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Save or Slaughter, The White Queen “The Princes in the Tower” 

Photo Credit: Starz
Photo Credit: Starz

It’s interesting. Lady Margaret Beaufort has always had two priorities: her belief in God and her belief in the legitimacy of the Lancastrian line. Despite her religious zealotry, I can admit to liking her very much. She’s used her intellect and position to great advantage and she’s now at the very center of royal power. But I can honestly say I’m shocked that she’d order the deaths of two boys. Is it God’s will? It’s certainly the will of a woman who wants to see her son on the throne of England.

Stanley: “I have selected the men who will join in the attack on the Tower. I have to know your will.”
Margaret: “My will is God’s will.”
Stanley: “When they break down the door to the Princes’ room is it your will or God’s will that they slash their little heads off there and then?”
Margaret: “Elizabeth’s own son, Thomas Grey, will be there as will her man Sir John.”
Stanley: “We’ll kill them all. This is your plan to put your son on the throne. If the Princes are dead then he’s two steps closer. The people will not choose Henry over them.”
Margaret: “I brought the little one to life myself.”
Stanley: “War is hard. What are your commands, my lady?”
Margaret: “You would have me order the deaths of two boys only 9 and 12?”
Stanley: “Well, say the word and we will rescue them from their wicked uncle and free the Queen too. Would you like the royal family of York restored and the little Prince Edward on the throne?”
Margaret: “Stop.”
Stanley: “Well then you must choose! Save or slaughter!? Hmmm? Which is it to be? Save or slaughter?”
Margaret: “Obviously the men must kill them.”

When the plan goes awry, Margaret thinks that might be proof this plan wasn’t God’s will. But if it is God’s will that the York Princes should be on the throne instead of her son Henry, she needs a sign. When she doesn’t get that, she recommits. In the meantime, Stanley and Margaret are no longer a united front. Each thinks the other has deliberately sabotaged the plan. Margaret is reluctant to share her new plan, but she relents and tells Stanley she’s meeting Buckingham. He has access to the tower.

Margaret is crafty in her words with Buckingham. She implies that because their earlier rescue attempt was unsuccessful, King Richard might want the boys dead. With them dead, they’re no longer a threat. Margaret suggests that someone kill the boys in Richard’s name, that way public opinion will be against him. If Henry falls in battle, Buckingham has a direct claim to the throne so it’s not like there’s really a downside to this plan. Margaret accepts Buckingham’s fealty to Henry Tudor.

Elizabeth finally gets word that Prince Richard is safe in Flanders just as plans for the rebellion progress. Henry will challenge the victor in the battle of the King’s men against Buckingham’s. Stanley tells King Richard of Henry Tudor’s betrothal to Elizabeth. Because of that alliance, Richard knows of an impending attack. Anne thinks Richard should have Margaret arrested, but Richard is tired of being told what to do. With so many enemies already, how will it look? Margaret is known and admired for her piety. But in the meantime, he’ll have his spies intercept her letters and keep an eye on her. Richard discovers Buckingham’s betrayal after he starts spreading rumors that Richard has killed the Princes. Assuming she already knew, Sir John is the one to tell Elizabeth about the death of her sons. She tells him to raise up against the false King and take vengeance for her and her boys.

When Elizabeth realizes she’s been betrayed by both Buckingham and Lady Margaret and that Richard has always been on her side, she wants to do something to ensure Richard’s victory in the upcoming battle. Elizabeth and Lizzie wish for rain, which prevents Henry Tudor from joining the battle and leads to the capture and execution of Buckingham. Stanley, ever the chameleon, is able to prove his loyalty to Richard by betraying Margaret. She’s to be put under house arrest in one of his country homes and he now has access to her fortune. He claims he’s saved her from a traitor’s death. All Stanley’s really proven is that he is exactly the man he always said he was – someone who is always on both sides of any conflict.

Richard goes to see Elizabeth in sanctuary and discovers that Elizabeth hasn’t secreted the boys away somewhere. When she asks if Richard has killed her boys, he reminds her that when they killed King Henry, the whole point was to the show the body so there was proof that his line had ended. He can guarantee her safety if she comes out of sanctuary, but she’ll be under house arrest. He still can’t trust her not to come against him. Richard gives Lizzie and Cecily his word that he did not kill their brothers and promises them a place in his court. Later that night Elizabeth and Lizzy curse whoever is responsible for the death of Prince Edward. They curse them to lose their first-born son and all the first-born sons in his line. And even though Lizzie thinks her betrothal to Henry Tudor has now ended, Elizabeth tells her it has not. There’s still a chance Lizzie will be Queen. Lizzie hopes for another suitor.

Queen Anne

  • Anne thinks her words were responsible for the death of the Princes, but she doesn’t tell Richard that. In fact, Richard assumes Anne thinks he’s responsible for their demise. I don’t think their marriage can recover from this.

The real history of the Princes in the Tower

No one knows the true fate of the Princes in the Tower. Were they both murdered? Did Prince Richard escape? It remains an intriguing mystery.

The White Queen mini-series finale airs Saturday, October 19th at 9/8c on Starz.

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