Unpicking The Tudors; S2 E2


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

Tears of Blood

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

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

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

Henry + Anne 4eva

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

Also, there’s an assassin on the loose.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Reformation Continues

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keeping Up With The Court

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Henry VIII: Pirate King.

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What the hell is that dress.

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

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Nice lampshade there, Lady Brandon.

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

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Unpicking the Tudors; S1 EP2


‘Simply Henry’

Welcome back costume and history fiends.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Tis a Pity She’s A Whore

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

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

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

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

It’s a very nuanced character, you see.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Also There’s Some Treason

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

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

He’s also dressed just like Henry.

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

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

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

Then some real bullshit takes place with his execution.

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

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

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

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

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

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

God, I Have a Son!

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

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

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

Sashay Shantay

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Turns out the greatest hunt is man.

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

Curtain Realness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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What the fuck is on your head.

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

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

In Other News

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The Pope’s dead. Sorry bout it.