Episode 7 – Requiem of the Rose King

Does it count as a spoiler if the original event happened in 1471? I’m inclined to say no, but even if we discount the age and manner in which Edward of Westminster, Prince of Wales died, we can still see the underlying current of sadness that runs throughout his scenes in this episode. Although Richard is still present and the driving force of the actions, Prince Edward gets more scenes than he perhaps has had in the previous six episodes, and you don’t have to be a Shakespeare scholar or a history buff to guess that there’s an emotionally manipulative reason for this. I mean, the fourth play in Shakespeare’s Wars of the Roses cycle isn’t called Edward V.

But if we’re being manipulated by the episode’s version of “I’m getting married when this mission’s over!”, Prince Edward and George are being equally toyed with by Warwick. We saw last week that he was busy covering his ass to ensure that at least one of the two young men he backs takes the throne, and that’s something that he’s largely keeping to himself. So George (and his wife Isabelle) are merrily counting their chickens while a slightly more cynical Edward is also believing himself to be the one chosen by both God and Warwick as the future King of England, and only Warwick really knows which of the two he ‘ll throw his lot in with – at the last second. It’s interesting that Edward is much more tentative in his belief that Warwick will follow through on his promise. Possibly this is because he grew up in the royal court while George was off in York – and as the son of Margaret, Edward must have had a very good education in political warfare. He’d like to believe that Warwick will enthrone him, but he’s also not fully counting on it; He’s seen both the dangers of political ambition from his mother and the equal downward drag of a lack thereof from his father.

What seems to make him decide to throw more in with Warwick is, ironically, Richard. Richard and Catesby are out to rescue King Edward, who has been deposed and imprisoned by Warwick’s faction, and the sight of Richard (in female garb, no less) is what ultimately makes Prince Edward decide to go along for the ride. It certainly helps that Richard asks for his help sneaking into King Edward’s cell; Prince Edward is so infatuated with the duke that he barely even thinks about it. And there’s something so earnest about the way that Prince Edward tries to woo Richard – with a dress, food, a brooch – that he becomes a little sad, and not just because the fabric in his arms is in no way enough for the gown we see. Richard is a man on a mission; he’s only with the prince in order to save his brother the king. But Prince Edward is with Richard because he loves “her,” and he’s trying very, very hard to crack Richard’s icy shell. The look on his face when Richard gives the third strawberry pie to Catesby says it all: he knows he’s failing because there’s the object of his affections completely missing (or ignoring) his actions.

But perhaps the saddest part of this episode is the marriage of Anne and Prince Edward. Neither of them wanted the alliance; In fact, both of them are in love with and want to marry Richard. It’s a sham, a political marriage based on the ambitions of their parents, because while Prince Edward thinks that becoming king will enable him to have Richard, if he had to foreswear the throne in order to be with his beloved, I think he’d do it. The throne is Margaret’s ambition for him, just as Anne is a victim of her father’s thirst for power. In some ways Anne is in an even worse position, because she doesn’t even have the right to refuse: as a daughter, she is her father’s property to do with as he pleases, and marriage will only transfer the deed of ownership from father to husband. It’s her life, but she has exactly no say in it.

There’s unlikely to be a bright side in this situation. Henry IV is back on the throne, but almost certainly not of his own free will, and Edward IV is free. George is fully under Warwick’s thumb and Buckingham seems to have started making his moves, desiring to put Richard at England’s helm. History (and Shakespeare) already told us where this is going to end, but a line from Prince Edward’s epitaph perhaps says it best: “Alas, the savagery of men.”

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Requiem of the Rose King is currently streaming on Funimation.

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