If you’re not on the list…
She might be getting fancy picnics and receptions with the French ambassador, but the reality of the court is displayed when Anne and Henry get back to find a panic about the sweating sickness. There Henry is tag teamed by his security and ushered past groaning peasants while he asks:
Anne, who crisis has turned once again into the mistress, is sent to her apartments with just her brother for protection.
Henry tears in and whips open the medicine cabinet we saw last week, and if any of those things worked, he’d be overdosing right now. This is followed by a shot of incense and smoke being puffed towards the soft furnishings. On the basis that any disinfectant is a great disinfectant, it’s a good idea.
Briefing with Doctor Linacre
I like Doctor Linacre. He gives the impression of a man in possession of a good analytical mind. He’s just struggling with the fact that his science is simply nowhere near being an actual science, yet. He’s got conjecture and analysis and the arse end of magic, and with that he manages to put together two great examples of why common sense is sometimes just not enough, some honesty and good advice, and one reasonably edgy Sci-fi concept.
The first is the ‘curious mental disorientation’ he talks about as a first symptom of the sweating sickness. For us that could either be an interesting first symptom of the probable hantavirus, or an example of mass hysteria. For Doctor Linacre and his patients it would be evidence of the patients’ own ability to sense their approaching fate.
The whole ‘get into a natural sweat to prevent the sweating sickness’ appears to be horseshit, but it’s pretty good common sense thinking for some guys in the stupid ages. The moderate Doctor Linacre does point out that it’s only a theory.
He also says that a good wholesome diet always helps. And that…
Doctor Linacre’s main job, apart from rocking that hat, appears to be explaining in calm and reassuringly professional tones to people exactly what their loved ones died of, and just how little anyone knows about it. Oh, but he takes that ‘sense of foreboding’ thing and just runs with it, claiming that the thought is the cause, and that rumours about the disease are causing the disease.
There’s my crazy 16th Century ‘Or maybe it’s witchcraft?’ physician, I knew he was hiding in there somewhere.
A Hot time in the Old Town tonight.
We see the city with odd, large fires burning at night, there’s an actual ‘Bring out your dead’ cart, as we see the Sweating sickness rampages through the poor quarters of London.
In the relative quiet of the royal chapel, Henry prays beside Katherine, reverting to his normalcy in crisis. And Katherine is touched to have him with her once again.
In Sir Thomas More’s house the importance of cleanliness and quarantine procedures – Ha Ha, no, nothing like that. God has sent us this plague as punishment for being sinful, of course, and we’re just going to have to be more contrite and repentant.
You get the feeling that if you were ever caught not paying attention in Sir Thomas More’s home, then just randomly saying ‘More prayer and contrition? Is it Martin Luther’s fault?” would probably get you out of it every time.
We round off these plaguetime vignettes with Brandon who is jackhammering away with an unnamed woman. This is apparently an attempt to ‘avoid the sweat with natural sweat’, and the young woman would appear to be married because Brandon caps off the experience by telling her to get her husband to lick the sweat off. You see her go from feeling dewey eyed and thrilled to feeling thoroughly used and cheap in a couple of heartbeats. Way to go Brandon, a pussy drought right now would do you a world of good.
Is it warm in here?
Anne’s maid is feeling a little dizzy. And she still feels a little dizzy. And it is warm in here.
The actor and the score both do a great job with a very rapid descent into hysteria. Anne starts to comfort her but the maid just gets more and more hysterical, maid #2 is backing the hell up, and Anne notices what she is doing and nopes out herself.
Henry wants to see Anne. He’s persuaded against it by Wolsey (16th Century medicine may not know much, but it has figured out basic quarantine principles). Henry makes the best tactical decisions he can to keep everyone safe. Anne is to go back to Hever with her family. Katherine will join Princess Mary at Ludlow Castle in Wales. Henry will stay in London, the court will be shut down, and the palace will be reduced to a minimal staff.
Henry and Wolsey kind of wish each other the best, and you can really feel the age and warmth of the friendship as they speak, and the hope that they will both get through this.
The Lady Anne Boleyn
Henry visits Katherine’s leaving prep. She starts with a truly heroic level of passive aggression, but today is the day when she finally talks about her nemesis by name – ‘The Lady Anne Boleyn’.
Neither Katherine or Henry give or take any ground in this discussion. It develops in Henry expressing a genuine, if limited affection for Katherine in trying to keep her safe from the disease. Katherine tries to use that (maybe thinking of his coming to pray with her recently) to break back to their old relationship. When Henry then pulls back she says:
but it is just Henry re-establishing the new boundaries of their relationship.
Short of Breath
Anne is sent home and looks a little peaky. When her father comments on it she reacts like she has been accused of something.
Back in London, Joan has died.
Joan was one half of the pair of featured court ladies, and Tallis’ new girlfriend, so he grieves along with her sister. Well, sudden death is certainly rampaging among the supporting cast, and the Sweating sickness is well into the heart of the court now.
Many’s the night I’ve dreamed of Salmon, rotten and accompanied by a lute player, mostly.
and has some weird dreams about rotting salmon.
So he leaps up and starts exercising vigourously, much to the confusion of his chamber servant, and we find out that Henry’s sleeping shorts have a cross on the butt. Then he accidentally confesses to an empty confession booth, although we definitely hear another person breathe, raspily. When he opens the curtain to reveal no one we get a brief flash of the ‘death’s head’ make up that will spook him more thoroughly later. The isolation and stress are really getting to him.
A Hall to Die in and Servants to Bury him.
The two lawyers have arrived in Orvieto, to speak with the Pope.
Holy shit. Pope Clement is Ser Barristan Selmy. Gardiner and Fox see the disrepair the church is in, and the very first thing out of Clement’s mouth is that:
“The Spaniards are practically on my doorstep.”, which is coded language for-
“Let us be clear. I have just escaped from a ransacked city, You can see I’m living in a ruin, and you’re here with a request that I seriously piss off the guy with 20,000 mercenaries at my sodding door.”
Which are all fair points. Clement, however, makes the mistake of convenience – he sees the argument that might help him in this but is blinded to the fact that it doesn’t fully apply. He sees the passion Henry has for Anne as a reactant, not the catalyst.
The reactants are Henry’s lack of a male heir, and that Catherine is moving past her childbearing years. Henry’s love for Anne has accelerated activity towards a divorce, because Henry is stuck between being rock hard and a married place, but it is the brute fact of his lack of a male heir that is the engine driving this forward, as it is the brute fact that Katherine’s family is far more powerful than his that is holding it back.
So Clement pushes in on Anne’s unsuitability, while the lawyers push back with the opposite. And it’s Gardiner with the intriguing and slightly sinister question.
When this all ends in stalemate, and Pope Clement wants time to review the material they have brought, Gardiner and Fox produce the additional threat they were given to make.
“We could break with Rome” in so many words.
Pope Clement’s reaction – slightly derisory laughter and a super patronising “My Sons”, is not truly appropriate to the Catholic church’s position here, as Wolsey will explain next episode. Maybe it’s bluster, or maybe it’s the inertia that comes from a stable enterprise that has been stable for centuries that just can’t see change coming, even as it is rolling by.
Henry is writing to Anne, asking her to drink vinegar as a preventative measure. A clearly ill page makes a poor decision to keep working until he passes out right in front of Henry, causing a headlong flight from the palace.
Which ends at what must be Henry’s most isolated castle. So isolated it doesn’t get a name.
Pope Clement disappointingly does not decide upon the case, but offers the compromise of sending an official legate, Cardinal Campeggio, to hold an official ecclesiastical court that will decide upon it.
Gardiner and Fox would have preferred a decision, but it is movement forward and they will take it.
In Henry’s hideout everything is getting smoked out.
And the correspondence can stay right by the door thankyouverymuch. One of the letters is from Wolsey and has all the London news in it. Wolsey has refused Norfolk permission to come to London. Three of Henry’s apothecaries are sick, three of his chamber servants have died, and so has his Mason. Actually Wolsey’s not looking too great, either.
The orderly disposal we saw an example of near Compton’s grave last week has given way to full on crisis burial. Wolsey reports 40,000 cases in London alone.
Anne Boleyn is sick, but is currently surviving. This gives Henry some impulsion and he calls in Doctor Linacre from disinfectant duty and sends him to Hever Castle with instructions to save Anne’s life.
Wolsey (who Actually Historically survived several bouts of Sweating sickness – it did not appear to confer immunity once you’d caught it) collapses, so there will no no more news from London for a while.
Let’s assume a few days pass.
Doctor Linacre has arrived at Hever, and attended his patient.
At Sir Thomas More’s house, a conversation about something else is just one you haven’t turned into a conversation about heresy yet. More is talking to his daughter about the disease and the fear it is causing all around them.
He thinks it is the fear of the Hell these people are going to that is what is being shown here. Sir Thomas More naturally does not have that kind of fear so when he looks out upon a city where 40,000 people have a high fatality rate disease he sees – the danger of heresy. Again.
He worries that somewhere out there: “Secret meetings occur, where the church is attacked and books distributed.” He rhetorically asks his daughter what you should do with a house plagued with disease. “You purge it with fire” comes the dutiful reply – but wouldn’t that mean burning down the Catholic church? I mean Lutherism is the disease so the house it’s in…
Yeah Sir Thomas More is not a man that lets the aptness of the metaphor stand in the way of the point he wanted to make.
Sore throat? Fatigue?
Henry is gazing at the miniature portrait of Anne that she gave him (and what a clever present that was), periodically checking for forehead dryness and jumping at people who are just bringing him the mail.
Once he has gone to sleep, late at night a letter is pushed under the door. It is the latest London news, and what with the first words being:
“Your majesty, multitudes are dying around us…” and the voice delivering them being Sir Thomas More you know it’s all gone bad (I picture him wandering into Whitehall, past multiple corpses, bundle of pamphlets about the dangers of heresy in hand, finding no-one in charge and stepping in to run the remains of government for a bit.).
Wolsey is sick, London is deteriorating into chaos, but as everyone is so ill the rioting is quite half hearted. Henry looks at his reflection in the window and we get some mid aughts morphing.We cut to what we think is the morning but it’s a fake wake nightmare, where Henry rolls over and sees Anne as a corpse. He ends up hiding in the corner as a guy with pupils painted on his eyelids hisses at him. Maybe ease up on the paranoia and cheese before bed, Henry. It’s quite warm in here, for a draughty old castle, isn’t it?
At Hever a maid comes running in with the news that Anne has turned the corner, and the fever has broken.George is at his most adorable and brotherly as he throws himself onto the end of her bed with his arm propping up his head.
Her father has one of his first undercurrents where we see ambition is getting hold of him. He’s delighted she is recovering, yes, but when he speaks all his focus is on that things can go back to being as they were, and she can see the King again. I guess we know where his mind has been hovering as Anne fought for her life.
A voice over gives us a letter to Anne from Henry. He knows Anne is recovering and he has other news. The plague is withdrawing, the country still stands, Campeggio is on his way to get the annulment moving and Henry rides far, far away from Arse-End Castle to an exultant score.
Wolsey too is recovering, and Joan brings him a letter from Anne Boleyn. Joan seems pleased with the text.
We hear Tallis’ requiem and we get a brief, last look at the grave marker of the man it was written for. Everyone is listening in church and empty black cushions with spurs on them denote the dead that had attained Knighthood. There are a lot.
I think Compton gets a spot between Brandon and Knivert. He got his Knighthood the day he carried a tree.
And then Henry is cantering down an avenue of ancient trees towards a meadow where the sun is shining and Anne waits for him (Subtle costuming effect – their colours are almost identical). Her open hands look like a supplication and are a simple expression of need, he gathers her in his arms, they kiss, and he thanks God.
The cataclysm has passed.