In the year 1485, Elizabeth arrives at Grafton Manor to begin living out the rest of her days, while Margaret writes to Henry, telling him to bring an army when he can escape from Brittany, the place he’s currently being pinned down in. The latter also learns from a combative Lord Stanley that Elizabeth is no longer prisoner in the Abbey, the one bit of solace that Margaret has after recent events; Richard has sent her back to Grafton and thus, Stanley argues that God has chosen the Yorks.
Back in the palace, Prince Edward suffers from yet another fever and ends up interrupting a conversation his parents were having about Henry looking to unite the houses of York and Lancaster, as well as Anne’s hostility toward “the bastard girl Elizabeth,” by vomiting on the floor. He’s immediately rushed to bed, just as Lizzie and Cecily arrive at court. Anne addresses them both coldly from her throne and subtly insults their mother by saying that she’s a Queen who’s easy to serve; however, that evening, she is awakened by Lizzie playing the violoncello for a casual audience and witnesses Richard offer his niece his hand before the two begin dancing. Stanley was there to witness everything and takes the news of Lizzie having a suitor back to Margaret, rubbing in her face the fact that Henry needs the Rivers girl in order to be taken seriously should he win the battle with Richard. After expressing disgust at Richard pursuing his niece, especially since he still has a wife, Margaret suggests that perhaps he’s doing this to shame Lizzie, only Stanley thinks that they each have genuine feelings for the other.
Anne confronts Richard about the fact that she wants to banish both Lizzie and Cecily from court. While she finds out that he doesn’t wish to bed his niece, he wants to use her status among the men who still support King Edward as a way of keeping Henry’s ranks low, even if it means embarrassing his wife in the process. That night at dinner, he does just that by offering to walk Lizzie into the dining hall, though they all get pulled away when the royal daughter Margaret comes running, frantically searching for help for Edward. The two had been playing and she fell asleep while he still had a fever; as a result, the prince dies and Queen Anne causes a scene at the funeral, almost as a way of testing where her husband’s loyalties lie. Instead of comforting her, he does so with Lizzie, furthering her grief and belief that all this is the result of Elizabeth’s curse on those responsible for the death of her son. Richard suggests that they should have another son, but after 10 years of trying for another boy, Anne no longer longs to be touched, as she knows what the outcome will be. She accuses Richard of not loving her anymore before turning away from him, forcing him to leave.
Once she receives a letter from her mother urging her to hold out for Henry Tudor, who will be arriving shortly now that Richard doesn’t have an heir, rather than siding with the King, Lizzie arrives back at Grafton with Cecily at her side. She didn’t listen to the letter, though, and has already been kissing her uncle and taking his declarations of love to heart. She insists to Elizabeth that Richard isn’t the tyrant that people claim him to be and that she doesn’t think that he was responsible for the deaths of the boys, claiming that he’s already promised to marry her. Elsewhere, Margaret writes to Henry and Jasper with news of Edward’s death and urges them to get their army ready as quickly as possible, because now is the time to strike, before Richard has another son to continue the York line. However, Henry’s army has been decidedly disappointing, compromised mostly of injured/untrustworthy prisoners rather than the type of man he needs to seize the throne for himself. He does get a vote of confidence when the French grant him an army to supplement his brood, something that sends Richard into panic mode.
He tells a deathly ill Anne, who has developed a nasty cough, that he is going to outfit Lizzie in the same silk ensemble that she’s currently wearing. After mentioning that she needs to go to bed, he acknowledges that the north has been in his pocket only due to his marriage to Anne and that they won’t take kindly to him disrespecting her so publicly. As Elizabeth sends Thomas to Flanders to retrieve her “precious jewel” Richard, word spreads around court that Richard has only taken a shine to Lizzie to cuckold Henry, who no one thinks can unite the houses. Unfortunately, Richard has indeed been using Lizzie and tells Anne that his niece’s status as “broken meats” is to be expected considering the price that they all have to pay for war and to keep him on the throne. He’s been encouraged by sealing off the York ranks from possible poaching by Tudor, leaving the young man with only the Lancastrians at his disposal, but Anne is in a different frame of mind, regretting ever becoming Queen in the first place and wracked with guilt about her possible role in the deaths of the boys. Following a nightmare, she asks Sir Robert about the fate of Edward and “Richard” and whether he listened to her words in the tower that day. He assures her that he didn’t kill the boys and that the death didn’t occur on his watch, clearing her conscience.
A solar eclipse occurs and Margaret has a vision that the York reign has ended and that the new king will come like a dragon. Now is the time for Henry to set sail. At the palace, Anne has hallucinations of her sister and her recently departed son before passing away, leaving Richard beside himself with grief. He ponders whether she might have died from a broken heart as a result of his actions and hates that the rumors have started that he was responsible for her death as a way of getting to marry Lizzie. He sends his niece to live with Margaret and Stanley as a way to prove that she’s a chaste woman and that they never slept together, taking advantage of Lady Margaret’s notorious piety. As the winds change and Henry sets sail, Margaret promises to simply guide Lizzie toward God, though their interactions are tense at best. Henry touches down on land and finds that Lord Stanley’s armies have yet to arrive and that Wales isn’t behind him like he thought. She tries to convince Stanley to side with her son, since where he throws his resources will determine the result of the battle and the fate of England, to no avail, as he makes clear he’s not choosing until the battle begins.
Richard finds out the good news that Tudor’s numbers are about half his and lacking the support of Wales, while Margaret and Lizzie have a confrontation about the latter’s foolishness in believing Richard loves her and the former’s role in the death of Prince Edward. Though Margaret grabs Lizzie’s face and claims that Henry will never marry her, Lizzie counters with the fact that Henry has to marry her if he hopes to be a successful ruler and says that no matter what happens this day, she will be the Queen of England. On the battlefield, Stanley’s son insists that his father is ill and won’t be able to meet before the battle, causing Richard to threaten his life if his father won’t show until the armies depart. In the Tudor camp, Henry expresses worry about Stanley possibly siding with Richard and writes his mother about said worry, asking her to persuade Stanley to work with him. Margaret rides to the York camp and meets with her husband, pleading for him to pledge his armies to Henry before the battle, as he will lose otherwise. However, Stanley won’t relent and have his son die as a result, despite Margaret’s assurances that he’ll be honored for his service to future King Henry.
On her way out of the tent, Margaret comes face-to-face with Jasper Tudor, where she despairs at getting them into this mess and being unable to find a solution. She urges him and Henry to run away as quickly as they can, but Jasper says that that’s what they’ve done all their lives and now is the time to stand their ground and fight. He takes Margaret to meet with Henry as she requested and the two embrace as he asks whether God is here. She acknowledges that he is and that Henry cannot lose now, not with God on his side. As Richard gets ready for battle, he mounts his horse and puts on his helmet, which has the crown attached. His army rides out just as Henry’s creeps along in the woods on foot. The two meet in the middle of the woods and Sir Robert gives the call for charge as swords are drawn. While Margaret is alone in a York tent, despairing at what is transpiring outside, Elizabeth is reunited with Richard and the battle begins, with Richard getting surrounded and brought down from his horse. He retrieves the helmet-crown and proceeds to fight on foot and it looks for a while like Henry’s numbers disadvantage was going to be too much of an obstacle to overcome, especially once he found himself alone and vulnerable in the middle of the battle.
But what saves him is Stanley’s armies being called and pledging “for Tudor” before pouncing. Sir Robert’s calls to get Richard a horse come too late, as both he and the King are slaughtered, the latter stripped of his armor and jewels. Stanley takes the crown from the helmet and presents it to King Henry, bowing in the presence of the new King of England. The rest of the soldiers all do the same and proclaim “God save the King” before Margaret arrives on the battlefield to reunite with her son. After forcing Stanley to kneel when he attempts to stand up and embrace her, she proclaims herself to be Margaret Regina. Elsewhere, Elizabeth tells Lizzie that she needs to be strong right now and that she will marry Henry Tudor and become Queen of England, just as she herself once was.
Additional thoughts and observations:
-Well, that was awesome. Easily my favorite episode of the series, if only for the significant emotional payoff (the last 10-15 minutes, especially) and how the show was still quick but didn’t feel like it was glossing over events as much. I still maintain that the show would have been better served as a 4-5 season type of production, but The White Queen had the strengths, commanding performances, and distinct point-of-view to be able to recommend pretty easily, regardless of what may be deemed wasted potential. The historical inaccuracies that I’ve seen some complain about don’t bother me and honestly never took me out of the story, whenever I even noticed them.
-Interesting how Elizabeth was mostly sidelined for this episode – her character arc was very strong and kind of petered out, but I’m glad that she found the happiness at Grafton that was hard to grasp in the palace. Anne and Margaret had stronger overall arcs, the former being redeemed after embracing her inner Margaret of Anjou once becoming Queen and the latter having her prophecy of it being God’s will for her son to be King coming true. I’m just happy that there was a historically-based television series that featured so many (varied, interesting) female characters so prominently and hope that it’s lack of success isn’t a deterrent for similar productions or a series based on other Philippa Gregory works.
-The finale was gorgeously directed. The show has always done well with lighting and toned down its Instagram-y coloring as the series went on, but between the edge of the bed providing a split-screen after Anne’s argument with Richard, the “heavenly light” that shone on Henry and Margaret when he asked about God’s presence, and the cross on top of the throne that was highlighted following Anne’s conversation with Sir Robert, it was well done.
-Margaret provided two of the laughs in the episode: one for her reaction to Stanley ordering her not to bully Lizzie and one for her “whose side?” reaction to finding out that Stanley was indeed bringing his armies.
-Richard getting one of Anne’s outfits replicated for Lizzie was awesomely creepy, for some reason. Cable has gone to the incest well a lot recently (Boardwalk Empire, Magic City, Game of Thrones, True Blood), but the hints at it this episode worked for me (showed Richard’s desperation and insecurity with his public image, etc.) and provided a counterbalance to the tragic or comedic ways that it’s been played on other shows.
-I know it’s probably cliché to love the “cat fighting,” but Margaret’s confrontation with Lizzie was fun and part of me wishes they had embraced that aspect of power more. I don’t need this to be Bad Girls Club set in 15th century England; I just think scenes like this and the one in the pilot with Duchess Cecily are electric and bring about an energy that the show could sometimes lack.
-So, the turncoat proves to be the hero in the end. Good job, White Queen. I loved how Margaret already fully embraced her status as the King’s mother and made Stanley kneel before her, even after he was the reason that Henry won the battle to begin with.
-The entire battle was my favorite action-y scene of the series, especially the silence right before it was revealed that Stanley’s army would be defending Tudor. Since a lot of the action took place on foot, sometimes it could get a little chaotic and claustrophobic in earlier episodes; here, though, it was well done and extremely effective.
-Thank you guys for following my White Queen recaps this season. Although it’s disappointing that this is the end, the show went out on about as good a note as it could have and I don’t regret investing the time (and effort) at all.