Unpicking the Tudors; S1 E7


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

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

Sickness! Everyone is scared and dying! Plague imagery!

Straight Out of Warwickshire

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

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

Yeah, disease works that way.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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ROCKE ANYDE ROLLE

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

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So much for the gay agenda, I suppose.

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

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

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

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

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Do you guys wanna buy some drugs?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Even Cardinal Wolsey is sick so Henry must escape!

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

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Oh my god, I’m an orc!

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

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

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Squishy, reunited true love.

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

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

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

I have no idea.

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Wolsey is a FUGLY BIATCH.

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

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

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

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

You Simply Must – Oh Holy God, Thomas

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

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

Thomas, people are dying.

 

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

Thomas, you’ve got some issues.

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

Ugh.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Unpicking the Tudors; S1 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 E5


Welcome back, my costume fiends.

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

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

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

A Love Story for the Ages

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wolsey’s Being Evil

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Imperial Alliance

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

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

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

Oh Yeah, Margaret Murdered A Guy

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

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

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

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

The Queer Element

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

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

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

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

The Plot To Nowhere

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

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

What Are You Looking At?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unpicking The Tudors; S1 E4


Good day, costume fiends!

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

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

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

You Simply Must Meet Thomas (… again)

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

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

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

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

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

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This Holbein’s portrait of Cromwell. Notice that his clothes are wide, square around the shoulders, and feature a loose and baggy overgown. There’s a lot of layers, a lot of fur, and tight-fitting hat.

And as an aside, they couldn’t have Henry’s sister Mary be called Mary in the show because it would be ‘too confusing’. Yet all the guys called Thomas are allowed to retain their names. I wonder why that might be.

Wolsey is Still Being Generally Evil Because The Historiography For This Show Is From The 1970s

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The man that Wolsey set up as a French spy has gone mad due to torture. Because Wolsey’s eeeeeevvviilllll. Although I will point out that torture in England has been illegal since the 12th century – except in the care where a warrant for torture was signed by a sitting monarch. So, the guy who is responsible for this torture is… you know, Henry. Not Wolsey.

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Norfolk and Thomas Boleyn (hey look, another Thomas who is allowed to retain his name) reveal that Wolsey has kept the prolific and incredibly wealthy parish of Winchester for himself. That’s amazing, seeing as Wolsey wasn’t in charge of the Bishopric of Winchester until 1529. Wolsey has amazing time travel powers!

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Wolsey tries setting up Henry with Marguerite of Navarre, which is weird. Not only are Henry and Katherine still married at this point, but Marguerite of Navarre?

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Yeah, she’s called ‘Of Navarre’ because she’s married to the King of Navarre (who’s referred to as a Duke for some reason, even though Navarre is a separate kingdom at this point). So I have no idea what Wolsey is trying to do. Is he trying to get them married? Does he want Henry just to sleep with Marguerite? What does it accomplish? She’s the sister of Francis I, but Wolsey wants peace with the French, so what does pissing off Francis accomplish? There is no sense in having Wolsey set Marguerite and Henry up.

Anyway, Henry bones Marguerite because he’s a braindead man-slut with no depth of character.

There’s Also Some Stuff to Do With Religion

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Henry’s ‘Defence of the Seven Sacraments’ has earned him the title of ‘Defender of the Faith’. This is a title still held by the monarchs of the United Kingdom – Elizabeth II is a Defender of the Faith – but it was granted in 1521, so the Pope’s a little bit late with his post. Anyway, Martin Luther has written a rebuttal and Henry hates it so much he throws a little tantrum.

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I’d like to point out as well that many of the depictions of religion in this show are massively inaccurate. Take the royal chapel, for example; this is not a Catholic chapel of the sixteenth century. This is a plain stone, non-decorated chapel that is clearly Protestant. Our ideal of a quiet, plain church with quiet is Protestant and Victorian, and not anything to do with the sixteenth century.

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Catholic chapels of the period would be bursting with colour and decoration. They were bright and eyecatching, full of noise and people. Henry’s chapel had mass five times a day – he was a really religious man.

Thomas More then tries to talk about Jesus’s pain and suffering and Wolsey is not having any of it. Shove your Jesus talk, Thomas.

I Want to Bang Anne Boleyn But Also I’m Sad Because I Might Die Someday

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Henry has this mad constipated love for Anne Boleyn that can’t be contained. He’s so in love with Katherine’s lady-in-waiting (Anne Boleyn was not Katherine’s lady-in-waiting. She was Queen Mary Tudor’s lady-in-waiting) that to keep him running after her, Anne goes from court.

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Henry’s surprised by this, even though Anne would have to obtain permission from Henry and Katherine to leave court. Like, it’s her job. She can’t just give it up and vanish if she feels like it.

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Henners gets mad jealous at Thomas Wyatt for being ‘previously engaged to Anne’. For a start, that’d be impossible because he was married before he even met Anne, and that particular plot point has been taken from Anne Boleyn’s previous entanglement with Henry Percy, later Duke of Northumberland.

And look, it’s another guy called Thomas. But viewers would get too confused at three women called Mary.

Anyway, Charles V has won an immense victory against the French at the Battle of Pavia, decimating the French army and capturing Francis I. Henry declares that there must be celebrations and jousts for this victory.

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That’s some cheap looking armour. Here’s some actual armour of Henry VIII;

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This cheap and flimsy looking armour leads exactly to where you think it’s going to go.

No wonder Henry is such a child. He’s suffered repeated brain injuries.

After some vaguely incestuous interactions with her brother, George, (stay classy, show), Anne comes back to court. Henry is violently jealous and it’s pretty gross.

Guess the strangling is subtle foreshadowing. But, like, sexy foreshadowing because Henners mashing his face against hers is so erotic.

After sustaining a head injury and almost dying once, Henners decides to do some bad pole-vaulting.

This is based on a real-life incident, but I don’t know exactly when it happened, but it sends Henry into a panic.

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I never even thought about my future wails 34 year old man.

Henry throws another tantrum, because apparently the writers can only convey his emotions through screaming at other characters, because he has no children, he could die, and he wants a divorce from Katherine.

Henry’s separation from Katherine was never a divorce. Henry sought an annulment from Katherine. A divorce means that a marriage took place, while an annulment means it never happened. Henry never looked for a divorce. If you say that he did, you are wrong.

This Marriage is Ridiculous 

I can’t state how much the whole ‘Margaret marries the King of Portugal’ storyline is terrible.

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“Wah, I have to marry into one of the most wealthiest kingdoms in Europe and he’s old, waahhhh.”

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Anyway, because Mary hated Charles so much it means that actually they were deeply, deeply attracted all along and they have the most uncomfortable and awful sex scene I’ve seen. After all, if a woman doesn’t like you and obviously detests you, that means she’s actually in love with you because yeah, let’s bring that trope into it because it’s not offensive or ridiculous at all.

Mary doesn’t handle meeting the King of Portugal very well.

Two things:

  1. Grow up, buttercup. You’re a royal princess, and this is the name of the game. At least you’ve got a husband who wants to make you happy. You could be like Joanna of Castile, who was tortured into insanity by her husband.
  2. If we accept the premise that this is all taking place in 1525, then the King of Portugal would be John III. Who was twenty three at the time. I have no idea who this old man is supposed to be. John III also married Catherine of Austria in 1525, so there’s no chance for him to marry Mary.

Mary can’t stomach being married to such a horrible old man (whose only fault is that he’s old), so hatches her own plan.

In real life, Mary Tudor married the King of France, who was much older than herself, and he died a few months later. It was said that he died of being in bed with her too much, so I’m guessing that there is just nothing right about this storyline. She absolutely did not decide to smother her husband because EW OLD.

Let’s Talk Fashion, Baby

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There is absolutely no shape or structure to this gown. The hood is ridiculous, a sort of strange headpiece that has no place in a sixteenth century drama, and the gown is slim fit, with no shape and certainly no undergarments that were worn by women of the period.

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This is Mary Tudor. Her gown has a fitted bodice worn over a chemise, farthingale, and petticoat. Her hood is not a really random plantpot sort of pinned into her hair.

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I don’t like any of Henry’s sofa-inspired suits. None of them are accurate. He’s meant to look big and broad shouldered! This is far too slim and flattering.

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Yeah, no. That looks practically seventeenth century. There is nothing right for an English gown of the period on this dress.

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Why can’t this show get a single hood right? Even Anne Boleyn’s hoods? When she’s famous for introducing the French hood to the English court? What’s up with her short sleeved jerkin thing? Why has she got short sleeves on?

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Those dresses are very fifteenth century Italian apart from the sleeves, which are bits of cloth attached to each other with string. Also: these two women came onto Thomas Tallis, a minor character who’s been hanging around for the past few episodes, and loudly announce how much they want to have sex with him. They are interchangeable, have no names, dress the same, and only wish to have sex with men. They exist for no reason other to be sexual objects to men.

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Not a single one of Katherine’s gowns are right. Why is the waistline so high? What is that stupid thing they’ve shoved on her head? Where are her trumpet sleeves?

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Square necklines, big sleeves, cone farthingale underneath the skirt, and a great big ol’ gable hood. Not ‘sexy’ I guess, but it’s better than the terrible mess Katherine is wearing that makes no sense.

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These women are on loan from an English civil war drama. ’cause not a single one of them looks like they’re from the 1520s.

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Ew. That’s leather stays and they look gross as as hell. Accurate, but the pleather looks terrible. And the sleeves are terrible. And no Tudor woman would consider wearing this, at all.

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Anne is pretty much dressed as a woman from 1620s. The laced, elbow length sleeves, the exaggeration around the stomacher, the way the skirt is shaped – this looks Jacobean. It’s a whole century out.

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Obviously, the bodice on Anne’s dress is considerably longer, but the shape bears more in common with this dress than a Tudor gown.

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Hell, it even looks more like this dress from 1670 than anything from the 1520s.

That’s it for this week, costume fiends, but come back next weekend for another forray into historical inaccuracies, poor costuming, and the screaming tantrums of a man-baby that apparently passes for an interpretation of a renaissance monarch.