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The House of York Divided, The White Queen “Poison and Malmsey Wine” 

Photo Credit: Starz
Photo Credit: Starz

All this personal and political intrigue is exhausting and it costs one of the York brothers his life. Not only do we see how power can influence and inspire, but we also see how the struggle for power can corrupt and poison those around you. 

Peace and prosperity can only last for so long in 15th century England, especially when Edward wants his reign remembered and marked with glory. George still yearns for power and plots to get it in any way he can. Why not try to get France back from King Louis XI? If they do, George wants to be regent and from there he plans to take his brother’s throne. Richard thinks he’s fighting for honor and dignity, but Edward thwarts both their plans when he makes peace. Before the battle can commence, Louis and Edward come to terms. Edward betrothes his son to Louis’ daughter and returns home with a lot of gold. Richard feels betrayed while George makes a secret deal with Louis. In exchange for the return of Calais, when George’s son is born Louis promises to support his plot to overthrow Edward.

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m a big fan of Anne Neville right now. I had hoped this episode would see a relationship with Elizabeth blossom, but that hope was very much in vain. It’s hard to make friends with a woman you suspect of poisoning and ultimately killing your sister. But Anne soon realizes that Isabel’s death was either the result of childbed fever or the actions of Isabel’s duplicitous husband. Either way, she’d prefer to be away from court and I can’t say I blame her. Margaret, on the other hand, “saves” Elizabeth’s son and is finally welcomed into Elizabeth’s inner sanctum with open arms. She is nursemaid to Elizabeth’s second son Richard and now has the access she’s been dreaming of. But instead of being in a position to help her son return from his exile, she finds herself feeling even more lonely and isolated. There is one small victory though. After George dies, the title he took from Margaret’s son is returned to him.

The Countess of Warwick is a prisoner in her former home. Richard and Edward instruct Parliament to have her declared “dead,” so that Isabel and Anne can inherit her fortune immediately. Richard thinks this is the only way keep her entire fortune out of George’s hands. Anne is loath to have her mother around, since she abandoned Anne on the battlefield and cursed her when Anne couldn’t retrieve her from sanctuary. Now the Countess tries to convince Anne to abandon her husband. She claims if Richard decides to divorce Anne, he’ll be entitled to keep everything. Because their marriage didn’t receive a special dispensation from the Pope, there is a chance that could happen. Anne believes Richard truly loves her and so do I. Despite all that bad blood, it’s nice to see Anne and her mother reconciled after Isabel’s death.

After George openly shows disrespect for Edward and publicly accuses Elizabeth of witchcraft, she’s ready to retaliate in any way she can. Edward asks her to rise above it for once in her life and Elizabeth seems to take that to heart. Later when Stanley informs Edward that George has employed a sorcerer, Edward orders his arrest. George then shows up at Edward’s celebration, where he is seized. He’s accused of treason and Edward presents the case against his own brother. When he’s found guilty George decides to die by being drowned in Malmsey wine. He’s punishing Elizabeth and she knows it.

Public opinion and half of her court have turned against Elizabeth by this point. Many people think she’s a witch and that she’s doing everything she can to turn Edward away from George. While it’s true she cursed him (I forgot she had his name written in blood in her locket), she does try to reconcile George and Edward’s relationship. After George is sentenced, she tells Edward they should forgive George if he apologizes. Edward thinks it’s too late for that and even his mother begging for George’s life does nothing to dissuade his decision.

George can’t believe neither his brothers nor his mother show up for his execution. It’s clear he thought he’d get an eleventh hour reprieve. When he realizes he’s about to die, it seems like he finally realizes the error of his ways. But it’s too little, too late.

The House of York

This week I wanted to do some research into George’s downfall and eventual death. His loyalties did seem easily changeable. He was loyal to whoever could do the most for him politically at any given time. Despite that, he did reconcile with Edward after briefly aligning with mad King Henry. But George didn’t blame Elizabeth for the death of his wife. In real life he accused one of Isabel’s ladies-in-waiting of poisoning her and she was hanged. George’s mental state deteriorated after that and he was eventually prosecuted and executed for treason. He died in the Tower, most likely by beheading. Rumored to be a heavy drinker, it became a bit of an urban legend that he was drowned in Malmsey wine.

The White Queen airs Saturdays at 9/8c on Starz.

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