The Real White Queen and Her Rivals doc – much needed context or an hour of plot spoilers?

Two RadioTimes.com writers go head to head over last night's Philippa Gregory documentary

The Real White Queen and Her Rivals gave the BBC1 drama some much needed context, says Ellie Walker-Arnott

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Was anyone else getting confused by the plot twists in The White Queen?

Hunky Edward goes off to war. Oh, he’s back again. Elizabeth is Queen. Now she’s in hiding. Somehow Edward is in France. Now he’s back. Yay! But only for one night. Boo.

The intense struggle for power during the Cousins War is enough to leave you perplexed even if you are giving the show your unerring attention. And it’s left the poor script trying to slyly feed us the story… 

“Edward must defeat Warwick to keep the crown.” Oh right. So Warwick is an enemy at the moment.

“You are Lancaster. George is York. Anne is my enemy and mother is with her” helpfully cried Isobel to her father last week, just in case we’d forgotten where the Warwick family’s allegiances were currently falling.

So who should we be siding with?

“The only time we’ve known peace is during Edward’s reign,” explained Margaret’s husband. “Now he has a son.” Oh yes, we remember that happening at the end of last week.

But what about the Lancaster King?

“The King’s half mad. His wife is a tyrant – she hate’s this country. And their son is vile.” Ah okay. That makes sense now.

But last night’s Philippa Gregory-fronted documentary The Real White Queen and Her Rivals solved our problems, giving much needed context to the show’s political battles and plethora of characters.

While The White Queen has been criticised for its historical inaccuracies, it is still a historical drama. There’s only so far Philippa Gregory can fabricate on fact, yet there is more to the true story than The White Queen can get across in its soapy Sunday night instalments. 

The BBC1 drama is tied up in a past that most of us half-remember from school lessons and it’s such a fascinating period of history, it’s worth really knowing what’s going on in the background.

Last night’s explanation can only enhance our enjoyment of the last few episodes – if only because it gives Gregory time to explain the troubled past of Margaret Beaufort, the strangest and hardest character empathise with. Forget plot spoilers, there can be no huge shocks. We all know who ends up on the throne next. Shakespeare’s written an entire play about him. Plus somewhere down the line Margaret Beaufort is going to get her own way, isn’t she? Because how else would the infamous Henry VIII get his large backside on the throne and start going through all those wives of his..?

The White Queen continues on Sunday at 9:00pm on BBC1.

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