Titles first, and with our Special Guest Stars (Peter O’Toole and Jeremy Northam) both no longer returning there’s a whole new section in the credits.
After that, well, it’s a sad beginning. A slow and off kilter violin plays as we start with extremely close up shots of very soft, almost translucent skin. It’s difficult to make out what it it is until we see the little arm, and then the tiny hand. The miscarried fetus is being washed and prepared for the King to see it. It is placed on in a silver bowl, and wrapped in a light linen cloth in front of Henry.
Give Doctor Linacre his due, he doesn’t flinch from his job, which is a terrifying prospect today. His two colleagues give a subtle look behind his back like “OK, he’s not talking around it, he’s going to do this”. And Doctor Linacre looks into Henry’s stone face and tells him exactly what his potential son died of. He says that there were signs of deformity, of abnormality, and that perhaps the Queen’s miscarriage was a blessing in disguise. OK, so there’s no Actual Historical evidence for this. It is a known and somewhat supported Historical theory, though. The argument for is that this is part of the reason everything moved so fast for Anne, and no one would have dared mention it at trial. The argument against is that secrets like this are hard to keep and someone would have blabbed, probably to Chapuys, and there is just no good evidence for it.
The Tudors, moving even faster than Actual History now (Anne miscarried at the end of January, was executed in Mid May and we’re going to cover most of those three and a half months in this episode) goes with a miscarriage caused by congenital abnormality – it also gives Henry some more fuel for his denial and rage, and a convincing hook for his self pity as the way in which his grief will come out later. He has the briefest of looks and then waves the doctors away, completing the scene without saying a word.
On the Way Down
Anne, meanwhile, accosts the French Ambassador on the backstairs, with yet another attempt, and by far her most desperate yet, to get the “French Prince for Elizabeth” plan off the ground, because somehow this is supposed to save her. She is whispering and panicked. She ends with “Do the best you can for me, for God’s Sake”, and then hurries away. L’Ambassador is shell shocked. As well he might be. That betrothal plan was dead in the water after the Admiral’s visit, and with Francis and probably now Henry against it what the hell is the ambassador supposed to do? He can see how desperate she is, but he has no means to help her. Anne is catching at the ghosts of straws in her panic.
On the Way Up
On the other hand, it’s pretty good to be a Seymour right now. Edward has been summoned up to Cromwell’s rooms, where Cromwell is all politeness and tells Edward he has been made a gentleman of the privy chamber – a personal servant to the King, where the access you get to him could make you quite powerful. Edward is pleased, thanks Cromwell, and gives him a little bow as he leaves.
I like the little smile to himself that Edward gives when Cromwell “Just one more thing”s him. Edward Seymour might be young but he’s got some political chops already. He’s a fascinating character in The Tudors, with an almost impenetrable personality, undoubted intelligence and a driven sense of ambition. And Max Brown has been given a serious shave and haircut, making him look about 17 (Brown would have been 25-26 at the time of filming Season 2) indicating the character’s a stayer.
But Cromwell didn’t pull the detective’s favorite device to put Edward off his stride, he did it so they could discuss something outside the office. It’s Actual Historical, Cromwell gave up his rooms to the Seymours, and Edward and his wife moved in to those rooms with Jane as her chaperones on April 18th 1536. It was at Greenwich Palace rather than Whitehall, but the actions here are sound, and accurate down to the private connecting hallway. Cromwell wouldn’t have done something like this on his own (As it concerned the King’s privacy and security) so it shows Henry moving through Cromwell and continuing to court Jane as a prospective wife before the investigation into Anne’s behaviour.
It also shows Cromwell coming down against the Boleyns, if not openly yet, and I enjoy the careful politeness of these two allies as they start to come together to form a faction.
And Moving On
Henry’s involvement is made explicit in the next scene.
Pausing only to slap the hand that picks his nits and call the owner an idiot for something, Henry details some impressive gifts of land he plans to give to Thomas Boleyn. He and Cromwell smile at each other before Henry makes his reasoning clear for the audience. So it’s a feint, and he has more up his sleeve. The Tudors’ Henry is quite involved with the Boleyn takedown at this point, and He and Cromwell are going to make the Boleyns feel as comfortable as possible before they strike. Henry looks out of the window with anticipation on his face and a reprise of the “Henry meets Jane” theme in the background.
We cut straight to the Seymours having moved. Jane is preparing for a meeting with the King, and then she and her father move along that short passageway to Henry’s rooms. The chaperoning appears to involve her family standing in the doorway when they meet and Henry is being waited on by Brereton today, who is doubtless delighted with the turn events are taking.
Henry says he has a gift for Jane.
It’s a portrait miniature, like the ones Anne gave to him and to Thomas Wyatt. Jane is bowled over and has some appropriately high blown romantic imagery to add to it.OK, that’s a lot Jane, like, a whole lot, but that is the tone for their courtship so fine.
Things Fall Apart
We get a brief look at the gardens at Whitehall to re establish us to same location, different time.
And then we’re inside in Queen Anne’s rooms. We get a glimpse of Jane in the far corner, looking at the locket, to establish that she has moved location too. And then we’re back into the Queen Anne/Henry Norris/Madge drama. Norris notices Anne looking at them and suddenly has to go over and take a formal leave of the Queen, while not visibly saying goodbye to Madge. Once he’s gone Anne gives Madge a look.
Anne openly wonders why Norris has still not yet asked Madge to marry him, and it’s down to Nan Saville to tell her what Madge and everyone else in the household has noticed – that Norris has a thing for Anne.
Anne’s taking that in when they notice Jane, who will not stop fiddling with that locket.
Nan decides to tell also tell Anne that Jane’s family has been given ‘Mister Secretary’s rooms’. And then it’s time to get ready to rumble.
Anne marches up to Jane, with shoulders rolling like they mean business, the two other maids in her bedroom decide to get the hell out of Dodge, as Anne demands to know just what that is around Jane’s neck.
It’s time for another round of personal space and eye contact combat.
Jane tells her it’s a locket, and Anne demands to see it. Jane’s listless holding it up from 6 feet away will not do, she wants to see it. She gets her wish as screechy violins that we haven’t heard for many episodes wind up the tension to unbearable heights.
Wow. Anne gets a double whammy. First, Henry is using exactly the device she used on him on Jane. If Anne had any illusions left that Jane was some kind of passing fad for Henry, like Madge was, they must have just evaporated. She can see her replacement happening right in front of her, at speed. Next, as she gets that realisation, Jane, who knows exactly what Anne can see at that moment (although she wouldn’t know the past significance) looks her right in the eye and that look is cold and steady, saying “Yeah, I’m coming for you”. She might have lost the locket but Jane Seymour has knocked Anne Boleyn out of the ring this round.
I’m going to say this more than once, but it’s a huge shame they had to change actresses for Jane between seasons 2 and 3. Anita Briem‘s Season 2 Jane has a bit of an edge to her that altogether disappears in Annabelle Wallis‘ season 3 Jane. I far prefer Season 2 Jane, and in order to stand up in any way against the mighty characters of Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn she really needed to be just the one person.
Jane only had 10 episodes to make her mark in, against Katherine’s 18 and Anne’s 21, and as she is two distinctly different versions of Jane The Tudors never addresses the question normally at the heart of a dramatist’s re telling of Jane Seymour – that she was by all accounts a kind, thoughtful and modest woman whose predecessor was murdered to make way for her. How did she deal with it? Did she deal with it? Did she believe the accusations against Anne, or maybe decide to ignore them? How much guilt and fear came along with the position she was put in? These are questions The Tudors never addresses because for Annabelle Wallis’ Season 3 Queen Jane, it’s like this razor’s edge, neurotic power struggle with Anne never happened. Also let’s take a moment to appreciate Natalie Dormer’s Anne. She resoundingly loses the eye contact combat bout by being driven to aggressive physical contact (Just as Katherine once did with her, only her loss is even heavier), and you see her tiny moment of victory in causing Jane pain is oh so fleeting as the fear that is driving her rises to the surface, those eyes go a bit too wide and it’s clear that Anne has entered the outskirts of crazy town.
Then she notices she has cut herself. Everyone in her rooms always watching her is just too much right now and she marches out. And where she is going and what she is going to do is prove she is her father’s daughter. She’s about to double down on no cards and seriously threaten Cromwell.
Before we join her there a hand reaches down and grabs the locket. I wonder who that was?
I’d like to think that Anne’s confrontation with Cromwell is some kind of test, but I think that she’s acting largely on instinct at this point, and that that instinct to threaten and bully when afraid is something that The Tudors’ Thomas Boleyn passed on to two of his children. Both George and Anne have shown these tendencies with others.
Jane has crossed her, and she just failed badly to assert dominance, but Cromwell has crossed her too. Surely she can still intimidate the Wolsey in this scenario? Well, no. Cromwell is no Wolsey, and some things are very different from 10 years ago.
Pausing briefly to get a bandage on that cut, Anne marches into Cromwell’s rooms. And Cromwell, who has always been so hyper-aware of manners, knows exactly who is stood there waiting for him to notice them, and how long they’ve been stood.
They start to re litigate their argument about the direction of the Reformation that they started last episode. The Tudors, having limited time, and money and number of characters they can expect their audience to follow, frames this conflict in two personal conversations and gets the main points across. In Actual History this conflict happened over a number of years and was mainly fought out through proxies and politics, but was none the less dangerous for that. They battled through the appointments they fought for, what gifts of land and money went to whom, sermons directed to be preached at court by their followers, that kind of thing, both trying to adjust the heading of the Reformation.
Anne responds to Cromwell’s delight that the bill for dissolving the larger monasteries is going through Parliament, by saying that Sawley Abbey (which is going to be the flashpoint that draws Robert Aske into the Pilgrimage of Grace in Season 3) has been sold before the bill has even gone through. She re argues the point that some of the abbeys were supposed to be converted, rather than selling everything off. We get a little insight into Cromwell’s motivation: His reasoning is that it is for the strengthening of England “Which is but a pygmy, that shall one day be greater, even, than Spain”.
And then Anne gets to what propelled her here in the first place. She asks Cromwell if it’s true that he has given his rooms to the Seymours. Long Pause. She has to pull the “I’m the Queen of England” card and grab his jacket to get him to answer and he acknowledges he did do that with a look that says it’s more upsettingly inconvenient than upsetting that she knows this. And then Anne, rather like Katherine used to, skims right by the fact that Henry had to have authorised this and very likely asked for it, and tells Cromwell how much he has overreached himself. She also is being even more heavy handed and aggressive than last time, when she held the trump card of being pregnant. Now she has miscarried a second time, she just doesn’t have the political room to be doing this.
Yes, he does assume you no longer have the power to crush him, Anne, and he’s right. It could be argued “What does she have to lose? He’s coming for her anyway.”, but I really don’t think Anne is entertaining much logic at this point. Henry would already be resistant to a ‘retirement’ solution for Anne, given the enormous amount of time, national upheaval, and succession legitimacy questions this caused with Katherine, Anne has no mighty European dynasty protecting her, and she’s just made sure his right hand man knows his life might depend on a permanent solution too.
Meanwhile Jane Seymour is walking through court when the owner of the hand that retrieved the locket is revealed.
Jane is very grateful and so relieved she might even have learned to keep the damn thing in her pocket.
Over at Mr Secretary’s House
It is evening, and the Cromwells are eating dinner. One of Cromwell’s servants out in the hall loudly welcomes the Imperial Ambassador.
Maybe the Ambassador cannot be made to feel uncomfortable in any way that he’s shown up unannounced at 8 o’clock. Why he’s shown up, which apparently necessitates the Cromwells throwing their dinner into the hallway, is made clear as soon as the preliminary niceties are over.
What follows is a conversation with a lot of Actual Historical lines in it. Chapuys reported back to Charles V and conversations with someone like Cromwell or Henry he made sure to report line by line so most of the dialogue in this scene is direct from the memory of the Actual Historical Eustace Chapuys.
They start with Cromwell confirming that he and Anne are open enemies now, but he’s feeling pretty confident he’ll make it. Chapuys says the equivalent of “Shame that bitch is the Queen, huh?”, and Cromwell picks up the thread. Cromwell tells Chapuys he is invited to court for an audience with the King, where he is sure an Imperial alliance will be confirmed. They share a toast on friendly terms.
This is probably the most accurately depicted of this series of conversations between Cromwell and Chapuys in 1536. They all have lines from Actual History in them, but there is one significant thing that’s been changed. The Imperials were never that pushy about Mary’s succession rights. For them and most of Europe she was the lawful successor anyway, and Charles V was a pragmatist that recognised that getting Henry to overthrow his own Act of Succession (got through with lots of pain and blood a couple of years ago) was never going to happen. Anne was far more of an informal sticking point, and it now looked like Anne was something he was now willing to let go.
The Queen is having a reception in her rooms one afternoon. One of those drinks and nibbles and polite conversation things, Lady Rochford is announced, and it appears the ‘polite conversation” part of her invitation went missing. As soon as she arrives she complains that George treats her cruelly and “There are others he has preferred to me.”
Then there follows a line which would have a starring role at George’s trial, according to Chapuys’ account of it. The Tudors demonstrates this line might have been reported arising from a conversation held in public. But the chances are good, considering the content, that if Anne actually said it she said it in private, and the only information we have about it says she said it to Jane Boleyn. Jane Seymour is in the background, listening carefully to Anne run right into this, and the state Anne is now in gives her the excuse for this fantastically dangerous talk. If she did say it, did Henry have an impotence problem? Well, if he did it seems unlikely to have been a major one. Anne conceived three times in just over three years and Katherine likewise conceived regularly for most of her marriage. Henry also kept occasional mistresses so at this stage in his life it does not appear to have been a significant issue. All the same, if he ever did have bouts of sexual dysfunction the 16th Century diagnosis was “witchcraft to the privates” so there was a way to blame Anne anyway.
We’re not going to get the trial itself in The Tudors, instead we’ll get a lot of the statements and a few of the scenes described in the trial in this episode.
When Dysfunction Leans In
We get a brief look at Whitehall,
where Chapuys is arriving, and everyone is told to make way for the Ambassador. Then we cut to Anne’s rooms where Thomas Boleyn has quite the increasingly unhinged pep talk to deliver. He starts by telling Anne that the must abandon what has been their stance throughout – a pro French Alliance, Henry is pro Empire right now, and the country is with him.
He asks if she’s paying attention, and she’s taking the words in but she’s obviously preoccupied. So, while giving her, not advice, not instructions even, while giving her her orders he grabs her injured hand.
Then tells her to make a big fuss of Chapuys and down the French as much as she can at the reception tonight. After a bit she manages to take her hand back and while her words are in agreement with her father you can hear her getting hurt and angry. And then Thomas Boleyn walks right off the edge.
Poor Anne. But this is beautifully pitched. She’s falling into a nightmare now. Thomas Boleyn has probably been going a bit crazy for a while, but he has stopped being able to conceal it. She has no one to rely on, no place of safety, everyone is an increasingly twisted version of themselves, and the people that used to make her feel safe are right there in the pressure cooker with her and becoming the most frightening of all.
An Afternoon Processing and an Evening at Court
Ambassador Chapuys is announced, there is general bowing. On the side stairs Mark Smeaton gets a clap on the shoulder and we all have a jolt of foreshadowing, but it’s just Thomas Wyatt, looking a little chirpier than he has recently.
And Wyatt settles in for a good people watch, and who can blame him with such a feast ahead. Their Gracious majesties are announced and as the chorus of “Your Majesty” follows them down the hall we get the following. Henry can’t keep his eyes off Jane. Brereton seems to be his new right hand guy, and he glances at Anne with a very different subtext. Keep an eye on the crowd and you’ll see Henry Norris bowing with his eyes fixed on Anne, and if you could hear it, his “Your Majesty” is just a little bit throaty. Chapuys does the minimum courtesy demands, a neck bow, and leaves his back to face the Queen as she passes him.
Anne sees something’s up so she tries to establish a better situation by questioning Henry. Mr Chapuys is sure to dine with them? No answer, and when she sees Chapuys is leaving, Henry answers with this.
Another seasoned observer also sees some things are out of place, but he can’t put it together yet. Thomas Wyatt looks concerned and tells Mark that something’s happening…but he doesn’t know what it is. His court antennae and satirist sense are a little out of practice perhaps.
We watch along with Wyatt, as he tries to figure it out while Mark plays during the reception that evening. Wyatt takes in all the main groups and their dispositions from his perch on the mezzanine. And in doing so he conveniently gives us a physical and political map of the room. Thomas and George Boleyn go over to Chapuys and glide by an apology- “Certain things that have been said and are now regretted” and want Chapuys to join them in some realpolitik, everyone has trade interests to protect, including the Emperor, right?
George chimes in with a junior executive type “So I think we should drink to new beginnings…” scripted by Dad line, and Chapuys just about manages to raise his goblet without urging. Thomas looks over to Anne’s corner and gives her the signal to become the new Reformed Brexit Party candidate for London West. She suddenly selects the Ambassador from Milan for her next conversation, which according to The Tudors is still occupied by the French, Actually Historically, not for the last 10 years, as far as I can see (let me know if there’s detail here I’m missing) but the point here is that she’s deliberately picked on someone that should be Anti France. Okay, even the Milanese Ambassador looks embarrassed at that display. The French Ambassador, who Anne was begging to help save her life a few days ago, cannot remain with that level of deliberate rudeness and disrespect, and leaves. Madge and Norris look uncomfortable, Anne knows she’s lost the room, Wyatt can see something’s wrong from way up in the mezzanine and Brereton is practically erect.
So, that could have gone better.
Cromwell is hanging out with the Seymours and they are all waiting for the Imperial Ambassador’s audience with Henry. It starts with the twitchy Boleyns trying to follow Chapuys into the audience uninvited.
It starts well enough, Henry asking for Charles HRE’s terms for Alliance. Actually Historically the Imperial had four terms not three, and they were not, as mentioned earlier, insistent about Mary officially being restored to the succession. Instead they asked for Henry to have a ‘fatherly care’ for her, and that got him mad enough.
Based on an Actual Historical incident, what was supposed to be a friendly exercise runs rapidly downhill. In The Tudors the trigger is Chapuys suggesting that perhaps Henry doesn’t have any male children because God has decided England should have a woman ruling it. Oh, does that not go over well. Yeah, Henry probably is mad, but he’s really playing to the gallery here. It gets more obvious when he suddenly wants everything to be in writing, grabs Chapuys by the collar and demands sweeping apologies and recognition for the Boleyn faction. The Tudors, for all that it lets Henry off the physical consequences of his excesses, does hold him fast to his shitty moral choices and self delusion almost all of the time. But for this scene I find it to be a little bit generous to him, for once.
It certainly appears that this is The Tudors’ Henry pulling another feint. The Boleyns visibly relax at Henry’s explosion towards Chapuys. But in Chapuys original report Henry started by picking nits with who really owned what Italian territory, then annoyed went to confer with Cromwell and then came back, getting angrier and angrier, and then kept finding things to add to a laundry list of the ways he’d been done wrong by the Emperor.
In the original report, it reads a lot more like a guy who had never had to exert any diplomatic self discipline finding himself talking with a former adversary and pitching a fit about all the wrongs against him he’s been nursing. In The Tudors it is a devious way to relax the Boleyns and a strategic move towards his Queen replacement.
Henry stalks off behind the curtains and into a corner, where he is suddenly calm and watching everyone’s reaction, when he’s approached by Brandon. A lot of the contemporary accounts say things were finally set off by a member of Henry’s privy council coming to him with concerns. In The Tudors it makes sense that it’s the Boleyn’s enemy, Brandon. In Actual History the old school nobility (largely remainers) who Brandon is representing here, allied themselves with Cromwell for the purpose of ousting the Boleyns. But Brandon and Cromwell’s future relationship won’t allow that so here they appear to be separate. Anne has relaxed enough to dance and have a good time this evening, after Henry’s rejection of the Imperials, as Henry closes in, watching her joke around with Mark Smeaton. Brandon quietly repeats similar accusations to the ones he tried way way back in Episode 2, and putting all those resentments on the shelf for a few years has paid off. The time is right, the ground is ripe, and Henry is all ears.
Three days later, Henry describes that there have may have been acts of treason, not from outside the realm, but by members of the court. The meeting is far more relaxed than it would have been if he had called it before that evening at court. Because it can’t involve anyone trusted enough to be here, right?
Richard Rich and Cromwell are asked to head a commission of Oyer and Terminer (Lit. To hear and decide) and investigate what has occurred. It is 24th April 1536, six days before the first arrest.
Notes: Well this took a while, there has been so much reading. The run up to Anne Boleyn’s execution has a lot of contested ground, so I’ve been back into primary sources recently as well as the standard books. I’m happy with where I am though so expect the next one Monday 19th August at the latest, and I’m aiming for by Thursday the 15th. Sorry this one took so long.