Unpicking The Tudors; S2 E2


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

Tears of Blood

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

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

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

Henry + Anne 4eva

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

Also, there’s an assassin on the loose.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Reformation Continues

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keeping Up With The Court

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Henry VIII: Pirate King.

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What the hell is that dress.

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

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Nice lampshade there, Lady Brandon.

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

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Unpicking the Tudors; 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!

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 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.

Unpicking the Tudors; S1 E6


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

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

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

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

It’s A Love Story for the Ages

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Poor Unfortunate Souls! Go Ahead, Make Your Choice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Cabal of Undefined Motivation

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

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

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

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THE RITUAL HAS BEGUN.

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

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The dispute is settled with an armwrestle. Fucking ridiculous.

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

Sexuality – Eat and Drink and Sleep With Me

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

This is while this is happening.

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

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

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

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

Do My Little Turn on the Catwalk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Unpicking The Tudors; S1 E4


Good day, costume fiends!

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

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

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

You Simply Must Meet Thomas (… again)

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

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

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

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

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

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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 E3


Good morrow, costume fiends! Welcome to your insight into Henrican politics for the week!

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Wolsey, Wolsey, Wolsey!++++

The King asks Charles to escort his sister, Margaret, to her betrothed and promotes him to Duke of Suffolk. The envoys from the Holy Roman-Emperor meet with Cardinal Wolsey and determine how to cement the treaty between the two nations. Anne catches the King’s notice in a play. The Emperor is invited to the King’s court. It is learned that the King of France knows of the treaty talks- and the Cardinal is quick to find a scapegoat. We learn more of why Anne’s father and uncle want her to seduce the King.

As usual, the pace is really rattling on. Each episode covers a truly huge amount of events and many different plotlines. To be honest, it does work. It makes the Tudor court seem very vibrant, busy, and a potboiler of intrigue. It just means I have a lot of history to cover!

Begot by Butchers, But By Bishops Bred

Wolsey, you see, is evil.

After the French cardinals screwed him over, Wolsey has now entered into a secret treaty with the Holy Roman Empire. Wolsey, in real life. mediated between the Holy Roman Empire and France in 1519, but this treaty is clearly the Treaty of Bruges from 1521. This started to be debated during the Field of Cloth of Gold, and it’s often seen as Wolsey’s finest work in international politics. It joined Henry and Charles in a mutual treaty if France would not sign a peace treaty. Wolsey had ambitions of a peaceful Europe, with England acting as an arbitrator, and it was a masterstroke of international diplomacy.

However, in the show it’s evidence that Wolsey is EEEEEEVILLLLLLL.

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He’s taking money from the Emperor! He’s evil!

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He has an innocent man sent to death! He accuses this man of spying for the French but it’s actually…. Wolsey!

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Wolsey has a secret mistress! He’s EEEEEEVVVVILLLL. Evil! That’s his whole motivation!

Okay, I see your game, show. The show needs a Big Bad. It’s a easy system of protagonist-to-antagonist narrative brought in by the highly developed and arc system of story telling brought in by Buffy. Unfortunately, it does not work here. Creating a narrative out of Tudor history is a necessity of making a fictional television show about these events, but having Wolsey as an arch manipulator and secretly evil minister is based on some incredibly old historiography that has been mostly revised and dismissed by modern historians. Obviously, I’m a little biased as my adviser during university was a scholar and defender of Cardinal Wolsey, but the idea of Wolsey as manipulator and Henry VIII as puppet is incredibly old-fashioned and not really in-keeping with modern Tudor academia.

I’ll talk more about it as the seasons progress. But, needless to say, Wolsey as being this evil minister is old fashioned, lazy, and a waste of Sam Neil’s talents.

EUSTACCEEEEEEE

This treaty with Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, brings in one of my favourite figures of the period.

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Eustace Chapuys. This guy. This guy is one of my favourite people of the sixteenth century. He worked as Imperial Ambassador to the English Court from 1529 to 1545, and he’s notable for his wonderful legacy – incredibly detailed correspondence. He had a head for gossip and reported everything that he heard, and it’s such a goldmine of intrigue and whisperings and I love reading them and I love him.

We’ll ignore that he’s nine years early.

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To commemorate and sign the treaty, Charles V actually arrives in England to sign it himself, not through a proxy. It was pretty unusual for foreign royalty to visit England for things like this – being that England is pretty out of the way in Europe – but he actually visited England a number of times.

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This is contemporary artwork of Charles V visiting England in 1520. The events the show is depicting took place in 1522, however. Vague timelines of vagueness strike again, but I appreciate that the show made efforts to depict the Hapsburg jaw.

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This is Charles V in 1519. As you can see, he has a deformation of the jaw. The Hapsburg jaw is a pretty famous example of the effects of inbreeding on a family, and this is not even the worst example of it.

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As part of the treaty, Charles V is engaged to the Princess Mary. This also happened in real life; in 1522, the six year old Mary was engaged to the twenty two year old Charles. The two, while they never married, remained close for their entire lives.

Katherine is pleased with England aligning their interests with the Empire. Considering that she is fearful that Henry will divorce her, having her powerful nephew on side can only help her. And, in another element that is true, Katherine and Charles were very close and kept in constant contact.

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She swears to being a virgin whilst married to Arthur, the elder brother of Henry VIII who died in his teens (and whose death ensured that Henry would be king) and to her unwavering love and devotion to her husband and king. Maria Doyle Kennedy is pure class as Katherine. Her performance is excellent, sincerity and fire balanced with such a nuanced sadness. She acts Henners out of the water, every time.

A Historic Meeting

She’s right to be worried about her marriage as one particularly famous lady is ready to make her court debut.

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This is something else that both pleases and frustrates me. The masquerade of Chateau Vert was really where Anne Boleyn made her debut at the English court. It was really conducted to entertain the Imperial delegation for celebrating the Treaty of Bruges in 1522. However, it was not where Henry became interested in Anne. His romantic and sexual interest would not start for about another four years.

But it does make a suitably dramatic set-piece.

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There are also guns. I don’t know why. This guy just starts shooting a gun at the rehearsal, for reasons I can’t begin to fathom.

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Couldn’t say it better myself, Mister Master of the Revels. Who is wearing a ruff. In 1522.

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The theme of the masquerade is that noble virtues are held captive and must be rescued by brave gentlemen. The female participants actually did wear white satin dresses. However, I highly doubt that they really wore wispy things that exposed their nip nips and had stupid little ruffs that do not match the period at all. Those dresses are very inappropriate. Sure, they’re ‘sexy’ and ‘risque’ I guess, but they look awful.

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The men have Henry disguised amongst them. In real life, it’d be pretty easy to see which one was Henry. After all, he was red haired and, oh yeah, about a foot taller than everyone else. Here, Henners is actually one of the shorter men in the cast. And I think those tights are some really cheap costuming. I doubt polyester tights were available in the 1520s.

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That’s some accurate Tudor body glitter these ladies are wearing.

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And Henry and Anne lock eyes for the very first time. Very dramatic and breathtaking, but all I can think is that winged eyeliner is really not right. This moment is ruined by Anne’s incredibly fashion forward makeup choices.

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So Anne is flirty and sexy and keeps putting herself in the way of Henry throughout the episode. I find her use of face glitter perplexing, but I guess it’s the key to a early modern king’s heart.

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Henry has a dream sequence with Anne that is sort of French sixties dreamscape cinematography, but that I hate because in any form of fiction I really dislike OVERLY! SIGNIFICANT! AND MEANINGFUL! DREAM! SEQUENCES! I find them a really lazy means to continue and express plot points. I take it as a sign that the writer couldn’t think of a better way to get from point A to point B.

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My sheets are wet? But how…

A Sexy Plot

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Only Anne’s interactions with Henry aren’t natural. Her uncle, the Duke of Norfolk, and her father are contriving Anne’s relationship with Henry. Why? For land? Jewels? The Earldom of Ormonde that Thomas Boleyn really, really wanted? Uh, no. It’s all to get red of Thomas Wolsey. Because he’s common and too powerful and clearly Anne can badger Henry into getting rid of Wolsey.

Yeah, no. Even if you buy into the ludicrous theory that the Boleyn affair was manipulated into happening by a family who wanted political power, the idea that Anne Boleyn could ‘trick’ Henry into getting rid of Thomas Wolsey doesn’t work. That’s not how one talked or worked with a sixteenth century monarch. They are not a modern politician to be manipulated and petitioned and debate with. A sixteenth century monarch is literally a figure of God – a person who is divinely ordained to be a ruler. You don’t manipulate or try to badger a person you literally believe was chosen by God to be in charge.

These Are Strange Castles

The show also has a weird problem with research of estates and homes.

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This is not Framlingham Castle.

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This is Framlingham.

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This is not Hever Castle.

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This is Hever Castle.

I appreciate that it was probably impossible and far too expensive to film at the actual locations. I get that and I’m not cross that they’re not filming a two minute scene at the actual location. But why go to the expense of creating CGI and then not actually CGI the correct building? Google, man. Google is your friend.

You Simply Must Meet Thomas

Thomas More has been quietly simmering away as a character, but now he’s getting a bit more prominence and it’s clear why; he’s the Thomas that isn’t EEEEEVVVVILLLLLLLL.

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He helps Henry edit Defence of the Seven Sacraments!

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Wolsey cuts him out of the negotiations with the Imperial court and look how hurt Thomas More is! Booooo Wolsey!

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Henry makes Thomas More gather up copies of Martin Luther’s works and burn them and it makes Thomas sad!

Yeah, let’s ignore how happy and willing Thomas More was to round up reformers and have them tortured and burned alive.

FYI, I do not like Thomas More. I’ll admit my bias straight out. I think he was a sanctimonious hypocrite and I’ve never liked him. I can appreciate how important he was as a statesman and architect of the English renaissance but I don’t like how he’s played as being Mister Goody-Goody.

There’s Something About Margaret

The last element of this week’s episode is Henry’s ongoing drama surrounding his sister, Margaret. You see, she’s due to be married to the old and ailing King of Portugal and she’s not happy about this.

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There are a lot of problems with this.

For a start, this plotline is based on Henry’s sister Mary. His sister Margaret was married off at the age of twelve to the King of Scotland many years previously, but she apparently does not exist for the purposes of the show. Mary was married in 1514 to the King of France, Louis XII, a man thirty years her senior, at the age of eighteen.

So, wrong sister, wrong king, wrong year, and I’m sorry to say, wrong choice of actress. The actress does a fine job, but she’s not an eighteen year old getting married for the first time.

She is to be sent to Portugal escorted by Charles Brandon, Henry’s friend. Margaret is very rude to him (despite Charles Brandon being a companion to the royal nursery since childhood) and Henry makes him Duke of Suffolk to make Brandon seem suitably grand. In actuality, he was made Duke of Suffolk around 1514 as part of a scheme to marry him to Margaret of Savoy.

I have read that the show writers decided to mix up Henry’s sisters because they felt that there were too many Marys and viewers may confuse the elder Princess Mary for Henry’s daughter, Mary. Generally, when I see a forty year old woman I don’t confuse her for a six year old. But I can’t speak for everyone.

It’s All About The Sleeves, Bout The Sleeves, They’re Not Right

The fashion of The Tudors this week seems to be focused on sleeves.

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The show seems to be obsessed with really weird sleeve fashions. Why are her sleeves just hanging there like that? Why are they so thin? Why are they like long cuffs for her arms?

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Anne is really deep into her scene phase RN. And that dress… it’s not only hideous, it’s just so wrong. The sleeves, the bodice, the shoulder thing, the weird puffed bits, the lack of petticoat – there is nothing right about this garment. Not a single thing.

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Margaret is continuing the weird off the shoulder puffed roll thing. I don’t like it. Ont the other hand, I like the slashes of purple on Charles’s doublet. Nice little nod to his imperial power.

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And, again, what’s with the off-the-shoulder with ties arm cuff thing? It’s ugly and a really weird design choice. The brown gown worn by the extra in the far left corner is actually one of the most accurate dresses I’ve seen on the show so far.

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It’s me, grandma, Anastasia

For reasons beyond me, Thomas Boleyn continues to be the only guy who appears period accurate. It really stands out amongst the guys, as they’re all dressed in weird 1580s/1590s clothes.

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When this came up, I actually shouted at my screen. That hat, that doublet, is so from the 1590s. He’s ready to start committing a plot to have Elizabeth I swapped for James of Scotland. The thinness of the doublet, the lack of slashing, the short cloaks, the tall hat – none of it is right for 1522.

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Did you wrap a bolster cushion around your head?

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It’s Katherine and her Elizabethan back-up dancers.

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This is a painting from 1600. You see her hair? The style of her dress? The way it falls around the waist, the largeness of her sleeves, the way the pearls fall around the bodice?

Yeah, those dresses for the extras would be great – for an Elizabethan costume drama! Those dresses are eighty years too fashion forward!

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They keep insisting on putting really weird shit on the front of Katherine of Aragon’s dresses, and I don’t get it.

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Does Mary Wotten, Lady Guildenford have a weird applique on the front of her dress? No. Because the colour and decoration comes from her sleeves and her petticoat. Katherine’s dresses are so ugly and I have no idea why.

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This is Katherine depicted in the BBC’s Wolf Hall. This is a beautiful costume, well-researched and accurate to the period. It’s elegant and beautiful, while also showing Katherine as an older woman as compared to, say, her daughter (who is stood next to her).

In The Tudors, Katherine basically wears a variety of sacks with weird headbands. I don’t get it.

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On the runway, your couture high was more of a bargain basin low. I’m sorry my dear, you are up for elimination.

And that concludes ‘Wolsey, Wolsey, Wolsey’. See you next week, nerds.