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Series / The White Queen

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A British historical drama miniseries which ran for ten episodes in 2013, nominally based on The White Queen by Philippa Gregory, but also takes material from two other novels in the series, The Red Queen and The Kingmaker's Daughter.

The series follows the lives of Elizabeth Woodville, Margaret Beaufort and Anne Neville—the eponymous heroines of the aforementioned books—in the period of 1464-1485, during which England was ruled by the House of York during the latter stages of the Wars of the Roses.

Rebecca Ferguson stars as Elizabeth Woodville, Queen Consort of England, while Amanda Hale plays Margaret Beaufort and Faye Marsay plays Anne Neville. Aneurin Barnard portrays a sympathetic Richard III while Rupert Graves is key to the latter episodes of the series as Lord Stanley, The Chessmaster.

It spawned two sequel series — The White Princess in 2017, about Elizabeth of York, and The Spanish Princess in 2019, about Catherine of Aragon.

This show contains examples of:

  • Abled in the Adaptation: The real Richard III had severe scoliosis which caused his shoulders to be uneven, although the deformity wouldn't be noticed under clothing. Aneurin Barnard's portrayal of the character includes a couple of Shirtless Scenes which demonstrate that Richard is devoid of a physical handicap.
  • Action Mom: Margaret of Anjou's husband Henry VI is imprisoned and suffers from a mental illness, so she takes matters into her own hands by waging a war on the Yorkists to secure her son's inheritance.
  • Adaptation Distillation: Three novels and 21 years of events are squeezed into a 10-episode miniseries.
  • Adaptation Name Change: The TV adaptation renamed Elizabeth Shore to Jane Shore, presumably 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).
  • Affectionate Gesture to the Head: After Queen Anne experiences an acute coughing fit in the middle of a party, she rests in bed while Richard III caresses the top of her head to soothe her. Although their marriage is in trouble in Episode 10, spending time with his ill wife and performing this gesture demonstrate that there are still some remnants of his romantic affection for her, even if it's nowhere near as strong as it used to be.
  • Anachronism Stew: The series was frequently mocked for the visibility of concrete steps, zips on clothing, plastic gutters and double-glazed windows.
  • And There Was Much Rejoicing: When Margaret Beaufort receives news that her mother is dying, she instantly praises God. When Lady Beauchamp demands that Margaret forgives her before she passes away, the latter refuses, saying her death will finally free her and make her a new person. Margaret then leaves her mother's bedside so she will die alone, without her daughter's forgiveness.
  • Antagonist in Mourning: Edward IV is visibly distressed when he witnesses his old friend turned enemy Lord Warwick die in front of his eyes at the Battle of Barnet. At Warwick's funeral, Richard becomes irritated when George makes a nasty comment, especially since George had just switched sides from Warwick to support his brothers once again.
    George: [Warwick's] head should be torn off and skewered on the tower gates for all to see. It's the only way to punish traitors.
    Richard: A bit rich, George, even for you.
    • And later:
      Edward: We are here to honour one of the finest warriors this country has ever known. He fought with our father, and we would be nothing without him.
      Richard: He may have been only an in-law to you [George], but he was like a brother to us. We must remember him for the hero he was, and not the traitor he became.
  • Arranged Marriage:
    • Lord Warwick arranges a match between his first daughter Isabel and George without Edward IV's consent.
    • He later does the same with his second daughter Anne, who marries Edward of Lancaster against her will.
    • His own marriage to his wife was also a planned union.
      Countess Warwick: Do you think I married for love? No, it was an agreement, a contract.
    • Margaret Beaufort is very bitter at her mother Lady Beauchamp for forcing her to marry Edmund Tudor, and later Henry Stafford.
    • The Duke of Buckingham and Catherine Woodville are around 10 and 8 years old, respectively, when they have to walk down the wedding aisle. The boy groom is visibly grumpy during the ceremony, and Queen Elizabeth states that he's sulky.
    • Elizabeth of York and Henry Tudor are betrothed by their mothers, and Elizabeth hates it.
  • Artistic Licence – History: Like hell!
    • The Battle of Bosworth Field is shown taking place inside a dense forest, rather than a field. This was probably a budget-cutting device to hide the fact that a battle involving thousands was filmed with only a few dozen actors.
    • The Total Eclipse of the Plot of March 16, 1485 was only a partial one in England.
    • Margaret Beaufort did not devote all of her son's life to getting him on the throne, nor would the young Henry Tudor have declared himself "heir to the Lancastrian throne" when Henry VI and his son Edward of Lancaster were still alive. And even after both Henry VI and Edward were murdered in 1471 (Henry in the Tower of London, Edward at Tewkesbury), no one really took Henry's prospects seriously, and Margaret certainly was not The Chessmaster egging on open warfare between Richard of Gloucester and Queen Elizabeth. It was only with the disappearance of Edward IV's sons in 1483 that a Tudor accession became even remotely plausible.
    • Anne and Richard were nine and eleven years old when Elizabeth Woodville was crowned, though they did sit at the same table, it is unlikely any romance, even puppy love, started at this time.
    • The romance between Richard III and Elizabeth of York is largely fictitious. There were rumours at the time that the King would marry his niece after Queen Anne's death, but little evidence to support them.
    • Obviously, Jacquetta was not really a witch! She was indeed accused of witchcraft by Warwick in 1470 and by Richard III in 1483, but naturally these claims were unsubstantiated.
    • Westminster Abbey had a dedicated sanctuary building. It did not resemble the damp, dingy cellar depicted on screen.
    • No records survive of the real Jacquetta's appearance, but if a royal woman in fifteenth-century England had been six feet tall, it probably would have been remembered.
    • Elizabeth's swapping of her son Richard of Shrewsbury for a servant boy to save him from Richard III is based on popular myth.
    • The series has the Princes in the Tower alive in 1484, with Elizabeth still trying to get her sons back. It also places Buckingham's rebellion in that year. In Real Life, the boys were never seen again after summer 1483, and by the end of that year, everyone on both sides presumed them dead. Buckingham's rebellion took place in October 1483. Richard III's son Edward of Middleham is shown dying in 1485 when he actually died the year before. There's also a failed raid on the Tower of London to rescue the boys which is entirely fictional. Finally, the show has Margaret Beaufort responsible for commissioning Buckingham for the murder of the princes, which is straight nonsense—the murders were probably on the orders of Richard III, they might have been Buckingham on his own initiative, but it definitely wasn't Margaret.
    • Anthony Woodville was with Edward V and Richard Grey when they were intercepted by Richard of Gloucester, but this is ignored by the TV adaptation. Moreover, Anthony and Jane Shore weren't lovers.
    • Margaret Beaufort had never sent a marriage proposal to Richard of Gloucester.
    • Margaret's brother was actually named John Welles. He wasn't killed young ut actually ended up marrying Elizabeth Woodville's daughter Cecily. He also wasn't her only brother as her mother was married three times and had sons with her first husband.
    • There's no evidence to suggest that Margaret and Jasper were ever in love. They were certainly close but only as family and political partners. Both wanted to protect Henry and did everything they could to do so.
    • Margaret was actually very close to her mother. There is no evidence to say that she abused her at all. True, Margaret did marry young but not because of her mother abusing her. She wouldn't have had much choice in the matter considering it was actually King Henry VI himself who arranged the marriage.
  • As You Know: Queen Anne reminds Richard III of an important fact that he's well-aware of.
    Anne: Take care you do not cut the Neville affinity away from yourself. I am the Kingmaker's Daughter, and many in the North only follow you for love of me. They'll turn against you if they think you shame me.
    Richard: I know that.
  • Awesome Moment of Crowning:
    • In Episode 2, "The Price of Power", Elizabeth Woodville is given a lavish coronation as queen consort.
    • Episode 8, "The King is Dead" closes with a joint coronation for Richard III and Anne Neville.
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Richard never forgot or forgave George for betraying Edward (and Richard) twice, but he shows that Blood Is Thicker Than Water when he passionately argues for George's life when the latter is about to be executed.
    • Jacquetta and Margaret of Anjou - Jacquetta uses Warwick's fear of Margaret's retribution if she's harmed to escape imprisonment and Margaret of Anjou mentions the "Wheel of Fortune", which Jacquetta taught her, several times.
    • Coupled with Pet the Dog in the case of Margaret Beaufort and her second husband, Sir Henry Stafford. Despite her transparent love for Jasper Tudor and obsession with putting her son on the throne, she goes out of her way to be with Stafford when she learns that he is on his deathbed.
  • The Baby of the Bunch: Anne and Richard are the "baby" within their families, plus they are The Cutie at the start of the show. Anne is her father Lord Warwick's favourite child, and Richard is loved by his eldest brother Edward IV more than their middle brother George.
  • Bad People Abuse Animals: George, the most deceitful member of the House of York, poisons his own pet dog just so he can blame Queen Elizabeth for its death and paint her as a murderer who wants to get rid of him, his wife and their unborn son.
  • Batman Gambit: Margaret Beaufort and Thomas Stanley pull one. Elizabeth Woodville and her mother pull one. Warwick and George try to pull one. Basically, if someone can pull one of these, they will.
  • Battle Ballgown: Margaret of Anjou wears a brown breastplate over her dress when leading an army to conquer England.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Anne has wished to be the Queen of England since she was a little girl, but she learns the hard way that the terrible burden of wearing the crown has put an immense strain on her once happy marriage to Richard III, and the stress of holding the throne has ruined both her mental and physical health.
    Anne: I wish I could go back and never have been Queen.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Jacquetta is as soft as snow - but, given that she is apparently a witch, keeping her on your side of the fight is probably a good idea.
  • Becoming the Mask: Richard III was pretending to be in love with his niece Elizabeth as a political strategy to cuckold his opponent Henry Tudor (who is engaged to her), but he genuinely develops feelings for her.
    Elizabeth: Lady Margaret said that you were using me, and laughed at me for loving you. If it is true, then you must tell me and I'll go.
    Richard: It's not true. I did not mean to love you, but I do. I hate myself for it, but I fell in love with you.
  • Big Brother Mentor: Lord Warwick is technically the first cousin of the York brothers, but Edward IV and Richard lampshade that he was like a brother to them. Warwick taught Edward "how to fight, how to win," and he also tutored Richard in the art of war at Warwick's castle.
  • Big, Thin, Short Trio: The three sons of York look like this, with Edward IV as the Big (he's the tallest, and he gets fatter as the series progresses), George as the Thin (he's less accomplished as a warrior than his brothers, so his slimmer build reflects this) and Richard as the Short (he's The Baby of the Bunch and the least extroverted amidst his siblings). The height difference is if anything played down a little, for the real Edward IV was 6'4 (Max Irons 6'2) and Richard III - assuming he could indeed stand straight - was 5'8 (Aneurin Barnard 5'9).
  • Birth-Death Juxtaposition: In Episode 6, Queen Elizabeth gives birth to a son while her mother Jacquetta lays dying. Shortly after both her son and her mother have passed away, Anne and Richard are making love on their wedding night and conceiving their own son.
  • Bling of War: Richard III rides into battle wearing a golden crown on top of his helmet.
  • Blood from the Mouth: How the series shows in episode 8 that Edward's illness is really bad. He croaks.
  • Broken Pedestal: In Episode 7, the pedestal that Richard had placed his eldest brother on now shows cracks as large as Edward IV's girth. The former has dedicated most of his life to serving his king, but his veneration transforms into disgust when Edward participates in an orgy while the Queen is in labour on the floor above. ("I don't believe that [whoring] is the best way to celebrate the birth of your child.") Richard's outrage solidifies during their war against France.
    Richard: Dear Anne, our campaign is a farce. King Louis has offered Edward terms of peace and he has taken them. His son is to marry Edward's daughter, so she will be the next Queen of France, and lots of gold. I cannot forgive him for this betrayal. I have always been heart and soul for my brother Edward, but now I cannot meet his eye. We have become like merchants, haggling a price.
  • Brooding Boy, Gentle Girl: Richard III and Elizabeth of York. His temperament becomes increasingly saturnine after he becomes king, and when a schism forms between Richard and his wife Anne, the only person who can reach past his gloomy exterior is the kind Elizabeth.
  • Byronic Hero: Sure, he's The Cutie when the series starts, but even before George and Warwick's betrayal and Richard is ripped away from his beloved Anne, he is The Quiet One. By the time he's reunited with Anne, he's a skilled and ruthless warrior with a ferocious temper, who rescues Anne from a gang rape one minute only to threaten to tie up Margaret of Anjou the next. He truly loves Anne, even though he admits he covets her fortune as well. By the time Edward dies and Richard seizes the throne, his reputation is such that it's hardly surprising people believe the worst of him, nor is it surprising that his niece develops a huge crush on him.
  • Call-Forward: When Elizabeth Woodville and her daughter Elizabeth of York talk of cursing whoever killed the Princes in the Tower, Richard III warns them to be careful, saying that their curses may rebound on "someone you love." The two Elizabeths go ahead anyway, summoning a curse calling for the deaths of the firstborn sons of whoever killed Edward V. The victims of that curse, obviously, are Elizabeth of York's firstborn son Arthur Tudor and her grandson Edward VI.
  • The Casanova: Edward IV is introduced as a lecher who has "bedded every woman in his court" and who "has been through half the wives of London." Orgies are a pastime for him. It doesn't even change when he's become old and portly.
    Duchess Cecily: [Edward] has bastards all over England.
  • Catapult Nightmare:
    • Elizabeth Woodville pops out of bed twice in the premiere after having nightmares of her first husband John Grey and Edward IV getting killed in battle.
    • Queen Anne, who fears she's responsible for the deaths of the Princes in the Tower, has a nightmare of them in the last episode. She screams herself awake, and Richard III, who is at her bedside, is so alarmed that he exclaims, "Anne, what is it?!"
  • Character Tic: Lady Margaret has a notable tendency to lick or suck on her own lips during any time she is feeling a strong emotion.
  • The Chessmaster: Margaret Beaufort and Lord Stanley. When a tentative peace is in place between Richard and Elizabeth, with Richard willing to crown his nephew as Edward V, Margaret and Stanley ruin it all with well-placed gossip. Their plan is for the various factions of the House of York to destroy each other so Henry Tudor can be king. It works.
  • Childhood Friend Romance: Anne and Richard are Childhood Friends who are head-over-heels for each other. Lord Warwick wishes for them to be betrothed, but Edward IV dismisses it. Anne and Richard are then separated after war breaks out between their families. When they eventually cross paths again, their fondness has evolved to include a more adult desire, and their courtship is of the Rescue Romance variety. Richard ultimately affirms his lifelong love for Anne, and she joyfully agrees to marry him.
  • Childhood Friends: Anne and Richard have known each other since they were kids, and she lampshades this when she tells a servant girl, "He's my friend since childhood." Although Anne used to be much closer to her sister Isabel, Richard proves to be more reliable because he's the sole individual who is willing to help Anne after she becomes George's captive.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: As in Real Life, George bounces back and forth like a tennis ball from one side to the other.
    Jaquetta: George is loyal to your husband, it seems.
    Elizabeth: Today.
  • The Consigliere: Anne fulfills the "wife of a powerful ruler" variation for her husband Richard, a royal duke who (with her urging) later becomes king. He regularly consults with her on matters of state, listens to her opinions and advice, and more often than not follows them. Anne never loses this role even after Richard's love for her fades in the final episode, so he still recognizes that they're a Ruling Couple and that she's his partner in this venture.
  • Cool Old Lady: Jacquetta Rivers
  • Cooperation Gambit: Elizabeth and Margaret have a shared goal of bringing down Richard III, but after that they have different aims — Elizabeth wants to claim the throne for Richard of Shrewsbury whereas Margaret wants it for Henry Tudor.
  • Creepy Blue Eyes: Edward of Lancaster's soulless blue irises are indicators that he's a budding psychopath. They become even more chilling when he rapes Anne Neville on their wedding night.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: George of Clarence, drowned in a vat of wine.
  • Crush Blush: Isabel teases her younger sister, "See how Anne is blushing!" after the latter finds out that their father will request the king's approval on a match between Anne and her crush Richard.
  • Cry into Chest: A rare gender inversion occurs near the end of Episode 7. When Richard is heartbroken after George's execution, he leans his head on the shoulder and chest of his wife Anne and embraces her tightly, his body clinging on to hers as if he'd fall apart without her solace.
  • The Cutie: Anne and Richard are endearing, naïve youngsters in the early episodes, and their Puppy Love adds another layer of sweetness. They are initially the most sympathetic characters, but they both wholly succumb to Corrupt the Cutie by Episode 8.
  • Cycle of Revenge: What wipes out a whole bunch of nobles over ten episodes and leaves the Tudors standing at the end. This is the Hand Wave for why Elizabeth Woodville is content to let her son Richard be pushed aside for a Tudor usurper; she realizes that revenge only brings more revenge.
  • Daddy's Girl: Richard observes with respect and admiration that Anne is her father's daughter because she chose to fight on and remain with her in-laws' army instead of fleeing the battle like her mother did. (Lord Warwick was Richard's instructor in warfare, so this is high praise.) Other characters (including Anne herself) sometimes refer to her as the Kingmaker's Daughter, and interestingly, this label doesn't apply to her sister Isabel.
  • Darker and Edgier: Rather literally, the lighting of most scenes decreases over the course of the series as the tone becomes bleak.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: In the final episode, Queen Anne becomes upset with her husband because she believes he is having an affair with his niece, Elizabeth of York. Richard III explains that he is not, he is just deliberately creating the rumor that he is, because Henry Tudor, a rival claimant to the throne, had betrothed himself to Elizabeth. Therefore, by making people believe that he is sleeping with her, Richard is, in effect, cuckolding his adversary, humiliating Tudor and costing him political support. Of course, to a modern audience, the idea of a man having an affair with his own niece is much worse than the idea of a man's fiancée cheating on him (especially when they are forced to live apart from each other for a long time), and certainly much worse for one's political career. Of course, the show leaves at least some ambiguity about whether Richard was being sincere in his explanation to Anne, and about whether there really was an affair - at least, the adaptations differ: in the British version, he is not sleeping with her but in the American version he is.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Anne's heart was already broken by Richard's open courting of Elizabeth of York, but losing her son Edward takes her over the edge. She blames the death on the Woodville's curse, which she openly accuses Richard of having murdered the Princes, while privately suspecting they were killed over some poorly chosen words.
  • Deuteragonist: As confirmed in this featurette, Margaret Beaufort is the Deuteragonist because she serves as The Antagonist to Elizabeth Woodville's The Protagonist, whereas Anne Neville is the Tritagonist.
  • Does Not Like Men:
    • Margaret of Anjou resents men for demonizing her because she adopts the masculine role of leadership.
      Margaret of Anjou: I've never been liked. I'm damned in most men's eyes. I'm the woman who dared to rule when her husband could not, and who fought to ensure her only son's position. Now how could I do such a thing? Men.
    • Countess Warwick attempts to persuade her daughter Anne Neville to abandon her husband.
      Countess Warwick: We do not need men. They are all treacherous.
  • The Dog Bites Back: When Margeret Beaufort's mother is on her deathbed, she demands Margaret forgive her as she defends her abuse of her daughter by saying she was looking out for Margaret's best interests as Margaret was incapable of doing so, all while continuing to demean her. Margaret finally stands up to her mother by refusing to forgive her mother and saying how her death will make her life better. She then leaves her mother's bedside with no further comment, ignoring her pleas to come back and letting her die alone.
    • Isabel and Anne both refuse to help their mother after she's declared dead and their husbands seize her property after their mother has done nothing but exploit them for profit through their marriages and left Anne to die on the battlefield while fleeing herself. She also cursed Anne for marrying Richard without her permission. So it's no wonder they refused to help her and instead took their husbands' side.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Cecily Neville's threat to help dethrone her son Edward out of disapproval over his marriage to Elisabeth Woodville: as Jacquetta Rivers points out, it would require her slandering herself as an adulteress and her late husband as a cuckold (see more under Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe).
  • Disowned Parent: Countess Warwick, who is her son-in-law Richard of Gloucester's captive and was declared legally dead by King Edward IV, tries to convince her daughter Anne Neville to leave her husband behind so that they can live together free from men. Anne is deeply in love with Richard, and she's so offended that she disowns her mother.
  • Doomed by History: Most of the major characters die during the course of the series, and the House of York is deposed by Henry Tudor.
  • Double In-Law Marriage: Two York brothers, George and Richard, are married to the two Neville sisters, Isabel and Anne, respectively.
  • Drop Dead Gorgeous: A Rare Male Example occurs when Richard III's corpse is stripped naked after the Battle of Bosworth, and there's a close-up of his face, bare neck and shoulder. As he is a Raven Hair, Ivory Skin Pretty Boy, he looks like a porcelain doll stained with blood and dirt despite the violence that has been inflicted upon him. Richard was given the Mr. Fanservice treatment in a sex scene that took place the night before the battle (the image is therefore still fresh in the audience's minds), so the underlying sensuality of his nude dead body is unmistakable.
  • Emo Teen: Joey Batey's Edward of Lancaster has shades of this.
  • Entitled Bastard: Clarence, to the point that he winds up getting executed for treason. He continually whinges that he isn't being given enough power, land or money compared to his brothers, even after twice having been forgiven for rising up against the King. The latter occasion triggered another brief, but bloody civil war that saw tens of thousands killed (including the kingmaker Warwick), his brothers forced into exile, and Queen Elizabeth stuck in sanctuary while bringing up a new baby.
  • Ermine Cape Effect: Fully exploited with Elizabeth's coronation robes, which the Neville sisters envy.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Margaret of Anjou is genuinely heartbroken when she learns her son, Prince Edward, has been killed in battle.
  • Evil Uncle: Played with. Richard doesn't have his nephews killed and he is right about them being illegitimate. But when shown from Edward V's POV, Richard is an intimating and dark figure who robs the boy of his birthright on a technicality.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: It's near enough outright stated that, no matter what happens in the war between the two houses, Margaret of Anjou will spare Jacquetta Woodville under all circumstances.
  • Eyebrow Waggle: When George inquires as to what his younger brother's intentions are for Anne, Richard answers, "Well, what do you think they are?" and performs this gesture as a silent "I dare you to figure me out, because I know you've never really tried to understand me."
  • Fan Service Extra: There is a lot of nudity and sex from the start, even apart from that involving Rebecca Ferguson, who's quite attractive (her character Elizabeth has multiple love scenes with Edward right in the first episode). Other characters get in on the action too, with copious nudity and sex. This is not really necessary to the plot, naturally.
  • The Fate of the Princes in the Tower: The convoluted narrative presented is that Richard is innocent of the boys' murder, Anne thinks she accidentally ordered them killed but it was really Margaret Beaufort. But one of them was an imposter and Elizabeth Woodville sends the younger one abroad under the name Perkin.
  • Fan Vid: For a one-season production with little critical acclaim, the series has spawned a rather large array of musical montages, with new videos still coming out even years after broadcast.
  • Feet-First Introduction: Margaret of Anjou's first appearance, in Episode 4, when she strides into a church for her first meeting with Lord Warwick.
  • Female Gaze: Edward IV and Richard, the resident hunk and pretty boy, are occasionally seen in various stages of undress ranging from shirtless scenes to outright nudity so that the women (and gay men) who are tuning in are encouraged to ogle at their enticing physiques.
  • Feuding Families: The Yorks ("the White Rose") and the Lancasters ("the Red Rose"), cadet branches of The House of Plantagenet, are the rival factions in the Wars of the Roses. The Woodvilles were initially allied with the Lancasters, but they switch to York after Elizabeth marries Edward IV. The Nevilles were originally Yorkists, but they later join the Lancastrian cause. In the aftermath of Edward IV supplanting Henry VI for the second time, the Nevilles are brought to heel, as their patriarch Lord Warwick is dead, his two daughters are married to York husbands, and his widow Countess Warwick is the prisoner of her York son-in-law. The Lancasters have been fundamentally wiped out with this Yorkist victory, which results in Henry Tudor, the second cousin once removed of Henry VI, as nominally the last surviving Lancastrian claimant to the throne.
  • First Kiss: When Anne and Richard meet clandestinely for the second time in a garden, they lock lips after she agrees to become his wife. They've been enamoured with each other throughout their youths, but decorum and their Feuding Families prohibit them from exhibiting any physical intimacy until their engagement.
  • Freudian Trio: George is Id, Edward is Ego, and Richard is Superego.
  • Friendly Enemy: Jacquetta Woodville and Margaret of Anjou are on different sides of this war, but the two are nothing but friendly when talking about one another. Yes, they never interact on screen, but it's as clear as the nose on your face that not even the war could break their friendship. Jacquetta even uses Margaret's name to avoid being killed!
  • Friendship as Courtship: Because they are Childhood Friends imbued with Puppy Love, Richard and Anne's burgeoning romance requires merely four encounters (once at the Battle of Tewkesbury, once at a hunting gathering, and twice in a garden) before he pops the question, which she eagerly accepts.
  • Garden of Love: Anne and Richard secretly meet twice in a garden at night while they try to figure out how to free her from George's guardianship. The Puppy Love that they once felt for each other during their youths gradually blossoms into true love during these furtive encounters. It culminates in a marriage proposal, a Love Confession and their First Kiss.
  • Gaussian Girl: Gaussian Guy in Richard's case; when he saves Anne's life at the Battle of Tewkesbury, he undergoes a few soft-focus shots to seem misty and dream-like from her perspective. This symbolizes Anne's sheer disbelief at being reunited with her dearest friend after their families go to war, and now that they're older, their youthful Puppy Love has matured into Unresolved Sexual Tension.
  • The Ghost: Margaret of Anjou and Edward of Lancaster are frequently talked about and given vivid descriptions in episodes 1-3, but it is not until episode 4 that they actually appear.
  • Gilded Cage:
    • The Tower of London is this for a few of its residents, which includes Henry VI, Edward V and Richard of Shrewsbury (or more precisely, a peasant boy pretending to be him).
    • Lord Warwick abducts Edward IV and imprisons the king inside Warwick Castle.
    • After Anne becomes George's ward, she is trapped within his residence.
    • Countess Warwick is permanently confined at Warwick Castle under the orders of her son-in-law Richard.
    • After Richard III discovers that Margaret Beaufort is plotting to oust him from the throne, her husband Lord Stanley volunteers to be her jailer to prevent her from being executed as a traitor. Margaret is kept isolated at Stanley's Bletsoe country house.
    • Richard III convinces Elizabeth Woodville to leave sanctuary so that she and her younger daughters can live at Grafton Manor under house arrest.
  • God Save Us from the Queen!: How Margaret of Anjou is considered.
  • The Hedonist: Edward IV wallows in sensual excesses, and no amount of food, drink or sex truly satisfy him. It's heavily implied that this unhealthy lifestyle resulted in him dying of an illness a few weeks shy of his 41st birthday. Others suggest that he came down with pneumonia following a fishing trip on the Thames, or even that he died of food poisoning after eating fish from the notoriously polluted water. The latter possibility is discussed by Queen Elizabeth and Thomas Grey, but she points out that the entire family ate the same dinner, and there's no sign of food poisoning in Edward.
  • Held Gaze: Anne and Richard's Puppy Love is first revealed in Episode 2 when they stare adoringly at each other at a reception after the Queen's coronation.
  • Helmets Are Hardly Heroic: During the Battle of Barnet, none of the major characters sport helmets.
  • Hiding Behind Religion: Margaret Beaufort, hands down. Both her husbands call her out on this, particularly Henry Stafford. It's a tragedy when Lancastrians die and the work of the devil, but when Yorks die it is God's doing. When the York princes disappear in the Tower, implied to be by Margaret's own machinations, it's actually God's will. Except, you know, killing innocent children is of course against God's rules.
  • Historical Beauty Update:
    • The popular image of Richard III is a deformed, leering hunchback. The discovery of his bones proved that he wasn't a hunchback, but in fact had severe scoliosis (a curved spine which would have made one shoulder higher than the other). Neither are seen here, and he is played by Pretty Boy / Mr. Fanservice Aneurin Barnard. His Richard is the most attractive live-action iteration to date.
    • A minor example with "The White Queen" herself. The ideal of female beauty was rather different five centuries ago — the real Elizabeth Woodville was a great beauty by the standards of the 15th century; the actress portraying her is beautiful by more modern standards.
  • Historical Hero Upgrade: This is the most sympathetic live-action portrayal of Richard III ever made, at least until Harry Lloyd played his sympathetic ghost in 2022. Richard was not the monster as depicted in Shakespeare's play, but in Real Life, he maneuvered from the start to push Edward IV's sons and the Woodvilles aside in order to grab power for himself, and he probably had the Princes in the Tower murdered. Here, he is sincere about intending to crown Edward V, he had absolutely nothing to do with his nephews' disappearance (in fact, he freaks out when he realizes that they're missing), and he makes peace with his sister-in-law Elizabeth Woodville. It's Margaret Beaufort The Chessmaster who schemes her way into pitting Richard and Elizabeth against each other, and it's she and her husband Thomas Stanley who basically trick Richard into seizing the throne.
  • Historical Relationship Overhaul:
    • The original and its sequel The White Princess portrays Richard III and his niece, Elizabeth of York as being in love and having had a sexual affair before his death. Rumors did spread he wanted to marry her, but he denied them and was negotiating foreign matches for himself and her.
    • The show portrays Anthony Woodville, the Queen's brother, has having an affair with Edward IV's mistress, Jane Shore. This did not happen, though Edward and his best friend Will Hastings were both thought to have been involved with Shore.
    • Margaret Beaufort and Jasper Tudor were not in love, merely close family relations by marriage.
  • Hot Guy, Ugly Wife: Applies to the marriage of Richard and Anne. She's not ugly, but she's explicitly described as "a plain little thing" by Margaret of Anjou, and George, Richard's own brother, doesn't believe he can be attracted to her. George is clearly wrong, though, because Richard has adored Anne since childhood, they Marry for Love, are Happily Married, and he remains faithful to his wife for the first dozen years of their marriage. However, when Richard's romantic feelings for Anne diminish in their final year together, he falls in love with his classically beautiful niece Elizabeth, and she reciprocates wholeheartedly despite how closely related they are. It reinforces Richard's depiction as a Raven Hair, Ivory Skin Pretty Boy (his gorgeousness, which is even a touch feminine, is essentially equal to his niece's), whereas Anne isn't appealing enough to have any other male admirers besides her husband.
  • Hotter and Sexier: The Starz telecast of this miniseries contains more nudity and more sex scenes than in The BBC edition.
  • Hunk: Edward IV is tall and traditionally handsome, although his good looks wane after he grows fat. It's because he's a magnificent, chiseled image of manhood that Elizabeth Woodville becomes infatuated with him despite the fact that her family had fought a war against him.
  • Hypocrite: The Lancastrians, particularly exemplified by Margaret Beaufort who loudly proclaims over and over that Edward IV is a usurper from the rightful king anointed by God, Henry VI... Except, they conveniently forget that Henry's grandfather, Henry IV usurped the throne from the rightful king anointed by God, Richard II. What's more, England allowed succession through the female line before 1399. Richard's heir was Edmund Mortimer, a boy, who was descended from Richard's uncle, Lionel of Antwerp, the second son of Edward III by Lionel's daughter. The Lancastrians come from the third son, John of Gaunt. Furthermore, whilst the Yorks descended paternally from the fourth son of Edward III, Edmund of Langley making them junior to the Lancasters, in the female line, they descend from Edmund Mortimer's sister, Anne, and thus from Lionel of Antwerp. This means that the Yorks actually have the better claim to the throne. Then there is the whole issue of might-makes-right. William the Conqueror's claim, and thus his descendant's claims, come from his conquest rather than blood. Henry IV also conquered the throne. Therefore, Edward IV has every right to use this to take it as well.
  • I Have Many Names: Several characters change their name and/or title repeatedly throughout the series:
    • The titular character begins as Elizabeth Woodville, then becomes Elizabeth Grey through her first marriage, then Queen Elizabeth on her second marriage, then back to Elizabeth Grey upon its annulment.note 
    • In general, her family are alternately referred to as "Woodville" or "Rivers".
    • Elizabeth Jr. is at first a princess, but then downgraded to mere "Mistress" (or even "The Bastard Girl" as Anne angrily calls her), then set to become Queen.
    • The "Red Queen" starts life as Lady Margaret Beaufort (daughter of the Duke of Somerset), then became Margaret de la Pole, Duchess of Suffolk note ; then Margaret Tudor, Countess of Richmond; then Margaret Stafford; then Margaret Stanley, later still Countess of Derby. After her son's accession she is also styled "My Lady The King's Mother".
    • Anne starts as Lady Anne Neville, then becomes Princess of Wales, then Duchess of Gloucester, then Queen.
  • I Have No Son!: After Anne marries Richard and informs her mother of their union by letter, Countess Warwick sends back a curse in response.
    Anne: (upset) My mother cursed me and disowned me!
  • Incurable Cough of Death:
    • Isabel is seen coughing before she becomes bedridden and then dies of childbed fever.
    • Queen Anne's violent bouts of coughing are symptoms of tuberculosis, and it gradually kills her.
  • Innocent Blue Eyes: In the early episodes, the young Anne Neville's baby blue irises mirror her wide-eyed naïvety.
  • In-Series Nickname:
    • Anne Neville is called "The Kingmaker's Daughter" In-Universe.
    • Isabel, Anne and Richard have referred to Margaret of Anjou as "The Bad Queen" since their childhoods, and Anne is pleased that Richard still remembers the nickname as an adult.
  • Insistent Terminology: Anne gets annoyed with Richard calling his niece "Princess Elizabeth" and dubs her "the Bastard Girl Elizabeth" instead. Justified, because Richard's accession to the throne relies on Edward IV's children being illegitimate.
  • Intro Dump: Several characters—Lord Warwick's wife and daughters, Edward IV's mother Duchess Cecily, Edward's brothers George and Richard (the future Richard III), Margaret Beaufort—are introduced by Edward to Elizabeth and the audience when she is first brought to court as his queen.
  • Jade-Colored Glasses: Richard, a steadfast supporter of Edward IV, used to be the most idealistic among the sons of York, but the more he's vexed by his eldest brother's glaring flaws, the more his worldview crumbles.
    Richard: How could he do this to me? Now Edward tries to buy my honour! He confuses me with my brother George. He does not even know me.
    Anne: Then send it back and show him you do not care for wealth.
    Richard: The insult has been paid now. Though everything I thought I knew has been shaken, perhaps there's no honour in anyone and each of us is alone.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: In "The Princes of the Tower" Margaret and Queen Anne both are given the Sadistic Choice of sparing the Princes or killing them. The people speaking to them offer uncomfortable truths for why sparing the Princes is incredibly dangerous/inconvenient.
    • Sir Robert Brackenbury argues that the Princes will grow older and seek their birthright. Also, he points out that men are already willing to fight for them, making them threats regardless of boyhood.
    • Stanley bluntly tells Margaret that if they don't kill the Princes, they must save them and put them on the throne rather than Henry Tudor.
  • The Kingslayer: Edward IV assassinates Henry VI in the Tower of London with a Vorpal Pillow, accompanied by his brothers Richard and George as his accomplices (the former holds the victim's legs down, while the latter pays off a guard for his silence and to leave the premises).
  • Kissing Cousins: The marriages of George and Isabel, and later Richard and Anne, are of first cousins once removed. Cecily Neville, the mother of George and Richard, is thus both the mother-in-law and paternal great-aunt of Isabel and Anne.
  • Knight in Shining Armor: Richard adheres to the code of chivalry during his adolescence and young adulthood, and this is remarked upon ("[George] has none of Richard's chivalry" / "[Edward] said I was a fool for chivalry"). Absolutely no one questions his devotion to Edward IV, as Richard is always dutiful whether it's peacetime or war. He also defends Anne at the Battle of Tewkesbury when several soldiers assault her, which evokes Lady and Knight. However, Richard becomes a Knight in Sour Armor in Episode 7 after he's disenchanted with the king's debauchery, and he's offended when Edward attempts to appease him by bribing him with gold. By Episode 8, Richard's moral compass is thoroughly broken when the opportunity to usurp the throne opens up to him.
  • Kubrick Stare: A blood-spattered Richard gives off one of these at Bosworth when he sees Stanley finally attacking and hears Stanley's men calling out their allegiance to Henry Tudor.
  • Lady and Knight: Anne is a Princess through her first marriage and a Damsel in Distress to Richard's valiant and courteous Knight in Shining Armor. Their courtship consists of him by protecting her from danger and coming to her aid when she loses her freedom. Richard's devotion to Anne is notable because in each scenario, no one else is willing to assist her, so he's the classic romantic hero from the viewpoint of his cherished lady.
  • Love Across Battlelines: Anne and Richard, after Warwick switches side. She doesn't want to marry Edward of Lancaster and would have preferred Richard, and he's upset by the news of her betrothal. When reunited, they dance around their feelings but eventually reunite.
  • Love Confession: Richard and Anne dance around this trope, hoping the other will reveal their true feelings first. In Episode 5, she has just been widowed, and yet he can't resist asking her an out-of-the-blue, inappropriate question because they've been separated for so long. He then has to rephrase it in a more platonic sense so that she can openly answer in the affirmative.
    Richard: Do you love me, Anne?
    Anne: (smiles shyly) What? note 
    Richard: Do you love me, and the king?
    (Anne nods yes with a small grin)
    • During their first secret meeting in the garden, Anne attempts to coax Richard into disclosing his romantic affection for her:
      Anne: You would approach the king on my behalf?
      Richard: Yes, if you'd like me to.
      Anne: Why would you do that?
      Richard: (stares at her longingly) Why do you think? note 
    • He finally admits during their second garden encounter that he does indeed love her, possibly even as far back as when they first met as kids.
      Richard: I will be a true husband because I love you.
      Anne: Do you love me, Richard? Truly?
      Richard: I do. Perhaps I always have.
  • Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe: Edward IV may be illegitimate if he was born from his mother Duchess Cecily's affair with an archer instead of her husband Richard of York.
    Cecily: Unless I should unseat [Edward IV].
    Jacquetta: And how would you do that, Duchess Cecily?
    Cecily: I could disown him. I could put his brother George upon the throne in his place.
    Jacquetta: Yes, I did hear some talk when Edward was born. Um, it was an archer, wasn't it? By the name of, um Blaybourne. That's it, yes. People said that you had made a cuckold of your husband, but in fact, I was of the few who swore that a lady of your standing would never stoop so low, and yet it seems you did. If that is what you're saying, Duchess Cecily, that you admit yourself a common whore and declare your son, the king, a bastard? For I cannot see how else you would unseat him.
    Cecily: Enough! Enough.
    • Edward himself isn't certain of his paternity:
      Elizabeth: Why would [Cecily] back George instead of you?
      Edward: The old story. Whether I am my father's son, whether I am legitimate! George is saying that I am a bastard and that would make him the true York heir.
  • Marital Rape License: Very much in force when Anne Neville is betrothed against her will to Edward of Lancaster, and must do her duty to provide an heir to the dynasty. When she apologizes for not knowing what to do, Edward tells her to just lie there.
  • Marry for Love:
    • Jacquetta of Luxembourg's second husband is Richard Woodville, a lowly squire far beneath her noble rank whom she fell in love with (although he was bestowed the title of Baron Rivers at a later date).
    • Edward IV defies the custom that a king should marry a princess by making Elizabeth Woodville, a penniless Lancastrian commoner that he's besotted with, his Queen consort.
    • After a myriad of hurdles spread out over several years, Anne Neville and Richard of Gloucester eventually attain a Childhood Friend Romance and tie the knot.
  • Meaningful Look: During their joint coronation, Richard III and Anne Neville exchange a triumphant glance which wordlessly communicates, "We're King and Queen of England now, and we did it together."
  • Middle Child Syndrome: Although George is Duchess Cecily's favorite among her children, he nonetheless believes that his brothers never appreciated or loved him enough. Based on the following line of dialogue, Edward IV (the eldest) and Richard (the youngest) have always been closer to each other than they ever were with him.
    George: I stand there like a beggar with a bowl, and my brothers put their crumbs in it. It's always been those two, since we were children. Me out on my own, or with my mother.
  • The Mistress: Jane Shore is this for Edward IV.
  • Mother Makes You King: Margaret Beaufort theoretically has a claim to the throne in her own right, but instead schemes to put her son forward as the Lancastrian champion.
  • Mr. Fanservice:
    • Edward IV is so sexy that he has his own official trailer entitled "There's a New Edward in Town" which promotes his status as the miniseries' primary heartthrob.
    • When Richard consummates his marriage with Anne, he gets a full body shot of Male Back Nudity.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Queen Elizabeth's breasts are frequently exposed during her sex scenes with Edward IV.
  • Mythology Gag: Sir Robert Brackenbury's "Get the king a horse!" is an obvious allusion to Richard's "My kingdom for a horse!" line in Richard III.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: YMMV whether Richard is a hero or a villain by Episode 10, but he comes up with a plan to humiliate Henry Tudor. He distances himself from his wife Anne and begins courting Elizabeth of York to make people think he has seduced Henry Tudor's betrothed. It's so convincing that everyone, including Anne, believes it, and when Anne dies, possibly of a broken heart, rumours fly that Richard had poisoned her to be with Elizabeth. The Northern lords, who were loyal to Anne, abandon Richard for Henry, and Richard is forced to send Elizabeth to Henry anyways, just to attempt damage control. Meanwhile Richard is both heartbroken because he has fallen for Elizabeth by now and guilt-ridden over Anne's final dispair and death, never having fallen completely out of love with her.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Margaret of Anjou's display of alpha-female dominance in making Warwick sail to England first, with her army waiting to see how things go, leads to complete and final disaster for her cause. Edward IV is able to defeat both their armies separately.
  • Nice, Mean, and In-Between: Among the York brothers, Richard is the most gracious (Nice), George is a Jerkass (Mean), and Edward is the middle ground between the two of them (In-between).
  • Noble Male, Roguish Male: Richard is the Noble Male and Edward IV is the Roguish Male. Richard is noted In-Universe to be chivalrous and very serious, plus he's a romantic at heart, whether it's love or warfare. He doesn't overindulge in food, drink or sex. He never partakes in prostitutes, he has never tried to rape anyone (in fact, he rescues Anne from gang-rape), and he's faithful to Anne after she becomes his wife. note  Edward is a hedonistic Boisterous Bruiser with "a king's appetite" for earthly pleasures, which leads to significant weight gain from overeating and consuming too much alcohol. He's also notoriously promiscuous, and he attempts to rape his future wife Elizabeth Woodville, who was ready to slice her own throat to preserve her honour. Throughout their marriage, he treats whoring like a sport, and he has a long-term mistress. In Episode 7, Richard criticizes his King for the latter's salacious behaviour while the Queen is giving birth upstairs.
    Richard: I don't believe that [whoring] is the best way to celebrate the birth of your child.
    Edward: Come on, Richard, don't be such a sourpuss.
  • Obnoxious In-Laws: Much of the conflict in this series is between the Nevilles and the Woodvilles, both of whom want to manipulate the royal house in their favor.
  • Obviously Evil: Edward of Lancaster possesses an emotionless, eerie gaze that displays his total Lack of Empathy. It's no wonder that other characters call him a monster.
  • One-Steve Limit: Seriously averted — there are multiple Edwards, Henrys, and Richards.
    • The three sons of York "have an Edward each". Edward IV & Elizabeth have Edward V, George & Isabel have Edward Warwick note  and Richard & Anne have Edward of Middleham. Edward is also the name of Henry VI's heir apparent.
    • Elizabeth Woodville has a father, a brother, a father-in-law, a brother-in-law, a short-lived nephew and the second son from each husband all called Richard. It is also the first name of Warwick the Kingmaker, father of Isabel and Anne.
    • The Lancastrian monarchs are all named Henry (IV through VII). There is also Sir Henry Stafford, Margaret Beaufort's third husband and his nephew, another Henry Stafford, the 2nd Duke of Buckingham. note 
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Aneurin Barnard's Welsh brogue can be heard when Richard utters, "How can he know the dog was poisoned? The thing was old, it could've died from anything."
  • Outliving One's Offspring: Numerous examples.
    • Anne of York (1470), George & Isabel's first baby, dies shortly after her birth. Richard of York (1476-77) also dies.
    • Edward IV & Elizabeth outlive their daughters Mary (1467-82) and Margaret (1472), plus their son George, Duke of Bedford (1477-79). Elizabeth also outlives Edward V, though her husband doesn't. note 
    • Richard & Anne lose their only child Edward of Middleham (1473-84)
    • In addition to all her grandchildren mentioned above, Cecily Neville outlives her sons George, Edward and Richard. In real life Cecily lived to the ripe old age of 80, outliving ten of her twelve children and a great many grandchildren.
    • Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou outlive their only son Edward of Lancaster. Although in Henry's case, not by much.
  • Parental Favoritism:
    • Duchess Cecily loves her son George the most, and Edward IV remarks that "George is her darling." She even implies in front of Richard (her youngest) that she would rather see all of her other children dead than lose George. She also begs Edward (her eldest) in the most desperate and pathetic manner possible to spare George's life after the latter is found guilty of high treason.
      Cecily: Oh please, not George, not George, of all of you.
      Richard: (aghast) Why him of all of us? Would you rather it was me? Would you rather it was Edward who died and his sons, too? Just so your precious little George could have every last thing he ever wanted.
    • Lord Warwick is slightly more affectionate towards his youngest daughter Anne Neville, and her mother lampshades that Anne is his favorite.
      Countess Warwick: Your father rests his hopes on you. Think of him, how proud he'll be calling his favourite Princess Anne.
    • Lady Beauchamp's son Richard Welles is her "pride and joy," and she has a strained relationship with her daughter Margaret Beaufort.
  • Perfectly Arranged Marriage: Invoked and then subverted with Richard and Anne. They are clearly in deep Puppy Love at the beginning of the series, and Anne is giddy with delight when she thinks her father will arrange their betrothal. This falls through, though, and she has to marry Edward of Lancaster. By the time Richard and Anne do get engaged, they are independent adults who set it up themselves.
  • Persecution Flip: This happens several times throughout the story as the Yorks, Lancasters, Nevilles and Woodvilles all want to get the upper hand and lock each other out of power.
  • Pretty Boy: Richard begins the series as a sweet, adorable and innocent youngster, with cherubic features to match, including curly hair. When coupled with his shorter height relative to his brothers, they signal visually that he's The Baby of the Bunch among the York siblings. Anne Neville, his childhood friend, has a Puppy Love crush on him. When Richard reaches adulthood, his big, expressive green eyes note , long eyelashes, the well-defined cupid's bow of his lips and his rounder face give him a softer appearance than his brothers, and he's kinder and more gentlemanly than they are. His elegant looks conveniently accentuate the image of a romantic hero when he takes on a Knight in Shining Armor / Prince Charming role during his Rescue Romance with Anne.
  • Previously on…: There's a recap at the beginning of each episode (except for the premiere, of course), and rather than summarize everything that happened a week ago, it focuses on specific plot threads that are relevant to the story coming up.
  • Prince Charming: Richard as a young man; he's a royal duke and the brother of a king who's brave, chivalrous, gentle and romantic. He has a Rescue Romance with Anne, a Damsel in Distress whom he saves twice. The first occurs when he fights off soldiers (and plays the part of a Knight in Shining Armor while doing so) who are about to gang-rape her, note  and the second is when he offers her a way to escape George's guardianship, as she's a prisoner in the latter's residence. After Richard proposes marriage to Anne in a Garden of Love / Snow Means Love setting, he confesses the love that he has harboured for her since childhood, and they seal their engagement with a True Love's Kiss. They are Happily Married along with Babies Ever After note ... at least until Richard accedes to the throne, after which their relationship collapses and they suffer early deaths.
  • Puppet King: Henry VI's brief return to the throne finds him staring vacantly and barely able to talk, while Lord Warwick runs the country.
  • Puppy Love: In their first scene together, which takes place on May 26, 1465, Anne Neville is 8 years old and Richard of Gloucester is 12. It's made plain from the way they gaze dreamily at each other that they share a mutual crush, and it's hinted that their romantic feelings had developed when Richard had stayed at her father's castle to train as a knight. Anne has a Crush Blush in front of her sister and mother when they discuss the possibility that Anne might be betrothed to Richard in the near future (although the king ends up rejecting the match). Whenever her father brings up the topic of an upcoming Arranged Marriage for her, Anne expresses her hope on two separate occasions that her intended will be Richard. Richard retains a deep fondness for Anne even when they are kept apart by war and politics, and he's genuinely shocked and upset when he learns that she's engaged to his enemy's son. He receives a lingering Reaction Shot to drive home to viewers that he still adores her.
  • Raven Hair, Ivory Skin: Richard is a male version with dark, curly hair and a very fair complexion. When combined with large, soulful green eyes and lips with a prominent cupid's bow, his more graceful appearance identify him visually as the Noble Male in his Noble Male, Roguish Male dynamic with his lewd, conventionally handsome brother Edward IV. Through Female Gaze, the showrunners also present Richard as an alluring figure in the eyes of his wife Anne and later his niece Elizabeth, and with Elizabeth specifically, his solemn beauty conveys that he's the Brooding Boy in their Brooding Boy, Gentle Girl pairing. Because Richard is an introvert, the striking juxtaposition of his dusky mane and light skin tone facilitate the reading of his nuanced facial expressions, and he's frequently subjected to photogenic close-ups to compensate for having less dialogue than the three female leads and his two brothers.
  • Replacement Goldfish: Elizabeth of York is this for Richard III when his marriage to Queen Anne is on the rocks. The pursuit of power has corrupted and changed the Ruling Couple for the worse, so Elizabeth to some degree reminds Richard of who Anne used to be when they first fell in love. He even connects them in a moderately twisted manner. When Richard catches sight of his wife in a pastel green and beige gown that he deems would also be flattering for his niece, he commands the seamstresses to create an identical one. At the next party held at court, both Anne and Elizabeth are indeed clothed in the exact same dress.
    Richard: That silk is beautiful. It would suit our niece Elizabeth.
    Anne: (angry) You mean to compare us now in matching gowns?
    • Moreover, both women are further linked when they voice their fear nearly verbatim to Richard the night before he goes to war (and he also makes love to them).
      Anne: I couldn't bear to lose you now.
      Elizabeth: I cannot bear to lose you.
  • Repurposed Pop Song: The BBC produced two trailers which featured Coves' cover version of Chris Isaak's iconic song "Wicked Game".
  • Rescue Romance: While Richard and Anne were smitten as youngsters, their mutual attraction reaches new heights after he rescues her not just once but twice. (As a bonus, their courtship even contains a few fairy tale elements.) At the Battle of Tewkesbury, he single-handedly stops a group of would-be rapists who attack her, behaving very much like a Knight in Shining Armor while she's the Damsel in Distress (and a Princess by her first marriage, no less). It's evident from the moment they lock eyes with each other that there's Unresolved Sexual Tension, as they're both much too proper to act upon their feelings, especially considering that Anne has just been widowed. Margaret of Anjou even picks up on the sparks between them, so she dangles Anne like a carrot in front of Richard when she tries to tempt him to join her side. After Anne becomes George's ward, he confines her to his dwelling (so in other words, he's an "evil lord" who imprisons a vulnerable Princess in his "tower"). Despite Richard's repeated insistence, George forbids him to visit her for six months, so the Star-Crossed Lovers arrange a secret meeting in a garden where they discuss her plight. During their second garden rendezvous, Richard learns that George will soon send Anne to a nunnery where she'll be cut off from the outside world permanently, so Richard takes the Prince Charming route and asks Anne to marry him, declaring the love that he has long carried for her, and explains that being his wife is the best option for Anne to escape George's custody. After Richard bundles her up with his cloak, Anne happily replies "Yes" (she has dreamed of marrying him since she was a little girl), and they share a True Love's Kiss surrounded by a gorgeous and well-timed snowfall.
  • The Resenter: George is envious of both of his brothers because he feels that he's not their equal. His older brother Edward IV is king and thus the most powerful person in England, and it's a position that George covets. He's also jealous of his younger brother Richard because the latter owns more titles and lands than he does, so Richard has more prestige.
    Richard: (suspicious) A very sudden interest in the honor of your country, George. Could there be something in it for you?
    George: Why not, you both have enough already. When we take France, you will need a regent, I could do that, seeing as [Edward] will be busy being king and [Richard's] got ten titles as well as the whole of the north of England virtually to himself.
    Edward: (amused) Have you been counting, George?
    • And later:
      Richard: [Edward] may have forgotten your turn to Warwick, but I have not.
      George: And I've not forgotten that you've got Warwick Castle, despite the fact that the title belongs to me. You both have more than your fair share already, so maybe it's time I started to take things.
  • Ruling Couple: Richard III and Queen Anne; she's his The Consigliere even before they're crowned. Their joint coronation, the first for English royalty in 176 years, is emblematic of their powerful union, and their victorious Meaningful Look during the ceremony exudes their pride at accomplishing this goal. While there are noblemen who help Richard run his kingdom, he confers with Anne on political matters more often than with his highest-ranked courtiers, and he's also more likely to heed her counsel. Relatively speaking, Richard treats Anne more like his equal than the lords who serve him (and the Duke of Buckingham even complains to Lord Stanley that they're only expected to obey Richard, who doesn't welcome their contributions).
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: Despite being a Lancastrian, Margaret Beaufort's third husband Henry Stafford chooses to fight for Edward IV out of the belief he will be better for England than the Lancastrian royal family comprised of, in his own words, "a madman, a tyrant and a monster".
  • Self-Serving Memory: Queen Anne's recollection of what occurred at Edward of Middleham's funeral is different from reality. In actuality, Richard III extends his hand out to his wife as an invitation for her to be at his side while they grieve for their son. However, Anne refuses, as she's still indignant from his recent emotional neglect of her. Elizabeth of York decides to briefly hold his hand in the Queen's absence before returning to her original standing place. Since Anne is inclined at this stage to perceive her husband in the worst possible light, her mind distorts the memory of Richard's attempt to salvage their marriage as him actively seeking Elizabeth's company instead of hers.
    Anne: (jealous) Even at our own son's funeral, you went to her.
    Richard: (dismayed) She came to me because you would not!
  • Sexless Marriage: Margaret Beaufort marries Lord Thomas Stanley. She gets a position at court, he gets her money. She spells out explicitly that there will be no sex, and he's OK with that. In fact, when she seems to change her mind shortly after the marriage, he's still not interested.
  • Sexual Karma: The consummation of Anne Neville's marriages to her first and second husbands are polar opposites in terms of how negative (the former) and positive (the latter) the sexual experiences were for her. With her unwanted Arranged Marriage to Edward of Lancaster (whom she considers to be a monster, and he hates her because she's the daughter of the man who overthrew his father), she endures a terrifying and painful marital rape while he uses his weight to pin her down to the bed. The manner in which this scene is shot, lit and scored indicates that it's a very harsh and clinical act. In sharp contrast, Richard of Gloucester, whom Anne later marries of her own volition and for love, is tender and patient with her. She sits on top of him so that she can control the pace of their lovemaking; she remains still at first (presumably due to nervousness), and he doesn't rush her. When she does start moving, they hold hands; she then moves her head down towards his so that their faces are close, and they both sigh heavily with pleasure. The lighting, camera angles and music suggest warmth and emotional intimacy. Anne's wedding night with the dreaded Edward was hell, but her wedding night with her beloved Richard is heavenly.
  • Sibling Rivalry: George, Duke of Clarence makes several attempts to force his elder brother from the throne.
  • Sibling Team: Eldest and youngest brothers Edward IV and Richard work in unison to maintain the former's reign over England, navigating the murky politics of a Decadent Court and fighting alongside on the battlefield. Zigzagged with their middle brother George who, depending on his mood, either supports them or tries to overthrow them so that he can seize the throne for himself.
  • Single Line of Descent: Edward of Lancaster is the only child of Henry VI. Henry VI is the only child of Henry V. Henry V is not the only child of Henry IV, but all his siblings died without legitimate issuenote . With the defeat of Prince Edward and regicide of Henry VI, the Lancastrian male line dies out. The next challenger to the House of York is Henry Tudor, a third cousin of the intended heir.
  • Snow Means Love: It conveniently begins to snow just before Richard proposes marriage to Anne. After a Love Confession, he gallantly wraps her with his cloak to shield her from the colder weather. Once Anne has accepted, a glorious Hollywood Kiss follows, and the newly engaged couple are surrounded by snowflakes that almost seem to dance all around them.
  • The Sociopath: There are some bad people in this story, but Edward of Lancaster, with his dead-eyed psycho stare, really takes the cake.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Anne and Richard start their journey as Puppy Love sweethearts who must overcome numerous obstacles before they can achieve a Childhood Friend Romance. Although Lord Warwick has suggested to Edward IV that Anne and Richard be united in matrimony, the king refuses. Their families are then embroiled in a civil war, and Anne is forced to marry Edward of Lancaster to cement her father's new alliance with Margaret of Anjou (the wife of Henry VI), whereas Richard is a commander in his brother Edward IV's army. After the Yorks vanquish the Lancasters, Anne and Richard are reunited when he beats up Yorkist soldiers intent on raping her, but he's obligated to take her into custody because she's the widow of a traitor (he does so in the most gentlemanly way possible, of course). The king decrees that Anne becomes the ward of George, who restricts her movements to his own home and denies her any visitors, including Richard, despite the latter's persistence over a period of six months. Frustrated, the two lovebirds then sneakily meet in a garden to determine what they should do next. At the second rendezvous, Richard concludes that a marriage between himself and Anne is the best solution to their problem, and she agrees. Their engagement not only liberates her from George's grasp, but Anne and Richard can finally be together as a couple.
  • Suddenly Shouting: At Queen Anne's funeral, Elizabeth of York is downright startled by Richard III's unexpected outburst (he barely speaks above a whisper throughout the scene), and she instinctively takes a step back when she hears his thunderous voice, which is loud enough to fill Westminster Abbey.
    Richard: (barely restrained fury) I am not Richard. I am your King. Now go. (notices that she's not moving) GO!!!!!!
  • Sugar-and-Ice Personality: Richard can be incredibly sweet or tremendously cold, and no one has experienced the extremes of his personality more intimately then his wife Anne. He's mostly "sugar" towards her when they are kids smitten with each other, during their Rescue Romance as Lady and Knight, and while they are Happily Married, with him being a doting husband. However, Richard is almost all "ice" in the last episode, not caring at all that he's hurting Anne's feelings now that he loves power far more than her. For someone who used to be so warm and compassionate in her presence, it's astonishing how frosty and emotionally cruel he can be.
    Richard: The truth is [Elizabeth of York] is betrothed to Henry Tudor. So who is the fool if I am bedding her? If people think that I am bedding her? The world will see that she is not with Tudor, but with me, and all the men who would fight for her because they loved her father will come to my side, and not to Tudor's.
    Anne: (Trying Not to Cry) So just to win your point with him, you would dishonour me?
    Richard: To win a war against him, I will play whatever cards I must.
  • Three-Month-Old Newborn: In Episode 7, after Anne hands her newborn son Edward to her husband Richard, she notes that their infant is small. The baby actually looks fairly big in their arms.
  • Time Skip: A "Three Years Later" title in episode 2 gets us from Edward's rejection of Warwick's daughters marrying his brothers, to Warwick's rebellion and George's marriage to Warwick's daughter Isabel against Edward's orders.
  • Total Eclipse of the Plot: There's a total eclipse in the last episode. Margaret Beaufort takes it as a sign that the "sun in splendor" of York is going out.
  • Undying Loyalty: Lord Warwick describes Richard as being "heart and soul" for Edward IV (Richard himself will later use the same term in a Voiceover Letter to his wife Anne), and Margaret Beaufort even derides this quality after he declines her marriage proposal: "He's as loyal as a hog, as loyal as a dog."
  • Voiceover Letter:
    • Episode 2 has one from Edward IV to Queen Elizabeth informing her that he has been captured by Lord Warwick.
    • Episode 7 features Richard narrating a letter to his wife Anne about how ashamed he is at Edward IV's disreputable behaviour during their war campaign in France.
  • Vorpal Pillow: Edward IV himself finishes off Henry VI after victory at Tewkesbury. In true Vorpal Pillow fashion, it takes about ten seconds.note 
  • Wanted a Son Instead: The birth of a daughter is usually met with disappointment, for they cannot be heirs.
  • We Can Rule Together: In exchange for her freedom, Margaret of Anjou offers to name Richard of Gloucester as her heir, which would make him King of England after her husband dies. To sweeten the deal, she will even allow him to marry her just-widowed daughter-in-law Anne Neville after she notices the attraction between them. Richard, who is loyal to his brother Edward IV, isn't interested.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: So what did happen to the princes in the tower, or rather Edward V and the anonymous boy impersonating his brother Richard? Queen Anne tells Sir Richard Brackenbury that the princes need to die. Margaret Beaufort tells her husband Lord Stanley that the princes need to die. Someone whose face is never shown on camera goes into the Tower. Edward V is startled out of sleep by the intruder in his room. That's it. This is a nod to the Real Life mystery of what happened to the princes, which was never solved, although the most likely guess is that Richard III ordered their murder but plenty of historians have other theories. This plot thread becomes a strongly reoccuring plot in the sequel series The White Princess.
  • White Stallion: Edward IV, George and Richard always ride on white horses because they're part of the House of York, and their royal badge is the White Rose.
  • You Killed My Father: When Richard spots the deposed Henry VI in the courtyard, he immediately grabs the sword of a nearby guard and yells, "Then let us take vengeance for our father he murdered!" Richard has to be restrained by his two brothers and two of his in-laws. Edward IV commands his youngest sibling to not seek revenge and explains, "He is an anointed king. And how should we be any better if we match him in his butchery?" Richard is disgruntled, but obeys.
  • You Monster!: Anne and Richard describe Edward of Lancaster as a monster.
  • You Must Be Cold: When it starts snowing, Richard removes his cloak and covers Anne with it to protect her from the chill. This gesture is presented in a very romantic fashion, as he has just proposed marriage to her and has divulged that he has always loved her. It also gives Richard Knight in Shining Armor vibes because he places the needs of his beloved lady above his own, and this scene marks the pinnacle of his Rescue Romance with Anne.
  • You're Not My Father: Countess Warwick, who is her son-in-law Richard's captive and was declared legally dead by Edward IV, tries to convince her daughter Anne to leave her husband behind so that they can live together free from men. Anne is deeply in love with Richard, and she's so offended that she disowns her mother.
    Anne: (furious) Richard was right to shut you away. Now stay in here and be dead!