In the year 1484, Richard has called Sir Robert, Harry Stafford, and Lord Stanley to his presence, telling them that he’s come to rely on them before bestowing upon them new titles. Sir Robert is the Constable of the Tower, while Stafford is the Duke of Buckingham and Stanley inherits Antony Rivers’ position of Lord High Constable of England. He’s in a bit of a vulnerable position as London has yet to embrace him as their king, but Anne assures him that as the north becomes more loyal, the south will come to love him and their son, who they’re hoping to make the Prince of Wales.
While Elizabeth is still incensed about Richard seizing the throne, and worried about receiving no word from Richard in Flanders, Lady Margaret learns that Buckingham has set his terms for his involvement in their proposed rebellion. It seems as if now is the time to tell Elizabeth and use her army to rise with them against Richard, hopefully freeing the princes as a result, one of the main points that had to be agreed on for Elizabeth to join forces with Lady Margaret. However, the princes are still extremely supported around the nation and this fact worries Lord Stanley. Anne visits the tower and peeks in on the boys; Sir Robert inquires about their fate and when Anne claims that she can’t bring herself to order their killing, he mentions how much of a threat they are to her and Richard. Since declaring them illegitimate did nothing to squelch the support for King Edward, she agrees to their execution.
Elizabeth receives a message from Richard asking her to come out of sanctuary and live at Grafton Manor, likely under the watchful eyes of guards for the remainder of her life. She mentions that she needs to have her boys released safely and soundly before she agrees to it; before long, though, she learns everything about the plan with Buckingham and Lady Margaret, including their terms of participation. He wants his daughter to marry Prince Edward and himself to be named regent, while she wants Henry to marry Lizzie and become the first heir behind Prince Edward, something she claims will unite the houses and bring an end to the cycle of violence. Elizabeth reluctantly accepts and sends Dr. Lewis back with word of her agreement, in addition to a note to give Thomas Grey.
Margaret writes a letter to Jasper telling him of the news of her involvement with Elizabeth and Buckingham. However, she also mentions that there will be a second battle, that after a victor emerges from the battle between Elizabeth’s army and Richard’s army, Jasper’s army would strike and try to restore Lancaster to power. Lord Stanley brings news of the men selected for the mission to the tower and asks Margaret whether it would be her will for the two boys to be killed once they’re reached. Although it causes her great pains to give the okay, she knows that Henry would never be chosen by the public of England ahead of Richard and Edward and tearfully agrees to their deaths. Before Stanley and his men go, a letter is drawn up to “warn” Sir Robert of the attack, a letter that will be given to him following the conflict. It is to ensure that if things were to go south, they would not look culpable to King Richard. Meanwhile, Elizabeth gives Thomas Grey and Sir John words of encouragement before the battle is to begin.
However, there’s not much of a battle to speak of, as Grey’s men aren’t able to get inside the tower due to a previously unaccounted for swarm of guards and the boys are subsequently removed from the room they were staying in. Despite Lizzie’s concerns about her mother being in bed with the devil, Elizabeth knows that now is the time for uprising and she must contact Lady Margaret if she is to recover her sons in one piece. Richard becomes aware of the note and Lord Stanley has no suspicion throw his way, though Anne has grown more paranoid and he admits that the boys are commanding the outside men with their very existence. Elsewhere, Margaret prays for a sign in terms of what direction she should proceed in and goes to the woods where she has an argument with Stanley, bitterly spitting out word of her meeting with Buckingham, who has access to the tower. At the tower, the two agree to bring down the Rivers line by having Buckingham be the one to do the job. He pledges complete fealty to Henry and becomes next in line for the throne behind the young boy.
The Rivers family has not had any word sent to them from Edward or Richard, their letters being returned unopened. Richard’s son Edward has already been named Prince of Wales and Lizzie tries to bring to her mother’s attention the miserable existence they’ve had since being forced into sanctuary, where Elizabeth spends a majority of her time plotting revenge. After all this plotting, she might not have a boy to put on the throne, should she even win, and Elizabeth mourns the desperation of her situation by reminiscing over Edward and wearing his coat. Soon, though, Thomas Grey brings word from Richard in Flanders – the boy is safe, as is Elizabeth’s claim to the throne. Margaret writes to Jasper once more and mentions that her home is now the headquarters of rebellion, with Elizabeth signing up men still loyal to Edward to fight for her and Dr. Lewis acting as an intermediary between the two.
But Margaret’s claim that Richard won’t know what hit him gets dealt a major blow when Stanley goes to the King with knowledge of the rebellion and implicates his wife in the matter. No one really knows what side Stanley is ever on, though, and Richard bucks when Anne suggests that they arrest Margaret for treason, seeing as how her notorious piety could land them many more enemies than the onslaught they’re currently facing. While the boys are woken up with a start in their room in the tower, Stanley wakes up Margaret and mentions that the King doesn’t trust anyone and that he suspects that she’s one of the ringleaders of the rebellion bubbling against him. She claims that the princes are dead, only for her husband to question whether she saw the bodies or why she is so trusting in what Buckingham has to say to her. Before he goes, she reminds him that he better fight for Henry.
Richard has been intercepting Margaret’s letters and learns that Buckingham has a major role in the impending rebellion. He’s upset not only at the betrayal, but that he has to cancel the session with Parliament that he finally booked, where he was going to preview what kind of King he was going to be and how he would serve England. There’s also a rumor floating around town that the princes are dead at his hand, which he claims isn’t true. However, that’s not stopped it from spreading all the way to Elizabeth, who learns of her sons’ supposed demise from Sir John; he claims that all he’s heard is that they’re dead and that it was at the hands of one of Buckingham’s men. She orders him to go to Kent and prepare to rise up to destroy the false king and deliver the vengeance for her and her sons.
While Richard is given a wife’s blessing before departing for war, where he will try to cut off Buckingham’s impending meeting with Henry Tudor in Wales, Dr. Lewis confirms the rumors of the boys’ deaths to Elizabeth, yet she doesn’t seem to accept the idea. She questions why Buckingham would do it to cast the blame on Richard when the King would have been blamed regardless and lets it slip that the Richard in the tower isn’t the Richard who is in line for the throne. Lewis mentions the boys dying in their beds, immediately drawing suspicion from Elizabeth and fleeing before the conflict could escalate. Lizzie, though, doesn’t hear the river the same way she did when Antony died. She hears more of a lullaby, but drowning out the lullaby is her mother’s insistence on changing sides and going after Buckingham and Margaret, who she thinks killed her children.
Lewis returns to Margaret and tells her what Elizabeth said, though she won’t confirm or deny the idea that the boys are dead. Elsewhere, Elizabeth and Lizzie bring about a rain that stops the conflict from happening, leaving Margaret worried about her son, Buckingham separated from Henry and stuck in Wales, and Richard miserable from the unending pouring. While Buckingham writes a letter telling of Richard hunting him, conceding the fact that he doesn’t have the forces to take the King on himself, Richard searches for the boys in the tower, where he discovers that they’ve dissolved into the ether. Anne tries to no avail to get him to call Parliament and convince him that Elizabeth had spirited them away; Richard believes that Buckingham had a hand in whatever happened to the boys and executes him for ruining his good name among the English public.
Lord Stanley confronts Margaret with the fact that Buckingham has been executed, the King knows of her involvement in a plot to bring him down, and that he was faithful to Richard the entire time. The reason he went along with the idea of rebellion? To seize Margaret’s assets, including her extensive money chest, as he’s been named her jailer and gotten her a house arrest sentence at his country home in Bledsoe. He says that they will have to keep up the appearance that he has more control over her and that any letter she writes will have to go through him. Meanwhile, Richard visits Elizabeth in sanctuary to inquire about whether she has the boys or knows of their fates. She doesn’t have them, of course, and he denies being the one to order their execution, citing the line-ending murder of King Henry and how he was quick to show off his handiwork there. Telling her she has nothing to gain from sanctuary, he offers her safety if she comes out and lives out the rest of her days in Grafton. Elizabeth and Lizzie swear to curse the person responsible for killing the boys, should it not be Richard, and to make the first born son of every generation die out.
While in confession, Anne frets that her words to Sir Robert were responsible for the deaths of Edward and Richard. Later, she tries to get Richard out of bed and he seems to be too depressed at not knowing where the boys are and his wife thinking he played a part in it. Anne gets offended at him offering Elizabeth safety should she leave sanctuary at the Abbey and even moreso when he mentions that he wants the older girls, particularly Lizzie, in court. Back at Westminster, Lizzie learns that her betrothal to Henry Tudor still stands, with her mother claiming that they haven’t sacrificed as much as they have to turn back now, and she wishes for someone else to be sent to her.
Additional thoughts and observations:
-Aside from moments of being too exposition-y (e.g. multiple instances of characters saying “Are you saying that…?” and restating what just happened), I thought this was pretty strong and continued the forward momentum that last week kicked off. What makes shows like this fun is how twist-y the narrative can get and how quickly alliances (and motivations) can change, so this was an hour of political maneuvering that was fun to watch and revealing about where certain characters will be at come the finale.
-Although it was nice to see Anne show some emotion at the end of the episode following a turn into ice queen territory, I still found myself pleased at Richard turning his back on her and snapping at her when she tried to tell him what to do. As was mentioned last week, I think Richard is a pretty decent guy who lets other people control the way he lives his life and rules his kingdom far too much, a trait that he shared with his dearly departed brother. Richard’s tendency to do this is more about insecurity vs. the stupidity and naivety that Edward showed, though.
-I like that they used Lord Stanley’s turncoat tendencies against Margaret, although I’ve grown to love the latter over the last few weeks. Chekhov’s Military Strategy? I also kind of wish that their confrontation in the woods, where they were obviously turning against one another, would have played out a little more, just because I think it had the potential to be the best scene of the episode.
-Great moment: Transitioning Margaret’s “Richard won’t know what hit him” letter into the reveal that Stanley still supported the King. Another great reveal: Elizabeth letting it slip that it wasn’t Richard in the tower.
-Interesting that they have Lizzie embracing her abilities, with her visions, the curse, and the rain. Maybe she’ll use them to help her mother sometime in the finale?
-Do you think that Edward and Richard are dead?
-Next week on The White Queen: In the series finale, Anne, Margaret, and Elizabeth reach an end in their respective journeys and a new generation of schemers and seducers rises toward the English throne.