Anne’s dream isn’t just good foreshadowing and psychological motivation for her. It’s a pretty good representation of a dream, too. The lack of logic, the way it melts from one scene to another, figures appearing and disappearing, the far off mist everywhere (I know my subconscious has quite a low draw distance) , and apparently Anne’s subconscious also has a real eye for detail. It starts with Anne riding into a forest (and if Natalie Dormer was still not a truly good rider at this point in her career she had certainly got herself to competent during her time on The Tudors) the music is floaty and haunting as she comes across a group of men waiting for her.
While we’re looking from her POV at the group of men she fluidly moves from being on horse back to being on foot to meet Thomas Wyatt at the front of the group (Brother George and Mark Smeaton are also in there). Thomas has something for her.
She doesn’t want his symbolic temptation and continues to move forward. She’s head to toe in black and white, down to every single jewel she wears being black. The crowd splits and bows so she can pass to move up to the slightly loomy figure in white. And, this is interesting, while all the men looked Tudor to begin with as we follow Anne and she gets further along the line, the men are from progressively earlier periods in time.
The fabric gets simpler – only browns for the last few guys and you can see the weave in ‘looking at the camera guy”s cloak. The chains are less ornate, gold and jeweled becomes bronze and final guy’s might just be bone, and the hair gets longer and braided until final guy there is sporting dreadlocks.
Loomy figure in white turns around and it’s a nun. She’s not quite elderly but definitely in older age, and utterly impassive, she could be carved out of wood for all the emotion she’s putting out there. That’s not a mistake, that’s a choice. In her plain white smock, black mourning ruff and cross I think we can say she symbolises the old religion in England, and she will pop up again a couple of times as the dream progresses. The focus starts to wheel once Anne gets to her. Old Time Religion’s not as threatening as we might have expected, but she is just determinedly and indefatigably there, until she’s not.
And then it’s her father that is there, smiling, leading her by the hand further into the woods until he suddenly disappears, too.
When he poofs away Anne stares into the camera, and she starts backwards as her expression goes from impassive to the beginning of alarm. We see from her POV briefly and the forest has started to tilt like she’s falling. There’s a series of images, including the figure of the nun behind some men in masks made of leather strips that are approaching Anne. I’m not sure of the origin but they are certainly evoking ‘pagan’. And then Anne’s clothes have changed to red (The catholic colour of martyrdom) and she’s being restrained by those men and put into a large human figure made of iron strips, a similar shape to a large gibbet. We see both the action of what’s happening to her and her POV looking through the holes.
She’s being carried in the gibbet, and then she and the gibbet are on a raft on the river. Fire starts showing up, first a floating torch light near the guy in a crown that pulls her into the bank. Then there is fire in front of Old Time Religion who has shown up again, stood on a lone rock in the river with two of the pagans/executioners in front of her, who are stood still in the water at a couple of different depths.
We see some of Anne’s panicked reactions, then she appears to have been handed over to the women. There are three women that look pretty druidic, holding her raft in the water, and suddenly a grand figure in deep red cloak arrives carrying a torch.
And who could that be?Why it’s Princess Mary wearing the jewels of the Queens of England on her head, who has a tiny little smile and then lights the execution raft before Anne gets shoved out into the water, screaming and on fire.
All Church Men Must Pay
Cromwell, Archbishop Cranmer and Thomas Boleyn enter Henry’s office with a copy of the Valor Ecclesiaticus. Which was a report on the wealth of the church.
Henry VIII’s father might be the Tudor that is always remembered as the miser of the dynasty, but that’s because once you’ve committed judicial marital murder a couple of times other stuff will get pushed further down the list. Although Henry VIII didn’t fit the miser mold because he also spent money like water, he was every inch the extortionist his father was. It wasn’t seen in his early reign because he had all the money his father left him, and was keen back then to separate himself from what the nobility and people had hated about Dad’s reign, but it all came pouring out once he was broke and owned the church.
Henry levied a fine of £100,000 on the church during the Break with Rome, and was already receiving the tithes that used to go to the Pope when the Valor Ecclesiaticus was completed in 1535. The church was, however, scandalously rich (estimated to own about a quarter of the nation’s landed wealth) and did have serious and completely untackled corruption issues.
Cromwell certainly cares about this, but he’s smart enough to lean into the vast wealth of the church in his introduction of the book to Henry. Cranmer is just so enthused about the study he turns into one of those people that gives you a games console and then immediately starts playing on it to ‘show you how it works’.
Cranmer goes and hangs out at the back of the room for a bit, while Thomas Boleyn takes up the ‘Look at all this money’ motif again, securing Henry’s attention.
Henry goes back to his chair and flickers his fingers as he considers his decision as both head of the English Church, and a King that needs funds. And I wonder how much that indecision is for display purposes only, because when he decides it’s going to be heavily in one direction.
Anne is in her apartments, looking into a mirror and a thousand miles past it.
There a nifty bit of sound work going on, too. You can hear her maids talking in the background. There’s one conversation going on about fabric or something, but another, whispered that you can only hear bit of underneath.
I can hear “Spoken to her….trying to…what’s wrong” just about. It’s a nice touch. Someone knocks on the door, and Anne says “George?” like that’s clearly who she’s expecting, and comes marching round to the door only to find that it’s Sir Henry Norris.
Madge, by the way, saw Sir Henry had arrived and immediately busied herself with a pile of linens she had to take in another direction. Madge’s ambivalence (could have been modesty) towards Sir Henry turns into horrified embarrassment, as Sir Henry is clearly thrilled to have run into the Queen and lays on the compliments as thick as paste, while Madge might as well not be in the room. He goes in on what they have in common, their Protestant faith.
Actually Historically Anne was a Protestant, and certainly started leaning further into that when her position as Queen became weaker. They were a powerful force in the Kingdom that needed her, and where her sympathies naturally lay. But Anne’s religious legacy got grabbed by Protestant writers towards the end of Mary’s reign and during Elizabeth’s, and the temptation to remake Anne in an idealised image of a Protestant crusader, perhaps an early Protestant martyr, was too great to ignore. A lot of stories that show her at her most zealous come from that period and are pretty questionable.
George arrives just as Sir Henry is leaving and they sweep into her room. She says she’s had the dream again, so it’s a recurrent dream and apparently has not been doing wonders for her stability. George sighs heavily and gets ready to talk Anne down, apparently not for the first time. She goes back to the “She is my death and I am hers” about Mary (Actual Historical, she was publicly reported as saying that). She openly wonders why Katherine isn’t dead yet, if she’s supposed to be ill, George’s interruptions of “Stop it” really aren’t having any effect, and then Anne really takes off, saying that the next time Henry is abroad,
She has this fixation that as long as they are alive she is in danger. He’s finally had enough, grabs her by the shoulders, shakes her, calls her crazy and yells at her to stop as he pushes her down to a seated position on the bed. In the moments of silence that gives him he drops some sobering words on her.
He also asks if she can’t try to emulate Katherine more, who almost never showed her true feelings. Anne’s a little incredulous but he’s all “Yes. You heard me”. He says she should at least seem happy.
As he leaves she adjusts her sleeve, which has come a little undone (and in another drop of foreshadowing is observed doing that) and checks her jawline in the mirror, perhaps to see if her looks are still there. Because unlike Katherine who had the Catholic Church and the might of the Holy Roman Empire backing her up, her looks and her charm are what Anne has left to rely on.
Always the Little Guy
Another group without much left to rely on is the group of monks through which we are going to see the dissolution of the monasteries. The place is lovely, and humble and rural. Let’s call it the Littlest Monastery. There are pretty spring flowers in the small courtyard, the soundtrack guys have chickens everywhere and the monks milk their own Guernsey cow.
A monk comes running through this pastoral idyll with a letter for the Abbot.
They are to be suppressed (dissolved) but no one seems to know why. Well, we’ve got hindsight to help us figure it out. Once the Valor Ecclesiasticus report came in, Henry levied an additional 10% tax on all church holdings (apart from the tithes he was already getting), and ordered the dissolution of all religious houses worth less than £200 a year.
So just because, really. Because they’re small, and remote, and they do their own gardening and milk their own cows and they’re not really in much of a position to put up resistance. Because no big religious house is going to put themselves on the line for a small group of buildings and land holdings, because they’re barely worth taxing but somewhere there’s probably a noble family that’s willing to pay good money for what they have.
No Re-Negotiations on the Table
In the next scene Anne is going to embark on the first of a couple of attempts to re establish her power relationships to the same state they were in just before she married. It all seems a bit foolish but maybe she’s trying to get a sounding of where she is now. Because despite the deference she has to be shown, she knows she’s slipping. Or maybe it’s that “When in doubt, assert dominance” method her father uses that she’s trying to employ.
She starts with a complete fail with Henry. Francis completely outmaneuvered and humiliated Henry in the betrothal matter, and Anne’s new game plan is to push for another attempt, with no change to the plan except maybe being more humble?After that resounding ‘No’ Anne gets suspicious over her food. In fact, this whole scene she keeps getting distracted by the food taster, who happens to be Brereton. Her paranoia is now at the stage where it’s flagging him up for her.
When Henry says it might be more in England’s interests to look at an alliance with the Emperor (Learning something from Francis’ flexibility I see) she says that “That would suit Katherine” in a really derisory tone. A few years ago that would have been enough to get Henry to turn Henry right around on that, but now she’s told sharply that it has nothing to do with Katherine, this is about England’s interests.
She’s knocked back by the sharpness of his response, but there’s worse to come when she attempts an apology. That’s a worrying progression.
The Trouble with The Bubble
Cromwell is having Archbishop Cranmer and his wife to dinner. A growing problem with the Protestants right now, but one they cannot see and will not see until a crisis comes up and smacks them in the face, is their need to compromise and expand. Being a smaller, unified group has been absolutely necessary first to their survival and now to their success, but if they’re going to lead the country they need some new perspectives. They need to slow down a bit and broaden their appeal, because ideas like the following have significant downsides. Cromwell’s a city boy. And I’ll bet Cranmer never held a pitchfork. Those inefficient and inconvenient holidays were the only time agricultural workers got to rest during harvest. On the longest days of the year they’d work as long as there was light, in brutally hard labour (5000-7500 calories a day hard labour, and walking hell if you were carrying an injury). The few Church enforced holidays were time to eat well and rest up. Taking them away…is not going to be popular with a big chunk of the population, in what is still a primarily agricultural economy.
Similarly we don’t know much about Actual Historical Margarete Cranmer (Katharina in the series for some reason – played by Julia Wakeham) , but The Tudors version of her is quite the Protestant firebrand. She’s pleased with their work so far but,Katharina is an impressive woman. It’s great to see a Proto-Feminist outlook from a religion that actually did have quite a lot more room in it for the opinions of women than Roman Catholicism. But Katharina is from the first openly Protestant city where it has been established for some time, and the territories that would become modern Germany were rapidly heading towards majority Protestantism. England is in a very different situation and the only people Katharina meets in England would be people who are down with the Archbishop of Canterbury having a wife, so by definition they’ll all be at the radical end of Protestantism for this country. I’m not sure she has the best perspective for how to progress the new religion in England, but she is saying what Cromwell wants to hear, so he listens with great attention.
She makes a couple of references to being kept in a box, and I’m sure that her journey to England was difficult and it’s an apt metaphor… wait a minute… They’re still doing that? Just have her arrive half an hour early for crying out loud. Send her in a separate carriage, have her wear a big hat. That’s really conspicuous, the woman cannot permanently live as luggage and she’s not going to lose half her value if you take her out of the box, Archbishop.
We get a close up of a pair of hands that are rapidly acclimatising to manual labour, with a lot of cracks and scrapes. Thomas Wyatt’s on again, off again
relationship with Elizabeth Darrell gets another chapter. She’s scrubbing the floor and embarrassed to be caught doing it. She asks if Thomas is here to see the ‘degradation’ she has been brought to. And of course he’s not.
The last time they met she was informing him, a little tactlessly, of his ex’s remarriage, and he was taking it poorly and getting a bit sharp with her. Now it looks like he’s figured out what he has been missing and he’s chosen the best possible moment to ask her to come back to court (and become his mistress). But perfect timing or no, Elizabeth is not having it. She is still devoted to Queen Katherine.
And she is still devoted to her Catholic faith. He thinks, what with that nice kiss and all that he might still be able to persuade her, but she turns her back, showing that she really meant the part about leaving her alone afterwards despite the fact that she is clearly upset by doing it.
And he regretfully leaves.
Enter the Asset Stripper
Over at the Littlest Monastery there’s a man hanging around in the small clerical workshop and Father Abbot doesn’t know who he is. It’s pretty Actual Historical, Thomas Leland was the King’s librarian and he was sent out to get the greatest of the texts held in Monastic libraries to add to the Royal library. Turns out the Littlest Monastery, while small, has a pretty good library and has merited a personal visit. He explains this to the abbot, who is shocked.
Oh, he does. But he’s also (actually historically) there to find any texts, any at all, that would support royal control over the church. Those little books may well have suddenly become precious, no matter how obscure.Father Abbot is angry, and blusters a bit, but he is entirely out of power and there is absolutely nothing he can do.
See the Fishes
And supposedly at the other end of Fortune’s scale, Queen Anne is in exactly the same position. She has asked to see Elizabeth, who Lady Bryan has brought to her, in the garden. Elizabeth is about 1-2 years old now, and Anne is absolutely delighted to see her.
She dismisses Lady Bryan so she can be alone with Elizabeth, and to amuse the little girl, takes her to the pond to spot the fish swimming. But sat there, alone and in the sudden quiet, as Elizabeth excitedly cries that “I can see them, I see the fishes”, Anne’s mask stats to slip and the tears come bursting out of her. She keeps them quiet, so Elizabeth doesn’t hear. Except that she’s never truly alone, and Brereton has been watching her, like a wolf, from the window.
Raised by Tudor Narcissists
The Tudors’ Thomas Boleyn got given the Duke of Norfolk’s trait of being a nasty bully. It’s made worse because he does this most to his own children. The urbane, cynical but entirely reasonable man of Season 1 is most of the way through his heel turn. He finds George at court for a talk about the Queen. He says that anyone can see that the King is not as in love with her as he used to be, and leaps to “What’s wrong with her?”.
Well, interesting question, what’s wrong with her is that she hasn’t produced a son. Sure the King’s love has faded, a little predictable as it definitely leaned towards an intense infatuation, but that would not matter if she’d had a son. No matter his feelings, no matter if he took mistresses, her place would have been absolutely assured, her life would have been stable. Instead she gets to feel the creeping danger she is in inch closer to her every day. Note that George’s first answer, the one he gets belittled and blamed for, is based on his observations, perceptive and right. It’s hard to be seductive when you’re terrified and that’s exactly what Anne is. And that Father Boleyn’s mindset does not, of course, ensure that you won’t be taken down, just that you’ll never see it coming when you do.
George walks around the corner of the corridor set,
to hear lively music and quite a bit of hubub coming from Anne’s chambers. She’s already taken the advice he gave earlier, thrown on a red dress, thrown off her cares and launched a big party. Sir Henry Norris is catching glimpses of her from the edge of the room. Thomas Wyatt is leaning against the door frame in a slightly sulky way and George goes over to talk to him. George says a little wonderingly that after all this time Thomas is still in love with Anne, and Wyatt denies it with a crude metaphor, but still not altogether convincingly.
Anne is partnered by William Brereton, and gets weirded out for a moment.
And then Henry bangs the door open, swaggers his ass on in, and while everyone is bowing/curtseying and ‘Your Majesty’ing tells Mark to ‘Play a volta’, drains his goblet and throws it across the room. He and Anne start to dance.
Let’s be clear, this is not LaVolta, the Actual Historical dance known as a scandal until Elizabeth I and her favorite Robert Dudley normalised it (while never managing to make it fully respectable). That dance caused a sensation because the guy put his thigh under the woman’s (Closed and clothed) thighs to give her a boost during the ‘jumpy’ bit. This is not that. It’s anachronistic, but not as full on anachronistic as the dancing in The Favorite (2018).
It gets inter cut (with a whip crack at each cut) with their BDSM flavoured sex afterwards. And it is intense and heavily sexualised because this is Anne’s last trick to get Henry back in her bed, a flick of the jealousy bone and a full blown erotic seduction, followed by some angry sex.
But she does it, she gets Henry to ejaculation and by the end of the evening she might just have magicked up that son. And then, in the afterglow, fueled by all that fear and worry she does something truly despicable. Henry isn’t going to go for it, and when she isn’t looking at him (she’s heading down for an impossible blow job – there’s been no indication that Henry is a man without a refractory period) he has a whole new kind of suspicion on his face. While not stopping her in any way.
In The Faith
Meanwhile Katherine of Aragon is very ill, and almost certainly approaching death.
Elizabeth Darrell comes in to see her, and in her hope and increasing delirium Katherine wonders if she might be Mary. Katherine says that the separation ‘burns her heart’. She asks Elizabeth for the one thing that can give her comfort, the written judgement of the Curia in Rome on the validity of her marriage and Mary’s legitimacy. And she listens to it, and holds to it with a certainty people from our age will never truly know.
Notes: Well, as ever, it’ll take an edit. I think I’m going to take the full two weeks for the next one, because everything happens in it. So next one by 14th July, when the wheel will start its turn for everyone.
10/07/2019 Edit for typos and renamed the monastery.
Oh, I loved that Elvis reference. We’re sinking our teeth into the reformation, it’s causes, financial consequences, and dissolution of monasteries, this being the first on screen dramatization of this historical event. No other show or movie even mentioned the religious turmoil England was going through during Anne’s reign.
Speaking of her, I would like to dedicate some words to one of The Tudors’ acting powerhouses, the woman who, through her extensive research, incredible performance and understanding gave us the best portrayal of any historical figure we’ve seen in recent memory: Natalie Dormer’s portrayal of Queen Anne Boleyn.
Every other version I know of plays her one of two, rather shallow ways: Either a flaky, wild golddigger, partying and dancing heedlessly to her grave. A spoiled, dumbed down, scheming, diabolical, cheating, ruthless, manipulative brat. This version was particularly popular from the 1930’s through the 50’s, when she became a moralistic cautionary tale, and resurfaced during The other Boleyn girl/Wolf Hall portrayals, propagating her black legend of an incestuous, promiscuous witch.
The second way is the Ophelia/Cordelia route: A wide-eyed ingenue, a martyred, utterly clueless pawn murdered by ambitious, smarter and more powerful men, totally without her own agency or thoughts. This version is of more recent vintage (think Anne of the thousand days or the 2003 miniseries, to name a few), as a half assed attempt to make her more sympathetic, but I think it’s even more insulting than the “Anne as Salome” stuff of an earlier era. In short, they paint her as an absolute victim.
By contrast, Dormer’s version in the Tudors is the only one that I’ve seen that portrays Anne as she actually appears in the historical record: A savvy, charming, erudite, reformist, freakishly intelligent court player who could go toe-to-toe with the likes of Wolsey, Cromwell and even Henry himself, but also a lonely, issolated, stressed queen, trapped in a situation she simply couldn’t control. She was Strong, brave (even to her death), She had great opinions about people and was so nice to the poor, something other adaptations ignore all together. She was no saint, of course. She was ambitious, but also smart, loyal to those she loved, and fought for what she believed in. People tend to forget that these characters really did exist and are not fictional. She wasn’t good, nor bad. She was human, just like the rest of us, and she strongly loved and hurt, just as she envied and hated. She made many mistakes, and faced them gracefully.
Yes, she ended up losing in the end, but her fall was due to circumstances beyond her control. Her meddling in politics (which we’ll get into in the next recap) was one of them. She also believed her femininity alone could get her whatever she wanted. But the one thing she had no control over was the gender of her child. She might have started out as her Father’s pawn, but quickly gained her own agency. Yes, she was innocent, but was hardly clueless. In an interview, Michael Hirst said that Anne is a very difficult part to write as so little is known of her that is not Catholic anti – or Protestant – pro propaganda, so he tried to balance every aspect of her (especially in season 2) and handed Natalie the heaviest material he could to work with. And this young lady not only studied and fought to play Anne, but put her entire heart and soul into this one character, more than her other roles.
Of course, all of this will come into play during the next episodes of season 2, in which we’ll really see Natalie display all her acting qualities and raw emotions more than ever before. We’re nearing the best (and darkest) moments of the series. Wyatt’s beautiful sonets will be heard again. We’re about to say goodbye to another nuanced character, poor Catherine. So, dear Autocrat, I’m anxiously waiting to read your opinions and analysis on the downfall of these characters, as Henry VIII begins to descent into the monster we know.
In other news, my Anne supercut in spanish (because there are already many scenes and compilations in english on youtube) is almost ready. (In this language, we call her “Ana Bolena”, this being one of the ways her name is sometimes spelled in old texts). My editor and I have put a lot of effort into it. We wanted to make a video about a historical figure of the Tudor period. Initially we were going for Catherine, Wolsey or More (since my editor was pro-old religion) but then we sat and watched the entirety of seasons 1-2 and he ended up falling in love with Anne. So this will be our small contribution to the specials, recaps, Q/A videos and royal visits the british folks from The Anne Boleyn Files, Tudor society, QAB.com and other historians and writers organize in England each year. I sincerely hope youtube lets me keep the video up for a long time.
Until the next recap. You’re doing them faster now. I’m glad
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Hi there Sir George,
Yep, couldn’t agree more about Natalie Dormer’s Anne Boleyn. I was getting set up to praise Wolf Hall’s Clare Foy as well, but I think she’s let down by the script a bit, at least in comparison to The Tudors. She’s got depth but her Anne is aggressively dominant and quite unpleasant to pretty much every character in the series almost all of the time, we never really get to see another gear with her. I think it’s partly a function of the length of the series, The Tudors’ Katherine and Anne are large characters in around 17 episodes each, they get far more time to be shown in different situations, with different characters and give us a more fully rounded person. But yeah, Natalie also played the hell out of her Anne. She’s my definitive Anne Boleyn, too.
I do swap that around for Jane Seymour, though. In Wolf Hall Kate Phillips’ Jane Seymour is just a far stronger interpretation for me than either of The Tudor’s versions, well so far, at least. If they adapt Mantel’s new novel it will be interesting to see if that continues.
Until next time, Sir George.
Hi there – hope I’m not too late to this Tudor party. I recently discovered your blog and just wanted to say that I love reading these recaps on one of my favorite series and “comfort shows.” I watch this show for the history, and as an Anne Boleyn fanatic I think the show portrays a more accurate Anne than other works. I also appreciate all of the historical research you do when writing these posts to emphasize what the show got right, and what it got wrong.
One thing I can’t seem to find good evidence of in either scenario is whether or not Anne really threatened Mary or Catherine. I can certainly understand her fear of Mary plotting against her on behalf of Catherine and/or her own potential future reign, but Anne was smart. I don’t think she ever would have mentioned ordering their deaths (whether in private to her brother, or to Henry himself). I guess I was wondering if you were ever able to find anything on this? Was the real Anne as bold as she is depicted in the show, do you suppose? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Thanks again. 😀
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