OK, OK; I know that for a history teacher having your first two ‘history’ posts be about TV miniseries may seem a little bit lame (ok, it may be downright criminal); but one thing that I have learned about UK washer/dryer combo units is that while they are great space savers most men’s shirts that come out of them are very wrinkly. I find myself doing much more ironing than I expected and that is how I typically catch up on my television.
The BBC series The White Queen has just finished up in the UK (and I believe just starting in the US on STARZ). It is set during the late medieval period during the War of the Roses, when the houses of Lancaster and York, vied for control of the British crown. (As a little bit of a back-story; the War of the Roses was partially sparked by England’s failures to the French after the 100 Year’s War.)
The mini-series is based around the novels The White Queen & The Kingmaker’s Daughter by Phillipa Gregory (who also has a third related book The Red Queen). The story centers around Elizabeth Woodville (whose family originally supported the House of Lancaster – Red Rose) who marries King Edward IV (House of York – White Rose) hence becoming the White Queen.
Most of the series centers on political backstabbing within the house of York, how she works to maintain power and achieve vengeance of her enemies; and her use of witchcraft to accomplish these goals. The witchcraft part is more historical speculation; her mother Jacquetta was put on trial for witchcraft, but the case was never proven.
I don’t want to give away too much of the story in case you haven’t seen it. But what I did find interesting about the series, was how it portrayed women’s roles. It made very clear that for women in the nobility, their lives were not their own. They were not free to marry who they wanted (or extra-maritally love who they wanted – unlike their husband’s); their fathers, brothers, and mothers often made those decisions for them. Therefore, the only tangible way for them to have any sort of control over their lives is through their husbands and sons. It is this often overlooked historical reality that has contributed to our societal disdain for ambitious women.
Would I show the series in class? No, It is a good watch, but there is far too much ‘fluff’ within the history to use instructional time. Would I show a 10 minute clip? Yes, but someone needs to edit that down and upload it to YouTube.