But Bishop Fisher will have only a little of the stewsoup, boy. So it’s looking like he might make it through this assassination attempt. If he’s not that hungry he might not eat much, and won’t be looking to wolf down the soup, so if it’s a fast acting poison…
So, while we wait to find out it should be mentioned that this poisoning was an Actual Historical event. The Tudors has jushed it up, though, quite a bit.
There was a poisoning in Fishers’ house at this time. Fisher might well have been the target but missed the meal, so the people killed were members of his household, not a collection of prominent ‘Remainers’ as shown in The Tudors, and neither Bishop Fisher nor Sir Thomas More were present. Of course, the timing and location still made it very suspect.
Oh, right. One guy coughing, then everybody coughing, then everybody trying to vomit, it all hurtles downhill pretty quickly. One guy just drops dead in seconds and we leave the scene with More praying while holding on to his choking friend, Bishop Fisher.
So, The Tudors gives us a true story from history, and embellishes it with a couple of lies about attendance at this event (It also ups the body count from 2 to 4), and it creates a narrative for it.
The lies (More and Fisher, a table of prominent ‘Remainers’) give us an insider’s view on the narrative, and make it feel like a more certain assassination attempt. The Tudors could be right about the culprits. The London gossips of the day certainly believed the it was the Boleyns wot done it.
Actually Historically who the hell knows? It was a crime committed about 300 years before the first modern police force, when ‘Torture the guy you think did it until he says he did it’ (Not the ladies yet, Henry’s going to bring that in during Season 4), was the accepted path to meeting your stats targets on the crime cleanup rate.
What The Tudors has done here is reached out into the historical fog, grabbed at a solution and found one that is both reasonably plausible and consistent with known events. In The Tudors it was the Boleyns, and Rouse the cook,
By also having More attend the dinner, The Tudors gets the emotions from that event to inform the next scene, as a clearly traumatised More launches in and pushes Henry as far as Henry ever gets pushed by anyone except Anne. More pointedly insists upon investigation and punishment for the poisoning.
Henry clearly does not want to be here for this conversation with More. He doesn’t give much eye contact, these accounts or whatever they are in front of him are the most important thing he’s ever seen, and he breathes more heavily than a phone sex worker every time More asks a new question. He doesn’t really engage with the conversation until the blame starts to swing round to the Boleyns. Yeah, Thomas Boleyn, the brand newly created Earl of Wiltshire and Ormond, who we have already been shown arranged this poisoning, made sure to have a ‘significant pause’ conversation about Bishop Fisher with Anne before going ahead. So he had to have one with Henry first, right? And from the way Henry’s reacting this scene, I think maybe there was more than one conversation and maybe some of those significant pauses were filled in.
More might or might not think that Henry OK’d the assassination attempt, but he certainly appears to think Henry is covering up, or at least turning a blind eye to the Boleyns’ involvement by the end of this scene.
So what the Tudors gets to give us for the next 10- 15 minutes is the drama of the conspirators seeing how far the fallout from this botched assassination attempt goes.
Yeah, Pick out a favorite chair. We’ll be back here again.
Where Richard Rouse, the poisoning cook, has clearly been through it. I mean, he did kill people so it’s hard to feel too bad, but still. At least he’s not being tortured while Cromwell questions him. And someone comes in, whoever it is they have an “access all dungeons” pass…
Cromwell is quite the innocent in this. Despite being a practiced enough interrogator to have an uncanny valley level impression of ‘sincerity’ while trying to sell clearly fake offers to Rouse, Cromwell also seems entirely oblivious to the effect that the guy with an obvious motive staring the prisoner in the eyes for like, three whole minutes while you question him can have.
But it does give us a nice bit where Rouse talks at but past Cromwell to communicate with Boleyn. Assuring him that he remembers the threat and will take what comes to save his family. A not ignoble end, but it is going to hurt like hell. It does fit with the Actual Historical accounts, in which Rouse was caught, tortured and did not deny putting something in the soup, only denying that he knew it was poison. He never did say who got him to do it.
Le Affaire des Shirts
Actual Historical, down to how she noticed it. Anne is enjoying a power walk at Whitehall, when she notices a servant is carrying linen and gives him a bladder dropping experience. Full marks to that guy who was just delivering laundry. He kept his shit together, did his job, answered the question honestly and in return he got to just go on doing his job that day but you know someone’s going to get it for that unpleasant news.
It’s not pointless, or quite as petty as it looks. Domestic power was basically the only power women could get hold of at that time, but domestic power could be significant – large estates were huge employers. Anything, small or large in the royal household that is still being run through Katherine undermines that accepted authority Anne has fought so hard for and is now enjoying, and is an indication that Katherine’s reign is not yet over.
Henry is alone, holding a jeweled cross as hurricane Anne barrels towards him. He might be thinking about More or Katherine or something else entirely but he is fussing with something in his cheek. He gets broadsided by Anne’s sudden “Katherine still makes your shirts” loud concern, but yells the hell back. We get a Diana reference with Anne’s insistence that “You can’t have three people in a marriage”. It is a little off from the direct quote: “There were three people in this marriage…”, but the episode is also going to pull out a”Queen of Hearts” reference for Katherine too, so the nods are there. I’m just not sure that the nods add anything.
We briefly flit to Rochester to catch up to a convalescing Bishop Fisher, along with Sir Thomas More. They are concerned about the King’s increasing power over the church, but are encouraged that only one council member (Boleyn) supports the King marrying Anne without permission from the Pope.
Back in Whitehall, all that yelling about laundry had an effect. There’s been at least a small time delay in the cut between London and Rochester, Henry’s changed his clothes and it looks to be late evening. He marches into Katherine’s rooms to be confronted by
Henry was fussing with his tooth earlier, and he doesn’t deny the toothache. He had toothache and his ex knew it. That’s far too much information for your ex to have, even if you get on fine, even if you’re working the hell out of that joint custody agreement. And while the thinking on gout is now that it can be caused by a bundle of things from heredity to diet, historically it was known as the disease of excess and middle age so, nice low burn there, Katherine.
She tops that off by dismissing his demand/request that she stop making his shirts, coming into close physical proximity and saying that perhaps they should go together, to see their daughter, who has been unwell…
I don’t think it’s time to talk about performance yet, but that time is coming for the one pretty much universally agreed Definitive Portrayal in The Tudors – Maria Doyle Kennedy’s Katherine of Aragon. But right now, we need to talk about her costuming.
And I may turn out to be wrong, but I think the current ‘4 person tent’ cut you’re seeing her being costumed in right now might be all you see her in from now on. Maria Doyle Kennedy just isn’t that size normally, but, and let’s not make that pun, it is just possible she was either pregnant or had post pregnancy effects while filming at least some of The Tudors. Didn’t want to pry but a brief look at her Wikipedia page puts the birth of her youngest child where it could have had an effect.
In which case the above is not as shady as it would at first appear in a series where Henry’s massive 30 year physical transformation is portrayed by Rhys Meyers putting on a larger coat and an unflattering cut of beard for an episode and a half after toying with ‘silver fox’ territory and a stronger Welsh accent for most of Season 4. If it weren’t for the striking comparison between the characters I’d be saying this look is a nice, subtle way to signal Katherine’s aging because being pregnant for most of the previous two decades did wreck the Actual Historical Katherine of Aragon’s figure by her 40s.
That said, while Katherine was full of boss moves in this conversation, Henry leaves more sure than ever that Katherine is never going to accept this seperation, and that he is going to have to make it happen.
The Death of Richard Rouse
Okay. The excerpt wikipedia uses from the Blackfriar’s chronicle to describe Rouse’s death proves you can hide a lot of horrifying content with olde worlde spyllyng.
“…and pullyd up and downe with a gybbyt at dyvers tymes tyll he was dede.” Blackfriars Chronicle, 1531.
It just sounds so quaint until you think about it.
The most interesting bit here are the reactions, particularly Boleyn and Cromwell, shown here with the hard death of Mr Rouse edited out.
Boleyn isn’t bloodthirsty. He’s a conspirator in a conspiracy that went disastrously wrong, is threatening to become a catastrophe, and he’s watching the last chance that it will come back on him die. George is feeling the guilt a bit more heavily than his father.
Cromwell, without our advantage of seeing Boleyn and George order the attempt, has nevertheless finally put it together himself. He has a much harder time watching the execution, he knows damn well who is guilty, gets it confirmed in the faces of his allies, and has to leave the room.
And for anyone watching for the uses of ultimate power, the ex post facto law that was passed to make this method of execution legal was passed Actually Historically in large part because of all those rumours saying it was the Boleyns. Henry passed a law making that particular man’s death far more terrible because people said his girlfiend’s family had hired him. Classic autocrat. The law got revoked in the first year of Edward’s reign.
A Night at Court
About time. It’s been pretty dark this episode,but here there is light and music and life. Anne dances with Mark Smeaton, and Henry talks with Brandon. He tells Brandon to ‘Sit’ almost as soon as he comes up. It sounds peremptory but it’s actually Henry being polite – subjects must stand in the presence of the monarch unless invited to sit.
He compliments Brandon on his new wife like he’s admiring his friend’s new house or car. I was half expecting Henry to ask Brandon what mileage he was getting out of her when he instead asks Brandon to go and see his old banger upstairs.
Brandon’s being sent with exactly the same request Katherine has turned down a hundred times, so, like Brandon, we’re a little perplexed as to why Henry would send him. He surely doesn’t expect it to work, does he? Well no, but here we should remember that while he doesn’t discuss it with others, Henry is currently planning his next move.
That move will be moving the whole court, and I think he wants to be sure Brandon will be with them. Henry’s giving Brandon another chance to see the intransigence from Katherine that’s been driving him nuts for years now.
But the attempt backfires a bit. Although Brandon will remain onside, he is impressed with Katherine’s personal integrity and while he’s quite quiet about them, he has similarly orthodox catholic views. He’s very much won around by the encounter.
He tells Henry about it, and Henry gets as close as he ever does to admitting Katherine played that well – he jumps up and stomps out of the feast, stopping on his way to have a good yell at Chapuys and throw an ironic “Welcome Back to Court” on there.
Brandon and his wife are going to bed at the end of the day. She asks about the Queen and he says “It was like a thing of the other world to watch her courage.”. That backfire looks to be a slow burner, Brandon is increasingly being drawn to Katherine’s side.
His new wife has some thoroughly unrealistic expectations and Brandon would like to double down on the thoroughly unrealistic promises he apparently made earlier to create them. He is always going to be faithful, never make her unhappy and always do all of that.
The Most Happi
Anne gets called in to see Henry, late in the evening.
And Henry tells Anne what he’s been working on. He thinks they should go hunting…she is non-plussed, that they should visit people and stay with them, she’s still not there yet, and that when they come back, it will be only them. He’s given orders for their ‘third person’ to leave while they are away.
Anne is delighted, they are finally on their way to getting married, and when he asks her if she is (like her family motto) the most happy?
Meanwhile, At the Church of Impending Doom
We get whisked away from the warm lighting of the court to cold blues at Sir Thomas More’s home in Chelsea, in a storm. Where, because he is Sir Thomas More, he hasn’t so much had a really bad dream caused by maybe the storm and the stress of daily seeing his religion slip away, he’s had a prophetic dream vouchsafed to him, probably by God.
And it has told him that he has been right about everything, particularly the stuff he’s been really freaking out over. Luther and Tyndale are part of the Antichrist.
Thomas More as shown here is essentially an early Premillenialist, seeing the end of the world approaching and believing in that sincerely. It is one of the ingredients, but only one, of his incredible bravery.
Yeah, it is still weird, though.
The Last Time She Ever Sees Him
Henry and Anne are setting off and are clearly delighted to be on their way.
So I don’t think Henry even notices Katherine watching quietly from a window. It is the last time she ever sees him.
She certainly guesses what has happened, but it is left to Cromwell to formally break the news to her. He walks through the now empty and quiet halls to go and speak to her.
Cromwell and Katherine appear to have a reasonable relationship under the circumstances. He remains polite and formal, saying only what the King has ordered him to, and from her perspective there’s none of the baggage she had with Wolsey. She doesn’t quibble about what is effectively an order of banishment, but is heartbroken about Henry’s indifference.
She only refuses when she is asked to give up the jewels of the Queens of England, the ones that come with her role. That she will not have. She snaps back, and Henry’s going to have to back off or send a guard to get them.
The Last Time They See Her
Katherine leaves London for the last time, but even leaving on the quiet, separate from Henry, she draws a crowd. There are some surprises, Brandon made it there, and Sir Thomas More gets out the second Diana reference, calling Katherine “Queen of Hearts”. It draws a slightly more distinct parallel here, nodding to the personal popularity of two royal women but somehow I find it more gaudy. I see what it’s doing there, this time, I just don’t care for it.
All the same Katherine’s exit from public life is suitably grand and graceful. We’ll visit her more often than any other character out of Henry’s orbit, but Katherine is moving out of the centre of the story for us too.
Everything is Beautiful
Henry and Anne sit next to a roaring fire, in front of excellent food, in what looks to be a cozy room in one of Henry’s hunting lodges. They are reveling in being free in each other’s company when there is a knock at the door. It is a messenger from Katherine. Katherine, The Queen of England don’t you know, would like to passive aggresively point out that Henry didn’t say goodbye today and is asking after his health.
Let’s see how he takes it.
Henry gets to saying he has “No wish to offer her consolation”, punching the messenger at every word except ‘no’ and ‘to’. That’s a lot of anger. Anne is freaked out enough to step very carefully around the conversation for the next few minutes after the messenger is allowed to escape out the door. Henry comes back and says he’s sorry.
She also offers support: It’s Katherine, how could it have been different? They agree that “Everything is Beautiful”, which is good and the tension finally goes out of the room. I think Anne might carry a bit of it around for a while though.
In the Deeps
A couple of deep drumbeats and we’re in the cellars below Whitehall.
We see one of the plotters is Chapuys, and while we don’t see the other’s face he self identifies as one of the King’s servants. Chapuys makes the threat explicit, asking if he will assassinate the Lady Anne. The hooded man agrees and Chapuys calls the meeting over for the moment. 16th Century politics is a game for professionals, and it looks like the diplomatic professionals are the ones making the next play. Chapuys leaves, trying not to be spotted, and so do we.