The Real White Queen and Her Rivals (2013) s01e02 Episode Script

Part 2

1471.
A new England is being forged in the fire of civil war.
Amid the savagery stand three women.
Anne Neville, daughter of the most powerful nobleman in England - at 14, about to emerge as a player in her own right, with her own strength and startling resolve.
Elizabeth Woodville, a commoner whose beauty won her the hand of a king, now entering middle age, about to reveal that she was a woman to be feared as well as admired.
And Margaret Beaufort, who survived childbirth at 13 to become a formidable and devious politician, her life dedicated to one thing ` the cause of her son, Henry Tudor.
These women would join together as allies and betray each other as rivals.
They would intrigue and conspire, drawing on family feelings and old quarrels.
Trying to track down these women and discover what they were doing is worth the effort, because they are the founders of our nation just as much as the more famous men.
They were just as cunning, just as ruthless.
We call this era the Wars of the Roses but they called it the Cousins' War and in this family feud the women were vital.
Approach the conflict through their eyes and suddenly its greatest mysteries, from the controversial character of Richard III to the fate of the princes in the Tower, become clearer.
This is my chronicle of how three women shaped one of the most turbulent periods in English history.
On 14th April 1471, a young couple arrived from France on the south coast of England to claim their inheritance.
Returning from exile to his homeland was the new, Lancastrian, Prince of Wales.
At his side, his 14-year-old bride, Anne Neville.
Their marriage in France a few months earlier had been the cornerstone of a pact between Anne's father ` Warwick the Kingmaker ` and the Prince's family, a pact which had led to the restoration of the House of Lancaster and King Henry VI.
For Anne, now allied to the Lancastrian cause, a bright future beckoned.
We have to consider this moment as being pivotal in Anne's history.
She's embarked on this voyage across the Channel believing that she's in a strong position to become the next Queen of England.
But Anne and her new Lancastrian in-laws were greeted with catastrophic news.
That very day, in a dramatic reversal of fortune, the man they had overthrown, the Yorkist King Edward IV, had killed the Earl of Warwick at the Battle of Barnet.
And within hours of her arrival she's told that her much-admired father is dead and that effectively her cause is lost.
After less than six months in power, the Lancastrians were overthrown.
Anne's mother responded to the news by fleeing into sanctuary at a nearby abbey.
Anne was abandoned.
Still only 14, Anne found herself effectively an orphan, entirely dependent on her 17-year-old husband and, more importantly, her formidable mother-in-law, Margaret of Anjou.
With the Lancastrian King Henry now a prisoner in the Tower his queen, Margaret, took control.
She headed northwards, raising troops as she went, in a desperate bid to salvage the Lancastrian cause.
King Edward, fresh from his victory over Warwick, dashed across the country to intercept them.
After an agonizing race, the two armies finally met here, in marshy fields outside Tewkesbury, near the Welsh border.
Anne and her mother-in-law probably watched the battle from high ground nearby and Anne saw her young husband ride out to face the enemy that had killed her father just a few weeks earlier.
The next few hours would determine not just Anne's future but also that of Elizabeth Woodville, waiting anxiously in London for news of her husband, King Edward.
And the Lancastrian Margaret Beaufort also knew that the destiny of her son, Henry Tudor, was bound up with that of the Lancastrian army at Tewkesbury.
Anne marched to the battlefield alongside troops steeled for combat.
Medieval warfare was particularly brutal.
Tactics didn't count for a great deal.
It was two armies getting together and thumping each other till one side thumped the other one to death.
For Anne the trauma was made worse when her husband's Lancastrian army broke and fled back towards the Abbey at Tewkesbury.
It would be the scene of one of the worst atrocities of the Wars.
At the end of the Battle of Tewkesbury many of the leading Lancastrian commanders sought sanctuary in Tewkesbury Abbey.
Edward drags, literally drags, the Lancastrian commanders from Tewkesbury Abbey and beheads them summarily.
Edward is determined to leave no Lancastrian claimant alive.
Anne's 17-year-old husband, the Prince of Wales, was among the dead.
The young prince was buried here beneath the choir in Tewkesbury Abbey.
The plaque reads, in Latin, "Here lies Edward, Prince of Wales, "cruelly slain while but a youth.
"Thou art the sole light of thy mother "and the last hope of thy race.
" But this was put here in the Victorian era.
At the time, his memorial was this - the sun in splendour, the emblem of York, shining down on his body.
The message could not have been clearer.
King Edward was back in power.
A few days later, as Queen Elizabeth welcomed home her triumphant husband, the Lancastrian King Henry VI was quietly murdered in the Tower of London.
As for Anne, she was taken prisoner, probably here at Little Malvern priory, close to the battlefield at Tewkesbury.
It's hard to imagine what Anne had been through.
Still only 14, she had been married, widowed and effectively orphaned in just a few months.
She had witnessed the horror of battle.
She had seen her own prospects destroyed.
Utterly alone in a hostile world, now she was a prisoner of war.
Her world must literally have been turned upside down.
From a situation in which one day, possibly within the comparatively near future, she would have become Queen of England, she is now a complete nobody.
The future looked bleak for Anne.
But Elizabeth Woodville's fortunes were transformed.
For Elizabeth the previous two years had been desperate.
She had been forced to seek sanctuary in a crypt at Westminster Abbey while her husband, the Yorkist King Edward IV, was driven into exile by the Lancastrian rising.
The Yorkist victory at Tewkesbury meant she was Queen once more, her position unassailable.
Her old rival, the Earl of Warwick, who had always resented her marriage to King Edward and schemed against her, was dead.
And the ordeal of the previous two years had revealed hidden strengths.
In the summer of 1471 Elizabeth Woodville has survived the turns of Fortune's wheel.
She has gone through a terrible ordeal, has shown personal resolution.
It shows in stark relief that she's tough, she's courageous and she has presence of mind.
Now 34, Elizabeth had matured from provincial beauty to hard-headed politician.
Most importantly she had provided her husband with a son and heir, born in sanctuary at Westminster.
A second son would soon follow.
Elizabeth was Queen again.
But the position of her Lancastrian rival, Margaret Beaufort, was more complex.
In 1471, this was Margaret's principal residence, Woking Palace, near London, where she lived with her husband, Henry Stafford.
It was here she had waited anxiously for news of the wars through those dark spring months.
Although her son's future was bound up with the House of Lancaster, her husband, Stafford, had taken up arms for York, a cunning, two-pronged insurance policy that Margaret would employ successfully throughout her life.
She plays the game of divided loyalties very effectively.
She's protected by her Yorkist husbands and at the same time is covertly working for her Lancastrian son.
But King Edward's victory was a disaster for her, forcing her son, Henry Tudor, to flee into exile in France.
The slaughter at Tewkesbury meant he could claim to be first in line to the throne on the Lancastrian side ` a rival and a threat.
Margaret, now 27, would not see her son again for 14 years.
And there was tragedy, too, when her husband, Henry Stafford, returned from the wars mortally wounded and died at Woking.
His loyalty to the House of York had protected her.
Margaret knew she must choose her next husband just as carefully.
The man she turned to was Thomas, Lord Stanley.
Stanley was a great magnate.
He was a powerful man, he was someone who'd steered a middle path through the Wars of the Roses but right now he was fairly high in Yorkist favour, so it was a good secure match for her and to protect her family's interests.
Margaret is playing the game that she had played consistently throughout the 1460s and would go on to play in the 1470s and that's to protect the inheritance and status of her son.
I think Stanley may have been a man after Margaret's own heart.
He was wary, he was chancy, he was shrewd and out to protect his own family's position and she may have thought, "Here's a man I can do business with.
" She chose Thomas, Lord Stanley of all the possible candidates because he was a Yorkist, hugely wealthy and commander of one of the largest private armies in England.
Above all, she recognized in him a kindred spirit, a man self-serving like her.
She gambled her life on the possibility that he might, if the price was right, betray his king.
It would prove to be one of the shrewdest moves of Margaret's life.
But in that summer of 1471 few would have believed that the House of Lancaster had any hope of ever regaining the throne.
The House of York looked unbeatable and our story could end here with Elizabeth as a victorious queen.
But the York dynasty had an extraordinary capacity for self destruction and its downfall would begin with Anne Neville.
Despite being born a Warwick, the most powerful noble family in England, Anne has traditionally been painted as one of the great victims of history, an heiress with no control over her own fortune.
Anne has been presented very much as a political pawn.
That's the phrasing that comes up about her over and over again.
I'm not so sure about this.
Anne was Warwick's daughter.
She's been brought up to envision herself as a princess or a queen or at least to have the highest possible marriage that she could have within the land.
After the Battle of Tewkesbury, Anne was sent by King Edward to live at the home of her sister Isabel, who was married to the King's brother, George, Duke of Clarence, a tangled family dynamic, typical of the Cousins' War.
Anne and Isabel were married to men on opposing sides of the field of battle and then when Anne's husband is killed, Edward forces them all to live together.
So, there they are - Clarence, Isabel and Anne, as a very unhappy threesome, I'd have thought.
Anne was effectively a prisoner of her sister and brother-in-law, who were determined to prevent her claiming her share of the Warwick lands.
Anne is very aware of her legal rights.
Anne is determined to exercise these rights and get her hands on her half of her rightful inheritance.
She does this extraordinary thing.
She does this incredible, courageous thing, which is she escapes, she runs away to the Church of St Martin's, throws herself in sanctuary and upon the protection of her brother-in-law, Richard of Gloucester.
Anne seized control of her own destiny.
But that is not how historians have traditionally described her escape.
Anne fled to her recent enemy, King Edward's youngest brother, later Richard III, the most notorious king in English history, immortalized as one of Shakespeare's greatest villains.
Richard had fought against Anne's family at both Barnet and Tewkesbury and had played a leading role in the slaughter of her male relations.
Yet shortly afterwards, Richard and Anne were married.
Shakespeare portrayed Anne as a victim.
For Shakespeare, the marriage is entirely Richard's idea.
Anne sees him as her enemy, the murderer of her father, her husband and her father-in-law.
But she is instantly seduced, the epitome of female fickleness.
It sounds as if even Shakespeare himself doubted that this would ring true.
He writes, "Was ever woman in this humour wooed? "Was ever woman in this humour won?" The truth is that the marriage was a pragmatic arrangement on both sides.
Yes, Richard's interest was Anne's share of the vast Warwick inheritance, above all the mighty Middleham Castle in Yorkshire.
But the match was in Anne's interests too.
It was not until the Tudor propaganda machine blackened Richard's reputation that people started to suggest that he was a man so evil that in marrying him, Anne must have been a victim of his rape or a passive fool.
A devilish husband has to have a stupid wife.
It seems to me far more likely that the two young people, who had known each other from childhood, could see the benefits of marriage.
Anne could escape from George's control and she could reward Richard with her enormous land holdings in the north of England, including the great Middleham Castle.
It may even have been a love match.
It certainly did Anne no harm.
She is in effect George of Clarence's prisoner.
The only nobleman who can actually stand up to George of Clarence is his younger brother, Richard of Gloucester.
So the only way she can regain her freedom, the only way she can get her half share of her father's inheritance, is to marry Richard.
Far from being a dupe and a victim, Anne had made a hard-headed, calculated decision.
To us, it may seem shockingly cynical but that is to impose our own mindset on a very different age.
We are appalled at the idea of a young woman making a marriage with a man who's been responsible for the deaths of so many of her family.
We simply can't think of it like that.
We have to understand that marriage was a business.
Lots of the women did actually change sides, did marry and could almost have these career changes, a marital career that overrode the concerns of whom had killed whom.
It was about establishing yourself in the most powerful position possible and for women of the elite classes, as Anne was, she would have been bought up from birth to accept this and to play the game as well as she possibly could.
Anne soon provided Richard with a son and the couple took up residence at Middleham, from where Richard would effectively rule the north of England.
Anne was back on the winning side.
And the Queen, Elizabeth Woodville, was about to make her own move against the man Anne had escaped, the King's ever-troublesome younger brother, George.
George, Duke of Clarence, Edward's brother, had always been a problem.
He was always convinced that he was owed more place, more power in the land, than he was being given.
Elizabeth loathed her brother-in-law.
In 1469, George had briefly rebelled against King Edward and although the two had later reconciled, the rebellion had resulted in the murder of Elizabeth's father and her brother.
She hadn't forgotten or forgiven.
In 1478, things really came to a head and the way in which they did so involved Elizabeth in the fray.
Because George had been spreading stories that Edward's marriage to Elizabeth was invalid because he was already contracted to another lady and of course that would have made their children illegitimate.
This threatened Elizabeth.
More importantly, it threatened her son and heir.
The House of York was divided once more and many people at the time had no doubt who was responsible for the events that followed.
A contemporary chronicler wrote, "The Queen had concluded that her offspring would never come to the throne "unless the Duke of Clarence were removed, "and of this, she easily persuaded the king.
" Clarence was arrested, tried and executed, according to legend, by being drowned in a butt of Malmsey wine.
George, Duke of Clarence, is buried here, beneath my feet, in the crypt at Tewkesbury Abbey.
His final resting place is almost permanently flooded these days.
But on drier days it's possible to view bones, supposedly belonging to George and his wife Isabel, in a glass case, a sad and macabre end for a man who had dreamed of being king.
Like the Earl of Warwick before him, George had identified Queen Elizabeth as an obstacle to his ambitions and as a formidable and dangerous adversary.
But, like Warwick before him, George had not understood quite how dangerous.
Now they were both dead and she was still Queen of England.
In Yorkshire, Anne and Richard were the main beneficiaries of George's death, inheriting many of his lands.
But Anne's behaviour suggests that she too was wary of her sister-in-law, Elizabeth.
Anne was married to the second most powerful man in the kingdom.
She was a royal duchess and an heiress in her own right.
But she hardly ever went to court.
She spent most of her time here, at Middleham Castle in the north of England.
I believe she was terrified of the Queen.
She may even have believed that she was a witch.
To us the suggestion seems absurd but belief in witchcraft was deeply held in the medieval world.
Dark rumours had always swirled around the Queen.
How else to explain the enchantment of the King of England by a commoner? The problem for most of Edward's noblemen was that there was no rational explanation for what he'd done because by marrying one of his own subjects he'd broken with convention.
And the only logical explanation they could find was witchcraft.
George, Duke of Clarence had revived the old suspicions surrounding the royal couple.
And just because we don't believe in witches, it doesn't mean that Anne didn't and possibly her husband as well.
I think Richard and Anne were genuinely frightened by witchcraft and I think there was a real element of fear that the Queen might be employing sorcery.
But Anne also had a second, simpler reason for hating the Queen.
Anne was the heir of the kingmaker, the Earl of Warwick, Elizabeth's old enemy, killed by King Edward 12 years earlier.
She had married his enemy but Anne remained Warwick's daughter.
She must have hated the Woodvilles.
The problems that her father had in terms of accepting their social rise, the conflicts he had - this was his daughter, his surviving representative.
Anne may be the key to understanding the dramatic, bewildering events that were about to unfold.
At the start of April 1483, King Edward caught a chill while out boating.
Just 40 years old, within days, he was dead.
The death of Edward IV created a huge impact politically.
It was unexpected.
The news comes as a shock to Elizabeth when Edward dies.
She has a few days to work out that he is actually going to die and then of course her thoughts go immediately to her son.
With her husband dead, Elizabeth's sole concern was to ensure that the young Prince Edward, born to her in sanctuary 12 years earlier, ascended the throne safely.
What's fascinating about the period after King Edward's death is the speed at which Elizabeth reacted.
Her son, the heir to the throne, Edward, was only 12 years old and she was the first person to understand that he might be in danger.
She ordered him to come to London from his castle near Wales with as many troops as possible, as fast as possible.
Elizabeth Woodville, with the advantage of hindsight, it's clear that she anticipates the danger and it shows that she is astute and politically alert where others perhaps just don't see the possible threat.
The royal council felt the Queen was overreacting.
Fatally, she allowed herself to be persuaded to limit the number of troops accompanying her son to just 2,000.
As the 12-year-old Edward set off from the Welsh Borders, his uncle Richard left Middleham Castle, intercepting him at Stony Stratford, in order, he said, to accompany him to the Tower, where kings traditionally stayed prior to their coronation.
Elizabeth's response was to dash back into sanctuary at Westminster with her five daughters and her remaining, 9-year-old son, Richard.
What she does is very decisive and very rapid.
Her primary motivation is to protect not only herself but her children and particularly her second son, the Duke of York.
She can't do anything to help Edward but she can keep Richard safe.
Again, the royal councillors told her she was overreacting.
But the behaviour of Anne Neville in faraway Yorkshire suggests that Elizabeth's fears about her brother-in-law were completely justified.
Anne did not travel south for the coronation.
Anne not only fails to appear in London, which as the second lady of the nation she would absolutely have been expected to do, but she hasn't ordered any robes, her account books show no special preparations, nor do they show any evidence of illness which might have kept her away.
Quite simply, Anne knew that it wasn't going to happen.
According to Shakespeare, Anne disapproved of Richard's seizing power.
But why would Warwick the Kingmaker's daughter object to being made queen? Where is the evidence for Anne being passive or disapproving? I can't find any evidence.
For all we know it could be Anne that was the driving force behind Richard.
It could be a scenario like Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, where we've got this very powerful woman.
Now she was in a position to be able to come back and revenge her father.
Pressure from Anne would help explain the great mystery of Richard's sudden transformation.
Through the ups and downs of the Cousins' Wars, he had always been his brother Edward's most faithful follower ` his motto, "loyalty binds me".
But now Richard moved against Edward's heirs with ruthless speed, executing leading supporters of the new king.
On June 16th, he sent a delegation to Elizabeth, still in sanctuary at Westminster, demanding the release of her second son, 9-year-old Richard, supposedly so that he could attend the coronation of his brother.
It's clearly very, very dangerous to release Richard, her son, but what choice does she have? The truth is sanctuary was a moral rather than a physical concept.
Elizabeth was there in sanctuary of Westminster Abbey.
Right next door in Westminster Palace Richard was waiting with his troops.
His troops were surrounding the sanctuary.
There must have been the knowledge behind all this that if Elizabeth didn't let the boy go he could simply have been taken.
It looks as though Elizabeth had no option but to release her child into the hands of her enemies.
We have a description of Elizabeth parting from her son.
It's not an eye witness account.
It reports her saying, "Farewell, my own sweet son.
"God send you good keeping.
"Let me kiss you once yet ere you go, "for God knoweth when we shall kiss together again.
" It's a great scene.
I wonder, was it played by a great actress? Years later there would be rumours of a prince in exile, waiting to return to England and claim his crown.
Is it possible that the boy that Elizabeth handed over was not Richard? My own belief is that Elizabeth was far too astute to sit and wait for Richard to take her second son just as he had taken her first.
I think she handed over a servant boy, muffled up in a scarf.
To the royal councillors, all middle aged and elderly men, one small child looked much like another.
Whoever it was that was handed over, the two boys in the Tower were never seen again.
A few weeks later, on July 6th 1483, in Westminster Abbey, Richard had himself crowned King of England.
At his side, his wife Anne, queen at last .
.
just as her dead father, the Kingmaker, had always planned.
From her place of sanctuary nearby, Elizabeth would have been able to hear the trumpets sound and the people cheer as her son was usurped.
And as the coronation procession made its way to the altar, holding Anne's train was none other than the Lancastrian Margaret Beaufort, the great survivor, given a central role because of her Yorkist husband's prominent position in the new court.
Margaret Beaufort is the consummate politician.
And we've already seen how she accommodates herself to whatever regime is in power.
She went right on trying to negotiate for what she most wanted, the return of her son from exile.
She'd tried to negotiate it with Edward.
Now she tried to negotiate it with Richard.
Margaret's son Henry Tudor was now 26 and had been in exile in France for the last 12 years.
Margaret opened negotiations with Richard for Henry's return the day before his coronation.
But then, quite suddenly, she changed tack.
Perhaps Richard was unresponsive but a politician like Margaret couldn't fail to notice the new opportunities that were opening up.
With King Edward, his brother George and the two young princes out of the way, suddenly only Richard and his son stood between Henry Tudor and the throne.
And now a remarkable alliance was forged.
Using secret messages passed by a doctor, the Lancastrian Margaret Beaufort and the Yorkist Elizabeth Woodville slowly agreed a pact, one that would ultimately transform English history.
At its heart a marriage alliance between Margaret's son Henry and Elizabeth's oldest daughter, Elizabeth of York.
It's really This fantastic historical moment is not about the men, it's all about the women.
It's about the imprisoned queen and, you know, the ambitious mother, who are working between them to marry the rightful heir, in a sense, Elizabeth of York - she's the one who's got all the royal blood, all the prestige - to the slightly dubious young man with a very tiny tincture of royal blood in his veins but an awful lot of ambition.
By late summer, the two women were plotting armed rebellion.
They even recruited one of Richard's closest friends and allies, the ambitious Duke of Buckingham.
But each of the three conspirators had different, conflicting aims.
My own belief is that they were all using each other.
The Queen wanted to defeat Richard and restore her son to the throne.
The Duke of Buckingham hoped to use Margaret and Elizabeth's troops against Richard and then claim the throne himself.
And Margaret planned that her two allies would destroy each other.
The rising would probably have succeeded but for terrible weather.
Torrential rain left Buckingham stranded in Wales by rising floods.
He was captured and executed.
Margaret Beaufort, despite her treasonous plotting, was spared, a beneficiary of the culture of chivalry, a culture she was a master at manipulating.
It's an interesting feature of the Wars of the Roses that the lives of women were respected.
The convention was that women were not treated in the same way as men.
I think chivalry was the most marvellous shield for women.
It was a disguise.
Chivalry was something they could hide behind.
When it suited them, they could play the role of the weak woman who needs to be defended and of course that gave them a great deal more scope to act autonomously in private.
But it was not just chivalry that saved Margaret.
She was also, once again, using her husband to play a double game.
Margaret Beaufort and Thomas, Lord Stanley are pursuing a double indemnity insurance policy.
So they decide that Stanley will back one side and Margaret will back the other.
So regardless of the outcome, they will be able to negotiate some sort of compromise.
It sounds very, very cynical, but I think that's exactly what they do.
Rather than facing execution, as a man would have done, Margaret was placed under house arrest with her own husband as jailer.
And although the rebellion had failed, her position was not nearly as bleak as it appeared.
This looks like defeat but it was a brilliant strategic victory for Margaret.
All the Yorkists who were prepared to fight for the princes in the Tower against the usurper Richard had now shown their hand.
And since the princes had disappeared, they had no cause but that of Henry Tudor.
She had lost a battle but she had split the House of York.
Suddenly, Henry, in his rather sort of shabby court in exile, finds great numbers of powerful men who've participated in the Yorkist dissident cause coming over to join him.
Margaret had harnessed the anger of those Yorkists who saw Richard as a murderer and a tyrant and she'd recruited that anger to the cause of her own, Lancastrian son.
But Elizabeth Woodville, still in sanctuary, was about to make an extraordinary decision - tearing up her earlier agreement with Margaret.
In the spring of 1484 Elizabeth does a deal with Richard.
She agrees to come out of sanctuary as long as Richard will swear this oath to protect her children, her daughters and to arrange suitable marriages for them.
Although we might consider that Elizabeth is making a deal with the devil, in practical terms, what else can she do? She was approximately 15 years older than Richard III, so as far as she knew there would be no other king but Richard III in her lifetime.
Elizabeth's decision to do a deal with the man most believed had killed her sons and send her daughters back to court at Westminster has forever blackened her reputation ` the ultimate proof, for some, of her cynicism and cold-hearted ambition.
But isn't there a far simpler explanation for her behaviour? Perhaps she signed the agreement because she didn't think Richard had killed her sons.
After all, to this day, there is no evidence that he did.
And if Richard didn't kill them, then who did? The other person with a clear motive was Margaret Beaufort.
She knew her son, Henry Tudor, could never ascend to the throne while the princes were alive and she had access to the Tower in the late summer of 1483 through her co-conspirator the Duke of Buckingham and through her husband.
I don't know if Margaret Beaufort killed the princes but I believe that their mother Elizabeth thought so.
It's a belief that would only have dawned on Elizabeth after the failure of the rebellion.
But her reconciliation with Richard left her perfectly placed to exploit a sudden, dramatic downturn in the fortunes of the new Queen, Anne Neville.
At Middleham Castle in early April 1484, Anne's son, her only child, died.
Both Richard and Anne were heartbroken, distraught, by their son's death.
One chronicler wrote, "You might have seen his father and mother in a state "almost bordering on madness, by reason of their sudden grief.
" But Richard's thoughts very quickly turned to the future.
Anne was in poor health and appeared unlikely to produce more children.
The worst thing that could happen to a medieval queen was to fail to produce a son.
So really the nightmare that would take some of Henry VIII's wives in the next century had now overtaken her.
Perhaps Richard and Anne turned to each other in private in their grief.
But Richard's public reaction to his son's death and to Anne's illness was cruel and humiliating.
When he announced, after the Christmas court of 1484-1485, that he'd been advised for medical reasons not to have sexual intercourse with his wife and that he was no longer sleeping with her, effectively this is a public statement as to the redundancy of the Queen.
For Richard to have announced this in such a public way was effectively saying Queen Anne's on the scrap heap, you know, let's look for the next queen.
The woman Richard turned to was none other than Elizabeth of York, Elizabeth Woodville's daughter, the sister of the missing princes, supposedly betrothed to Henry Tudor.
The rumours were truly scandalous, that Richard was courting his niece the princess under the very nose of his wife.
Elizabeth, the former queen, observed from a distance the perfect positioning of her daughter.
If Richard married her, she would be queen.
If he was overthrown by Henry Tudor, Henry would make her queen.
I doubt very much that anyone considered the feelings of Anne Neville, least of all Elizabeth.
Their contemporaries were horrified but for Richard, his young niece Elizabeth was extremely eligible.
She is the solution to all his problems.
Elizabeth represented the other half of the Yorkist claim.
This was the reason that Henry Tudor in exile had made a public promise to marry her and Richard had exactly the same motive for doing so.
He not only gets all this vast political advantage and reunites the country but he gets a young and fertile bride who can give him the heir he so desperately needs.
On March 6th 1485, an eclipse of the sun occurred over England and Queen Anne died, perhaps of tuberculosis.
Aged just 28, she slipped from history as if she had become invisible, leaving behind not even a proper portrait, just a pale sketch of a rich and complex personality.
She was buried in an unmarked grave in Westminster Abbey, a quiet end to a dramatic life.
Anne had outlived her first husband, a prince, and perhaps chose her second, a king.
She changed sides in the Cousins' War not once but twice.
She escaped from house arrest and claimed her inheritance and she fulfilled the dreams of her father, the Kingmaker, and took the crown of England.
Her downfall was something that she couldn't control, however ambitious and determined.
She had only one child and he died young.
Anne's death was so convenient, so timely, that there were rumours that Richard had poisoned her.
In this turbulent political atmosphere, Richard was forced to abandon the idea of a hasty marriage to Elizabeth of York, at least for the time being.
Elizabeth Woodville had not quite succeeded in restoring herself to the heart of power.
But for Margaret Beaufort, the death of Richard's son meant that now just one man stood between her son and the throne - Richard himself.
At the start of August 1485, after 14 years in exile, Henry Tudor landed at Milford Haven in South Wales at the head of a small army.
He headed east through his family's Welsh heartlands, gathering support as he went.
King Richard summoned his own forces to Nottingham, and the two armies eventually met at Bosworth, west of Leicester, on August 22nd.
Alongside foreign mercenaries, the army Henry drew up at Bosworth that morning was a combination of Lancastrians and dissident Yorkists hostile to Richard, an alliance forged by his mother, Margaret Beaufort.
But who did Elizabeth Woodville want to win? It's always been assumed that Elizabeth was hoping and praying for Henry Tudor's victory ` for vengeance on the murderer of her two sons.
But in fact, there were very few Woodville supporters in Henry's army at Bosworth.
I think the reality was that Elizabeth Woodville had made some tough, shrewd political decisions and she had decided to back the regime of Richard III.
I think that more important than anything to her is the blood line of the dynasty which her daughter represents and which, like it or not, Richard of Gloucester also represented.
Hatred of Richard would have come second to hatred of the idea of the Lancastrians regaining the throne.
For Margaret Beaufort this day was the culmination of a lifetime of hoping, scheming and praying.
Although under house arrest, she had been actively recruiting for Henry.
If he was defeated, even the code of chivalry might not save her from a traitor's death.
But victory would make her mother of the King of England.
Everything now hinged on one man ` Margaret's husband, the ever calculating, ever self-serving Lord Stanley.
Stanley was supposedly on Richard's side but as the two armies lined up at Bosworth that morning, his forces could be seen strategically placed precisely halfway between them.
We all know that Richard lost at the Battle of Bosworth but Shakespeare, working as a Tudor spin doctor, has him going down beneath the swords and shouting, "A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!" - trying to get off the battlefield and save his own skin.
In fact, Richard died fighting bravely, and his last words were, "Treason! Treason! Treason!" He knew he had been betrayed and the traitor was Thomas, Lord Stanley.
The forces of Margaret's husband Stanley had joined the battle on Henry's side, just at the moment it seemed the young pretender would be overwhelmed.
The intervention of the Stanleys is absolutely decisive.
If they had not intervened, Richard III would have cut down and killed his challenger, Henry Tudor.
Margaret had rightly judged that her husband was prepared to betray his king.
And in his final moments, King Richard knew it was Margaret Beaufort who had cost him his throne and his life.
The last Plantagenet king of England was stripped naked, his dead body abused and dragged from the battlefield to be buried in an unmarked grave, only rediscovered recently.
Meanwhile at Woking, Henry's mother Margaret was waiting for him.
The new king might have been expected to tour his kingdom, to call a great council of nobles.
But he didn't.
The first thing he did was come here to Woking Palace and spend two weeks almost in seclusion with his mother, Margaret Beaufort.
It's as if he wanted to make up for the 14 years they had been apart and certainly he wanted her guidance on how to rule the kingdom that she had helped him win but which was a strange land to him.
Top of the agenda was the resurrection of the marriage alliance with Elizabeth of York, so vital for bolstering Henry's weak claim to the throne.
But, significantly, the wedding was delayed.
He doesn't marry her for five months and I think that must be to do with the fact that he'd heard the rumours of the relationship with Richard and wanted to be absolutely certain that his Yorkist bride wasn't carrying his rival's child.
It wasn't quite the fairy-tale romance, the uniting of the houses of York and Lancaster, of the red and white roses, that the Tudor propagandists suggested.
And no-one was more cynical about this wedding than the mother of the bride.
Elizabeth Woodville gave her daughter in marriage to the family that may have killed her sons.
It was the only way to get her daughter on the throne.
But she may have never truly supported them.
I'm sure that Henry Tudor and indeed Margaret Beaufort never altogether trusted Elizabeth Woodville.
They'd made an alliance of necessity but I think they must always have known that her interests were not necessarily altogether the same as theirs.
Despite the fact she was now the Queen Mother, Elizabeth found herself quickly shunted aside.
18 months into Henry's kingship there's this sudden change.
Elizabeth retires, or is ordered to retire, to the convent of Bermondsey, where she spends most of the time for the remaining five years of her life.
By the beginning of 1487, there's only room for one Queen Mother, and that's Margaret Beaufort.
Just why Elizabeth was sent to a convent was never made clear by the Tudors.
She seems to have been plotting against the new regime.
If, as I believe, her son Richard was waiting abroad in exile, she may have been hoping for his return.
He was, after all, heir to her dynasty.
But Elizabeth died, in comparative poverty, in 1492, at the age of 55.
Her body was taken to Windsor, and laid to rest beside that of her husband, King Edward.
The Tudors, mother and son, kept the funeral of this most difficult of in-laws low key.
Elizabeth died knowing that she was the first commoner to marry into the royal family, the first Englishwoman to rise to the throne of England.
She married for love and gave her husband ten children, three of them boys.
She defended her reputation against charges of witchcraft and her throne against rebellions.
She saw her daughter become Queen of England.
And she would give her name to the greatest Tudor of them all, Elizabeth I.
But it was Margaret Beaufort who shaped the Tudor dynasty and with it the next century of English history.
She went on to found two colleges in Cambridge, which commemorate her to this day.
And although she was the only one of our three women never to be queen, she was ultimately more powerful than both Elizabeth and Anne.
Margaret invented for herself this title, once Henry had taken the throne - My Lady the King's Mother.
She lays down the rules for his court, she advises him, she has rooms right beside him when they travel, she travels with him often and later in his kingship, she exercises his authority in the Midlands.
She's the most important person in the kingdom after the king and sometimes, one might argue, she's the most important person in the kingdom full stop.
Above all, Margaret Beaufort shaped the way we view her era, commissioning some of the earliest histories ` propaganda - a self-serving legacy we still wrestle with when we try to understand the period.
I admire Margaret Beaufort but I always take her with a pinch of salt.
I believe she was very careful what stories she told of her childhood and she virtually dictated the history of her times.
The blackening of the reputation of Richard III and the disappearance of rival women from the record were all inspired by her.
For herself she chose an image of female, vulnerable piety.
But there was much more to her than that.
Born to a bastard line of the royal family, she had survived a child marriage and the agonizing birth of her only son.
She'd successfully navigated the turbulent waters of the Cousins' Wars, marrying carefully and cunningly.
Now she was the last woman standing and had achieved what had appeared impossible, the restoration of her House of Lancaster and the ascent of her son Henry to the throne.
She knew exactly what she wanted and she was prepared to break any promise, tell any lie, do whatever it took to get there.
For me, that makes her a heroine.
Margaret's son Henry died before her, aged 52, in 1509.
He commemorated himself with the magnificent Henry VII Chapel in Westminster Abbey.
And it was here Margaret herself would be buried after taking the reins and guiding the 17-year-old Henry VIII through his coronation and wedding.
She died the very day after his 18th birthday, aged 66, her job done.
All three of our women shaped the era they lived through, yet they have been almost wilfully ignored by historians, who prefer to focus on kings and battles.
The historical facts show them relentlessly pursuing their ambitions, faithful to their houses, utterly determined for their sons.
The fascinating, complex reality of their lives has been hidden by old-fashioned views of what women can and should do.
But only by understanding them can we understand their age.
Rescuing the memory of these women is worth the effort because these are the founders of the nation just as much as the more famous men.
Their history is partly obscured, almost forgotten, but these are our forebears and they're my heroines.