I’ve only ever read one Philippa Gregory book, The Constant Princess, which is a fictional account of the life of Catherine of Aragon, daughter of the Catholic monarchs, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabel. I enjoyed it but I’m not enthralled by her writing like some people are (the individuals who read every single novel about about the English monarchy that was ever written). However, when I heard that BBC was going to be making a television movie/series on her book The White Queen and that it would be mainly filmed in Bruges, Belgium, my interest was piqued. I requested it from the library and finally a couple of weeks ago I was able to watch it. Needless to say I enjoyed everything about this medieval period British monarchy soap opera.
The White Queen essentially tells the story of the Wars of the Roses. If you’re in need of a British history refresher click here since I’m not going to turn this post into a classroom lecture. However, I did want to talk about locations associated with the series, many of which I would very much like to visit, and the real life events. So without further ado, here is where you can check out The White Queen:
Tower of London
On my second and last visit to London, I was fortunate enough to spend two weeks there as part of a college program. One of the highlights of my visit was touring the Tower of London. Although it’s known for many things (the Royal Jewels, the location where two of King Henry VIII’s wives were beheaded), it’s also the last place the only sons of King Edward IV and Queen Elizabeth were seen. Edward V and Richard of Shrewsbury were housed in the Tower of London after their father’s death at the hands of their uncle, the Lord Protector, Richard Duke of Gloucester (the same Richard who would be “immortalized” by Shakespeare). As the boys were only 12 and 9, and Edward was too young to rule, their uncle was “officially” in charge. It was said they were put in the Tower in preparation for Edward’s coronation as king. However, Richard took the throne for himself and the boys were never seen again. Many theories abound regarding the princes’ disappearance-some feel they were murdered, others say they escaped and lived anonymous lives. Although The White Queen made it seem that the Tudors were responsible for the boys’ deaths, not Richard, the mystery will obviously never be solved.
Ludlow Castle is a quasi ruined, uninhabited medieval building in the town of the same name in the English county of Shropshire. It was founded sometime in the late 11th century and due to its location on a high point that overlooks the River Teme, it was an important strategic stronghold for control of the Welsh borders during the Middle Ages. In the late 15th century, the castle was a major base in the Wars of the Roses, in part to its being under the ownership of Richard, Duke of York (father of King Edward IV and Richard III). It was taken by the Lancastrians but then was put back in York hands (the house of Edward IV and Richard), and after became a royal palace. Ludlow Castle was also where King Edward IV sent his two sons (Edward V and Richard) to live.
It seemed that when your Royal House fell from grace (i.e. the crown was taken) you went into sanctuary, fast. This is what Elizabeth Woodville, wife of King Edward IV and mother to the princes Edward V and Richard did two times when events wasn’t going so well for her family. While many things didn’t seem to be respected or acknowledged during medieval times, if someone went into sanctuary, you couldn’t touch them, they were safe. Westminster Abbey was founded in 960 and has been host to a slew of royal coronations along with being the burial place for even more British monarchs. I could go into great lengths about how incredible a place Westminster Abbey is but I’d much prefer if you visit in person one day.
Harlech Castle is located in Gwynedd, Wales and is a medieval fortress that was constructed atop a cluster of rocks close to the Irish Sea. Edward I was responsible for the castle’s construction during his invasion of Wales in the 13th century. It played a role in several important military conflicts including the War of the Roses. Harlech was held by the Lancastrians for seven years before Yorkish troops forced its surrender in 1468 after a seven year siege. Harlech is considered to be one of the best examples of late 13th and early 14th century military architecture in Europe. Wales is a place I would love to visit and Harlech is definitely at the top of my Welsh bucket list.