Montage Guilt Trip
Last titles of the season and then we’re given a montage, like we had for the first episode, but with a very different tone. Soundtrack for the montage is here, if you want.
We open on a closeup of the sword of the Calais Executioner, blunt ended, held in black velvet, and being polished. The engraving reads “The right hand is my Lord” and “Virtue.Love.Death” in French. OK, so love/death is quite the pun in French (L’Amour/La Mort), but that sounds like something a complete dick would get decaled on his executing sword.
The face of what may or may not be a complete dick blows out a candle, and the singing starts up. The music is a hymn that’s heavy on the lamenting. It is a version of “Jerusalem, my happy home” and is sung by a child choir. It is pretty, if sad, and has increasing complexity, but if it’s not what you’re into it makes it very clear that it is in absolutely no hurry to move on. It’s going to be going on for a while. We get a suitably portentous title card, telling us the date, May 18th 1536, and hear hoof beats.
After the executioner rides off we see the Tower, shrouded in the same mist the rider is in. Indicating that he may be in the same part of the country. Inside which, Anne is praying, using a really apt prayer that uses the Biblical book Ecclesiates: Thou has saved me from injustice…Meanwhile, Henry wakes up and looks over in bed to the space Anne used to occupy. He’s fully awake quickly and lays there, contemplating. Then we’re off to the Brandons, for some reason. Perhaps to re introduce us to Charles who has been only very occasionally present recently. Their son sneaks into bed with them, and Brandon’s reaction when half woken is to turn over and throw an arm over both his wife and son.
Back at Whitehall it still seems to be early and Henry is up and watching the swans.
And then we are in the Royal Chapel and we see the source of the music we’ve been listening to, a choir made up of children, some of them possibly teens. They’ve been brought to sing to Henry for his morning devotions and it turns out that a hymn with the subtext “Oh when, oh when, oh when am I going to die?” that goes on forever wasn’t the best call for his playlist for today.
Meyers really has the eye twitch down for Henry. He’s not about it all the time, just when Henry has to push down all that rage. He has a ‘lil eye twitch and then tries to clear his mind, and focus, and he fails dramatically, whipping his head around, ready to hulk out on whoever has been foolish enough to accuse him…only to find the least threatening group in the world. It’s a choir of young people singing prettily for you, Henry. What argument was that you were about to pick? With whom?
Something on your mind, your Majesty?
Royal and Not
We go quickly to Hatfield House, where young Elizabeth’s status has not been changed yet. She has a guy to walk in front of her, telling everyone to ‘make way’, and eating is a very stylized affair.
There’s rules for everything about interacting with royalty, but eating might have the most, particularly in this period. There were rules for who got what first, who got what second, where everyone sat, what they sat on, what they sat under, and this level of formality of Elizabeth’s meals means she’s certainly still being treated as a Princess.
Her mother’s meals are far more simple now.
Waiting on Anne are three women. Before her trial Anne was attended by noblewomen, all of whom were spying on her to some degree, some of which she really didn’t get on with. Anne Shelton, her aunt, in particular, had turned on her. Whether this was due to her daughter Madge becoming Henry’s mistress, or Anne’s encouragement to her to belittle Mary when Lady Shelton helped run Elizabeth’s household (which now left her in quite the difficult position), or just opportunity, it did not make for a great atmosphere in Anne’s confinement.
But more than one contemporary source reports Anne being attended by “Four young ladies” at her execution. As none of the ladies that attended her before he trial could be said to be young a change looks to have happened after she was found guilty. In The Tudors she has three maids, who all appear to be employees of the Tower.
They clear away breakfast and then William Kingston arrives, with news.
He tells Anne that Henry has decreed she will not die by burning but by decapitation, and that he has agreed to her request to use the executioner of Calais, who was on his way there from Dover. Anne is calm, and wants to know what time she is to die. When he says 9am, the maids gasp, but Anne is still calm about it. She asks him to send for Archbishop Cranmer so she can make her last confession.
Kingston, reserved and correct as always, takes his leave and Anne is holding it together well. You can see her underlying nerves in her small movements as the door closes. It’s an effort for her to stay steady, but she’s steady.
Blame The Frenchman
By catching up with Anne on the morning of the 18th we miss out quite a lot of the hopes and fears she went through, and as a result Episode 10 is actually kind of serene for most of its running time.
The greatest of those fears was certainly whether or not she would die by being burned to death. But Henry already knew how he planned to have her executed before her trial. Anne didn’t request the executioner of Calais, Henry had already decided on him. Because otherwise, there just wasn’t time.
There is no record of Anne requesting the Calais executioner, and it was the best part of a three day trip from London to Calais, assuming good weather for the channel crossing, and a ship ready and able to take you as soon as you arrived, making it 5-6 days at the earliest before he could reasonably expect the executioner to get there. Anne wasn’t convicted until late on the 15th May, 3 days before her scheduled execution date, which means Henry had to send for the executioner before she was tried, probably by several days.
The delays in Anne’s execution certainly happened, and there is a tradition that the executioner was late, it’s also very possible that is what Anne was told, but in the documents between Kingston and Cromwell about the delays there’s no mention of him. What was mentioned a lot were last minute rules to make sure there were no foreigners to witness the execution, and how to remove them while making sure there were enough witnesses that it couldn’t be said to have happened secretly, but not too many…
Henry was twitchy about just what kind of spectacle he was about to produce for his Kingdom, and for history. A drawn out, painful death for Anne would not have been in his interests, and it looks like most of the reasoning in both choosing the execution method and for the delays was in reducing the amount of horrified, fascinated viewing that a King having his Queen executed would inevitably produce. The same reasoning can be seen in the method of disposing of the bodies of the executed men. Their bodies and heads weren’t displayed, as you might expect for such treason, but buried, quite quickly.
The Tudors, however, is going to go with tradition and blame the Frenchman for the delay, and his horse.
Henry is composing a letter to the Emperor. Who he once again addresses as ‘nephew’. Oh, no doubt it will. By the way, both the Imperials and the French had potential brides locked and loaded for Henry, the killing of his current Queen slowed down no one, they just ended up not being required this go around.
Henry continues dictating his letter to Cromwell, and then veers off topic a little. To something that has been on his mind, and which Chapuys noted and reported about him to the Emperor (along with the fact that Henry could be incredibly credulous toward anything in his favour).
The Last Proof
Archbishop Cranmer comes to take Anne’s confession, and Kingston says how Anne has calmed as her execution approaches. Cranmer regrets that he has more bad news for her. A couple of things, here. First, they had to wait until she was convicted to investigate her marriage, because it’s hard to explain how a woman that you were never legally married to committed treason by adultery. Second we don’t know what the actual reason for the annulment was, it was never included with the judgement. They certainly tried to get her first prospective husband, Henry Percy to admit that he and Anne had been betrothed or had a form of marriage, but he wasn’t having any of it.
So it probably was annulled on the basis of Henry’s previous relationship with Mary Boleyn. Never mind that that impediment had been legally swept away some time before their marriage. Henry needed them not to have been married now, so forget all that and just remember that you banged her sister. As this wouldn’t look great for Henry, it’s a good bet that’s why the contents of the judgement were kept secret.
Cranmer promises to do his best for Elizabeth in the future (a promise he held to), and Anne asks him to take her confession. She also asks Kingston to stay, and that’s a great move for Anne. It is through Kingston’s reports, and, a bit more surreptitiously, confirmed by whichever lady it was that was reporting to Chapuys, that we know what Anne said.
Hirst writes the dialogue here, but the thrust of the confession – that she was innocent and never offended with her body against the King is Actual Historical, and in an age of profound belief in both God and punishment in the afterlife for sins, made by a woman of Christian faith before her execution, it is pretty devastating evidence of her innocence. It’s also amazingly played by Dormer. Cranmer’s breath shakes as he sighs after her confession, and he takes a moment to find his voice while blessing her. Then he asks Kingston to report Anne’s last confession.
Kingston leaves, and Anne has a moment of weakness, it’s fleeting but a very human moment, where she asks Cranmer if the evangelical bishops they had put in place could not plead for her? It’s just not realistic and Anne realises that within a few seconds.
This is the last scene for Hans Matheson as Thomas Cranmer in The Tudors, and it’s been a great depiction, getting Cranmer’s sincerity and humility. Cranmer was a remarkable survivor of Henry’s reign, bending with changes and making sure to never offend Henry, and coming through at least one serious plot to get him killed before blossoming with Edward’s fully protestant government. He became one of the architects of England as a protestant country and produced the Book of Common Prayer but when Edward died and Mary took the throne she persecuted him ruthlessly and personally and beyond the extent even of her own laws. And that was how the meekest of Henry’s ministers ended up having the most extraordinarily brave death.
Cranmer survives in The Tudors but does not come back into the story after Season 2.
Speaking of Mary, she’s about to show a few of those tendencies right now.
Mary is praying when Chapuys comes to visit her. Mary wants to know why Anne is really to die, and Chapuys says that according to gossip (“They say”) that Elizabeth is not the King’s child and Anne had over 100 lovers, including her own brother. Mary crosses herself. Actual Historical Chapuys didn’t believe that Anne was guilty of adultery, and he hated Anne. He thought she had poisoned Katherine and was planning to kill Mary, though, so he was happy she was getting executed. He did Actually Historically say this…
No, no, she didn’t mention you. It’s really not always about you or Anglo-Imperial relations, Ambassador Chapuys.
Mary asks about Jane Seymour and the fact that she tends Catholic has really got everyone’s hopes up. I mean, if it all changed because of Anne Boleyn, couldn’t it all go back to how it was? There are rumours that Jane wants to restore Mary to the succession, and Mary takes the news that Elizabeth is now a bastard, as she has been, with some satisfaction.
Mary and Elizabeth would have a decent relationship through Elizabeth’s childhood, which started to deteriorate when Elizabeth sided with Catherine Parr over her desire to marry again after Henry died and then really broke down as Edward sickened and they both got closer to the Crown. After that point Mary often cast doubt on Elizabeth’s paternity, claiming she was the daughter of Mark Smeaton to anyone that would listen. The thing is, Elizabeth won some of the genetic lottery by being the child of Henry’s that most resembled him, so as she grew up, despite her mother’s reputation, Mary was the only one that really doubted if Henry was her father.
Mary’s had a real rough go of it for several years, though, so she deserves some satisfaction that her enemy is falling.
When One Requires Distraction
Henry is laying on his bed, his eyes are a bit glazed and he’s rubbing, we’ll he’s got some kind of itch or…
Or he’s in the early throws of masturbation. Jesus Christ, Dude, your wife is supposed to die today. How is that not enough for you to put it on hold for 24 hours?
Henry can’t get any further, jumps up and walks to the door.
He’s going to go and see Jane, because what better to take your mind off executing your current wife than planning to go and visit your future one.
To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted…
Ecclesiastes 3:1 might be, along with the 23rd psalm, the most used funereal text from the Bible, and it’s one of the many occasions when the Bible veers into ‘Also Art’ territory. The Tudors uses it artfully, too, as the background to juxtapositioned moments of Anne preparing for execution, and Jane preparing for a visit from Henry. At the end, we hear Kingston entering Anne’s room and he looks very regretful. Anne’s confused for a moment, he’s early, but he explains quickly that the executioner is delayed so her execution has been postponed until 12 o’clock. The following conversation is Actual Historical, pretty much word for word.
So first time, she’s a bit upset but takes it well with some gallows humour.
The Ned Stark Education Method
Brandon sees his son playing with one of his swords, and he starts out looking fatherly and indulgent. Then Edward starts breaking stuff and Brandon has a bit of a yell. Edward pushes the sword at his father and Brandon decides to teach him a lesson.
Edward then starts asking Tudor kid questions: Have you ever killed someone? What was it like?
He asks his father if he can come to the execution. We don’t see Brandon answer, but he’s thinking about it seriously and the answer will be a yes. I mean, the kid is what 9? 10? Time to see his first execution, and points will be deducted for flinching.
2DOR Accountancy Department
Meanwhile, Cromwell and one of his clerks discuss what all of this is costing, which is shocking, apparently. The headsman has been slowed again. His horse is lame, we see him checking out the leg, which he has put a bandage on, give his horse a little kiss on the head and then start walking beside him.
Cromwell walks into Henry’s rooms, and the first things out of Henry’s mouth are “Well? Is it done?”And Cromwell has to say No, it isn’t, and there’s going to be a further delay. And look, we all know what it’s like when you’re waiting for something important and it doesn’t happen when you expected it. It would make a saint swear, and Henry is a long, long, long, long way from sainthood. He takes news of the second delay with an impressive lack of grace.
He suggests getting back the first headsman. Cromwell points out that he did promise to use the Calais executioner, Henry calls Anne a whore and wonders if he should really be held to those promises.
Cromwell gets halfway through pointing out that it’s more that the promise is public knowledge that’s the problem, when Henry rams his right hand man into the wall and points a dagger in his face to underline his argument.
Henry has a last minute moment of sanity and decides he can wait another 8 hours if he must, calling Cromwell from the door before he can action his last order.
These delays might feel like torture to Henry, but he gets to distract himself by going to visit his intended, sleeping in a nice bed, preparing for the future. He’s not stuck in a cell, with friends and family recently dead, all ambition and future gone, scraping himself together to face a terrifying final experience, only to be told things have been rescheduled.
Kingston arrives and Anne walks forward- confident, centered,
But when Kingston tells her about the second delay, that her execution will now be tomorrow at 9am, that hard won serenity collapses. The worst is that it gives her a few moments of false hope,
where she thinks she might just get sent to a nunnery. Then she looks into Kingston’s face which is clear that that is not what is happening, and that hope is followed by a terrible sadness.
Let’s do Dinner and Betrothal
Meanwhile, Henry rides through the countryside that evening.
and arrives at Wolf Hall to see Jane. Where we meet everyone in the middle of a gale of laughter at dinner. Henry segues into “So, you know my marriage just got annulled” to Sir John. Sir John and he manage to discuss that while talking around the fact that his current wife is going to die in a few hours. Then Henry announceproposes his marriage to Jane.
He tells Sir John that after tomorrow, everything is going to change.
The Shape of Things to Come
Meanwhile, at Hatfield House, Elizabeth’s status has changed. She’s going to be moved somewhere the King will not have to see her. She is now a bastard, not a Princess and her household is being packed up. Lady Bryan is explaining things to a young woman who will turn out to be Kat Ashley, Elizabeth’s lifelong servant, companion and surrogate mother. Lady Bryan explains that payment for Anne’s imprisonment will come out of the money paid for Elizabeth’s household (Not Actual Historical, Henry managed to pay the expenses for his own wife’s imprisonment and execution but if there’s an episode where Henry deserves some slack it’s certainly not this one). Kat is incredulous, and Lady Bryan has some life advice for her, while perhaps not realising that a precocious little someone is taking everything in.
Notes: Deadline for the last recap in Season 2 is Monday 2nd September. The Plan is by Thursday 29th August.
I’ve watched this series so many times (oddly it’s my comfort show) and your commentary has somehow made it fresh. I also definitely had the same thoughts about Henry’s Midlife Crisis outfit.
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