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.

Unpicking the Tudors; S1 EP1


So, if you’ve had a look at my update post, I’ve not been doing much of anything lately. I’m house-bound currently because my health has been absolutely terrible as of late. My life’s on hold yet again which is very annoying because I’ve felt like it’s been on hold since university. That’s four years ago now where my luck has been terrible. Maybe’s it’s Anita Blake cursing me.

Anyway, if you know me, you’ll know that history is my thing. In fact, it’s Tudor history. I specialised in the politics of the Henrican court and I like to sharpen my brain box from time to time.

And this little show is currently up in its entirety on Netflix.

 

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It’s rated an 8.1 on imDB and was nominated for Golden Globe awards. It was presented as being an intimate sort of revelation of the great secrets of Henry VIII’s court, the great men and great women of his life.

And this show makes me rage as only a historian can rage. This show is a burning bag of garbage that makes me incredibly angry. Not only in terms of really bad writing choices but really terrible clothing. And that there are people who made genuine efforts to try and make this accurate and include incredibly minor details of court – only for it to be absolute rubbish.

And I’m here to pour water on this burning bag of garbage. Or another, better metaphor.

Let’s throw ourselves into ‘In Cold Blood’. Our official synopsis is ‘King Henry VIII, the young and ambitious monarch of England, prepares for war with France but is dissuaded by the diplomatic manipulation of his powerful Lord Chancellor, Cardinal Wolsey, who proposes that the King sponsor a “Treaty of Universal Peace.” The harmony of the King’s domestic affairs is threatened, however, when he discovers that Elizabeth Blount, the young and beautiful lady-in-waiting to his Queen, Katherine of Aragon, is pregnant with his child.’

That’s a lot of information for one episode and it really rattles through the stuff that people all commonly associate with the Tudors. It is also really badly written. Let’s begin.

A Nonsense Beginning

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The episode doesn’t really start off too well. We’re heading straight to an Italian palace (even though ‘Italy’ as a specific location did not exist in the sixteenth century) and this is not a sixteenth century palace. This is really not. This is neo-classical in the most blatant style.

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This is a sixteenth century Italian palace. Much more ornate and decorative.

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Sean Pertwee gets out of a carriage and his costume is wrong in so many ways. English fashion in the sixteenth century is known for its many layers, the wide silhouette, and the use of slashing to display fabrics. Sean Pertwee’s style is very reminiscent of gentlemen at the court of Elizabeth I; slim and narrow, a style that has become highly feminised. These are not the clothes of a man from the later half of the sixteenth century, not from the beginning.

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The men he’s travelling to meet are much more appropriately dressed – highly decorated doublets with long overgowns. Plus hats. You’d never be out in public without a hat at this point in time. And hello baby Aiden Turner. You’re going to be in one of my favourite TV shows of all time, and then be in Poldark with its really awful rape scene. Ups and downs there.

Anyway, Sean Pertwee gets brutally taken out by the French.

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This confuses me greatly. It makes for an incredibly dramatic opening, that’s for sure, and sets up that England hates the French and that is mutual. There’s animosity between the two countries which is only news if you are not European. However, early modern politics was not a brutal affair. Well, all the time. There was that time that the Dutch cannibalised someone and people were thrown out of windows in Prague, but an English ambassador would not be stabbed to death by the French in public this way. It would be incredibly stupid because it would only cause war.

This also throws up many questions to me in terms of history. When is this meant to be set? There were varying times of war and peace between England and France, and a specific year is never given in this episode. This episode swings between 1514 and 1520, and six years is a long time in politics.

And there’s the issue that Sean Pertwee is supposed to be Henry VIII’s uncle.

Right. Okay. There’s a writing choice I can simply not get my head around. Henry VIII didn’t have any uncles, and giving him one doesn’t inform his fictional character or explain what happens. It makes no logical sense – his father was an only child and if Henry VIII’s mother had surviving brothers… then they would be king. Because her father, Edward IV would have passed the throne to them.

The Poor Choices of Henry VIII

The big selling point of this show was that it’s YOUNG Henry VIII. It’s Henry as you’ve never seen him before! He’s young, he’s sexy, he’s active, and not fat and gross. In pursuit of this, the writers made a huge mistake. They made him brash, rude, and frankly abusive to Katherine. He’s a slobbering mess in this first episode, and his characterisation is all over the place.

And his clothing is fucking terrible.

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Our first introduction to Henry is that he’s dressed like an acrobat. There is nothing right with his clothing. Compare him to this image of a English man from the early part of the sixteenth century (it’s later than VAGUE 1514 TO 1520 VAGUE YEAR but at least it’s English).

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English fashion is bulky and layered. There’s no way Henry would not have an overgown and his clothes are just too slim. And that crown looks like ass.

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I like that Henry has the most Catholic underclothes it is possible to get. I don’t like the metallic popper buttons. Buttons were not especially widespread in clothing, with most items being tied or fitted to the body. Henry VIII did not have child-friendly popper boxer shorts with Catholic detailing.

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Henry is wearing only the most fashionable in cheap and common leathers! This looks like foot soldier armour. It is not anything a nobleman in Tudor England would wear. Also Katherine’s dress is terrible, but I’ll be going into the women’s fashion in a bit.

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Henry VIII is FLORAL SOFA MAN!

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Who doesn’t want to do physical exercise in a full suit of leather?

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Love that fisherman jumper, Henners.

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Throughout this episode, Jonathan Rhys Meyer makes just the weirdest choices for his performance. Ignoring the fact that he is blatantly wrong for this role, he just does weird stuff. He’s loud and obnoxious and plays Henry as a complete idiot. And the episode ends on this image. Just Henry, his pathetic little beard, staring madly at you. Thanks, director. I needed that.

A Decorated Skirt Does Not A Period Costume Make.

I get it. Tudor women’s fashion does not appear sexy to modern audiences. You have to balance out the ‘sexy’ lead and make the women appear sexy. They do this by making the worst attempt at Tudor costumes for women I’ve ever seen.

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The first female character we see is in The Corridor (c) that we see consistently over the first season. They show the vast wealth and grandness of the palace of White Hall with the same terrible brick background over and over.

For a start, her waist is too high. English fashions are conical at this time, with hemlines square and farthingales round like an ice cream cone. Her hair is also loose under what appears to be a piece of lace.

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‘I have a necklace in my hair for no apparent reason. Also my hair is loose, which no grown woman at the English court would ever have. Because my hair would be really fucking long and I don’t want lice.’

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Katherine of Aragon, an incredibly proud and proper queen, is just lazing around with her hair loose and a nightgown. For the record, here’s Katherine at this time –

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Gable hoods and trumpet sleeves. They may not be sexy but they were at the time.

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I don’t know I don’t even. This screams 17th Dutch more than anything else with the huge white collar and huge great big stomacher. This is especially egregious as this is Thomas More’s wife and there’s an incredibly famous portrait of her. She should have a hood on, great big trumpet sleeves, and no huge white weird collar that is attached to her dress and not the shirt underneath which appears to also be a dress.

This dress has some huge great big puffy sleeves are are hideous. They also don’t come into English fashion for another fifteen years. The attempt at a French hood is also… weird. For a start, they’re not around at the English court from this point for about ten or so years (depending on whatever vague year this is), and what the hell? What is with all this loose hair? She’s got beautiful flowing locks that do not work with a French hood.

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That’s how a French hood works. Your hair is covered because all women pretty much had their hair covered in public at this point in time and you don’t want nits. Long loose flowing hair? THAT’S HOW YOU GET NITS.

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I don’t even with this. Not only is her dress terrible, with an overgown that wouldn’t be introduced to the 1550s, but what is even with that headdress? What is it meant to be? You can’t just glue fake pearls to something and call it a headdress.

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So, left dress: fine, I guess, as a common gown for when you’re at home not seeing anyone. I don’t like the bustle thing at the back. It could be a bumroll, but her skirtline would be much higher and if you’re relaxed at home without a farthingale, why would you have a bumroll?

Right dress; whaaaaaattttt. That’s very Italian. The lose, low sleeves are continental and the bust line, shoulders, and curled hair make me think of Stuart/Restoration fashion, not 1510s/1520s. And that’s not even getting into whatever the bodice is. It’s a bodice for a dress, not a front-opening bra.

Everyone’s Evil Henny

Fashion aside, the point of this episode is that Henry is stupid and everyone around him is evil. No matter where he goes, from fucking (there are far more sex scenes in this episode than necessary), to playing tennis, or to the daily joust, there is someone being evil and making use of how lazy and stupid Henry is to get across their evil doing. FYI, Henry VIII was an incredibly intelligent and busy man. He did not just spend his time at the apparently daily joust.

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The Duke of Buckingham is evil and planning a rebellion. He also actually looks like Henry VIII and did not launch open rebellion in real life. He wears all black throughout the show so we know he’s definitely evil.

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Cardinal Wolsey is also evil because he wants peace (boo!) and is pro-French (boo!). He’s conducting what appears to be the Treaty of London, but that was 1518 and there’s stuff that takes place in varying years. Pick a date, guys. Pick a date and stick to it. He beats a guy up. It’s weird.

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Thomas Boleyn is introduced and because he’s actually wearing the right clothing out of all the characters, you can tell he’s evil. Because, yeah, I love that cheap idea that terrible fiction authors peddle that the Boleyns were evil schemers working their way to the top that flies in the face of just about all knowledge of political power in the period.

Random Oddness

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Why is there straw just thrown around this floor? I saw extras struggling and just kicking it into the air. It’s weird. This is the grandest palace in England. I have no idea why there’s straw everywhere.

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Look at Henry mangle this pomegranate. For symbolism. And because he’s a big gross child.