Unpicking the Tudors; S1 E7


I was away in Northumberland so this episode was also delayed. I’ll try to be more diligent in the future, but each of these posts does take a fair few hours of my time. Stupid garbage series.

‘Message to the Emperor’
William Compton dies of the “sweating sickness” at Compton Wynates, his house in Warwickshire. As King Henry VIII receives positive news of his war against Emperor Charles, the sickness spreads like a wildfire. Henry flees the palace and London, and starts having doubts about the future and his ability to rule the country. Both Anne Boleyn and Cardinal Wolsey are stricken with the disease, but recover. Wolsey sends agents to the exiled Pope asking for him to make a favorable decision on Henry’s ‘Great Matter’ but Clement instead sends his legate, Cardinal Campeggio, to make a final decision in England.

Sickness! Everyone is scared and dying! Plague imagery!

Straight Out of Warwickshire

This episode is focusing mainly on the 1528 outbreak of the Sweating Sickness. This is an unusual illness in that it occurred mainly in England from 1485 to 1551 and then vanished. No one is quite sure what it was (although there are researchers who think that it may be an unknown species of hantavirus) but it was pretty serious as sufferers did not gain immunity – you could catch it again and again until you sweated yourself to death. It was not a pleasant illness.

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Anyway, William Compton is being punished for the GAY by being the first to catch the disease. In the middle of rural Warwickshire. Even though epicentres for outbreaks for the Sweat were in busy city centres.

Yeah, disease works that way.

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The doctor cuts open William Compton’s back in a display of ‘Wow, medicine was so backwards and disgusting five hundred years ago! It was so stupid and people were so stupid because they believed in the theory of the four humours!’. Well, to that I say, you’re stupid actually. Medicine and doctors did not aim to cure sickness in the sixteenth century. That’s a modern perspective. A doctor is there to make a patient feel better – but the ultimate cure is dependant on the will of God. A Tudor doctor will make you feel better and comfortable, but if you’re trying to get him to prepare an actual cure to combat disease, you’re not asking the right guy.

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Not surprisingly, seeing as he died in real life, Compton cops it. This random woman is his ‘common-law wife’ Mary Hastings.

That would actually be his second wife, Elizabeth Stonor, who was pregnant at the time of Compton’s death. He had been married before to Werburga Bereton and had three children. I guess they’re cutting out Peter Compton – his son – out of this to avoid pissing off the real Compton family.

William Compton’s family does still exist, by the way. They’re the Marquesses of Northampton, and they still live in the same home used by William Compton.

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But Thomas Tallis has come to see what has happened to his lover. He passes by this ALREADY EXISTING MASS GRAVE BECAUSE LOOK IT’S ALREADY FULL OF SKELETONS –

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And William’s body has just been thrown into a quick grave. Even though it wasn’t, and he was buried in the chapel. Which you can still go see.

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Our romantic subplot never went anywhere yet the audience needs some kind of emotion…

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ROCKE ANYDE ROLLE

Thomas is sad for about ten seconds while he writes a sad song for this lost beloved. Then he sleeps with one of the Fucking Sisters.

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So much for the gay agenda, I suppose.

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But she dies, so I guess that this epidemic is purely spread by Thomas Tallis sleeping with people. Either way, this whole subplot was meant to have some sort of emotional resonance but it merely annoys me for being needlessly designed to promote controversy and ‘naughtiness’.

I’m Henry VIII and I’m Mortally Terrified of Death

Henry doesn’t take news of this epidemic very well. That’s very much based on real life, as the real Henners was terrified of disease and illness. His brother had died young, and with Henry having no real male heirs, there was a high chance that the Tudor dynasty would come to a complete end or would result in another highly devastating English civil war.

A lot of Henry’s actions make much more sense when you realise he was on a constant knife edge of fear pretty much all the time.

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Do you guys wanna buy some drugs?

Henry did really create and mix his own herbal remedies for conditions and to ward off illness. I have no idea whether they were effective or not (I’m saying probably not) but he didn’t die of the Sweat, so kudos.

Henry and Anne decide to frolic in the countryside with the new French ambassador, only to come back to London to find a rampaging zombie mob of sick people. Henry leaves Anne to the mob (what a guy) to make her own way home, orders Katherine to travel to Wales, and that he will stay in Whitehall by himself for… reasons.

In actuality, Henry left London. Like he did every summer, because he wasn’t stupid and knew that disease spreads in city centres and that it was most prevalent in the summer months. He may not have known about viruses and bacterium but IRL Henry knew enough to realise that staying in London in the middle of a really serious disease outbreak is just the worst thing you could do.

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The pain on Maria Doyle Kennedy’s face as Henry says he still loves her enough to save her and offers her a kiss is both beautiful and heart-breaking. Stop searching for emotional moments with ridiculous subplots, writers. This should be the emotional heart of the show.

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Anne’s maid, however, catches and dies of the Sweat within a day and Anne catches the disease while nursing her. It’s said that’s how she actually got the Sweat, and it would make sense. The modern world’s view of the employer/servant dynamic is very much shaped by the Victorian ideals, with master being far, far, far above the lowly servant. It was different in the sixteenth century, with the boundaries being far more blurred and not as distant. Your servant was a reflection and part of you, in a way, and not subject to the whole ‘must be invisible and never seen around the house’. Servants were an integral part of the household, and in a society that did not hold individualisation as the philosophical ideal, it was pretty likely you’d be close with your personal servants. Most would even sleep in the same room as you, on a trunkle bed from beneath your own. They would be there to serve you and your body for nearly all of the day, and so, it makes sense why Anne should care so much for someone who should matter not at all to her personally.

There’s a lot of changes to our society that the Enlightenment made and we presume that they apply to all of history. How we treat those in service is one.

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Henry sits down and eats a whole plate of salmon to himself, because he’s a big fat pig who can’t control himself. Or some other such clever observation. But it turns out that being on your own in a palace full of sick people is scary…

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If… only I’d had time… to be more evil…

Even Cardinal Wolsey is sick so Henry must escape!

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Are you in Northumberland? How the fuck did you get there?

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Oh my god, I’m an orc!

Henry freaks out because he’s convinced he’s going to die, but he’s fine.

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Anne gets better (although her brother-in-law, Mary’s husband, died in the outbreak, as well as countless others, including the wife and daughters of Thomas Cromwell), so it’s all fine.

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Squishy, reunited true love.

This Isn’t a Great Matter, It’s Merely an Okay One

Despite all of this, Henry’s quest for an annulment continues on. England and France are now allied against the Emperor, all that war stuff behind them.

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Henry’s annoyed that the Emperor hasn’t impregnated his underage daughter, but Wolsey is sending lawyers to the Pope that will smooth all this matter over shortly. After all, why should the Pope, a virtual prisoner to the Emperor, support the Emperor?

I have no idea.

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Wolsey is a FUGLY BIATCH.

Katherine, meanwhile, has been communicating secretly with the Emperor and is assured that he won’t let the annulment happen.

In all honesty, the only real reason (in my opinion) why the annulment couldn’t happen is that of the influence of the Emperor Charles. There have been other kings who have received annulments in far worse circumstances – for instance, Louis XII of France annulled his marriage to his wife Joan in far seamier circumstances, alleging that her body was deformed and it was impossible to have sex with her. The timing of Henry’s annulment just sucked. If only he’d tried earlier, I’m fairly sure that the Pope would have granted it.

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The Pope (Clement VII, to be clear, as his name is never actually said in show thus far) is not particularly warm to Henry’s case. He doesn’t think that Henry’s drive to marry Anne is a particularly good reason – and he’s not exactly in a position to piss off the Holy Roman Emperor. So he’s sending a Cardinal to hold a court with Wolsey to decide on the marriage.

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I kind of low-key love Cardinal Campeggio. He is the definition of ‘over it’. He doesn’t want to go to England, he doesn’t want to be involved, he wants none of it. It’s going to go well, you can tell.

You Simply Must – Oh Holy God, Thomas

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Thomas More gets pretty creepy in this episode. Firstly, he starts to act like an apocalypse cult leader towards his family when the Sweat is rampaging around London.

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He then starts talking about the real disease that’s killing people. Do you know what the real disease is, family? Protestantism.

Thomas, people are dying.

 

Thomas is against violence, but the only way to cure a disease is to kill all those with criticisms of the Catholic Church by burning them alive.

Thomas, you’ve got some issues.

Walk, Walk, Passion, Baby, Work It, Move that Bitch Crazy

Ugh.

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That’s Da Vinci’s La Belle Ferronière. It’s from the 1490s. I am fed up of these shitty cheap pseduo-medieval gowns that have nothing to do with the 1520s but look like continental gowns from thirty years before. It shouldn’t be difficult to get it right! It would surely take more effort to get these specifically continental designs of medieval outfit than just asking for Tudor gowns from costumiers!

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This! This is what your ladies need to be wearing! There’s such a huge difference and it makes me very angry and frustrated. The shapes, styles, fabrics, weights, and flow of fabric are so completely different!

And the characters don’t wear enough jewellery. There should be more jewellery.

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Is that… is that an over-gown with padded shoulders? In the heraldic Tudor colours? I’m shocked. It’s almost great, apart from the long trousers.

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Thomas More wants to burn people alive because you’re all dressed so badly.

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This is actually Thomas More with his family. Who are dressed correctly and not in a cheap approximation of ‘YE OLDE ENGLANDE’.

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An eighteenth century shawl on a cheap Primark medieval wench dress. Poor.

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Okay, for a start, this lady is wearing a corset on the outside. Uh uh. But you know what I want to wear when I’m someone who spends my time cleaning and picking up after people? Flimsy, transparent, white sleeves that will instantly get dirty, damaged, and ruined when I do the slightest amount of work.

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YAS Thomas Boleyn, YAS. Good outfit! And something halfway decent for Anne, for once.

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No one cares about your cleavage, Henners, And don’t wear your leather jacket to the table.

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Monogrammed royal boxer shorts. Uh, nope. Put on a nightshirt, love, no one wants to see that.

And that’s the end of the sweating sickness. Do you feel good that you survived? Come back next time for more bad history, questionable writing, and terrible clothes.

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Unpicking the Tudors; S1 EP2


‘Simply Henry’

Welcome back costume and history fiends.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Tis a Pity She’s A Whore

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

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

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

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

It’s a very nuanced character, you see.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Also There’s Some Treason

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

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

He’s also dressed just like Henry.

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

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

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

Then some real bullshit takes place with his execution.

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

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

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

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

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

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

God, I Have a Son!

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

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

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

Sashay Shantay

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Turns out the greatest hunt is man.

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

Curtain Realness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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What the fuck is on your head.

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

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

In Other News

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The Pope’s dead. Sorry bout it.