The White Princess

Awash with sword fights, family feuds and court intrigue, The White Princess follows the fortunes of the Houses of Lancaster and York, opposing sides in the War of the Roses.

After defeating Richard III at the battle of Bosworth, Henry Tudor takes the throne and, in an attempt to unite the kingdom, enters into an arranged marriage with Elizabeth of York, whose family emblem is a white rose.

The first episode, In Bed with the Enemy, managed to court controversy not for portraying rape, but by skirting around the issue. Henry, played by Jacob Collins-Levy, forces himself on his bride-to-be with the aim of discovering if she was capable of bearing an heir.

In the original book by Philippa Gregory, this is depicted as rape, but in the adaptation of the story for film, Princess Elizabeth, played by Jodie Corner, shows initial defiance before grudgingly consenting to his brutish advances.

The aim is to show Henry in a more sympathetic light, and also pave the way for the possibility that the couple may come to respect and even love one another.

Elizabeth does indeed become pregnant, and plans to use mandrake root to rid herself of the baby. Her mother Elizabeth Woodville (Essie Davis) persuades her not to harm her unborn child, but instead takes some of the root for her own purposes.

Using her knowledge of witchcraft, she weaves a spell against her arch enemy, Lady Margaret Beaufort, the king’s mother, after learning of her plans to seek out and kill her young son, the male heir to the York name.

In a brief shift in style to swords and sorcery, Lady’s Margaret’s sleep is disturbed with tormenting visions. This unsettling moment conjures up a real sense of threat, giving a glimpse of the emotions lurking beneath the surface as the rival families declare an uneasy truce.

In a scene worthy of Lady Macbeth, it also gives Michelle Fairley, as Lady Margaret, a chance to get her teeth into some meatier acting, reminiscent of her role as Catelyn Stark in the first three seasons of HBO’s Game of Thrones.

This mini-series has arrived at a convenient time to fill the Spring season gap left by Game of Thrones, which won’t reach our TV screens until July. Any fans of historical fantasy fiction who are missing their fix might be prepared to give it a try, but although this entertaining romp through an eventful period of history has its moments, it won’t be stealing GoT’s thunder, or its crown.

The White Princess is available on Starz