First, The Tea
When we left The Tudors, Henry had marched into his dying wife’s room, diagnosed her, cleared everyone else out, and, weeping and inconsolable, begged God not to take her life in a moving and rather beautiful speech.
We don’t have an account of Jane’s death, precisely. We know it happened late on the night of 24th October 1537. And we know that, earlier that day, Actual Historical Henry had had a conversation with Sir John Russell, which Sir John, long term member of the Privy Chamber (Henry’s personal care team), reported to Cromwell.
Henry said that he had been planning to go to Esher that day.
‘…and, because the Queen was very sick this night and today, he tarried, but he will be there tomorrow. “If she amend he will go and if she amend not he told me this day he could not find in his heart to tarry.”‘ (1)
So at this point in her demise there’s a good chance he was currently riding away from the building, rather than tenderly clutching her hand.
We don’t know he did that. We just know that at some point on that day he said quite clearly that he was going to do that to a guy that might have had some responsibility for his packing. That it was, at least at one point that day, Henry’s plan as Jane worsened: Getting the hell out of there.
He wasn’t used to being in the same county when his wives died, let alone the same building, whether or not he was causing it. Hampton Court must have had a terrible atmosphere, particularly for a man for whom ‘facing up to emotional pain’ was a truly alien concept, and who had lost his mother in very similar circumstances.
It was weakness, perhaps weakness for which there were reasons, but the lone knight standing vigil over his one true love that we get at the end of Episode 4 and the beginning of episode 5 in The Tudors feels a bit much.
I mean, it’s a very well done a bit much. I think Myers plays it well. The guy that kneels down to talk to his dead wife is a guy I believe in and he’s still kind of recognisably the guy he’s been. He’s thinking about mortality and there’s a real sadness to him. The reprise the score does works as well, and takes us back emotionally to the end of last week.
I also think it was probably necessary from an audience sympathy point of view. At this stage in the series Henry’s getting hard to look at, and isn’t going anywhere as a human being except downhill on an increasingly large river of blood. I see why The Tudors went with this, but it’s also a considerably longer walk than usual to Actual Historical Henry this week.
So as we open episode 5 with his tender words of farewell, over an implausibly quickly built tomb (also incorrect, Jane was buried plainly, to await inclusion in Henry’s tomb when it was built, but great plans were made for it), I must just try to reduce the eye roll and remember that Henry certainly did experience loss and grief at the death of Jane.
Apart from anything else, this was the opposite issue to anything he had ever had to face before, because prior to this moment the male children kept dying, while his wives kept surviving childbirth long past the point he had use for them. He’d never had a wife he currently loved die on him and it did affect him for a good long while.
But his reaction in the moment was to run away from that pain, with the paper thin excuses of a man whose untruths and excuses had not met pushback. We do not know where he was when she died, but if there had been a weeping scene at her bedside that included Henry of the million lifetime apologists, I think we would have heard about it.
Then we assassinate Pakington
The killing of Sir Robert Pakington MP was a shock and a scandal. It was a shocking crime over a year before The Tudors puts it into its narrative though, because Pakington was killed 13th November 1536 while we’re told it’s 1538 right there. The assassination of Pakington even gets into the official government papers as one guy in the Government wrote to another guy: Hey, they still haven’t caught whoever killed Pakington yet.(2)
In The Tudors we start with nice compositing, to good effect too. We are brought down and down into this open air butcher’s market, right into to the streets of London. Busy, noisy, lively and smelly, and about to witness their first ever handgun murder.
It happened early in the morning, not full daytime as depicted here. Robert Pakington was in a busy part of town, and on his regular route to Church that morning. He passed a quite large group of labourers waiting to be hired for a day’s work at the end of Soper Lane. The morning was misty. (3).
In The Tudors Pakington gets to a narrow and slightly quieter part of his route, and a ‘fellow’ with a handcart suddenly surges forward and asks him for a positive identification. Now, every one of us that’s ever seen a thriller are yelling “Run you idiot, it’s a Hit. He knew your route and he’s trying to get you to ID yourself”, but Robert Pakington there just needs a look over his shoulder.
Because Robert Pakington lives in a world where sudden violent death needs to sneak up behind you somewhere lonely. The firearm of his age until now has been the arquebus, about a metre long and still needs the ‘lit rope’ bit to fire. It’s not going to be hidden in that cart. Even if it is, Pakington would only have to get a few feet away, and there’s a stone wall and a big crowd. It’s just one man and from Pakington’s perspective you’re too far away for a dagger or other blade to work.
No one would attempt murder in these circumstances.Oh, damn. Everything you know is wrong. Some cunning devil invented the Wheel-lock Pistol, the big gun with a lit rope is yesterday’s app and you’re dead, first ever victim of a gun crime in London. In the contemporary account, everyone claimed to have never seen the assailant, because of the mist. But then, when someone like Pakington got murdered it was probably wise to say that.
Because Pakington was quietly important. He was a prominent Protestant, even people who just knew him locally knew him as an importer of Bibles in English (4), and an MP, but a little closer knowledge and you’d know that we was employed by Stephen Vaughan, close friend to Cromwell, and the man Cromwell chose to run his businesses while he was running run the country. Pakington was high up enough to also do personal business for Cromwell, and was part of the new, Protestant, rapidly growing infrastructure in London and the Home Counties.
There were some real dubious death bed (or pre execution) confessions decades later, for the killing of Pakington, but it was never really solved. It was shocking enough that Pakington was included as an early martyr in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. It Actually Historically happened around Episode 2 in the timeline, but it meant the same thing. It was sent from somewhere resentful, fearful, rich and at least quite powerful, and it was aimed at the most generally hated man in the country.
Well, Protestants and women seemed to like him.
2DOR Feminine Consultancy Service
Hello, and Welcome to the only Tudor political and financial consultancy service that caters to the gender of Original Sin like they might be worth something.
No, no, of course you won’t be seeing a woman, what good would that do you? No. You will, however, be seeing the most powerful man in the country, and he is going to be an unexpected treat for you.
An Elizabeth Constable who had been abandoned by her husband pleaded to Cromwell she was too ashamed to turn to begging or prostitution, so needed some financial help. A Dame Elizabeth Burgh wanted his help stopping her father in law from declaring her prematurely born son illegitimate. Margaret Vernon, a prioress of a closed abbey might only have held the impressive new appointment Cromwell got her for a couple of years, but when that time was up he also got her and her nuns awarded generous pensions, and she was very happy with the deal (The prioress he moved out to make way for her probably was not feeling the warm smile of fortune, though).
He helped Jane Boleyn, George’s widow and Lady Margaret Douglas, niece of the King, when their fortunes were down and friends were hard to find. He provided help to Norfolk’s estranged wife (The Duke and Duchess had a brutal and public break up) and daughter when they were in difficulty, for which they were both profoundly grateful. And this is an edited list. (5)
He was the Go-To guy the problematic men in your life couldn’t intimidate. A positive result was not guaranteed, but he seemed to enjoy using his power for good when he could (An angle where it also benefited him or his causes could really help), he wasn’t going to try to fuck you as payment, and if he did decide that he could help then your estranged husband who is stealing your families’ money to spend on his mistress right now should basically shit a brick before fainting.
So, Cromwell, unusually attuned for his age to the worth of women as, you know, people and not just commodities with inconvenient rights, noticed when Jane Seymour’s younger sister Elizabeth got widowed and made sure she had somewhere comfortable to stay while she grieved and the equivalent of his number.
When she subsequently found herself short of money, well, who else would you contact? It proceeded from there. Rumours Cromwell would marry Elizabeth Seymour briefly eclipsed the constantly recurring rumours that he was planning to marry Mary(6). But that wasn’t what they were arranging. Jane Seymour’s younger sister Elizabeth married Cromwell’s son Gregory in May 1537.
Probable Holbein portraits of Gregory Cromwell and Elizabeth Seymour, courtesy Wikipedia.
As a result the Cromwell family had been prominent in Queen Jane’s funeral, carrying banners, leading processions and with Elizabeth sat up front (5). According to the letters between the young couple and Cromwell Senior back in London, the family relationship was positive and harmonious.
So The Tudors suggestion, that it’s going to get to next episode, that Edward Seymour was the culprit for the Pakington assassination, doesn’t really hold water even as a hypothetical. At this point the Cromwells and Seymours were a power bloc. They’d had a blow with the death of Jane, but most members of the bloc now leaned Protestant, and they were all related to the future King Edward VI.
Still, The Tudors‘ Cromwell accurately explains the motivation for the crime, and we get to meet Thomas Wriothesley. We’re going to call this version Risley along with The Tudors because the name gets pronounced Risley, that spelling is wicked and his first name is Thomas, so no help there.
Risely had been working for Cromwell, pretty closely,since the 1520s, and may well have started by spying on Bishop Gardiner for Cromwell, as Gardiner was a friend. The Actual Historical Thomas Wriothesley seems to have been that kind of guy.
The Tudors hasn’t featured him before. Frank McCusker is cast a little older than his Actual Historical character, but he needs to come across as a ‘Statesman’ in about 5 episodes, so it works. Also he’s been given the extreme shearing treatment, so Risley is going to be a stayer.
Actual Historical Wriothesley might have been the consummate stayer of Henry’s court, (He’s definitely a contender)and The Tudors introduces him carefully, he is restrained and reasonably anonymous, while he pushes gently from cover to see if Cromwell knows who the enemy is that has struck out at him. They end up talking about the King, and Cromwell says that he has ‘shut himself away’, and will only be attended by one person. When Risley asks who, Cromwell gets his pained look on.
Timescales are really tough this episode, but I know if it’s 1538 then this Henry……this slanket wearing shell of a human being, sitting in the dark and doodling Nonsuch, is already actually historically over. Henry’s near total seclusion period ended after Jane’s funeral, about 3 weeks after her death. Members of the court and the people remembered it being a long seclusion (8), but they just hadn’t had a Queen die ‘on the books’ for 34 years, since Elizabeth of York in 1503, and if you weren’t a central part of the court you probably wouldn’t see him or hear about him doing things until March 1538-ish. Things at court were subdued by mourning for a long time, but the ‘shut away’ was short term.
When Katherine of Aragon died Henry and Anne wore yellow and threw a bitch party, and when he had Anne killed he celebrated by getting engaged to Jane the next morning. So the near 3 weeks of seclusion he went through for Jane’s observances were comparatively very long. More dignity than he’d shown before, too.
A description of him as he emerged from this first official stage of grief was “in good health and as merry as a widower may be”(9) – although that could cover healthy and then everything from ‘basically OK’ to ‘prostrated’. Another month and the Court was relatively quiet, Christmas 1537 happened at Greenwich but was very subdued and the court was kept in mourning until 3rd February 1538, (10) at which point things started to get back to normal.
Where The Tudors does something interesting with this starts with the prominence they give the companion to Henry’s solitude, it’s the character of Will, a Fool, and based upon Henry’s Actual Historical Fool, Will Sommers. We’ll start by saying that David Bradley is great in the role, but Actually Historically Will was almost certainly younger than Henry, being a young man when he was talent spotted by a merchant from Calais in 1525, (11)and with his last official gig before he died being the celebrations for Elizabeth’s coronation.
Somers was known to be the one person that could reliably make Henry laugh, although this was more associated with Henry’s convalescences with his leg problems than this occasion. He was generally considered pretty hilarious, with some japes meriting mention in a book I am delighted to find exists: Foole upon Foole by Robert Armin, published in 1600. His image has therefore been pretty resistant to the general image of Fools in the Tudor era, that they were largely people with mental or physical disabilities.
But here’s the thing. Will probably did have disabilities that may well have been mental as well as physical. Will Somers needed a keeper to get him through his daily life (William Seyton, by the time Edward was king and the agreement to pay him needed renewing) (12)and we know that guy existed because he was paid out of the public purse.
But there’s no reason Will couldn’t have been both intellectually and/or physically disabled and a hilarious comedian. Getting through your day unaided isn’t a prerequisite for comic genius. Comedy doesn’t just rely upon a certain kind of intellect, it’s timing and expression and above all an altered perspective or filter on life to the one the audience brought with them.
And someone with a disability is often ahead on that score. It looks like Will Somers really did have it all for a Tudor Fool.
Fools had gained in popularity and respect mainly due to the work of Erasmus who did a lot of early work on the ‘Holy Fool’ meme:
“They can speak truth and even open insults and be heard with positive pleasure. Indeed, the words that could cost a wise man his life are surprisingly enjoyable when uttered by a clown.” (13)
And The Tudors is going to lean well into that tradition, which is also the tradition drawn upon by Shakespeare and a ton of other drama, The Fool as the one speaker of truth to power. The Tudors’ Henry has apparently retreated to the one space with minimal time for his bullshit. Henry is not at home for Mr Sympathetic Condolence, but that’s fine because unlike the rest of the court Will has absolutely no interest in being that guy.
Mary was also noted to have been initially pole axed by grief at Jane’s death(14), and was chief mourner at her funeral. She gets a rather lovely little speech about keeping Jane’s memory alive for Edward. Lady Bryan moves on to the household arrangements. Same as Actual history, Edward gets a household at Hampton Court and Lady Bryan is to run it. The household would have moved again by the end of 1538, but for his first year Edward got rooms at Hampton Court that functioned rather like an annexe. They connected to the Queen’s rooms, which were empty after the death of his mother, creating a bit of a buffer between him and the rest of the palace, which Henry wasn’t resident in most of the time. So it had enough room and access to facilities, but was fairly private for his babyhood. (15)The relationship shown between Lady Bryan and Mary certainly confirms that in The Tudors, Lady Bryan stayed reasonable during that dodgy period when Mary was technically working for her. The subject of Mary’s potential marriage also comes up. The negotiations are in abeyance at the moment. The scene ends with Mary saying she is taking Elizabeth to Hunsdon with her, which I kind of doubt. The big change in Elizabeth’s life at this point was going from Lady Bryan’s care to Kat Champerdowne (later Kat Ashley) becoming her governess, but this is a way to keep her in the story, and there’s a nice affectionate reference to her being bright and pretty mouthy.
Then, just before Lady Bryan goes out, Lady Mary asks after her son, Sir Francis Bryan, currently on his attempted murder tour of Europe. The guy that threatened you with a head crushing and then attempted to humiliate you with sexual swear words in public? If you are not plotting vengeance Mary, you need to get the hell over your bad boy phase.
But as we cut to the object of their discussions, I think maybe she did it for the link.
Caserta, 1538, where we turned the gig.
Caserta, described by Francis Bryan last week as a ‘nice old town’ is more famous in modern times for being what the Baroque did after Versailles.
But that palace won’t start being built for 200 years so here we are at the setting for the next leg of the hypothetical (the evidence for last week’s French leg is really all there is) attempted murder of Reginald Pole tour.
Thomas Seymour and Francis Bryan are hanging out in a not entirely salubrious inn, when soldiers arrive.
The two henchman types walk into the room. And the main guy ‘Welcomes’ them by first clearing out the ladies of negotiable affection. Not a good start. Then he treats them to his really surly customs inspector routine. He doesn’t notice Francis slightly crazy gleam in his eye, as he talks,or that young Tom Seymour has slowly moved around behind him. And then he asks a rhetorical question to which he clearly believes the only available answer is a ‘No’, but in fact the answer is ‘Hell, yes dude. It’s practically my hobby”.
Oh, he tells him, and team Attempted Murder for England leave with a lead…presumably through a window, there’s a lot of guys in that hall.
Week 1.5: Nonsuch Palace
Back in Whitehall,
Henry has entered the ‘crazy drawing’ phase of his grief isolation program, it’s still always dark, and every iteration of this scene the ‘low wind on stone walls’ sound effect does an awful lot of work.
Will resolutely refuses to become Mr Encouragement.
And the temptation for existentialist Becketty wordplay in such a setting is too much for both of them. Will starts with: Oh, well if you haven’t built it it’s imaginary so it needs imaginary people, Oh, says Henry, there’s not a shortage of them.
And then Will turns it more dark, saying then that all the court is imaginary and this is all a dream and Henry’s saying it’s all he has and crying into his paper again. I like how Will goes to say something, and then realizes there’s nothing to say. I’ll point out that for a grief crazed drawing hideout that set design is very pretty. And some of the drawings are kind of great, very reminiscent of the design he ended up building.
Excitingly Close to Caserta, 1538
I don’t know where we are (his bodyguard guy is Italian, we might be close to Caserta!), but Cardinal Reginald Pole is twitchy as he tries to turn in for the night.
He won’t let the bodyguard go right away, and starts at random noises outside. The bodyguard nods politely at Reginald’s faith in the protection value in the Papal Seal.
Seal or no seal, Pole makes sure the bodyguard is going to sleep by the door before he lets him go. And good job, we are close to Caserta and because that bodyguard is about to fail in the ‘protect Pole’ part of his job, and Sir Francis Bryan is coming up the stairs dagger first.
Look, Sir Francis, I know a guy, knows a guy, knows another guy manufactures wheel lock pistols, and if you can ever find your guy they are just the thing. Also full applause for Reginald, didn’t know he had it in him, pretty glad he kept it in him with a brave and opportune leap from a window.
This is all for the drama, but it’s doing it very well, and Thomas Seymour’s apprenticeship in general roguery moves along.
Back at the Brandon’s for Angst
In ‘The Brandon’s marriage falls apart’ news, Brandon asks the ‘You all right?” question to a pregnant, staring into the middle distance Catherine and the answer is pretty bad.
To the point that she’s really not looking forward to having their next child. And after she leaves the room Brandon has a sit down and the equivalent of a long think about whether they are still salvageable.
And I’m not sure, but I think that this might have been their last scene together. Once you don’t want the next child, I mean where does a Tudor marriage go after that?
Not Actual Historical, of course. There wasn’t a genocide, and they didn’t separate.
Week 2: Back in the whistling apartments
Henry is back to selling Nonsuch Palace to Will.
He says he’ll show the Goddess Diana in her bath in one of the groves.
He lists all his ideas to Will, and Will dislikes all of them. And despite that, Henry still tries to get across his vision. And, yeah, he wants to do a Versailles, they just don’t have the language for it because no one’s done it yet. Sorry, Henry, but the French are going to drop kick your ass with this one. Francis has a descendant coming that’s going to build a palace so big and impossibly grand it changes his nation’s political structure. He’s definitely going to make palace building his thing.
And even while Will tries to slip us back into fatalism with his reminder that there’s entropy everywhere:
You know there’s a Louis with a very different take.
Will, after failing to take Henry’s architectural style notes, turns the conversation to head chopping of his own accord.
Perhaps he has already seen the Fool, or Joker in his hand because when the temperature of the room changes after that joke he plays the card. Henry admonishes him that he’ll lose the game and Will says he’d rather lose the game than his head, prompting a slightly barking kind of laugh from Henry.
We leave with Henry in another mood swing, having just flung the cards away, and Will watching his master, turning his head one way and then the other, either trying to find some way he can help or a really crushing insult. Either’s good for Will.
There was a lot of blood letting coming at court, but not now, not like this, and certainly not because no one could function without Henry. This is fiction. The only Tudor Gawain Carew I could find was re elected as an MP for Devon a lot and lived into his eighties.
Just before he’s killed, and when we join Cromwell and the Seargant at Arms (Ian Beattie) to investigate the death,
It is pointed out, and then we are reminded that he worked for Edward Seymour. So let me point out, once again, if Gawen worked for the Seymours then this would be two deaths in the same faction in 1538. Cromwell is singularly disappointed in the lack of progress in the investigations. Oh, how the Sergeant must wish for the freedom to point out he appears to have mistaken a guy in charge of about 20 other guys with pikes for the sodding Metropolitan Police Serious Crimes Unit. No, I haven’t solved the international assassination with a previously unknown weapon from last week, sir, we would have, but Clive hurt his foot.
Oh, Hampton court looks good.
Francis has returned to England, and has been allowed a visit to the Prince. Even as he goes through the paperwork, you can hear the scrubbing brushes at work.
Henry imposed strict restrictions, written permission was required for any visitor to approach the Prince’s cradle. His servants had a social distancing clause in their employment, they couldn’t associate with anyone who had had, or who had been in contact with anyone who had the plague. And yes, every wall and every floor within or next to his apartments had to be scrubbed three times daily. (16) Prince Edward lives in a quiet, comfortable room, with everything he needs, probably in gold. However Edward Seymour arrives almost immediately the visit has begun, dismisses Lady Bryan for the moment, and appears to want to point out to Francis that he can be territorial, and Francis has been giving him a lot of reason to be like that. And we end with Edward Seymour dropping into the episode to open a new front in the intra factional warfare in The Tudors’ court.
Because that’s what it really needed.