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?
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.
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.
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 –
Was that an assassin who looked conspicuously like an assassin was around her at this time. I mean, come on!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Henry VIII: Pirate King.
What the hell is that dress.
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.
Nice lampshade there, Lady Brandon.
And that’s it for this week! Come back next time for more Tudor politics and horrible headdresses.