Lady in Waiting
They stop at the entrance to Anne’s chambers she thanks him and he gives her a significant look. Like a “We’ve talked about this, and you know the plan.” look.
And in she walks. Madge suddenly looks like she’s sucking a lemon and has somewhere she needs to be, and Nan Saville, Anne’s chief enforcer sweeps in and after looking Jane up and down adopts an actual ‘looking down her nose’ pose and informs her that Her Majesty is just coming and she is not to speak anything to her until she is invited to.
Anne gets to decide the terms they meet under and she’s put a lot of thought and a fair amount of planning into this. She sweeps in, everyone does the full formal curtsey and “Your Majesty” and she turns to look at Jane. Then without saying a thing she turns her head back to the clergyman brought for the swearing in. Jane is too far beneath her attention to be greeted, you see.
Jane does her swearing in with apparent sincerity, and then Queen Anne moves in for the gladiatorial combat of royal women in The Tudors: The test of eye contact. She and Katherine of Aragon had it out three times in season 1, and Princess Mary held her to a testy draw this year. Long pause, slow walk to wayyyy inside Jane’s personal space. Longer pause until Jane glances furtively upwards, Anne pauses a bit more then says Jane’s name. Jane’s “Your Majesty” is nearly a whisper.
Oh that’s a strong win for Anne, but she had all the home advantage and Jane just needed to survive this one. Anne sweeps out and Jane looks a little put out to have a tray immediately and unceremoniously plonked in her hands. But no matter what Jane thinks she is doing, she is coming for Anne, and every one of these women will have the Queen’s and their colleagues’ eyes on them to see how loyal they are. She’s bascially lucky it wasn’t a chamber pot.
Henry marches into and through the main hall. With the distracting hubub, Brereton spots Chapuys and signals him for a bit of intrigue on the mezzanine. Chapuys comes up and has news.
He’s managed to get hold of Katherine’s autopsy report. There were reports of a black growth or ‘stain’ on her heart. At the time it was considered evidence of poisoning, but these days it is considered to be evidence that she died of cancer. It was almost certainly a secondary growth.
Brereton and Chapuys earn my grudging respect by not leaping upon a ‘Witchcraft’ bandwagon, but they do think Anne poisoned Katherine, and are now concerned for Princess Mary’s safety. As they break up and go their own ways, can you see who is stood downstairs looking up at the gap in the screen?
Not too worrying, because if he was looking he was probably spotting Chapuys for Henry, who wants a surprise conversation with him. And well done to Chapuys for not yelling out “What plot?”, with that surprise clap on the back from Henry. Oh Henry is chatty, playful and magnanimous to Chapuys today. He is full of congratulations for Charles HRE’s victory over the Ottoman Empire, retaking Tunis.
Henry rounds it off with a fulsome compliment, and then calls Cromwell in for a talk.
Okay, so, a couple of things here. it’s our first look at Henry getting handsy with Cromwell, and that’s going to get worse as time goes on. Actual Historical? Shrug and a maybe is where we’re at, even with the new interest in Cromwell (since Mantel’s Wolf Hall he’s been the big subject in new Tudor biographies).
Basically these claims were only recorded from one guy, George Paulet and recorded after Cromwell’s near fall following the Pilgrimage of Grace, when he was keeping a closer eye on the people that worked for him. According to one of Cromwell’s recent biographers (Diarmond Maculloch) Cromwell had sent Paulet to be a Royal Commissioner in Ireland, where Paulet was engaging in factionalism (which he wasn’t supposed to be doing) and quite possibly drunk when he said it. He was trying to reduce Cromwell as a threat to his new Irish allies, but he was in a position to know these things, to have seen them if they had happened, and Maculloch suggests Paulet’s stay in the Tower afterwards was for his ‘indiscretion’, not lying. In the circumstances it stands a good chance of being an exaggerated account, though.
The Tudors includes this increasingly physically abusive side to their relationship and it’s certainly about Henry’s need to assert dominance over Cromwell. He needs Cromwell to be powerful enough to run the country and do what he needs to be done, but he’s wary of all that intellect and ruthlessness too. Wolsey was holding all the reins of power for some years before Henry realised that was actually his job, and he’s not going to let that happen again.
He does, however, relent a little. First asking about the continuing dissolution of the monasteries (Cromwell has put a bill before Parliament for the larger monasteries to be dissolved) and then finally using that charm and deciding to show an interest in Cromwell’s family.
Here, we’ve drifted a little from Actual History. It was, in fact Cromwell’s two daughters and his wife that died, probably from the sweating sickness in 1529. Perhaps it was a little too much tragedy to give to one character in one scene for The Tudors, a far fuller rendition of Cromwell’s personal tragedy would come in Wolf Hall. Still this was the first time an adaptation was interested enough in Cromwell to mention the sadness in his personal life.
Competitive Royal Maundy
So, Royal Maundy (a Royal religious ceremonial event held on the Thursday before Good Friday) has arrived, somehow in the summer. Still it’s great that they’re showing it because before Katherine of Aragon died, it was kind of a competitive event between her and Anne Boleyn.We saw a similar event portrayed for Katherine in Season 1. And now it is being repeated for Anne.
Oh, there is so much is getting repeated for Anne.
Henry’s stares earn him a lovely look over the shoulder from Jane, and they both smile. Maundy Thusday is just associated with Mandy Money now, but back in Anne and Katherine’s day it was money, other gifts and washing the feet of the poor. Katherine was so well known for her piety that Anne got super competitive about it. In Season 1 Bishop Fisher was Katherine’s clergyman/impressario for these things, and Archbishop Cranmer is Anne’s.Actually Historically Katherine determinedly kept her own Maundy in exile as long as she physically could, and Anne made a point of performing the big celebration and doubling down on the money. And the general opinion was what was shown here. Oh, it’s great to get some genuine emotion from a pious woman, but cash is cash. Then Anne completes the pedilavium which would be a foot washing except the person doing it is royal so it gets a fancy Latin name and someone of a lower status has already scrubbed those feet three times.
Francis meets his Match
The bad news is that this is the last time we see Francis I and Pope Paul III. The good news is this is a really great scene for both of them.
Like Anne, Francis is another royal on a mission of public piety, to Rome, where he has certainly walked a good distance and allowed himself to become a bit scuffed.
I don’t know if this is an Actual Historical visit, but I do know that Actually Historically there was a damn good reason for him to make one at the time. Francis has been quietly supporting, and is about to enter into an alliance with a non Christian power: The Ottoman Empire, whose ups and downs in war against the Holy Roman Empire Chapuys keeps talking about? Yeah, that one. The Franco-Ottoman Alliance is going to scandalise Christendom and outrage the Emperor. Flexible Francis might just end up kicking his own arse here, so he’s on a public pilgrimage to forestall that with some approval from the Pope. Lets see how it goes.
He walks up like the humblest peasant that ever saw St Peters, and kisses the Pope’s feet.
Ha, Francis just promised loyalty unto death to Pope Paul, and Pope Paul responded with “Great, because I have this plan I’ve been working on”. Paul has decided this is it, that Henry has gone too far, his crimes against the church are too great and too many, and he’s going forward with the excommunication. Francis tries to steer the conversation a bit.
But Paul has a conclusion he’s driving towards.
Francis might have wanted to point out that the Channel is the Atlantic Ocean’s white water ride, set in a spot where two weather fronts often meet, and the one thing the English military really has going for it at this point in history is the Royal Navy. An invasion of England is horrifically high risk, and he’s absolutely not going to do that.
But he doesn’t get the chance to point that out. I love Francis’ facial expressions as his big statement of faithfulness goes completely off the rails, he goes from ‘What now?’ to ‘Hang on’ and finally to ‘Screw you’. And Paul knows exactly what he’s doing. Well, it’s a great scene to leave on, so Farewell Emmanuel Leconte, our excellent Francis I, who looks to have moved career into directing documentaries around 2010. Francis is going to speak on in the person of his ambassadors, and in the form of some very pointed letters later in Henry’s life. Peter O’Toole died in 2013 after a stunning career on stage and screen. Pope Paul in The Tudors was one of his last major roles, he did it brilliantly, and it looks like he had a great time.
See More Underestimation
Back in Whitehall, Anne and her father are walking in the garden and assessing the Seymour threat. He tells her about Sir Thomas Seymour’s shared past with the King, and that he has two sons.
Actually Historically the Seymour family had 4 sons and 3 daughters that survived to adulthood. Coming from such a fertile family (with a lot of the boys born first) was seen as a strong selling point for Jane. Anthony and Margery died in their late teens/early twenties and Henry lived longer than all of his brothers by being unambitious. In an interesting alliance Jane Seymour’s younger sister Elizabeth would marry Cromwell’s son Gregory in 1537.
The Tudors acknowledges and includes the two older sons, Edward and Thomas in its story. Thomas Boleyn notes that the older, Edward, is cold and aloof, and the younger, Thomas, regarded as rash.
Boleyn is confident that while they have all taken the Oath of Supremacy if they have remained secretly Catholic then “The tide of their ambitions can be turned and will ebb away”, but that seems like a really optimistic assessment to me.
By the way, now things are on the up, Thomas Boleyn’s ‘utter arsehole’ personality seems to have subsided too. If there’s success, he’s happy, pleasant and ready to discuss strategy. If there is no success, then it’s your fault, and nothing you can say is right,or an improvement, or anything worth hearing at all.
Cromwell and Chapuys got on pretty well, and now they’ve both been ordered to a meeting to see if a new Alliance can be formed. Cromwell starts by indicating Henry’s willingness for a new relationship, and Chapuys responds in the same vein. Katherine’s death and French plans have completely changed the diplomatic landscape. Chapuys says Charles is willing to ask pope Paul not to pronounce the sentence of excommunication. Cromwell is sure Henry would be grateful.
Chapuys doesn’t go on to what Charles wants in return immediately, instead adding that Charles would be willing to support the King in his marriage to Anne Boleyn. And only then he gets to what Charles wants in return. Cromwell does the equivalent of sucking in his breath through his teeth. He says he will present the idea to Henry. Chapuys wants to know if it will be with Cromwell’s approval.
Still, as the optimistic smiles and raised goblets indicate, it’s a very different world for Imperial English relations now, problems are there to be worked on.
Learning How to Talk to Your Depressed Friend
At Court, Mark Smeaton notices how pretty Jane Seymour is, but Thomas Wyatt is too full of depression, grief and anger to notice. Wyatt shows Mark his new poem, and Mark, being in a completely different mood from Thomas, picks out the one line that could be read as sensual and saying that, well he likes that bit. I particularly like Mark’s reactions. How the penny drops and afterwards, his staring into space wondering how to speak to his friend like this. Well, gently and carefully and mainly you listen, Mark. And if you’re British there’s a lot of making tea.
Romance, Plotting, Practical Politics
We follow Jane down the corridor where one of the Court footmen tells her a ‘friend’ has asked to see her ‘over here’. Jane the terrifyingly trusting to a 21st Century view, does manage to ask which friend but still follows the guy out of the public areas and into a private room (Jesus, Jane). He lets her in and thankfully leaves, but there’s no one in there.
The figure at the door is Henry and Jane gives her most reverential “Your Majesty” before sinking into a deep curtsey. He walks over, sinks to his knees and takes her hand in his, and says he asks only one thing; To allowed to serve and worship her,
All accompanied to a variation on the “Henry meets Jane” theme. Jane gets a different, separate theme next year, because this one is all about old style, nearly mythical romanticism. And as that’s what both Henry and we are going to have a word about, a brief listen to it might be a good idea.
Everyone was into courtly love (also known as Petrachan love) in this era. Courtly love was love with extra chivalric steps – the love of an idealised woman, supposedly (although not always practically) without consummation, so even the married could justify joining in this recreational flirting as long as they didn’t consummate it. A really central theme was that it had to be covert, no point falling in love without shenanigans to conceal it, apparently. It was all over the courts of Europe, particularly Italy, France, the Netherlands and England. The Renaissance was the first Gothic revival, and like subsequent revivals, bore very little resemblance to what life in that period was actually like.
The story of Lancelot and Guinevere got a thorough reworking in France for the themes of courtly love – an elevated love dooming everyone with its consummation, after a lot of concealment shenanigans.
Henry was a romantic, an idealist romantic, an often beyond reality romantic even for his era. Henry started his romantic relationships by being able to rescue the beautiful, amazingly well bred and somewhat exotic Katherine of Aragon from his father’s cruel treatment and raise her to Queen. He spent years as Coeur Loyal (Sir Loyal Heart) in the jousting lists and masques. Who could follow that? Well Anne Boleyn was raised in the Court of Margaret, Regent of the Netherlands (widely regarded as Courtly Love central), and the French Court, where she was widely regarded as the best player of the game.
Here The Tudors shows us Henry bringing that same romantic, courtly archetype once again into his third marriage. Watch that pedestal, Lady Jane, you’re up there now and there’s not much room. All the same she agrees to let him serve her, and they share a kiss on the hand with enough repressed romantic passion to fuel a steam engine.
Oh, it’s a very different atmosphere in Anne’s rooms. She and George are idly playing cards, while she tries to get a second opinion on the Seymours. George has met Edward, and clearly didn’t like him, saying with a wrinkled nose that he’s a ‘cold fish’.
The Boleyn’s are once again weighing up the wrong kind of threat the Seymours pose, mainly concerned that they might be secret supporters of Mary.
Who they get on to now. Mary’s been significantly ill, apparently. And Anne is annoyed that they King has allowed her to go to another house (finally she gets away from Hatfield) to recover.The score has now gone from the most elevated themes to very sinister, even getting that woodwind instrument from the series Rome that makes it clear shit is going down. Here:
As it should. The Remainers have been fretting about and predicting this for years, and here it finally is. They may not have their plans fully laid but Anne and George have certainly been looking ahead to when they could kill off Mary. We finally get our evidence that Mary really is in danger. And we are an awful long way from that idyll Henry is pursuing with Jane.
Back in the Seymour’s rooms, the door gets locked, and the news of Henry’s approach is greeted joyfully.
Sir John is happy, and pleased for his daughter, Edward is all business, and it’s interesting to see Jane here, in the political unit of the family, starting out pleased by the situation but then listening carefully, saying with her expression “OK, what’s the next step?”.Edward tries to delicately get the point across that Jane needs to not have sex with Henry. Their father says the equivalent of “Your sister’s not a harlot, Edward”, and Edward backs off a little shamefacedly but yeah, with what’s at stake someone probably did need to say that out loud. He and his father dream a little of what it all could mean because the sky is suddenly the limit for this family.
Over a game of chess, Henry questions Sir Henry Norris about his intentions towards Madge. He hasn’t proposed yet, and Henry tries to persuade him to get his arse in gear about it He tells him Madge is young, tries to find a way to tell him she’s good in bed…
Sir Henry says that he’s rather enjoying being single, and Henry understands. He says that Sir Henry is courting a young woman and Henry… drifts off unable to say what he’s doing because he’s doing the same thing despite being married. This rejuvenation he’s found in his romance with Jane spreads into other areas where he looks to recapture his youth as he asks Sir Henry to organize a joust, like they used to have in the old days.
And the reward for most dysfunctional relationship (up against increasingly stiff competition in the Tudor court) goes to George and Jane “Not Actually Historical” Boleyn.
George saunters in drunk and exhausted from his latest assignation with Mark (When you think about it gay love at the time was super courtly, no end of shenanigans to keep it quiet) to meet Jane, already seething and combing her hair with absolute fury. She wonders where he’s been and his answers are completely unconvincing. They finally get to the “You’re sleeping with other men” point, actually said out loud…and Jane is not woke. Even without getting raped by her husband, I think there’s no way she’d have taken this well. She has a lot of very religious objections the very nicest of which is that George is now condemned to purgatory. George says (well starts a bit venomous and then yells it – but she has just called his relationship disgusting and a crime against nature) that with her he thinks he’s already in purgatory and slapthrows her violently onto the bed before leaving.
Always Drama at the Joust
Henry is right it’s been a while since we had a joust. Brandon finally pops up this episode, dedicates his next joust to his wife as his ‘lady’, gallops down the course, and then wins non stop for the next five minutes.
Brandon makes the perfect friend for Henry on so many levels, including excelling at the sport Henry loves most.
Jane Boleyn’s feeling pretty snitty today. When the Duchess of Suffolk notices the Queen’s absence, Jane turns a comment from the Queen about protecting her unborn son from the excitement into a dig about hoping she visited a different astrologer this time.
The King meets Jane as he’s coming out of his tent. When he asks to wear her ‘favours’ (A small piece of ribbon, like we used to see him given by Katherine in the early days) she bashfully agrees. These would denote not only her support, but the lady to which Henry has given his courtly love. That’s an elevated move, a serious move of respect and romance and…
Oh, I get it. And Thomas Boleyn’s about to get it too. Excuse me, I was being an idiot. See, with the viewer’s and history’s hindsight, I thought everyone was on the same page about Jane, but the whole time the Boleyn’s and the Seymour’s and even Jane’s comments and conversations show they’ve been thinking according to the Thomas Boleyn handbook. Back when Anne was first pregnant he said to her:
“The danger to you, and to us, is not that the King chooses a mistress, but that he chooses the wrong one: Someone we couldn’t control, or who would seek to control the King”
And that’s what they’ve been thinking about, that’s why all the fussing about whether the Seymours support Mary or not, they are all fretting about Jane becoming an influential mistress. But what Thomas Boleyn is about to realise, spectacularly, after spotting Henry take Jane’s favours on the other side of the ground is that Anne’s position as Queen is weak enough, despite her pregnancy, that this one is not just being groomed to be a mistress…
This one is being kept on the Queen track.
Fabulous moment, beautifully played by Nick Dunning as Thomas Boleyn there. Henry is introduced with a peal of trumpets and the herald announces Henry’s match against Sir Henry Norris. As Henry winds up the crowd,
Thomas Boleyn cannot keep his eyes off the Seymours. Sure enough he notices who their new best friend is, Henry’s best friend, the Court’s Remainer survivor, and his personal old enemy, Charles Brandon. He’s still distracted when the joust between Henry and Norris starts. Screams, cries, shock, and suddenly the whole kingdom is a coin turning in the air.
Notes: Ha, don’t normally end on a cliffhanger. I’ve been a bit ill this week. Nothing too serious, just enough to keep me away from work for a couple of days and mess up my sleep. I could still write with it though, and writing was a useful distraction so I’m early. Better now, so next one by August 1st (wow, the year is going quick). Oh, and thanks for giving the blog’s it’s biggest ever weekend, by the way.
Edit: Coupla typos, think I improved a couple of the jokes.