In the year 1483, England is at peace, with Prince Edward staying in Ludlow Castle in Wales along with Antony and Richard Grey. Henry Tudor remains exiled in Brittany with Jasper, but he receives good news when King Edward allows him to return to court, seeing as he’s no longer a threat to the throne. Though Elizabeth is perturbed by the idea of having someone who could usurp her husband allowed into the palace, she has bigger things to worry about as Edward falls ill that night at dinner, experiencing a harsh fever that leads him to vomit up blood and eventually collapse. He tells Elizabeth to send for Richard and while she may not want him around, she does as she’s told and complies with her husband’s wishes.
Nobody knows the cause of Edward’s illness, as it didn’t come from the food and was too sudden to catch; as such, Elizabeth sends Thomas to find Antony and tell him to go to Wales and bring Prince Edward back home. She’s worried that Richard will try to apprehend her son and stop his ascension to the throne. While Margaret still believes that God will put her son on the throne and prays for such a miracle to occur, Lord Stanley advises her to keep Henry in Brittany and see what happens from here, as he could put a target on his back by arriving in London too early and without assurance of a place on the throne. Richard makes it to see his bed-ridden brother, where Duchess Cecily takes the aside and compares Elizabeth’s current state to a wounded beast defending her lair. In urging those around him to make it their duty to protect the prince, Edward has already accepted that it’s his time to go and laments not seeing his children grow up and rule the country.
He makes them vow to put Prince Edward on the throne and names Richard as his son’s guardian instead of Antony, much to Elizabeth’s dissatisfaction. She urges the rest of those in the room to leave and allow her to say goodbye to her husband, though when they do exit, she tries to convince him to name Antony as the prince’s guardian, citing the fact that he taught the boy everything he knows. Edward says that Antony’s name has been harmed in court and decided to name Richard as Lord Protector due to wanting to keep the peace; he then tells her that he doesn’t want to spend his final moments discussing stately matters and she kisses his forehead before laying her head on his chest. He thanks her for waiting under the oak tree that fateful day and for wanting him, while she thanks him for giving her another chance at life and a certainty that she was lacking before him. Edward then passes away and Elizabeth loudly mourns the loss, causing those listening nearby to console each other. She gathers herself enough to join them, where everyone except Duchess Cecily bows before her. Her reasoning? She and Elizabeth are now on equal footing, as they’re both the mothers of kings.
Both Elizabeth and Cecily plot to get Edward from Wales, with the former being unable to trust anyone and the latter wanting to take the steps necessary toward securing the throne for Richard. They think that Elizabeth was lying about being willing to comply with Richard’s new role as Lord Protector, but when Anne tries to encourage him to seize the opportunity by the throat and show Elizabeth who’s in charge, he tells her to stand down and that he knows what needs to be done. He then runs into a mourning Jane Shore and banishes her from court, explaining that it’s disrespectful for her to be there and that her kind does not belong in and around the palace, even though she has nowhere to stay. While Jasper interrupts Henry having sex with a woman to tell him about the king’s death and the fact that he’ll have to wait longer to return, Richard’s men encounter Prince Edward on the road to the palace with his guardian. They want to take him to the tower, while Antony wants him to go to Westminster and Edward simply wants to see his mother. One of Richard’s men kills Edward’s guardian and subdues Antony, allowing him to take the prince to the tower.
When Edward arrives at the tower, he continues protesting the fact that he’s not allowed to see his mother, but Richard and Anne tell him that his mother is grieving right now and doesn’t need to be bothered. However, Elizabeth is furious that Richard took her son, even though Antony has already petitioned for a release and maintains that he trusts Richard. Thomas wants to raise an army and act now, especially since Richard Grey was arrested, but Elizabeth thinks they should seek sanctuary at Westminster for the time being, since only fools wait to see whether their enemies are their friends or not. In her mind, staying out in the open will give Richard the opportunity to seize her other sons, but she does allow Thomas to stay above ground and act as her eyes/ears. Elizabeth then warns Antony that if anything happens to her children, she’ll never forgive him.
While Margaret and Henry are excited at the possibility of Elizabeth and Richard destroying one another and paving the way for Henry’s ascension to the throne, a letter from Thomas to Edward Rivers gets intercepted by Richard and causes him to arrested them both for treason, as the letter called for a fleet to be raised. Anne and Cecily continue to try and convince him that Elizabeth is devious and that she was responsible for the mists that killed Lord Warwick, with the latter urging her son to name himself Lord Protector before she can do anything about it. At the Abbey, Elizabeth sees how her children are giving up hope and orates a stirring speech to her children about how their father overcame plenty of adversity on the battlefield and his valiance and bravery is in each of them.
After being caught sitting on the throne by Margaret, who then offered her services, Anne tells her ladies that she’s not up for the coronation fitting that day, even though the country needs direction right now. The ceremony is scheduled to take place in three days and Lady Jane brings news to Elizabeth from Antony, who she had been staying with after being banished from court. Although he had been keeping his distance, it was only for appearances sake and he is the one who convinced Richard to set a coronation date, thinking that Elizabeth could attend and show that she could work with Richard. Elizabeth tells Jane to tell Richard that she’s sorry for everything and that if he removes the soldiers from their door, she would consider attending. Richard complies and removes the guards, but Elizabeth is still paranoid about whether she can truly trust him.
Lord Stanley, however, is deadest against the idea of Elizabeth and Richard trusting one another and sets out to plant seeds of mistrust in them both. Margaret encounters Elizabeth and mentions that there are rumors that Prince Edward is a bastard, which, if true, would cause her children to be disinherited and lose their chance at the throne. She also mentions that Anne refused to be fitted for a coronation gown, allowing Elizabeth to draw her own conclusion that there might not even be a coronation ceremony whatsoever and that Richard could be trying to lull her into a false sense of security. Lord Stanley is much less successful with Richard and Anne, who dismiss him almost immediately; however, his talk of Lady Jane inspires them to send men to follow her to see who she’s dealing with. They find her at Antony’s and arrest him on grounds of being a traitor before publicly humiliating her. Though Richard was thrown for a loop by Antony, a man he trusted fully, going against him, Anne encourages him to show Elizabeth who the real Lord Protector is.
At Westminster, Lord Buckingham visits Elizabeth under the guise of bringing her children fresh food and informs her that both Antony and Jane have been arrested, with Thomas having gotten away. He suggests that it would be best for her to comply with Richard and help her brother, but he’ll give her until tomorrow to decide if she wants to do that and send her other son Richard to the palace. To defy Richard would be to put the entire family in danger; however, Elizabeth knows that Richard will do whatever he wants and that for now, it’s best for her to save her son. She sends him away with Thomas and gets a boy of common birth named Geoffrey to pose as Richard before writing to Lady Margaret and cursing Richard with a string she wraps around her wrist.
Feeling the effects of the curse, Richard’s sword arm grows considerably weaker and he openly frets about the council’s true motives in demanding Antony’s release from the tower. In his mind, there are too many people who have a say in the future of Prince Edward, which leads him to send his men, including Sir Robert, to search Lord Stanley’s belongings. Being that Lady Margaret just put an incriminating letter from Elizabeth in her consecrated Bible, she causes a scene when they apprehend it and forces them to give it to her without opening it. No charges are brought against the two as a result.
Lord Buckingham and Lord Stanley are among those who meet Elizabeth, Princess Elizabeth, and “Richard,” the latter of whose role in the plan is to give them some time to get away. While Elizabeth explains to her daughter that Richard having both heirs in the tower would have given him all the leverage against her, Edward talks back to Richard and says that his father would be ashamed of how his brother is treating the family. Nonetheless, the crowning is set to begin sometime the next morning and Richard doesn’t notice that “Richard” isn’t actually Elizabeth’s son. Later, he meets with Anne and Cecily, who try to convince him that even if Edward is crowned, he’ll continually be looking toward Antony and Elizabeth for guidance vs. Richard as Lord Protector. Anne suggests that he name himself king, as the safest option that’s available, and Richard confirms that Edward had had secret martial ceremonies with women in order to get them into bed, likely producing bastard children throughout England. Though he worries that he won’t be king in the eyes of God, Anne assures him that God will be okay with him preventing a commoner and a witch from assuming the throne.
While out with her daughter, Elizabeth runs into Lady Margaret’s physician Dr. Lewis, who informs them that Parliament has declared her marriage to Edward invalid and her sons to be bastards, though Margaret and Lord Stanley are reportedly in her corner. Richard meets with Antony in the tower and tells him that Edward would only take his counsel should he be crowned, meaning that he can’t be trusted. Antony tries to convince Richard that he’s no threat, only for Richard Grey to be brought into the room and Richard to mention that he has named himself king and that Antony will never see him crowned. Back at the Abbey, Princess Elizabeth has a vision of Elizabeth’s ambition ruining the lives of her sons and forcing her daughter on the throne, that she loves the throne more than she ever loved them.
Just then, Antony and Richard Grey are each brought out and executed on Richard’s orders. Meanwhile, Anne and Richard are crowned and named King and Queen of England.
Additional thoughts and observations:
-We’re now 19 years removed from the events of the first episode. I wonder how much ground will be covered by the final two episodes of the series.
-I like how Edward remained a naïve idiot until his dying breath. His words for Elizabeth were very sweet, but the fact that he named Richard as Lord Protector tells you everything you need to know about him.
-Although I think Anne’s character arc has been arguably the strongest on the show, seeing her as this bitter, ruthless wannabe queen (and as a spitting image of Duchess Cecily in terms of manipulating Richard) just made me frustrated. RIP, Anne’s likability. Hopefully someone brings her down in the last two episodes.
-I did, however, love Duchess Cecily not bowing before Elizabeth. In the alternate universe version of this show (that exists solely in my head), Duchess Cecily is a tremendous series-long villain and gets much more screen time than she got during this show. It’s very fitting that none of the three Sons of York were very assertive and ended up allowing other people to dictate how they ruled/lived their lives.
-The line “I’m your Grace.” was very well-delivered, though. The events of the final 10-15 minutes of the episode were all very chilling, in fact, but that stood out to me as something especially effective.
-I truly think that if Elizabeth had played along from the very beginning, she might have been okay. But she gave Anne and Cecily ample opportunity to fill Edward’s head with the type of information that motivated him to do what he did and paid dearly for her insistence on clinging to the throne.
-Can someone like Richard hand down a treason warrant without being the king or the offense being against the king? That just seemed extremely arbitrary, as did Richard literally becoming king because he said so.
-Since this show is very Tudors-y, I kind of wish that the episode ending executions were grander, like Anne Boleyn’s (devastating) death in season two of the Showtime series. They were still very sad here, but they were quick and mostly off-screen, so their impact wasn’t as felt as it could have been. I don’t need to see severed heads flying about, but it would have been nice to have a bit more pomp.
-Next week on The White Queen: Lady Margaret and Elizabeth scheme against one another.