A love story for the ages that forever changed the course of history.


THE LAST WHITE ROSE

SYNOPSIS of the entire epic series of the true story of Richard III

    THE LAST WHITE ROSE is a twelve-hour epic mini-series formatted for cable and written in the caliber and depth of Playtone's John Adams and a perfect prequel to Peace Arch's colorful series The Tudors for it is the true story of Richard of Gloucester, the last of the Plantagenet Kings, and the fairest of Queens, Lady Anne of Warwick. The tapestry of their deep and lasting love for each other and for England is embroidered with all the passion, treachery, chicanery, trust and betrayal, pageantry and pomp of 15th Century Britain.

    This historical account is thoroughly researched and adapted in part from the late Paula Zabka's Desire the Kingdom, with authorization and permission of the author's husband George Zapka and his publishing house.

    The Last White Rose shows King Richard III - whom the world has come to know through the writings of William Shakespeare - in a far different light, as the swirl of intrigue, murder, mystery, and political maneuverings are revealed to the viewer through the literary license of using the charismatic and crafty legendary Merlin as a deft vehicle to narrate and keep the viewer informed of each character. Throughout each one-hour episode, Merlin spins the tale, revealing the hearts and minds of all the major characters involved. And why Merlin? Because he is trapped in a purgatorial void for dabbling in the occult with his wizardry several centuries before. To pass beyond this void he must make amends by making good the name of Richard III to the world.

    The strength of the love between Richard and Anne bind together against the forces of their time, and in so doing, complete the picture of this man whose heart was true and who did his best to do the right thing, only to find himself hampered by his brother King Edward IV's laxity and cornered by his brother George of Clarence, who would seek the throne by any means. The Last White Rose takes the viewer into the depths of the lives of all who shared the times with Richard III, and reveals the other side of the man who was king but for a short while. Through twelve action-packed and character-driven episodes, viewers will discover for themselves how devilishly clever were those who sought to thwart Richard III, and how Richard stood true to his principles and values, anchored by his love for Anne.

    Be prepared to totally reconsider Shakespeare's drama, for this historically correct epic series reshapes history and puts in perspective why the Plantagenet Kings were overthrown with the death of Richard III. This is a love story that will never die, and one the viewer will forever remember. With Merlin's caustic wit and quizzical wisdom, "The Last White Rose" vividly depicts the struggles, triumphs, and treachery leading up to the fatal finale on Bosworth Field: a battle that not only ended the bitter "Wars of the Roses," but changed the course of history forever.

    Each episode begins with Merlin conversing with Richard on Ambion Hill in the last hours before the battle. Richard is the only one who can see and hear Merlin and he bears his soul to the man who is to tell his story to the world. With each colloquy we learn more of Merlin's mission and truly see the heart of the man so vilified by revisionist historians who were so duped by the Tudor propagandists.

    The epic spans fifteen years, taking viewers from Warwick Castle to exile in France and then to Barnet and Tewkesbury where English blood runs deep in battle between the House of Plantagenet (White Rose) and the House of Lancaster (Red Rose), both forever emblazoned on English standards. Victory in battle spells the fall of Warwick the Kingmaker and Margaret of Anjou's son Prince Edward of Westminster. The spoils of war are Lady Anne of Warwick, now widow of Westminster and daughter of the dead traitor Richard Neville. Richard will fight for his childhood love for the others are suspicious because she is the seed of Warwick.

    When Henry VI is killed in the Tower by George, Plantagenet, the Duke of Clarence, the thirst for blood cannot be quenched. George goes mad in his quest for the crown, held legitimately by his younger brother King Edward IV. He kidnaps Anne from his younger brother Richard of Gloucester, stowing her away in a randy cookshop until a chance meeting with Thomas Mallory, author of L'Mort d'Arthur, gains redemption for Thomas and Anne. Following the death of his wife Isabel in childbirth, Clarence hunts down her midwife accusing her. Ankarette is raped and publicly executed at Warwick, causing him to be brought before Parliament where his brother Edward must pass sentence of treason and murder. Clarence dies unrepentant and defiantly cursing all, opting for death-by-drowning in a huge cask of expensive Malmsey wine.

    A campaign to conquer France ends in a sellout to the Spider King Louis XI by King Edward IV, thanks to ill and greedy advisors. Only Richard can see the folly of the Trader's Truce which plunges England into hard times as a few grow rich while most of England's at poverty's door. The bubonic plague sweeps through, leveling the field with no discrimination of status. As Richard and Anne roll up their sleeves to resuscitate the North with Guilds and Fairs, London rots away for Edward has grown weary of battle and his wasp of a wife Queen Elizabeth Woodville plots against him. He takes refuge in the arms of the mistress Elizabeth Jane Shore. Their affair is the talk of London but Edward hears it not.

    Less than a year later death takes its toll from Edward's overindulgence. His last act as monarch is to appoint Richard Lord Protector of his son Prince Edward, heir apparent. But it doesn't work out so apparently as he hoped in life, for the Dowager Queen Woodville would rule through her son until he reaches the age of independence. Duty obliges Richard to wrest the prince from the clutches of her brother Anthony Woodville and escort him to London, taking the young prince into custody in the Bayfield Tower for his own protection. The queen locks herself and her daughters in sanctuary at the Abbot's Office in Westminster. A stalemate appears inevitable, but she continues to plot from within with her influential brothers who bleed England's treasures in buying arms to build up a resistance to challenge Richard.

    Meanwhile the ambitious Henry Stafford, the smarmy Duke of Buckingham campaigns to put Richard on the throne when Bishop Stillington comes forward with evidence that Edward's sons are not truly his, but illegitimate. Since Clarence was under a Bill of Attainder, his offspring are also ineligible, leaving only Richard as rightful heir. Shortly, word rides on the wind and, after Friar Shaa's rousing endorsement at St. Paul's, the people approve. Richard accepts the Realm at Baynard Castle, then receives the Crown and Scepter at Westminster Cathedral amidst great pomp and ceremony. His first business is to enact laws and reforms that balance the ledger, helping the common man. Parliament complies and approves. Just when things seem to be going well, all hell breaks loose. Richard, in talks with the future Cardinal Torquemada, is interrupted. The young princes are missing from the Tower.

    We soon learn Buckingham is the culprit and that, unbeknownst to Richard and all, they had been intended to be sold to Bishop John Morton for his personal pleasures, but Prince Edward supposedly dies enroute from jaw rot. The wily Duke Stafford and the perverted Morton spread the rumor that Richard killed the princes and that, too, flies like mustard seed in the wind, damaging Richard and his frail wife Anne whose happy life in Middleham is no more. She longs to return, to be with their only son. The royal entourage enroute to their home in the north is stranded at Nottingham Castle for the Trent River over-swells in the spring of 1483, preventing their crossing. That night Anne has a premonition in her sleep that Ned has died. She awakes to discover it is true. Their only son, Richard's heir is dead. A pall is cast over Middleham with the funeral and Richard vows to build a beautiful tomb for his son, but affairs of the Realm beckon. He must return to London.

    Anne soon says goodbye to the North to join him, not realizing she'll never see Middleham again. Six months later tuberculosis takes her life. Richard is morose as the rumors fly that he killed her to marry the Woodville Queen's beautiful daughter Elizabeth, at one time promised to the Dauphin of France as barter in the Trader's Truce. But some one else has his eyes on her: Henry Tudor, Duke of Richmond who, goaded on by his mother Margaret Beaufort, mounts a campaign in France to challenge Richard, aligning with the Woodvilles and Morton, who is promised the Archbishopric of Canterbury. Corruption knows no bounds.

    Equipped with Breton archers, the alliance of fierce Welsh chieftains, and the defection of Lords William and Henry Stanley, as well as the betrayal of several others, most notable Sir Percy of Northumberland, 10,000 strong fight for the Lancastrians as they advance on Bosworth Field on the morn of August 22, 1485 against less than half that number of Richard's men. The York army fights valiantly, but it is over. When a valiant, but overmanned Richard falls, it signals the end of the Wars of the Roses, the end of the true lineage of England, the end of the Last White Rose. Though Richard's body is dragged ignominiously through the brush and streets by his foes, his soul is celebrated at the great round table of English kings of lore and his spirit is reunited with Anne and Ned in his mansion of Middleham beyond this life. Merlin's successful task amends for his sins, leaving Purgatory behind.

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Individual Synopsis for each episode. Note, characters are bolded only as they are first introduced in the story. Scripts for each episode are available by contacting The Word Wizards.

    SYNOPSIS of the FIRST episode/hour of the epic series THE LAST WHITE ROSE

Thorns

    The saga begins with the legendary Merlin standing before a massive stone round table where the ancient kings of England sit. There are four empty stone chairs left at the table. Merlin speaks. "Allow me to introduce myself. I am Merlin, yes, that Merlin. For nearly one thousand years from the time of the great King Arthur to the end of the Plantagenet Line, England was ruled by bold monarchs who left their mark on mankind. Now, only fifteen years remain before this table is complete. Before the England of God's Will passes into legend and lies. As a preamble to what has led to this, allow me, as your guide for this epic, to share the immediate events that preceded this present crisis." He then quickly narrates flash cuts of the 100 Years War between England and France which led to the civil conflict between the House of Plantagenet and the House of Lancaster, called the Wars of the Roses.

    The scene turns to August 22, 1485. An inkling of Merlin's purpose is revealed as he challenges the Plantagenet King Richard III, camped on Ambion Hill hours before the Battle of Bosworth, to remember his life.

    Those memories open with the betrayal that causes the separation of Richard and Anne Neville of Warwick, childhood sweethearts at Middleham. Squire Francis Lovell, faithful to Richard and a colleague at Middleham as well, warns Anne that the York troops are advancing on her father the kingmaker Richard Neville, the Duke of Warwick. Because he has defected from Richard's brother King Edward IV and the House of York (White Rose) for the House of Lancaster (Red Rose), he is a marked man. Now her entire family is in jeopardy and must flee to France from Warwick Castle, leaving all behind. The York army pursue Neville to the coast where Warwick narrowly escapes.

    After a harrowing passage, Richard Neville has to deal with unrest within his own family in France and the unhappy marriage of Richard's other brother, the ambitious and shifty George - the Duke of Clarence - to Anne's sister Isabel who loses a child at childbirth on the rough English Channel. Resentment consumes Anne against George for his treatment of her sister Isabel who is so frail and sickly. Anne's refusal to be coddled plays against her mother's patronizing and willing subjection to her father's ruthless endeavor to risk the family fortune and welfare.

    In Angers and later in Amboise, Anne is confronted by the cunning Queen Margaret of Anjou, wife of the deposed King Henry VI who is rotting away in the Tower of London. There is immediate conflict between the innocent Anne and the wily witch of Anjou who tries to burn Anne in her bed. Anne narrowly escapes, but Margaret, determined to win back the throne through the marriage of her son Prince Edward to Lady Anne, manipulates Warwick who, in turn, pressures his daughter Anne against her will to marry the prince. Anne's a mere pawn in the Anjou witch's plans to recapture the throne. Anne steadfastly refuses because of her love for Richard. Meanwhile, Richard fears the worst, thinking she is lost to him, yet continues to pine. His brother King Edward IV, a royal Lothario, tries to roust his younger brother Richard from his endearment to Anne by urging him to forget her and take up tennis.

    Soon the Scots stir up unrest. That is the signal to Warwick. Fortified with Lancastrian troops from France, Anne's father returns to England along with the Duke of Clarence and his wife Isabel to join up with Warwick's brother John Neville and his Plantagenet forces in their attempt to take London from the south while King Edward and Richard are fully occupied with uprisings in the north.

    The Anjou witch will wait for word before traveling to England with Anne, her mother in tow as well as Margaret's son Prince Edward of Westminster - the man who would be king by hook or by crook. The closing scene features Anne trembling with fear that Anjou approaches as Merlin warns viewers of the treachery, "Just as I prophesied many centuries ago: 'The red dragon will rise and fight the white dragon...until the red dragon wins.' Beware of the thorns. O White Rose of York, beware of the Red Rose!"

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    SYNOPSIS of the SECOND episode/hour of the epic series THE LAST WHITE ROSE

Neville Nightmares

    After Merlin gives more background on the War of the Roses and the consequences, the second hour opens in the cold castle of Amboise where Lady Anne, her mother the Countess Anne Beauchamp and Lancastrians Prince Edward of Westminster, Sir John Fortescue, and Margaret of Anjou are hosting the Spider King of France, Louis XI, dressed in shabby clothes with his cap of medals. The Spider King is a cousin of Anjou's with a vested interest in French domination of England. They are plotting when to return to England and how they will fare for the Duke of Warwick has captured London, but Margaret is not satisfied for the Kingmaker Warwick now entertains ideas of being king himself. Anjou's husband King Henry VI is too feeble and crazed in the Tower to rule again.

    Therefore the witch of Anjou forces the issue. Anne must marry her son. Against her wishes, Anne, fearing Richard has forgotten her, succumbs and agrees to marry the prince. On their wedding night Anne's fears are realized when Prince Edward treats her roughly and rudely. Soon after his abuse causes her to lapse into a coma where she experiences hallucinations due to the prince's rough perversion of her in the marriage bed. During her extreme sickness, the prince ignores her, but Anne's mother is at her bedside and wills her back to health despite the French barbers whose methods are leeching. A priest is called in for the last rites, but she recuperates with a will to live even if she may never love Richard as she had so hoped. While recuperating, her mother reads to Anne the works of Thomas Mallory on "L'Mort d'Arthur" which tells of Merlin, though Anne cannot see or hear him, she can sense him. While struggling with her thoughts, she also senses Richard is nearer than before.

    That he is, for Richard and his brother King Edward IV have been forced to flee England to Burgundy to seek financial help in order to recapture London. They also need troops and provisions. Edward turns to his brother-in-law Charles of Burgundy who agrees to give the Yorkists 50,000 Crowns and troops. Edward confides to Richard that Anne is now married and was severely ill. Richard is crestfallen and expresses anger toward Prince Edward whom he swears he will avenge. Edward pooh poohs Richard's venom, but love knows no bounds and Richard is determined as they sail back toward England to engage the Lancastrians.

    Soon after, Anjou and her son sail with Anne and her mother to England. After depositing the Countess at the Beaulieu Abbey in Portsmouth where there is a tearful farewell, they sail west to Weymouth to march north to join the Duke of Warwick and the Lancastrian troops at Barnet. But they are too late for on Easter morning at the Battle of Barnet, a fog shrouds the battle field where King Edward and Richard of Gloucester engage Richard and John Neville. Confusion ensues when the Lancastrian Stars and Streams banner is mistaken for the Sun in Splendor standard in the mist. Chaos follows and, in the pother, Lancastrian turns against Lancastrian, enabling the York troops to triumph. The future Richard III's arm is wounded in the battle. Meanwhile, Warwick sees his brother struck dead on the field. Then the Yorkists attack, mauling Anne's father to death. Richard and Edward, muddied and bloodied, stand over the dead Warwick. Richard cannot rejoice for he aches for Anne.

    Word reaches Anne from the Duke of Somerset who gallops from Barnet to Weymouth to inform Anjou and her son. While Anne laments her father's death, Prince Edward and Margaret argue with Somerset over the next course of action. The brash prince swears vengeance and they agree to march north to join up with the Welsh troops for strength in facing King Edward and the York troops. Yet, they are turned away from crossing the Severn River at Gloucester and now have no choice as the troops they have recruited are no better than farmers with pitchforks who grow more restless as the journey continues. In order to cross they must continue on to Tewkesbury without realizing that is the very spot Edward and Richard are riding towards as the ending aerial shot shows both forces closing in on Tewkesbury where the abbey bells ring as the sun sets.

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    SYNOPSIS of the THIRD episode/hour of the epic series THE LAST WHITE ROSE

Toll of Tewkesbury

    On Ambion Hill in the early hours of August 22, 1485, Merlin urges Richard to recall Tewkesbury in a flashback to the events in May of 1471.

    With Warwick dead, George of Clarence reconciles for expediency sake with his brothers Richard and King Edward IV. Joining forces with the House of York is a necessity for now there is a new threat: Henry VI's wife Queen Margaret of Anjou, whose Lancastrian misfits are marching towards Tewkesbury from the south while Yorkist troops approach from on the north. The womenfolk have been deposited at Gupshill Nunnery while the men march to nearby Tewkesbury, arriving totally exhausted and inefficient in weapons. The witch of Anjou sees how overmatched her troops are without support of Jasper Tudor's superior Welsh troops she had hoped to join. Now time is against her. She opts to retreat until a more opportune time, but the Duke of Somerset and her hothead son Prince Edward of Westminster overrule her and commit to engaging the Yorkists at Tewskesbury with the intention of drawing them into a trap and surrounding them.

    Westminster and Somerset put too much reliance on Sir John Wenlock who has befriended Anne. As Wenlock waits in the Square to ambush the York troops once they have passed, he delays the signal to attack. The more he hesitates, the more his troops grow restless, dissident. Westminster, assuming Wenlock will come through, advances with his crossbowmen thinking the York troops will be trapped by the pikemen and easy pickings for Lancastrian arrows. King Edward and Richard are wise to the tactics, recalling the strategy of William the Conqueror at Hastings. The King draws Lancastrian troops out into the open. The Yorkists begin a faux retreat. When Wenlock doesn't show, Somerset realizes the battle is lost. In a fit of fury, he gallops through the gamut of York troops toward the Square to gain his revenge on John Wenlock. Somerset screams "Traitor, traitor", and wields his axe, beheading the man who would not betray Anne.

    Soon they are trapped as the Yorkists ride in to capture those left. Likewise, with Somerset abandoning his troops, confusion ensues and those with pitchforks and clubs flee in fear for their lives across the bloody meadow. This enrages Prince Edward, who is ferreted out of his flanks, leaving him vulnerable to Richard of Gloucester and his troops. He is captured by York Sir Richard Croft and imprisoned in Tewkesbury Abbey. At the same time the majority of the Lancastrians hie away, their only escape across the roaring Avon where most drown in the roaring rapids.

    King Edward IV, Richard and George of Clarence interrogate Westminster in the Cellar. Richard seeks the whereabouts of Anne, but in a fit of rage George of Clarence plunges his sword into Prince Edward's heart. Anne is now a widow. A messenger informs them the Anjou witch has been captured and Anne is safe at Gupshill. Richard gallops off in great haste to the Abbey where they are reunited in a loving embrace. Much is left unanswered. The Anjou witch is in chains in the Abbey barn where Richard and Anne visit. Margaret spits at Anne, defying her and cursing her, causing Richard to order the witch's chains tightened. Richard takes Anne to dear friends at Oldenhall in Tewskesbury for care.

    Edward IV is adamant that Anne, as the wife of the slain Prince of Wales, must be carted back in chains to London with the Anjou witch. Richard objects but realizes for political expediency and the welfare of the throne that it is fruitless. Paraded through the streets of London, the two women are subjected to ridicule. Margaret deservedly, Anne not so. Margaret is taken to the Tower to see her decrepit and insane husband Henry VI of the House of Lancaster who Clarence dispatches before her eyes with a stroke of his sword to revenge the House of York. Anne is placed under attainder in the home of his brother George of Clarence while Richard is dispatched to curb more uprisings in the north.

    Six months later, a foreboding suspicion invades the joyous atmosphere of a reunion between Anne and Richard during a day on the Thames to Windsor Castle where the King is holding a special reception with all its pomp and circumstance. Circumstances are about to change as Merlin warns from outside the castle, "Beware of the dastardly deed, Richard, Anne. Beware..."

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    SYNOPSIS of the FOURTH episode/hour of the epic series THE LAST WHITE ROSE

Lost and Found

    Again on Ambion Hill in the early hours of August 22, 1485, Merlin reminds Richard of how joy turned to despair on what should have been one of the most memorable of days. As much as he does not want to remember the pain, Richard must cleanse the memories.

    It begins with the reason for the great celebration at Windsor in September 1471 where Richard and Anne have been invited as the guests of honor for King Edward IV to announce that he has at last granted permission for Richard to marry Anne. In the Great Hall of Windsor we meet for the first time Richard's mother Cicely Duchess of York. Proud Cis is a no-nonsense opinionated matron and widow of King Richard II. We also discover the one who'll be Lady Anne's best friend for many years to come, Nan Fitzhugh. Nan is betrothed to the squire who rode to warn Anne at Warwick - Francis Lovell, who'll be one of Richard's most loyal subjects. Also introduced, two men who will pain Richard greatly with their future betrayal: the smarmy Duke of Buckingham Henry Stafford and the Bishop of Lincoln Thomas Rotherham. We also see, for the first time, the rift between King Edward and his emotionally estranged wife Queen Elizabeth Woodville who greatly resents the "narrow-hipped Neville nymph" because of her loyalties to her father, once of the House of York who died fighting for the House of Lancaster. There are more problems between the King and Queen as each succeeding episode shall reveal.

    Late into the night all have retired at the castle when a tiring woman awakes Anne in her quarters with the pretense that Isabel needs her for she has contracted an illness. A concerned Anne follows and after walking to the far end of the castle suspects it's a ruse. When she balks, the tiring woman reveals she won't get paid unless she delivers Anne to the person who promised a gold piece. That person, Anne discovers too late, is George of Clarence who kidnaps her because he fears her and does not want Richard to assume the thrown if anything happens to Edward.

    Unbeknownst to Isabel, George has paid off a vulgar cookshop owner Tom Colynbourne to stow her away in the dregs of London under the pretense that she is a discarded whore of Edward's and must be kept under wraps, imprisoned first in the basement, then in the attic of the cookshop and must earn her keep by doing the most menial of chores.

    The cookshop owner's sons Peter and John Colynbourne regard Anne as a sexual oddity and his wife Betty Colynbourne treats her rudely. The cookshop owner alone knows Anne's true identity. Anne falls sick again, derided because she does not carry her weight. Meanwhile, Richard is frantic. He searches high and low, turning London upside down in trying to find his one true love. He confronts Clarence, suspecting, but not being able to prove George was party to her disappearance. Stolen away in the cookshop, Anne pleads with the Colynbournes to contact Richard, that he'll pay anything, but they believe Clarence and refuse to help. As the weeks stretch into months, Anne grows more depressed, coming close to taking her own life, despairing of ever seeing Richard again. Just when things look the darkest, a drunken beggar appears at the backdoor looking for a handout. He is none other than the author Thomas Mallory, down on his luck who fears the House of York because he has become a Lancastrian sympathizer. Anne recognizes him and tries to get through to him who she is and to contact Richard whom Mallory read to at Middleham. He feins ignorance and ambles off with a few pittances reluctantly given to him by Betty to get rid of him.

    A few weeks later, Richard's men surround the cookshop early in the morn. The jig's up and Tom confesses to Betty who Anne really is. He fears for his life and well he should. Just when Betty threatens to take Anne's life, Richard bursts in and rescues her, arresting the Colynbournes. Richard takes her to the Monk's Cell in Collegiate Church where his mother Cicely takes charge of helping Anne recuperate while Richard visits a dying Mallory, caught and imprisoned at Newgate prison as thief. Just before a priest arrives, Thomas bequeaths his tattered original manuscript of "L'Mort d'Arthur" to Richard in gratitude for allowing Mallory to do a favor for Anne for it gave meaning to Thomas' life. During prayers, Mallory passes contentedly. His last words: "At last...I 'm a free man." He who was lost, was found.

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    SYNOPSIS of the FIFTH episode/hour of the epic series THE LAST WHITE ROSE

Traitor's Truce

    As Lord Stanley's Lancastrian troops and Sir William Henry's enemy flanks move closer as the dawn nears on Ambion Hill, Merlin asks King Richard III, "see ye your future or your past?" Richard responds "both" and this conflict of conscience plays on his fears. The doubts are the atrophy as Merlin concedes, "because afflicted enough it can be the Achilles heel of a man's soul." In order to assuage those qualms, Richard must turn again to that time following Anne's rescue and put to rest the reasons why they continued to be separated in their prime.

    The treachery of Richard's middle brother George of Clarence, has been exposed and yet he is still able to wield enough power to force a hearing with the King over who has guardianship of Anne. George has something on the King or Edward would not be so willing to cooperate. These are the warnings of Richard's most trusted and older friend Sir John Howard of Essex who assures the love-struck Richard that Clarence has no legal basis to pursue his agenda of keeping Anne from Richard. John also warns of another in the north, the Earl of Northumberland Henry Percy, who will indeed become a thorn in Richard's side.

    We turn now to Christmastide and Richard's visit to Anne at the Monk's Cell in Collegiate Church. There, following her confession to Friar Michael Lynn, she awaits with baited breath her love. He brings her a present from their days at Middleham: her lute from Warwick to cheer her up. But Richard must wage his case for her and that will take months. It is not until April that news arrives that Richard has conceded much in property and titles to Clarence to wed his one true love.

    Amidst great pomp and ceremony Richard and Anne are married in Westminster Cathedral on April 28, 1472 by Anne's uncle the Archbishop of York George Neville. There is sincerity in many guests, spitefulness and pomposity in others including Clarence and the Woodville Queen who cannot mask her hatred for Anne. Yet this cannot spoil their day as they retire to Baynard Castle for their wedding night where Richard's mother proud Cis has given them run of the palace while she's away at Fotheringhay.

    This night of bliss is most fruitful as we see six months later at their home at Middleham Castle. Anne is well along in pregnancy, cared for by her serving maid Phillippa Gatling, while Richard continues construction on the Prince's Tower. The child, Ned, arrives on January 20 amidst much labor by Anne, assisted by Phillippa and Jane Stepford as midwives while Richard prays feverishly in the chapel. Their prayers are heard and a few weeks later Ned is baptized by Friar Lynn with great pomp and ceremony celebrated by all of Yorkshire, which tires Anne out with all the visitors. Two who seem to grate on her are Sir Thomas Stanley and his brother Sir William Stanley who ply her with pithy platitudes.

    Just when Richard is enjoying fatherhood, King Edward decides to unite England behind the banner of St. George and invade France. A year of married bliss is interrupted when Richard is called to lead the north army, landing in Calais where Richard and Edward find Charles of Burgundy indifferent and lax. They cannot count on him as they march on to St. Quentin then toward Amiens. Edward shows a penchant for trusting in astrology while Richard beseeches him to trust in God's providence. This will be part of Edward's downfall as they continue onward, following the plundering path King Louis has left in his wake. The summer sun grows hotter, the troops weaker, softer; so much so that all, but Richard and a few fall prey to the wiles of the Spider King's offer outside Amiens. Louis plies them with women and wine, softening any resistance and Clarence, the Stanley brothers, and Henry Percy all cajole Edward to accept Louis' bribe: 75,000 Crowns and 50,000 Crowns a year for the next seven years and the promise of his daughter Elizabeth of York in marriage to Charles, the Dauphin of France when they come of age.

    Despite Sir John Howard and Richard's objections that England is selling out and that the troops will have been betrayed after the long campaign through France under great hardship, greed wins out. Richard returns home to Middleham the end of September, disillusioned with the royal brother he had previously looked up to. He knows that the Treaty of Picquigny, also called the Trader's Truce will become forever known as the Traitor's Truce. The Sun in Splendor begins to dim.

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    SYNOPSIS of the SIXTH episode/hour of the epic series THE LAST WHITE ROSE

Winter of Discontent

    The sun is rising on Ambion Hill as Richard stands by his tent, Merlin sits upon a moss-covered rock entreating the king to purge the past as he looks back on the cold, hard times following the Trader's Truce.

    England is in the throes of an uprising. The peasants have been shafted by the Treaty which has made the nobles richer and the rest of the populace poorer. Only Richard and Anne seem to care as London becomes the seat of political intrigue. In the north Anne puts her mind to altruistic means in helping the people, starving from both the harsh winter elements and the scarcity of goods by meeting with the village pastor Fr. John Elingwald. We discover that it is becoming common knowledge that Edward harbors a mistress, the goldsmith's wife Lady Jane Shore. The priest warns of unrest. Richard and Anne vow to help. Richard establishes a Council of the North with his personal secretary Sir John Kendall and Sir Richard Ratcliffe. Through Anne's urging, a successful village fair is established twice a year and slowly the people can see the restoration is working. Enthusiasm dots the landscape again.

    Lady Anne, who has been serving as chatelaine at Middleham Castle in solving old arguments and making things copacetic for all involved, begins to feel castle fever and needs to get out. As the Fall Festival is in full swing on the night of October 31, 1477 and Richard in York, she invites Nan Lovell to accompany her to the fair. There they come upon a fortune teller's tent. Curiosity wins out and Anne enters while Nan cowers outside. Anne ignores Nan and Phillippa's premonitions and ducks inside the tent on a lark. But what she is told leaves her trembling. The old sybl foretells a royal crown for Anne and all around her blood. "Nonsense", Anne tries to deny, but this night will haunt her for evermore.

    George's wife Isabel, pregnant again, returns to London from Warwick with her children Margret and Edward. She discovers Clarence who cares more for his stone lion. In their conversation we discover that Edward sold Margaret of Anjou back to the Spider King for 50,000 Crowns. Freed from the Tower, she remains a formidable foe. The political climate is changing for the Medici now fight the Pope, Spain has a new queen in Isabella. With Charles of Burgundy dead, Louis has swallowed up all of France. George and Bishop Stillington know a secret that spurs Clarence's ambitions for the throne.

    With Isabel close to delivering, Richard brings Anne south to be with her sister as he leases Crosby Hall in London for them to live close by Isabel. Isabel discloses to Anne that George is consumed with attaining the crown and will stop at nothing. They fear his treachery. To add to the chagrin Ankarette informs Anne that Isabel has developed lung rot and could die before childbirth. While in London, King Edward invites Richard and Anne to join him in court where we see he has grown lazier and more careless, openly ridiculing his Woodville wife who likewise shows her resentment of Anne. The chasm grows wider. With a bit more wine Edward bares his soul to Anne at table and then turns with disdain to his wife and, before all, engages in open bickering. All that binds are her sons, the young princes.

    Anne is called to Isabel's side for she is indeed dying. George is beside himself in a sotted state. Isabel's features have withered so much she looks like a little child. Doctors and alchemists are at the bedside but it will do no good. They give way to Bishop Stillington who administers Extreme Unction. Isabel passes as does the child in her womb. A pall creeps over Baynard. George will not forgive and, after Christmas, tracks Ankarette down and blames her for Isabel's death. His henchmen rape her mercilessly and then she is tried in Clarence's private court at Warwick and executed. Word reaches Edward who must try his ambitious brother to save face. No one comes forward in defense of George. Richard advises confinement in the Tower rather than execution, but the Woodville Queen counters that George knows a secret and must die.

    In mid January of 1478, Parliament convicts him of high treason. Clarence foams at the mouth in defiance of all British law. He has gone mad, so much so that he vows vengeance on the King and all of England. A stunned Edward, aware of the sin of Cain, decides to delay sentence as he struggles with the decision. What will be the fate of Clarence...of England?

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    SYNOPSIS of the SEVENTH episode/hour of the epic series THE LAST WHITE ROSE

Omens and Obsequies

    The early sunbeams dance on the scarlet folds of Richard III's tent on the morn of August 22, 1485. Several of his captains emerge from a final strategy meeting right past Merlin. They cannot see him, only Richard who fears he is hallucinating. Merlin assures him he is not, that he must return to that troubled time when his brother King Edward IV had to pass the death sentence on his other brother George of Clarence for high treason.

    Edward, distracted by this burden, cannot prevent the Woodville Queen from plotting against him which he's brought upon himself through his imprudent affair with Mistress Shore. Avoiding a tiff between Richard and Edward over Anne, their mother proud Cis urges them to unite against the Woodville forces that include the House of Lancaster, King Louis XI, Anjou, and Jasper Tudor. Edward grows weaker in his influence, Richard wiser but more troubled for the task is left to Richard to carry out Clarence's execution.

    Accompanied by a friar, Richard and Anne enter the Tower to make amends with George, hoping to see his brother repent before he goes to meet his Maker. George defiantly curses God, the friar, and Anne. This reminds her of what the old seeress had foretold at the fair and she leaves. Richard alone must deal with his brother who in his madness still thinks he should have the crown. Clarence refuses absolution, opting to drown in an expensive 120 gallon cask of Malmsey wine. His last words to Richard before being submerged, "to the devil I return."

    With all the other enemies at the Plantagenet doorstep, a new threat spreads across England: the Bubonic Plague. Black crosses dot the landscapes, rats scurry everywhere in London and the countryside. No one is immune as Edward's daughter Mary is afflicted and his infant son George dies in his cradle. He is suspicious over whether he died from the plague or by the hand of his wife Elizabeth Woodville, jealous that George might be the choice over her two sons Edward, Prince of Wales and Richard, both from a previous marriage. With each day Edward begins to lose heart on what he had his heart set on: England.

    Thanks to Richard's forming the Corpus Christi Guild in the north, Middleham is spared of the plague. In the spring of 1480 the family is safe while young Ned learns to ride as they gallop across the Moor near Middleham. Moments captured in time. Anne melts in his arms. She so much wants to give him another child but they cannot conceive for her frailty prevents her. Yet Richard loves her deeply and is concerned, not only for her health, but their son who grows more infirm.

    Meanwhile across the Channel, Margaret of Anjou and Louis XI plot. The Anjou witch realizes it is not Edward he need fear, but Richard. She proposes stirring up unrest in Scotland with King James III to invade from the north. This will occupy Richard for more than two years. He must focus his attention once again on battle. In London King Edward grows more careless in his tryst with Shore who loves him. He, however, cannot truly love her, other than his sexual forays, because he is king and his love must be for his people. Yet this warped perception is greatly crippling England. Thanks to the Trader's Truce, his foreign policy is in shambles.

    By April of 1483, it is obvious Edward is dying. To protect the crown, Edward appoints Richard as Protector. Furious over this, the Woodville Queen plots with her brother Sir Thomas Grey to bring her son the Prince of Wales to London to be in place to receive the crown as Edward V when her husband passes. She orders Sir Richard Grey, Constable of the Tower, to take all the treasures and armaments and sell them off in France to raise funds for Henry Tudor of Richmond to mount an attack against Richard of Gloucester. She also schemes to have Richard assassinated.

    By April 9, Edward repents on his death bed and passes. A somber, solemn funeral follows at Westminster and the caisson to Windsor as all England mourns not so much for the king, but what will become of the crown. Richard discovers Woodville's connivance when Lord Hastings summons him, as Protector, to Northampton to protect and escort the young princes to London. At the burial vault of Edward in St. George's Chapel at Windsor, Merlin alerts the viewers, "Treachery and betrayal raise their ugly heads and few there are who can be trusted." Darker times lie ahead for England.

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    SYNOPSIS of the EIGHTH episode/hour of the epic series THE LAST WHITE ROSE

Zugzwang

    As Richard III consults with Sir John Howard over battle armor for the impending Battle of Bosworth, Merlin is off to the side with a chessboard on a flatrock, illustrating the pieces to the viewers, "You see the Woodville Queen. She is a crafty one. She plots and maneuvers, using her pawns and Knights to position her favorably. It is the Bishops she must call upon for protection." Ah, the prelates. In this episode they come to the fore and we will learn of Bishop Morton and his cunning, of Bishop Stillington's secret.

    When Merlin makes the board visible to Richard, the king asks if what he has done be fair. Merlin responds, "By no means be treachery ever fair. But you have been in an uncomfortable circumstance on this board, what would be called Zugzwang. Were you not the king, there would be no problem. But you were forced to make the move you wanted not, but all other legal moves would lead to even more treachery such as denying your kingship." Therein lies the rub for Richard is conflicted whether he did the right thing and is forced to relive those events that cause him consternation. Merlin insists that all must be told, back to where this deadly chess game began on April 24, 1483.

    The match begins on the outskirts of Ludlow where the Earl of Rivers Anthony Woodville and his troops have been instructed by the Woodville Queen to escort young Edward the Fifth to London. Because he is too young to assume the crown, she desires to rule through him. They're accompanied by a battalion of troops and Sir Richard Grey as the procession winds east toward Northampton. Meanwhile, Richard rides with his men south toward Northampton to negotiate with Rivers who agrees to a meeting at the local inn. Both sides camp on opposite sides of the village. Rivers and Grey have planned an ambush, but Richard is savvy and has a way to counter.

    The atmosphere in the inn is tense. Only Richard and Rivers are there and little said. Richard is determined to wait him out after announcing Buckingham is on his way. It takes Anthony by surprise. Rivers tries to intimidate Richard that his troops are no match for Gloucester's meager band. Then Henry Stafford arrives. Rivers opts to complete negotiations in the morning so he can better assess Richard's move to bring in Buckingham who has plans of his own, feigning loyalty to Richard.

    Rivers' plan is to attack Richard's flanks in the morning, but in the darkness Buckingham steals into River's camp to capture him and his men. The troops and Rivers in manacles, they ride to meet Richard at the Inn in Stony Stafford where the young prince has been sleeping. Richard overwhelms the guards and gains the upper hand. Knowing the Woodville Queen's plot, he entreats the troops to disburse to their homes since it is his duty to protect the young prince, the heir to the throne and escort him safely to London. Though the young prince is reluctant and prejudiced against Richard, he accedes to his uncle's request and assuages the troops.

    Richard rides triumphantly into London with the young ward under his protection, causing Elizabeth Woodville to confiscate the remaining treasures and property. She stashes them in a room in Westminster where she locks herself and her daughters inside where Richard cannot get her. In her self-imposed keep she continues to plot.

    Richard immerses himself at Parliament in trying to restore England's prestige. He brings Anne south to Crosby Hall and entreats her to visit the young prince and win over his trust. Anne is plunged into the London scene, hearing of many conspiracies, several surrounding the Stanley brothers and Bishop Morton as well as Henry of Richmond, supported by French gold. Suspicions grow over Will Hastings and Buckingham's loyalties as well as Bishop Rotherham.

    The expectations and fears for Richard take their toll on Anne and she grows weaker in health. She tries to convey her fears and proud Cis' advise for Richard to act before the Woodvilles do. The clock is ticking toward June 25 when Parliament is to confirm Richard's Protectorship and allow him to rule for Edward V until he comes of age. More is revealed of the secret Bishop Stillington holds which Clarence took to his grave: proof that Woodville's children are illegitimate, making the young princes ineligible for the throne. For the first time the idea of Richard being king comes to the fore as Richard and Anne dare discuss the possibilities and the repercussions. As Richard and Anne ponder the future and who to trust, Merlin appears at the edge of their bed and warns, "How long before the chess players turn? Beware, Richard of checkmate."

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    SYNOPSIS of the NINTH episode/hour of the epic series THE LAST WHITE ROSE

Thrown to the Throne

    As collateral against the Stanleys joining forces against him at Bosworth, King Richard III has Lord Stanley's son Thomas taken hostage at Nottingham Castle. With the battle a few hours away, he goes over final strategy with his platoon captains Sir John Howard and Sir Henry Percy, and other officers not previously seen: Sir Richard Ratcliffe, Sir Robert Brackenbury, Sir Percival Thirlwall, and the diminutive Sir Marmaduke. As Richard emerges from the tent, Merlin summons him to those heart-wrenching days leading up to his glorious coronation which begins with a clandestine meeting in the Woodville Queen's quarters with Mistress Jane Shore who has come on behalf of her new lover Sir Will Hastings.

    His plan, to sieze the young Edward V and bring him to Woodville so she can rule through him, for presently he has the run of the Tower and plays like a child, not preparing to rule. Though Woodville despises her late husband's wench, she sees the merit of Hastings' plan and agrees.

    Shortly, Parliament meets to hear the testimony of Bishop Robert Stillington whose conscience finally prompts him to come forward with proof of the illegitimacy of Edward's sons. Amidst reactions of shock, the House of Lords and House of Commons realize the grave problem with which they are confronted. The lineage of England hangs in the balance. It is suggested that the children of Clarence would then be the next inevitable heirs until evidence is offered that they too would be ineligible for he was under attainder by his brother Edward.

    That leaves but one choice for Parliament: Richard of Gloucester, who is humbled and realizes the pitfalls that lie ahead. Upon adjournment he sends Ratcliffe with all haste north with a message to bring more troops from the north for he may need them to put down the insurrection of the Lancastrians and their sympathizers. Meanwhile Stillington makes amends with Lady Anne while Buckingham accuses him of sucking up to the Queen to be. Francis Lovell, a childhood friend of both Richard and Anne, can see she's sick but Anne begs him not to tell Richard for it could hinder his path to the Realm. Francis agrees for Richard must be king.

    Sir John Catesby confirms Will Hastings' guilt and that Mistress Shore was the go-between in the plot against Richard. Hastings is then brought before a Privy Council at the Chamber of the Constable Tower with Buckingham turning on Hastings. Under oath, Mistress Shore reveals the attack was to take place on the morrow. Hastings is to be beheaded immediately in the courtyard. Before he departs he warns Richard that there are several in the room who will betray him. In mercy, Richard does not put an attainder on Will's widow or children to Anne's relief.

    Richard then turns to how he can diffuse the core of the conspiracy by convincing Woodville there'll be no danger to her if she comes out of Sanctuary. Anne suggests taking the young princes to Middleham where they'll have the companionship of their son Ned and John Gloucester under the tutorship of Sir John Howard. She volunteers to meet with Prince Edward in the Tower. It does not go well considering his mistrust and witnessing from his perch in the Tower the decapitation of Will Hastings. The prince's prejudices also come to the forefront for he has been taught to despise Warwick's daughter and the uncle who married her. Troubled by her lack of success, coughing spasms sieze Anne after returning in the rain. On Sunday June 6 Friar Ralph Shaa reveals to the parishioners and all of London that only Richard can be the legitimate heir. The people respond approvingly.

    The new Kingmaker Buckingham persuades Richard to confine the young princes in a more secure area of the Tower, placing Sir Robert Brackenbury in charge. Not realizing Buckingham plots against Richard, he concurs. Anne urges Richard to send physicians to the princes to make sure they are not ill and no harm will come to them. Richard enthusiastically complies. Soon the day arrives when many of the House of Lords and Commons convene at Baynard Castle for Buckingham to officially announce Richard as legitimate heir to the throne and receive their approval. On June 26, 1483 Richard solemnly takes the Royal Oath on the King's Bench at Westminster. Merlin moves among several in attendance, warning viewers of what they plot as another petal falls to the marbled floor near the King's Bench.

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    SYNOPSIS of the TENTH episode/hour of the epic series THE LAST WHITE ROSE

From Coronation to Conspiracy

    While pages assist King Richard with his armor, Merlin reveals what's in the cards. The first is the King and Queen of Diamonds which are the Spider King and Margaret of Anjou, both now dead; next is the King and Queen of Clubs in King Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville; followed by the King and Queen of Hearts in the persons of King Richard III and Queen Anne. He then reveals the King and Queen of Spades: Henry Tudor and Edward's daughter Elizabeth.

    Merlin warns they are the bridge 'tween medieval times and reformation as he takes Richard back to his Coronation day in Westminster with all the glorious pomp and ceremony of the event as Richard receives the Crown and Scepter and Anne the Coronet. The Sun In Splendor shines brightly on July 6, 1483. All are swept up in the euphoria while Elizabeth stews in sanctuary in discussion with her older brother Bishop Lionel. He suggests she encourage Henry of Tudor to begin amassing troops in France to overwhelm Richard because Richmond has his eyes on her blossoming daughter Elizabeth. The Queen nods her approval and shows her annoyance for the music playing in the Cathedral as the Coronation Mass continues.

    After the Coronation, Richard and Anne travel by entourage to Warwick where Anne relives her childhood memories good and bad. There Richard receives in audience a Padre Torquemada who has just been assigned by Pope Sixtus IV to the Holy Office of the Inquisition in order to protect the Faith in Spain. Torquemada cautions that England is not immune to the devil's ways. He also recommends a young explorer who is looking for funding to mount an expedition, one Christopheri Colombus. Unfortunately, thanks to being bled of wealth from the Trader's Truce, England has not the funds.

    The meeting is interrupted by urgent news from London. The young princes are missing. Richard and Anne return with haste to Westminster and, as his men search every inch of the Tower and grounds, he interrogates a flushed Sir Robert Brackenbury. He informs Richard that Henry Stafford, as new Constable of the Tower, dismissed Brackenbury for a day. All he knows is that when he returned the princes were gone and Buckingham had vanished. While he speaks the viewer sees what really occurred: Buckingham and four men come in, plant two young bodies beneath the stairs. They begin to plaster over the steps while two others cart off two more wriggling bags, no doubt the young princes and whisk them away as the plasterers finish up. Buckingham pays them off and departs. The viewer will later discover that they were spirited away toward Wales to be Bishop Morton's playthings, but on the road the jaw rot eats at young Edward who convulses and is left to die. Buckingham cannot tarry long.

    Brackenbury and Richard realize too late they've been lied to and that Buckingham must be made to pay for such treachery. Richard suspects Morton but must prove it. He dispatches Sir James Tyrell to talk with Stafford with strict instructions to let Buckingham think Richard has no idea the Duke was involved. At Pontrefact Castle, Sir James returns to report to Richard and Anne that Buckingham, though he denied, was indeed the culprit and Morton as well. Morton's letter is not Buckingham's style and Richard realizes that Buckingham himself would seek the throne through an Act of Parliament and a copy of legitimization that could not bar him from the throne. Truly Morton's debauchery and treachery and Stafford's Machiavellian flamboyance make for strange bedfellows.

    The kingmaker has cast his die, forcing the hand of Richard to search everywhere for the princes; a distraction to his intention to establish rule and order to England and provide new justice. Time works against him. One thing bothers Morton: Stafford will not tell him where young Edward is buried, leaving doubts if he is really dead. Yet the perverted Morton offers to be Buckingham's kingmaker. He begins by spreading the word that Richard is the culprit who had a reason to dispatch them to protect his right to the throne. Then Morton gets confirmation from Margaret Beaufort of her alliance between Morton and her son Henry of Richmond. Buckingham is indeed expendable, a toy, like Morton's boys. For this insidious man of the cloth it's down to serious business for the Red Dragon advances.

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    SYNOPSIS of the ELEVENTH episode/hour of the epic series THE LAST WHITE ROSE

Fears and Tears

    As the York troops assemble below Ambion Hill and the enemy advances in the far meadows and ridges in the full daylight of August 22, 1485, Richard, upon his horse, turns to Merlin. "Will I be betrayed yet again?" He knows well the answer with Merlin's gesture, taking him back to the time betrayal became rampant, a time of great sorrow and tears, a time where lesser men would have cowered for an ill wind blows from the slings and arrows of rumor, the deadly rumor that the King murdered his nephews.

    Like feathers released to the air, deception floats and lingers, catching the currents of calumny. Buckingham declares open rebellion against Richard III, unfurling his banner in the Welsh marshes. Fierce storms delay his advance as well as the Welsh chieftains. With Sir John Howard's forces heavily guarding London to the west, Stafford is forced to march south. Richard's lieutenants put up opposition by destroying bridges to funnel Buckingham towards Salisbury where the Duke is captured. In prison Richard sends a faux priest to find out the truth. When Stafford confesses, Richard knows, then sends in a real priest for the sake of his former friend's soul.

    Richard sends for Anne and Ned to come to London but Ned is not strong enough to travel. He is left in the care of her mother Anne Beauchamp and Friar Michael Lynn as Anne's carriage carries her and her servant Phillippa south. At Westminster Richard confides to Anne the truth of the princes' fate. Morton has evidently taken young Richard with him to Flanders. No one knows the whereabouts of young Edward's grave if indeed he is dead. Though the rumors are nasty, Anne knows Richard is innocent, yet he struggles with what he could, should have done.

    In Parliament Richard turns to helping England by enacting laws that will abolish taxes of citizens who have no representation as well as establishing that every man is innocent until proven guilty as well as many other laws and reforms still on the books and adopted by many nations, especially the United States after the Revolution. In the second Parliament shortly after Christmas, the laws and reforms are all passed, Sir Will Catesby is elected Speaker and the Titulus Regis is enacted whereby Ned will be the heir of the Realm.

    The rumors hold no sway with the House of Lords and Commons, causing renewed optimism in Richard who seeks to legislate further with more laws to benefit the common man. But his joy is blunted by the failing health of his Anne. She longs to return to Middleham to be with Ned. But Richard must deal with one last matter: reconciling with the Woodville Queen by offering his protection. He asks Anne to make the initial suggestion to Elizabeth in sanctuary. Though it is a difficult task, Anne chooses truth to convince her to come out of sanctuary, including what really happened to her sons and Buckingham's treason. After much insult, she agrees. Richard is so proud of her success for she has accomplished what neither cardinal nor his cohorts could.

    In the spring Richard and Anne head north to reunite with Ned at Middleham. Forced to stay at Nottingham they are delayed by the swelling of the Trent River. They cannot cross. Anne has a nightmare that Ned is dying and she's not there for him as Friar Lynn administers the Last Rites. She is awakened to the reality of the ominous premonition when the Friar himself brings the bad news. Both Richard and Anne are heartbroken. Their only son passed peacefully, but he is gone and Anne never said goodbye. The omen of the old seeress haunts her more. Richard takes it as a sign of punishment for his taking the Realm. Both blame themselves whereas neither is truly to blame. They realize Ned has gone to a better Kingdom where they will see him in time. Ned's funeral is filled with tears.

    Meanwhile, in a manor in Bruges, Flanders Bishop Morton receives Henry Tudor of Richmond who will not attack unless he has the full support of all, more money, and more Bretons to increase his ranks. Morton's nebulous attitude toward the prince brings suspicion, but Tudor has more important matters to attend. He offers Morton the Archbishopric of Canterbury if Henry is successful. The bargain is cemented. Two more have sold their souls to the devil. Another white petal flutters by Anne's side.

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    SYNOPSIS of the TWELFTH episode/hour of the epic series THE LAST WHITE ROSE

The Realm Betrayed

    The trumpet clarions the troops to battle. King Richard, astride his white steed, tightens his helm, as Merlin beckons him one last time to purge the demons of the cruelest of times, the death of his beloved Anne and the sharp thorns of rumor, mixed with the weeds of Welsh, Scott, Breton and Lancastrian dissidents rising to choke the Last White Rose that have led to this day. Soon Richard is enveloped in the mist and we are in London.

    Anne lies in her bed at Westminster, a dying shell. The tuberculosis grows. Richard shares his fears that Sir John de Vere's escape from Hammes Castle could hasten Richmond's advance on England. One of her last visitors is Will Caxton the printer. He presents her a bound edition of L'Mort d'Arthur. She's accomplished what they promised Thomas Mallory.

    On March 14, 1485 in the early afternoon the sun begins to dim in Anne's solar. In her dying hallucinations she is back in Middleham with Ned in the meadows, running carefree. She reaches for Richard and yet cannot reach him as her breathing slowly ebbs to stillness and the eclipse of the Sun In Splendor. Once again Requiem bells ring out for Anne's funeral at St. Edward's Chapel at Westminster. Banners of the White Boar and Sun In Splendor wave at half mast. Nothing can console the king.

    Richard has only one love left: England. He immerses himself into passing bills and laws in the affairs of the Realm, leaning heavily on the friendship and expertise of Catesby, the Cat; Ratcliffe, the Rat; and Lovell, the Dog all made famous by an insulting post by William Colynbourne turned into a battle cry among the inner circle of trust surrounding the Hog, Richard, as the solstice passes.

    On July 24, a fleet of galleons sail from the Port of Honfleurs with well-equipped, experienced archers fortified by Francis of Brittany. On board is Henry Tudor of Richmond with the Duke of Oxford Sir John de Vere and Bishop Morton. Their course: England by way of Wales. The campaign has commenced. Word reaches Richard who convenes an emergency Parliament. To defend the Realm Richard will amass his army at Nottingham, sending Lovell to defend the south, Brackenbury - London, and Howard - the northern Channel.

    Arriving at Milford Haven, Tudor discovers his archers have sweating sickness. To refortify he sails further north to join his 4000 men with the fierce Welsh chieftain Rys Ap Thomas and his forces at Devil's Gate Bridge on August 10. They march over the mountains to Shrewsbury On the Assumption Lord Strange, Lord Stanley's son Thomas confesses. They join Tudor for a war council at Three Tuns Inn in Atherstone. Richard marches west from Nottingham to Leicester, camping on the eve of August 21 on Ambion Hill where he has the lay of the land. Percy arrives from north and Brackenbury's diluted band lumbers in from London.

    Merlin and Richard converse for the final time. The battle has begun. Though greatly overmatched in numbers, Richard waits. When the Duke of Norfolk falls, Richard slams down his visor and raises his arm. Charge! He leads his cavalry thundering down the hill toward Henry of Richmond beneath the Red Dragon banner.

    It is a trap. Tudor has planted pikemen and soon Richard's men are inside the circle. There is no escape.

    The king looks toward Percy on the ridge to advance, but Percy will not. Lord Stanley and the Welsh Thomas move in from one side, William Stanley on the other engaging the king's elite knights. Richard sees Henry and thinks of nothing else. He whips his stallion at full gallop toward the man who would be Henry VII, screaming "Treason! Richmond! Treason!" He is felled from his horse and Tudor's men rush at him.

    It is too late. Swords and axes mutilate his body.

    In those last seconds he experiences inner visions that blunt the pain. Scenes flash before him and he is back in Middleham with Anne and Ned in a sea of white roses. He is at peace, oblivious that his body is being ripped to shreds.

    In the aftermath, William Stanley retrieves Richard's crown, dips it in the Scence Brook and rides to present it to Henry who has retreated to the ridge. Henry VII has conquered.

    Merlin then reviews the fate of the major characters of this series, finishing up with Richard at the last seat at the great round table of the English monarchs for he is the Last White Rose as white petals flutter everywhere, covering the screen and fade out.