At Home with the Tudors
We arrive at Whitehall for a surprisingly catholic evening at court. They’re in the Chapel Royal and Bishop Gardiner comes out with a candle and Henry takes a light off of it.Which he then passes to Jane, who passes to Mary, and at some point it gets to the whole choir, who are shaped like a cross, walking up the nave. Actually Historically the celebrations that year were seen to be a return to old religious traditions, with a particularly noted display in a procession across London Bridge.(1)In The Tudors we get the Candle Cross Choir. We only have a few confirmed details about Aske’s court visit. There’s quite a long account in the Spanish Chronicle– but it’s the Spanish Chronicle – which once claimed Anne Boleyn’s code name for Mark Smeaton was ‘Marmalade’: It’s a contemporary source but it’s a good 40-50% fiction by weight (There’s a lot of impossible dialogue, and a lot of errors), and in this instance The Tudors avoids that account.
We start with the Court’s reaction to this adjustment to religious direction.
And even in tiny moments like this The Tudors shows attention to detail and character and what must have been some really solid direction. Because even for this fleeting little moment there is so much to sift. Sir Francis Bryan is like “Whatever, am I getting laid tonight?”, that’s very him, and Brandon (Currently very Duke of Norfolk) is just in a warm bath of nostalgia, loving every moment of this ceremonial.
But it’s the Duchess of Suffolk that’s the tiny revelation if you happen to be looking, here. She’s looking put out and uncomfortable, which is spot on. Because while she came from solidly Spanish Catholic stock (Her mother was María de Salinas) as Katherine the daughter became an adult she was drawn towards Protestantism and would convert. Secretly at first, then she became a part of the very Protestant circle of women around Catherine Parr near the end of Henry’s reign and became quite outspoken about it. She would later become one of the Marian exiles. Her conversion becomes a bit of a plot point later on.
Rich does have a tendency to get saddled with the exposition that Cromwell is just too cool to deliver, but Rod Hallett always sells it pretty well.
Aske turns to Edward Seymour to ask when he will speak to the King, and gets another encouragement to confess and put it in writing. But he also gets a head nod of friendly acknowledgement from the Queen. Which kind though it is, and genuine though it is, is just not worth anywhere near the same amount it was when Anne or Katherine were at their height of power as Queen. Jane never got that. But no one except the royal family and the centre of the court (who were aware of just how much pressure had been put on Mary recently, despite Jane’s support) has fully realized that yet.
Henry remains apparently neutral.
Stories in Paint
Oh, here’s fun, but I think we have to call it an anecdote. The following two scenes are taken from a story that was in the notebooks of one of England’s first Art Historians, George Vertue. Horace Walpole (Son of England’s first real Prime Minister) was another, slightly later, Art Historian who worked on Vertue’s notes and he recorded it in his Anecdotes of English Painting (1762). (2)
But Vertue was an active Art Historian from about 1713, so at his earliest that’s nearly two centuries away from contemporary, and ‘access to sources now lost’ (which is what the Vertue version is based on) is always a red flag. And that’s all we have for it.
Still, it’s a great story, and fits right in this episode. Fictional Misselden is the ‘Unknown Lady’, her fiance Sir Robert ‘Made Up’ Tavistock is the ‘Unknown Gentleman’. Holbein is Holbein, Henry is Henry and Sir Francis Bryan is just hanging out in…
1536 Centrefold Drama
Look, this is one time maybe we don’t have to judge Henry too much. Because, while they tended to keep it in in their mythology paintings there’s an awful lot of lovingly rendered erogenous zones in Renaissance art. And Henry just wants to record this posterior for posterity.
There’s some unexpected noise outside. And this might be Fictional Misselden’s (and Charlotte Salt‘s) finest hour in The Tudors. Ursula just up and steals the damn scene. She’s only got 2 lines but you know all about her relationship with Robert Tavistock. It’s clearly been technical from her point of view for a while, if not forever.
And, for his part, the most charitable view of Sir Robert is that he views a ‘Meh’ reaction to the fact that you are still engaged, and then a ‘Concerned face‘ followed by ‘What?’ as ‘Please come rescue me, gallant hero, by all means grab my hand and drag me from the room, while I am still nude’ and that’s pretty strong commitment to ignoring everything you’re being told by people and the situation.
Fortunately Misselden keeps her wits about her when Robert falls into the shelves, and asks the pertinent question. If Tavistock is dead it could be a huge problem for Holbein, and it could be a big problem anyway. Assault within the verge of the court could be a very serious crime (depended how popular you were with Henry) and that is nodded to by Francis Bryan’s reaction as Henry hears about it from Holbein, who I like to think was sent straight there by our Practical Fictional Misselden.
Holbein is very relived as he leaves, after Henry takes the whole thing very well, commends his decisions and reminds Holbein that he anxiously awaits his erotica. Throughout this scene Sir Francis burnishes his credentials with Henry by laughing at all the right moments for ‘Burly Chap Humour’. And that laughter becomes more pointed and cruel as Sir Robert Tavistock strides in to what he thinks is solid ground, but is in fact the top of a well.
Henry eggs on Robert in his list of complaints, feigns shock at the news, all while Francis fails to entirely hold in his guffaws. Then quickly turns it around with the news that, while Holbein might have been the one painting Ursula, it was Henry that gave him the commission. And then he offers Robert the chance to walk all of that back, while also letting Robert feel just how deep that goddamn well he’s hanging over actually is. I like Myer’s little ‘umm hmms’ as Tavistock walks his ass back over the line, step by step. And well done, Sir Robert, looks like you can become observant when you find it really necessary.
Great story, containing the amazing line- “Had I seven peasants, I could make seven Lords, but had I seven Lords I could not make one Holbein.” (Wording tightened up by Hirst from original-“…of seven peasants I can make as many Lords, but not one Holbein.” (2)) Really enjoyed it, it says a lot about court life, adds a lot to several characters but if you’re looking for Actual Historical then this one is super precarious. This is very likely a story that was created, (At some point, doesn’t have to be Vertue that made it up) and survived due to the really great line of dialogue it enables.
Christmastide at Court
Back to the round of Court events, and we have a day party. It doesn’t look to be gift giving day, yet. We follow a late to the event Fictional Misselden through the hall up to the royal family.
Fictional Misselden trots off to stand with the other Lady in Waiting after notionally apologizing, and the business begins. Now, on the surface, Mary would like to present her old governess to the King this year, for an affectionate visit. They are, after all, distantly related.
She was last seen in S1 E5, picking up Mary from Katherine when she became Mary’s governess and she’s the same actress, Kate O’Toole.
Margaret Pole, as well as being Mary’s governess, was old school Medieval royal family, like an ambassador from another time. Born a Plantagenet in 1473, during her uncle Edward IV’s reign. Lived through the centre of upheaval during the Wars of the Roses and the peaces in between. Daughter of the Duke of Clarence, mother of Cardinal Reginald (and four other children), and first cousin to Henry’s mother. This is a semi official peacemaking visit, made urgent by Reginald’s increasing closeness to the Vatican.
You have to believe that Lady Margaret does not know what Reginald is about, because this move really only works if Reginald plans on keeping quiet. Reginald actually disagreed with Henry back during Henry’s divorce, that was why he refused the Bishopric of Winchester and retreated back to his studies in Universities in Paris and Padua. But he stayed quiet enough about it, for some time. Lady Margaret is similarly staying quiet, despite disagreement with increasing Protestantism, hence all the references to ‘traditional ways’ and staying at her house in the country. What goes on between Margaret Pole and Henry looks like an agreement that she and particularly Reginald remain loyal and will stay quiet.Great, solid work by Lady Margaret. Now has anyone told Reginald? Because the last I heard he was fundraising for rebellion in the Netherlands and The Vatican Press would like to publish a book by him that Henry is going to be livid about.
It’s also worth mentioning that while Reginald was out selling himself as a potential King last week, the dominant plan of the time was to marry him to Mary and join their claims. He had been made a Cardinal without taking priests’ vows of celibacy, and the Vatican was very ready to point out that the Deacon’s vows he had taken were totally reversible. Politically he was a great match for her – as a potential consort he was appropriate stock, solidly Catholic, solidly English and it would tie up that annoying loose claim of his.
Next, Queen Jane and Princess Mary have been arranging for Henry’s reconciliation with Elizabeth. Once again, Actually Historically Mary and Elizabeth were both brought to court for security reasons earlier than this. But it’s a nice moment to show Henry having one of those human emotional connections again, and for The Tudors’ Henry to reconnect with Elizabeth after his (Not Actual Historical) doubts over her paternity.
She speaks French prettily “Are you well, Your Majesty?”, He replies that he is and invites her to sit. The general Frenchness causes him to declare “Je suis en famille”
With that, Edward Seymour announces Robert Aske, to an electric court reaction. And it will be important to realize, unlike poor Aske, that Henry does not mean a single word of this and is wearing those facial expressions.Aske did write his own account of his actions while at Court, and the overall impression is of someone trying to be quite honest, and with a degree of naivité (Although he does make sure to blame Cromwell, not Henry for everything) (3)Aske is reverential, and speaks softly, gently asking if Henry will stand by all those promises made by Brandon.
Henry’s treatment of Aske was seen to be pretty good, that gift of a crimson coat is actual historical (4). That Aske’s treatment was seen to be that good would cause Aske all sorts of trouble with the Commons, as those promises never materialised and he raced around in the following month trying to hold an army and a truce together.
And, once again the Spanish Chronicle is a great source of what people of the time (and a little after, it is generally believed to have been written in Edward’s reign) thought. In the Chronicle, Aske didn’t get the coat, he got £1000 pounds a year, and a heavy gold chain, a promise of a seat on the council, another promise of money for the churches in the North, and Henry threw his arm around him and called him “My Good Aske”. (5)
By the time he got back, some were starting to wonder if that was the right picture, after all.
Catherine Fillol May Have Had Issues
But fucking her father in law was not one of them.
If you saw Wolf Hall then you might remember the Seymour scandal that pre-dated Henry’s interest in Jane, and it’s time we talked about it. A later conversation between Cromwell and Jane in Wolf Hall seems to confirm that this gossip was right (Her mother is angry, her brother is angry, Jane desperately wants to leave, no one is denying it).
I like Wolf Hall. I’m just completely done with seeing it keep getting whopping inaccuracy free passes, often by the same people who thrash The Tudors for the same sin. I see what this particular story does for Wolf Hall, it refocuses attention on Jane when we otherwise would not have seen her for a while, it gives her a situation to react to and shows us the condition of Cromwell’s interest in her. Cromwell gets to show us his affections are above such petty gossip, and Anne gets a fifteenth chance to show us her bitchy side. And it adds to the atmosphere of everyone sinning, which is quite the theme for Wolf Hall. It’s great for the drama, but it’s bad history like the Holbein story, and this time the lie is a little ugly and more problematic.
This story comes from a couple of sources significantly weaker then George Vertue’s notebooks, and the story seems to have come about backwards. Someone noticed anomalies in a patent of nobility, made several assumptions about what that meant had happened that have never really got backed up by evidence, and someone made up a really spicy twist. Probably all around 1700-1850.
We know Edward Seymour and Catherine Fillol were married and she had almost certainly died prior to 1535, the year Edward married Anne Stanhope.
What stuck that ‘almost’ in there is that they had two sons but both of them were disinherited when the Dukedom of Somerset was created for Edward Seymour in 1540, and somewhere along the line that was assumed to have been due to her adultery and further assumed the marriage had to have been dissolved in her lifetime. And yes, entirely disinheriting two living sons is a really weird thing for a Tudor nobleman to do.
But one, that’s not quite what it said, and two, at some point someone wrote a marginal note, in Latin, in a copy of Vincent’s Peerage that happened to be held somewhere prestigious (The College of Arms) saying it was because she committed adultery with Edward’s father(6). And as sources go, that’s all that comes up for Catherine Fillol banging her father in law, no matter where that story pops up.
Well shit, at least two guys put their names to and one guy published about that Holbein joint. And if that tale survived because of that killer line of dialogue, I think we can all see why this one, born from a lone, anonymous book defacing, then reported in a footnote in 19th Century peerage book, keeps somehow making it into the cut. Even if that first marriage was dissolved, (also, still *if*(7)) it could have been due to an awful lot of things. Could have been mental illness, could have been a physical illness they thought could be inherited, or just one that incapacitated her, maybe they just couldn’t stand each other and ‘convent’ was her best option after she had delivered two sons.
And, like I said, those two boys actually weren’t quite disinherited. In that patent of nobility for the Dukedom of Somerset, it also said that if his male line of descendants from his second wife died out, the Dukedom and other titles would go to his two sons by Catherine or their male line descendants(6). Which did, in fact, end up happening in the 18th Century, and that codicil, (Which has to have, at least, been approved by Edward Seymour during the title creation) actually makes significant adultery by Catherine Fillol quite a bit less likely, as an explanation for all this.
And certainly not with his father, Some Guy in the College of Heralds about 200 years later with a pen.
Favorites are Problematic
That disinheriting might well have had more to do with Edward’s second wife than with his first. Anne Stanhope was a woman for whom the word ‘redoubtable’ should have been coined. She was a remarkable, intelligent and pushy woman, in the 16th Century. The figure that emerges from history is doubtless coloured by an awful lot of misogyny, but in a dynastic power struggle for status and money between Anne Stanhope and the rights of her children against her husband’s children from a previous marriage, I know my money would be going on the lady. And what they came up with basically gave Edward two spare heirs, should he need them. So, for a Tudor dynast, it’s no longer like looking like such a strange move or one that just has to be explained by extreme adultery.
Whatever the truth, Wolf Hall‘s version is built upon air, and I’d love to tell you that The Tudors treated this so much better but we know what kind of girl The Tudors is by now, right?
The Tudors vaulted right past this situation because it romanticised Henry and Jane’s meeting so she wasn’t Lady in Waiting to two of his other wives, so we meet her relatively late in The Tudors. If The Tudors had had the opportunity to have a first wife of Edward Seymour’s bang her father in law I think we know the road it would have traveled, with considerable enthusiasm.
Instead, it looked at the situation, considered its options and amalgamated the characters in the following way.
It said “So…How about we just make Anne Stanhope a bit of a slut?”
And they did (she wasn’t, if she were, no one would have shut up about it) and she’s glorious. The Tudors‘ Anne Stanhope is one my absolute favorite characters, and played admirably by Emma Hamilton. We meet her, humping Sir Francis Bryan. And it’s great. The position is realistically achievable, no one’s over vocalizing, there’s a few dumb facial expressions and they actually have staggered orgasms, this scene is going for realism hard and it’s pretty hot.
No gifs till they complete. Everything erogenous might be out of shot but they are convincingly at it.
Once they’ve both finished she tells Francis that was ‘quite entertaining’, hops off, flips up his eyepatch and has a good look like she’s going for the Sir Francis Bryan 100% Achievement, rolls back on the bed, and figures at this point she might as well introduce herself.
Francis is genuinely more intrigued when he finds out Edward might have the stones to kill him. And Anne, unfaithful as she might be, seems to have quite a handle on the nature of her enigmatic husband.
Mary secretly visits Robert Aske. Their exchange of words is earnest, and kind. But, particularly in this section, we get to see that Mary was, in many quarters, just accepted as Henry’s natural heir until Edward was born, despite her gender. The daughter of Katherine of Aragon and Henry VIII might have had enough legitimacy to finally carry off female monarchy if Henry had ever considered leaning in. Instead, he had, in many ways, been struggling against Mary’s succession for 20 years at this point.
She gives Aske a jewel. And that could just be the jewel she got from Jane (a ‘large diamond’) in the first episode. I’m speculating because historically jewelry had economic significance for women. It was mobile wealth that could actually belong to them personally and as The Tudors demonstrates with Mary and Jane, it was accepted that they could use, sell or gift personal jewelry as they thought fit. She gives him a genuine, heartfelt blessing before she leaves and you get the impression that Aske valued that higher than the diamond.
Someone Drop a Flag
We get an outside scene, where a crowd has gathered to hear Henry’s personal new year and pardon announcement. Edward and Jane wait and we get to see the difference between a Queen of England without a sense of her own agency and a woman who has it.
The timing is bang on by the way, Sir John Seymour died 21st December 1536, so drop a flag on that, The Tudors. Edward has already arranged and held the funeral. So the Queen of England couldn’t score an invitation.
Jane’s duties as Queen make it super important she stays at court (maybe Henry agreed this) so she just gets the news of her father’s death dumped on her in a gateway. And her upset, is like, mildly inconvenient for them, she needs to get over it, the crowd is watching. So Jane really needs to get pregnant and start flexing, at least with her own bloody family members.
Edward’s wife legally falls far more under her husband’s control than his now married sister, but she does not a carry a bag of deference around with her for everyone’s use.
I stan Stanhope.
Aske is in the crowd for that announcement but he’s back in the heart of Yorkshire for the next scene.
This conference (argument) takes the rebel cause up to mid February 1537, and basically rolls Bigod’s rebellion into the Carlisle action. The fragmentation of rebel forces is demonstrated here with an argument between John Constable (8)and a supporting Captain against Robert Aske.As Henry or Norfolk or Constable would have known armies and alliances love to fall apart. And Henry and Norfolk were giving it all the help they could. Brandon cracked down in Lincolnshire, with 140 persons put in jail, many that were involved, but more taken at random to get the right quota.(9) Ringleaders were being sent to London, eventually 46 would die for the Lincolnshire rebellion (9) but hadn’t they surrendered? Were we not all on the same side now? Henry re-started up his tax collecting process and wanted his arrears collected from everyone(10).
On the rebel side bills were posted, the King’s messengers (including Thomas Miller) got roughed up. Intimidation was occurring.(11) Musters of the commons unknown to Pilgrimage leadership started cropping up(12). John Hallam and Francis Bigod raised and wasted troops in splinter groups that achieved nothing. (13)
In The Tudors Constable makes his points clearly and is clearly right. But he’s right three months too late. They would have had to have known what Henry was from the start, but the only way they were ever going to win against Henry was a crushing defeat he could not weasel out of. They should have started marching South as soon as their numbers were up, and if any of them wanted to survive the process they needed to not stop until Mary was Mary I.
Right three months too late often has the same value in the world as being wrong.
To the Queen, briefly
Back to Whitehall
While Jane and Jane Rochford discuss how much they enjoyed the visits of the King’s daughters, there’s a break in the conversation as Fictional Misselden walks out of the room. And Lady Rochford makes the decision to inform Queen Jane as gently as she can of the King’s current mistress arrangements. It had, in the past, been a highly political move, and could be very dangerous to a sitting Queen of Henry’s.
Her concern appears to be quite genuine, and she doesn’t push the topic when Jane accepts it, and gives a mission statement which dovetails with her ‘Bound to Obey and Serve’ motto
Anyway, Jane is being a little coy, and seems very upbeat despite the news.
Or Something Else?
In another room, Henry has taken delivery of his posterior for posterity.
And is interrupted by Brandon and Cromwell coming in for instructions. As in history, before Henry heard about the disturbances in the North, when the situation, as far as he knew, was the same as when Norfolk rode down to London a second time wanted loyalty oaths, and an admission of guilt and mercy pleas which he may or may not hear, he wanted his church commisioners (Cromwell’s guys) up and running and given every assistance again. Anyone that had already broken the truce was to be rounded up if they could, and that Parliament was never getting mentioned. (14)The Tudors gets Henry’s orders pretty well. Meanwhile, in the same scene, Honourable Charles Brandon from season 1 and 2 is coming around and wondering why it tastes like he’s been lying for 6 months.
Cromwell, when he dares to interrupt, gets a verbal spanking.
The official trigger for the mass arrests and executions (whether you were in it or not) was Bigod’s rebellion, but The Tudors chooses the assault on Carlisle as its focus for the end of the fighting rebellion. Constable rides in to the camp at Carlisle, shares a bit of humour with Charlie the Shepherd from episode 1, and his supporter in the rebel council. But then the arrows start to fly. Around 6000 rebel soldiers were encamped at Carlisle when a small force led by Cristopher Dacre attacked them from behind. Confused and disordered they approached the town and Sir Thomas Clifford led the town troops right out into them (15).
And the rebels find that the time of their advantage passed long, long ago.
Thank you for these! There are absolutely amazing. I can’t wait to see the rest of the recap of season 3 episode 3. I’ve actually been trying to watch the episode and then read your recap, but now I’m going to have to go on without you. But thank you for writing these! I’ll be following along as you go
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Thanks for the encouragement, Kim. Didn’t want to reply until I at least had another recap to show for it. Darn. It’s great to be part of people’s experience of The Tudors, sorry you’ve passed me.
I am so glad that I found your blog – it is amazing. I started watching the Tudors for my first time about a month ago. I was looking for a good blog that would clarify the historical accuracy (or not) as I watched each episode. I started with “Anne Boleyn Files” but I could only find a handful of episode posts. Luckily I found “Autocrat on a Sofa” and your blog has upped my enjoyment and understanding considerably. I spend more time reading your blog posts than actually watching the episode! I had not realized that we were on a similar time frame till I got to Season 3 and – oops – I’m all caught up to your blog posts! I was actually so scared to watched the recent episodes that I read your posts BEFORE watching so I could brace myself. Now – I’m thinking of slowing down and waiting for your posts – I don’t think I can go on without them! Thank you.
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Hey, I was going through answering some comments and I remembered that yours was really nice. I have wondered, from time to time how long it took you to break that plan of slowing down to recap speed, which.. I mean I slowed down more after that. I assume it would be impossible. Anyway…
You read some before watching the episodes? Should you ever pass by the comment again, I’m genuinely curious as to what that was like. Thanks for your comment.