beginning of the episode popping up again, this time with Edward in it vs. John. Interesting way to demonstrate how much her mindset has changed and how, for better or worse, she’s been able to put John behind her.
-Next week on The White Queen: Edward fights to keep his crown, while Elizabeth feels the full force of Lord Warwick’s hatred.