A Little Mashup and Do not pity the Come Cloth Holder
With its orchestra on the top half and its pop drums on the bottom half The Tudors’ theme (2007) is part of the mashup style which was given a kick into the mainstream by ‘A stoke of genie-us’ in 2002. And as an example of its genre, The Tudors’ theme is great, it does its job really well. It’s vibrant, creates a lot of impulsion and gets to just the right point of grandeur before it ends. You can see and hear the Season 1 titles here.
And once it ends we’re straight into Henry wanking into the waiting arms of his Come Cloth Holder. That would not appear to be very 2007.
Now, we may mock the Come Cloth Holder, but Actually Historically there was a not entirely unrelated job, the ‘Groom of the Stool’ (the guy that handed Henry his wiping cloth after crapping, among other things) that was a highly sought after position in the Tudor court. You got access to the King every day, right at the time he was not being hassled by courtiers and had time to think about stuff. It was a job people fought to get their relatives and friends into because Grooms of the Stool could be a big influence on the King.
So actually, the King normally did wipe his own arse, but he required a sentient toilet roll holder, who was a reasonably important guy. You’ve got to imagine that Come Cloth Holder was a little lower on the service totem pole than that.
But he probably did an apprenticeship for it, and is looking at pretty great pay and pension for the Tudor era. So do not pity the Come Cloth Holder, the Come Cloth Holder probably has his life together, and until Anne Boleyn turned up, his working hours were pretty great.
We get this intercut with Anne sewing, in case we needed to be told what direction Henry’s thoughts were in. Rhys Meyers goes all in on realism and there is generally a whole lot of work done I didn’t really need for this really authentic man-having-a-wank scene.
Henry finishes, and the Come Cloth Holder folds over his Cloth, bows and leaves the room while calculating his overtime rate. You do you, Come Cloth Holder, you do…wait, is that right?
The Changing of the Administration
Morning wank over, Henry gets announced and strides into the main hall, where his entire council awaits him.
We haven’t seen the council meeting before because it was all a bit redundant under Wolsey. When he was in charge the council did whatever the hell Wolsey told them they were doing.
Henry goes the traditional route of blaming the previous administration – everything you didn’t like? Well that was all Wolsey, and as Henry’s taking a greater interest in government now no-one should be looking to get as much power as Wolsey had. Norfolk finally gets what he wanted –
but he’s got to share it with Brandon. Norfolk can probably live with that because Brandon is as uninterested in political power as Henry used to be.
Henry leaves and Brandon packs up and is making for the door like it’s the last day of school when Norfolk stops him to talk about Wolsey. Brandon’s attitude to Wolsey changes again, to optimistic, forgiving Brandon who has no personal beef with Wolsey. Norfolk frets that as Wolsey is still alive he will go for vengeance if he gets the opportunity. Brandon is very “Can we just stop plotting for five minutes? We got him out of power, let’s just leave the guy alone.”
It remains unresolved between them as we go to see the object of their concern.
Yes, That’s Employer Provided Accommodation
As Henry boasted last week, Wolsey is still Bishop of York. A job that comes with this fabulous house.
Joan wants to get the roof mended and Wolsey’s “With what and by whom?” tells you everything about just how far his pension goes. The debts people have suddenly discovered he owes them must be huge.
Wolsey’s going to try writing (begging for a return to favour) to Anne Boleyn. Even Joan, who really believes in Wolsey, thinks this will not work, and maybe Wolsey knows, but he’s going to try it anyway.
iTudor 2.0 – Melisandres Everywhere
Back in Whitehall, Sir Thomas More is settling into his new office.
For all the scenes Wolsey and More shared, I only ever felt a hint of danger once. Now, danger is everywhere and in everything. Cromwell and More could be talking over a spike pit, and it wouldn’t be more tense. It just goes to show what potential burning to death can do for dramatic tension in the workplace.
They start with a discussion about how More intends to use the power of Lord Chancellor. He picks up an example of a sermon by one Hugh Latimer, preaching at Cambridge. From Cromwell’s reaction it’s very possible he knows him. From More’s sneaky glances it’s possible he suspects that Cromwell knows him. Everyone is working so damn hard on their poker face that it’s hard to follow.
We get a tension note from some violins as the conversation moves on, and a single deep drumbeat as Cromwell asks the question: “Do you condemn all reformers as heretics?”, because from the answer to that question onwards Cromwell knows there is no open way forward with More; he must hide, recant, or burn as long as More is running the country. But then, upstairs in Whitehall…
Protestant Book Club
…Henry has joined the Protestant book club, is delighted with his first illegal, heretical book and would like to order more. And Anne did select a great first one for him. It’s all about how he should be in charge of religion in England, and how the Pope can piss right off.
He promises Anne everything will be different from now on. She looks a little doubtful, but they set about that in the very next scene.
Henry and Anne are about to put on a play for Imperial Ambassador Chapuys to relay to the Emperor, and it’s all about marking out England’s new position.
George Boleyn is talking with Chapuys (Holding him in position, perhaps?) when Henry strides in.
Cromwell walks right behind Henry as Henry walks right up to Chapuys, and after the briefest of intros launches straight into an in depth discussion on what Henry is now calling “Religious Controversies” and Chapuys calls “New Heresies”.
Chapuys reaction is to point to the attempted annulment as the reason for this change in direction, but Henry insists this is a whole new thing. Henry has managed to parse his argument in Defence of the Seven Sacrements, until he has got himself to the point where it turns out Henry actually agreed with Luther all along (The guy he thought should be burned in episode 4) about how awfully the church is behaving – it was Luther’s attacking of the articles of faith in Catholicism that had Henry angry, do you see Ambassador?
History gets a little Wash and Brush up for Brandon
Brandon and Knivert are out walking in the country, and Knivert wants to know why Brandon has so much free time as he’s supposed to be running the country.
The answer is simple, he’s not. He’s leaving it to Norfolk, a man who manages to offend most people he meets and who I don’t think would be anyone’s choice for ‘most likely to be a diligent administrator’.
We also meet Brandon’s ward, who will become his wife, Catherine Brook.
Actually Historically Brandon’s second wife was Catherine Willoughby and Brandon was a complete shitheel by our standards. He was her guardian, although guardian did have a less parental definition at that time – if you, a young aristocratic Tudor person had one, then it was typically the most powerful person your family was connected to. They were the person that put you in the right social circles and then negotiated your marriage on behalf of your family. They often got some kind of kickback on the deal. You lived at one of their houses from some point in your teens but your relationship with them could be anywhere from semi-parental through nearly non-existent to deeply troubling.
In this case Catherine Willoughby was an heiress whose father had died, and was Brandon’s ward. She was probably going to be engaged to Brandon’s 10 year old son once her contested inheritance was sorted out. But 49 year old Brandon married the 14 year old Willoughby less than 10 weeks after his wife died.
That’s some really nasty bits of math in Actual History for The Tudors to digest, so The Tudors‘ takes some big liberties, because they need you to not hate Brandon, The Tudors’ Brandon is a likeable guy. So she’s still his ward, which is dodgy, but she appears to be somewhere in her early twenties, which is fine, and clearly confident, which his better. Henry Cavil’s still playing Brandon as under 30 at this point.
The Tudors’ Brandon has been changed by Margaret’s death, and in his relationship with his second wife (Actually Historically wife number 4), we get to see him mature as a person and clearly work, if not always successfully, at a real monogamous relationship.
We’re a long walk from historical accuracy at this point, but without this cloak of 21st century morality, Brandon would be very hard to look at.
A character with a historical legacy more battled over than Charles Brandon is Sir Thomas More and he’s about to order the death of one of the featured authors in the Protestant Book Club, Mr Simon Fish. So we better point out now that Actually Historically Simon Fish was arrested for heresy while More was Lord Chancellor, but died of bubonic plague in prison before he could stand trial. He never got burned, but could well have been, had he survived.
Here Fish stands in for the disappointment and then fear of returning exiles (each wave of religious change in England saw a small population with the means to travel either decamp to or return from the continent.) he begins chirpy, hoping that things have become ‘more tolerant’, and then slowly realises that things have got much, much worse for him. This isn’t a repatriation interview, it’s a pre-trial interrogation. He’s got some heartbreaking bravery, but ‘A Supplication for the Beggars’ was really hot anti Roman Catholic polemic, and The Tudors’ Mr Fish will burn for it.
Let them grumble. That’s how it’s going to be.
Back at court and right after Henry’s statement of intent to Chapuys (Chapuys and George Boleyn have neither changed clothes nor moved much), it’s Anne’s turn. Anne walks in to shocked gasps, and Chapuys wants to know what she has done.
Henry and Anne have put down markers in front of the whole court, and the ambassador to the Holy Roman Emperor. Katherine of Aragon is no longer to be considered Queen, the order is upended, and no one cares what the Pope thinks.
The New Plan
In his apartments, Henry is finishing up paperwork with evident relief. Firing Wolsey has certainly upped his workload. Cromwell really needs to talk to him about something but is very careful to ask permission before he launches in. Cromwell gets the tired and grouchy Henry to an ‘OK, what is it?’ and then says how he has been discussing the annulment with a friend (our first oblique reference to Cranmer). And that they thought that as the courts are not liable to judge Kings (Perhaps you might have seen that in a book recently, Your Majesty) that instead they should go to the universities of Europe to get their opinion on the matter.
They could get a judgement, and it could be done pretty quickly. I’m betting that Cromwell has already counted up the number of universities the Emperor and Pope have pissed off between them and he thinks this is a vote they can win.
Henry is invigorated, this is what he wants to hear. Cromwell is given lots of rein for his suggestion and he is to go and write a paper supporting his argument, and then is commissioned as a royal agent to go to these universities and get those judgements.
A Hard Watch
In London, Mr Fish gets burned to death. More certainly is not portrayed as in any way sadistic, he’s here to complete a difficult duty. He tries to get Mr Fish to recant right up until the last moment, and is answered with Mr Fish’s stirring recitation of the 23rd psalm. It’s hard for him to watch Mr Fish burn, and he has to turn away when the man’s suffering is at its height. All in all, it’s very carefully done, and with a lot of gravitas, and tells us a lot about Sir Thomas More as a character.
A Night at Court
From Thomas Tallis and Jane in the foreground, to Henry and Anne at the top table, everyone is having a good time tonight. It’s pretty boisterous, actually.
Thomas Boleyn gets good news. Henry is making him Earl of Wiltshire and Ormond. Let’s review.
Thomas was at Viscount last time we looked, and that title will now go to George, his son. Having a minor title for the heir to carry while waiting to become head of the house was a signifier of an important, wealthy family. And that’s a double Earldom Thomas just got.
Earldoms could vary from being fairly minor to being very important houses and a twofer pretty much guarantees the latter. Ormond was the Earldom that the Boleyns had worked steadily to get a claim to (via Thomas’ father marrying his mother) and Henry just gave it to him and handed him Wiltshire on top.
Boleyn also becomes Lord Privy Seal, and George gets a seat on the council. Thomas Boleyn is delighted in his gratitude, but he’s a little more subdued that he’s being sent to inform the Pope of England’s change of method (universities, not courts, also not your decision any more, Your Holiness) . That’s one mission that’s destined to just be a really uncomfortable meeting no one appreciates having to go to.
Upstairs we finally check in with Katherine this episode, where she and Chapuys are talking intently. Katherine appears to be processing how the fall of Wolsey really hasn’t changed her situation at all. It seems that at least part of her really did consider Wolsey guilty for her situation, and that was how she was exonerating Henry in her head. She can’t do that anymore. She is also losing the last hope she had of a reconciliation with Henry, what she has left now is just resistance, but she’s not giving that up for anyone.
Chapuys asks her not to give way. Downstairs, Henry has another surprise for Anne. She said that she really liked Wolsey’s old palace at York Place, so he’s refurbishing some of the apartments and giving it to her. When she is taken a bit speechless at this (Henry’s generosity is reaching eyebrow raising levels this evening) Henry asks if he has upset her. She is moved and says she would only be unhappy if he ever stopped loving her.
Chapuys stops by after meeting with Katherine, to loiter with the clearly malcontent Sir Thomas More at the back of the room. Chapuys is an observant man. And he’s absolutely right. That’s exactly what they’re doing. The lavish decoration, the huge number of guests, Henry’s massively generous gifts, the way they are both dressed in Ivory: They’re having the wedding feast before the wedding.
Thomas More dismisses it as ‘not his concern’. He’s really into what he can do for Catholicism as Lord Chancellor. Besides, he does not think Henry will actually break with Rome (interesting), because he’s known Henry a long time. More believes he has a pretty good grasp of Henry’s religious drives.
Time will show that More is absolutely right about Henry’s religious instincts, and absolutely wrong about what that means Henry will do.
On the mezzanine level, Norfolk is fretting about a portrait Henry might have sent to Wolsey, while Brandon remains untroubled by it, and his illustration of why he doesn’t consider it a problem gives Norfolk an opportunity to zenith his dry wit.
Over in the cheap seats it’s nice to see the newly married Thomas Tallis and his friend Thomas Wyatt interacting again(remember they traveled to France together in episode 6). They debate whether or not Wyatt should have accepted the patronage of Cromwell, Tallis says no but Wyatt thinks he made the right call. And he leaves Tallis with this-