Part the First
Titles, titles, titles
We start off in Whitehall, where we arrive in time for a treat. Cromwell’s very poshest pronunciation is announcing that the Boleyn family has finally scored a hereditary title and Sir Thomas Boleyn is being created Lord Rochford. The Rochford title is a Viscountcy (King>Prince>Duke>Marquis>Earl>Viscount>Baron) so it’s not the greatest of titles, but it’s not nothing and it’s further than Sir Thomas has been able to get so far.
Bessie Blount, Henry’s former mistress is in the crowd, and it becomes clear that she’s here because the Boleyn ennoblement was the warm up event. Henry’s bastard son, Henry Fitzroy (Born in episode 2) is now about 3 or 4, and it looks like the opening salvo in Henry and Wolsey’s assault on the succession problem is to ennoble him.
The adorable moppet gets two Dukedoms, and an Earldom, some open displays of affection from the King, and then gets sat on a chair right next to him.
Well that’s quite the statement of intent. And the fun job of explaining it to this face…
…goes to Wolsey.
Catherine wants to know if this means that Henry Fitzroy now stands to inherit the throne ahead of Princess Mary. And I’m afraid Wolsey’s answer:
Makes me sad. Technically correct is the best kind of correct, and Wolsey has completely failed at it. His answer should have been;
“Technically? No. Practically? Probably.”
And here’s why. The legitimization process in England did not allow for a simple declaration of legitimacy, or anything like the ‘Child of France’ mechanism that would be used by Louis XIV of France in the next century (‘I have said this child is mine, so its mother’s status is irrelevant’). In England your parents had to be married at some point. It might have happened after you were born, or been a secret marriage, but you had to at least claim some form of marriage by your parents in order to claim legitimacy, and the titles that go along with that.
So double dukedom or no double dukedom I’m afraid Henry Fitzroy is still a bastard, and the Princess Mary is still the heir to the throne. But practically? Look, Catherine and Henry are going to be surprised by the amount of power Catherine manages to discover and wield in the next few years, but if Henry is determined for his son born outside marriage to succeed him, who would really want to bet against that eventually happening? Wolsey’s inaccuracy comes from presenting the beginning of a campaign as a done deal, but he has every motivation to do that, considering who he is talking to.
Catherine gets cognitive dissonance from the fact the Henry clearly loves Mary, but is effectively starting the process of reducing her status and calling her inheritance into question. She plays what she believes is her remaining trump card. The power of her family and what it is currently doing for Henry. She has reason to believe that foundation is solid, after all, Charles HRE is engaged to Mary. And she is just devastated to find that Charles HRE has married a different first cousin, Isabella of Portugal.
With that diplomatic edifice crumbling, Catherine is going to need some time to regroup.
Affairs Past and Present
So while Wolsey is (poorly) explaining the inheritance situation to his wife, Henry has been reading a letter from Anne. And it’s quite the letter. She manages to say that he can’t possibly want her, that she is far too low for him, but then again the letters and gifts he gave her did get her kind of hot. And she sends him a gift in return.
Yeah, The Tudor’s Anne Boleyn could give a seduction masterclass. It’s era appropriate as well – portrait miniatures were just having their first flush of popularity in the upper classes at this time, and how like Anne to spot opportunities offered by the latest trend.
His Grace the Duke of Richmond and Somerset, young Henry Fitzroy gets to see his mother before going to one of his new houses. The Actual Historical Tudor attitude to children was very much ‘Well, you’re out the womb so let’s get you into adulthood as quick as we can.’ and a reaction to the horrifying child mortality rate they had to live with. Royal children were particularly subject to this, and it is being anticipated that young Henry Fitzroy will be on his estate and surrounded by servants, and that this 3 or 4 year old needs to see his brewery master more often than his mother.
Bessie (who has almost certainly been sent back to her husband in exchange for an Earldom and promising not to send her to religious prison) promises to visit just as often as she can, and tries to instill some basic humility and empathy to her son. Saying that he needs to be thoughtful and kind to those around him, and if she finds he has grown too proud she will be displeased.
And then she tells him she loves him, and lets him go for good reason – that the future he is being offered is far greater and brighter than any she could provide.
Meanwhile on board HMS Hot Cruisin’.
I imagine that for Margaret and Brandon there is no longer any definition of Pre or Post Coital, there is only Sex and times in between. We’ve caught them in a time in between, and before they both get a urinary tract infection Margaret’s question is does Brandon think anyone was suspicious of the King of Portugal’s death?
Margaret is openly worrying about what she will do when they get to England. She may have escaped this trap, but Henry is going to marry her off again. She leaves her worry out there, in the open, and there is an obvious solution.
Which Brandon goes for. He asks her to marry him. She doesn’t leap to an answer, and we don’t get to see the rest of that discussion because we get to see Henry and Wolsey’s reaction to the news that Margaret is very suddenly a widow.
3 Thing Meeting
Thing 1: There’s a significantly long pause before the word ‘incredible’. Henry wants Margaret treated to ‘…every comfort and kindness while she mourns.’ And the emphasis is on the fact that Margaret needs to go into deep mourning when she gets back because that death was suspicious as hell.
Thing 2: Wolsey proposes, and will go ahead with a secret religious court to decide on Henry’s annulment. Wolsey has got the Archbishop on board. Henry’s only concerns are that they come to the right decision and they do it fast.
We know the mountains that will need to be moved in order to get it done at all, and that Henry should worry far more about how much legitimacy everyone will give this decision, so his emphasis on speed in this matter strikes us as breathtakingly naive. It might have something to do with that object on a silver chain he seems obsessed with.
Thing 3: There’s some news about Charles HRE that Wolsey either didn’t have when he spoke to Catherine, or decided not to share with her, yet.
Well, shit. Wolsey has yet to find out the terms King Francis was released under, he just knows he’s been set free.
Since the great victory of Pavia, when the sun seemed to be shining on both members of the alliance, their Imperial ally has grown increasingly distant. Now Charles HRE has traded their greatest bargaining ship for unknown terms without consulting or informing the English at all.
Wolsey delivers all this information with the air of someone who was never that keen on this alliance in the first place. He’s uninterested in spinning it and there’s a tiny bit of relish in the news. Henry is angry, and getting all warmed up for furious. He wants a word with the Imperial Ambassador.
But first he has to be somewhere.
Let’s Go French
Henry rides straight from the opulent interiors at court to the ancient whitewashed walls of Hever Castle. And he has one thing on his mind. He wants to offer Anne the title of ‘Official Mistress’ which has previously only existed in the French Court, hence its most known form being ‘Matraisse en titre‘ . She…is not as bowled over as he expected. It’s a hard pass.
She ties this to a protestation of her virginity. Break up week with Thomas Wyatt seemed to indicate otherwise, but she’s clearly claiming to be a virginity owner here.
Henry is naturally downcast by her decision, and is furious as he leaves. Anne’s father gives her a ‘I hope you know what you’re doing..’ look.
And as for Anne’s developing feelings, well, I wouldn’t describe this expression as ‘Concerned about strategy’.
Wolsey and Queen Catherine
That prickly animosity that’s been noticeable between Wolsey and Queen Catherine gets explored further in this scene. Catherine is surprised by Wolsey’s appearance when she is out in the gardens playing with her daughter, and she visibly takes a moment to compose herself before turning to face the Cardinal.
And he’s here to give her the news that Princess Mary now gets her own household, just as Henry Fitzroy has. Her estate is going to be at Ludlow, in Wales, and she will leave for it soon. This was a pretty standard progression for royal children (more common for princes than princesses, but with Mary’s status as heiress quite predictable) and Actual Historical Catherine of Aragon may well have been distressed, but she would not have been shocked by this as The Tudors’ Queen Catherine is.
There is, throughout The Tudors, a lot of blaming Henry’s ministers for shit Henry clearly ordered them to do, because when dealing with an autocrat there can be no actually blaming them. But it should also be said that Wolsey is not regretful throughout this. Wolsey is pretty damn smug about it. Well, I imagine he’s had to take plenty of crap from Her Majesty over the years, but it’s a low road to be enjoying your vengeance at this particular moment.
And Queen Catherine is very, very small in the frame as he leaves and she runs back through the garden, calling for her daughter.
So, Henry’s furious attitude has been topped off with aggressive sexual frustration and he’s now ready for a serious diplomatic meeting.
(Rewatch interest – Norfolk will reveal himself to be a paid ‘friend’ to the Imperials by the end of this scene. He and Mendoza have a whole unspoken conversation here. It’s rather fun.)
This should go great. Henry’s pointing out that the only party not to have got any sodding consideration by the Emperor during this diplomatic pass is his ally. He’s working his way up in anger and his voice is getting just a little hoarse and then Mendoza says something about him being the Emperor’s uncle.
Amazingly after that explosion, Ambassador Mendoza also wants to question the amount of gold they received. And Henry grabs hold of Mendoza and shouts that he will “…answer for my honorable conduct, whosoever contradicts me.” Yeah, he just offered to duel anyone that called him cheap. Henry is about a hair’s breadth away from just whaling on Mendoza, then he calms himself (to a degree) and ends the audience.
Mendoza, mind always on the job, stops to try and recruit Thomas Boleyn on the way out. Boleyn is just a pleasure to watch here. He asks if the Emperor has ‘friends’ here already, Mendoza says Yes, and that Boleyn would know them. Boleyn then asks what friendship pays and is told 1000 crowns a year (I take it from Boleyn’s throat movement that that’s pretty impressive). Boleyn then leaves by saying
“I will certainly consider His Highness’s’ most gracious offer” A class act, all the way.
And walks straight into Norfolk, who ‘just happened by’.
Who decides to mention that he finds the Imperial Ambassador to be a man of great principle. Or is it principal? Principal can refer to a primary investment or loan. You earn or pay interest on your principal.
Well, we’ve found Norfolk’s dreadful secret. He’s an unrepentant punner of puns.
Compton comes wandering up to composer Tallis. Who calls him ‘My Lord.’ Compton says ‘No’ and he’s right. Compton’s a Sir, not a Lord, there’s a big difference. There was about 10 years of hard work, managing not to be blamed for any mistakes, successfully arranging a summit, betraying a traitor and pimping out at least 2 family members on Sir Thomas Boleyn’s road from Sir to Viscount. Some things take more than even a really great jape.
So Sir William Compton’s just been on a wander, in an absolutely stunning waistcoat/shirt combo. Wondering if he would happen upon an attractive composer, perhaps. Tallis isn’t quite going for it yet, but after this conversation he’s finally no longer completely oblivious, and looks like he might just be interested.
Back at Hever, Anne’s getting more possessive of her letters from Henry, trying to wrestle the letter back from her brother George when he steals it, and clearly not happy when he won’t give it back.
We go to Hampton Court, at night.
So that the other architect of the iTudor business can hear about the bold new direction it is going in.
Wolsey starts out with the surface religious arguments, and as they wither under More’s scrutiny then breaks out the realpolitik – kings get divorced all the time and popes always find an excuse. And More points out that if we’re talking pragmatically here, then Catherine of Aragon’s personal popularity in the country, and her massively powerful family connections are not being shown in Wolsey’s working.
He asks ‘Does she know yet?’Apparently she doesn’t, but I think More makes an impression, because steps to formally inform her get underway.
Church, then Pub.
Queen Catherine is at Lambeth church, where she is giving out alms to the poor, and her clear piety is on display. We also get our first meeting with Bishop Fisher, a man who will not let pragmatism get in the way of principle, and who will most assuredly be back. Watching them both is Cromwell, at the back of the crowd.
Compton is hurrying down an alleyway in terrible weather in London. He’s on his way to a meeting with Brandon. And, if you are a certain type of friend then this meeting will be familiar to you. It’s the ‘I fucked up, and I need you to help dig me out of it’ meeting. Brandon and Margaret have got married, and Brandon needs Compton to tell the King. Compton wonders why he did it.
So Compton’s going to have to help his friend shovel this up. Welcome to the other side of the patron relationship, Compton. Got to keep your patron in the game.
Henry comes to see Catherine while she is at prayer, there is distant thunder in the background and it is very appropriate. Her reaction when she thinks he’s just there to see her is tragically happy. But he walks in and starts laying it out for her. How they have never really been married. How the Pope misapplied the law, and everyone misunderstood it. How it has now been brought to light, and his conscience is stricken. How all that remains is for her to decide where to live…
And her reaction after he leaves is just incredible.