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 E5


Welcome back, my costume fiends.

This week, we’re looking at ‘Arise, My Lord’.

Henry is displeased to learn that the Emperor Charles V, Queen Katherine’s nephew, has released King Francis of France from prison and is forced to look for a foreign ally elsewhere. Meanwhile Katherine’s alliance with Charles intensifies as does her hatred of Wolsey. Anne Boleyn turns down the king’s proposal that she be the royal mistress, demanding nothing less than being declared queen.

This episode sees more progression in the Henry and Anne relationship, as well as some serious Wolsey drama going down. After launching the series with episodes crammed full with just about as much stuff as they could get, the amount of action is starting to simmer down a little and focus more closely on character and development. There are still quite a few problems, however, so let’s dive in.

A Love Story for the Ages

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Because Henry makes all his decisions with his penis, he’s chosen to grant Thomas Boleyn the title of ‘Lord Richford’. He became Viscount Rochford on the 18th June 1525, but it may have been completely unrelated to Henry’s pursuit of Anne. Thomas Boleyn was an esteemed statesman and diplomat in his own right, so the two events could be completely disconnected. After all, Bessie Blount’s family wasn’t awarded grand titles.

Henry continues his pursuit of Anne and she sends him the equivalent of a saucy snapchat – a miniature. This is based on the incredibly famous portrait, of course, the only time that you’ll see Natalie Dormer in accurate period clothing. This sexy little picture is just too much for Henry to cope with, and he immediately rides from White Hall all the way to Kent in a couple of minutes.

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Henry simply must have Anne and demands that she become his official mistress. He names the official title for the royal mistress at the French court, a position that has never existed in the English court. There have been plenty of royal mistresses, but never ones formally recognised.

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However, Anne refuses. She will not be his mistress, she will only be his wife – and Queen.

In terms of historiography, this is a bit of a minefield. There are plenty of historians on either side – whether Anne was genuinely in love with Henry, or whether she/her family was ambitious and wanted to rise up through making Anne queen. Personally, I think it’s a little ridiculous to believe that the daughter of a courtier and her family would presume that they could manipulate one of the most powerful men in Europe into being their pawn. There was absolutely no precedent in history or in culture of a King casting aside his wife to marry a woman like Anne. It is true that Edward IV married a woman of a social standing as Anne, but that didn’t involve ending a long-standing marriage or a intensely plotted plan to absolutely control Edward. There would be no reason to believe that Henry could be pressured into doing such a thing, even if he was crazy in love.

To me, I think Henry and Anne must have genuinely been in love and Henry wanted her for his wife. You don’t manipulate a King, certainly not in a time period where they were believed to be agents of divine will. There had been rumours and ideas circulating since at least 1519 that Henry would set Katherine aside, and there were other crowned Kings of Europe who had done so. It seems to be to be immense bad luck and timing that he chose to marry Anne, instead of another royal match.

Spurned on by Anne’s declaration, Henry decides that his marriage is over and tells Katherine so.

This is actually a pretty great scene, with very good performances by Rhys-Meyer and Doyle. They are a couple who cannot be together anymore, despite their love and affection for each other. Top acting marks there.

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Anne sends Henry a broach – which happened, very famously. It’s a storm-tossed maiden but she’s a constant and her love is a constant, you know, symbolism.

They make out a little bit but they swear that off sex until marriage.

Wolsey’s Being Evil

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Wolsey is still plotting and scheming. His first scheme of the day is to make Henry Fitzroy, Henners’s illegitimate son, Duke of Richmond and Somerset. It’s not lost on the crowd that Duke of Richmond was the title of Henry VII, Henry’s father. This kid is now one of the most powerful people in England, and technically, could be Henry’s heir above his legitimate daughter Mary. Katherine is not happy about this and declares Wolsey her enemy.

Fitzroy gives us an idea on how much time has passed, at least. Even if Princess Mary hasn’t aged at all. Also, Rhys-Meyer is fantastic with the child performers. I might not like a lot of the choices he makes as a performer, but he’s always very genuine with any of the child actors.

As Wolsey is Fitzroy’s godfather, he’s sending the kid to his own household to be treated as a royal heir. This scene is hilarious because the child playing Fitzroy doesn’t act, at all. His face is completely blank while his mother holds him and sobs.

Wolsey is sending Mary away to Ludlow as he’s evvvilll and punishing Katherine. She’s horrified and hurt, only I scratch my head at this. Mary being sent away to Ludlow is par the course for a royal heir. Ludlow castle and its estates belong to the Prince of Wales, the royal heir presumptive. Royal children – in fact, all children, in this period – do not spend their years with their parents. As a rule, children are sent out to other households at the age of 7 for an ‘apprenticeship’ of sorts – whether an actual apprenticeship, or for education and refinement. Mary will also be looked after by Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury, a friend and confident of Katherine. So, Katherine’s reaction doesn’t make much sense. She seems surprised and shocked that something like this would happen – when it’s normal and totally expected of any child in this period. In fact, Mary is being shown off to the world as Henry’s only true heir.

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Mary is being sent to live with the Lady Salisbury. For a start, it’s Countess Salisbury. Margaret Pole was one of only two women to hold a peerage in her own right, and she’s a Countess. She’s also one of Katherine’s closest friends, so Katherine shouldn’t be so horrified by all of this.

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After proposing a new evil alliance with the French, Wolsey convenes a secret meeting with the highest ranking churchmen in the land to rule on Henry’s marriage. As papal legate, Wolsey argues that he could rule on the marriage. However, the Archbishop of Canterbury and Bishop Fisher say that it must be taken to the Pope. Wolsey’s evil is curbed, for now.

The Imperial Alliance

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After winning such immense battles in French holdings, Charles V has ransomed Francis I and freed him. This prompts an eye-bulging freak-out from Henry.

Henry confronts the Imperial Ambassador by screaming obscenities in the poor guy’s face. Yeah, no. Henry VIII was a renaissance statesman. Sure, the guy had a temper and was known for ‘thunderous oaths’, but he’s not a gibbering fool that thinks international diplomacy involves screaming the word fuck into a man’s face. It doesn’t make Henry seem young and vibrant. It makes me think that Rhys-Meyer can’t act with any subtlety beyond screaming to convey anger.

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Oh, and now Charles V has sacked Rome and taken the Pope as a prisoner. So, that’s the annulment out the window. Guess you shouldn’t have screamed in his ambassador’s face, Henners.

Oh Yeah, Margaret Murdered A Guy

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Yeah, Margaret literally murdered a guy and apparently suffers no repercussions from this. She doesn’t even care on an emotional level, so I guess Margaret/Mary is a complete sociopath and will be start serial killing soon. Charles proposes to Margaret as they clearly have the greatest love of all.

Charles Brandon and Mary Tudor married in 1515 and retired from court life until around 1520. Mary and Charles were forced to may back some of her dowry, but Henry seemed to have been mostly friendly towards the match. They had both private and public ceremonies and were married until Mary died in 1533.

Henry, as he is wont to do, screams in Margaret’s face and she realises that maybe being not Queen of Portugal is shitty.

Margaret has started drinking and starts being violent towards Charles. But I guess they really like each other still because this violence leads into aggressive sex. After all, when people hate each other it means they really love each other and a couple who hit each other nonconsensually really care for each other.

The Queer Element

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Okay, time to delve into some queer history. Thomas Tallis and one of Henry’s fuckwit friends are having an affair, which raises a few issues for me.

This plotline is very obviously based on the B-plotline from Phillipa Greggory’s ‘The Other Boleyn Girl’ where she features this gay sexual dalliance ring that revolve around Anne Boleyn and have naughty sextimes with each other and possibly her. She credits this to Retha Warnicke, an American historian that specalises in the period and wrote about sexual heresy at Henry’s court during this period. However, Warnicke distanced herself from this interpretation.

There is nothing intrinsically wrong with depicting a queer romance in a period TV show. Queer people have always existed and there’s nothing wrong with having queer people’s stories told from a historical context. However, I don’t get that this is trying to be a nuanced depiction of how queer people lived and loved during the sixteenth century. What I get is that this was a scandalous element from an immensely popular novel that’s been added to the show because the idea of the show is ‘naughty naughty sexy times’. The queer angle appears to have been added because it’s naughty and supposedly deviant for the age.

I don’t appreciate that the only queer representation appears to have been added to make the show even more naughty and deviant. C’mon, we deserve better than that.

The Plot To Nowhere

Henry Fitzroy’s dead. It makes me ask why he was even included, other than for scandal.

Henry Fitzroy didn’t actually die until 1536, at the age of seventeen. But I guess it means more if a child dies.

What Are You Looking At?

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Glad to see being away from court didn’t improve your fashion at all, Bessie. The sleeves, the bodice, the hairnet – she has never worn anything that looks right for the 1520s.

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FINALLY. That’s an accurate hood! That looks good and doesn’t distract from her face at all. Shame about the dress, which has a weird empire line that makes it look like a fancy dress costume from the 1820s.

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Hey look another weird sack dress. There’s no petticoat, and she’s got this weird pattern on the skirt that looks awful. You’ve got an amazing actress with regal beauty, so why the insistence on these weird sack dresses?

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Again, the one guy who is wearing an accurate outfit is portrayed as being evil. He’s wearing layers, a doublet covered by an overgown with slashing decoration, and the shoulders are nice and wide. This is a good representation of Tudor costume, and I have no idea why it’s so hard to achieve for every other character.

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Are you on holiday from Turkey? What is this weird Ottoman outfit? Is she a spy from the Sultan? Where is her bodice? Why is she wearing just a simple dress with a eastern headdress?

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This portrait is supposedly Margaret Pole and look HOW IT LOOKS NOTHING LIKE A COURT DRESS FROM THE OTTOMAN EMPIRE.

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Are you on holiday from Middle Earth? What’s with those godawful sleeves? No Tudor woman would wear a sleeve like this.

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Nice inaccurate ruff, Henry. That high collar with ruffed chemise neckline is completely wrong for the period. Just dress him right, for one episode. Please.

And that’s it for this week. Come back for more costume complaints and historical corrections next time!

Unpicking The Tudors; S1 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.

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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?

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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.

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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 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.