It’s important to note that the book that inspired the Starz show The White Princess was historical fiction, meaning that, while there are moments of historical truth, the book was also not a biography of Elizabeth of York and is really for fans of shows that play with historical fiction.
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The achievements of women have–generally speaking–not been as well-recorded as the achievements of men throughout much of Western history, so there is certainly a gray area between accuracy and inaccuracy when looking at either the book or the show.
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Things That Are Historically Accurate In The White Princess
The Wars Of The Roses
The Wars of The Roses was a true historical event that transpired in England which pitted family against family, York against Lancaster. The color for the house of York was white, while the color for the house of Lancaster was red.
While Elizabeth was a York princess, Henry Tudor was a Lancaster. Thus, their symbol was both a red and white rose, with the white being consumed by the red.
Elizabeth’s Marriage To Henry VII
Historically speaking, the marriage between Elizabeth of York and Henry VII is accurate. They were married after King Henry VII’s bloody victory at the Battle of Bosworth Field. This battle also marked the end of the Wars of the Roses.
Together, Elizabeth and Henry VII were married and reigned from 1486 to 1503. That said, there are some inconsistencies with how this marriage actually played out according to historical findings.
Elizabeth Of York’s Appearance
Known as blonde beauty with blue eyes, Elizabeth of York boasted thick, long hair. She was even claimed to be “the fairest of Edward’s offspring,” according to author Alison Weir.
Related: 10 Hidden Details About The Costumes On The Tudors That You Didn’t Notice
This is not very surprising when Elizabeth of York’s gene pool is taken into consideration. Elizabeth of York’s appearance was very similar to her mother’s, Elizabeth Woodville.
King Henry VII’s Paranoia
Due to the blood that Henry VII shed in order to sit atop the English throne and become King of England, he grew exceedingly paranoid, even going so far as to execute Teddy, the Yorkish Earl of Warwick, who was just a boy when he found himself imprisoned.
This paranoia surrounds the reign of King Henry VII and its depiction is one of The White Princess’s more historically accurate aspects.
The Execution Of Teddy
Because of King Henry’s paranoia, Teddy was executed in the show after being imprisoned as a boy. Unfortunately, this also happened in real life.
There is documented proof that the last Yorkish Earl of Warwick was executed after spending many years of his life confined to the Tower of London.
Things That Are Historically Inaccurate In The White Princess
Elizabeth And Richard III’s Love Affair
The first episode of the series shows Elizabeth of York heartbroken over the loss of Richard, her uncle, with multiple snippets of a lustful encounter. However, there is not much historical context regarding this affair.
With Richard being Elizabeth’s uncle, it is highly unlikely that the two would have had such a relationship, and somewhat of a reach to assume the two would have been intimate before his fatal battle.
The Mannerisms of Elizabeth Of York
This particular aspect of the show is neither accurate nor inaccurate per se, but there was little to no written documentation for how Elizabeth conducts herself. Jodie Comer, who plays Elizabeth, was quoted in an interview for Harper’s Bazaar as saying that, because there was so little written on the monarch, she used it to her advantage as an actress.
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She was able to invent the show’s portrayal of Elizabeth of York’s mannerisms and, while this works from a dramatic standpoint, it’s not something that’s rooted in historical fact.
The Marriage Between Elizabeth Of York and Henry VII
As stated previously, while the marriage between Elizabeth and Henry is accurate, there are creative liberties that the show took to portray the inner workings of their marriage. According to the show, Henry and Elizabeth had a tumultuous start to their union. However, there is no documentation that shows this animosity.
In fact, the two were married for seventeen years without any reports of infidelity. They also had seven children together, and when Elizabeth died after childbirth, the king seemed genuinely heartbroken. According to what is documented in history, King Henry VII was not as bad a husband as he’s depicted as being on the show.
Elizabeth Of York Is A Witch
While there was a rumor that the Woodville family practiced magic, they were never historically documented as witches. The show even goes so far as to portray the women of the Woodville family as being known witches that are constantly practicing magic to scheme their way to the top of England’s monarchy.
That simply is not the case, historically speaking, and it’s one of the most historically inaccurate aspects of The White Princess.
While there are good efforts made with the costumes, they are ultimately inaccurate from a historical point of view. Elizabeth of York would never have worn dresses that exposed cleavage, for example.
Alongside this, Elizabeth of York also plucked the hairs on her head to make her forehead appear wider, which is not shown in The White Princess.
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About The Author
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Mackenzi is in pursuit of a Master’s Degree in English with experience publishing in blogs and academic journals. She is a storyteller, Netflix-binge-watcher, and cinephile. When she’s not writing, she can be found eating ice-cream for breakfast or riding horses into the sunset.
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