In France King Francis has ordered Cardinal Wolsey a combined food delivery and sex therapy service.
He decides he will have the fruit and will not have the lady (Joan will be pleased) with compliments, regrets and a little bit of judgement.
A Morning at Court with 1.25 Queens
In Whitehall, Anne is holding a little bit of court. It’s not much, she’s just speaking to two nobles, and they rush off to pay their respects to The Queen the moment Catherine is announced at the door with her own herald and drumroll.
Catherine walks through the adulation and admiration she is owed, calling out Lords for particular greeting and spotting Ambassador Mendoza in the crowd. Anne has to curtsey as Catherine passes her, but the Lord that rushed off to greet Catherine also made sure to tip his hat to Anne once Catherine had passed.
George arrives with what he thinks is more encouragement, and Anne thinks is dangerous nonsense. Someone has drawn a cartoon of a falcon (Anne’s personal heraldic symbol) eating a pomegranate (Catherine’s personal symbol).
Anne finds the drawing to be an unacceptable risk for no discernible reward. Once she’s dealt with that, Mr Cromwell wants a word.
So Anne turns out to have been a student of Dr. Knight, the man Cromwell was willing to trust his not entirely hypothetical life to. They all know each other. I wonder if they are ‘religiously affiliated’, if you know what I mean.
I find Protestantism to be a secret society with its shit together and would like to subscribe to their newsletter as soon as they invent it. Is there a handshake? The dress code is a lot of black and white, and you need an ‘…Of course, believing that would be heresy, which is why I don’t believe that at all…’ speech ready to go at all times, but they’re the coming thing, you know.
Finally, today’s business at court gets rounded out by more ‘George Boleyn cannot intrigue’ news. He propositions the two of the Queens ladies that dress identically and are engaged periodically in escort work, probably with some kind of information scam going on. Which makes the still below one of those magic eye pictures.
Because it shows both George Boleyn trying to coerce two young ladies into having sex, and two sheepdogs that cannot quite believe that this really valuable sheep they’ve been told to keep an eye out for is just walking straight into the pen and is shutting the gate behind it.
Francis looks Fabulous.
The treaty gets signed in France.
The bonhomie takes a turn for the worse when Wolsey (inexplicably, frankly) suggests also making peace with the Emperor.
Francis is very keen to remind Wolsey that ‘Fuck the Emperor 1528’ was the agreed subtitle for this summit, and Wolsey concedes. Wolsey confides to Sir Thomas More that he’s concerned about the domestic situation and…That’s not Sir Thomas More.
Henry sticks his oar in the Catherine/Anne situation.
The music is light and carefree as Henry does his Whitehall power walk.
He literally raises Anne up when…And it’s quite a moment for Anne and Henry, and a reminder that most of Catherine’s power derives from her husband. Henry and Anne speak softly and lovingly, he gives her a gift, that music slows down and becomes a love theme…and Henry points out how much he loves her neck.
Stick a bucket of ice water over those romantic thoughts and crank the ‘Yeah in hindsight…’ meter up to 2 for some heavy ass foreshadowing dropped in at the end there.
He leaves, everyone’s spine starts working again, and the court is suddenly buzzing with gossip.
Intrigue and Dinner
In r/cozytudorplaces, Boleyn and Norfolk are finishing dining with the King. The light at the window says it’s a warm mid-evening, there’s fruit on the table and a low fire crackles gently.
Henry says that he expects to have an answer on the Great Matter very shortly, and Norfolk opportunistically downs Wolsey, the ‘silly girl’ thing comes out (and I hope that’s the last bit of mileage we’re going to try to extract from that tiny incident). And then, in his enthusiasm, Norfolk drops Boleyn right in it. Norfolk is once again going full steam ahead in his enthusiasm to be rid of Wolsey, and Boleyn’s expression is yelling that this is clearly not the plan they had agreed on, and it is all still too soon.
Still, he’s been dropped in the water, so he’d better swim. He tells Henry about Wolsey’s skimming practice he discovered last week (and in Episode 4). Henry’s very neutral, very sphinxy through the explanation of how Wolsey’s scam works. He is hurt. He is shocked at the intimation, because Wolsey is not just his chancellor.
Henry doesn’t care how Wolsey gets himself paid, and ’embezzling via your position’ basically counts as part of your wages as long as you’re in favour. When you drop out of favour, then suddenly we figure out you’ve been stealing.
Boleyn needs no second hint, and reverses quickly back up the path, saying how valuable true friendship is, for in everything else “there is a strange habit of forsaking”. And then Norfolk mentions Brandon and it becomes clear why they went to so much trouble to recruit Brandon. He’s a double threat to Wolsey.
Brandon is on their side (if they get him back into court) and the bonus is that if Henry’s best friend is finally back in his life, the prospect of getting rid of Wolsey would no longer leave him quite as isolated. And Norfolk really sells how sorry Brandon is, in a way Brandon’s friends never quite managed.
Catherine/Anne’s Third Domestic
Catherine and Anne are still cooped up together every evening, with Anne as Catherine’s lady in waiting. She’s washing Catherine’s feet tonight (awkward for everyone), Catherine gets rid of the other ladies and demonstrates that her self control is not what it was. She wants to know where Anne got that new necklace, eventually grabbing it andgoing right over the line, there. Anne meets that accusation with a flat out denial and she’s not giving an inch. Catherine draws on all her majesty in dismissing Anne, her voice has incredible authoritarian power in it, but it is also getting harsh and unsteady.
Dr. Knight gets stopped on the road.
There’s a tense couple of seconds but the architect of this turns out to be Wolsey, who had heard what Dr. Knight was about, and where he was going.
You see Wolsey following the breadcrumbs as he reads the two documents Henry is sending to the Pope, and his bafflement at just not understanding where they lead.
Up until now I’m pretty sure Wolsey was entertaining visions of a French princess for Henry, and a new grand alliance that they could use to get leverage on the Pope for an annulment. But Henry had a woman in mind all the time, and when Wolsey gets told who, you get to see that knowledge come thundering in.And it’s like Sam Neill shows you all the separate pieces of information hit Wolsey as the true depth of the trouble he is in starts to settle into his brain. Anne Boleyn, niece of his restless enemy Norfolk, and whose father has been so successful recently. That’s who has the fire lit under Henry’s ass. The girl he managed to call an idiot last week is the greatest current influence on the King. And she brings no alliance with her to help with the politics of this thing, just the daggers of her family, all pointed at Wolsey.
It’s enough to distract him from the second document, or would be if Henry’s subheading wasn’t :”If I can’t have an annulment, I need an additional wife slot.”
He sends Dr Knight on his way (not much choice considering it was Henry that sent him), very grumpily. But Wolsey had a lot on his mind, and it’s just increased by several tonnes.
There’s a slow, deliberate drumbeat that keeps popping up this episode. Slightly reminiscent of an execution drum, it’s a little threatening. It plays as Brandon prepares to make his apology. And this apology is about the people watching, and the people they will tell. It’s not just about the words, it is about the stance and above all the attitude those words are delivered in. Everything is on the line, here, Brandon. Clear Eyes, Full Heart, Don’t Fuck It Up.
“With all my heart, with all my soul, with every ounce of my being. My King, My Sovereign, My Dread Lord, I beg you to forgive your miserable servant. Your humble, worthless, thoughtless servant who deserves so little, and by your bounty and your grace was given so much. Ungrateful wretch that I am. Unworthy of your majesty’s love. ”
Apology comes in threes, apparently. It’s a fabulous apology, and Brandon just nails the delivery; humility, sincerity, it has it all. You see the apology just wash over Henry and the autocrat starts to soften…
But no! Henry calls Brandon into another room. Did he catch a note of defiance in the eye there? Or does he just need to be sure? There is to be a test. A feat of strength. You go, Henry, you test that rebellious servant. It is to be an arm wrestle. If Brandon can beat him, Brandon gets to stay.
That drumbeat turns into a rising theme that’s a little bit martial, and there’s something about men who are also friends fighting each other for honour that’s always kind of awesome. It’s a true test and neither wants to give way. I think the key to this scene, and Henry and Brandon’s future relationship, is what happens right after Brandon wins.
Henry looks back and sees Brandon’s expression. And that expression is still asking for permission to stay, it’s not assuming that just because Brandon has done everything asked of him he’s going to be fine, he’s still asking Henry after his victory – “Can I come back?”.
He was probably always going to get back through the door, but that core loyalty and humility is what brings Brandon right back to the right hand of Henry again, and the reason Henry will always trust him.
In France, Wolsey is engaging in the eternal balm for a human stuck in an organisation, bitching to someone on the same level as you about the crazy shit your boss just pulled. They both agree that Henry’s bigamy request was way, way over the top.
The news has reached Paris that the Pope has escaped, and for once it is More that is the pragmatist, and Wolsey the idealist. Wolsey wants to know if Thomas More will accept the results of the conclave and More has to say to him that there isn’t going to be one. With the Pope free it’s just not going to happen.
Cromwell remains an honest broker for Wolsey, and has informed him that Norfolk and Boleyn have been dining with the King. This has him justifiably nervous, but Wolsey’s go to demand for loyalty – “You owe all your advancement in this world to me” is laughably inaccurate, breathtakingly arrogant, and betrays his view of other people as a bit inert.
Wolsey wants to make a point about political pragmatism, and he makes an analogy to cloth dying. “The dyer’s hands are always stained by the elements he works with.” More gets his ‘Youth Pastor’ hat on, enthusiastically.
Wolsey has a long night, waiting for something that will not arrive. Back when he started this, the whole point was that he could get the cardinals together because the Church was without a leader. It isn’t any more. The Pope is back and operational again. There’s an increasingly depressed Wolsey in montage.
King Francis comes around, and explains that the Cardinals are not coming. Francis cannot order them now that the Pope is back.
Wolsey returns and he is positively rushing toward the King’s chambers. That slow, single drumbeat is back. Wolsey has no time for anyone. Cromwell catches him just before Wolsey goes in to see Henry, and warns Wolsey that Henry is not alone.
Wolsey stops short when he comes in.
Henry asks for news, pointedly. It’s so pointed that I thought he already knew what had happened, but there’s genuine curiosity and excitement in his face when he asks if he has his divorce.