Part the Second
My First Secret Ecclesiastical Court Set
Wolsey has the skills. In his opening statement to the secret court he talked about setting up last week he manages to name drop the King twice, and get in their best piece of evidence, that ‘Leviticus’ quote (20:21, not 21:20 which is about what to do if someone in your village has a hunchback or dwarfism or a crushed testicle and wants to make a temple offering – OK, but don’t let them near the holy fire, apparently. I was very confused for a little while.) which is about what not to do with your brother’s wife:
“If a man shall take his brother’s wife, it is an impurity; he has uncovered his brothers nakedness, they shall be childless.”
He fully explores what would happen if they all agree that the marriage was never legal, (the consequences of another decision somehow do not come up) which is that he thinks that as Papal Legate (Representative of the Pope – like a religious ambassador) he could then dissolve the marriage. And with that he opens up the discussion, first to Archbishop Warham, whom he has already primed.
The Archbishop, strangely enough, is considering the matter but is tending towards agreement. Bishop Fisher…
…does not. He is the first voice independent of Wolsey and he is having none of it. The Pope personally sanctioned the marriage with a dispensation, it was therefore fully defined as being legal by the highest religious authority on the planet.
Catherine and Arthur, Catherine and Henry and Story
So it’s time we take our own look without Wolsey’s heavy handed guidance. Actually Historically and Back in the day, Catherine had been betrothed and married to Henry’s older brother, Arthur. For England it was quite the marriage upwards, at least made partly possible by Catherine’s parents (Both reigning monarchs, twin forgers of Spain into a single nation) having a bit of an excess of daughters, meaning they actually had to look for a groom completely outside of the family.
Arthur and Catherine (c.1502)- Not even a little bit related. It’s crazy, but it might just work.
Whether or not Catherine and Arthur actually had sex I find personally to be a moot point, (The Tudors will certainly pick a position on that but we’re not there yet.) but the signals of what can be known are mixed. They had a wedding and a bedding ceremony, and they lived in the same house together for some time as husband and wife which is normally the best indicator, but Arthur did get ill around the time of his marriage, never really recovered, and died within 20 weeks of it.
When Arthur died, Catherine was kept a virtual prisoner and in a kind of legal limbo by Arthur and Henry’s father, Henry VII. The idea of marrying her off to young Henry occurred very soon after Arthur’s death, but kept being delayed. There was always a good reason (and the above passage from Leviticus was included) to keep her dowry, and her as a ‘guest’, but to not quite go ahead with the marriage. This went on for years.
Once his father died, Henry VIII decided to marry Catherine almost as soon as he became King. This beautiful, sad, glamourous princess had been abandoned and poorly treated. What better to appeal to the young and enthusiastically chivalrous Henry? He probably saw the hand of God in it. The age difference when they married (17 and 23) seemed small enough, and it just made her prime childbearing age right then. And the one certainty is that if Catherine had even a single son survive to adulthood then her marriage to Arthur would never have been brought up again, probably on pain of death.
The English people did not share the reality of this royal marriage. What they had was the story of a miserly, cruel King, his bad treatment of a beautiful princess and his son’s chivalrous rescue of her, feeding right into their archetype for a hero. And for the English people, the shine of that story never did wear off. They took it to their hearts and kept it there. But that is sympathy outside the palace walls, and the people have no idea what is happening yet. Inside, Catherine is as alone now as she was when she was 20 and it was Henry’s father keeping her prisoner. And now, she must now say goodbye to her daughter.
It looks like The Tudors’ Catherine is thinking about the past when Lady Salisbury is announced. Lady Salisbury is to be Mary’s new governess and she’s an example of The Tudors’ great secondary continuity. Lady Salisbury will pop up again for 2 or 3 episodes in season 3, and it’s going to be the same actress.
Catherine for once clearly struggles with the formality of court etiquette as she says goodbye to her daughter. She tells her in Spanish to remember her lineage, and if she does that and stays strong and true, then one day she will be Queen. Just as well she said it in Spanish, because Henry wouldn’t be pleased with that sentiment.
Opportunistically Disloyal Compton.
Last week Brandon asked his friend Compton to help him out with the whole ‘That sister of yours you specifically told me not to sex up, Your Majesty? I might have married her..” situation. Smooth the waters as it were.
OK, that’s quite an ask. Henry’s repeated hints of ‘Seriously, don’t have sex with my sister.’ before they left were quite clear. And it’s fair to say that an ‘Also, don’t fucking marry my sister’ was implied in that. This is going to take some real goddamn finessing, but Compton’s clearly the smartest friend in the group and he’s had a few days to work the problem, so let’s see what he’s got…
The Hell, Compton? That is the weakest sauce I’ve ever seen. Compton, we must surmise, is being a little too clever and feels he might do better without the No1 best friend getting in his way. Oh, Compton, the clever one is never the best friend. That’s the loyal one. And on current form you have not been putting your points into that skill tree.
Having delivered his ingenious spin of “So, this happened, and I think it sucks.”, Compton retreats and it’s Princess Margaret’s turn for a rollocking. I like how Henry and Margaret are dressed in very similar colours. It gives them a kind of visual equality to show how they were once near equals.
And Margaret’s flamboyant dress gives Henry his first ‘in’ to start yelling at her, because she’s not wearing black, which would surely be appropriate as she must be in mourning for that husband she murdered.., Oh, excuse me, that died suddenly.
What Margaret (In Actual History, another Princess Mary, so you can see why they changed the name.) and Brandon did was a far worse sin that just having sex. Marriage takes a valuable asset away from England, the nation. So this is not just defying Henry, but defying the Crown. Having her potential marriage in its pocket gave England another move in a time of crisis. For her part, Margaret was completely done with being an asset, and marrying herself off was the one way out.
How significant is this marriage? Well in Actual History Brandon and his royal wife were grandparents to a Queen Regnant of England, even if she was on the throne for just nine days. They are even more significant in The Tudors where, as opposed to Actual History, Henry’s older sister gets written out.
This other older sister was the Actual Historical Princess Margaret. An effective Regent and political power player in Scotland when that country was rulership set to insane difficulty (and she was an English woman), grandmother of Mary Queen of Scots, and noted divorcee. Actual Historical Henry wrote her some incredibly ironic letters chastising her for getting a divorce right before trying to get his own marriage annulled. It’s a shame there was no space in the story for her.
The Tudors’ Princess Margaret gets a thorough public dressing down, and she and Brandon are banished from court. She acts thoroughly chastised, but that’s actually a very lenient house arrest. It could have been a whole lot worse. Henry sends her out with a final threat.
And, you know, I think that’s the one threat Henry makes in the whole series that I don’t really believe he would follow through on. His heart is clearly not in it, and it’s a good reminder that sometimes even the greatest rampaging Autocrat must bow to something as low as basic human emotion for his sister and best friend.
Thomas Tallis (The artist formerly known as Humbleflow) is walking through the outer precincts of court of an evening.
When who pops up in that elegant ensemble he was wearing last week? It’s Compton. Well, he has been after Thomas Tallis for a while, and he’s giving it another shot. Tallis is not biting, and Compton disappears around the corner and then reappears around another corner in front of Tallis and tries again? Okkkaaay Compton, that’s a little weird.
They’re talking, and Tallis calls Compton a ‘Lord’ again.
And then he mentions that Compton is married. Wait. Sudden Gasp.
Run Thomas, Run! I think he’s bisexual and The Tudors was first shown in 2007! He’s required to be evil, the trope is very clear, and it hasn’t been subverted yet No, don’t kiss him, Thomas Tallis, Compton is an evil bisexual. Look at the lighting! Run! Run for your life!
Meanwhile in Hetero-Normative Relationships and Repressed Fabric Fetishes.
I really covet Henry’s bedroom. I mean look at it.
I do not covet Henry’s next hour puzzling out the outrageously complex bullshit that is medieval/renaissance visual messaging. Anne Boleyn has sent Henry a gift. It is a piece of jewellery that needs at least 3 books and 30 minutes research in order to figure out the basic sense of whatever the hell it’s trying to convey. Fortunately Henry has coding skills in renaissance visual basic.
I’ll tell you what it says, Henry. It says ‘Do not fucking bother with this’. It says that you could spend ages figuring out what this means according to whatever ‘Roman de la Rose‘ is, and then find out that experts think you should have been looking at a completely different book, or it also needed an Amethyst or a Duck Passant Guardant, or something.
Thankfully, Henry does the work for us, decides it means that Anne is up for it and his day is substantially improved, if increasingly preoccupied.
Matters of Political Business
Henry’s carrying that piece of jewellery everywhere with him, even to power meetings with Wolsey.
The French are more favoured, which always pleases Wolsey. And he gets the exquisite pleasure of turning that favour into a proposed alliance by throwing the Queen, a woman who has taken to openly calling him her enemy, right under the moving carriage.
Wolsey ups the French and downs the Emperor to Henry. Then he talks about the Emperor’s ‘friends’ at court. I thought this was heading toward Norfolk (outed to the audience as a paid Imperial sympathiser last week) but it’s a letter from the Queen that Wolsey hands to the King. He points out the sign off- that she promises to be the Emperor’s true and humble servant, with significant side-eye.
And oh, how fortunate it is that Henry is ready to be angry at Catherine, because when writing to your Emperor-Nephew in this period, that sentiment is pretty damn standard. Still, Henry turns it into enough of a political statement in his head to get angry about it, and boom, the French are to be invited over to form a new alliance, and Henry is riding somewhere in a hot hurry.
Matters of Humping
It’s to Hever, to take Anne up on her offer. Henry, as the greatest dry humper in all the land, is throughly engaging Anne’s interest and there are promises made in breathy voices and this:
And suddenly Henry decides that he will ‘Honour her maidenhead until they are married’. Anne is positively moved, and they break apart to avoid temptation.
We also briefly head to the Suffolks at home, where a pre-sex argument is raging, crockery flies, yelling occurs, Margaret really reaches for an argument-
And then they shag vigourously. It looks like they’re still in the stage where they are trying it every which way and they’ve reached ‘drunk and angry style’ page in their suggestions book.
Yeah, it is pretty hot.
Matters of Spiritual Sin
The hottest thing in the following scene is that Henry and Sir Thomas More are offered 1 and a half roast chickens each.
Henry knows Sir Thomas doesn’t agree with the divorce, but he wants Sir Thomas to stop and think about the terrible weight of sin that Henry is carrying. And Sir Thomas knows exactly where Henry is headed with this. He’s not fooled for a second. He tip toes through this conversation, and picks a question no one else would dare to ask.
Yeah, right. And quietly, internally, I think that Sir Thomas More in this moment decides he’s going to hold Henry to that.
Oh, Shit is On.
In Whitehall, the first sparks fly between the women of the King’s Great Matter. Henry’s repeated habit of going for his wives’ ladies in waiting does tend to make domestic life a little tense. Queen Catherine notices who her towel drier is this evening, and orders Anne to ‘Wait’.
Anne does dare to lock eyes with Catherine, but only for a moment. For now, Catherine remains The Queen.
My Second Secret Ecclesiastical Court Set.
Wolsey’s manipulation mojo has deserted him this evening and there’s a lot more bickering this time. Interestingly, it starts with Fisher making the running against Wolsey. But when Wolsey mentions the possibility of remarriage after the annulment, this looks like a revelation moment for Archbishop Wareham, and then he’s got questions too.
At one point the bishops point out that Henry has an heir. Wolsey goes on about the English people not accepting Henry’s bastard son, when it has to be pointed out to him that they were, in fact, talking about his legitimate daughter, Princess Mary.
Wolsey maintains that:
“English history is littered with the tragedies of those who tried to pass on their crown to a daughter.”
Which is horseshit. This point had been tested just the once, with the Empress Matilda and her cousin Stephen in the 12th Century. Admittedly it was the really long, incredibly violent and chaos sowing Civil War kind of a test. Her father did not have a huge amount of time to reconcile the nobility to her being heir to the throne (her younger brother died in a shipwreck when she was already an adult), and it sparked off a civil war that just kept going (called The Anarchy). Stephen managed to limp over the line as King at the end of that war, but it was Matilda’s son that succeeded Stephen, making the constitutional effects of The Anarchy largely inscrutable.
The nobility and reigning Kings had always looked at the possibility of a Queen Regnant with grave doubt and a mutinous eye, but every time the people weighed in on female succession to the throne (and it would suddenly be happening a whole lot in about another 30 years), they were fine with it. Their attitude was basically:
“Do we want a Queen? Well, is she the rightful Queen? According to English tradition and law, By God? Well, Great, then. God Save Her. Jog on, my Lord. You had better go and get that woman crowned. I have barrels to coop, or a Queen’s Army to join. Your choice, My Lord, your choice. ”
Every. Single. Time. The English, so constipated with reverence for tradition it sometimes overturned monumental sexism and changed history. Warms the understated heart.
Wolsey’s Court is getting out of control. He gets down to a flat out threat towards Fisher, who will not be cowed. Bishop Fisher points out that as this is a matter that a Pope already passed judgement upon, then Wolsey doesn’t have the authority to change that decision.
The wheels are finally off the wagon, and Wolsey smacks the table as he loses his temper, and gives Bishop Fisher a look that promises a lot.
Possibly not so evil Compton?
Tallis and Compton are in bed. Tallis is still alive, so, maybe Compton’s going to subvert the trope? Anyway, the only thing Tallis can hear is the music in his head, and he’s obsessed enough that I’m starting to understand how he could live in Henry VIII’s court and still somehow be unaware of how titles work.
Henry and Wolsey
Perhaps Wolsey’s biggest problem is his inability to admit how much of a problem he and Henry have with this annulment business. He keeps assuring the King just how easy and quick and painless this will all be when he knows damn well it can’t and won’t be any of those things.
Henry takes the news that Wolsey has decided to refer the matter to Rome (Wolsey doesn’t mention he’s been unable to get the English church to agree), pretty dubiously and a little angrily. He ‘Hopes that it works…for your sake’.
An Evening at Court
Henry and Anne are the centre of everyone’s attention. They are dancing and Catherine has to sit there and watch.
We get a chance to check in with my favorite conspiratorial Statler and Waldorf – Norfolk and Boleyn, who are on fine form and a little drunk tonight.
Before a shouty messenger demands entry:
“I bring most important news! Your Majesty! Rome has been sacked!”
Sacked by the troops of the Emperor, Catherine’s nephew.
Who has captured the Pope.
Catherine looks horrified in front of Henry. To Anne, though…
And then the World turned Upside Down.
Henry’s son, the Duke of Richmond, is dead. He caught the sweating sickness.
We see his mother, Lady Bessie Blount, for the last time. She survives but fades away from the story. So it’s also goodbye to Ruta Gedmintas.
Back at Whitehall, Henry is inconsolable.
And when he is able to notice things again all he will see are his plans turned to dust.