Starz’ The White Princess wraps up its first season much too soon with episode eight titled ‘Old Curses.’ The season one finale begins with Lizzie (Jodie Comer) dreaming she’s walking the palace hallways, stepping into flowing blood as she approaches King Richard (Patrick Gibson) on the throne. Next to him are the mounted heads of her sons and King Henry. She falls to her knees and screams. Lizzie’s jarred awake by the dream, confirming it was just a nightmare by looking at her clean feet.
Lady Margaret (Michelle Fairley) checks on Prince Richard whose imprisonment has not stripped him of his determination to be King. He stares at Lady Margaret defiantly as she looks in on him through the locked door.
Maggie (Rebecca Benson) and Lady Catherine (Amy Manson) make their way on foot to the Duchess of Burgundy’s safe house, and the Duchess (Joanne Whalley) immediately instructs Catherine to write to Scotland’s King James for help. Catherine begs her to find her baby but after she’s sent out of the room, one of the Duchess’ men says what everyone is thinking. The baby is dead and Richard will soon be, too. Maggie disagrees, certain Lizzie will save Richard because she believes he is her brother. Maggie thinks they need to strike the castle now, and the Duchess is proud Maggie has spoken up.
Back at the castle, Lizzie enters King Henry’s council chamber as they’re discussing killing Richard and Teddy in order for Spain to grant the marriage between Prince Arthur and Catherine of Aragon. Lizzie confirms she was already told this by Spain’s Queen, and she confesses she set the fire in King Henry’s closet.
King Henry (Jacob Collins-Levy) commands the room be cleared as he wants to speak to Lizzie alone. Lizzie explains she wanted Richard to escape so Henry couldn’t kill him. She reveals details of her mother’s curse and that if Richard is killed, their son will die. Henry understands this means Richard is in fact Lizzie’s brother, and she cries as she tells him to think about their sons. She wants Henry to find another way, but Henry doesn’t think there is one.
Henry charges out of the room, leaving Lizzie without an answer.
Outside, a slightly more controlled Lizzie watches her sons practice archery. She informs Sir Richard Pole (Andrew Whipp) that the boys can do whatever they want today as long as they’re kept busy. When Maggie joins them, Lizzie asks where she was earlier in the morning. Maggie lies and says she went for a walk, claiming she was sickened by the fire and needed fresh air. When Lizzie asks after Catherine Gordon, Maggie says she hasn’t seen her.
The Spanish ambassador asks Lizzie if she understood his Queen’s instructions, and Lizzie claims she’s taking care of the matter.
King Henry looks in on Prince Richard and then commands his guards move him in with Teddy, the Earl of Warwick.
Bishop Morton informs Lizzie Scotland is readying their army for battle.
Lizzie travels to Newgate Prison and selects a prisoner who looks like Prince Richard. She instructs the guard to tutor the man and he agrees.
Tension is increasing at the palace as the King’s advisors resent Lady Margaret’s influence. He should be preparing for the upcoming war, but instead he’s called for his mother. She finds him deep in prayer and questions his motivation for moving Richard in with Teddy. She thinks that will send out the message that he believes Richard is not an imposter. Henry explains there’s a symmetry to it, saying, “Two York boys with a claim in the one room. The boy is who he says he is.”
Lady Margaret reacts by blaming the fact he’s not dead on King Richard being careless when he didn’t actually kill Prince Richard. She tells Henry to finish the job King Richard started, but Henry admits he thinks she’s the one who killed the boys in the Tower. When he asks point blank, Lady Margaret replies, “There are things that are necessary for the greater good, things that must be done.”
Her confession absolves Henry of his responsibility, and Lady Margaret says they’ll move forward on this issue together. However, Henry then explains there’s a curse on the killer of Lizzie’s brothers. Lady Margaret isn’t concerned when Henry says the male heirs of the killer will sicken and die. However, Henry believes Dowager Queen Elizabeth was able to use the craft and suddenly he grabs his mother by her neck, forcing her against the wall and holding her feet off the ground. Furious, he tells Lady Margaret she has damned his sons, that she put the mark of death on them. “You are a butcher of innocents! You are a killer of children!” He finally lets her neck go and calls her a monster.
Henry drags her out of the room and tosses her roughly in front of his men gathered in the hallway. “She does not come near me! She does not speak to me; she does not speak for me. Nobody listens to her!” Henry roars, warning them he’ll take their heads if they defy him.
Maggie pays a visit to the Tower, giving her brother a supply basket while quietly assuring Richard the Duchess is close by. She also tells him an army is gathering and he will take the throne. Richard asks Teddy what he wants when they’re freed and he’s King, and Teddy simply wants a friendly dog which causes Maggie and Richard to share a laugh. However, when Richard looks at Teddy and away from Maggie, his look changes to more calculating than happy.
Lizzie rushes to be with King Henry and he confesses King Richard was innocent and it was his mother who killed her brothers. He wants to know how the curse works and if it will affect both boys. Henry understands one boy will die, but wants to know which one. Lizzie, looking alarmed, says she doesn’t know which boy. King Henry has come to understand the rightful King was murdered by his mother and his life is now just a series of lies. “My beautiful boys are damned,” says Henry, nearly overcome with emotion.
In response to Henry’s revelation, Lizzie takes her husband to Newgate Prison and shows him the prisoner she selected. The prisoner was already sentenced to death, but he’s made a deal for a quick death and money for his wife. In exchange, he will say he is Perkin Werbeck and will confess to impersonating Prince Richard. Lizzie’s plan involves this man confessing in public followed quickly by a hanging. That will rid them of Prince Richard, break the rebellion’s back, and negate the curse. Her brother can remain alive but nameless in the Tower.
Henry refuses to go along with Lizzie’s plan, even when she warns him the York lords are bringing war. He tells her he loves her, calling her the “grace of his life,” but then he adds he doesn’t deserve her. He just wants her to be safe, and tells her to go speak to her brother in the Tower.
Lizzie and Richard have a talk in the Tower and Richard tells his sister she looks like their mother. Lizzie admits she didn’t always like their ambitious mother and would like to be able to ask her if it was worth her maneuverings. Richard declares he and Teddy will walk free and what’s wrong will be set right. He assures her he will not harm her children and she would be held in high esteem as the King’s sister. As for Henry, Richard’s aware he will fight to the death because he’s a soldier. But, there would be peace if he ruled. Of course, that means she would be widowed and her children fatherless.
Elsewhere in the castle, Lady Margaret begs Henry to grant her an audience. He ignores her while he’s seated on the floor surrounded by papers and maps. Retreating inward, he remembers the battlefield, the killing of King Richard III, and the burial of his naked body.
Maggie continues to work against King Henry, delivering news from inside the castle to the Duchess of Burgundy and her supporters. She explains King Henry has isolated himself, leaving his men to plan for war. Catherine arrives with a letter from King James informing the Duchess 2,000 men are waiting to join them. The Duchess’ men cheer while Maggie says she must get back before she’s missed. After she leaves, it’s evident the Duchess counts Maggie’s husband among the men who will have to die because of their loyalty to King Henry.
Lady Margaret rushes up to Lizzie who’s walking outside the castle. She wants Lizzie to tell King Henry there is no such thing as a curse. Lizzie responds by asking her how she can live with herself after murdering children, including Catherine and Richard’s baby boy. “How do you sleep? How are you not bowed down with shame? How do you not howl with the grief of what you have done?” asks Lizzie.
Lady Margaret accuses Lizzie of getting close to the King to steal the throne back for her family. As Lizzie walks away, Lady Margaret tells her if she’s not shocked at what she would do for her children, then she is not a “woman worthy of the name.”
That evening, Lizzie visits her sons in their bedroom. She assures Arthur no harm will come to him or his brother.
King Henry finally confesses to Lizzie how her uncle, King Richard, died. Henry reveals Richard was repeatedly beaten but he wouldn’t die. He was still breathing when the men “violated his body” again, and Henry encouraged his men to continue. Richard was still alive when he was rolled into a pit and covered with dirt. Lizzie listens to this confession with tears glistening in her eyes. Henry admits he thought about how a man rises in the morning a King and ruler, but then it changes in just the span of a day. “By nightfall, he is an obscenity of flesh and splintered bone choking on the mud that stuffs his mouth. Is this what happens to a King?” asks Henry.
Lizzie doesn’t break eye contact during this, but she is devastated yet strong.
Henry recalls he forgot about Richard after he was crowned the new King. He honestly thought God wanted him to rule, but now he realizes that is not true. Lizzie reminds him the current peace was hard won, and she tells him her brother assured her her children would be safe if he’s King. Henry actually trusts Richard, but Lizzie’s concerned the Tudor lords will wage war. Lizzie says he needs to declare he killed Richard/Perkin/The Boy, but Henry continues to argue he’s a King in name only because it was not rightfully his crown. Lizzie passionately insists God has nothing to do with it, that the crown is taken by blood and murder. “The King’s divinity is a tale men tell. It is taken by force and held by force, so take the right, Henry. Take it!” urges Lizzie.
A large, rowdy crowd is gathered around scaffolding. A noose hangs empty as in the castle Maggie can’t grasp how Lizzie could allow King Henry to hang her brother. She wants to rush outside to be with Richard, but her husband forbids her, saying she would be identified as a sympathizer. Sir Richard asks her point blank if she’s been taking messages to the Duchess, and Maggie admits it’s true. She wants her brother back and will do what it takes. If Richard lives, Teddy won’t be the heir to the throne and can just be her brother. Sir Richard asks her to promise him she won’t go and won’t carry letters, but she doesn’t reply.
Lady Margaret is in the crowd as Richard is brought up on the scaffolding to be executed. The Duchess of Burgundy’s supporters are also in the audience, ready to take action. As “Richard” speaks, the Duchess realizes he’s not Richard and tells her men to fall back.
A hood is put over the fake Richard’s head and he hangs by the neck as townspeople pull at his legs and cheer.
At a feast that evening, the Spanish ambassador acknowledges that Henry’s taken care of Richard.
Meanwhile, the Duchess of Burgundy gives Maggie a letter and tells her to find a way to deliver it to the Spanish ambassador. As she enters the ballroom, Lady Margaret demands to know where she’s been. Sir Richard Pole also asks Maggie what she’s up to. She excuses herself to greet the Spanish ambassador and hands him the note from the Duchess.
Lizzie briefly exchanges nods with the man who has been following Maggie. She exits the ballroom to discuss what he’s found. He informs her the Duchess and the York lords are being helped from inside the palace. Their conversation is interrupted by the Spanish ambassador who confronts her over the hanging of a fake Richard. He’s angry and tells her she must do as the Spanish Queen demanded or there will not be a wedding. She has one night to follow instructions.
In bed, Lizzie tells Henry she’s certain Richard will kill him along with their sons. Henry reminds her Richard promised the boys will live, but Lizzie doesn’t believe he’ll stick to that. Henry is equally certain if they kill Richard, both of their sons will die. Lizzie then suggests her mother thought the craft was just luck or good timing. Lizzie’s not sure about that, but she is positive men with swords will kill their children. She knows her aunt, the Duchess, won’t end this campaign until a York is seated on the throne. That means all Tudors with a claim will have to be killed.
The Duchess of Burgundy’s safe house is raided by King Henry’s men.
Maggie is caught attempting to meet with the Duchess and thrown into a cell.
Lizzie continues to explain to Henry they must kill both Richard and Teddy to take away the Yorks’ power.
The following morning, Teddy is taken from his cell and sees Lizzie, giving her a hug. He thinks he can go home now, but Bishop Morton wants to know what he and Richard talked about in the Tower. Teddy replies that Richard told him he could have as many dogs as he wanted, when he’s asked about plotting to overthrow King Henry. Teddy’s asked to write his name and he complies willingly, signing a blank sheet of paper.
A confession is written out on the paper following Teddy’s signing, and it details the plot against King Henry. Lizzie tells the Bishop to lock the confession away.
Teddy, Richard, and Maggie hear a bell continuously ringing, and then soldiers arrive with the Bishop to take Teddy and Richard away. Maggie doesn’t know what’s happening while outside both Teddy and Richard are marched to the executioner’s block. Teddy cries and begins to panic when Richard tries to get him to kneel. Richard holds Teddy’s hand as Teddy’s head’s placed on the block. Richard continues to talk to him up until the blade slices Teddy’s head from his body.
Richard kisses Teddy’s limp hand.
Lizzie is in attendance but isn’t looking at Richard, so he asks if she closed her eyes while Teddy was killed. Richard makes note there is only one coffin and there is no one in attendance other than a few guards. Richard demands Lizzie keep her eyes open and watch as the executioner’s blade takes off his head. “You know what you do, so witness it,” commands Richard. Lizzie obeys, and cries out when Richard’s decapitated.
Maggie is taken from her cell and Lizzie delivers the news Teddy was executed for treason. The Duchess of Burgundy has left to return home, and Cathy Gordon will remain in the palace as a permanent part of Lizzie’s household. Lizzie also acknowledges Prince Richard is no longer a problem.
Because Sir Richard begged for her life, Lizzie and King Henry will be kind to Maggie. Maggie reminds her of the curse, but Lizzie quotes Lady Margaret and acts unaffected by the possibility of the curse coming true. After Lizzie leaves, Maggie wails over the death of her beloved younger brother.
Henry kneels before Lizzie as the crown’s placed on his head. She says, “And now we will rule, King Henry.” He tells her she will always be by his side. Together they enter the throne room and Lizzie instructs her husband to greet his mother because they are now all one. He does as Lizzie says and then speaks to Thomas Wolsey, thanking him for his help in quelling the insurrection. He appoints Wolsey Prince Arthur’s tutor.
King Henry and Queen Elizabeth, surrounded by their court which once again includes Lady Margaret, greet the ambassadors from Spain. Those in attendance applaud the alliance between Prince Arthur and Princess Catherine of Aragon. Lady Margaret whispers to Lizzie that this is a triumphant day and that they understand each other. Lizzie, staring out at Maggie from her throne, quietly demands Lady Margaret step back from her throne.
More on The White Princess:
– The White Princess Episode 7 Two Kings Recap
– The White Princess Episode 6 English Blood on English Soil Recap
– The White Princess Episode 5 Traitors Recap
– The White Princess Episode 4 The Pretender Recap
– The White Princess Episode 3 Burgundy Recap
– The White Princess Episode 2 Hearts and Minds Recap