Welcome to The Old Chestnut
Chapuys and Brereton have gone to a pleasant tavern in London to discuss the state of play.
While Chapuys is, of course, sad about the deaths of More and Fisher he is also low-key stoked about how much impetus their deaths have given the Remain movement. But Brereton has something he’s clearly desperate to talk about.
Well, everyone, everywhere, at every point in this series is desperate to exonerate Henry. People did that. Henry was insanely powerful and in their lifetimes the whole ‘The King is divinely appointed’ went from a tradition their society was based on to the actual law of the land. So it was always his advisors, or in the case of Anne, his wife that was the problem. She fitted so perfectly into the ‘wicked mistress’ mold I doubt most people had a second thought about it until after he’d killed her. And then it would have been a private thought.
Brereton wants Chapuys to knew he has, er, ‘befriended’ a lady of Anne’s Bedchamber and she has confided in him that the harlot is deformed. He’s got it from somewhere or he is just making it up. Because no, Actual Historical Anne didn’t have polydactyly, or any significant version of it, and neither did Anne in The Tudors.
The rumour went around because, well, people hated Anne. Any kind of physical deformity was a sign of evil in that era (Ever notice how every important person in history that had a spinal malformation got ‘dropped by a careless nurse’? – better that than to be born with it and an anonymous servant was a nice place to put the blame). Not only would Henry not have overlooked that in a future wife, you can bet they would have roared about that extra finger/fingernail in her trial if it were the slightest possibility. Hell, they might not have had to make up the incest if she’d had that. Her body got exhumed (Well, her bones at that point) in 1876 during restoration work at the Church of St Peter Ad Vincula in the Tower. No extra finger, no sign of one.
But Brereton has something else, he whispers, she has quite a lot of moles.
And that’s why she must die. That’s the weakest sauce ever, but the two man gossip circle down at The Old Chestnut has her on a broomstick and flying across the moon by the end of lunch.
First shot, next scene, Anne’s playing a harpsichord. The left hand is the closest one.
Her brother George walks in, having been brought by Nan Saville. It looks like Anne has sent for him. He’s someone she can trust as a confidante, and she’s hitting the same issue a lot of intelligent people get to when they hit an insoluble problem. Her mind is going around and around it to the point of neurosis. She kisses his hand and rests her face on it. Madge Shelton notices and seems to note it. That reasonable and innocent display of physical affection is getting foreshadowy. Round and round she goes. Henry has a harem, a harem where he keeps his women. She knows it. It shows she’s beyond thinking politically about this because honestly a harem wouldn’t be that dangerous of a problem. But a single woman that could intrigue him, offer him an alternative future, now that would be a dangerous prospect. Anne suggests something could happen to her and talks about an old prophecy. George tries to comfort her by saying that nothing is going to happen to her. But she zeroes in on the heart of the problem, the thing that no matter how hard she thinks, no matter what she does, she cannot solve. He tries his best to comfort her. And the thing she must have longed for, even dreamed of from when she was minor nobility followed by a minor lady in waiting has been her reality for a few years now. Everyone is watching her always, but being the centre of everyone’s attention is starting to become a threat.
Everything’s getting a bit dark for Anne from now on. She’s got one more moment of supreme confidence and happiness left, but for everything else there’s always going to be an undercurrent of missed steps and wrong notes building to impending doom.
2DOR Customer Satisfaction Surveys
Meanwhile Cromwell is trying to give every unhappy customer some attention.
Sir Thomas Wyatt wanders in and asks:
Cromwell answers that they are denunciations. Yes, everyone with an axe to grind against a friend or neighbour has a whole new avenue to try out. Apparently a Canon at Tewkesbury mistakenly referred to the Queen as ‘Katherine’ during prayers. Cromwell seems a little depressed by the fact that seven members of this 80 year old’s congregation reported him. Yeah, well, welcome to what you have wrought Cromwell. Because even if you don’t have an axe to grind, what if you see something but don’t say something? What if everyone reports him and you don’t? What then?
Wyatt asks, with a bit of trepidation, what Cromwell will do to the old Canon.
With evident pleasure Cromwell turns to the finished pamphlets we saw them printing in the last recap, which apparently describe the necessity and advantages of the reformation. Wyatt compliments them and Cromwell is momentarily pleased. And then Wyatt feels the need to point out that maybe the direction of the administration is a teensy bit terrifying?
That was pretty heavy handed, he could also just have sat there and said “Yes, yes it is” and started at Wyatt for a couple of minutes and got the same point across. Like all employers of bright young things with enquiring minds he appreciates them right up until those enquiring minds head in a difficult direction. Cromwell has the whole of England’s nobility and most of the common people to win round or intimidate. He does not need questioning from within the ranks.
Well, the French have arrived.
It’s an actual historical visit, that played out almost exactly as it is shown. There have been a few alterations made.
First the visit has been moved into the future by several months. Actually Historically happening in November 1534, when The Tudors apparently has it happening in late spring/summer 1535. Actual History frequently needs tweaking in order to make a narrative out of it, and having this visit a bit later feeds into the story of the start of Anne’s downfall. Now we’re out of Season 1, with the huge amount of time it had to cover, we’re into timedifferences of a year or less.
Second, The Duke of Norfolk took the main share of hosting duties with Suffolk joining in from time to time. Norfolk’s disappearance from The Tudors at the end of Season 1 gave Thomas Boleyn room to shine, but it looks like some of Norfolk’s story and attributes have also been given to Brandon, Duke of Suffolk. It was Norfolk that strongly tended Catholic, while showing total personal loyalty to Henry, and who started feuding with Anne Boleyn. Those attributes of his and a lot of his actual historical story lines go to Brandon, something that’s going to get even more apparent in Season 3.
Phillipe Chabot de Brion was a childhood friend of Francis I, perhaps chosen for this mission because their close personal relationship would underline that he truly expressed the opinion of the King. The introductions go well until we get to the French Harlot. Look, I’m not trying to slut shame here, I’m pretty sure that’s an accurate nationality and job description. De Brion says she’s his niece, which I don’t believe for a second. That’s a woman who has been told to ‘Get over there and seduce someone useful, would you?’.
I mean she walked in with all that cleavage going on and she responds to the Duchess’ greeting with a single word before eye screwing the woman’s husband for almost all of the rest of the scene. Although all that stops when Brandon mentions Queen Anne’s plans for the visit and suddenly the temperature drops by about 20 degrees, and all those polite compliments feel like they’re being dropped down a well. When De Brion is coaxed into a response he gives the full French jackass.
Wow, Francis has let this guy off the chain, clearly the French relationship has changed dramatically. The point of Anne, diplomatically speaking, is a better relationship with France. From the Admiral’s reaction it’s looking like Anne might now be the problem in England’s relationship with France. This will be dreadful news for Anne, and we don’t yet know why it’s happening. How horribly interesting.
Henry has decided to go out riding today and Anne cannot take watching from the window any longer.
She demands to know where Henry is going and what he plans to do. He manhandles her a bit, pushing her away as she tries to lean against the saddle, and basically shoving her back towards the gate.
Henry might have worshipped her as a lover and fiance but his main requirements in a wife are ‘fertile’ and ‘convenient’, and as he gets older ‘submissive’ is rising up the list, too. This interaction just hasn’t helped anything as Anne marches back into the palace, and into a very strange and confusing space.
Let me re-iterate the point I made during the coronation, The Tudors’ William Brereton is basically a fictional guy with a factual name. And today he’s going to be more treacherous to the Actual Historical than normal. Anne marches back in and everybody bows. Brereton draws his dagger and somehow no one notices. He then walks towards her, still unnoticed, and stabs her, brutally in the abdomen in a disturbingly intimate moment (making sure to call her a ‘whore’ at the moment of stabbing, too).
We get a Mandela effect for moment or two, or perhaps a moment where we consider giving up on our blog, but then wait, wait for it…no one appears to be moving…
Twas all an intense visualisation. No misogynistic murder for you today Brereton. I’d be annoyed at it if it weren’t so very well done. Just as long as this kind of fake out doesn’t become a habit, The Tudors, for that way lies a triggering of the bullshit detector.
French Harlot Encounter
You are stood in a stable brushing your horse, despite employing at least 10 grooms because you’re a sodding Duke, after all. Maybe you just enjoy the relative solitude and quiet, the murmured conversations of your grooms beyond the barn, the horses’ peaceful expression and a taste of the good, honest work you did before politics took over your life.
Suddenly, but quietly, a French Harlot appears. She is looking at you like you are some kind of snack and she is ravenous. You notice her. Roll for marital fidelity! (d20. You get a base bonus of +2 to your roll, which isn’t great but used to be -5. You have been working on it for several years now.)
You roll an 8. Your score is 10. Your half-arsed avoidance goes nowhere near deterring the French Harlot. She remains where she is, but breathes more heavily, stares more intently, expending a single wile.
You stop brushing the horse, and turn around to stare back with a slightly aloof expression. Let’s not dignify this with a die roll, shall we? You did that not to dissuade her in any way, but to allow yourself to be persuaded in the most passive way possible. The French Harlot accepts your surrender, and pulls you down to kiss her. You have succumbed to the French Harlot.
Excellency is always appreciated
While the content of this conversation between Henry and Chapuys is very interesting, the location and context makes it intriguing, literally. They’re out in the forest, with just a couple of Beefeaters. There’s no Anne, no Anne’s family, no Cromwell present, not a single member of the court. For an Ambassador whose Empire Henry is on bad terms with, when face time with the King was almost always structured, public and incredibly valuable, it’s a little surprising that Chapuys gets a one on one stroll in the woods.
Henry does most of the talking and starts with some compliments carefully judged for honesty. He says he likes Chapuys.
But he has arguments with the Empire. That the Emperor believes in his treatment of Catherine and Mary that Henry is being ‘malicious’ (There’s that word again). Well, Henry claims that’s not the case at all. He supposes he should be content in the knowledge that the world knows…
Henry points out that he knows that Chapuys does not approve of Henry’s religious changes and lets him know that Cromwell is managing to intercept some of Chapuys’ letters – Which could be a compliment, a reasonable friendly warning or a power move, most likely a combination of all three. He reminisces about Wolsey and More and their shared humanism and says that he is still a humanist. Chapuys remains silent.
It’s hard to tell because Henry is very good at retroactively justifying his actions, but I think he is signalling the Emperor to expect a softening of his attitude to religion in the future. It’s going to take a while but it does fit in with his eventual stance, revealed fully in Season 3, where it is shown that Henry has used Protestantism to break Rome’s hold over the Catholic church in England, rather than actually being a fully convinced Protestant himself.
Round Round Again
Anne’s sounding board today is Mark Smeaton. She is circling around De Brion’s perplexing behaviour and trying to add it up. She planned a banquet for the Admiral, but he’s not attending. He’s been staying with the Duke of Suffolk for two weeks, but has not yet sent her a goodwill message, or asked for an audience. He’s even struck up an acquaintance with the Imperial Ambassador.
She’s the Queen, and she is a hugely important piece in international politics, but is not considered a player, despite obviously being one. So she doesn’t get a Cromwell, or even an equivalent to Wyatt equivalent to consult, someone in the diplomatic service, they’re all (presumably) busy with the visit. No, she’s got Mark Smeaton, who can perform the hell out of a tune and choreograph till the cows come home.
Mark needn’t worry too much. She’s basically talking to herself here (although she doesn’t appear to realise it) and talking around and around the conclusion that is right there, that everything she says adds up to, but she just cannot bear to see, because it is terrible, insoluble news.
The relationship with France has fundamentally changed. Just when she needs an asset, it has fallen away. Let’s get to finding out how.
Curt Court Reception
The Admiral is finally received at court. Everything goes fine until he is introduced to Anne (Who looks amazing tonight). Well, the difference between those two intros is striking. A deep bow, hat removal and ‘Majesty’ to Henry, a small gesture at her wrist, a cold stare and the position neutral address ‘Madame’ for Anne. Everyone acclimatises to the new frosty temperature and sits down as the music and gentle hubub starts up.
The purpose of those ornate stuffed animals that came along with Tudor cooking is demonstrated. They were a visual menu.
De Brion goes for the lobster and possibly the pheasant and then it’s time for some really uncomfortable small talk. Henry suggests they have some wine, and Dr Brion assumes it must be French. When informed it’s English wine, and that the English have been making wine since the Romans he jokes “As recently as that?”. Oh, Henry does not mean the polite laugh he gives at all, but wisely decides this is not the hill to die on (We just don’t have the climate for it, there’s a few vineyards in the South West but that’s about it). He calls some wine over, and De Brion tastes it.
If you’ve poured a French nobleman wine, you must be desperate to hear what he thinks about it, and the Admiral pronounces it…
Anne causes a ruffle of attention by necking her wine, in anticipation of what’s going to be a long damn evening.
Next we have an Actual Historical incident, right down to Anne’s reported response to De Brion (although the identity of the ‘pretty lady’ went unrecorded). Henry asks after De Brion’s secretary; a Mr Gauntier, who just happens to be stood next to our French Harlot. He says he should like to introduce him to his wife, and goes over to find him.
As the Admiral is trying out the most saccharine, milquetoast excuses for not finding time to meet Anne (The Suffolks just would not let me go) she starts to laugh. Although while we’re about it, can this be the end of this quirk you have, The Tudors? Can we say we’ve reached the apogee of this, this thing you do?
Your costuming is intelligent, can be narrative, often beautiful and, yes, occasionally brave, which doesn’t always work out for you but points for that. But you need to stop taking a damn necklace or medallion, plonking it on a female character’s head and declaring it a hair ornament. They are blatantly not designed for it. I know you had budget issues and have had to rework and re use jewellery. But you’ve been working my last sodding nerve on this with Princess Mary for at least two weeks now and just look at what you’ve done to our French Harlot. That thing on her head is at least five inches across and is so ridiculous I think her tits have disappeared out of sheer embarrassment, and no one wants that.
Sorry. I may have necked my wine this evening. I’m not wrong though.
On the other hand it hasn’t stopped her from eye screwing Brandon. Who, damn, is stood right next to his wife. Quick Brandon! Roll a d20 for subterfuge! Remember you are fundamentally honest and get no bonuses for this skill, while your wife makes a perception check.
You roll a 5.
You are so screwed.
Let’s talk some business
Right, finally. To the meat of the episode and what Francis is actually up to. Henry marches into a side room, followed by De Brion and Cromwell, and immediately asks what instructions the Admiral has regarding the betrothal of Elizabeth to Charles Duke of Angouleme. Well, that’s not a great start. Francis has noticed that the alliance he’s in is not that strong. While Charles HRE is currently busy fighting the Ottoman Empire, if he threatened French territory again, just how much use would Henry and England be? In all likelyhood, not much. Henry’s is unlikely to commit to a European ground war, definitely not one to save Francis.
Also Elizabeth’s claim to the throne is unsteady, and as De Brion is about to point out, Francis might recognise her and Henry’s second marriage as legitimate but the Holy Roman Empire and the Papacy and most of the rest of Europe emphatically do not.
So Francis has leaned back, put aside his prejudices as much as he can and looked at the whole European board, and noticed he has three sons, and that while he might be Henry and Anne’s only real option, they are not necessarily his only real option. His middle son is out (having been married off to Catherine de Medici in 1533) but the oldest, his heir…Oh Yeah. Francis can get future security from an alliance with the Emperor, the only thing that beats that is acquiring Princess Mary. She’s still the most eligible Princess in Europe, still Henry’s most likely heir and outside of England she’s universally recognised as such. The best part is that the Emperor would be hard pressed to object to his own cousin’s succession to the English throne, should it happen one day, and that would one day make England part of the French King’s territory as long as Mary one day had a surviving son.
Or he’s taking the Emperor’s daughter for his son and screw you, Henry. Welcome to a Europe united against you. Wow… just Wow, Francis has completely pinned him. How’s Henry going to take it?
Harlot Encounter Aftermath
Brandon is reaping the consequences of his successful/failed rolls. His wife is crying alone in a quiet ante chamber when he comes up and makes a pretty good apology. He’s got no excuses, nor any right to ask her to believe him. He thought those days were behind him and the only thing he can do is swear he will never do it again.
Well, she can’t divorce you for adultery (at this point in history that law really only goes the one way). As good as that apology was, they’ve got a rockier road going forward and he’s got the equivalent of his ass being on the sofa for a few weeks, and that was pretty much the best he could hope for.
Ambassador Encounter Aftermath
Another couple, a whole new scale of problems. Although Anne, focused as she is, starts out by asking who was the woman Henry met while finding Mr Gauntier. Is she one of Henry’s mistresses?
She also wants to know where he keeps them, and is Brandon helping him? She’s heard that nobles, like Brandon, have been helping him with his mistresses. Henry has had enough, but Anne persists. And then what’s been threatening to kick off for a while finally gets here, and there’s a whole lot of truth to face.
We fade out to the final scene which is going to happen around the pond at Whitehall. Henry and Brandon enter, and Henry asks Brandon how is wife is. They start talking about their respective marriages. Brandon conceals the rough patch he and his wife are going through with the news that she is pregnant. Henry is no longer holding anything back. He drags the conversation around to More, whose crucifix he just happens to be carrying. He starts a conversation about the planets and astrology, and routes it to his memories of standing on the roof at night with More, while they studied the heavens and their discussions about it.
Henry stares at the crucifix and says, with feeling, that he now regrets what happened to More, that in some ways he wishes it had never happened. Brandon puts his arm around Henry’s shoulders because friends support friends through their judicial murder regrets.
Charles, because he is not the sharpest tool in the box (he has other qualities) asks who that person could be? “You know who she is Charles” says Henry, before pointedly staring at Anne down the bottom of the garden.
She tries a halting smile which bounces right off of him. They are some distance apart so it’s hard to tell if she can make it out, but his expression while looking at her is barely concealed smouldering rage. Henry turns away from her, and kisses More’s crucifix, before casting it into the pond. Just as he has cast his guilt over killing More onto his wife. Yeah, Henry does retroactive justification incredibly well, which admittedly is an exercise with a low difficulty tariff when the audience you need to convince is basically just you. the crucifix sinks to the bottom, and Anne walks away alone and deep in worried thought.
Oh it is getting severe up in here.
Notes: OK, a little earlier than deadline. Less than I was hoping for but still, this was a monster at around 4224 words. This will take an edit, I was amazed at the typos when I proofread it earlier (possibly not as bad as last week when I had managed not to look at the title the entire time and published it as episode 5 again) . I still reckon I can get one more recap in in June, though. So, next recap by 1st July.