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.

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