Unpicking The Tudors; S2 E2


Hello, costume fiends! Sorry for missing a week – just been pottering about and the Henrican Reformation managed to slip through my mind completely. But not to fear, we’re back to the dense mess of 1530s politics.

Tears of Blood

As the Catholic Church struggles in vain to control Henry VIII’s demands for an annulment, the King appoints himself head of the Church of England; initial protests are stifled when Archbishop of Canterbury William Warham officially submits the Clergy to Henry. When Anne Boleyn insists Henry break all contacts with Catherine, the Queen is banished from court. The Reformation has begun; depressed by his failure to prevent it, Sir Thomas More resigns as Henry’s Chancellor. Charles Brandon’s growing hatred for the Boleyns- and his mistrust of Cromwell- causes him to abandon his alliance with them, losing him the King’s favor again. Anne is created Marquess of Pembroke before she and Henry visit France to present Anne as the future Queen of England and Henry’s future wife. After talks between both Henry and Anne with the French King to secure his support, in their chamber, Anne finally submits sexually to Henry, asking him to help her conceive the son and heir they both want, narrowly avoiding another encounter with the Imperial-hired assassin.

Time gets weird in this episode. It all takes place in 1532, yet we pass through a Christmas and a Twelfth Night festive season and then right through a summer and an autumn, then back round to winter. We pass through twelve months in the course of an episode, and yet it is still 1532.

Come on, show. That’s not good. I don’t know how you can shove around sixteen months into the space of one year. It’s an important year, but that doesn’t mean you can make it ridiculously long!

Henry + Anne 4eva

Things are moving along for Henry and Anne; after all, time is ticking on for the chances of conceiving a child and Henry needs sex really badly. Because there’s very little to their relationship other than sexual tension. No meeting of minds, no shared interests, no desires in their lives other than a need to pork each other.

Also, there’s an assassin on the loose.

And he’s doing symbolic things with playing cards, because how else could we think that he’s a serious threat. Do hitmen actually waste their time on doing dramatic nonsense for the purpose of nothing but empty symbolism?

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Anyway, he’s not striking yet because it’s Christmas time! Even though this would be the best time to kill Anne because this is when court is busiest. Around two thousand people will be in attendance at court for this time, with the most connected and prestigious families will be attending to Henry, arriving with all their retinues and servants and guards. If I was going to kill Anne Boleyn, I’d do it when there’s a lot of unknown people at the palace and no one would question my presence.

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Well, I guess he does one thing. He leaves a ‘book of prophecy’ in Anne’s chambers about how he’s totally going to kill her. A prophecy drawing of Anne with her head cut off was actually left in her chambers around this time, but it wasn’t some nonsense about playing cards and dramatic clues left by assassins.

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Pushing on, Henry and Anne are working to secure support and an alliance with the French, a surefire way to stop the Holy Roman Emperor from launching an attack on England. This will be secured with a meeting between Henry and Francis in the English owned lands in France, and in order to make Anne suitable to greet a man like the King of France in any manner as an equal, she is made Marquis of Pembroke. In her own right, entirely, making her the second woman in history to be a peer and a lord by herself. It’s a highly symbolic gesture, as the Tudors come from Wales themselves.

The title also apparently comes with an income of ‘£100,000’ per annum, but I can’t help but think that’s nonsense. In the sixteenth century, that’s the budget for the entirety of government. And yes, I do mean ALL of the government. Privy councillors, clerks, staff, expenditure – that’s how much it all costs (going by the accounts for Elizabeth I, later on). So where in the blithering heck is Henry going to get that money to give to Anne? That’s some modern ideas for money going on there.

Henry also gifts Anne the incredibly ugly jewels of England and then is all ‘Don’t you have something to say to Daddy for this nice gift?’ because the romantic dynamic between the two is a bit ick for my tastes. Sorry, doesn’t do it for me.

It swings around to December again, and the English court travels to Calais to meet the French court. Anne arrives in some style to surprise Francis as I don’t think she could officially be presented to the King – after all, she’s the other woman currently.

And, lest you forget, she’s also a SLLLLLLLLLLLLLUUUUUUUUUUUUUUTTTTTTTT.

The masque did really take place with Henry and Frances met. What did not happen –

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Was that an assassin who looked conspicuously like an assassin was around her at this time. I mean, come on!

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He finally makes an attempt, after waiting an entire year. But he can’t do it. Why? THE POWER OF BONING.

So confident in their own power and in the surety of their upcoming marriage, Henry and Anne finally have sex. In terms of historical opinion, 99.9% of Tudor historians believe that Henry and Anne finally had sex on their trip to France and that Elizabeth I was conceived there. Her birth date in September would back that up; however, you will find me unusually dissenting here.

To me, it makes little to no sense for Henry and Anne to have sex at this point. They will be married in a few short weeks, in early January. Their whole position has been defined by the fact that they are going to be married, and officially married as a wholesome and righteous couple. It is true that many couples in this period had premarital sex (with one third of marriages taking place with the bride visibly pregnant), but that is impossible for Henry and Anne. There is so much suggestion about them that to court and leave themselves open to such a scandal would fundamentally weaken their position.

It is also possible for a baby conceived in early January to be born healthily and successfully in September. Remember that children are born at full term now because of the advances in health and medicine; in fact, children tend to be born later now because of our understanding of prenatal health. Healthier babies tend to stay in longer. In times when women suffer from a lot of menstrual anaemia (as in, their bodies are not in a position to menstruate every month) and the diet and condition are not entirely conducive to the health of unborn children, nine months is not necessarily the point at which a baby will come to term. ‘Confinement’, the time when a woman goes away to await a birth, is a period of around three months. Not only does that speak to an certain level of uncertainty about conception and working out due dates, but of an expectation that a child may arrive early.

That is purely my opinion and idea, however, based on a little of my studies into women’s health of that era. It’s something that is overlooked by many historians and ultimately doesn’t really mean anything – we will never know when Henry and Anne first had sex, and it doesn’t matter, considering what will happen.

The Reformation Continues

1532 marks a key turning point in the Henrican Reformation. For 1532 comes the submission of the clergy, which the episode clearly deals with. In classic style with this show.

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The battle is really a very old battle in English politics – that of who the church and the clergy owe their allegiance to. Technically, the church and the clergy works as a separate power within the country. The church answers to the power and authority of the Pope, rather than the King. They have their own legal system that works independently of the monarch and the crown courts, and their own system of finances. And that’s a big deal! The position of a monarch relies on obedience of their subjects. That obedience is expected and unquestioned, a demand and privilege of a monarch. And here is a body that does not stand automatically obedient to the King. They are obedient to a foreign power and they are standing in the way of a King governing the country in the manner to which he sees fit. He has a duty to his subjects on a spiritual and secular level, and the way which Henry thinks he can serve his people is not able to be done.

And so we see the rise of another law-making power in England. For the power of the church to be taken down, there must be another body to counter it. And here is where parliament comes in. For the first time, parliament is used as a deciding body in British politics. Parliament has existed since Henry III, but the use of parliament to enforce and create law has reached a point where it is almost modern. Henry requires the consent and power of the people – i.e. parliament – to enforce his laws. This is why divine right never takes hold in England, and what will ultimately lead to the English Civil War. In practical terms, Henry VIII is one of the most powerful monarchs in English history. But his power is allowed through the permission of parliament. And for every monarch after him, parliament has power over a monarch and the ability to influence and change policy. In many ways, medieval governance is over. The King, although he doesn’t know it yet, is no longer singularly in charge of the realm. He could be governed over by the men and lords of parliament.

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This comes with the Supplication of the Ordinances. Henry has made an entirely new system. The Church will no longer have their own legal system and they cannot make canon law without consultation to the King. They recognise that Henry is the sole protector and supreme head of the English Church, that abuses of power took place, and they will no longer have independent legislative power.

Here, Cromwell talks of the need to create the ‘commonwealth’. Now, this term is loaded with other meanings – the countries that were formally controlled by the British Empire, or the government of Oliver Cromwell after the English Civil War. Here it talks of the political theory of the communal good and well-being of the peoples of England. This is not an individualistic society; here, actions are undertaking with the understanding that they provide a benefit for society as a whole. The rights of the individual do not exist in Tudor society. Instead, what is good for whole of the people is at priority. There is a social contract from the King to govern well and rule for his people, provide them with good government and the means to live well, and they, in turn, consent to his rule and obey him.

This is also tied in with ideas of absolute sovereignty and the body politic. If a country’s peoples are literally a body, with the monarch as the head, then actions must be taken to keep the body healthy and functioning. Actions which cause sickness and problems must be dealt with and prevented; we must all work together, as a whole, to provide good for all subjects.

It may seem strange, this means of thinking, when contrasted with how selfish Henry’s desire to push for change. But it is routed in the ideas of common weal and the consent of the governed. There’s a load of complexity here, and I’d suggest looking up Thomas Hobbes’s ‘Leviathan’ for further explanation of these ideas.

Who does the clergy serve – the people of England or the Bishop of Rome? When faced with the presence of their very close and entirely angry King, they chose to surrender and submit to the demands of their King.

Not that the clergy is necessarily happy about it, as this monk proves. He screams at Henry in a scene that makes no sense to me. For a start, why is he giving a sermon at court? That is the role of Henry’s chaplain, Thomas Cranmer. A monk is one who has chosen a private, contemplative religious life, so he shouldn’t be giving a sermon anyway. Why didn’t they check him before they let him start screaming that Anne Boleyn is a Jezebel? Where is the rood screen in this chapel? All very important questions.

Keeping Up With The Court

Not only is this episode full of boning and fierce legislative action, but everyone at court is furiously scheming away.

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Charles Brandon, or as I like to call him, MC Turncoat. For as you see, his role is now to just be opposed and betray people. He’s now against Anne and the Boleyns because… it’s bad? He doesn’t really give a reason other than ‘they have to give Henry Cavil something to do’. He’s found out that Anne and Wyatt used to be lovers, and he’s warning Henry about it. Who, obvs, doesn’t want to hear it.

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Cranmer, ever rising in Henry’s favour, is sent to the German states to appeal to the Emperor. Only he meets up with some Lutherans and gets married. Whoops.

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Brandon is banished from court and is insulted by the presence of Cromwell. He’s a disgusting self-made man! Like Brandon is! But Cromwell’s the wrong kind of self-made man!

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Meanwhile, Thomas More resigns as chancellor. He cannot support Henry’s actions, although he will never speak out against the king and aims to stay neutral. His opinion will be his own, and not to be spoken publicly.

Thomas Wyatt is sexing up one of Katherine of Aragon’s maids because… sex? I don’t really care about Thomas Wyatt.

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In private, Thomas More asks his daughter to allow him to die. It’s his only comfort in life to die as a martyr, even though he is the wage earner of the family, and as a traitor and martyr all my worldly possessions would be forfeit to the crown and my entire family would be cast onto the streets, penniless, with nothing to their names. Death is a great joy to me, not you or any part of my dumb family.

This is why I’m no particular fan of Thomas More. He left his family destitute to prove a point to himself.

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Mary Boleyn is back! She’s back to talk about sex, sex, sex, and oh yes, sex. And for Mark Smeaton to talk about wanting to have sex with men, openly, because I’m sure that in this society he would totally do that.

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And now Charles openly declares himself to be against the Boleyns. Because reasons, I suppose.

I’m A Model, And I Do My Little Turn on the Catwalk

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I like Anne’s little snow outfit as it’s very cute. Henry’s outfit is too slim fit, still. It’s a feminised, Elizabethan style of outfit. Henry’s clothes screamed about how masculine he was – this is too Tudor androgynous, and not right for him.

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This dress is gorgeous and so out of left field. It is exactly right for the period and for Anne’s status. It has no ridiculous medieval style frills, and the sleeves are perfect. I love the rich brown, and this is easily the best outfit that Anne has worn over the two series. I don’t think we’re going to get another dress this accurate, for shame.

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Henry VIII: Pirate King.

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What the hell is that dress.

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Hideous frumpy faux medieval dress, and weird headdress. There’s a coif at the back for her hair to go in. What’s the point of having it and then having her hair tumbling down? It’s horrible.

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Nice lampshade there, Lady Brandon.

And that’s it for this week! Come back next time for more Tudor politics and horrible headdresses.

Unpicking the Tudors; S2 E1


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And we’re back for season two! There’s going to be a lot more questionable fashion choices, strange writing conundrums, and more political and theological theories of the sixteenth century! The course of this season represents some of the most monumental changes in the political makeup of England and how royal and spiritual power is implemented and received. Henry’s actions pretty much led the way to not only the English Civil War but the modern iteration of parliament and the role of government and the church in today’s world.

And there might be stuff that I miss. This is a huge, huge, huge topic, and I might not be able to get into everything or have the space to do it. I highly recommend picking up a copy of the Routledge historical biography ‘Henry VIII’ by Lucy Wooding if you want to know more. It’s a very good overview of Henry’s life and the period, and what I like about it is that it’s a very neutral look at Henry. Most of the major works on Henry were done in the sixties (Scarisbrick’s seminal autobiography is one of the most defining works on Henry) , and were influenced by a Cold War interpretations of Henry – i.e as Stalin-esque tyrant. That’s not even getting into ‘factional’ interpretations of the period, which I generally consider to be a little bit pants. Wooding’s is a brief factual overview that gives the right information as a starting point for further research, and it shows a much more nuanced look than some of the older historiography.

Right, let’s look at some nonsense.

“Everything Is Beautiful”


As he seeks the annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, King Henry VIII seeks to appoint himself the head of the Church of England. Anne Boleyn insists that Henry remove Queen Catherine from the picture – and Court. The new Pope Paul III, not wanting to displease either the king or the Emperor, practically suggests that Anne Boleyn be assassinated instead. Lutheran clergyman Thomas Cranmer, newly arrived at Court, receives a promotion as the king’s chaplain at the behest of Cromwell and the Boleyns. Thomas and George Boleyn bribe a cook to poison the food of Catherine’s strongest supporter, Bishop of Rochester John Fisher; however, the bishop survives and the cook, Richard Roose, is boiled alive. King Henry banishes the Queen from court. At the end of this episode the Spanish ambassador, Eustace Chapuys, is seen discussing the assassination of Anne with an unknown, hooded man. 

It’s true that not a lot of progression occurred from 1530 to 1532 in the annulment case – progressed stalled after the death of Wolsey – and 1532 is when a lot of major stuff starts to take place. And it allows for a budget increase and a few other changes here and there, including new characters and new opening titles.

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And I laughed and laughed and laughed.

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So I guess Thomas Wyatt is a major character now? He didn’t really add much to the show last season, but I guess he’s important now.

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Thomas Cranmer (hey look another Thomas who can go by his given name) is now in the show! He’s introduced in the official synopsis as a ‘Lutheran’ but that’s not quite true. He was an evangelical reformer, but he was opposed to the radical changes of Luther and often rejected calls for the Anglican Church to be more Protestant. But the show likes to use ‘Lutheran’ as a simple catch-all for reformers, probably because evangelical has a different religious meaning in the modern world than it did five hundred years ago.

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YES MATE. Peter O’Toole is just what this show needed, and has the correct amount of campy gravitas to really shine in this role. He’s the new Pope, Paul III, although he wasn’t Pope until 1534. Clement’s still alive, guys. Paul III oversaw a lot of actions of the Counter Reformation, but I don’t think he’s going to go past this season. They can’t pay those O’Toole bucks for too long.

Supreme Head of the Church of England

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The show is opening with Henry and Anne at prayer. I like this because it’s something that’s often lied about or flat out ignored – Henry, despite what you might thing, was a Catholic. He was a reformed Catholic, but do not call him a Protestant. He is really not.

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But he’s still too radical for a guy like Thomas More, who’s still fighting as much as he can against Henry’s political changes and changes in religion. More is against sola fide entirely, and that’s a pretty big thing.

One of the founding lynchpins of the new evangelical faiths is the idea of justification through faith alone. The Catholic idea lies in God judging you upon death, using your faith and good actions in life to decide your fate – hence, the good deeds, the penances, acts of charity, and so on. In Luther’s eyes, faith alone is the decider, and you don’t need to do anything else. God’s judgement is already decided upon your birth, and your faith should be enough. Your faith is not a cooperation with God, it’s inside you all along. It’s a private, scholarly way of worship, much more fitting for the world of the sixteenth century than, say, the thirteenth. A lot of the new faith relies on the ability to read, study, and self-reflect, a set of skills that people before the print revolution didn’t have.

Henry’s new ideas include a lot of reforms that commentators like More were interested in, but the idea of private faith is completely against what More stands for. And that’s going to be a huge problem.

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The House of Commons has brought a petition to charge the clergy with supporting a foreign power, but Henry has the perfect solution: make me head of the church, and there’s no conflict!

The idea of royal supremacy isn’t a new one. Here’s something that Henry said in 1515 that he constantly used as his justification for making himself head of the church;

By the ordinance and sufferance of God we are king of England, and the kings of England in time past have never had any superior but God alone. Wherefore know you well that we shall maintain the right of our crown and of our temporal jurisdiction as well in this point as in all others

Henry’s use of biblical arguments is linked into the idea of humanist truth; there is nothing truer than the Word of God itself, and the examples given in British law means that Henry can and should be an independent ruler with no input from outside forces like the Pope.

It’s true that Henry is using royal supremacy to get what he wants, but it’s also through a conscious care for his subjects. As king, he’s responsible for not only their physical care but their spiritual care. England needs reform, and if he’s got to create his own church to do it, he’s going to do it.

There’s more to this royal supremacy business than just wanting to get his leg over.

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The idea of English nationalism clashes with the idea of the unity of Christendom, as well as the fact that a lot of the English church is really not cool with evangelical ideas. They are not down with this if it means accepting Henry as a head of their church.

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The clergy accepts Henry as the head of the church by default. No one votes for it, but no one votes against it either.

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Cranmer is brought to court by Cromwell (even though I think his connection was through Anne, for whom he was chaplain for a while) and is elevated to chaplain instantly. He’s of a mind to work with Henry, as he created the petition that drew on the minds of the universities of Europe to support Henry. He’s key to a lot of the formation of the early Anglican church, and he’s Henry’s most long-lasting servant. Henry will even die holding onto his hand.

But it’s still early days. There’s a lot more law and debate and religion to come!

A Three-Person Marriage

Of course, while all this is going on, Henry and Katherine are still married. There’s no movement on that.

They can live as a couple, but not as a couple while Katherine still lives in the same palace. Henry can act as if progress is being made, but Anne’s position is still tenuous; after all, he could go back to Katherine or opt for a foreign princess who would probably be less contentious. After all, Margaret Tudor got her annulment that bastardised her children in 1527, why shouldn’t Henry? If his proposed marriage wasn’t to Anne, would things go quicker?

Anne is trying to live as a queen-in-waiting, which is kind of hard when the queen you’re replacing is still in residence. Thomas Wyatt, who is tormented with the knowledge that he’s Anne’s former lover, introduces Mark Smeaton to Anne. They’re flirty and do a lesson in fingering (ahahaha) and I guess Thomas is jealous? Who cares tbh.

Also you look pure Elizabethan Mark get rid of that earring

Meanwhile, Wes Bentley from American Horror Story: Freak Show, is interrupted in his delivery of linen to Katherine. It would appear that Katherine is still making Henry’s shirts. This forces things to a head – it is unacceptable for Henry to have his cake and eat it. He needs to make a clear choice between which wife is the one he wants.

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Henry presents an ultimatum to Katherine that she should leave the palace and live pretty much in retirement. She refuses, for as long as they’re married she will never leave his side.

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So Henry takes affirmative action and leaves Katherine behind. Henry has now officially left Katherine, and there’s no going back.

Also, Anne, why aren’t you sitting side-saddle? There’s no way you can comfortably sit astride in that floor length skirt.

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Katherine tries to communicate with Henry but her servant is physically attacked by Henry. There’s really, really no hope for her now.

Poor Unfortunate Souls!

Pope O’Toole is going to be more proactive with Henry’s Great Matter. He wants to restore peace in Christendom, but giving Henry what he wants will just set one power above another. But what to do to solve this problem… how about we just kill Anne Boleyn?

Well, I guess that’s a solution.

Alongside this, Thomas Boleyn is hiring the cook of Bishop Fisher to poison him. Bishop Fisher is the main opponent against the king’s new marriage, so if he were to just die, things would be better and simpler.

Yeah, because the sudden death of Anne’s most powerful critic won’t be suspicious at all. Isn’t the Duke of Norfolk going to talk you out of this? Well, no, because he’s suddenly disappeared from the show completely.

It’s super suspicious seeing as everyone but Fisher and Thomas More dies frothing at the table.

Richard Roose, the chef for Bishop Fisher, was executed for the crime of attempted poisoning of Bishop Fisher and the apparent deaths of Mr Bennet Curwen and a widow. Whether or not it was a deliberate act of poisoning I’m not entirely sure; trying to get rid of a political enemy by poisoning a pot of broth that he may or may not eat is a really inefficient way to kill someone. A lot of people still to this day say that the Boleyns or the King were behind it, but surely if Henry wanted Fisher out the way he could charge him with praemunuire like he had with Wolsey?

Just saying, there’s a lot of shit that can poison you horribly that can end up in food by accident, and that it may seem to be a deliberate act purely by timing.

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Anyway, Roose is killed by a Mel Brooks film, and that’s the end of that.

And Eustace Chapuys is secretly plotting to kill Anne. All sorts of plots are going on, presumably to liven up the more dense governmental and legal stuff that’s going on.

I’m pretty sure there’s a lot more to life than being really, really, ridiculously good looking. And I plan on finding out what that is.

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The first thing I notice about this episode is that the budget has increased. Look! Instead of that same ugly brick corridor endlessly, here’s a scene with a background and like, stuff going on! Nice.

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What’s with that nun couture, Anne? We’ll be having nun of that, thanks.

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I guess this is what they’re going for, but it doesn’t look quite right. This is also to the latter end of the decade, so these more English inspired styles aren’t quite in vogue at court yet.

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JRM appears to have dyed his hair, I think. There’s a bit more of a dark redish tint to it, but he’s still not full on ginge. Beards appear to be in these season, so it’s a sign of a more mature, serious, anti-Katherine Henry. I guess.

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Those sleeves. I can’t even. That’s pure Anglo-Saxon inspired Rohan style sleeves, nothing Tudor at all about them.

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That is some Evil Disney Queen Realness, Thomas, and I love it.

Henry, you’re looking like Edmund Blackadder because your doublet is clearly from the 1570s. This is far too fashion forward, man!

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Oh, Anne, honey, can’t you afford to repair your sleeves? Also, what’s with your ladies-in-waiting having matching uniforms? You weren’t handed a dress to wear at court, you wore your own clothing. Those dresses are shoddily constructed, too. They’re so ugly and chunky around the middle, not flattering at all.

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Those are bad puffed sleeves, gurl. You are Anne Boleyn, not Anne of Green Gables. You don’t want Leg of Mutton sleeves, although the colour of that dress is beautiful.

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GENERIC HISTORICAL COSTUMES! No hoods, no trumpet sleeves, loose and flowy robes – nothing about this says ‘Tudor’.

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What is with this dress? Why is made from corseted orange curtains from a grandma’s house in the nineties? What’s with the weird bastard combination of a 1490s headpiece and Italian jewelled hairstyles? And the weird ruff on the sleeve? The sofa people are not going to rest until they take over us all!

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Nice bejewelled earmuffs, Katherine. Make you look like a sillier version of Princess Leia.

So that’s the first episode of season two. Come back next week, costume fiends!

Unpicking the Tudors; S1 E10


This is the last episode in season one. Hasn’t time flown by? Not only in real life, but in the show. The official guide says that this episode takes place in 1530, meaning the first season has covered roughly 12 years of Henry’s life already. What a whirlwind.

The Death of Wolsey

Wolsey, now acting solely as the Archbishop of York and living in relative poverty, is repudiated by Anne Boleyn and writes to Queen Katherine instead, trying to gain her support. Thomas More uses his new powers as Chancellor and starts actively persecuting prominent Lutherans- including burning six of them at the stake, to the anger of Thomas Cromwell. King Henry finds his new Privy Counsellors less proficient than Wolsey was in running the country; he threatens to reinstate the Cardinal, spurring Norfolk and Suffolk to find a way to ‘end’ Wolsey. Henry has also found elements much to his liking in the teachings of Luther, and dispatches Cromwell to canvass various European faculties of theology, hopefully to obtain favourable opinions regarding his intended divorce. Wolsey’s secret communication with the Queen is uncovered by Cromwell, and he is arrested by Charles Brandon and charged with high treason. His fall from grace now complete, Wolsey laments his decadent lifestyle and commits suicide in a jail cell en route to London. Anne Boleyn engages Henry in a sexual encounter, but forces him to perform coitus interruptus after which a furious Henry storms off.

As a season premiere, I found it to be a bit disappointing. There’s a lot of tension with the characters that aren’t Henry/Katherine/Anne, and for them it’s built up to a point where it feels dramatic and that it’s going somewhere, but it doesn’t feel like the end of the series for Henry. That storyline sort of ends like a damp fart.

When Can We Get Married?

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The episode starts on a classy note: Henry masturbating while thinking of Anne. This is not something I ever wanted to think about Henry doing, and this ignores the fact that onanism is a sin. Naughty naughty, Henry.

He also makes it seem really, really difficult to do? Like, man, if it’s that hard to do, you might have a problem.

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Henry is now being seduced by the wicked ideas of Lutheranism – even though, Lutheranism doesn’t exist as a solid ideal yet, and it’s used more as just an insult for those who follow the ideas of Luther. Henry is surprised to discover that the Pope is not in scripture and that the King is a representative of God on Earth.

Okay. Those two ideas shouldn’t be brand new to Henry. These were very common and well-known political thoughts, the big deal is that now Henry is changing his political and religious outlook to incorporate and champion them.

The return to the original scripture and the removal of the Pope as the head of the Church as it’s not in the original texts of the Bible? An idea kicked around by reforming Humanists. It’s also an idea that gained popularity in England prior to this point during the development of English nationalism. The idea of ‘England’ as a political entity and thing to be patriotic in starts gaining traction in the late fifteenth century and that ties into developing ideas of removing all foreign input in England.

That the King is a representative of God on Earth? Well, duh, that’s part of the Great Chain of Being. The Great Chain is the societal system put in place by God to rule Earth. Like there is a hierarchy in Heaven, there is a hierarchy on Earth. And the King is firmly at the top. The coronation is the symbol of that; a King or Queen is anointed to symbolise their role as given to them by God. They are chosen by God as his representative to the peoples of their kingdom; their rule is a sacred duty as given to them directly by God. There is no way that Henry would not be aware of this – it’s the system that dictates his whole life. The new idea is that he has power over the spiritual lives of his subjects, not just the temporal lives.

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Look at Anne being all evil. Yeah, Henry, get off on that philosophy.

Henry showers Thomas Boleyn with honours – he’s now Earl of Wiltshire and Ormonde – but he tasks him with arguing to the Emperor and the Pope on their behalf. Him and Anne then proceed to suck face copiously in public. How classy.

It’s clear that the pressure of not being physically together is getting to Henry.

After humping for a bit in the woods, Anne reminds him that they can’t really have full sex just yet. Henry runs off and screams at Anne. And this is how the episode ends, FYI. Kind of a damp squib.

The Sending of Cardinal Wolsey to Hell

The real interesting dynamic of the episode is what’s happening to Wolsey.

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Wolsey might be down, but he’s not out. He’s not one to stop scheming, and he’s now trying to use a vague promise made by Anne to get back to court.

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Meanwhile, Thomas Cromwell is working to push out Wolsey entirely. He suggests that rather than take a legal route (as the main thrust of the Great Matter was based on the legality of a dispensation given to permit Henry and Katherine to marry), Henry ought to present theological arguments instead. Universities and theologians across Europe could present the strongest arguments possible and prove that there is widespread support for the annulment of Henry’s marriage.

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Meanwhile, the new Privy council is not doing so well. In fact, they’re doing so badly that Henry is threatening to reinstate Wolsey. After all, he managed to deal with it all and never complain about how hard it all was!

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But unfortunately for Henry, there’s a scheme a-brewing. Wolsey is now declaring for Katherine, and is sneaking around writing letters to the Pope and the Emperor. If the Pope demands that Henry return to Katherine, the Emperor threaten action, and then Wolsey can be back as Chancellor!

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The edict arrives at court, but it’s unlikely to change Henry’s mind. A huge majority of universities across Europe (aside from Spain) have declared for Henry and written their arguments down and sent them on over.

And the plot is revealed. Wolsey was charged with treason on the basis of letters to the Pope, but it’s more of a sign of Henry’s anger with the Church and his need to send a message.

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Wolsey quotes about his ‘greyhairs’ which is reputedly what he actually said about his arrest. What happens next is not what happened. (Well, one chronicler implies it, but it didn’t happen.)

The image is a bit NSFW so watch out! It’s a bit grisly, so skip over the image if it’s too much.

 

 

 

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Wolsey didn’t commit suicide. He was an old, broken man. Faced with the prospect of being executed for treason when all you’ve ever done is served your king? No wonder he got ill and died.

This scene is beautifully contrasted with scenes depicting the famous masque ‘The Sending of Cardinal Wolsey to Hell’.

This really happened, and was quite notable for people thinking it was very shameless and in poor taste.

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Henry is told of the Cardinal’s demise, and seems genuinely hurt and upset. He orders the matter to be hushed up, and Wolsey buried honourably. Well, as honourably as he can be in the circumstances.

The Reformation Begins

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Henry orders his new privy council to start looking at matters concerning the church and things that need a generalised reform. This is about as much we’re getting on the matter of parliament, which is a shame. There’ll be more on it next season, and I’ll get to talk about the foundation of parliamentary power.

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However, things can’t really happen with More as chancellor. He is stridently against all reforms of any kind (which is not really what he stood for in real life, but there are no shades of grey in this show) and he’s going to do what he can to ensure that nothing at all changes in England.

He rounds up Simon Fish – the author of the work that so inspired Henry earlier – and is very happy to watch the poor guy get burned alive.

Thomas More is a saint in the Anglican Church. I have no idea why when he took such personal interest and apparent joy in punishing reformers whose ideas led to the foundation of the Anglican Church.

I don’t like Thomas More.

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Henry is now starting to purge the clergy of those who stood with Wolsey and Katherine, and there’s a Bill before Parliament proposing that the King is above the law. The times, they are a-changin’.

Fashionnn

There wasn’t a lot of bad fashion this episode, which was nice. The only two things I questioned were both worn by Anne, who continues to wear awful, awful clothes.

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The dress is another example of one that’s been made to be just ‘generally historical’ rather than actually belonging to any particular time or style. The little medieval-ly rolls on the shoulders are particularly obnoxious. The hoods on the maids are actually rather accurate.

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The hoods are very similar to this Hans Holbein sketch (which has been later labelled as Anne Boleyn, but it’s doubtful that it’s her).

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There’s no point in looking so proud, Anne, that dress is wrong and gross.

That’s the first season, costume fiends. Hopefully I’ll start looking at season two next week and we’ll start talking about even more political theory and bad fashion.

Unpicking the Tudors; S1 E9


Hello, costume fiends! Things are heating up in the show, and I might start getting into a few legal discussions, matters of theology, stuff like that. It’s been a while since my studies into the Henrican Reformation, but it’s truly fascinating stuff. The legal battle surrounding Henry’s annulment, and later the supremacy of English law, formed the basis for English parliament and the founding principles of many notions of government and self-rulership that still play an important role in the governments of many countries around the world.

It’s serious stuff, yo.

Look to God First

The legatine trial on the legitimacy of King Henry’s marriage to Katherine continues despite the queen’s refusal to attend, but the papal envoy receives notice to return to Rome and place the evidence to the judgement of the Curia. The Pope procrastinates and Henry, goaded by the conspirators Thomas Boleyn, the Duke of Norfolk and Charles Brandon, strips Wolsey of his temporal power and properties, bans him from court and instructs him to resume his now sole role as Archbishop of York. Thomas More reluctantly succeeds Wolsey as Chancellor of the realm. Anne Boleyn, encouraged by her ally Thomas Cromwell (the King’s secretary), subtly and opportunely asks the king to reacquaint himself with the subject of Lutheranism. Margaret Tudor dies of tuberculosis, and her widower Charles Brandon shows repentance for his infidelity at her deathbed.

In the Criminal Justice System, There are Two Distinct Branches – The King and the Cardinals. These are Their Stories.

In a classy fashion, the trial is now debating whether or not Arthur (Henry’s deceased elder brother who had been married to Katherine) and Katherine had sex.

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Ha, ha, sex. Let’s ignore the fact that Henry’s case was based on scriptural arguments and theology and make it all a thing of hilarity. Speaking of historiography, historians are divided on whether or not Katherine and Arthur had sex. Speaking as a historian myself, I think they probably didn’t. Katherine was a pious woman and she swore that they didn’t. I’m not someone who likes to doubt a woman’s word, if I’m honest. She said she was a virgin, and I believe her. Arthur and her were two sheltered fifteen year olds who could barely speak to each other and he died very quickly. I doubt that they had sex, even if I think that Henry probably had a valid case under canon law (in more friendly times).

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Henry is confident that he’ll win the case and he just wants to show Anne off to everyone. He wants everyone to look at her and just want to fuck her but they can’t because she’s Henry’s.

Henry is so unpleasant in this show. He is just characterised in an incredibly unpleasant way, a sleazy, selfish, childish way that I think is unbecoming of the real life king. There are many bad things about Henry, true, but portraying him as a gross, stupid, slimeball was a bad choice all round.

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Meanwhile, at Blackfriars, Bishop Fisher says he will put his life on the line to defend the marriage of Henry and Katherine. Like John the Baptist protesting against the tyrant Herod. So, you know, go big or go home.

Henry responds to this like a mature adult.

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Lol, jokes, he screams in Katherine’s face and has a temper tantrum at Anne.

I’M THE KING OF ENGLAND! I’M THE KING OF ENGLAND! the powerless child keeps screaming.

Henry then decides to threaten Campeggio.

‘God forbid the Pope should ever turn his back on me.’

Henry, look at his face. I really don’t think cheap threats are really going to help you here.

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Campeggio, who was under orders to delay the trial anyway, decides to put it into recess until October. Pope Clement has heard of Katherine’s plea and he’s now pulled authority of the case back to Rome. I’m sure that Henry’s blatant threats didn’t really help matters.

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Uh uh. No go show. You don’t get to throw around a word that carries such weight so casually. Not only would an educated and refined renaissance man not use this insult so casually in a public arena to a fellow member of the church, I don’t like words like this getting thrown around for simple shock value. It adds nothing but just makes me dislike the showrunner and creator even more.

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Anne, while dressed in a truly hideous riding habit, suggests that Henry looks to Luther and his followers who advocate that Kings have more power in their realm than the Pope.

Okay. There are issues with this. For a start, Luther did not advocate anything of the sort. Martin Luther thought that Henry was just assuming the authority of the Pope and did not approve of anything. It is true that royal supremacy developed from the writings of Tyndale and Simon Fish, but they did not approve of Henry’s actions either. It is wrong, and highly teleological, to suppose that Henry’s ideas of royal supremacy come from evangelical religious ideas. Many of Henry’s ideas developed from renaissance humanism and from studies conducted by scholars such as Erasmus into the original Hebrew and Greek writings of the Old Testament. And further to this, Henry didn’t start publicly advocating for royal supremacy over church matters in England until late 1530 and 1531.

And I’m guessing that the show isn’t going to depict anything to do with the Reformation Parliament, which would be in session until 1536 and lay out much of the documentation and laws that supported the break from Rome.

TLDR; Henry was a Catholic Humanist, so his critiques of Papal authority were longstanding and didn’t have much to do with Martin Luther. The show is using ‘Lutheranism’ (which wasn’t officially a positive term or religion until the very last years of the sixteenth century) as a catch all for evangelical thought, which is the more accurate term for the new thinking sweeping Europe at this time.

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Henry has a DRAMATIC REVELATION while reading this… book in the middle of a conveniently dramatic thunderstorm. Oh my gosh, this line of thought that I already knew about is so shocking to me!

The Fall of Wolsey

This goes hand in hand with the fall of Wolsey, which is full of needless dramatic extras.

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Wolsey is desperate to find an easy solution to the King’s Great Matter. Katherine won’t buy it because Wolsey caused this annulment all because Charles V stood against him and wouldn’t make him Pope.

Gurl, what you on? It was the French cardinals who turned on Wolsey, not Charles. Henry’s been discussing leaving you since 1519/1520 so don’t act like it’s all Wolsey’s doing.

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Wolsey is still working on securing England’s position in Europe, so he’s sending Thomas More to peace talks between France, the Holy Roman Empire, and the Pope. Thomas More should remind them of their obligations to England and make sure that no accords are reached, as that would put England in a really terrible position.

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The failure of the Blackfriars trial has put Wolsey in a tenuous position. Charles ‘The Idiot’ Brandon steps forward and hisses that ‘good has never been done in England while there are cardinals’ and I call nonsense. Charles, because of Wolsey’s intervention you weren’t punished by Henry for sleeping with his sister, and historically, you supported Henry’s ecclesiastical policy. Like many English nobles, Brandon did not agree with Papal authority, so that animosity is true, but there is no benefit to attacking Wolsey for a matter that is out of his hands.

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Meanwhile, More was a smug asshole and ruined the peace talks. So now England is vulnerable but I guess his precious principles are intact.

I don’t like Thomas More. I don’t know whether you can tell.

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And Henry rejects Wolsey. In the show, it’s presented as a win for the Boleyn faction and as if Henry personally detests Wolsey. This is not so; Henry did not bear any animosity for Wolsey personally. This is a political message, not a win for Anne. Wolsey is the representation of the Pope in England – by casting him down and making him powerless, it’s a clear symbol of Henry’s distaste for the Pope’s judgement and slowness in responding to the trial. It’s also a sign of Wolsey as a servant to Henry, not a grand manipulator and twister of events. He’s failed Henry, so Henry has effectively fired him.

This is political. It’s not personal. It’s about the Pope, not about the rise and fall of factions.

Wolsey is arrested on charges of praemunire (and the pronunciation makes me wince) which is a uniquely English law. It’s about prohibiting an alien jurisdiction of supremacy in England, so it’s pretty much another way of attacking the Pope (and it’s always been used as such since it’s introduction in 1392). But the chuckleheads at court are laughing at him so HAHA WOLSEY.

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Wolsey begs Cromwell for help, only for him to reject. Even though Cromwell worked for Wolsey, not Henry, at this point.

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And now More is chancellor and highest man in England. Prepare to fail with this guy, Henry.

Keeping Up with the Brandons

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Mary is dying because she has the bloody cough o’death. Yes, that old staple. It’s amazing how this is the first sign she’s noticed, considering all the other symptoms that TB has. She’s not had: weight loss, fever, night sweats, extreme tiredness, pain, dizziness, or confusion. She’s managed to bypass all those symptoms, and go for the only one that is best for a show made by people who don’t seem to understand subtlety.

I’m fairly sure that people with TB don’t die having a fit in a pool of their own blood. I’m also confused as to how Mary contracted TB. It’s a disease of poverty, overcrowding, and malnutrition, things that Mary is certainly not a victim of. She also isn’t meant to die for another four years, but the show didn’t really have any plans for this character because she meant nothing and added nothing to the ongoing plot.

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Charles announces Mary’s death of ‘consumption’, which is a Victorian term for the disease. He also attends the funeral, even though spouses didn’t attend funerals at this point in time and they were often same-gender affairs. But, hey, drama, stuff. I guess Charles will feel bad for being an awful person now.

Let Your Body Move to the Music 

I hate your high collars Henry, especially when your courtiers are dressed better than you.

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Mantillas won’t exist until the end of the sixteenth century, and peineta will not exist until the nineteenth century. They’re famously Spanish, but they really don’t exist as part of Spanish national culture until they’re popularised by Isabella II. 

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I hate that dress and headdress, and Henry’s outfit is pure Elizabethan. That wouldn’t be out of place in the 1580s and 1590s. It is so not 1520s.

Add some brighter colours and a few more jewels, and this is what they should really look like.

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What’s with all that super obvious stitching? Look, Tudor clothing was tied together, but not like this. The bodice, skirt, and sleeves of elaborate court dresses were separate items brought together, but no high-fashion woman would walk around with their ties out like this. It looks cheap and peasanty, and I hate that it’s used as a visual sign of ‘HISTORYNESS’ in cheap period dramas. It looks awful.

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NO PRINTED FABRICS.

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hey look Henry is now in with the evil faction so i guess he’s wearing all black now. Such meaning such symbolism. Also, Anne, your dress is awful. It’s nothing to do with the times, it’s just a generic period dress that comes from no time and says nothing.

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Good looking Tudor dresses aren’t hard, if you put effort and funding into your costume department.

And that’s it for this week. Next week is the last episode of the season, and I expect that the show will come to a satisfying ending with the maturity and depth I’ve come to anticipate from this show.

Spoilers; I’m sure something insulting happens to Wolsey.

Unpicking the Tudors; S1 E8


I was feeling rather ill when I complied my notes so they are not up to my usual standards. My fashion section is going to be a lot shorter than usual, but rest assured that I found the episode to be full of the usual level of weirdness.

“Truth and Justice”
The Pope’s legate Cardinal Lorenzo Campeggio arrives to hear the case for King Henry VIII’s divorce from Katherine of Aragon. Cardinal Wolsey intimidates Campeggio: “Let me make certain things plain to you. If you do not grant the King his divorce, papal authority in England will be annihilated!” Wolsey has assured Henry that the divorce will be granted, but the Pope and Campeggio are not so easily swayed. A desperate Wolsey begs Queen Katherine to abdicate the marriage, but she ultimately refuses. Wolsey’s enemies circle; Anne Boleyn plants more doubt in Henry’s mind about Wolsey, who soon threatens Campeggio both physically and politically. A Legatine Court convenes at Blackfriar’s Church, and both Henry and Katherine plead their cases.

Most of the episode is very solidly focused on the build up to the trial at Blackfriars, so there’s not a lot of sideplots this week. There’s a little going on in some side characters, but the focus is rightly on the ongoing drama with Henry and Katherine.

  • Blackfriars
  • Thomas Tallis
  • Charles and Mary

Real People, Real Stories, This is Judge Campeggio

The episode opens with Henry and Katherine sitting down for a portrait together, which is kind of bizarre because everyone knows they’re splitting up. Portraits take a long time so… why are you getting this portrait done, Henry? What’s the point?

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When you know your scales and your Campeggios…

Campeggio arrives in England and is not too enthused by the prospect of actually making a judgement on the case. It’s pretty clear that he’s been told to delay the trial until Henry gets frustrated and fed up, and Wolsey picks it up. He screams and threatens Campeggio that he will be ANNIHILATED – I mean, that papal authority in England will be annihilated, and may switch over to the new reformed faiths.

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Campeggio talks to Henry and suggests that like the wife of Louis XII (who I mentioned last week, coincidentally) was persuaded to join a convent, Katherine might take the same path. Joan actually founded a very famous order, Order of the Sisters of the Annunciation of Mary (that still exist), and is a saint, so there are worse fates available for Katherine. Katherine is very pious, so Henry is positive, but Wolsey is a little bit more apprehensive.

Wolsey goes and begs on his knees for Katherine to take the offer and have everything over and done with. Katherine is, ha de ha, having nun of it.

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Things are definitely awkward in the royal household. Let’s take a minute to talk about Tudor food! For a start, Tudor food didn’t come in courses. Now, we have three to five courses, but this is actually a Russian idea from the nineteenth century. For Henry, everything would be served at once. There would be a selection of dishes presented for the King and Queen in private dining, both sweet and savoury, and they would select from them. There were no forks – you would eat with a spoon, knife, and your fingers, with a napkin on your shoulder to wipe. This amount of fresh fruit is doubtful, as many fresh fruits were considered either medicinal or dangerous in their natural forms (although how widespread this idea was I find dubious, as I’m pretty sure that people still ate frickin’ apples and strawberries as is).

For a more comedic and slightly more detailed look at eating styles in the sixteenth century, the Supersizers go Elizabethan is a pretty good look at it.

Away from all the main drama, Cromwell has found a way to smuggle The Obedience of the Christian Man by William Tyndale to Anne. It advocates that the king of a country was the head of that country’s church, rather than the Pope, and is the first instance in the English language of advocating the divine right of kings.

I’m very annoyed by this. Anne Boleyn is remarkable and well-known for her intelligence and interest in theological and philosophical writings of the sixteenth century. She was highly educated and she is known (maybe falsely, maybe not) for introducing Henry to thought and works that led to the English Reformation. But LOL no Anne had to be led into this by Cromwell because silly wimmins can’t think for themselves!

Sigh.

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Wolsey is now straight up attacking people in corridors, and has to reveal the news that the Pope would let Anne’s children be legitimised, but no marriage for Henry.

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Meanwhile, Henry and Katherine must live out their normal lives. It’s weird and awkward and Henry has the nerve to call Katherine ‘heartless and selfish’. Dude, low blow.

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Especially when you spend the next day frolicking in bed with your girlfriend. While Henry is otherwise engaged, Anne suggests that Wolsey might be working against him and POOF! That’s it. That’s all it took. No grand manipulations, no working at it, she just suggests it and Henry is immediately suspicious.

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I think Wolsey might be evil, Charles, because my girlfriend said so when I had my head in her crotch.

Arguments and defence teams are being drawn up. Bishop Fisher is standing with Katherine, saying that the length of the marriage invalidates the invalid dispensation and that the Pope should just issue another one. For Henry, Francis I suggests that Henry take a more active role and dispense with Wolsey’s help altogether. After all, the Kings of France had free investiture and a lot more power over the authority of the church in their realm.

While Wolsey continues to lose his shit and randomly attack people all over the shop, the secret cabal against Wolsey plans their winning move. They’re going to release an inflammatory pamphlet!

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It’s finally court day, and it’s a very rowdy day. The citizens of London are out in force and they’re very vocal in their OOOOOHS and AAAAAAHHHSSS. Also, we don’t use gavels in England. We just don’t have ’em.

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I have the most powerful political weapon on Earth – a Change.Org petition!

Henry opens up proceedings with the fact that all the churchmen of England agree that the marriage is invalid and have written a petition and arguments saying so. After all, it’s not him arguing for an annulment – it’s the people of England!

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Katherine, on the other hand, appeals directly to the heart. This really happened; other than arguing to the judges, she went on her knees before Henry and made an emotional plea to him on the basis of twenty years of marriage. Then she swept out of the court room like a true bad b*itch and refused to come back as the court was invalid.

Because they changed a few words around in the speech (mostly to cast shade at Wolsey for being evil), here’s what Katherine said. Her speech was recorded and replicated, most notably in Shakespeare’s Henry VIII. It’s the only thing of worth from that play.

“Sir, I beseech you for all the love that hath been between us, and for the love of God, let me have justice. Take of me some pity and compassion, for I am a poor woman, and a stranger born out of your dominion. I have here no assured friends, and much less impartial counsel…

Alas! Sir, wherein have I offended you, or what occasion of displeasure have I deserved?… I have been to you a true, humble and obedient wife, ever comfortable to your will and pleasure, that never said or did any thing to the contrary thereof, being always well pleased and contented with all things wherein you had any delight or dalliance, whether it were in little or much. I never grudged in word or countenance, or showed a visage or spark of discontent. I loved all those whom ye loved, only for your sake, whether I had cause or no, and whether they were my friends or enemies. This twenty years or more I have been your true wife and by me ye have had divers children, although it hath pleased God to call them out of this world, which hath been no default in me…

When ye had me at first, I take God to my judge, I was a true maid, without touch of man. And whether it be true or no, I put it to your conscience. If there be any just cause by the law that ye can allege against me either of dishonesty or any other impediment to banish and put me from you, I am well content to depart to my great shame and dishonour. And if there be none, then here, I most lowly beseech you, let me remain in my former estate… Therefore, I most humbly require you, in the way of charity and for the love of God – who is the just judge – to spare me the extremity of this new court, until I may be advised what way and order my friends in Spain will advise me to take. And if ye will not extend to me so much impartial favour, your pleasure then be fulfilled, and to God I commit my cause!”

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And Henry is now fully against Wolsey. Like a shifty eyed dog.

I Ain’t Afraid of No Ghost

Thomas Tallis is determined to marry one of the Fucking Girls. I don’t know why.

The only problem is that she’s insane and sees the image of her dead sister following her. I have no idea why this storyline is happening.

Keeping Up With the Brandons

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Mary and Charles live in squalor and misery because Charles keeps sleeping around. Mary hates him and hates going to court because she doesn’t approve of Anne and Henry. Charles hates Wolsey because he was told to. This storyline is really going well, I see.

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Charles outright asks the Queen of France (Claude is dead, guys, she’s really dead by this point) to sleep with him. Yeah, because that would happen. She turns him down because his soul is dead or something.

The Puffed Sleeves – They’re Severe Up In Here.

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Yas, short trunks! Yas! There’s far too many long trunks in this show.

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I like the bodice, but the hat, sleeves, and flatness of the skirt makes me think seventeenth/eighteenth century rather than sixteenth. I don’t like the dress, but it’s so generic ‘this is historical’ that it doesn’t really belong to any period.

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Ah, Mary, my sister, how was the English Civil War? I see you brought an outfit back from the 1650s.

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Stop sniffing her. It’s weird.

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I don’t think this outfit is particularly accurate, but I really like it. There’s something very militaristic, very uniform like, that works as armour that reflects Katherine’s feelings of being attacked and needing to defend herself. It’s a classy highclass outfit that definitely sets her aside from Anne and her ilk.

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Claude is dead and so is her fashion sense.

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Starched ruffs aren’t going to be a thing for another thirty years or so. Wolsey, attack that man as a time invader!

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TRUMPET SLEEVES! AT LAST! AT LAST KATHERINE LOOKS LIKE A TRUE AND ACCURATE QUEEN!

And that’s it for this week. Come back next time for more historical shenanigans.

Unpicking the Tudors; S1 E6


Good day, costume fiends. Life distracted me from watching this hot garbage but I have now returned for ‘True Love’.

As King Henry gains in confidence, his displeasure with the way the Catholic church handles his request for an annulment of his marriage to Katherine of Aragon grows. As a result, Cardinal Wolsey’s position is weakening, leaving him vulnerable to his enemies. Having restored Henry’s former alliance with the French King Francis, Wolsey attempts to convene a conclave of the Cardinals in France, beyond the reach of Emperor Charles’ influence, to decide on the matter. But the Cardinals refuse to come- on orders from the Pope, who remains the Emperor’s captive. In return for securing his return to court and reconciliation with the King, Charles Brandon makes a reluctant alliance with the Duke of Norfolk and the Boleyn family.

I am continually annoyed that the show conflates ‘annulment’ with ‘divorce’. This is a common problem and it frustrates me in real life too. Henry did not, nor ever, seek a divorce from Katherine of Aragon. Divorce means the marriage took place. He wanted a clean break, an annulment. If his first marriage took place, then his daughter would still be legitimate and would cause problems in the future if there were issues with his, well, issue from his only true marriage.

I am also pleased to announce that Netflix has stopped putting an ugly timebar in my pictures. Hooray!

It’s A Love Story for the Ages

Henry and Anne’s relationship continues, despite a lack of chemistry between the leads. Natalie Dormer is very good in her role, especially considering that I believe it was one of her first professional acting roles. But watching JRM slobber all over her face in false sensuality is really off-putting. There are literally hundreds of actors who could have done a better job as Henry. I have no idea why him.

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Anne is reading from one of Henry’s love letters (which survive, incidentally, to this day. They’re in the Vatican but they’re published if you know where to find them) and her father is glad because now they can destroy Wolsey. Why? Because ‘he stands between them and everything’. Between you and what? One of you is Duke of Norfolk, the other is a Knight of the Garter and esteemed diplomat. What the fuck do you actually want? What is your motivation?

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Anne comes back to court and tries to inexpertly persuade Henry from dealing with Wolsey. He laughs off her input, because why wouldn’t he, she is not a politician or diplomat, and then slobbers on her face. Hawt.

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Katherine is growing aware of Henry’s interest in Anne, although until later in this episode no one has actually told her what’s happening and she has not witnessed a single interaction between Anne and Henry. I’d like to point out that Anne, whilst being depicted as Katherine’s lady-in-waiting, actually served Mary Tudor, Dowager Queen of France, not Katherine. Henry was not stupid enough to have his mistress physically serving his wife. Apart from his relationship with Mary Boleyn, but the point still stands.

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Henry then whisks Anne away for a romantic picnic to his annoying courtier’s estates. His annoying courtier is William Compton. Who is from Warwickshire. So, Henry and Anne manage to quickly travel nearly a hundred miles for a short meal and then travel all the way back to central London over the course of three or four hours.

England is bigger than you think it is. Still small, but distances are still the same amount of size.

It’s the olden days so OFC they have a pig roasting away there. Because all people did five hundred years ago was shovel meat into their faces constantly.

On their return, Henry acknowledges Anne in front of the whole court, announcing their intent to be together, married, have a coffee machine together, etc, etc. This is front of Katherine, who is not pleased, and then Henry makes a big deal about how much he loves Anne’s neck.

It’s dramatic because it’s ironic. Because her head gets cut off. By an axe through the neck. Hurr hurr.

And then Katherine decides to shut this down, gurl. Because no matter how clever Anne is, how beautiful she is, how hard she works, Katherine is a born princess and queen. Henry’s affection will fade, and Anne will be out of favour just as soon as she was in it.

Poor Unfortunate Souls! Go Ahead, Make Your Choice

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With the Pope otherwise indisposed, Wolsey can make some moves. He will call a conclave of Cardinals, assume authority, and make a ruling on Henry’s marriage. This will be done with the sort-of help/approval of Francis, as Henry and Francis are signing another peace treaty.

Henry demands that Thomas Wyatt attend as well. Because he hates Wyatt and surely a poet will be great at a diplomatic negotiation. In real life, Wyatt was sent in 1527 to petition the Pope on the matter of the King’s marriage and he may have been captured by Charles V as well as the Pope. But IDK I guess Henry is just being an idiot here.

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Meanwhile, Katherine is conspiring with the Emperor because herpderp Wolsey is evil and no one can have anything but the shallowest characterisation and motivations. Gurl, gurl, let’s talk, gurl. You worked in the past as an ambassador for Spain and have close ties to the Emperor. Why wouldn’t he read your letters? The fact that you are conspiring is proof that he’s doing the right thing!

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Thomas More is all blandly shocked and horrified by Wolsey because he’s this naive, unworldy man who is confused and hurt by everything around him. I have no idea why they’ve decided on this depiction of More. I get that he’s a saint and Catholic martyr, but he wasn’t devoid of sin or drive or intelligence.

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Also, I wanted to draw attention to this lamp. See the candle surrounded by glass lenses? Completely accurate. Someone actually did some thoughtful research.

Wolsey signs another peace treaty with the French (boo hiss Thomas More disapproves!) but as he mentions possibly making peace with the Emperor, Francis shuts him down and ensures that Wolsey’s conclave is a failure.

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Back in England, the Boleyns have been moving. They’ve sent two petitions to the Pope, allowing for Henry to marry Anne even though he slept with her sister (consanguinity, a no-no in the Catholic church), or failing that, to be married to both Katherine and Anne. Wolsey is furious because he recognises that just sending them off without any diplomacy or process is heckin’ stupid.

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Furious, Wolsey lashes out at More. If More will not stand with him, then he is an enemy. More self-righteously proclaims that as he is a spiritual man, he clearly has the high ground, Anakin.

This has left Wolsey blind to his real enemy, however.

A Cabal of Undefined Motivation

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Thomas Boleyn has been working away and has discovered that Wolsey has been making a lot of money. When posts in England are left vacant, Wolsey has been neglecting appointing new priests etc and collecting the revenues for himself. This is bad because only Henry can do that! I do mean that literally. A similar system is how Henry himself gathers revenues, by collecting the revenues from ‘wards’ (heirs to estates that are too young to inherit) and purposefully not giving them the estates once they come of age.

And why do you have an astrolabe and two sandtimers on your desk? How are they helping your schemes?

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The only thing to do is find the right way to present this to Henry. As Charles Brandon is out of favour, he will leap at the chance to bring down Wolsey and ingratiate himself with Henry. Yeah, even though Wolsey was instrumental in securing Henry’s favour for your marriage. Weak, Charles. Very weak.

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THE RITUAL HAS BEGUN.

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Boleyn gets Charles brought back to court. Henry talks about how good Charles’s tongue is while his friend is kneeling in front of him. Uh, phrasing.

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The dispute is settled with an armwrestle. Fucking ridiculous.

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It all means that Wolsey now has a new influence to battle at court – Anne. He is no longer Henry’s right-hand man.

Sexuality – Eat and Drink and Sleep With Me

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Compton is in love with Tallis, but Tallis is called to wherever Wolsey sends him. I would like to see more focus on this relationship, but there is very little given to it. They do not touch or even kiss, aside from the once, as if having the two men in a relationship interact intimately or affectionately would be somehow distasteful.

This is while this is happening.

George Boleyn meets up with the women who serve no purpose other than to come onto people and they have a threesome. He calls them ‘maids of honour’ which creeps me out as that implies they are unmarried girls of fourteen years and under so EW, but the fact that this show can have two female characters who only are there to have naughty sexy times with men and each other while two men in a relationship can’t even be depicted as touching is annoying and a little bit homophobic. Women being sexy is fine, because it’s naughty and sexy and they only do it to entice and please men. However, no one wants to see two men touching.

The women are recreating a famous sixteenth century painting called Gabrielle d’Estrées et une de ses soeurs.

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It depicts Gabrielle d’Estrée and her sister nude, and interpretations range from it being about lesbianism (which is a weird interpretation, unless we want to imply that lesbians are weird and incestuous) or that it’s about Gabrielle announcing her pregnancy with the illegitimate child of Henri IV of France (as she’s holding his coronation ring and the maid in the background is sewing what is possibly a layette). Either way, it’s from 1594 and has nothing to do with Henry VIII’s court.

Either way, I’m disappointed that two gay men cannot be affectionate and intimate but George Boleyn can have a threesome with two sisters who are implied by casual dialogue (with complete ignorance by the writers) to be prepubescent girls.

Do My Little Turn on the Catwalk

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Printed fabrics weren’t around in England until the 1630s. And black and white patterns? Not fashionable until much later in the century, as they were the Protestant colours that symbolised the purity and nobility of Elizabeth I. Henry VIII would not be seen in this kind of get up, mainly because this kind of fashion was simply not around at the time.

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The colours and cut are so hugely, massively different. The slimmer cut from later in the 16th century favours the physique of JRM but does not match the styles of the later 1520s or the body shape of the genuine Henry VIII. He was a big, wide, athletic man. The styles he wore reflected that.

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Look, if Francis’s son – who will never be seen again – can be right, why can’t Henry?

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While Charles is wearing the ‘leather biker jacket of despair’, Mary appears to have become one with the sofa people.

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‘Hello, I am wearing the sexy serving wench outfit the producers ordered off Amazon.com…’

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While Anne is apparently getting her accessories from Claires, these guys are looking great! Love the colours, love the furs, love that people are actually wearing hats for once. If the costumes for the extras are right, why not for the main cast?

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Where are your sleeves, Henners? Doesn’t matter if you’ve got to show off dese muskets, you’re going to sweat all over your doublet and ruin it.

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This look is a bit of a mish-mash for me. I like the colour combination, that’s really beautiful, and the bodice and skirt look far more accurate than most other things. However, she’s got a really weird frickin’ headdress on top of her head. Like, cheap Princess outfit level of tacky headdress. I get that it looks sort of crown-ish, but ugh, it’s terrible. Do not like.

Come back for more plotholes, inconsistency, and the growing power of the sofa people. Don’t trust them, for they are absorbing many.

 

 

Unpicking the Tudors; S1 E5


Welcome back, my costume fiends.

This week, we’re looking at ‘Arise, My Lord’.

Henry is displeased to learn that the Emperor Charles V, Queen Katherine’s nephew, has released King Francis of France from prison and is forced to look for a foreign ally elsewhere. Meanwhile Katherine’s alliance with Charles intensifies as does her hatred of Wolsey. Anne Boleyn turns down the king’s proposal that she be the royal mistress, demanding nothing less than being declared queen.

This episode sees more progression in the Henry and Anne relationship, as well as some serious Wolsey drama going down. After launching the series with episodes crammed full with just about as much stuff as they could get, the amount of action is starting to simmer down a little and focus more closely on character and development. There are still quite a few problems, however, so let’s dive in.

A Love Story for the Ages

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Because Henry makes all his decisions with his penis, he’s chosen to grant Thomas Boleyn the title of ‘Lord Richford’. He became Viscount Rochford on the 18th June 1525, but it may have been completely unrelated to Henry’s pursuit of Anne. Thomas Boleyn was an esteemed statesman and diplomat in his own right, so the two events could be completely disconnected. After all, Bessie Blount’s family wasn’t awarded grand titles.

Henry continues his pursuit of Anne and she sends him the equivalent of a saucy snapchat – a miniature. This is based on the incredibly famous portrait, of course, the only time that you’ll see Natalie Dormer in accurate period clothing. This sexy little picture is just too much for Henry to cope with, and he immediately rides from White Hall all the way to Kent in a couple of minutes.

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Henry simply must have Anne and demands that she become his official mistress. He names the official title for the royal mistress at the French court, a position that has never existed in the English court. There have been plenty of royal mistresses, but never ones formally recognised.

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However, Anne refuses. She will not be his mistress, she will only be his wife – and Queen.

In terms of historiography, this is a bit of a minefield. There are plenty of historians on either side – whether Anne was genuinely in love with Henry, or whether she/her family was ambitious and wanted to rise up through making Anne queen. Personally, I think it’s a little ridiculous to believe that the daughter of a courtier and her family would presume that they could manipulate one of the most powerful men in Europe into being their pawn. There was absolutely no precedent in history or in culture of a King casting aside his wife to marry a woman like Anne. It is true that Edward IV married a woman of a social standing as Anne, but that didn’t involve ending a long-standing marriage or a intensely plotted plan to absolutely control Edward. There would be no reason to believe that Henry could be pressured into doing such a thing, even if he was crazy in love.

To me, I think Henry and Anne must have genuinely been in love and Henry wanted her for his wife. You don’t manipulate a King, certainly not in a time period where they were believed to be agents of divine will. There had been rumours and ideas circulating since at least 1519 that Henry would set Katherine aside, and there were other crowned Kings of Europe who had done so. It seems to be to be immense bad luck and timing that he chose to marry Anne, instead of another royal match.

Spurned on by Anne’s declaration, Henry decides that his marriage is over and tells Katherine so.

This is actually a pretty great scene, with very good performances by Rhys-Meyer and Doyle. They are a couple who cannot be together anymore, despite their love and affection for each other. Top acting marks there.

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Anne sends Henry a broach – which happened, very famously. It’s a storm-tossed maiden but she’s a constant and her love is a constant, you know, symbolism.

They make out a little bit but they swear that off sex until marriage.

Wolsey’s Being Evil

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Wolsey is still plotting and scheming. His first scheme of the day is to make Henry Fitzroy, Henners’s illegitimate son, Duke of Richmond and Somerset. It’s not lost on the crowd that Duke of Richmond was the title of Henry VII, Henry’s father. This kid is now one of the most powerful people in England, and technically, could be Henry’s heir above his legitimate daughter Mary. Katherine is not happy about this and declares Wolsey her enemy.

Fitzroy gives us an idea on how much time has passed, at least. Even if Princess Mary hasn’t aged at all. Also, Rhys-Meyer is fantastic with the child performers. I might not like a lot of the choices he makes as a performer, but he’s always very genuine with any of the child actors.

As Wolsey is Fitzroy’s godfather, he’s sending the kid to his own household to be treated as a royal heir. This scene is hilarious because the child playing Fitzroy doesn’t act, at all. His face is completely blank while his mother holds him and sobs.

Wolsey is sending Mary away to Ludlow as he’s evvvilll and punishing Katherine. She’s horrified and hurt, only I scratch my head at this. Mary being sent away to Ludlow is par the course for a royal heir. Ludlow castle and its estates belong to the Prince of Wales, the royal heir presumptive. Royal children – in fact, all children, in this period – do not spend their years with their parents. As a rule, children are sent out to other households at the age of 7 for an ‘apprenticeship’ of sorts – whether an actual apprenticeship, or for education and refinement. Mary will also be looked after by Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury, a friend and confident of Katherine. So, Katherine’s reaction doesn’t make much sense. She seems surprised and shocked that something like this would happen – when it’s normal and totally expected of any child in this period. In fact, Mary is being shown off to the world as Henry’s only true heir.

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Mary is being sent to live with the Lady Salisbury. For a start, it’s Countess Salisbury. Margaret Pole was one of only two women to hold a peerage in her own right, and she’s a Countess. She’s also one of Katherine’s closest friends, so Katherine shouldn’t be so horrified by all of this.

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After proposing a new evil alliance with the French, Wolsey convenes a secret meeting with the highest ranking churchmen in the land to rule on Henry’s marriage. As papal legate, Wolsey argues that he could rule on the marriage. However, the Archbishop of Canterbury and Bishop Fisher say that it must be taken to the Pope. Wolsey’s evil is curbed, for now.

The Imperial Alliance

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After winning such immense battles in French holdings, Charles V has ransomed Francis I and freed him. This prompts an eye-bulging freak-out from Henry.

Henry confronts the Imperial Ambassador by screaming obscenities in the poor guy’s face. Yeah, no. Henry VIII was a renaissance statesman. Sure, the guy had a temper and was known for ‘thunderous oaths’, but he’s not a gibbering fool that thinks international diplomacy involves screaming the word fuck into a man’s face. It doesn’t make Henry seem young and vibrant. It makes me think that Rhys-Meyer can’t act with any subtlety beyond screaming to convey anger.

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Oh, and now Charles V has sacked Rome and taken the Pope as a prisoner. So, that’s the annulment out the window. Guess you shouldn’t have screamed in his ambassador’s face, Henners.

Oh Yeah, Margaret Murdered A Guy

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Yeah, Margaret literally murdered a guy and apparently suffers no repercussions from this. She doesn’t even care on an emotional level, so I guess Margaret/Mary is a complete sociopath and will be start serial killing soon. Charles proposes to Margaret as they clearly have the greatest love of all.

Charles Brandon and Mary Tudor married in 1515 and retired from court life until around 1520. Mary and Charles were forced to may back some of her dowry, but Henry seemed to have been mostly friendly towards the match. They had both private and public ceremonies and were married until Mary died in 1533.

Henry, as he is wont to do, screams in Margaret’s face and she realises that maybe being not Queen of Portugal is shitty.

Margaret has started drinking and starts being violent towards Charles. But I guess they really like each other still because this violence leads into aggressive sex. After all, when people hate each other it means they really love each other and a couple who hit each other nonconsensually really care for each other.

The Queer Element

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Okay, time to delve into some queer history. Thomas Tallis and one of Henry’s fuckwit friends are having an affair, which raises a few issues for me.

This plotline is very obviously based on the B-plotline from Phillipa Greggory’s ‘The Other Boleyn Girl’ where she features this gay sexual dalliance ring that revolve around Anne Boleyn and have naughty sextimes with each other and possibly her. She credits this to Retha Warnicke, an American historian that specalises in the period and wrote about sexual heresy at Henry’s court during this period. However, Warnicke distanced herself from this interpretation.

There is nothing intrinsically wrong with depicting a queer romance in a period TV show. Queer people have always existed and there’s nothing wrong with having queer people’s stories told from a historical context. However, I don’t get that this is trying to be a nuanced depiction of how queer people lived and loved during the sixteenth century. What I get is that this was a scandalous element from an immensely popular novel that’s been added to the show because the idea of the show is ‘naughty naughty sexy times’. The queer angle appears to have been added because it’s naughty and supposedly deviant for the age.

I don’t appreciate that the only queer representation appears to have been added to make the show even more naughty and deviant. C’mon, we deserve better than that.

The Plot To Nowhere

Henry Fitzroy’s dead. It makes me ask why he was even included, other than for scandal.

Henry Fitzroy didn’t actually die until 1536, at the age of seventeen. But I guess it means more if a child dies.

What Are You Looking At?

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Glad to see being away from court didn’t improve your fashion at all, Bessie. The sleeves, the bodice, the hairnet – she has never worn anything that looks right for the 1520s.

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FINALLY. That’s an accurate hood! That looks good and doesn’t distract from her face at all. Shame about the dress, which has a weird empire line that makes it look like a fancy dress costume from the 1820s.

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Hey look another weird sack dress. There’s no petticoat, and she’s got this weird pattern on the skirt that looks awful. You’ve got an amazing actress with regal beauty, so why the insistence on these weird sack dresses?

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Again, the one guy who is wearing an accurate outfit is portrayed as being evil. He’s wearing layers, a doublet covered by an overgown with slashing decoration, and the shoulders are nice and wide. This is a good representation of Tudor costume, and I have no idea why it’s so hard to achieve for every other character.

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Are you on holiday from Turkey? What is this weird Ottoman outfit? Is she a spy from the Sultan? Where is her bodice? Why is she wearing just a simple dress with a eastern headdress?

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This portrait is supposedly Margaret Pole and look HOW IT LOOKS NOTHING LIKE A COURT DRESS FROM THE OTTOMAN EMPIRE.

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Are you on holiday from Middle Earth? What’s with those godawful sleeves? No Tudor woman would wear a sleeve like this.

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Nice inaccurate ruff, Henry. That high collar with ruffed chemise neckline is completely wrong for the period. Just dress him right, for one episode. Please.

And that’s it for this week. Come back for more costume complaints and historical corrections next time!