Literature: The Cousins War Series

The Cousins' War series is a highly successful series of Historical Fiction novels by British author Philippa Gregory (famous mostly for her novels about the Tudors, especially The Other Boleyn Girl) set during the Wars of the Roses under the dynasty preceding the Tudors, the Plantagenets. Like most of Gregory's Tudor novels, each of them is centered around and told from the perspective of a prominent woman of the period. There are currently five books in the series with a sixth to be published.

  • The White Queen (2009) - follows Elizabeth Woodville, wife of the York King Edward IV and the first commoner to marry an English monarch.
  • The Red Queen (2010) - follows Margaret Beaufort, mother of the Lancaster claimant Henry Tudor, later King Henry VII
  • The Lady of the Rivers (2011) - follows Jacquetta of Luxembourg, mother of Elizabeth Woodville and an influential figure first at the court of the Lancaster King Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou, and later at Edward and Elizabeth's
  • The Kingmaker's Daughter (2012) - follows sisters Anne and Isabel Neville, daughters of Kingmaker the Earl of Warwick and pawns in his bid for revenge against King Edward.
  • The White Princess (2013) - follows Elizabeth and Edward's eldest daughter, also named Elizabeth, whose marriage to Henry VII would eventually unite the houses of York and Lancaster.
  • The King's Curse (2014) - the last book of the series follows Margaret Pole, daughter of George, Duke of Clarence and Isabelle Neville and one of the last surviving members of the Plantagenet dynasty.

In 2013 a ten-part TV adaptation of the series, called The White Queen but covering the events of The White Queen, The Red Queen and The Kingmaker's Daughter, aired on BBC One. It wasn't very well received critically, but got a decent audience and brought a lot more publicity to the books. Reception was far more positive in the US, where it aired on Starz, which is considering a followup based on The White Princess.


Tropes found in the series include:

  • Absurdly Youthful Mother: Margaret Beaufort, who gives birth to son Henry at the age of 13. Truth in Television.
  • Adaptation Distillation: Three novels and almost two decades of events fit into a 10 episode TV show.
  • Adaptation Name Change: The TV adaptation renamed Elizabeth Shore to Jane Shore, possibly to avoid confusion with the two main characters already named Elizabeth (and because "Jane" is the name she used in Real Life and is better known by as a historical figure.)
  • Adipose Rex: see Fat Bastard below.
  • Age Lift: In the novels (and in Real Life), Anne, Isabel and Richard were children when Elizabeth Woodville became Queen. In the TV series, they're teenagers when Elizabeth marries Edward.
  • Altar the Speed: Anne and Richard get married before receiving a papal dispensation, which they need because they're distantly related.
  • Anachronic Order: Between rather than within books. Individual books follow a straight chronology, but the publication order is anachronic. The Red Queen covers much of the same time period as The White Queen, but begins earlier, while The Lady of the Rivers begins much earlier than either of them and goes right up to the beginning of The White Queen (thus also having some overlap with The Red Queen). Certain events that involved more than one character (e.g. Margaret's first meeting with Margaret of Anjou, at which Jacquetta was present) are covered in more than one book.
  • And There Was Much Rejoicing: York King Edward IV's return with his Queen and infant son
  • Arranged Marriage: Most of them are, given the time period, but Margaret's is particularly notable: she is forcibly married to Edmund Tudor at the age of twelve (and has their first and only child a year later). Both Jacquetta and Elizabeth are very notable in going totally against society's norms by marrying for love, and it's one of the most important contrasts drawn between them and Margaret.
  • As You Know: Justified. Thanks to the sheer amount of characters who each have the same name, the characters constantly refer to each other in strangely specific ways ("my brother Edward" or "your son Richard") simply to help the reader/audience keep track of who exactly they're talking about.
  • Attempted Rape: Edward IV in Episode 1
  • Awesome Moment of Crowning: Elizabeth Woodville's coronation. Richard and Anne also have a joint coronation.
  • Aww, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: George and Isabel marry each other for power, but when Isabel dies, George grieves for her in a way that suggests he did love her. Maybe. There are a couple of hints that suggest he may have poisoned her.
    • Not so much in the books, but the mini-series implies that Stanley sided with Tudor (thereby securing his victory) out of love — or at least affection and pity — for his wife Margaret.
    • Not exactly love - nor do we see the trial in the books - but Jacquetta knows that Margaret of Anjou has enough affection for her (and vice versa) that she would chop off Warwick's head if anything befell Jacquetta. She uses this to her advantage.
      • And, lo and behold, Margaret of Anjou - in her very next scene in that episode - mentions the "wheel of fortune", which Jacquetta taught her. Yeah, Jacquetta is right to make Warwick wary of Margaret of Anjou.
  • Babies Ever After: played straight with Jacquetta of Luxembourg and Richard Woodville; Elizabeth Woodville and Edward IV; Anne Neville and Richard, even though they only had one child.
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: played straight and then averted. Elizabeth Woodville, the main protagonist, is a beauty and she is supposed to be a heroine who loves the King genuinely. Lady Margaret Beaufort, the antagonist, is much less attractive and very ambitious. However, as shown in later episodes, all characters gets a Historical Beauty Update and no one is exactly a saint in this Decadent Court.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Anne Neville in Episode 5. After enduring a difficult voyage, riding for hours, and being attacked by the soldiers, she still looked fine.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: The Kingmaker's daughters very much want to be queen but the closer each of them comes to the crown the more they realize what it costs to get to be queen, to be used as "their pieces on a board" and realizing that it will not make the sisters happy.
  • Birth/Death Juxtaposition: In episode 6 of the TV series, Elizabeth Woodville gives birth to a son while her mother Jacquetta lay dying. Later, when both her son and her mother have passed away, Richard and Anne are making love and conceiving their own son.
  • Black Sheep: George, a traitor and nuisance to both Edward and Richard.
  • Blame Game: Who's responsible for the death/disappearance of the Princes in the Tower?
  • Book End: TV series. Episode 1 begins with Jacquetta and Elizabeth plotting together to make Elizabeth Woodville Queen of England. Episode 10 ends with Elizabeth Woodville Passing the Torch to her daughter Elizabeth of York. Also the Battle of Bosworth in Episode 10 reflects the dream sequence at the beginning of Episode 1.
  • Break the Cutie: Anne Neville, from beginning to end.
  • British Teeth: Averted. The show is criticized for having characters with pretty teeth, which is completely unrealistic for the Medieval period.
  • Broken Pedestal: Edward IV to Richard, for accepting King Louis's bargain instead of fighting an honorable war. Later it becomes worse when Edward has George executed.
  • Cain and Abel and Seth: George is Cain, Edward is Abel, and Richard is Seth.
  • California Doubling: The whole TV series was shot in Belgium.
  • The Casanova: Edward IV. Truth in Television.
  • Cast Full of Pretty Boys: At least you can say this for the York brothers, particularly Richard.
  • Catapult Nightmare: Elizabeth Woodville in Episode 1
  • Cat Fight: Anne and Isabel in episode 6 of the TV series.
  • Chastity Dagger: Elizabeth Woodville pulled this in Episode 1 as Edward IV was forcing against her will before marrying her
  • Child by Rape: Henry Tudor and later his own children with Elizabeth of York
  • Cinderella Circumstances: applies to Elizabeth Woodville, Anne Neville, and Elizabeth of York
  • Clean Pretty Childbirth: played straight in the scene where Elizabeth Woodville gave birth in sanctuary
  • Coitus Ensues: oh yes, love scenes and fanservice are the major selling point of the TV adaption. However, in the Starz version, there's a few sex scenes that are a bit redundant. A good example is Episode 8 where Henry Tudor was banging a woman. Yes, Henry Tudor has grown into a man now but there's other way to show it.
  • Coitus Interruptus: in the TV adaption Episode 6, Elizabeth walked in on Edward and his mistress Jane Shore.
  • Coming-of-Age Story: Anne Neville
  • Comforting the Widow: Richard winning Anne over after Edward of Lancaster was slain in battle - although, to be fair, Anne was pretty happy Edward was killed. The courtship of Edward IV and Elizabeth applies as well.
  • Conflict Ball: In the show, when Anne returns to court after her father's death and the collapse of the Lancastrian cause, Isabel is a complete jerk to her, despite the sisters' longstanding loyalty to each other, mainly to emphasize how lost and alone Anne feels at that point.
  • Conflicting Loyalty: Happens to many characters. Elizabeth Woodville's family was originally loyal to the Lancastrians, but she marries a Yorkist king and they switch sides accordingly. Isabel was a daughter of Warwick, sister-in-law to Edward of Lancaster, and wife of George of Clarence. Richard himself was torn between his loyalty to Edward IV and distrust towards the Woodvilles.
  • Costume Porn: The TV series. Many critics mocked the show for portraying the 15th century as impossibly pretty and shiny.
  • Courtly Love: Anne and Richard don't consummate their relationship until they're married. Before that, they just meet and share meals.
  • Cradle of Loneliness: Elizabeth Woodville held on to Edward IV's doublet and reminisced their love and passion.
  • Creepy Child: the Princes of Towers looked like one
  • Dawson Casting: In early episodes, twelve years-old Anne Neville is played by 26 year-old actress Faye Marsay.
  • Dead Guy Junior: Edward, Richard, Elizabeth, Anne, Margaret...
    • In The Kingmaker's Daughter, Elizabeth remarks, "Now we each have a Edward."
  • Deadpan Snarker: Margaret's third husband Lord Thomas Stanley has a rather callous sense of humor, and likes to taunt his wife verbally and in writing.
    • Princess Elizabeth of York has her moments.
    • Why, hello Jacquetta "Queen of the Snark" Woodville. Don't believe me?
      Jacquetta: You are very welcome to Grafton Manor, Your Grace.
      Richard Neville: Jacquetta Woodville! Is the pageboy at home as well?
      Jacquetta: Baron River is away, unfortunately...
      Richard Neville: Baron Rivers... A hastily made up title to cover red faces when a high born Lancastrian lady bedded a grubby commoner, as I recall.
      Jacquetta: He was a squire and always twice the man you were, Lord Warwick.
    • Amazingly - apart from a near miss, in which she uses prior influences to get out of - Jacquetta escapes unscathed. When she dies, it's just implied to be old age or a broken heart.
  • Death by Childbirth: Isabel, or at least to the viewers. Anne is convinced that Elizabeth Woodville poisoned her.
  • Death Glare: Elizabeth Woodville is very good with this.
  • The Determinator: applies to many character when fighting for power and the crown
  • Deus Angst Machina: Everything goes wrong for Anne and Richard after their coronation.
    • Happens to pretty much every female character after she got closer to the crown:
      • Elizabeth Woodville married Edward IV: Warwick rebelled, husband in exile, forced into sanctuary
      • Isabel married George: had a Screaming Birth on ship, son died, left in a precarious position between York and Nevilles
      • Elizabeth of York married Henry Tudor: being raped by her husband and was queen in name only
  • Determined Widow: After the death of her first husband, Sir John Grey, Elizabeth Woodville is willing to directly confront the new king to get back her sons' inheritance, even though he's from her family's enemy house. And after her second husband Edward dies, she becomes determined to recover her family's power in England and put her daughter Elizabeth on the throne as the queen of Henry VII.
  • Dramatic Irony: Duchess Cecily and Anne Neville spend most of episode seven throwing around accusations that Elizabeth Woodville desires to rule England first through her husband, then through her son. Both seem entirely oblivious to the fact that that's exactly what they're trying to do with Richard.
  • Due to the Dead: Warwick betrayed Edward IV and lost but still received a decent burial with service. Not Truth in Television. Averted with Richard III and it is Truth in Television.
  • Dying Alone: Happens to many characters. Even if they weren't physically alone, they certainly felt alone.
  • Dysfunctional Family: the Plantagenets - a family where cousins and brother murder and wage wars at each other. Truth Intelevision. Applies to Beauforts and the Nevilles as well.
  • Empty Shell: Henry VI spends long periods of time as this, at one point spending over a year in a coma while his kingdom collapses around him. It doesn't help that, even when fully awake and functional, he isn't exactly the most effective of monarchs.
  • Enemy Mine: Warwick was the one who helped disposed Lancastrian King Henry VI and yet later teamed up with Margaret of Anjou to help Henry VI to regain his crown after he fell out with Edward IV. Applies to George of Clarence as well since he betrayed Edward IV to make himself King but later rejoined his brother's camp after it is clear that Warwick is not going to make him King of England.
  • Ermine Cape Effect: Elizabeth Woodville during her coronation. Anne Neville plays with it in early episodes and later wears it for real when she and Richard have a joint coronation.
  • Et Tu, Brute?: In such a Deadly Decadent Court, there's no one you can trust. Who hasn't been betrayed by a loved one?
  • Evil Matriarch: Margaret of Anjou is this to Anne Neville; and later Margaret Beaufot is this to Elizabeth of York
  • Exact Eavesdropping: TV series. In Episode 7, Richard overheard everything that Countess of Warwick told Anne.
  • The Exile: applies to multiple characters. The York brothers were exiles after Duke Richard of York was defeated and killed in battle. The Nevilles fled England after they fell out with the Yorks. Henry Tudor was an exile for most part of the series.
  • Explosive Breeder: Elizabeth Woodville, in the TV series. Although each episode covers a long period of time, from the viewer's point of view she seems to be going into labor every five minutes.
  • Expository Hairstyle Change: Richard from Episode 1 to Episode 10 - as he grown from a saintly teenage boy to a grown man corrupted by power.
  • Famous Ancestor: the Woodvilles are descendants of Melusine, or so they believe. Played straight Lady Margaret Beaufort, who is a descendant of John of Gaunt and that makes her son's claim to the English throne valid.
  • Fat Bastard: This trope applies as Edward really piles on weight in his later years - seriously, he gets HUGE by episode 8 and The Kingmakers Daughter states his weight gain too - and, according to his mother and George, he is a bastard.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Anyone who's read the books or knows much about the Wars of the Roses (or Shakespeare's plays) knows what's going to happen; after all, Henry Tudor and his successors are some of Britain's best-known monarchs, so even people who hardly know any history at all would be well aware that he wins in the end.
  • Friendly Enemy: Only to a certain extent. Elizabeth Woodville and the Neville sisters are polite to one another in court even though the bad blood between them remains. Margaret Beaufort served Elizabeth and Anne Neville even though she was enemy to both. Averted with George of Clarence who insulted Elizabeth openly—with fatal consequences.
  • God Save Us from the Queen!: The Neville sisters call Margaret of Anjou "the bad queen" who tore apart England with her terrible ambition. Isabel calls her a she-wolf who murdered their grandfather and tried to spear their father with a roasting spit. In the end of Issy's story she lost the battle and was blown away to the cold, cold north with her son the prince of ice. When the sisters meet her it turns out she's just as cold in person.
  • The Good King: Edward IV, compared to Henry VI
  • Guess Who I'm Marrying?: Edward IV married a penniless Lancastrian widow whose family fought under the banner of his enemy while Warwick was negotiating a French marriage for him. After Warwick and Edward IV fell out, George married Warwick's older daughter without Edward IV's permission. After Warwick's death, Richard of Gloucester married Anne Neville in secret, much to the annoyance of George, who wanted to keep all the Beauchamp estate for himself. Anne Neville's first marriage to Edward of Lancaster and Elizabeth of York's marriage to Henry Tudor is more like "guess who You are marrying".
  • Good People Have Good Sex: The contrast between Anne's first time having sex with Edward and her first time with Richard.
  • Hands-On Approach: In The Kingmaker's Daughter, Richard kneels before Anne Neville and helps her changing boots as he proposes, sliding her foot in and tying the strings one at a time.
  • Harmless Villain: Henry VI, the Sleeping King. He does nothing due to his mental illness. His wife Margaret of Anjou is very different.
  • Happily Married: Jacquetta and Richard. They have their fair share of troubles, but their actual marriage is rock solid and they're still passionately in love with each other after thirty years and fourteen children. Elizabeth and Edward also have a very loving marriage, although with rather more strife and rather less fidelity.
    • Margaret and her second husband Henry Stafford were happy with each other until their clashing attitudes towards the war tore them apart.
      • Seriously, if you think this is not a happy marriage, then there is something wrong with you. Margaret's expression as Henry lays dying; OUCH!. She's utterly broken - it may have been arranged... but it was happy and she went back on never forgiving him; she forgave him for what he did and cried when he died.
      • Does that include the fact that she repeatedly ridiculed him for not following her beliefs, treated him like a moron and cheated on him with Jasper (and in fact imagined he was Jasper while they made love)? Not to mention that in the books she's utterly disdainful towards him. She was upset by his death, yes, but in the way you would be upset over a pet dying. Hell, even Wikipedia defines the relationship as "heavily strained".
    • Margaret and Stanley; there's a bit more strife and bitchness, but these two should be the epitome of happily married Deadpan Snarkers!
    • Richard of Gloucester and Anne Neville were happy together as well, before Richard became King. Like Margaret and Henry Stafford, they were eventually driven apart by the continual political conflict.
  • Heart Is Where the Home Is: Anne follows her family to exile in France where she marries Edouard of Lancaster, who is technically an English Prince, but raised in France. After the Yorkist faction win their cause, Edouard of Lancaster is killed and Anne marries Richard, Duke of Gloucester. They later settle their home at Warwick Castle, Anne's childhood home.
  • Heir Club for Men: Justified for the time period. No son means no line; the more sons the better. At times the Law of Inverse Fertility seems to be operating: Henry IV, Richard III, George Duke of Clarence and Margaret Beaufort, all of whom desperately need to produce heirs, all only have one son; Edward IV only has two sons out of ten children (and one died in infancy).
  • Heroic BSOD: Richard after the disappearance of the Princes.
  • Heroes Want Redheads: Edward IV's favorite mistress, Jane Shore, is a redhead.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: The Tudors' brothers Jasper and Edmund are this before Edmund dies of the plague. Jasper then becomes a lifelong companion and father figure to Edmund's son Henry.
  • The High Queen: Elizabeth Woodville works hard to fulfill this role.
  • Historical Beauty Update: Applies to all characters in the TV series except for Margaret Beaufort, and even in her case YMMV.
    • Somewhat ambiguous in the case of Jacquetta, who is portrayed as an older, but still very attractive blonde in the series, and in the books is described as having been a world class beauty in her youth. No one knows what the real Jacquetta looked like, as there are no portraits or descriptions of her from her lifetime.
    • The real Elizabeth Woodville herself was a very beautiful woman, but possessed brownish red hair and brown eyes - she was likely made into a blue-eyed blonde for the series because the producers felt it better fit the stereotypical image of a "White Queen".
    • The same applies to her daughter, Elizabeth of York - also a very beautiful woman, but again, brown eyed and red-blonde haired, unlike the blue eyed and flaxen haired actress.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: Edward of Westminster, Henry VI's only son and heir, is portrayed by a guy who looks like the Scorpio Killer and is a Royal Brat rapist. The actual Edward was a cipher, seeing as he died a teenager, but he was also an able warrior and the House of Lancaster's last great hope of reclaiming the crown.
    • Henry Tudor and Margaret Beaufort as well in the novel "The White Princess". Henry Tudor was nothing but a Mama's Boy and made Elizabeth of York a unloved baby machine. Lady Margaret Beaufort played Evil Matriarch to the 10.
  • Hollywood Costuming: In TV adaption, all characters dressed up pretty and shiny, even sexy. It's definitely not Medieval England.
  • Hollywood History: The TV show is based on historical fiction, which is based on the Wars of Roses.
  • Hollywood Kiss: Anne and Richard, after Anne accepts Richard's marriage proposal.
  • Hollywood Old: Elizabeth and Edward in the TV show; averted with Anne and Richard who looked their age in Episode 10.
  • Hot Consort:
    • From the moment King Edward lays eyes on Elizabeth Woodville he is drawn to her and wants to have her even though her family is of low standing. At her coronation the Neville sisters say she is so beautiful.
    • When King Richard sees Elizabeth's daughter, Elizabeth of York, he says that she has grown beautiful. They fall in love but she marries the next king, Henry VII.
  • Hypocrite: The Lancasters are down on Edward of York for deposing the rightful king. However, the first Lancastrian king (Mad King Henry's grandfather) became king by - deposing the rightful king.
  • I Am X, Son of Y: Henry Tutor is a contender for the throne and Anne Neville is the Kingmaker's daughter. Stating who they are save each of their lives and later Anne reminds her husband that the people love her because of who her father is.
  • Ice Queen: Elizabeth Woodville became one after Warwick had her father and brother killed.
  • Ill Girl: Anne and Isabel.
  • Incurable Cough of Death: Anne. Truth in Television, as she died from tuberculosis.
  • Idealized Sex: the TV series. The critics said that the sex scenes are so vanilla that they enjoyed ice cream afterwards.
  • Incest Is Relative: Justified for the time period with Kissing Cousins. But when Richard tends to manipulate the scenes to convince people that he'd marry his niece Elizabeth of York to gain advantage over Henry Tudor, it's more of Villainous Incest.
    • In the Starz version of the TV adaptation's series finale, Richard goes so far as to actually have sex with Elizabeth, something that's alluded to in The White Princess and cut out of the British version of the show.
  • Insatiable Newlyweds: Anne and Richard. In The Kingmaker's Daughter, Richard allowed no one to come into the chamber unless he called; his ambition was to cover Anne with 500 kisses!
  • Instant Birth, Just Add Water: Elizabeth Woodville gives birth to Prince Edward while hiding in sanctuary with no access to even the rudimentary medical assistance of the time. The TV series, however, portrays the birth as short and trouble-free, and she stands up the whole time.
  • The Kingmaker: Another name for Warwick, who is the power behind Edward's rise to the throne and subsequently changes his mind several times about which king he's going to support.
  • King on His Deathbed: Edward IV. Dying at age 40, he leaves his young son as new king at age 10 and names Richard as Lord Protector. Things do not work out well.
  • Kissing Cousins: Everyone is related to one another to a certain degree, which is why papal dispensations existed.
  • Knight In Shining Armour: Anthony Woodville is a genuinely good person, a loyal son and brother, a chivalrous knight, a faithful Christian, and an intelligent scholar. Elizabeth, who adores her brother, expresses some regret that her marriage and the ensuing conflicts have dragged him away from the contented, idyllic life he could have led.
  • Knight Templar: Margaret has shades of this; her (even by the standards of the time) exceptionally strong religious conviction is gradually warped into an unwavering belief that God wants her son to be king and she is divinely mandated to ruthlessly strike down anyone who gets in the way of that.
  • Lady and Knight: applied to multiple couples as justified for the time period
  • Lady Macbeth: Anne Neville becomes one in episode seven, rather at odds with her prior characterization as a woman happy to be away from court. This is ironic as she's spent most of the previous episodes accusing Elizabeth Woodville of being a Lady Macbeth.
  • Lady of War: Margaret of Anjou.
  • Law of Inverse Fertility: Richard and Anne only manage to have one son, who subsequently dies, leaving him without an heir. Gregory implies that Henry VI is uninterested in sex, or maybe impotent, and suggests that Prince Edward of Lancaster was actually the son of Margaret's lover, the Duke of Somerset.
  • The Libby: The Neville girls viewed Elizabeth Woodville as thus while Duchess Cecily and pretty much everyone else was this to Elizabeth Woodville, especially when she did not have a son. In Episode 10, Anne had shades of this to Elizabeth of York.
  • Lie Back and Think of England: Played straight with Anne Neville on her wedding night with Edward of Lancaster.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters
  • Lonely at the Top: Everyone who sat on the throne, particularly the queens.
  • Long Hair Is Feminine: All female characters have long hair. Elizabeth Woodville has her beautiful hair down for her coronation.
  • Love Confession: Richard confesses his love to Anne during his marriage proposal.
  • Love Makes You Crazy: Enemies of Elizabeth Woodville believe Edward IV's bad decisions are made because of her influence.
  • Mama's Boy: Edouard of Lancaster and Henry VII.
  • Man Behind the Man: Or women, which is the whole point of the series.
  • A Man Is Not a Virgin: Richard. In the TV series, he was a Chaste Hero before marrying Anne. In the novels, it does acknowledge the bastards he sired before marriage.
  • Marital Rape License: Also unsurprising given the time period. Edmund Tudor repeatedly rapes his twelve-year-old wife Margaret in The Red Queen. His son Henry VII continues this pattern years later with Elizabeth of York in The White Princess. In The Kingmaker's Daughter, Edward of Lancaster rapes Anne Neville on their wedding night.
  • Marry for Love: Played straight with multiple couples in the series, including Elizabeth Woodville and Edward IV; Lady Jacquetta and Richard Woodville; Anne Neville and Richard of Gloucester. Averted with Margaret Beaufort and her four husbands; and Elizabeth of York and Henry VII.
  • Massive Numbered Siblings: The Woodvilles and the Yorks. Jacquetta had fourteen children and Elizabeth Woodville had two with her first husband and ten with Edward IV. Cecily Neville, mother of Edward IV, had ten children.
  • The Matchmaker: Earl of Warwick plays matchmaker for Anne and Isabel. Justified for that time period.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Jacquetta and Elizabeth both firmly believe in a kind of witchcraft based on the legend of their ancestor being the water goddess Melusina (Elizabeth's brother Anthony calls it 'part Bible and part fairy tale and all nonsense') and, while Gregory has made it clear that she is in no way contending that they were actually witches, in-story it's left ambiguous. Certainly most of their spells do get the desired effects, but they're all things that could equally well have happened by coincidence.
    • The real-life Jacquetta was tried for witchcraft, possibly twice. Also, there are period references that show the Luxembourgs were one of three noble houses that purposely altered their lineage to make themselves descendants of the river goddess: the Luxembourgs claimed that the founder of their house, Siegfried (922-998 AD), married Melusina and that she bore him children. How much traction that family legend had five centuries later can't be known, but it's entirely possible that Gregory's depiction of Jacquetta's beliefs, which she passed on to her daughter and granddaughter, may be closer to the truth than one might think.
  • The Mentor: Jacquetta was this to Elizabeth Woodville (besides being her mother). Margaret of Anjou was this to Anne Neville while Anne was married to her son. Warwick was this to Richard when Richard was under his tutelage.
  • Method Acting: Actor Aneurin Barnard had a picture of Richard III's skull next to his mirror in his dressing room. He wanted the Battle of Bosworth shot with his character Richard III killed in the exact same way the historical Richard III did.
  • Middle Child Syndrome: George
  • Miss Fanservice: Elizabeth Woodville, Jane Shore, and Anne Neville
  • Mr. Fanservice: Mainly the Starz uncensored version. Special mention goes to Aneurin Barnard who played Richard.
  • My Beloved Smother: Margaret of Anjou; justified, as her son is everything to her: crown, power, and family. In The Kingmaker's Daughter, from Anne's perspective, she even apparently wants to stay and watch as Edward and Anne consummate their marriage. Later in "The White Princess", Margaret Beaufort played it up to the 10.
  • Modest Royalty: Anne and Richard as Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, compared to Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville.
  • Mother Makes You King: Henry VII claimed the throne due to winning Battle of Bosworth and that he is a royal descendant through his mother, Margaret Beaufort. To be fair, he wins the Battle of Bosworth thanks to Lord Stanley, who sided him also because of Margaret Beaufort.
  • The Mourning After: Edward IV is the The Lost Lenore for Elizabeth Woodville. Averted with Margaret Beaufort who remarries after losing a husband.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Anne after the disappearance of the Princes in the Tower in Episode 9. Elizabeth Woodville felt the same way after Isabel lost her baby on the ship - in a storm launched by Elizabeth and her mother Jacquetta with her magic.
  • My Own Private "I Do": Elizabeth Woodville and Edward IV married in a secret private wedding. Their marriage later became public and legitimate with a splendid coronation where Elizabeth was crowned Queen of England.
  • Na´ve Newcomer: applies to Anne Neville and Elizabeth of York when they were hurled into the arena of politics and wars. It's not easy to be queen.
  • Nepotism: Once Elizabeth Woodville became Queen, her siblings and relatives were given titles, estates, and successful marriages. Others were not happy to see that.
  • Never Found the Body: The Princes in the Tower. Technically they are never seen again, but this trope is brought up several times by those who fear their survival.
  • Nice Guy: Edward IV and Richard III both started out as one but later showed their other sides. Played straight with Anthony Woodville.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Richard and Anne try to humiliate Jane Shore by having her walk through the streets denounced as a whore. The crowds end up feeling sorry for her, and they end up looking like jerks.
  • No Sympathy: Once you are denounced as a traitor, you are to be executed and properties attained regardless of your reasons or circumstances. Justified for time period.
  • Obnoxious In-Laws: Cecily Neville is one to Elizabeth Woodville; Margaret of Anjou and George of Clarence are this to Anne Neville; Countess of Warwick is one to Richard of Gloucester and vice versa; Margaret of Beaufort is one to Elizabeth of York; the tension between Elizabeth Woodville and the Neville sisters also applies
  • Off with His Head!: Episode 8 with Anthony Woodville and William Hastings.
  • Official Couple Ordeal Syndrome: Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville. They married for love, but the marriage is not approved by the court. After the Lancastrians lost their cause, the couple was plagued by other issues like stillbirth, death in family, and marital infidelity. However, they remained together in a loving relationship till the end.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Rebecca Ferguson mostly speaks with a neutral accent sometime lapsing into a very Scandinavian accent.
  • Parental Abandonment: Anne's mother abandons her to go into sanctuary after Edward of Lancaster is defeated and she is left a widow accused of treason. Henry VI is also a totally absent father to Edward, spending most of his time asleep or in the Tower.
  • Perfectly Arranged Marriage: Averted in this series (but may not be historically). Edward of Lancaster and Anne Neville had a short, unhappy marriage with an alliance that failed. Elizabeth of York and Henry Tudor's marriage united houses of Lancaster and York. Yet, Elizabeth ended up being an unloved baby machine and witnessed the execution of her brother. Henry Tudor's most beloved woman was his mother Margaret Beaufort till the end.
  • Playing Gertrude: Elizabeth Woodville in later Episodes.
  • Please Spare Him, My Liege!: Duchess Cecily of York begged Edward IV to spare George, which she failed.
  • Pregnant Hostage: applied Elizabeth Woodville in Episode 5. Heavily pregnant, Elizabeth Woodville escaped from the Tower to the sanctuary while Warwick's invasion approached London. While hiding in the sanctuary, she gave birth to the future Edward V without a midwife or any medical assistance.
  • Prince Charming: Edward IV, or his first impression.
  • Prince Charmless: George of Clarence. He may be charming, but he's a chronic backstabber and a jerk.
  • Promotion to Parent: Edward IV to Richard, after their father Richard of York was killed by the Lancastrians.
  • Rags to Royalty: There are elements of this in Elizabeth's story; while the Woodvilles are far from poor, by the standards of the court and aristocracy they are nobodies and Elizabeth's rise to Queen of England is dramatic and shocking.
    • Elizabeth herself was absolutely penniless when she met the King, however, as her husband had died, and his mother refused to give her and their two sons their share of the inheritance.
    • Anne Neville applies as well; her story has even more ups and downs than Elizabeth Woodville's. She starts out as the daughter of one of England's foremost noblemen, then marries Edward of Lancaster, becoming Princess of Wales. However, when the Lancastrians lose she became merely Lady Anne Neville, the penniless and powerless ward of the Duke of Clarence. Then she marries the Duke of Gloucester, becomes a royal duchess, and ends as Queen of England.
  • Puppet King: Henry VI, the Sleeping King, was merely a figurehead. Also in the show it's indicated that Warwick was treating Edward IV as one - may be Truth in Television. The Neville girls and Duchess Cecily believed Edward IV is one with Elizabeth Woodville pulling his strings.
  • Rape as Backstory: Margaret Beaufort, Anne Neville, and Elizabeth of York. See Marital Rape License
  • Rape as Drama: Margaret Beaufort, Anne Neville, and Elizabeth of York.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: Henry Tudor's exile in Burgundy.
  • Requisite Royal Regalia: Required for the coronation. In the TV show, there were three.
  • Rescue Romance: Anne and Richard. Maybe Truth in Television.
  • Revenge: another important theme of the plot. Yorks, Lancasters, and Nevilles - each family has its own plan of vengeance against one another.
  • Revenge Before Reason: Elizabeth Woodville refused to make peace with George because he and Warwick killed her father and brother despite the fact reconciliation with George can avoid another civil war.
  • Royal Blood: Crucial for the Beauforts and the Tudors to claim the crown. The York brothers are legitimate royal princes, while the Beauforts are originally illegitimate descendants of John of Gaunt but later legitimized.
  • Royal Mess: Averted. The correct titles are often emphasized to remind the character of their current rank/status.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: the York brothers are skilled warriors and diplomats. Averted with Henry VI, the Sleeping King.
  • Rule of Three: the three York brothers; three female protagonists; three Queens of England; three coronations
  • Rule of Seven: Richard of Gloucester is youngest of seven children.
  • Ruling Couple: Anne and Richard.
  • Samus is a Girl: In the first teaser trailer for the show, three armoured knights meet in a corridor, only for them to shed their coverings and reveal that it's Elizabeth, Margaret and Anne.
  • Sanity Slippage: After becoming King, the previously calm and sensible Richard becomes paranoid and withdrawn, due to the strains of war, the loss of his only son and heir and the accusations that he killed the missing princes.
    • George after Isabel's death.
  • Screaming Birth: Margaret's labor with Henry is horrific: at the time, she is a small, delicate thirteen-year-old. It's suggested that something going wrong while she gave birth was the reason for her subsequent infertility. Isabel Neville's is also nightmarish, as she goes into labor on a ship in the middle of a storm, and her sister Anne is forced to manually deliver the baby.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Knowing that talking to George and Isabel brings no avail, Anne runs away with Richard instead.
  • Second Love: Many. Richard Woodville for Jacquetta, whose first marriage to the Duke of Bedford, who was at least thirty years her senior, was peaceful and happy, but never a truly loving match. King Edward IV for Elizabeth Woodville, whose first husband and father of her two eldest sons, very ironically, died fighting against him in battle. Richard was also this for Anne Neville, whose first husband Edward of Westminster was both horribly abusive towards her, and was then captured and executed after only about five months of marriage.
  • Sexless Marriage: Jacquetta's first marriage to the Duke of Bedford. He marries her because he believes he needs a young virgin (with Jacquetta's possibly-magical ancestry) to help him produce a philosopher's stone.
    • Margaret and Thomas Stanley marry for convenience and agree to leave their marriage unconsummated. Truth in Television.
  • Shown Their Work: Philippa Gregory's two-episodes documentary The White Queen and Her Rivalries shown her research and understanding of the historical characters in her work.
  • Shoulders-Up Nudity: BBC version. The Starz version shows a lot more than that...
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: At the end of The Red Queen Margaret smugly tells Elizabeth of York that whatever the outcome of the Battle of Bosworth, Elizabeth will be publicly humiliated: she will either marry Henry Tudor (and have no name or title of her own, since she was declared illegitimate) or King Richard (whose affair with her is public knowledge.) Elizabeth replies that, either way, she'll be Queen of England and will never have to answer to Margaret again.
    • Unfortunately, it's only a brief victory for Elizabeth, as Margaret eventually takes over the English royal court, leaving Elizabeth as queen only in name.
    • It's only through Elizabeth that Henry VII is able to keep his throne - after her death he is loathed beyond reason, so Elizabeth of York wins in the end.
    • In The Kingmaker's Daughter, Margaret of Anjou tries to convince Richard to join her side and offered him Anne Neville's hand. In the novel, Richard replies that he is the King's loyal brother, no matter what. In the TV series, Anne went up to her and told her that she is not hers to give. Needless to say, Margaret broke down completely afterwards.
    • The Countess of Warwick tried to convince Anne to leave Richard and stand with her to regain her estates and fortune. And Anne's response? She had her mother locked up and forbade her to contact anyone.
  • Sibling Rivalry: George has issues with both brothers, despite being the one blatantly favored by their mother. Applies to Anne and Isabel as well, but they later reconcile.
  • Silk Hiding Steel: Margaret of Anjou, the militant queen.
  • Single Woman Seeks Good Man: Anne accepted Richard's proposal partially because of this. Edward of Lancaster was a sadistic monster and George of Clarence is a constant backstabber and a traitor. Compared to these two, Richard is fairly nice and decent to be with.
  • Sinister Minister: Warwick
  • Snow Means Love: Richard confessed his love to Anne and proposed. Anne accepts and followed by a Hollywood Kiss. It was snowing.
  • Sour Prude: Margaret Beaufort grows into one.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Edward IV married Elizabeth Woodville for love. Their marriage was met with disapproval because he was a York King and she was a Lancastrian widow.
  • Succession Crisis: The central conflict of the series is this. Either the legitimate heir is rumored to be a bastard, or the heir is too young to rule, or the heir died young. As result, each claimant - all related to one another through Royal Blood - fought one another until a new king is crowned. Hence the title Cousins War.
  • Suspiciously Small Army: All the battles are filmed in closeup to disguise the lack of extras. The Battle of Bosworth field is filmed in a wood for the same reason.
  • Teens Are Short: applies to the Neville sisters. Isabel is six-years older than Anne, who was only 12 or 13 in Episode 1. In real life, actress Faye Marsay (Anne) is 5 or 6 years older than Eleanor Tomlinson (Isabel). The difference in heights helped - a lot.
  • The Chessmaster: Margaret Beaufort thinks she is one of these. Her third husband, Lord Stanley, knows he is.
  • The Lost Lenore: Anne and Isabel to Richard and George.
  • The Mistress: Jane Shore
  • The Usurper: Henry Tudor
  • Thicker Than Water: Played straight with the Woodvilles and Nevilles to a certain point. Despite disagreeing with Elizabeth, both Anthony Wooville and Lady Jacquetta remained loyal and supportive to her. Isabel and Anne managed to reconcile after the fall of their father the Kingmaker. Averted with the York brothers: Edward IV had George executed; Richard III usurped the throne from his young nephews.
  • Three-Month-Old Newborn: In Episode 7, Anne was holding her newborn son Edward, saying that he's small. The baby in her arms was certainly not small, at least from viewer's perspective.
  • Time Skip: between Episode 7 and 8.
  • Title Drop: Played with Anne Neville, who claimed herself as "The Kingmaker's Daughter" more than a couple of times in the TV series.
  • Unexpected Successor: Richard, the youngest child of his parents. He has two older brothers and both have son(s), but, wouldn't you know it...
  • Unequal Pairing: Edward IV is the King, but Elizabeth Woodville is only a penniless Lancastrian widow. Edward of Lancaster is the Prince of Wales (at least to the Lancastrians) but Anne Neville is the youngest daughter of English noble.
  • Unknown Rival: Lady Margaret Beaufort is this to Elizabeth Woodville and Anne Neville. Although her son Henry Tudor was in exile for being a threat and rival to the York Kings, Lady Margaret Beaufort has earned trust and acceptance from both Elizabeth Woodville and Anne Neville. In her heart, Margaret Beaufort was fully convinced that her son is destined to be King and she actively plotted to make it happen. But, she cleverly hid her disgust towards Elizabeth Woodville, who later turned to her for alliance after Richard usurped the throne.
  • The Unsolved Mystery: The Princes in the Tower, naturally.
  • Villain Protagonist: Elizabeth Woodville is often portrayed as scheming and greedy in War of Roses historical fictions. In the novel The White Queen and the TV show, she's the main protagonist.
    • Margaret Beaufort in the novel The Red Queen applies as well.
  • Virgin Power: Bedford marries Jacquetta because he believes he needs this to help him with his alchemical experiments.
  • Undying Loyalty: Richard's loyalty towards his brother Edward IV stands out since everyone is sort of corrupted to a certain degree.
  • Unwanted Spouse: Anne fears becoming this after the death of her son.
  • Wars of the Roses: The basis of the entire series.
  • Wanting Is Better Than Having: Do you want to be Queen of England?
  • Wartime Wedding: Anne married Lancaster in the midst of Warwick's fallout with Yorkist. The wedding was quiet and small without pomps.
  • Wealthy Ever After: Anne and Richard. They got married, had a son, and inherited the Beauchamp estate.
  • We Used to Be Friends: Earl of Warwick and the York Brothers. Margaret of Anjou and Cecily Neville.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Given the nature of the miniseries, many characters just disappear as soon as their role is complete, including Margaret of Anjou, Duchess Cecily and the Countess of Warwick. A quick Google search will shed light on their eventual fate.
  • Wicked Witch: Elizabeth Woodville is this to the Neville sisters.
  • Woman Scorned: Played with in an interesting twist. Lady Margaret Beaufort offered a marriage proposal to Richard of Gloucester, which was rejected. Guess who played an instrumental role in his eventual downfall and death? Applied to Anne Neville in an interesting way too since dishonoring her in favor of his niece had Richard lost the support from North. Averted with Elizabeth Woodville, who is hurt by Edward's affair with Jane Shore, but remained his loving wife till the end.
  • The Woman Wearing the Queenly Mask:
    • Isabel Neville looks at the newly crowned Queen Elizabeth whispering with the king and says that she wouldn't be like that. If she was queen she would be a queen of stone with dignity and no emotion.
    • Margaret of Anjou. Because her husband Henry VI is too feeble-minded and sickly to rule, she assumes the responsibility. And after the Yorks take the throne, she is constantly plotting and campaigning to return it to the Lancasters and particularly for her son Edward.
  • Xanatos Speed Chess: Lord Stanley only makes plans that he knows he can switch in an instant. Make all sides think he is in their camp.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: Anne is relieved that she is far away from the court with her husband and son. It did not last long.
  • Youngest Child Wins: Both Richard and Anne are the youngest children in their family. Both fare better than their older siblings, George and Isabel...though they ultimately fail in the long run.
  • You Killed My Father: Richard of Gloucester's instant reaction when he saw Henry V after he was captured by Warwick; also applies to Elizabeth Woodville, whose main reason to bring George down was because he had her father killed.
  • Young Future Famous People: in early episodes, we have Henry Tudor, Elizabeth of York, and Buckingham.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Edward IV and Elizabeth have a loving relationship, but he still has numerous affairs, most notably with Elizabeth Shore (renamed Jane Shore in the TV series).