I’m intrigued by Henry’s title look this season.
Depends on The Sellsword
There were two separate royal responses to Lincolnshire and the Pilgrimage proper. The Tudors compresses them into one event by resolving Lincolnshire offscreen and pushing forward to the Pilgrimage.
The response to Lincolnshire was militarily weak but prompt and organized, Actually Historically this was under the command of Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk and Richard Cromwell (Nephew of Thomas, Great Grandfather of Oliver)
In the response to the full Pilgrimage Brandon and young Cromwell stayed on, but got superseded in command by Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk, and George Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury. Norfolk and Shrewsbury also had to maintain command while dragging the dead weight of Henry’s decision making once he had chance to really start second guessing himself.
When it came to Lincolnshire all Brandon and young Richard Cromwell really had to do was get there with some kind of force, about 3,000 men 1, lie their asses off, and deliver a blistering letter from Henry. A Royal Army of 100,000 was mustering now, it’s unleashing was imminent and would mean the rebels’ utter destruction…2
And that’s all they needed to do, because the Lincolnshire Rising had been falling apart for a while. Basically, the Gentry and Commons had already split, and the Nobility were steering well clear. The Gentry was a lot more Coerced than Persuaded during the Lincolnshire Rising, and rapidly got stuck between a belligerent commons and, well, a ‘lack of leadership’ doesn’t really seem adequate to describe the issue when, in a rebellion that can totally get you killed, that above you are 100 opinions, 20 directions and everyone is in charge, while no one actually knows where you’re going.
But, sure, “lack of leadership” can cover the reason the Gentry were backing away. Members of the rising had enough survival instinct to try to get a single leader, they had their eye on Lord Hussey, but he was not interested3. They were floundering and cracking apart and then the Royal reaction arrived and Lincolnshire was done.
But by finishing Lincoln offscreen we’ve also kind of blown past York, which was a huge success for the rebellion, and for Robert Aske. On Friday 13th October, 1536 Aske split his forces with William Stapleton, so they could take both Hull and York, and by the time he got to York, Aske had 5000 men in his branch alone4.
Stapleton besieged and took Hull, Aske wrote ahead to the Lord Mayor of York, who got the King’s Treasury out of the city and sent it South to the Royal castle of Tickhill, along with a desperate request for help5. He got no answer and when Robert Aske and 5000 men showed up on his doorstep, Aske agreed to the terms – no injury to any citizen, meals to be paid for, and decided to keep most of his army camped outside the city5.
And so the Pilgrims took York. I’m really not a fan of many of the ‘Great Man’ theories in History, but Aske, both with the organization he created and as an individual made a huge difference to his cause here. Sometimes there’s just no substitute for being there, and having a rational plan.
We get a good look at the large, confident and slightly boisterous rebel host after York and a host it is for there are support workers, including women, in there. They are on their way to Pontefract Castle.
We meet Lord Thomas Darcy (1st Baron Darcy De Darcy, an actual historical title you can beatbox) played by Colm Wilkinson (Who turns out to be a musicals specialist – this series was way outside of his usual wheelhouse, I had no idea.). He is writing to Henry, letting him know about the state of Pontefract and that he’s basically in no position to fight.
Actually Historically Darcy lived in a manor house called Templehirst not too far away. As Lord Warden of the East Marches, he was responsible for readying royal fortifications, the largest of which was Pontefract. When things got worrying he moved his family into Pontefract Castle on the 8th October and immediately sent the King a letter telling the King about the dire state it was in.
‘Not one gun in Pontefract ready to shoot. There is no powder, arrows and bows are few and bad, money and gunners none, the well, the bridge, houses of office etc. for defence much out of frame’6
Pontefract Castle, built to hold thousands, was currently manned6 by about 260.
By the time Aske’s army was closing in on Pontefract, there were many nobles sheltering there (maybe 100 – 140), including the Archbishop of York. Hence the busy kitchen and crowded rooms in that gif above. In fact, it looks a bit tidy in that gif. Henry had been underspending on Northern security for decades. In quite a bit of Pontefract Castle, the stone was literally falling down6.
The North had been heavily fortified and militaristic entirely due to the fact that it was the buffer zone when England and Scotland got riled. It used to raise troops regularly. Then, for most of Henry’s reign James V of Scotland was a child, and James’ mother was Henry’s other sister, Actual Historical Margaret Tudor. A combination of these factors held peace between England and Scotland until Margaret died in 1541.
So when Scotland went quiet for an awfully long time, the top of government didn’t really notice the North’s military infrastructure slowly withering or the manpower dropping, as they were busy spending more than a decade trying to religiously Brexit.
It’s a Rag on a Dick
Let me leave this here a moment.
That’s the only surviving portrait of Henry by Holbein, and it was completed in 1537 at the latest. We can say that with confidence because it was the preparatory portrait for the great Whitehall mural that was completed in 1537. So this is Henry at the age we’re seeing him, right now, give or take a year.
So. So, that’s a choice I think I’m done talking around.
In this scene, where Henry briefly berates his doctors, we could mourn what is missing: At least a multiple (I’m thinking maybe 2.4x) of his current body weight, a good ten years, about half a foot in height, a ton of phenomelanin, a costume and any attempt at depicting reality. Henry was also pretty bald at this point, but no one ever goes for that.
Or we could glory in what we do have. The rag on a dick is artfully arranged like Venus trailing silk and everything trains your eye to the cut and lit glory of these abs.
The Tudors: When it’s good it can be very very good, and when it’s bad it can be hilarious. Under the circumstances, I do feel a bit odd telling you that Actually Historically there was no particular leg issue noted for Henry at this point, although they didn’t exactly advertise when it did happen, and it was a continuing problem for him.
So I’d like to suggest a kind of solution, if I may. I’d like to you look at this image. And say just, quite confidently, to yourself:“Okay, I can believe that this is how Henry saw himself”
Like three times or something.
Ladies and Gentleman and Variations thereupon, I believe we have discovered the Henry’s Ego Delusion Filter. Get the hell used to it, it’ll be staying.
And while we’re laying down some truths…
Checking Brandon’s Privilege
Saint Sir Thomas More gets the Hero Edit in A Man for All Seasons. Thomas Cromwell gets the Hero Edit in Wolf Hall. Charles Brandon gets the Hero Edit in The Tudors.
Charles Brandon was a man 7-10 years older than Henry, who married a 14 year old that was previously engaged to his son when he was approaching 50. His main skills in life were being a good military commander, an excellent jouster, he was liked by women, and he was Henry’s best friend, managed to marry Henry’s sister, and was the grandfather of Lady Jane Grey. And that’s about it for the historical significance of Charles Brandon. Most of what you saw him do in Season 2, and some of his character traits (loyal to Henry but Catholic and generally leaning a bit Imperial) were from the Actual Historical Duke of Norfolk.
Unless they were Norfolk’s bad traits, when they got handed to the character of Thomas Boleyn.
In The Tudors Brandon’s a noble defender of dead Pennington, when in reality he dropped his dead friend the minute he became politically controversial. Brandon always gets the benefit of the script, as here, which is a reversal of Actual History.
Brandon trots down, in a nice outdoor scene to be told that while these London dignitaries have the artillery/guns (they have to mean canons) they are supposed to, they have not been able to get horses to pull them. Actually Historically at the response to Lincolnshire, the Lord Mayor of London requisitioned a large number of horses from anyone that could be roused, using the excuse, to avoid panic, that there was to be a large state occasion they were needed for7.
Brandon, here, is being as angry as the Duke of Norfolk. But he’s Brandon, so it has to be justified by someone screwing up. What was actually slowing the response was infrastructure. It rained like a sod in the South right after the news of the rising8. And the truth that the Monarchy often artfully concealed was England barely had roads at this point, the royal armies moved about 20 miles a day and the moment they hit the North all supplies started to dry up.
I Think I Like Her, is She Staying?
In a really cozy room, Queen Jane receives news about the King’s medical current condition from Lady Rochford.
Jane expresses a generic but kind sentiment.And Jane Rochford sadly decides to just take that and run into how terrible these rebels are, what with their idolatry and while that was probably always a hit with Queen Anne she’s really not reading the room.
Here’s the other thing, that idea of Jane’s is pretty good, maybe a soft power masterclass.
Back in Pontefract the rebels approach.
And I meet my outrageous alliteration soul mate. He is Edward Lee, Archbishop of York, Actually Historically sheltering in Pontefract at this time.
In general Darcy is a softer conversion in The Tudors than he comes across in history. In general he appears to have played for time as much as he could until Aske forced his hand. Aske and Darcy were in communication through the intermediary of Thomas Strangeways, Darcy’s Steward, in the week or so before Aske arrived . The only answer Darcy got from Henry, possibly penned in the euphoria over Lincolnshire but before ‘No, actually outnumbered and outgunned and they’re organized’ could get into the royal head, was brusque, dismissive, a bit nasty and said absolutely nothing about supplies or reinforcements for Pontefract, just petulantly asked why things weren’t done9.
Once the rebels arrived at Pontefract Darcy’s eldest son was ‘invited’ to stand over with their army, and Aske, with a guy called Maunsell walked in to Pontefract Castle10.And they had a meeting, pretty much as shown. Right down to the tongue lashing the bishop gets.
We don’t know the exact words, but apparently everyone was quite surprised when, far from being intimidated Aske was calm and collected apart from some ‘choice words about bishops’10.
‘Young’ Sir Ralph Elleker (Wow, there are a lot of Ellekers in the Pilgrimage on either side – this guy might be an amalgam character) played by David Wilmot was part of the Pilgrimage by now but was not in the room. Robert Constable (Who John Constable is most based on) was on the other side of the conversation.
But yeah, it’s pretty close. And it appears Aske has learned the truest secret of diplomacy.
He has neither Crown, nor Gold,
Cromwell keeps adjusting that piece of paper as he briefs Rich a little intensely on measures for city defences.
And here we get to the crux of it. At their height the Royal troops had maybe 15,000 men, divided between four armies and seldom unified. At their height the Pilgrims had around 40,000 men. (11)
Now, much of the court was increasingly aware of the cold reality of that, particularly when they realised this rebel army wasn’t falling apart. It was provisioned and organized, and some things just weren’t going to be possible. But there’s a mind that doesn’t want to take its reality medicine, and it’s a very important one.
His Majesty starts displeased with Darcy’s complaints.
And that piece of paper Cromwell’s been turning around and around, well that piece of paper says that Henry is way behind on events. The rebels have already taken the town of Pontefract. So Henry’s response is “Die in my service and a hopeless fight against people you might agree with”, and if you’re issuing those kind of orders you just have to expect people to take a good look at their contract.
He then asks what the royal army is doing, berates his commanders as incompetent, and utters the following phrase while hyperventilating a little and actually having a little bit of a faint on his pillow.
Henry’s railing and threatening because that often works for him, but reality is not moving this time.
As for Lord Darcy de Darcy?He chooses the brotherhood of Pilgrims who say they are not rebelling against the King, while the Archbishop clutches his pearls, somewhat.
Back at court, we’ll presume at least a few days later, Henry’s up and about.
And that temper tantrum against reality is still going on.
He hits on a favorite theme, that he’ll lead the army, which was a good part of the reason the royal army was so damn disorganized at the beginning of the rebellion. But the royal army was also just plain disorganized, poorly paid with material shortages. A premature wave of cancelling recruitment after Lincolnshire really messed that phase up.
Henry personally reduced soldiers wages and actively resisted putting them back up to what they were in his father’s day (terrible inflation during this period, remember?) in this crisis and to what the rebels were already paying their soldiers – 8 pence a day (12). And that was when they received it, money for wages late or missing was par for the course on the Royal side.
The mention of leading his army gives Sir Francis the opportunity to flatter Henry a bit. He’s in his private rooms at this point, and ‘off stage’ a bit. I thought he might be coming down to a more rational point but he decides to threaten his best friend and accuse him of cowardice so reality is finding the knots in that ego a bit rough.
And after Cromwell leaves it turns out Sir Francis does have something he can get to please Henry.
We’re taken here.
Despite being a frequently used set it’s dressed and extra’d up for an impromptu barracks, and I’m convinced.
The Earl of Shrewsbury is played very well but mysteriously cast – Brandon’s hero edit makes everything a little more uncertain around him. Are we just at the point in the historical roster where The Tudors gets a bit hit and miss or can we not have anyone even implied to outrank Brandon?
In this case, I don’t know. Anyway, the amazingly youthful Earl of Shrewsbury comes in and is just fantastically pragmatic. Brandon dismisses the army officers he’s talking to, and greets him.
Brandon points out the disparity between what they’ve been asked to do and the reality they face. And Shrewsbury remains resolutely on message – he was working on covering his arse before he even walked in the door. Brandon reveals the plan, a plan that had been placed under Henry’s nose repeatedly. They say they want to negociate, so let’s negociate.And Shrewsbury peaces out having played a flawless corporate and possibly literal survival game. Good luck with all of that, Brandon.
Meanwhile, Pontefract is finally manned.
And contains some astoundingly accurate briefing detail. He’ll mention in a minute that the line is now at the river Don. And that’s all correct. Norfolk wanted to hold at the river Trent, being more defensible, but Shrewsbury ploughed ahead to the Don in another Royal mix up that they rushed to put right(13). The Tudors generally low balls troop numbers quite a bit, because they only count two of the Commanders (Richard Cromwell and Thomas Howard being obscured by Brandon’s need for a storyline), but for much of the time the royal forces were split.
By the end of this scene you get their quiet assurance, perhaps even mounting confidence. You also notice how vital Constable and I think also Elleker are to the rebellion as experienced army officers.
Meanwhile, Henry takes on his first proper mistress of his third marriage, Fictional Misselden. He scored a nursing date through influence with her current semi arranged partner.
There’s some flirtation through medical knowledge.
And Misselden kind of carefully takes the temperature of the room…and decides to get that manor house in fewer moves than she had anticipated.
Back at the Pope’s summer campus, Cardinal Von Sydow Von Waldburg is trying to recruit young Father Pole again.
They discuss how terrible the dissolution is, and compare it with their hope for the Pilgrimage. And, throughout this scene, Father Pole really just appears to be waiting for how this is going to screw up his day. Von Sydow Von Waldurg gets to his first pitch.And Pole’s like “Thank God, a pamphlet, Well I’ll start right now” before Von Sydow Von Waldburg stops his escape. He gives Reginald an Actual Historical mission to generate resources and support for the Pilgrimage abroad. He will travel, while no one but the Pope is officially supporting this effort,
And Von Sydow Von Waldburg gets over Pole’s initial refusal of a cardinal’s rank with a tricky little reversal. And Cardinal Pole the asset is underway.
Nor Favour with the Gods.
In Whitehall, reality has, in fact, already quietly won behind the scenes with Henry, and we’re going to find this out in a short scene in council. Cromwell delivers the news that Brandon says he has no choice but to treat with the rebels. And the usual explosion does not arrive.
And his first reaction is a question, he wants to know what Suffolk’s going to damn well promise. And it’s an interesting answer. I mean it’s interesting for character anyway. I’m made up by Henry’s reaction at the end there. Henry’s is so much more relaxed at the end, even a bit chirpy?
He’s been far, far more afraid than he has been letting on and Brandon might not have told him what he wanted to hear but he has told him what it turned out he needed to hear. Suffolk says ‘Yeah, it’s bad, but here’s the way through this.’ and that is very good news for Henry.
Almost forgivable then, that this really doesn’t sound at all like Suffolk for good reason. These are Actual historical words belonging to the Duke of Norfolk(14), a far more ruthless individual than our Charles Brandon, and at this point basically a second character that’s strapped to his back that leaps out and yells from time to time.
Charles Brandon and the Ghost of the Duke of Norfolk and the first royal forces arrive to a meeting with the Pilgrims.
And that amount of shouting from the Royal side is really trying to compensate for something.
Brandon does some great shouty exhorting. He really declaims his total disappointment in this whole rebellion idea. Which would lead a 21st Century mind to say “Sorry, which ones were the fucking friendship taxes?” but leads Aske and company to once again state that their argument is not with the King, but with councillors and their policies. They state their demands very clearly, and a locally meeting Parliament is now high up there to try and solve a lot of the others.
Brandon suggests a truce while two of their captains present their petition to the King. While they think about it, he calls away Darcy. And for a man that really does get the hero edit, he’s doing some heavy lifting for other characters today. He attempts to turn Darcy to capture Aske for them. Darcy refuses, saying that “someone who promises to be true to someone and then betrays them may truely be called a traitor”.
It’s pretty close, with some exceptions. It happened quite a bit later than this, while the two Pilgrim representatives were at court. It wasn’t Brandon, or even Norfolk that made this offer to reward actual treachery. That was Henry .It was made by letter that got smuggled to Darcy. Darcy’s rebukefusal had the same kind of edge as the one he gives in The Tudors, containing in his refusal the implication of just how dishonourable it had been to ask (15).
It was a stinging rebuke to a man who liked to assume he was the epitome of honour and Henry was incandescent.