Unpicking the Tudors; S2 E1


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

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

Right, let’s look at some nonsense.

“Everything Is Beautiful”


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

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

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And I laughed and laughed and laughed.

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

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

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

Supreme Head of the Church of England

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Three-Person Marriage

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

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

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

Also you look pure Elizabethan Mark get rid of that earring

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

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

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

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

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

Poor Unfortunate Souls!

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

Well, I guess that’s a solution.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Unpicking the Tudors; S1 E10


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

The Death of Wolsey

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

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

When Can We Get Married?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Sending of Cardinal Wolsey to Hell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

The Reformation Begins

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

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

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

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

I don’t like Thomas More.

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

Fashionnn

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

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

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

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

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

Unpicking the Tudors; S1 E9


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

It’s serious stuff, yo.

Look to God First

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Henry responds to this like a mature adult.

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

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

Henry then decides to threaten Campeggio.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Fall of Wolsey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keeping Up with the Brandons

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

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

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

Let Your Body Move to the Music 

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

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

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

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

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

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NO PRINTED FABRICS.

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

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

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

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

Unpicking the Tudors; S1 E8


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

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

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

  • Blackfriars
  • Thomas Tallis
  • Charles and Mary

Real People, Real Stories, This is Judge Campeggio

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

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When you know your scales and your Campeggios…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sigh.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I Ain’t Afraid of No Ghost

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

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

Keeping Up With the Brandons

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Stop sniffing her. It’s weird.

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

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Claude is dead and so is her fashion sense.

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

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

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

Unpicking the Tudors; S1 E6


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

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

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

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

It’s A Love Story for the Ages

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Poor Unfortunate Souls! Go Ahead, Make Your Choice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Cabal of Undefined Motivation

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

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

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

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THE RITUAL HAS BEGUN.

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

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The dispute is settled with an armwrestle. Fucking ridiculous.

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

Sexuality – Eat and Drink and Sleep With Me

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

This is while this is happening.

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

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

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

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

Do My Little Turn on the Catwalk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Unpicking The Tudors; S1 E4


Good day, costume fiends!

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This week’s episode is ‘His Majesty, The King’.

As a reward for his denunciation of Martin Luther, the Pope christens Henry “Defender of the Faith,” but a brush with death causes the king to seek a solution to his lack of an heir. Princess Margaret marries the decrepit King of Portugal reluctantly, but the union is short-lived; Henry’s desire for Anne Boleyn intensifies.

I found this episode, apart from the massive Portuguese set piece, to be fairly dull. Most of the episode is spent in building up what will become important later; the downfall of Wolsey, Anne’s relationship with her brother George and with Henry, and Thomas Cromwell. The episode feels a little lacklustre after how jampacked the last few episodes have been, but it makes a needed change of pace. Let the story breathe a little bit – don’t jam as much you can in fifty minutes, you’ll give me history whiplash!

You Simply Must Meet Thomas (… again)

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James Frain as Thomas Cromwell popped up suddenly in the opening credits and is now a secondary character. Thomas Cromwell was a lawyer and MP who served as chief minister to Henry VIII from 1532 to 1540. He worked for Thomas Wolsey from 1514 to 1530, and served as Cardinal Wolsey’s secretary from 1529. As a minister of Henry VIII, he is one of the chief architects of the Dissolution of the Monasteries and of the foundation of the modern form of the British Parliament.

He’s gotten a lot of attention in recent years because of the Man Brooker award winning ‘Wolf Hall’ book series by Hilary Mantel. His image has been remade, a touch too sympathetically in my opinion, but he’s still an incredibly important figure from the period.

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He’s revealed pretty quickly to be pro-reform of the Catholic Church. Cromwell did, in real life, support the work of reformers and the evangelical movement, and involve England in support of the pro-Protestant German states.

However, he appears in the episode as being promoted by Wolsey to be Henry’s personal secretary. That’s complete nonsense; Cromwell wasn’t involved with Henry’s ministerial matters until 1530 – 1. This appears to be taking place in 1525, far too early for Cromwell to be connected directly to Henry.

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He’s also dressed in a way that I would call ‘1590s Dutch reformer realness’. His clothes are slim fit, with high collars, and long trunkhose. I suppose it draws attention to him as a obvious reformer and evangelical, but the Puritan movement is barely a twinkle in anyone’s eye at this point.

Thomas Cromwell

This Holbein’s portrait of Cromwell. Notice that his clothes are wide, square around the shoulders, and feature a loose and baggy overgown. There’s a lot of layers, a lot of fur, and tight-fitting hat.

And as an aside, they couldn’t have Henry’s sister Mary be called Mary in the show because it would be ‘too confusing’. Yet all the guys called Thomas are allowed to retain their names. I wonder why that might be.

Wolsey is Still Being Generally Evil Because The Historiography For This Show Is From The 1970s

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The man that Wolsey set up as a French spy has gone mad due to torture. Because Wolsey’s eeeeeevvviilllll. Although I will point out that torture in England has been illegal since the 12th century – except in the care where a warrant for torture was signed by a sitting monarch. So, the guy who is responsible for this torture is… you know, Henry. Not Wolsey.

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Norfolk and Thomas Boleyn (hey look, another Thomas who is allowed to retain his name) reveal that Wolsey has kept the prolific and incredibly wealthy parish of Winchester for himself. That’s amazing, seeing as Wolsey wasn’t in charge of the Bishopric of Winchester until 1529. Wolsey has amazing time travel powers!

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Wolsey tries setting up Henry with Marguerite of Navarre, which is weird. Not only are Henry and Katherine still married at this point, but Marguerite of Navarre?

Marguerite_d'Angoulême

Yeah, she’s called ‘Of Navarre’ because she’s married to the King of Navarre (who’s referred to as a Duke for some reason, even though Navarre is a separate kingdom at this point). So I have no idea what Wolsey is trying to do. Is he trying to get them married? Does he want Henry just to sleep with Marguerite? What does it accomplish? She’s the sister of Francis I, but Wolsey wants peace with the French, so what does pissing off Francis accomplish? There is no sense in having Wolsey set Marguerite and Henry up.

Anyway, Henry bones Marguerite because he’s a braindead man-slut with no depth of character.

There’s Also Some Stuff to Do With Religion

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Henry’s ‘Defence of the Seven Sacraments’ has earned him the title of ‘Defender of the Faith’. This is a title still held by the monarchs of the United Kingdom – Elizabeth II is a Defender of the Faith – but it was granted in 1521, so the Pope’s a little bit late with his post. Anyway, Martin Luther has written a rebuttal and Henry hates it so much he throws a little tantrum.

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I’d like to point out as well that many of the depictions of religion in this show are massively inaccurate. Take the royal chapel, for example; this is not a Catholic chapel of the sixteenth century. This is a plain stone, non-decorated chapel that is clearly Protestant. Our ideal of a quiet, plain church with quiet is Protestant and Victorian, and not anything to do with the sixteenth century.

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Catholic chapels of the period would be bursting with colour and decoration. They were bright and eyecatching, full of noise and people. Henry’s chapel had mass five times a day – he was a really religious man.

Thomas More then tries to talk about Jesus’s pain and suffering and Wolsey is not having any of it. Shove your Jesus talk, Thomas.

I Want to Bang Anne Boleyn But Also I’m Sad Because I Might Die Someday

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Henry has this mad constipated love for Anne Boleyn that can’t be contained. He’s so in love with Katherine’s lady-in-waiting (Anne Boleyn was not Katherine’s lady-in-waiting. She was Queen Mary Tudor’s lady-in-waiting) that to keep him running after her, Anne goes from court.

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Henry’s surprised by this, even though Anne would have to obtain permission from Henry and Katherine to leave court. Like, it’s her job. She can’t just give it up and vanish if she feels like it.

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Henners gets mad jealous at Thomas Wyatt for being ‘previously engaged to Anne’. For a start, that’d be impossible because he was married before he even met Anne, and that particular plot point has been taken from Anne Boleyn’s previous entanglement with Henry Percy, later Duke of Northumberland.

And look, it’s another guy called Thomas. But viewers would get too confused at three women called Mary.

Anyway, Charles V has won an immense victory against the French at the Battle of Pavia, decimating the French army and capturing Francis I. Henry declares that there must be celebrations and jousts for this victory.

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That’s some cheap looking armour. Here’s some actual armour of Henry VIII;

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This cheap and flimsy looking armour leads exactly to where you think it’s going to go.

No wonder Henry is such a child. He’s suffered repeated brain injuries.

After some vaguely incestuous interactions with her brother, George, (stay classy, show), Anne comes back to court. Henry is violently jealous and it’s pretty gross.

Guess the strangling is subtle foreshadowing. But, like, sexy foreshadowing because Henners mashing his face against hers is so erotic.

After sustaining a head injury and almost dying once, Henners decides to do some bad pole-vaulting.

This is based on a real-life incident, but I don’t know exactly when it happened, but it sends Henry into a panic.

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I never even thought about my future wails 34 year old man.

Henry throws another tantrum, because apparently the writers can only convey his emotions through screaming at other characters, because he has no children, he could die, and he wants a divorce from Katherine.

Henry’s separation from Katherine was never a divorce. Henry sought an annulment from Katherine. A divorce means that a marriage took place, while an annulment means it never happened. Henry never looked for a divorce. If you say that he did, you are wrong.

This Marriage is Ridiculous 

I can’t state how much the whole ‘Margaret marries the King of Portugal’ storyline is terrible.

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“Wah, I have to marry into one of the most wealthiest kingdoms in Europe and he’s old, waahhhh.”

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Anyway, because Mary hated Charles so much it means that actually they were deeply, deeply attracted all along and they have the most uncomfortable and awful sex scene I’ve seen. After all, if a woman doesn’t like you and obviously detests you, that means she’s actually in love with you because yeah, let’s bring that trope into it because it’s not offensive or ridiculous at all.

Mary doesn’t handle meeting the King of Portugal very well.

Two things:

  1. Grow up, buttercup. You’re a royal princess, and this is the name of the game. At least you’ve got a husband who wants to make you happy. You could be like Joanna of Castile, who was tortured into insanity by her husband.
  2. If we accept the premise that this is all taking place in 1525, then the King of Portugal would be John III. Who was twenty three at the time. I have no idea who this old man is supposed to be. John III also married Catherine of Austria in 1525, so there’s no chance for him to marry Mary.

Mary can’t stomach being married to such a horrible old man (whose only fault is that he’s old), so hatches her own plan.

In real life, Mary Tudor married the King of France, who was much older than herself, and he died a few months later. It was said that he died of being in bed with her too much, so I’m guessing that there is just nothing right about this storyline. She absolutely did not decide to smother her husband because EW OLD.

Let’s Talk Fashion, Baby

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There is absolutely no shape or structure to this gown. The hood is ridiculous, a sort of strange headpiece that has no place in a sixteenth century drama, and the gown is slim fit, with no shape and certainly no undergarments that were worn by women of the period.

Mary Tudor

This is Mary Tudor. Her gown has a fitted bodice worn over a chemise, farthingale, and petticoat. Her hood is not a really random plantpot sort of pinned into her hair.

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I don’t like any of Henry’s sofa-inspired suits. None of them are accurate. He’s meant to look big and broad shouldered! This is far too slim and flattering.

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Yeah, no. That looks practically seventeenth century. There is nothing right for an English gown of the period on this dress.

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Why can’t this show get a single hood right? Even Anne Boleyn’s hoods? When she’s famous for introducing the French hood to the English court? What’s up with her short sleeved jerkin thing? Why has she got short sleeves on?

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Those dresses are very fifteenth century Italian apart from the sleeves, which are bits of cloth attached to each other with string. Also: these two women came onto Thomas Tallis, a minor character who’s been hanging around for the past few episodes, and loudly announce how much they want to have sex with him. They are interchangeable, have no names, dress the same, and only wish to have sex with men. They exist for no reason other to be sexual objects to men.

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Not a single one of Katherine’s gowns are right. Why is the waistline so high? What is that stupid thing they’ve shoved on her head? Where are her trumpet sleeves?

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Square necklines, big sleeves, cone farthingale underneath the skirt, and a great big ol’ gable hood. Not ‘sexy’ I guess, but it’s better than the terrible mess Katherine is wearing that makes no sense.

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These women are on loan from an English civil war drama. ’cause not a single one of them looks like they’re from the 1520s.

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Ew. That’s leather stays and they look gross as as hell. Accurate, but the pleather looks terrible. And the sleeves are terrible. And no Tudor woman would consider wearing this, at all.

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Anne is pretty much dressed as a woman from 1620s. The laced, elbow length sleeves, the exaggeration around the stomacher, the way the skirt is shaped – this looks Jacobean. It’s a whole century out.

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Obviously, the bodice on Anne’s dress is considerably longer, but the shape bears more in common with this dress than a Tudor gown.

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Hell, it even looks more like this dress from 1670 than anything from the 1520s.

That’s it for this week, costume fiends, but come back next weekend for another forray into historical inaccuracies, poor costuming, and the screaming tantrums of a man-baby that apparently passes for an interpretation of a renaissance monarch.

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.