The Tudors Recap – Season 2 Episode 3: Checkmate (Part 2)

Political Question Time

Brandon sits on his bed on the morning of Anne’s coronation, working himself up to what he has to do today.

The struggle is real.

He is the High Constable for the coronation, Anne and Henry’s Head of Security for the day.  His wife wants to know what is wrong, and when he tells her, (At best, my work is going to actively humiliate me today, Dear.) she wonders why he doesn’t call in sick. Brandon says that would be a risk to his head so she suggests that he does what he has to do, and put those resentments on a shelf for when he needs them.


That took a turn into some great and brutal advice for Tudor political living and apparently your new wife is low-key ‘Mike from Breaking Bad’ level hardcore. Wow. No Half Measures, Brandon.

Camp IV to The Summit

Summits are amazing places of almost impossible grandeur and glory. They are also chilly, lonely places that are environmentally hazardous to many forms of life. Welcome to the Boleyn family’s summitting of Tudor England.

Actually Historically Anne’s coronation was a less dramatic affair than The Tudors would have you believe. No assassination attempts, and the whole ‘Brereton is a Catholic Agent’ story line is pure dramatic licence. Also, Henry did not grab the crown and just do the job himself. As for the lack of crowds and the reception she got, that’s pretty well documented, albeit by people that didn’t like her much. Sympathetic accounts tended to emphasise how expensive and well done things were, diplomatically not talking much about the people.

More people in the parade than watching the parade? Then it’s just a lot of people getting somewhere slowly.

Actually Historically all the pageantry around the coronation lasted several days and had a load more processions and rigamarole. It started with a mass boat ride down the Thames in everyone’s finest riverboat (These days it would be a mass drive of Ferraris, Lambos and bulletproof 4x4s) accompanying Anne to the Tower of London. Henry met her there and they stayed there for two nights in apartments that had been specially and very expensively refurbished.

Then the day before the coronation she processed, taking several hours, from the Tower to Westminster (as was tradition) and had to make multiple stops on the way (as was tradition) for lots of mini pageants, and visual allegories, and terrible poetry (as was tradition) put on by the districts and guilds of London, some of which may possibly have briefly entertained her.

Then she spent the night at Westminster and then it was coronation day. The Tudors version starts with the big morning’s preparations. coronation prep.gif And we see /u/NanBullenisaWitch34 (William Brereton) doing the medieval equivalent of setting up in a book depository. Thomas Boleyn frets about the lack of crowds – it’s cute, it’s like the Boleyns just assumed the people would be fine with it. Well the people aren’t fine with it, and the blame is never allowed to get near Henry, so guess where the blame’s going?

It’s less civil disobedience and more an act of mass passive aggression. Everyone that’s on the streets right now? They’re the people that you already know where they live.

This is intercut with Brereton getting a musket shot ready. We follow each step as the tension increases, notice he’s stationed himself above the band to cover the noise (clever), and then…

Just missing Anne Boleyn by going back and to the left….back and to the left...

Brandon trots up and once he sees what has happened his first order is to keep the procession moving. For all the blame Thomas Boleyn is immediately ready to cast about, that was a great decision by Brandon. It foils Brereton’s second attempt as by the time he’s done all the crap he needs to do to get a second musket shot up and ready, Anne and Henry are moving out of his view.

Personally I’ve always wondered whether Brereton drops the ‘c’ bomb at Anne here, but the subtitle writers have another theory.

Yeah, right. Cover up.

Peak Boleyn

The unfortunate groom gets stashed beneath the bandstand and we cut to the interior of Westminster Abbey, and the point of all the pomp. A Coronation was a way to get your rule officially God-Sanctioned. You put your royalty candidate in the house of God, get your most special priest to pray loudly, and lead the congregation in worshipful songs. All of which are a way to get God’s attention.

OI! GOD! GOD! WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THIS ONE?.. We Good? I think we’re good.

The presumption being, in a world where everyone believes in an interventionist and relatively wrathful deity, that if we get the wrong one in The Royalty then a lightning strike, or perhaps sudden blindness, or even just a decent sized heart attack would not be entirely out of the question.

Cranmer successfully crowned Anne Boleyn without incident, so the next section is not historically accurate, but it gives The Tudors’ Henry his most Trumpian moment so far.

Oh, I’ve seen this done. I know how this works. This is easy. And you’re taking too long, I can crown people way better. Watch This. Here, hold my Diet Coke.

In The Tudors, Cranmer gets to present Anne with the supporting massive jewelry – the orb and scepter, and to remind everyone of the point of all this while Anne looks appropriately regal. vlcsnap-2019-04-19-20h24m11s205.png

Which she’s working on right now. After the crowning, Anne stalks up to Henry and Cromwell, with her hands half protective, half glorying over her pregnancy bump. vlcsnap-2019-04-19-20h48m37s055.pngShe doesn’t know it but she interrupts Cromwell giving Henry the intel about the dead groom. He’s not sugar coating anything either. He’s very clear that it was an assassination attempt, and directed at either Henry or Anne. Anne swings in full baby swagger and Cromwell diplomatically disappears.

Anne was pleased with the arrangements, but she’s not delighted with the lack of crowds, also their lack of enthusiasm. She’s getting a little whingy about it when Henry drastically changes the temperature.  myqueennow.gif

Yeah, being Queen involves quite a bit of putting up with shit that mistresses and fiances don’t have to. Today’s coronation might look like it’s all about Anne, but the secret star of today’s festivities is that son she’s carrying, and today is also about the re-establishing of the Tudor dynasty at the head of a whole new political and religious settlement in England. So get out there and look like you’re enjoying yourself Queen Anne, we’ve got an order to establish.

She gets on with that at the feast, while Henry sits upstairs on the mezzanine.vlcsnap-2019-04-19-23h19m57s641.png

Just sat with two of his hunting dogs at his heels and a far greater one stood behind him, counting his guests, and looking for absentees with a deeply chilly expression. As one does at a social event.

He’s never looked hotter. Henry notes Bishop Fisher’s unexpected absence, but he questions Cromwell about More’s. Was Sir Thomas More invited? Oh he certainly was your majesty.

That beard has retreated down his chin. Intriguing way to suggest some light weight gain, without actually making the actor eat pie.

And let’s face it. If Sir Thomas More was really all about quietly supporting Henry, then showing up at the coronation would have been a great way to signal his assent without having to make some kind of statement. And Sir Thomas More chose not to attend.

Suddenly Brandon’s claim that calling off sick today might risk his head is not looking as paranoid as it did when he said it. It’s a bit annoying, because he’s really not that bright, but Brandon does have pretty good instincts for what Henry will take, and what he won’t. And that is a skill whose value will only increase with time. Speaking of Brandon, Thomas Boleyn picks a pointless fight with him to remind us that they have a feud, and to inform us that Thomas Boleyn is not afraid of anyone, even the King’s best friend, today. livingthehighlife.gif

Nobility is hell on security

Outside, where the Beefeaters might be on the edge of actually solving a goddamn crime. They are asking everyone to take their gloves off for the worlds first GSR test. Do their hands look like this?

Congratulations! You Have Solved the Crime. Now, go get the pincers to preserve that evidence.  The big ones.

Brereton sees the problem ahead of time, and, wouldn’t you know it, someone on a horse needs to get somewhere in a hurry and suddenly checking all these peasants and servants’ hands just has to wait. Brereton ducks through and lives to take another whack at it.vlcsnap-2019-04-20-00h42m23s432.png

He’s in this photograph, about to get away with it. Are you sharper than a 16th Century Beefeater?

The View from Olympus Does Not Last Long


And it fades out to black and an ominous drum roll.

Sir Thomas More – The ‘Drinking before Evensong’ month

To More’s house and a meeting with Chapuys. Where they both get the pleasure of saying that a party held by someone they dislike was shit. And More is drinking like a guy who thinks it won’t be a long term problem. morechapuys1.gifMore turns the conversation to Queen Katherine, and is going to try and see her. That Cromwell allows the visit is interesting. More’s reasoning for the attempt is interesting too. He’s been thinking about the past, when he had such high hopes for Henry’s reign. I think both the dialogue and Jeremy Northam’s acting are telling us that More’s primary concern has become his soul. He’s acting like death is certain, and the most important thing now is to not betray himself on the way to it.

And More leaves his friend with a warning, Bishop Fisher has been placed under house arrest.

vlcsnap-2019-04-20-03h45m18s851 (2)


Everyone in Anne’s household is about to get a sneak peak at the ‘Protestant Matriarch’ mode for womanhood.

Spoiler: It’s going to be a lot of hard work for everyone involved.

And she’s barely halfway through her list. This is pretty Actual Historical, down to the advice “Don’t go to brothels” she gave to her male staff. Anne also kept a copy of the Bible in English in her apartments.

No kidding. That Pearl highlighted with Citrine tiara is gorgeous. All hail the Queen.

Family Readjustment Time

Ludlow Castle, Ludlow Castle. Who the hell lives at Ludlow Castle?

Why it’s Mary Tudor (Sarah Bolger joins the cast, yay! She’s going to give us a great and nuanced version of the young Mary I), formerly Princess Mary, and about to be told by Thomas Boleyn about her bump down in status. And that her parents were never married. And that Anne Boleyn is now Queen. Mary Tudor disagrees.

How do you feel about oppression? Because we have lots of that.

And because she won’t capitulate she now cannot communicate with her mother in any way. Meanwhile her mother gets her first visitor in some time, Sir Thomas More, and she apologises for receiving him reclined in her parlour, but she has been unwell. Thomas More says that what she suffers is known to a great many people,

And Katherine really does look ill. It’s going to be a long slow sweep of illness that she will not recover from.

She asks how Sir Thomas got to see her and calls him a brave man when he tells her. Sir Thomas says he would be a coward not to, and that he cannot pretend that he is detached from these events. And then he looks a bit shifty, and delivers a more secret message. thomas katherine1.gif

What he doing? Well the info is quite incriminating for him if it got back to Henry (He’s been agitating a bit on Katherine’s behalf) but it’s not a revelation. So, why take the risk? Well, if you’re Thomas More you’re a devout Catholic, a believer in the intercession of saints, who is walking something between a very risky to probably fatal path. The Tudors’ Thomas More knows a Queen who has all the makings of a saint. And she’s ill. Wouldn’t you make sure to let her know what you’d been doing on her behalf before she gets to heaven?

The Unknown Lady and a Gentleman’s Agreement

In bed, Henry gets rebuffed by Anne because she is heavily pregnant. Actually Historically Henry treated Katherine’s pregnancies as great excuses to take mistresses, and he did the same to Anne, although Anne’s reaction was very different to Katherine’s.

The Unknown Lady of Anne’s first pregnancy flits across Actual History, no one recording her name, but in The Tudors she is called Eleanor Luke. She is played by Andrea Lowe who has gone on to do a lot of supporting role work on British TV.

And while Anne’s later reactions to Brandon often seem excessive, it’s worth remembering that he’s somewhere between avid encouragement and actively pimping for the first affair of Henry’s second marriage. brandonpimpin.gifBrandon gets a wink from Henry, and introductions will be made.

Meanwhile, George Boleyn and Mark Smeaton are talking. George pours Mark a big glass of wine, and they discuss the Boleyn families’ sponsorship of artists while George appears to be really hoping some subtext will emerge.

And then Mark just straight up texts him. Strongly played.

George is a very thirsty guy who cannot believe he’s getting open play with Mark, and I think we can bet on this affair also going forward.

The Future Arrives Unrecognised

Henry and Cromwell are in Henry’s study, getting a threatening letter from the Pope.

Anne was crowned 1st June 1533, and Pope Paul issued the bull Henry is reading on 11th July 1533.

And we cut straight to 7th September 1533, when Anne is giving birth.

Sheets are torn, water poured, and the score shows up with verve and energy as everyone awaits the arrival of the Prince.

And at the end of all this energy and drive forward, there’s a stop, a pause, Anne demands to know what is wrong. Nothing, her sister tells her, it’s just that…vlcsnap-2019-04-20-12h29m41s605.png

Damn. Anne starts crying. Henry is downstairs, having the time of his life, laughing heartily at a joke by the Ventian ambassador when…Henryreacts.gifHe goes upstairs to see Anne, and both her immediate reaction at having given birth to a healthy baby girl (I’m so sorry), and the circumstances right now mean that Henry is very accommodating, for a seriously disappointed Henry. They are both young, the girl will have brothers in time. He actually manages his disappointment until he’s out of the room. boyswill follow.gifAll the same, there is a difference, and he and Anne will never stride into things with the same confidence again. They Actually Historically had to add an extra ‘s’ to the birth announcements to turn Prince into Princess.

Henry returns to his ‘Chess games’ with Eleanor Luke, Anne is left alone with her new baby. And the greatest player of our historical Game of Thrones has arrived, viewed as a placeholder for the brothers her family keenly awaits, in plain sight and yet unrecognised…vlcsnap-2019-04-20-12h46m38s445.png

Elizabeth Tudor has entered the game.


Edit: Wheyyheyy I’m a little early so I’m going to celebrate 4/20 by downing an edible (as is tradition) and wondering if that was a good idea for several hours (as is tradition) while watching some Disney (as is tradition) . The next recap will be up by Thursday 2nd May.  Happy Holidays, whichever one you’re celebrating.

Oh, And Are You Sharper then a 16th Century Beefeater? Brereton is 3rd from the right, navy/black coat, bright white collar facing away from the camera.


  1. I love, love, love, love your recaps! The references, the jabs at 16th century lifestyle/politics and our 21st century world. You’re hilarious. If the Tudors characters had social media/reddit profiles, I wonder what their usernames would be?

    Michael Hirst should be congratulated for his work here. He spent, like, 4 years researching these people, pulling poems and dialogues from letters and papers. He wrote all 38 episodes…by himself. He also managed to squeeze every major historical event into 4 seasons, which is not an easy task. The Tudors had many time/budgettary constraints. Hirst wanted to portray exactly how 16th century people lived: their problems, their daily conversations, religious beliefs. Many people dismiss the show for the supposed historical errors but, in truth, Tudors is more accurate than people make it to be. Those little historical facts, from the big ones (cloth of gold, 1528 sweating sickness, 1529 legatine court, Wolsey’s struggles for the anulment, Henry’s two jousting accidents, reformation, pilgrimage of grace) to the smaller ones (Penington Vs. Southwell, the poisoning at Fisher’s household), not to mention almost all of the dialogue and character interactions are pulled from historical record. Yes, they condensed and moved things here and there (especially in season 1, you can thank Showtime for that) and yes, there’s a lot of facts missing, but not as many as some think. Also, I like how balanced the whole thing is: Michael Hirst gives each character the right amount of screentime. The characters feel more human, more realistic. In other portrayals, the writers always portray them as heroes/villains (Wolf Hall, the other Boleyn girl, a man for all seasons, Anne of the thousand days). They feel more nuanced here, with good and bad.

    I’m making a supercompilation of the best Anne moments from the first 2 seasons (her anniversary is coming up) for youtube, and reading your recaps as I go. Keep them coming!

    P.S. Do you plan on recapping other shows/movies you like?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much, and I couldn’t agree more about the wealth of detail in The Tudors. It seems like the more I research, the more I find that Michael Hirst has been there before me and dramatised it.

      Recently I got into Peter Ackroyd’s biography of Sir Thomas More and found large sections of his dialogue for the show taken from his letters or historical reports. I mean I was familiar with a lot of the historical basis for the scenes for Henry and his wives, but I didn’t appreciate how deep the research went into other characters too.

      It remains an amazing achievement and fantastic television.

      In answer to your question, well I’m planning on finishing The Ten Commandments this year, and I’m trying out some other things, but I think The Tudors will be monopolizing most of my writing time for at least the next couple of years.

      Thank you very much for your carefully thought out comment and appreciation. Let me know when you finish your Anne supercut for Youtube, I’ll be sure to watch it.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.