An ephemeral figure appears in the titles this week, surrounded by images of sensuality and Henry.
Next, you can call it a meeting, but it’s really a presser.
Henry’s got a theory he likes the look of far better than his wife, and he’s going to run it through the room a bit. Anyone feeling like having a bit of a chuckle better have a titanium collar with an unpickable lock, as Henry confesses that he has had issues. Marital issues. Issues that have meant he has not been able to consummate his marriage, and he’s pretty sure he’s found the problem.
So, The Royal Penis As Lawful Vagina Detector theory is going to save the day. How it saves the day, gentlemen,
Henry leaves entirely to you, Cromwell. Brandorfolk and Seymour are stoked, Bishop Gardiner is just kind of solemn at the end of the row. Actually Historically that would have been Norfolk and Gardiner stoked, Seymour and Brandon stoically solemn. As the meeting breaks, Richard Rich gets half an actual historical line from a conversation between Wriothesley and Cromwell.
“for if he remain in his grief and trouble we shall all some day smart for it” is how the rest of it went. Cromwell’s expression is that of a man facing a void, and I think we’re seeing the effects of Cromwell being massaged as a character before…you know. Actual Historical Cromwell had a more robust response: “Yea. How?” is what he actually said, and Wriothesley didn’t really have an answer.(1)
Vah Proditor and Mea Culpa
A couple of things. The Tudors timeline just gets all over the place at the end of Season 3. Almost everything from halfway through the last episode to the end of this season does fit into the period January 6th 1540 (Marriage of Henry VIII and Anne of Cleves) through to 28th July 1540 (Death of Cromwell). One exception was Duke Philip’s visit which (well, his first visit) started on December 9th 1539 (q). This means the convo between Anne and Mary coming up couldn’t have happened as he got here before Anne did. But it’s a good way to introduce him, and to get Anne and Mary’s relationship rolling.
Other than that, there’s been a whole lot of shuffling going on. The conversation with the ladies near the end of last episode actually happened near the end of this period, same with Wriothesley and Cromwell’s moment above. Henry calls it ‘These past weeks’ he’s been married in the opening scene so I think, in The Tudors time, we can say it’s roughly February, maybe March 1540 as we kick off the episode.
I’m not normally this hot on timelines, but I’ve been trying to piece it together a bit because frankly The Tudors is going to go out of its way to introduce Katherine Howard as late as it possibly can. And wrong, of course. But let’s look at late for now. The actual historical deadline for that introduction is basically 24th April 1540.
Because in the Letters and Papers of Henry VIII Document 613 (the very last one on the page) dated 24th April 1540 we get the news that a William Ledbetter and his son got convicted of murder, apparently, because item 11 is a grant of a pardon to them both for that murder, and item 12 is a grant of their land in Wasshyngton, Sussex which all goes to Mistress Katherine Howard. The grant of pardon was apparently altered by hand at the time.
A last minute change to a royal pardon, a big grant of land, and what had to be Henry’s personal interest in the case, whether it was his first step to get her attention or not, he’d just done the 1540 equivalent of buying the girl a Ferrari, all the court would be noticing and he did it in a way that left a record. So most historians agree, that’s the moment it’s all undeniably underway.
For someone reading the tea leaves really closely, the first possible signal in the historical record that Henry might have a significant interest in Katherine Howard came back in March 1540 with the semi voluntary pardon and sudden repatriation of her cousin, William Legh. He was soldily Catholic, living abroad and a known associate of Reginald Pole so you would really expect him to have a very different kind of and much pointier repatriation process, but William Legh would get a pardon and to come home as long as he came home now, and then he got his ass walked home by Sir Thomas Wyatt, now a pretty important Ambassador and another distant relative of his.(2)
It was a strange thing to happen, and Henry might have done it to clear a problem out of Katherine’s way, but then again he might have done it for Wyatt. Because (time for the Mea Culpa) turns out I have been mischaracterising the relationship between Henry VIII and Wyatt.
I had assumed they didn’t get along that well, and that Cromwell was the wall keeping Wyatt safe. That being in love with the same woman for a while and all that trauma Wyatt went through (documented in his poetry) when Henry had Anne and Wyatt’s other friends killed, along with the fact that Wyatt’s ass is going to get thrown back in jail a year from now in 1541 and Henry will be just fine with that apparently, would somehow have put the blocks on Wyatt and Henry being best buds. But royalty really does re write the hell out of the human rules and occasionally fact gets freakier than fiction. Henry loved Wyatt’s irreverent humour, kept some keepsakes of the guy until he died, and they were in fact, very close friends. (3)
Oh, I Ship It.
From one of Henry’s actual historical, yet frequently imprisoned and threatened with death close friends to the one he gets in The Tudors as shortly after the opening meeting, Henry is talking to Charles in private.
The Tudors’ Brandon has always rather liked Anne of Cleves so he tries a bit of allyship, and hits on what appeared to have been at least 50% of the problem in The Tudors‘ telling of this particular tale of sexual dysfunction – that Anne had little idea of what to expect and was not giving Henry the reactions he was used to during foreplay, stopping him dead in his already unenthusiastic tracks. Brandon uses an oft quoted line attributed to Saint Bernadino of Siena (4), that “not telling a woman what to expect on her wedding night,
Henry’s really not interested in looking for a solution that doesn’t involve making Cromwell fix it so it goes away. And he’s started pulling at the bit because the political weather has changed.
The turning of the relationship of Charles HRE and Francis I of France happened during May 1540, (5) and reports took some time to get to the English. Charles’ diplomatic direction took a turn and he suggested a series of diplomatic moves that were deeply detrimental to the French, like ‘duplicate the situation that nearly wrecked your throne last century’ unacceptable, while getting Charles a lot of things he wanted at Francis’ expense, all in exchange for a regency over the Netherlands (wow, but) that was very tenuous and would still remain under Charles’ control for life. And Milan, long fought over Milan, suddenly back off of the table, and quietly back to Charles.(6)
Francis kind of said ‘Well, let’s just leave things as they are, shall we? Because I don’t actually remember losing a war to you recently’ and Charles kind of said ‘Fine, I thought it was a good suggestion’ and then Western European politics finally dropped back into its axis as they both went back to plotting furiously against one another. (5)
That turn back to standard weather politics made the sailing look very different for a divorcing Henry, and was probably the biggest decider in starting the annulment, and that turn was probably Mid May 1540 at least.
Not All Annes
We go to Anne of Cleves doing something she didn’t actually historically do. Musical accomplishment was an important signifier of class and refinement in England at this time but Anne of Cleves never did learn to sing or play.
Her passion was needlework and she’s credited with adding stitches and patterns to the English embroidery repertoire. Princess Mary is visiting the Queen in a fierce outfit and a chilly attitude.
The Tudors‘ Princess Mary seems to respond well to polite formality. There is a tiny temperature rise at Queen Anne’s dignified greeting and respectful request that she sit. Queen Anne has news for her.
OK, that doesn’t really seem to be ‘summoning a princess’ level news, but Anne is convinced she’s got something, here.
Mary is less convinced but that’s just because she doesn’t know how handsome and charming Lutheran can get, yet. Anne of Cleves was not a Lutheran, and while The Tudors rather talks around it, the fact that she was a more of an Erasman Catholic was a big ingredient of what made her Actual Historical relationship with Mary so warm. By most historical accounts (exception for one Cardinal Farnese who reckoned he was Catholic) Duke Philip of Bavaria was Lutheran.
Someone is creepin up on Cromwell…
It’s all right, it’s Cromwell’s son Gregory, who has nipped across town to deliver his father’s apothecary pills. It’s another swan song for Cromwell, it’s a nice idea but in a lot of ways it’s a modern relationship they’re depicting. Gregory and Elizabeth officially lived at Leeds Castle in 1540, although they were both currently in London. Elizabeth as Lady in Waiting to Anne of Cleves and Gregory as a Landed Magnate/MP. If Cromwell ever forgot his pills then getting them would be a servant’s job.
Son Gregory has perhaps been looking for an excuse to talk to his father, alone, about the fact that the king is physically abusing him. Cromwell was, by all accounts, close to an actual Good Dad in an age and society where Distant Patriarch was a score as a father that a man could die proud of. It’s nice to see this side of him, and to have a caring family member concerned at what we have seen going on with the King.
And I’m picking up a bit of what Cromwell’s throwing down, here. When he gets brought down it will be the pack that takes him down, and they are the ones he’s wrestling with, right now, but that’s because Henry increasingly doesn’t like getting his hands dirty. He likes giving signals and letting others do the dirty work. And he might not have stood in front of a bay window, facing away from the room, with his hands clenched behind his back talking about witchcraft and you yet, Cromwell, but oh, he has been getting close.
Also, Cromwell has to admit, he has, from time to time, pulled some shit.
Then, in a charmingly selfless way he wants Gregory not to worry about him but to focus on himself and his family, with some ‘Protestant Dad’ flavoured advice.
Although the off screen character of ‘Gregory’s very pregnant wife’ was, actually historically Elizabeth Seymour, younger sister of Queen Jane and the connection that probably saved a lot of the family and enough of the money when Cromwell fell. She would add personal action to that in the depths of the crisis, too. She also probably did give birth at some point in 1540 to their third son, whom she and Gregory would call Thomas after his grandfather. So the lady that barely gets a mention in The Tudors was at times both furiously multitasking and vital to the family Cromwell’s survival during their Annus Horribilis of 1540.
Some of the longest and strangest walks that The Tudors takes from Actual History are its heroic attempts to get around the fact that Henry repeatedly pursued the hell out of the posh help. The Tudors has an aversion to depicting that, so it reversed Anne Boleyn and Jane Seymour’s employment and relationship order (employment first for both of them in Actual History, by a few years) and it’s going to skip Katherine’s employment entirely.
In service to this we get the following scene, which otherwise has a fair bit to recommend it. You get the impression Brandon has taken the opportunity to get a game of cards with Sir Francis Bryan, because this is actually a work meeting, and he’s moving the conversation around even as they put their bets down.
And by the end we certainly agree with Sir Francis that Brandon came to the right person with his problem.
His totally fictional problem. Katherine worked for Henry’s wife. By the time he married Katherine that would be 3 out of 5 wives drawn from ‘Women that worked for his wife’.
It’s rather gratifying to see that Mary is important enough that, despite officially being a bastard, everyone gets up when she walks into the room, giving us our segue from the fully fictional content to the historical ganache centre of the ending of the scene.
Which is Duke Philip’s actual historical visit to England to woo Princess Mary. He visited her privately at Enfield on 22nd December 1539. (8)
In The Tudors she is clearly kind of thrilled with what she sees.
And when he looks a little crushed at her news that she was planning to go to the country she reverses course quickly.
In fact that almost looks like a sliver of optimism and happiness for Mary Tudor as she walks away.
And More Wrong, a C-bomb and possible abuse
Sir Francis Bryan takes a gallop out to a house in the country. Oh, wait.
Well, it’s appropriate for the rest of the scene in that it’s totally wrong. No one in this tale lived at Lambeth Palace, that’s the official home of the Archbishop of Canterbury, also right on the Thames opposite the Palace of Westminster. If the ‘all drunk at 12 noon’ madam is supposed to be the dowager Duchess of Norfolk,
then they should be talking in Norfolk House in the parish of Lambeth, a large and prestigious household with a lot of educational responsibilities. But what the hell does that matter, apparently we’re in a brothel. Actual History has retreated to a far off shore, where the Dowager Duchess ran a large household that did get some discipline issues mainly because she was away at court most of the time, bu tit wasn’t a worryingly under age prostitution centre. Sir Francis goes up the stairs and looks over the ‘little darlings’. The older of which adjust themselves for display and the younger of which have apparently learned to note if a face is ‘cruel’,
until his gaze meets Katherine Howard.
What all this fiction does is it gives The Tudors a way to imply early abuse without saying it or getting into it too deeply. The hypersexuality displayed by The Tudors‘ Katherine Howard is a known symptom of abuse, and in many ways the path of the brave, a way to not give up on that part of themselves.
Was Katherine Howard abused? Defining consent 500 years later gets tricky, but I think I’m ready to call the affair with Mannox, the first one she had, at least predatory on his part. If you reckon her at about 18 when Henry got interested she would have been 13-14 when Henry Mannox (probably early 20s at the time) became her music teacher.
Some put a lot of store by the mentions of the second music teacher (Barnes)in the record, but Barnes and Mannox were joint authors of a letter to the Duchess that would reveal Catherine and Francis Dereham’s relationship, later. So Barnes seems to have been a buddy (not that I’m an awesome judge) or at least wiling to go along with plans that Mannox had. It’s therefore asking a lot to take those mentions in the record of his existence and assume that Barnes was always in the room in those music lessons, that his presence would have been an adequate restraint for Mannox’s behaviour, and that Catherine would have always been effectively chaperoned during her lessons because, while it was not a brothel, the documented shennanigans that went on in the years Catherine was there show the Duchesses’ household was lacking a lot of discipline. Frankly even if all the ‘flirtation’ was after hours a change in schedule doesn’t really change the power dynamic, this was a man Katherine had to spend a lot of time with probably multiple times a week.
The affair apparently involved present exchanges, after hours fondling and quite a lot of pressure on Catherine to allow further sexual advances. He was regrettably quite Catherine’s ‘type’, she had monumentally terrible taste in men and handsome, brash and stupid to the point of recklessness would turn out to be just her speed. They were caught by the Duchess during an evening fondle (9) , Catherine got hit and Mannox quietly lost his job.
He was still the son of Howard family retainers, though and lived and worked in Lambeth. He continued his pursuit of Catherine despite being engaged (he got married either during his pursuit of Catherine or a short time after it ended) (10). He was only stopped when young yet redoubtable and Proto-Puritan Mary Lascelles joined the household and confronted him about it. To which he said:
“Hold thy peace, woman. I know her well enough for I have had her by the c*nt and I know it among a hundred. And she loves me and I love her and she hath said to me that I shall have her maidenhead though it be painful to her, not doubting that I will be good to her hereafter”(11)
So that really shocking line The Tudors gives Dereham next season was actually Mannox, when she was about 16. Real prince that one. If Katherine didn’t have much agency in starting the relationship she did in finishing it, taking Mary Lascelles for moral support she went to the house he was living and working in and told him to sling it in1538 (12)
In The Tudors Katherine gets introduced to her…
Who are pleased. She’s described as distantly related to the Duke of Norfolk by Sir Francis Bryan when she was, in fact, his niece. Edward Seymour manages to say something facetious about her counting skills when she tells them how old she is (The Tudors puts her at 17). Brandon isn’t here for the humour at her expense, he studies her closely, and engages her in light conversation, before passing judgement.
So, How did it go?
When you’ve got a hot cousin you know is a catch, and you’ve set them up on a date with a lonely, lovely Princess, you can be a little impatient to find out how things went. Princess Mary is barely through the door when Queen Anne is asking about it.
And while Mary is, if not dismissive, certainly reticent about Philip, “Oh he’s intelligent? I couldn’t tell, we barely spoke” kind of thing, the audience now sees where Queen Anne’s confidence in him as a suitor came from. Still, Mary is backing off the subject a bit when Anne is told Philip is here for an audience.
Fair enough, and Queen Anne lets her secrete herself behind a curtain.
Looking innocent and managing not to rub her hands together as she sets up the most charming courtly love scene in the series. She’s not hiding it quite as well when she steers the conversation with Philip around to Mary with a bright smile.
And Philip starts well and gets even better, honouring Mary in a way that also reveres her mother’s memory, “But nothing prepared me for her beauty” is like a bass drop, an “Oh damn he’s got it” moment, but then he just keeps going and running up the score until by the end,
Damn, Duke Philip came for Princess Mary, and that’s a rare perfect moment where a courtly love setup goes oh, so right.
A Heck of an Evening at Court
It’s going to be an evening of contrasts, by design, I believe.
And before it starts I think we’d better briefly discuss what is missing from The Tudors version of Katherine Howard. The Tudors makes her a bit of an abandoned child and generally that doesn’t appear to be right, her father was largely absent and her mother died when she was young but Katherine had a place in the world, and a comparatively secure one, she was the granddaughter of a Duke of Norfolk, and a niece of the next one.
What The Tudors Katherine Howard is missing is an awful lot of polish. Katherine might not have spent much time reading and writing but drilling in etiquette was basically most of her education, from how to enter a room, through knowing modes of address, to developing a graceful curtsey to learning not to move her hands when she spoke (13).
Doing things correctly and gracefully in order to please others was what Katherine Howard did very well, and Henry had always been partial to a graceful woman. She was also pretty, slender, submissive, carefully correct and doubtless adorably dazzled by the King of England, and she was absolutely what Henry needed. Henry wanted a mirror that could make him believe he was young Galahad again, and suddenly there was someone that could get him close enough to that that life looked quite green once more.
The Tudors is going to set Henry and Katherine’s courtship against Philip and Mary’s, and in this version it gives us lustful against lovely.
We start with Philip and Mary, trying, not that hard, to keep their eyes off each other while dancing.
While up on the dais, Brandorfolk is saying that Henry’s lawyers have found the nit he told them to pick and some really obscure part of Anne of Cleve’s former pre-nup has some wording,
that they could maybe turn into something. Henry’s reasonably pleased and back down on the dance floor Philip and Mary are in their own Jane Austen novel.
While up on the dais Henry does what everyone in Team Crush Cromwell has been hoping he will do, and notices Katherine.
Henry asks who she is, and Brandon looks like he’s repressing a fist pump as he says “That is Katherine Howard” and manages to wait about 3 seconds before getting around to asking if Henry would like to meet her. The answer (after a bit of a pause) comes back Yes, and Henry and Katherine retire to Henry’s rooms.
Tamzin Merchant gives Katherine an almost foalish walk as she enters the room. She’s a little distracted by clock chimes and other evidence of opulence around her.
He questions her gently about herself, and Merchant is good enough fast enough that I think that Katherine’s answer of ‘nobody’, when Henry asks who writes to her, might well be a lie. There’s things going on with that answer. She’s also definitely got the Madge touch of somehow turning Henry into a comedian from him just asking a question.
Meanwhile, in the Main Hall, there is dancing and some rather intense eye contact for Philip and Mary, which takes a sudden turn as Mary stands on Philips foot.
Or did she?
Also, historically appropriate – Philip is supposed to have kissed her during a visit to the house she was staying in on 22nd December 1539, and by Christmas Eve they were drafting the treaty.(14) He notices she’s crying and wipes her tears away. She says that she is only crying because she’s so happy. He asks if she would like him to kiss her again, but if you review the return kiss…
You’ll find that it’s Mary that kisses Philip. Go, Princess, and if Anne of Cleves ever sets you up with someone and is looking confident about it, maybe that’s a date worth going on.
The Fellowship of the Ring
Henry whips a ring out.
Henry explains that it was left at the shrine of St Thomas a Beckett. There were many jewels there but this one was the most important, as it came from a King of France.
Henry hands it over, and Katherine kisses it, lingeringly.
And with a mischievous expression she whips her skirt up and rolls the ring sensuously over her naked thighs before swiping it across her vagina. A reminder, in about a year Henry is going to be absolutely stunned that he didn’t marry a virgin.
She has definitely re-ignited his sexuality. JRM sells in his reactions that this is a guy rediscovering the concept of ‘horny’.
The High Point
In the Main Hall, the party is over, the servants are clearing up but there are two people who just can’t bear to leave yet.
They say farewell.
That’s it, that’s her moment; beautiful, shining and perfect. That’s as happy as love will ever make Mary Tudor. The early part of her marriage to Philip V might compare, but her love in marriage long outlasted the point where it made her happy.
2DOR Status Meeting
We get a brief look at Whitehall where it is daytime again.
And Henry is meeting with Cromwell. He gets a status update on the construction of Nonsuch Palace (should be ready for inspection in July). Great, second item on the agenda:
Oh, I see we’re at the 24th April 1540, and The Tudors had its Henry and Katherine meet, like, the night before. That gets his desire for Katherine out of the way of his marriage to Anne of Cleves and his prosecution of Cromwell for the most part, and I’d say there’s been an awful lot of May and June 1540 content before now. Still, unlike the manner of her introduction, the timing of it manages, just, to get into ‘technically correct’.
Henry then runs the flaw Brandon was talking about past Cromwell and doesn’t get the enthusiastic response he was looking for. He tells Cromwell “there must still be grounds…
Henry then takes a moment and decides to reassure Cromwell.
Actually Historically Henry did do something to reassure Cromwell in April 1540, he made him Earl of Essex. Lets review.
The old Earl of Essex, who walked Anne of Cleves down the aisle, had died shortly afterwards. He had no sons, and Henry gave the title to Cromwell, who was fiercely proud of it, but it would be in the vein of the gifts he gave to the Boleyns near the end. Cromwell needs to hear the ticking, either he ends the King’s marriage to Anne or he falls, and the tale is as much in Henry’s look at the end as in the reassuring words he uses.
TudorRoyal Popup meeting
Cromwell comes out and it’s business as usual, he directs petitioners to give the papers to Risley.
Watching on from the door Seymour and Brandorfolk are pissed that Cromwell is apparently riding this out.
And Brandon suddenly goes in to report on his meeting with the French Ambassador. Which, apart from the general diplomatic news, contains the nugget that..
The Nookie Cottage
We’re used to the hooded lady being transported to the King’s rooms, but in the depths of the night, Sir Francis Bryan transports Henry out to his Nookie Cottage.
Where Katherine Howard is waiting. Sir Francis comes in with a gift of jewelry and Katherine is very pleased with a thanks she wants Sir Francis to tell his majesty, but it turns out a thoroughly hair gelled Henry is fully ready for his second mid life crisis and has been waiting for his cue behind the door.
As he raises her up he whispers to her, and she seems to agree to something. He goes over to the candles on the far wall, and starts putting them out, one by one, as Katherine starts taking her clothing off. It’s erotic, of course, but also quite practiced.
Henry is intrigued and finding it harder to turn round to see to the candles, as Katherine gets down to nude.
Katherine seems both fully aware of her body and the effect of her body on Henry as she lays down, fully naked and pretty confident on the bed.
Once again, a year from now, The Tudors‘ Henry VIII will be utterly floored that she wasn’t a virgin when they met.
Edit 16/12/20, linked up footnotes, wash and brush up edit.
Edit 21/09/21, Corrected details about Earldom of Essex. (Henry Bourchier didn’t have any sons)