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 E7


I was away in Northumberland so this episode was also delayed. I’ll try to be more diligent in the future, but each of these posts does take a fair few hours of my time. Stupid garbage series.

‘Message to the Emperor’
William Compton dies of the “sweating sickness” at Compton Wynates, his house in Warwickshire. As King Henry VIII receives positive news of his war against Emperor Charles, the sickness spreads like a wildfire. Henry flees the palace and London, and starts having doubts about the future and his ability to rule the country. Both Anne Boleyn and Cardinal Wolsey are stricken with the disease, but recover. Wolsey sends agents to the exiled Pope asking for him to make a favorable decision on Henry’s ‘Great Matter’ but Clement instead sends his legate, Cardinal Campeggio, to make a final decision in England.

Sickness! Everyone is scared and dying! Plague imagery!

Straight Out of Warwickshire

This episode is focusing mainly on the 1528 outbreak of the Sweating Sickness. This is an unusual illness in that it occurred mainly in England from 1485 to 1551 and then vanished. No one is quite sure what it was (although there are researchers who think that it may be an unknown species of hantavirus) but it was pretty serious as sufferers did not gain immunity – you could catch it again and again until you sweated yourself to death. It was not a pleasant illness.

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Anyway, William Compton is being punished for the GAY by being the first to catch the disease. In the middle of rural Warwickshire. Even though epicentres for outbreaks for the Sweat were in busy city centres.

Yeah, disease works that way.

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The doctor cuts open William Compton’s back in a display of ‘Wow, medicine was so backwards and disgusting five hundred years ago! It was so stupid and people were so stupid because they believed in the theory of the four humours!’. Well, to that I say, you’re stupid actually. Medicine and doctors did not aim to cure sickness in the sixteenth century. That’s a modern perspective. A doctor is there to make a patient feel better – but the ultimate cure is dependant on the will of God. A Tudor doctor will make you feel better and comfortable, but if you’re trying to get him to prepare an actual cure to combat disease, you’re not asking the right guy.

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Not surprisingly, seeing as he died in real life, Compton cops it. This random woman is his ‘common-law wife’ Mary Hastings.

That would actually be his second wife, Elizabeth Stonor, who was pregnant at the time of Compton’s death. He had been married before to Werburga Bereton and had three children. I guess they’re cutting out Peter Compton – his son – out of this to avoid pissing off the real Compton family.

William Compton’s family does still exist, by the way. They’re the Marquesses of Northampton, and they still live in the same home used by William Compton.

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But Thomas Tallis has come to see what has happened to his lover. He passes by this ALREADY EXISTING MASS GRAVE BECAUSE LOOK IT’S ALREADY FULL OF SKELETONS –

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And William’s body has just been thrown into a quick grave. Even though it wasn’t, and he was buried in the chapel. Which you can still go see.

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Our romantic subplot never went anywhere yet the audience needs some kind of emotion…

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ROCKE ANYDE ROLLE

Thomas is sad for about ten seconds while he writes a sad song for this lost beloved. Then he sleeps with one of the Fucking Sisters.

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So much for the gay agenda, I suppose.

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But she dies, so I guess that this epidemic is purely spread by Thomas Tallis sleeping with people. Either way, this whole subplot was meant to have some sort of emotional resonance but it merely annoys me for being needlessly designed to promote controversy and ‘naughtiness’.

I’m Henry VIII and I’m Mortally Terrified of Death

Henry doesn’t take news of this epidemic very well. That’s very much based on real life, as the real Henners was terrified of disease and illness. His brother had died young, and with Henry having no real male heirs, there was a high chance that the Tudor dynasty would come to a complete end or would result in another highly devastating English civil war.

A lot of Henry’s actions make much more sense when you realise he was on a constant knife edge of fear pretty much all the time.

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Do you guys wanna buy some drugs?

Henry did really create and mix his own herbal remedies for conditions and to ward off illness. I have no idea whether they were effective or not (I’m saying probably not) but he didn’t die of the Sweat, so kudos.

Henry and Anne decide to frolic in the countryside with the new French ambassador, only to come back to London to find a rampaging zombie mob of sick people. Henry leaves Anne to the mob (what a guy) to make her own way home, orders Katherine to travel to Wales, and that he will stay in Whitehall by himself for… reasons.

In actuality, Henry left London. Like he did every summer, because he wasn’t stupid and knew that disease spreads in city centres and that it was most prevalent in the summer months. He may not have known about viruses and bacterium but IRL Henry knew enough to realise that staying in London in the middle of a really serious disease outbreak is just the worst thing you could do.

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The pain on Maria Doyle Kennedy’s face as Henry says he still loves her enough to save her and offers her a kiss is both beautiful and heart-breaking. Stop searching for emotional moments with ridiculous subplots, writers. This should be the emotional heart of the show.

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Anne’s maid, however, catches and dies of the Sweat within a day and Anne catches the disease while nursing her. It’s said that’s how she actually got the Sweat, and it would make sense. The modern world’s view of the employer/servant dynamic is very much shaped by the Victorian ideals, with master being far, far, far above the lowly servant. It was different in the sixteenth century, with the boundaries being far more blurred and not as distant. Your servant was a reflection and part of you, in a way, and not subject to the whole ‘must be invisible and never seen around the house’. Servants were an integral part of the household, and in a society that did not hold individualisation as the philosophical ideal, it was pretty likely you’d be close with your personal servants. Most would even sleep in the same room as you, on a trunkle bed from beneath your own. They would be there to serve you and your body for nearly all of the day, and so, it makes sense why Anne should care so much for someone who should matter not at all to her personally.

There’s a lot of changes to our society that the Enlightenment made and we presume that they apply to all of history. How we treat those in service is one.

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Henry sits down and eats a whole plate of salmon to himself, because he’s a big fat pig who can’t control himself. Or some other such clever observation. But it turns out that being on your own in a palace full of sick people is scary…

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If… only I’d had time… to be more evil…

Even Cardinal Wolsey is sick so Henry must escape!

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Are you in Northumberland? How the fuck did you get there?

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Oh my god, I’m an orc!

Henry freaks out because he’s convinced he’s going to die, but he’s fine.

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Anne gets better (although her brother-in-law, Mary’s husband, died in the outbreak, as well as countless others, including the wife and daughters of Thomas Cromwell), so it’s all fine.

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Squishy, reunited true love.

This Isn’t a Great Matter, It’s Merely an Okay One

Despite all of this, Henry’s quest for an annulment continues on. England and France are now allied against the Emperor, all that war stuff behind them.

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Henry’s annoyed that the Emperor hasn’t impregnated his underage daughter, but Wolsey is sending lawyers to the Pope that will smooth all this matter over shortly. After all, why should the Pope, a virtual prisoner to the Emperor, support the Emperor?

I have no idea.

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Wolsey is a FUGLY BIATCH.

Katherine, meanwhile, has been communicating secretly with the Emperor and is assured that he won’t let the annulment happen.

In all honesty, the only real reason (in my opinion) why the annulment couldn’t happen is that of the influence of the Emperor Charles. There have been other kings who have received annulments in far worse circumstances – for instance, Louis XII of France annulled his marriage to his wife Joan in far seamier circumstances, alleging that her body was deformed and it was impossible to have sex with her. The timing of Henry’s annulment just sucked. If only he’d tried earlier, I’m fairly sure that the Pope would have granted it.

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The Pope (Clement VII, to be clear, as his name is never actually said in show thus far) is not particularly warm to Henry’s case. He doesn’t think that Henry’s drive to marry Anne is a particularly good reason – and he’s not exactly in a position to piss off the Holy Roman Emperor. So he’s sending a Cardinal to hold a court with Wolsey to decide on the marriage.

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I kind of low-key love Cardinal Campeggio. He is the definition of ‘over it’. He doesn’t want to go to England, he doesn’t want to be involved, he wants none of it. It’s going to go well, you can tell.

You Simply Must – Oh Holy God, Thomas

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Thomas More gets pretty creepy in this episode. Firstly, he starts to act like an apocalypse cult leader towards his family when the Sweat is rampaging around London.

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He then starts talking about the real disease that’s killing people. Do you know what the real disease is, family? Protestantism.

Thomas, people are dying.

 

Thomas is against violence, but the only way to cure a disease is to kill all those with criticisms of the Catholic Church by burning them alive.

Thomas, you’ve got some issues.

Walk, Walk, Passion, Baby, Work It, Move that Bitch Crazy

Ugh.

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That’s Da Vinci’s La Belle Ferronière. It’s from the 1490s. I am fed up of these shitty cheap pseduo-medieval gowns that have nothing to do with the 1520s but look like continental gowns from thirty years before. It shouldn’t be difficult to get it right! It would surely take more effort to get these specifically continental designs of medieval outfit than just asking for Tudor gowns from costumiers!

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This! This is what your ladies need to be wearing! There’s such a huge difference and it makes me very angry and frustrated. The shapes, styles, fabrics, weights, and flow of fabric are so completely different!

And the characters don’t wear enough jewellery. There should be more jewellery.

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Is that… is that an over-gown with padded shoulders? In the heraldic Tudor colours? I’m shocked. It’s almost great, apart from the long trousers.

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Thomas More wants to burn people alive because you’re all dressed so badly.

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This is actually Thomas More with his family. Who are dressed correctly and not in a cheap approximation of ‘YE OLDE ENGLANDE’.

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An eighteenth century shawl on a cheap Primark medieval wench dress. Poor.

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Okay, for a start, this lady is wearing a corset on the outside. Uh uh. But you know what I want to wear when I’m someone who spends my time cleaning and picking up after people? Flimsy, transparent, white sleeves that will instantly get dirty, damaged, and ruined when I do the slightest amount of work.

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YAS Thomas Boleyn, YAS. Good outfit! And something halfway decent for Anne, for once.

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No one cares about your cleavage, Henners, And don’t wear your leather jacket to the table.

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Monogrammed royal boxer shorts. Uh, nope. Put on a nightshirt, love, no one wants to see that.

And that’s the end of the sweating sickness. Do you feel good that you survived? Come back next time for more bad history, questionable writing, and terrible clothes.

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!

Unpicking the Tudors; S1 E3


Good morrow, costume fiends! Welcome to your insight into Henrican politics for the week!

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Wolsey, Wolsey, Wolsey!++++

The King asks Charles to escort his sister, Margaret, to her betrothed and promotes him to Duke of Suffolk. The envoys from the Holy Roman-Emperor meet with Cardinal Wolsey and determine how to cement the treaty between the two nations. Anne catches the King’s notice in a play. The Emperor is invited to the King’s court. It is learned that the King of France knows of the treaty talks- and the Cardinal is quick to find a scapegoat. We learn more of why Anne’s father and uncle want her to seduce the King.

As usual, the pace is really rattling on. Each episode covers a truly huge amount of events and many different plotlines. To be honest, it does work. It makes the Tudor court seem very vibrant, busy, and a potboiler of intrigue. It just means I have a lot of history to cover!

Begot by Butchers, But By Bishops Bred

Wolsey, you see, is evil.

After the French cardinals screwed him over, Wolsey has now entered into a secret treaty with the Holy Roman Empire. Wolsey, in real life. mediated between the Holy Roman Empire and France in 1519, but this treaty is clearly the Treaty of Bruges from 1521. This started to be debated during the Field of Cloth of Gold, and it’s often seen as Wolsey’s finest work in international politics. It joined Henry and Charles in a mutual treaty if France would not sign a peace treaty. Wolsey had ambitions of a peaceful Europe, with England acting as an arbitrator, and it was a masterstroke of international diplomacy.

However, in the show it’s evidence that Wolsey is EEEEEEVILLLLLLL.

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He’s taking money from the Emperor! He’s evil!

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He has an innocent man sent to death! He accuses this man of spying for the French but it’s actually…. Wolsey!

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Wolsey has a secret mistress! He’s EEEEEEVVVVILLLL. Evil! That’s his whole motivation!

Okay, I see your game, show. The show needs a Big Bad. It’s a easy system of protagonist-to-antagonist narrative brought in by the highly developed and arc system of story telling brought in by Buffy. Unfortunately, it does not work here. Creating a narrative out of Tudor history is a necessity of making a fictional television show about these events, but having Wolsey as an arch manipulator and secretly evil minister is based on some incredibly old historiography that has been mostly revised and dismissed by modern historians. Obviously, I’m a little biased as my adviser during university was a scholar and defender of Cardinal Wolsey, but the idea of Wolsey as manipulator and Henry VIII as puppet is incredibly old-fashioned and not really in-keeping with modern Tudor academia.

I’ll talk more about it as the seasons progress. But, needless to say, Wolsey as being this evil minister is old fashioned, lazy, and a waste of Sam Neil’s talents.

EUSTACCEEEEEEE

This treaty with Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, brings in one of my favourite figures of the period.

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Eustace Chapuys. This guy. This guy is one of my favourite people of the sixteenth century. He worked as Imperial Ambassador to the English Court from 1529 to 1545, and he’s notable for his wonderful legacy – incredibly detailed correspondence. He had a head for gossip and reported everything that he heard, and it’s such a goldmine of intrigue and whisperings and I love reading them and I love him.

We’ll ignore that he’s nine years early.

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To commemorate and sign the treaty, Charles V actually arrives in England to sign it himself, not through a proxy. It was pretty unusual for foreign royalty to visit England for things like this – being that England is pretty out of the way in Europe – but he actually visited England a number of times.

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This is contemporary artwork of Charles V visiting England in 1520. The events the show is depicting took place in 1522, however. Vague timelines of vagueness strike again, but I appreciate that the show made efforts to depict the Hapsburg jaw.

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This is Charles V in 1519. As you can see, he has a deformation of the jaw. The Hapsburg jaw is a pretty famous example of the effects of inbreeding on a family, and this is not even the worst example of it.

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As part of the treaty, Charles V is engaged to the Princess Mary. This also happened in real life; in 1522, the six year old Mary was engaged to the twenty two year old Charles. The two, while they never married, remained close for their entire lives.

Katherine is pleased with England aligning their interests with the Empire. Considering that she is fearful that Henry will divorce her, having her powerful nephew on side can only help her. And, in another element that is true, Katherine and Charles were very close and kept in constant contact.

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She swears to being a virgin whilst married to Arthur, the elder brother of Henry VIII who died in his teens (and whose death ensured that Henry would be king) and to her unwavering love and devotion to her husband and king. Maria Doyle Kennedy is pure class as Katherine. Her performance is excellent, sincerity and fire balanced with such a nuanced sadness. She acts Henners out of the water, every time.

A Historic Meeting

She’s right to be worried about her marriage as one particularly famous lady is ready to make her court debut.

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This is something else that both pleases and frustrates me. The masquerade of Chateau Vert was really where Anne Boleyn made her debut at the English court. It was really conducted to entertain the Imperial delegation for celebrating the Treaty of Bruges in 1522. However, it was not where Henry became interested in Anne. His romantic and sexual interest would not start for about another four years.

But it does make a suitably dramatic set-piece.

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There are also guns. I don’t know why. This guy just starts shooting a gun at the rehearsal, for reasons I can’t begin to fathom.

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Couldn’t say it better myself, Mister Master of the Revels. Who is wearing a ruff. In 1522.

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The theme of the masquerade is that noble virtues are held captive and must be rescued by brave gentlemen. The female participants actually did wear white satin dresses. However, I highly doubt that they really wore wispy things that exposed their nip nips and had stupid little ruffs that do not match the period at all. Those dresses are very inappropriate. Sure, they’re ‘sexy’ and ‘risque’ I guess, but they look awful.

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The men have Henry disguised amongst them. In real life, it’d be pretty easy to see which one was Henry. After all, he was red haired and, oh yeah, about a foot taller than everyone else. Here, Henners is actually one of the shorter men in the cast. And I think those tights are some really cheap costuming. I doubt polyester tights were available in the 1520s.

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That’s some accurate Tudor body glitter these ladies are wearing.

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And Henry and Anne lock eyes for the very first time. Very dramatic and breathtaking, but all I can think is that winged eyeliner is really not right. This moment is ruined by Anne’s incredibly fashion forward makeup choices.

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So Anne is flirty and sexy and keeps putting herself in the way of Henry throughout the episode. I find her use of face glitter perplexing, but I guess it’s the key to a early modern king’s heart.

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Henry has a dream sequence with Anne that is sort of French sixties dreamscape cinematography, but that I hate because in any form of fiction I really dislike OVERLY! SIGNIFICANT! AND MEANINGFUL! DREAM! SEQUENCES! I find them a really lazy means to continue and express plot points. I take it as a sign that the writer couldn’t think of a better way to get from point A to point B.

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My sheets are wet? But how…

A Sexy Plot

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Only Anne’s interactions with Henry aren’t natural. Her uncle, the Duke of Norfolk, and her father are contriving Anne’s relationship with Henry. Why? For land? Jewels? The Earldom of Ormonde that Thomas Boleyn really, really wanted? Uh, no. It’s all to get red of Thomas Wolsey. Because he’s common and too powerful and clearly Anne can badger Henry into getting rid of Wolsey.

Yeah, no. Even if you buy into the ludicrous theory that the Boleyn affair was manipulated into happening by a family who wanted political power, the idea that Anne Boleyn could ‘trick’ Henry into getting rid of Thomas Wolsey doesn’t work. That’s not how one talked or worked with a sixteenth century monarch. They are not a modern politician to be manipulated and petitioned and debate with. A sixteenth century monarch is literally a figure of God – a person who is divinely ordained to be a ruler. You don’t manipulate or try to badger a person you literally believe was chosen by God to be in charge.

These Are Strange Castles

The show also has a weird problem with research of estates and homes.

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This is not Framlingham Castle.

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This is Framlingham.

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This is not Hever Castle.

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This is Hever Castle.

I appreciate that it was probably impossible and far too expensive to film at the actual locations. I get that and I’m not cross that they’re not filming a two minute scene at the actual location. But why go to the expense of creating CGI and then not actually CGI the correct building? Google, man. Google is your friend.

You Simply Must Meet Thomas

Thomas More has been quietly simmering away as a character, but now he’s getting a bit more prominence and it’s clear why; he’s the Thomas that isn’t EEEEEVVVVILLLLLLLL.

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He helps Henry edit Defence of the Seven Sacraments!

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Wolsey cuts him out of the negotiations with the Imperial court and look how hurt Thomas More is! Booooo Wolsey!

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Henry makes Thomas More gather up copies of Martin Luther’s works and burn them and it makes Thomas sad!

Yeah, let’s ignore how happy and willing Thomas More was to round up reformers and have them tortured and burned alive.

FYI, I do not like Thomas More. I’ll admit my bias straight out. I think he was a sanctimonious hypocrite and I’ve never liked him. I can appreciate how important he was as a statesman and architect of the English renaissance but I don’t like how he’s played as being Mister Goody-Goody.

There’s Something About Margaret

The last element of this week’s episode is Henry’s ongoing drama surrounding his sister, Margaret. You see, she’s due to be married to the old and ailing King of Portugal and she’s not happy about this.

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There are a lot of problems with this.

For a start, this plotline is based on Henry’s sister Mary. His sister Margaret was married off at the age of twelve to the King of Scotland many years previously, but she apparently does not exist for the purposes of the show. Mary was married in 1514 to the King of France, Louis XII, a man thirty years her senior, at the age of eighteen.

So, wrong sister, wrong king, wrong year, and I’m sorry to say, wrong choice of actress. The actress does a fine job, but she’s not an eighteen year old getting married for the first time.

She is to be sent to Portugal escorted by Charles Brandon, Henry’s friend. Margaret is very rude to him (despite Charles Brandon being a companion to the royal nursery since childhood) and Henry makes him Duke of Suffolk to make Brandon seem suitably grand. In actuality, he was made Duke of Suffolk around 1514 as part of a scheme to marry him to Margaret of Savoy.

I have read that the show writers decided to mix up Henry’s sisters because they felt that there were too many Marys and viewers may confuse the elder Princess Mary for Henry’s daughter, Mary. Generally, when I see a forty year old woman I don’t confuse her for a six year old. But I can’t speak for everyone.

It’s All About The Sleeves, Bout The Sleeves, They’re Not Right

The fashion of The Tudors this week seems to be focused on sleeves.

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The show seems to be obsessed with really weird sleeve fashions. Why are her sleeves just hanging there like that? Why are they so thin? Why are they like long cuffs for her arms?

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Anne is really deep into her scene phase RN. And that dress… it’s not only hideous, it’s just so wrong. The sleeves, the bodice, the shoulder thing, the weird puffed bits, the lack of petticoat – there is nothing right about this garment. Not a single thing.

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Margaret is continuing the weird off the shoulder puffed roll thing. I don’t like it. Ont the other hand, I like the slashes of purple on Charles’s doublet. Nice little nod to his imperial power.

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And, again, what’s with the off-the-shoulder with ties arm cuff thing? It’s ugly and a really weird design choice. The brown gown worn by the extra in the far left corner is actually one of the most accurate dresses I’ve seen on the show so far.

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It’s me, grandma, Anastasia

For reasons beyond me, Thomas Boleyn continues to be the only guy who appears period accurate. It really stands out amongst the guys, as they’re all dressed in weird 1580s/1590s clothes.

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When this came up, I actually shouted at my screen. That hat, that doublet, is so from the 1590s. He’s ready to start committing a plot to have Elizabeth I swapped for James of Scotland. The thinness of the doublet, the lack of slashing, the short cloaks, the tall hat – none of it is right for 1522.

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Did you wrap a bolster cushion around your head?

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It’s Katherine and her Elizabethan back-up dancers.

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This is a painting from 1600. You see her hair? The style of her dress? The way it falls around the waist, the largeness of her sleeves, the way the pearls fall around the bodice?

Yeah, those dresses for the extras would be great – for an Elizabethan costume drama! Those dresses are eighty years too fashion forward!

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They keep insisting on putting really weird shit on the front of Katherine of Aragon’s dresses, and I don’t get it.

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Does Mary Wotten, Lady Guildenford have a weird applique on the front of her dress? No. Because the colour and decoration comes from her sleeves and her petticoat. Katherine’s dresses are so ugly and I have no idea why.

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This is Katherine depicted in the BBC’s Wolf Hall. This is a beautiful costume, well-researched and accurate to the period. It’s elegant and beautiful, while also showing Katherine as an older woman as compared to, say, her daughter (who is stood next to her).

In The Tudors, Katherine basically wears a variety of sacks with weird headbands. I don’t get it.

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On the runway, your couture high was more of a bargain basin low. I’m sorry my dear, you are up for elimination.

And that concludes ‘Wolsey, Wolsey, Wolsey’. See you next week, nerds.

 

Unpicking the Tudors; S1 EP2


‘Simply Henry’

Welcome back costume and history fiends.

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Thanks for those blank staring eyes, Henners. No nightmares here.

‘Henry and his court look to sign the treaty with France, though tempers of both kings flare up at the summit. Meanwhile, Henry takes on a new mistress named Mary Boleyn, though he soon tires of her and Mary’s sister, Anne, is summoned to the court.’

There’s a lot that takes place in this episode. I mean, the stuff with Mary Boleyn could cover an episode in itself but the pace just rattles on through several really important things.

What The Heckaroonie is a Field of Cloth of Gold Anyway?

The Field of Cloth of Gold was a peace summit between Francis I of France and Henry VIII of England, Ireland, and France that took place between the 7th and 24th of June 1520. The really interesting thing about English foreign policy under Henry and Cardinal Wolsey is their interest in creating England as a peaceful arbiter of Europe – to live out Renaissance Humanist policies in real life political policy. The Field of Cloth of Gold was designed to increase the bond between the French and English monarchs after the 1514 Anglo-French treaty. It was also a chance to show off. Both Henry and Francis were incredibly young, flashy, Renaissance monarchs who wanted to strut their stuff.

There’s a lot about the summit that is actually pretty accurate. Someone did really care about getting some of the finer details right.

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This is a 1545 painting from Hampton Court depicting the Field of Cloth of Gold. You can see the English Palace of Illusion, a wine fountain, and Henry and Francis wrestling.

So, these parts are really quite accurate. What’s not so accurate is Henry turning around and throwing a massive temper tantrum.

You see, he lost a wrestling match. And as a perfectly logical thing for a twenty nine year old man to do, he’s having a temper tantrum that involves destroying all his belongings with an axe. The Tudors has gone for a very strange characterisation of Henry. They proclaim to be a new and interesting look at the young Henry, but this involves making him into a screaming, bawling brat with limited character depth.

Henners is also upset that Charles V of Spain, nephew to his wife, has become Holy Roman Emperor and pretty much the most powerful man in Europe. Only this happened in 1519, not 1520, so he’s having a bit of a delayed reaction.

‘Tis a Pity She’s A Whore

The next big thing in the episode is that Mary and Anne Boleyn are more formally introduced and start making things happen. Also they’re WHOOOOOOOOORRRESSSSS, sexy, sexy whores to add all this amazing sex appeal with their naughty sexy behaviour.

I hope I laid the sarcasm on thick enough. I generally find the portrayal of the Boleyn sisters to be pretty poor in anything, and I think Mary’s depiction is pretty degrading. (FYI, my family is descended from Mary Boleyn. Actually. So I tend to get very personally protective of her.)

Let’s compare the Tudors version of Mary and the real one.

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Mary is introduced in a brothel/bar/some place full of sex workers. Because she’s a WHOOORRRRREEEEEE. She’s some woman that Francis I sleeps with – his ‘English Mare’ – and she’s shown as a stupid, slutty woman that has no idea what she’s doing in life other than looking for dick.

It’s a very nuanced character, you see.

In real life, Mary was an accomplished courtier who had been educated in the usual manner of a Tudor gentry woman. You know, maths, reading and writing, grammar, two or three languages, dancing, embroidery, music, singing, gaming, falconry, riding, and hunting. Maybe she wasn’t an overwhelming genius of science or theology, but she was still a highly educated woman. And her education didn’t involve sucking dick.

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Suck my thumb. Do it. Show me your French wiles.

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Mary, it transpires, has been at the French court for two years. That makes this episode set in 1516, then. Mary Boleyn was sent to the French court in the retinue of Mary, Henry’s sister, when she was sent to marry Louis XII of France in 1514.

In real life, Mary and Henry did not meet until 1520 when she returned to the English court to be married. She may or may not have been a mistress to Francis I, but I would err on not. It’s very convenient for her to sleep around because it makes the family look bad, and I suspect it’s gossip that gets reported as fact. Henry and Mary did have an affair, but we don’t really know when or for how long. There’s actually very little evidence of their affair, other than Henry admitting it later when he needed to marry her sister, Anne.

Anyway, her dick sucking is not as good as advertised, and Henry tires of her.

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So the Howard and Boleyn families decide that Anne should step forward and seduce Henry. Because over the course of fifty minutes, where Mary was in two scenes with Henry in total, they were showered with such preference and wealth and prestige that they’re just going to throw Anne at Henners and see if it sticks.

I don’t especially like the whole ‘the Boleyns and Howards planned and maliciously duped Henry for their own power’ idea which pervades shitty historical fiction, and this makes no sense in time. It’s 1520 – or 1516, or 1518 – and Anne and Henry did not become  involved until 1525/1526. Anne wasn’t even in England until 1522. They’re throwing her at him about six years too early.

Also There’s Some Treason

Yeah, the Duke of Buckingham is still plotting away. But not for too long because he’s going to die.

He’s gathering up people loyal to him and he’s going to… do something. Either just outright murder Henners or launch full, open rebellion. In real life, Edward Stafford did no such thing. There’s accusations of him doing treasonous things, such as talking about the death of the King and his lack of children, but he was never outright going to just stab him.

He’s also dressed just like Henry.

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Literally just the same outfit. If you wanted to hire the guy as Henry, why didn’t you.

Anyway, Buckingham gets caught. Because he wasn’t exactly being subtle.

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How could this happen to me, I made a mistake…..

Then some real bullshit takes place with his execution.

This is a catalogue of wrong. Executions of the nobility were generally private affairs, not open to the common sorts of the public. He’s a peer – and even in death, he’s treated with honour. He would not be dragged to his place of execution and he would not sob and weep on the scaffold. Yes, it’s awful to be dying, but he’s a member of the nobility. He would conduct himself with dignity and grace as to not reflect badly on himself and his family.

And a friend of Henners would not be holding a man’s arms down for an execution. That’s just… good lord, it’s terrible. What a terrible, sensationalised depiction of an execution.

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Buckingham’s execution is secured by the Duke of Norfolk, uncle to Anne and Mary Boleyn. He’s blackmailed into this position by Charles Brandon, close friend to Henners, giving him his father’s ring. You see, the Duke of Norfolk’s father was executed by Henry VII.

There’s a lot of wrong in this short two minute scene.

For a start, Thomas Howard as not the Duke of Norfolk in 1520. His father would not die until 1524. Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk, died of old age in his bed. He was not executed by Henry VII. That would certainly be a feat of time travel, seeing as Henners 7 had been dead for twenty five years at that point. You could say that they conflated the third and second dukes, sure. Only the first Duke of Norfolk was not executed by Henners 7 either. He died from an arrow to the face at the Battle of Bosworth. So, there’s nothing really right in this scene. Especially to have Charles Brandon threaten the frigging Duke of Norfolk in the street.

Also, the Duke of Buckingham was arrested and executed in 1521. This was a plotline that could have been allowed to develop for longer; as such, it feels like a rush of hot air that goes nowhere.

God, I Have a Son!

Henry’s mistress, despite finding out that she’s pregnant in the last episode, is already popping it out. Even though it’s Christmas 1520, and Henry Fitzroy was born the 15th of June 1519.

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Tudor women didn’t generally give birth lying in a bed. They used a birthing chair. If they were in a bed, it was the pallet bed that would be underneath the main bed. You don’t want to ruin your nice bed with blood and afterbirth. People have to sleep on that.

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Henners is so overjoyed at this arrival of an illegitimate son that he almost breaks his neck. Good job holding the baby. Guess we know why only one of your children with Katherine survived.

Sashay Shantay

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Collars and high necks are very in this episode. Shame they don’t really become fashionable in Europe until the 1530s. Francis was fashionable, but not this fashion forward. He needs to be wearing a low, square neckline.

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This is better. Square shoulders with undergarments showing. The hair is weird though. Too modern. Even him that nice chinlength bob Tudor men wore.

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Where are your undergarments, Francis??? Your doublet is silk. You know what ruins silk? Water! What is your sweat made of? Water! Keep your clothes fresh and non-stinky with your underwear!

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The collar on Henry’s outfit is far too high, and the doublet looks like it’s from the later half of the sixteenth century. It’s still far better than whatever this get up that Francis has on. Weird Swiss Guard/Fall of the Roman Empire runway look there, Francis. You brought a concept here, but it really doesn’t fit. At all.

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Henry is clearly the architect of the Puritan movement. For some reason. He’s a king. He needs to look it.

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Canadian beaver realness. To be honest, there is not enough fur on these costumes. I know that fur is not looked upon with favour these days, but he should be decked out in the finest of ermine and cheetah. Henry should look more kingly. More money, more power.

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Turns out the greatest hunt is man.

Thomas Boleyn is continuing his fight against bad costumes. His remain the most accurate. Bless you, you evil man. Bless your ongoing stance against high collars.

Curtain Realness

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The exposed shoulders are a bit iffy, as is the single colour for the gowns. Skirts had underskirts of a separate colour. The one colourness is a little cheap for two queens. And there are no trumpet sleeves.

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That nursemaid is straight out of the 1590s. That’s some impressive time travel.

How hard is it to make a bloody hood? Women did not have their hair uncovered in public. Women didn’t have uncovered hair in public until the fricking 1960s, and they certainly wouldn’t in the 1520s. I hate the jewelled headpieces, I hate the stupid headband thing, and I laughed at the strange Nefertiti inspired headpiece worn by the French queen because I have literally no idea what it’s supposed to be. I like her expression though.

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It’s the latest in Tudor maternity wear; pregnancy sack! With added useless shoulder cutouts! Because that’s what you want when you’re pregnant. Not easy access to a toilet, painkillers, and something loose to wear. Cold shoulders is what you really need.

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To prove that Mary Boleyn is a whore, they’ve literally dressed her as a Venetian prostitute.

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Why is your hair loose? Where are your trumpet sleeves? There is an incredibly famous picture of Katherine – use that! Use that as your basis for her clothing and design around that. We know how she dressed, and it was not like this.

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What the fuck is on your head.

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Bessie Blunt is wearing some Restoration gown. Look at those thin sleeves and cuffs – seventeenth century, ish. The hair net is fine, some women did wear them, but look at that woman on the right. That is a 1490s style hood there. Did you get it from your grandmother? That’s thirty years out of fashion, and it’s still not right. The front part of her head is out.

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That waiting woman is wearing a seventeenth century dress. They took that straight off the rack of an English civil war drama and thought ‘eh, it’ll do’. Her hood is Elizabethan as well.

In Other News

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The Pope’s dead. Sorry bout it.

Unpicking the Tudors; S1 EP1


So, if you’ve had a look at my update post, I’ve not been doing much of anything lately. I’m house-bound currently because my health has been absolutely terrible as of late. My life’s on hold yet again which is very annoying because I’ve felt like it’s been on hold since university. That’s four years ago now where my luck has been terrible. Maybe’s it’s Anita Blake cursing me.

Anyway, if you know me, you’ll know that history is my thing. In fact, it’s Tudor history. I specialised in the politics of the Henrican court and I like to sharpen my brain box from time to time.

And this little show is currently up in its entirety on Netflix.

 

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It’s rated an 8.1 on imDB and was nominated for Golden Globe awards. It was presented as being an intimate sort of revelation of the great secrets of Henry VIII’s court, the great men and great women of his life.

And this show makes me rage as only a historian can rage. This show is a burning bag of garbage that makes me incredibly angry. Not only in terms of really bad writing choices but really terrible clothing. And that there are people who made genuine efforts to try and make this accurate and include incredibly minor details of court – only for it to be absolute rubbish.

And I’m here to pour water on this burning bag of garbage. Or another, better metaphor.

Let’s throw ourselves into ‘In Cold Blood’. Our official synopsis is ‘King Henry VIII, the young and ambitious monarch of England, prepares for war with France but is dissuaded by the diplomatic manipulation of his powerful Lord Chancellor, Cardinal Wolsey, who proposes that the King sponsor a “Treaty of Universal Peace.” The harmony of the King’s domestic affairs is threatened, however, when he discovers that Elizabeth Blount, the young and beautiful lady-in-waiting to his Queen, Katherine of Aragon, is pregnant with his child.’

That’s a lot of information for one episode and it really rattles through the stuff that people all commonly associate with the Tudors. It is also really badly written. Let’s begin.

A Nonsense Beginning

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The episode doesn’t really start off too well. We’re heading straight to an Italian palace (even though ‘Italy’ as a specific location did not exist in the sixteenth century) and this is not a sixteenth century palace. This is really not. This is neo-classical in the most blatant style.

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This is a sixteenth century Italian palace. Much more ornate and decorative.

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Sean Pertwee gets out of a carriage and his costume is wrong in so many ways. English fashion in the sixteenth century is known for its many layers, the wide silhouette, and the use of slashing to display fabrics. Sean Pertwee’s style is very reminiscent of gentlemen at the court of Elizabeth I; slim and narrow, a style that has become highly feminised. These are not the clothes of a man from the later half of the sixteenth century, not from the beginning.

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The men he’s travelling to meet are much more appropriately dressed – highly decorated doublets with long overgowns. Plus hats. You’d never be out in public without a hat at this point in time. And hello baby Aiden Turner. You’re going to be in one of my favourite TV shows of all time, and then be in Poldark with its really awful rape scene. Ups and downs there.

Anyway, Sean Pertwee gets brutally taken out by the French.

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This confuses me greatly. It makes for an incredibly dramatic opening, that’s for sure, and sets up that England hates the French and that is mutual. There’s animosity between the two countries which is only news if you are not European. However, early modern politics was not a brutal affair. Well, all the time. There was that time that the Dutch cannibalised someone and people were thrown out of windows in Prague, but an English ambassador would not be stabbed to death by the French in public this way. It would be incredibly stupid because it would only cause war.

This also throws up many questions to me in terms of history. When is this meant to be set? There were varying times of war and peace between England and France, and a specific year is never given in this episode. This episode swings between 1514 and 1520, and six years is a long time in politics.

And there’s the issue that Sean Pertwee is supposed to be Henry VIII’s uncle.

Right. Okay. There’s a writing choice I can simply not get my head around. Henry VIII didn’t have any uncles, and giving him one doesn’t inform his fictional character or explain what happens. It makes no logical sense – his father was an only child and if Henry VIII’s mother had surviving brothers… then they would be king. Because her father, Edward IV would have passed the throne to them.

The Poor Choices of Henry VIII

The big selling point of this show was that it’s YOUNG Henry VIII. It’s Henry as you’ve never seen him before! He’s young, he’s sexy, he’s active, and not fat and gross. In pursuit of this, the writers made a huge mistake. They made him brash, rude, and frankly abusive to Katherine. He’s a slobbering mess in this first episode, and his characterisation is all over the place.

And his clothing is fucking terrible.

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Our first introduction to Henry is that he’s dressed like an acrobat. There is nothing right with his clothing. Compare him to this image of a English man from the early part of the sixteenth century (it’s later than VAGUE 1514 TO 1520 VAGUE YEAR but at least it’s English).

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English fashion is bulky and layered. There’s no way Henry would not have an overgown and his clothes are just too slim. And that crown looks like ass.

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I like that Henry has the most Catholic underclothes it is possible to get. I don’t like the metallic popper buttons. Buttons were not especially widespread in clothing, with most items being tied or fitted to the body. Henry VIII did not have child-friendly popper boxer shorts with Catholic detailing.

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Henry is wearing only the most fashionable in cheap and common leathers! This looks like foot soldier armour. It is not anything a nobleman in Tudor England would wear. Also Katherine’s dress is terrible, but I’ll be going into the women’s fashion in a bit.

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Henry VIII is FLORAL SOFA MAN!

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Who doesn’t want to do physical exercise in a full suit of leather?

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Love that fisherman jumper, Henners.

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Throughout this episode, Jonathan Rhys Meyer makes just the weirdest choices for his performance. Ignoring the fact that he is blatantly wrong for this role, he just does weird stuff. He’s loud and obnoxious and plays Henry as a complete idiot. And the episode ends on this image. Just Henry, his pathetic little beard, staring madly at you. Thanks, director. I needed that.

A Decorated Skirt Does Not A Period Costume Make.

I get it. Tudor women’s fashion does not appear sexy to modern audiences. You have to balance out the ‘sexy’ lead and make the women appear sexy. They do this by making the worst attempt at Tudor costumes for women I’ve ever seen.

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The first female character we see is in The Corridor (c) that we see consistently over the first season. They show the vast wealth and grandness of the palace of White Hall with the same terrible brick background over and over.

For a start, her waist is too high. English fashions are conical at this time, with hemlines square and farthingales round like an ice cream cone. Her hair is also loose under what appears to be a piece of lace.

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‘I have a necklace in my hair for no apparent reason. Also my hair is loose, which no grown woman at the English court would ever have. Because my hair would be really fucking long and I don’t want lice.’

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Katherine of Aragon, an incredibly proud and proper queen, is just lazing around with her hair loose and a nightgown. For the record, here’s Katherine at this time –

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Gable hoods and trumpet sleeves. They may not be sexy but they were at the time.

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I don’t know I don’t even. This screams 17th Dutch more than anything else with the huge white collar and huge great big stomacher. This is especially egregious as this is Thomas More’s wife and there’s an incredibly famous portrait of her. She should have a hood on, great big trumpet sleeves, and no huge white weird collar that is attached to her dress and not the shirt underneath which appears to also be a dress.

This dress has some huge great big puffy sleeves are are hideous. They also don’t come into English fashion for another fifteen years. The attempt at a French hood is also… weird. For a start, they’re not around at the English court from this point for about ten or so years (depending on whatever vague year this is), and what the hell? What is with all this loose hair? She’s got beautiful flowing locks that do not work with a French hood.

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That’s how a French hood works. Your hair is covered because all women pretty much had their hair covered in public at this point in time and you don’t want nits. Long loose flowing hair? THAT’S HOW YOU GET NITS.

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I don’t even with this. Not only is her dress terrible, with an overgown that wouldn’t be introduced to the 1550s, but what is even with that headdress? What is it meant to be? You can’t just glue fake pearls to something and call it a headdress.

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So, left dress: fine, I guess, as a common gown for when you’re at home not seeing anyone. I don’t like the bustle thing at the back. It could be a bumroll, but her skirtline would be much higher and if you’re relaxed at home without a farthingale, why would you have a bumroll?

Right dress; whaaaaaattttt. That’s very Italian. The lose, low sleeves are continental and the bust line, shoulders, and curled hair make me think of Stuart/Restoration fashion, not 1510s/1520s. And that’s not even getting into whatever the bodice is. It’s a bodice for a dress, not a front-opening bra.

Everyone’s Evil Henny

Fashion aside, the point of this episode is that Henry is stupid and everyone around him is evil. No matter where he goes, from fucking (there are far more sex scenes in this episode than necessary), to playing tennis, or to the daily joust, there is someone being evil and making use of how lazy and stupid Henry is to get across their evil doing. FYI, Henry VIII was an incredibly intelligent and busy man. He did not just spend his time at the apparently daily joust.

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The Duke of Buckingham is evil and planning a rebellion. He also actually looks like Henry VIII and did not launch open rebellion in real life. He wears all black throughout the show so we know he’s definitely evil.

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Cardinal Wolsey is also evil because he wants peace (boo!) and is pro-French (boo!). He’s conducting what appears to be the Treaty of London, but that was 1518 and there’s stuff that takes place in varying years. Pick a date, guys. Pick a date and stick to it. He beats a guy up. It’s weird.

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Thomas Boleyn is introduced and because he’s actually wearing the right clothing out of all the characters, you can tell he’s evil. Because, yeah, I love that cheap idea that terrible fiction authors peddle that the Boleyns were evil schemers working their way to the top that flies in the face of just about all knowledge of political power in the period.

Random Oddness

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Why is there straw just thrown around this floor? I saw extras struggling and just kicking it into the air. It’s weird. This is the grandest palace in England. I have no idea why there’s straw everywhere.

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Look at Henry mangle this pomegranate. For symbolism. And because he’s a big gross child.