The White Queen is a fictionalized account of the life of Elizabeth Woodville, queen consort of Edward IV.
The story starts with Elizabeth as a young widow, hoping for an audience with King Edward IV to help reclaim her estate for the sake of her children. She waits for him beneath a tree as he passes by and her beauty gains the handsome king's attention. The two became enamored of one another and wed in secret, knowing the king is expected to marry a foreign princess for state purposes. Elizabeth makes an enemy of Richard Neville, the Earl of Warwick, who helped put Edward on the throne in the first place.
Though in love with her new husband, Elizabeth takes advantage of her new political power. She and her mother Jacquetta arrange good marriages for Elizabeth's siblings and relatives. They also use magic to predict the future (which they call having "the sight"), foreseeing more children for the royal couple. Warwick eventually rebels, hoping to put Edward's brother George on the throne instead, but Edward makes peace with Warwick and his brother. Unfortunately, Warwick has several of Elizabeth's relations killed, including her father, which continues to stir bad blood between them.
Despite being forgiven by the king, Warwick rebels again after marrying his daughter Isabel to George. When the rebellion fails, Warwick and George escape to France and forge an alliance with the deposed Margaret of Anjou, Henry VI's queen who was exiled after her husband was overthrown during the War of the Roses. Isabel dies en route in childbirth, throwing George over the edge. Warwick is then able to invade England, forcing Edward to hide while Elizabeth goes into confinement within Westminster Abbey to give birth to a son.
All is returned to normal when Edward reconciles with George again and then the two defeat Warwick, killing him and the captive Henry VI in order to secure the throne. There is some domestic conflict when Elizabeth learns her husband has been carrying out an affair with a younger woman named Pamela Shore.
George soon returns to his treacherous ways and attempts another rebellion. As a result, Edward has George drowned in a barrel of wine, but this does little to secure the throne since Edward himself dies of illness shortly afterward.
In the wake of the king's death, his younger brother Richard, who was appointed the guardian of Elizabeth's two sons from Edward, takes the opportunity to claim the throne for himself. Richard takes the older of the the two boys, but when the comes for the younger, Elizabeth sends him a page boy in her real son's stead. She sends her youngest son to Flanders to be raised in secret. Meanwhile, Richard declares that Elizabeth's marriage to Edward was not valid, making all her children illegitimate and destroying her oldest son's claim to the throne. In this way, Richard justifies his taking the throne as Richard III.
Enraged, Elizabeth plots to overthrow Richard with the help of the Lancastrian Henry Tudor and his scheming and zealous mother Margaret Beaufort, promising to marry her eldest daughter (also named Elizabeth) to Tudor when he wins so the throne will be doubly secure with both a Lancastrian and a York joined together legally. This alliance is strained due to the animosity between Elizabeth and Margaret, as well as the sudden disappearance of Elizabeth's oldest son and the page boy imprisoned in the Tower. When Richard claims he had nothing to do with the disappearance, Elizabeth believes him, shifting her suspicions onto her new allies, but she has no choice but to rely on them. The novel ends as Henry Tudor's forces come to England.