The Lion in Winter

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Eleanor: Out Eleanor... in Alais. Why?
Henry: A new wife, wife, will bear me sons.
Eleanor: That is the single thing of which I would have thought you had enough.

Henry: What shall we hang, the holly or each other?

A 1966 play written by James Goldman (adapted for film two years later) about the troubles in the family of Henry II of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine. The 1968 movie and its acting got high acclaim. Katharine Hepburn went on to win an Oscar for her role as Eleanor. It was also the film debut of Timothy Dalton and Anthony Hopkins, who would later go onto fame as James Bond and Hannibal Lecter, respectively. Peter O'Toole, who played Henry, also played the role in the earlier film Becket, which many consider an unofficial prequel to this film. In 2003, it was adapted again for TV, with Patrick Stewart and Glenn Close.

All of Henry's three sons aspire to be king. Both he and his wife favor a different son and since she has instigated rebellion against him before, Henry had her locked up. This experience hasn't dampened her spirit and when this lovely family goes to celebrate Christmas with the French king, the power play begins in earnest.

Tropes used in The Lion in Winter include:
  • Aloof Older Brother: more like long-dead Older Brother. Young Henry was the original heir to Henry II's throne, but died of dysentery in 1183 leading a rebellion (supported by Eleanor, Richard and Geoffrey) against his father. Young Henry's actions underlie the conflict within the play/film.
  • Arranged Marriage
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: An astounding amount between Henry and Eleanor.
  • Black Vikings: In the 1999 Broadway revival of the play, African-American actors Laurence Fishburne and Chuma Hunter-Gault were cast as Henry and Richard, respectively. The actors who played Eleanor, Geoffrey and John were white.
  • Bloodless Carnage: Only one character is actually killed on screen in the 1968 film: The guard outside the cellar where Henry's sons are locked in. Despite the lack of blood, the scene is brutal and disturbing.
  • Butt Monkey: John. Historical in that as the youngest son he'd traditionally inherit the least (hence the real-life nickname of "Lackland"). Made painful in this telling because Henry's attempts to favor him over Richard and Geoff have turned John into a clueless spoiled brat.

John: Who says poor John? Don't everybody sob at once! My God, if I went up in flames there's not a living soul who'd pee on me to put the fire out!
Richard: Let's strike a flint and see!

  • Cheshire Cat Grin: Eleanor.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Geoffrey, even more than the others.
  • Cue the Flying Pigs: "There'll be pork in the treetops come morning"
  • Curtain Camouflage: The above tapestry scene is quoted on the page.
  • Deadly Decadent Court
  • Deadpan Snarker: Henry, Eleanor and Geoffrey have honed their sarcasm into fine-cutting weapons. Philip and Richard aren't as clever with words but can give as well as they can take. If you're John and Alais, you can't keep up.
  • Defiant to the End: "When the fall is all there is, it matters."
  • Did I Mention It's Christmas?
  • Did Not Do the Research: The inclusion of Christmas trees in 1183, for one.
    • As well as a reference to syphilis 300 years before the New World was discovered (to be fair, there is evidence that a syphilis-like disease might have been around in the Old World since Ancient Roman times, but the term "syphilis" isn't thought to have arisen until 1530, and the disease wasn't commonly referred to by the name syphilis until the 19th century).
  • Dueling Stars Movie: Two of Hollywood's best.
  • Dysfunctional Family: You think?
  • Evil Matriarch
  • Exact Eavesdropping: Subverted: Philip made more and more people hide behind a curtain and then exposed things with every newcomer, while also showing the latest curtain-inhabitant that he was overheard himself (good job if you understood that sentence after reading it only once!).
  • Family Disunion
  • Freud Was Right: The homosexual Richard is very close to his mother. This was still the popular explanation for homosexuality when the play was written.
  • Gambit Pileup: Pretty much every character is running one, and it's complicated by the fact that Henry, Eleanor, Geoffrey and Philip are particularly capable of Xanatos Speed Chess.
  • God Save Us From the Queen: When it's Eleanor of Aquitaine, a Real-Life Chessmaster and trouble-maker...
  • Good Feels Good: Henry claims that, since he hasn't been to war in years, he's learned "how good it is to write a law, or make a tax more fair."
  • Good Is Boring: What makes this movie so interesting is that none of them claim to be this.
  • Grey and Gray Morality: None of the characters are particularly decent people, especially towards each other. And their plotting can actually get other people killed.
  • Ham-to-Ham Combat: When Henry and Eleanor put away the Snark Daggers and break out the Ham Cannons, there may as well be no-one else in the room.
  • Historical Domain Character: The main characters, including Richard the Lion Heart.
    • Katherine Hepburn is a descendant of Eleanor of Aquitaine - not only through Eleanor's marriage to Henry II but also Eleanor's earlier marriage to the French King Louis VII.
  • Ho Yay: Phillip and Richard have a thing going on.
  • I Have No Son: Henry saying this to his three sons upon learning they were plotting against him.
  • I Know You Know I Know "I know. You know I know. I know you know I know. We know Henry knows and Henry knows we know it. We're a knowledgeable family." Just so you know.
  • In the Back: Or perhaps, better said, 'in the front', since everybody is quite honest about wanting to deceive each other.
  • Invisible to Gaydar: Richard and Phillip both.
  • Jacob and Esau
  • Like an Old Married Couple: They are, but despite the constant bickering, it's clear Henry and Eleanor still have feelings for each other.
  • Middle Child Syndrome: Geoffrey is a painfully pure example of this trope.

Geoffrey: It's not the power I feel deprived of... it's the mention I miss. There's no affection for me here: You wouldn't think I'd want that, would you?

  • Momma's Boy: Richard as a child. Not any more now that he's grown up, though.
  • Mood Whiplash: Like crazy. Generally from laugh-out-loud funny to crushing tragedy in the course of just a few lines.
  • My Beloved Smother
  • Oedipus Complex: Richard probably has one of the worst cases in all of history.
  • One-Liner: Many, so many.
  • Only Sane Woman: Alais is the only one who doesn't join in the plots and counter-plots, but points out what the others are doing with loathing.
    • Slightly subverted at one point, when Alais attempts a few stabs at Eleanor. It fails rather quickly, however, and she ends up crying in the queen's lap.
      • She becomes a bit corrupted near the end, when she's offered the chance to become Henry's new queen and insists that he lock his sons up forever to make room for hers. She even goes down into the wine cellar to help him do it! Justified in that if she has sons while Richard, Geoff and John are still alive, her children would be victims the second Henry dies.
  • Parental Favoritism: They're very blatant about it and a major driving force in the plot.
  • The Pawn: Alais, as she says so herself. She claims that because of this, she has nothing to lose.
  • Playing Gertrude: A male version of this, as Peter O'Toole is only five years older than Anthony Hopkins.
  • Psychotic Smirk: Geoffrey has a rather good one.
  • Queer Romance: Philip and Richard.
  • Requisite Royal Regalia
  • Revenge: Philip went through a LOT of trouble to screw Henry over... just because Henry constantly picked on Philip's daddy years prior. Could also be a very subtle case of Feuding Families.
  • Revenge by Proxy: Philip using Richard to get to Henry.
  • Royal Brat
  • Royally Screwed-Up
  • Sarcastic Clapping
  • Seen It All: Henry II is so old he's got ten years on the Pope, and uses those years of experience in dealing with Philip.

Eleanor: Louis had a seizure and I damn near died of windburn. (smiles) But the troops were dazzled...