PBS Marie Antoinette

As an amateur history buff, one of the reasons I wanted to start this blog was to share some of my favorite historical documentaries.  These are all documentaries that have taught me a lot about different people or times and helped me form a more educated opinion.

“Tribulation first makes you realize who you are” -Marie Antoinette

One of my favorite historical figures has always been Marie Antoinette.  Her legacy today is one of a careless woman who helped put France in the poor house, but it’s not that simple. There’s not even any evidence for her really having said: “Let them eat cake” and the circumstances in her life were very complicated.

I really feel for how she was sent to France at just 15 and expected to make the Franco-Austrian alliance work.  Before that, she had been sheltered and I think she took the circumstances and move as well as any 15yr old could have.  Her spending must have been an outlet for her circumstances and, living in Versailles, she would have had no idea of the extreme poverty most Frenchmen lived in.

marie-antoinette-and-the-affair-of-the-diamond-necklaceI love this documentary because it shows all of Marie’s life and how in her darkest hours she ended up becoming a strong leader.  It’s tragic that when she did, it was at the wrong time when arguably France just needed a monarch who would be willing to accept a constitutional monarchy, but it’s still impressive.  To me, Marie embodies the fact that when the chips are down, no matter what your background is, you can apply yourself and fight for what you believe in.  And if need be, you can hold your head high and accept your fate with dignity.

So if you have time and are interested in learning more about Marie Antoinette check this one out!

Going from great to god awful

Star’s White Queen VS. The White Princess

I’ve been interested in British history for many years now, but I owe much of my understanding of the Cousin’s War to Philippa Gregory.  Although her books are works of considered works of fiction, they are incredibly well researched and written.  Having read all of her Cousin’s War series books helped me gain a much better understanding of the families involved in the conflict and helped me go on to read other more complex biographies.

 

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Elizabeth of York 

So with all that being said, I loved Star’s adaptation of The White Queen.  The actors, costumes, sets; everything was spot on.  Or you know, almost everything was… My only marginal complaint was the prominence of Elizabeth of York’s affair with Richard III, but this is a theme that was also featured in The White Queen and The White Princess.   I won’t wade into the debate over whether there ever was a relationship because honestly, it would be more deserving of its own post but based on the evidence it is pretty unlikely.  If you are interested in deciding for yourself Nerdalicous did a fantastic job breaking down the evidence so I suggest giving their article a read.

 

My main point is that The White Queen felt like a true period piece.  It felt like the individuals who made it were interested in keeping with the book and the history.

It felt like the individuals who made it were interested in keeping with the book and the history.  The White Princess on the other hand, well I guess they just saw Reign and said: “We should make that, but you know- with Elizabeth of York”.  So let me take a moment to go through what I think were the biggest missteps.

It doesn’t even follow it’s source material

The White Queen was a very true adaptation of its own book along with The Red Queen and The Kingmakers Daughter.  It wove all three stories together perfectly and only deviated slightly from the novels.  The White Princess on the other hand just seemed to follow the biggest plotlines.  That Elizabeth of York had to marry Henry the 7th. That Elizabeth was oblivious to her mother’s schemes and felt her mother was trying to overthrow her husband and dethrone her own children. That Elizabeth herself didn’t know whether her brother Edward and Richard were alive or dead.  And Lastly, that it was unclear whether Pekin Warbeck was truly Richard Duke of York or an imposter but either way he had to be executed.  Everything else was subject to alterations.

The creators threw away all the friendships and relationships in the novel to make for more drama. But the book on its own was plenty dramatic.

 

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Margaret de la Pole 

None of the relationships in the book were left alone except for Elizabeth’s relationship with her mother Elizabeth Woodville.  I think the most glaring example of this is with Margaret de la Pole.  In the novel Elizabeth loves Margaret.  They’re cousins and Margaret is one of the few family members Elizabeth has around.  She even trusts Margaret enough to put her son Prince Arthur in her care at Ludlow Castle.  Even though Margaret’s own brother, Edward Plantagenet, is put to death by Henry VII, she still doesn’t hold it against Elizabeth.  She understands that Elizabeth is as powerless as she is and that as long as Edward lives he is a possible rival.  But then in the show, she somehow ends up with this awful relationship with Elizabeth.  Elizabeth treats her horribly, for reasons unknown, and eventually, Margaret ends up giving information to the Duchess of Burgandy to help overthrow Henry and save Pekin. In a book where Margaret is nothing but loyal where does that come from? The creators threw away all the friendships and relationships in the novel to make for more drama. But the book on its own was plenty dramatic.

 

Also, what was with Henry and Elizabeth Going to Spain to meet Queen Isabella and King

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Because random dance numbers were a thing in 15th century Spain

Ferdinand? This wasn’t exactly a day and age where a monarch could usually just leave their kingdom for several months traveling to Granada, Spain. And after hammering in how tenuous Henry’s claim to the throne in how could he just leave? I guess we did get that god awful dance scene though with Kathrine of Aragon, so thanks for that…

 

Everyone is basically the worst

In the novel, Elizabeth comes off as a strong woman who accepts that her role is to marry Henry, become queen, and produce an heir.  She accepts it part of the price she pays for having been born so close to the crown and rises to meet each challenge.  In the show, she just feels like a total primadonna.  She at one point tries to abort her own child by taking herbs before her mother catches her.  Then at another point, she threatens to (I guess) force herself into labor when the bishop won’t give into her commands.  And again, she’s rude to Margaret for reasons that are still unclear.  Henry’s mother Margaret is is even more unlikable than in the book and doesn’t even seem to care that much for Henry.  Henry himself a little better than in the book because he’s not the same paranoid ass, but then when Pekin is captured he becomes a sadistic freak.  Margaret de La Pole is a timid girl just feeding information to the Duchess of  Burgandy.  And the Duchess of Burgandy herself just seems kind of winy and unable to process that her families lost.

I felt The White Queen was really good at drawing you into each woman’s story.  It really felt like each woman, except for Anne Neville, was really working as strong women to see their vision made a reality.  This show never accomplished that, and instead, everyone just came off as insufferable.

What are they wearing?

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Why does Queen Isabella look so rigid and ugly? Why is Elizabeth wearing that tacky dress that looks like armor? So many questions..

The White Queen was spot on with their attire.  It was beautiful but at the same time accurate.  The White Princess though just ditched the lovely and correct wardrobe from the first series.  Instead, they just opted for weird gaudy pieces that didn’t look accurate or even good.  

 

Conclusion

I think it would have been incredible to see the original cast and crew come back together for The White Princess.  I’m not sure what about this Star’s thought would be a good follow-up but to me, it’s just disappointing.  I hope that maybe one day Stars or another network can re-visit Elizabeth of York’s life and do her story justice.  I think she is a fascinating woman who has been overshadowed by her husband and son Henry VIII, but isn’t any less important.