Unless you're a history buff with a penchant for English civil wars, you're probably going to need a brief history lesson before watching Starz's latest historical fiction, "The White Princess."
The show is a followup to the previous tale, "The White Queen," but it's not necessary to binge-watch the 10 episode series to understand its sequel -- though if you do, you'll probably understand the tension and feuding between older generation of characters a little better.
Assuming you don't have ten hours to spare, however, here's a crash course on the insane family tree and bad blood that forms the basis for "The White Princess."
Wars of the Roses
The Wars of the Roses were a series of battles for control of the English throne between 1455-1487. The House of Lancaster was represented by a red rose, and the House of York was represented by a white rose: ipso facto, Wars of the Roses. The two houses shared a great-great grandfather, King Edward III, making them all cousins with varying degrees of claim to the throne.
The first conflict arose after Edward of York (Edward IV) took the throne from Henry VI (a Lancaster) under the pretense that Henry VI had lost his mind. When Edward IV died, his brother seized control and became Richard III -- everyone basically hated this guy. Eventually the Lancasters wrestled power back and put a distant heir, Henry Tudor, on the throne. He became Henry VII.
"The White Princess" picks up directly after this conflict ended, when peace is still new -- and supporters of Yorkish rule are still being ferreted out.
Henry VII was only distantly related to the former Lancaster king Henry VI, which made some of his allies wary of his rule. To keep the peace, Henry reluctantly married Elizabeth of York, the sister of the Yorkish king he'd just supplanted.
"The White Princess" focuses on Henry's struggle to overcome his weak claim to the English throne, since his mother was a distant descendant of an illegitimate child.
Elizabeth of York
Elizabeth of York (aka Lizzie) was the daughter of King Edward IV. Both her brothers were imprisoned and likely killed by her uncle Richard III. She married Henry Tudor at the age of 19, and their marriage united the two warring houses of York and Lancaster. They had seven children, one of which would become the famous Henry VIII, best known for chopping his wives' heads off.
"The White Princess" depicts Lizzie's attempts to influence (and possibly overthrow) her husband, and return the House of York to power. She also plots revenge on Henry for killing the man she loved: Richard III. Yep, she fell in love with her uncle -- super gross.
Margaret & Elizabeth
Lady Margaret Beaufort (Henry's mother) and Elizabeth of York (Lizzie's mother) were old rivals from the Wars of the Roses, with more than a little bad blood between them. Lady Margaret plotted for years to put her son in power, while he grew up in exile because of his claim to the throne.
"The White Princess" highlights the struggle between these two women, as they both plot the best way to keep their family in power.
The mystery of Prince Richard
When Richard III first took power, he was rumored to have killed his nephews (Lizzie's younger brothers Edward V and Prince Richard), though their remains were never found. They simply disappeared from the Tower of London. Seven years after their disappearance, a man named Perkin Warbeck stepped forward, claiming to be the lost Prince Richard. His claims were never corroborated.
"The White Princess" posits that Richard did survive, having been switched out with a commoner during Richard III's rule, and his mother and sister secretly plotted to keep him in hiding in order to put him on the throne.
"The White Princess" premieres Sunday, April 16th at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Starz.