author C.C.Cole's blog

Sunday, September 15, 2013

On Cautious Class Climbing

Elizabeth Woodville "The White Queen"

As I wrap up my blog articles inspired by “The White Queen” cable series and Phillipa Gregory’s novels it is based upon, one final point remained with me:  Class Climbing. 

In the story as well as history, King Edward IV of England annoyed his Royal Court by marrying in secret commoner Elizabeth Woodville, whose father was a squire.  She lived out in the country and while not impoverished, she lacked the “right blood” so valued in historic and recent royal marriages. 

The series centers on the outrage of the women at Elizabeth’s beauty, her large family, whom are given choice marriages and estates otherwise given to more worthy noble families, and last, but not least, her extraordinary fertility.  According to Wiki, she had two sons by her first husband that died, and ten more children by Edward IV.  The story capitalizes on the many girls she gave birth to, and gives reference to the tragedy of her two surviving boys whose destiny became “The Princes in the Tower.” (That means you, Richard III).  

As time passes (I’ll try and avoid a spoiler here) Elizabeth continues to attempt to keep her daughters in the Royal line, even as her oldest and her namesake, Elizabeth, says to her it is not worth it and they should return to their original home and be happy away from the danger and scrutiny of the Royal Court.

Question:  Why did Elizabeth Woodville, in this story, after feeling the scorn heaped upon her by snooty nobles that sooner wished her and her children dead, want the same for her children?  Answer:  She knew, despite the problems, nobility is an overall better life during those times than for girls in the country.  Despite the mass murder occurring amongst the Royals, the lives of people living in the country during a war were at higher risk still.  Nobility has a chance of protection, but plain people had none, with fates of unspeakable atrocities seen in most every war over in this planet’s history.

Can I relate to Elizabeth Woodville?  Answer:  Yes.  My moment came when I completed my medical training and moved to a small town where nobody knew me.  I found myself part of a small town court under so much scrutiny that I had enemies I never met for reasons I didn’t understand.  But unlike Elizabeth, my husband and I followed her daughter’s advice and moved to where we could be happy.

Crossing classes isn’t easy.  When I see friendly acquaintances I haven’t seen since childhood, I have a genuine interest in visiting.  But I’m not the same person to them.  While we dream of “better lives” with determination to get there, it’s never what we think it will be.   

Can Elizabeth’s story be an inspiration for an author?  Answer:  Phillipa Gregory thought so, and I agree.

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