Monday, July 15, 2013

God is a slow learner

Repeated claims notwithstanding, God clearly does not know which side S/he is on. The menfolk ride off to war and their womenfolk settle down to prayer (and in the case of the Woodville women magic of which more anon) but the outcome appears to be decided by the unfolding of events - planned and chaotic. Perhaps confronted by so many conflicting prayers, God sits on his hands or washes them of the strange behaviour of mortals!

Thus does it go in the War of the Roses and the BBC's 'The Winter Queen' - an adaptation of the novel of Phillipa Gregory. The series compellingly takes the women's part, seeing it through their perspective, and how they are both subject to and, sometimes, manipulate the men.

My favourite is Margaret Beaufort, the mother of the future Henry VII, a monarch I have admired since I studied him for A-level, a perspicacious blend of controlled mercy and ruthlessness and a non-admirer of war (for being too expensive apart from anything else)! Margaret is un-admirably single minded - it is God's will that her son should inherit the throne and everything that happens is bent towards that interpretation. That it happens is true but I suspect that is wholly accidental to her wishing it so! Her long suffering second husband strikes me as much the most sensible character in the whole drama - avoiding conflict where at all possible and only going into battle when one side represents the possibility of a lasting future order.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth Woodville, the Winter Queen, has inherited her mother's gifts of magic and together, they use it to influence events (I suspect this is the fictional bit, though you never know). Magic does appear more effective than prayer in this case (though carries no absolute certainty) but it too can fail and Elizabeth's family will suffer many reverses - her sons famously will be murdered in the Tower of London though her daughter in marrying Henry will help bring the conflict finally to an end.

I think the whole could be seen as a compelling parable of our success in manipulation and the failure of its effects - even when we succeed, events unravel our victory! The only true course is to put  aside our egotistical imaginings and pursue a course of either genuine feeling or true principle. It is only when they do that as Elizabeth does in her love for her husband and he for her or in Beaufort's husband's principled search for peace, do people genuinely become human.

That humanity, however, is exceeding fragile and the grim engines of history often ride roughshod over it (as well as our illusion of control)!

It is too a beautiful piece of costume drama - though the actor who plays Edward IV, whilst charmingly pretty, is sadly a bit 'chinless'!

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