Merry Christmas, My Valentines!
You are all my Valentines, and we’re going to hit Christmas 1540 before the end of this recap, so we have a very special visitor to look forward to.
A Day at Court
We’re going to be spending quite a lot of time at court this episode, and after a quick new interpretation of the exterior space at Whitehall,
We are drawn quickly in, alongside the Earl of Surrey who starts stalking the perimeter, to the main hall set where a day of dancing is going on. Queen Katherine leads the dancing to what sounds like the equivalent of Tudor pop.
Hunting and dancing were the main physical activities of the court, dancing featured more in winter and the year is moving on. Still, it feels like old times as there is plotting up on the mezzanine. It’s service sector plotting between Lady Rochford and Thomas Culpeper, and it involves quite a lot of lines ripped from historical commentary of Charles de Marillac, the French Ambassador.
And the ‘new rule of living’ for Henry is just as Marillac described in the record (2)
Henry was making real efforts to get hold of his weight for his new wife. He was also spending on her quite wildly, and popular gossip, as it tends to do, put the blame for that at Katherine’s door, rather then the 49 year old Monarch doing the spending on a teenager(3).
Culpeper, on the other hand was damn attractive, rich and single. The most eligible bachelor at court, and Torrance Coombs gives him some real yet deeply calculating charm.
Jane Boleyn is the coiner of “Sweet little fool”, while being a little foolish herself in The Tudors, perhaps trying to impress Culpeper a little. “Sweet little fool” will get used by Culpeper and the nickname will eventually come out of Katherine’s mouth in her confession, to the shock of Bishop Gardiner. The phrase was actually “Little sweet fool” and it was Katherine who used it about Culpeper, not the other way round. (4)
Here Jane Boleyn says it with contempt, and you can just see Culpeper pick that contempt up as something he can use, and as Jane blossoms a little under his attention (oh no, Jane), Thomas Culpeper is forming a plan.
How ‘appealing’ was Katherine Howard? Well, opinions are subjective and beauty standards doubly so. Of the two portraits below the miniature on the right is the one with far more reliable evidence that it’s her. Until relatively recently it was believed that no portraits of her survived.
The one on the left is held by the Met (Source). And you can smell a lot of historian hope on the attribution (q). It’s not a terrible image to contemplate while trying to understand the appeal of Katherine Howard, because the image here is 16th Century, but goes straight for 21st century beauty ideals. She’s got plumped lips, a straight nose and large eyes, and whether caused by the years or not, the skin is creamy rather than a whiter shade of pale. I think they might have started with the image and worked backwards from there. Lady on the left is not a completely outlandish suggestion, though she ramains unproven. She’s the right painter (Holbein), probably painted around the right time, she hasn’t been otherwise identified, she’s in the right fashion (French fashion was fashion forward in the tenures of Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard), she’s got the right hair colour, she’s dressed for the right status and any portrait of Katherine Howard would have had to survive in anonymity.
The miniature on the right, though, (Source) is the best bet if you’re looking for an Actual historical likeness of a woman who was described by Marillac as “graceful, rather than beautiful”, he also noted she was petite with a charming, rather earnest expression(q2). It’s the right time, the right fashion again (perhaps even moreso with the embroidery and embellishments and fur), and for this one David Starkey identified her has wearing the same set of jewels that Queen Jane Seymour did in her Holbein portrait.
Whether they are all her, or none of her, from the reactions of her lovers and her friends and guardians and everyone that knew her in her lifetime, Katherine was certainly appealing. She was loved a great deal by many that knew her.
The Rose without a Thorn
Charles is rocking the new longer hairstyle and beard, and walks in to see a Henry about his business with new secretary Risley (actual historically Wriothesley). Henry has had a medal struck in honour of his new marriage:
We’re coming back to that. But for the moment, Henry apparently sent Charles to go see Anne of Cleves, to see how she was doing, and Charles is able to report that not only does she seem settled into her new estates and very grateful…
It’s accurate, Anne did have good relationships with both of Henry’s daughters for almost as long as she lived. It also gives us a little glimpse into Henry’s outlook. This is a guy that had to spend a decade getting rid of his last international bride. He’s pleased and a little surprised by Anne’s acceptance of the divorce, also her kind behaviour which has no clear immediate reward.
After Cromwell’s death Henry became one of the two hardest working monarchs in Europe (and the other was Charles HRE who basically never stopped). The new Wolsey, the new Cromwell, would now be Henry for the end of the reign. I don’t think Henry the power broker got that many pleasant surprises, but Anne of Cleves just gave him one and he’s about to get another one, when he asks Charles if his wife loves him any better.
Henry gives a long sigh and asks Charles what he can do for him. He’s tired and it’ll be work but Charles is owed, even if he wants an annulment (actually historically Brandon could have got one if he needed it, he had a real chequered ass marital history and had one marriage annulled before even Henry tried it). Henry offers Charles the opportunity to use their connection, to use him, basically, and then Charles surprises him. Offered his heart’s desire on a plate, he turns it into a good natured joke. He doesn’t take the advantage offered, he was here to commiserate with his friend and that’s why this Henry loves this Charles.
There’s surprise and sudden warmth coming out of Henry, everyone always at their core wants what he can get for them, rather than him, but not Charles. Cavill and JRM give great male bonded chemistry, the script is allowing them to lean into it and I just love this scene.
But about that medal.
Yeah. A closer translation is apparently the ‘dazzling rose without a thorn’ and it didn’t refer to Katherine. It was not a medal, but a coin, a series of coins that were actually minted throughout Henry’s reign. His first three wives got their initials on the back, but it was only his initials after that. The holder of the rose was not Henry, but you, the lucky Nation, and the Dazzling Rose without a Thorn, the beauty without pain, the joy without a blemish?
Why, Henry was that rose(5).
Outside the music has changed to something that feels more sultry and Spanish, maybe an ancient ancestor of the Tango. There’s a lot of rotating and face touching to the dance, and unsurprisingly Surrey, who has been stalking Anne Seymour since he walked in, takes the opportunity to be her partner.
Her husband is hovering but as will be made clear within a minute, it has nothing to do with jealousy.
She’s being quite elusive, when we switch briefly to the Culpeper/Katherine/Jane attraction triangle. Katherine is definitely being receptive to Culpeper and Jane has started working hard on her resentment.
Back to Surrey and Anne and he’s pressing the subject, and she gets to giving him a ‘No’. He doesn’t take it great, it could have been worse.
He leaves her with quite an insult (Forgive me for aiming so low), but she did knock him back pretty firmly, and you’d expect him to be a little sore. And bitchy. And arrogant. That last one is always part of the recipe for a Surrey moment.
It’s Edward’s reaction that is just so weird. He’s annoyed, he wants to know why she isn’t sleeping with the guy, come along Anne, this could be useful.
And Anne takes lovers I think partly for her own amusement in a not only loveless, but barely civil marriage, and partly to piss off Edward. She might have liked Surrey, but being pimped out is emphatically not what she’s here for, so despite her husband’s facial gesturing she marches away. Brandon, wisely, just delivers the message and then stays the hell out of this subplot.
Admin meeting in VIP
It was Henry that decided not to allow Wriothesley, or Norfolk, or Seymour or Rich to become the Kingdom’s new second guy, but to start taking on that role himself, with all the extra work that entailed. His secretaries were required to add in a two and a half inch margin to official documents for his notes and amendments, He was personally reading and approving more and more and more and he started investing in his messenger networks(6).
Having decided he was going to do it, from now on he would be Admin. He did it pretty damn well for an egomaniac, I think his interest in how things actually worked, and his deep investment in his own success might have saved his legacy from that decision. However, Henry remains Henry and takes the pressures of the extra workload as you would imagine. In this case by having a quick go at the Edward Seymour, but that guy’s a jerk, anyway.
I can’t decide if what I like best here the Demi God level chutzpah of Henry’s Cromwell regrets, or Henry’s tiny moment, after Seymour is announced, where he alters his gaze and the ghost of a smile plays upon his face. Because that has to be the moment where he decides he’s going to throw the papers over Edward, and its existence simply delights me.
This might top it.
Edward Seymour is a serious childhood illness away from being a better off Thomas Boleyn, so potential alternate male heirs with maternal relatives are deeply unwelcome complications and threats to him. Henry also knows he does not need to take Edward’s pandering bullshit, and he doesn’t like Edward, he kind of tolerates him. He probably shouldn’t like him, they both share the same lonely virtue. They are both very perceptively clever. Edward has a shame look the moment he catches Henry’s expression.
Edward is given a mission to Scotland.
That actually came around in 1542, when France and the Empire’s peace was really breaking down, and heading towards war (6). Also Henry didn’t really send forces north of the border until James V blew off his meeting with Henry in York in 1541. And at this point Henry’s sister Margaret was still alive, she’d die late in 1541, really taking the brakes off English and Scottish aggression, and then the opportunity of international war popped up.
Edward gets orders to kick as much Scots ass as he can manage, which he were his orders, and after a not amazing beginning , he did, just this is all two years too early.
To The Royal Coitus Chamber
I’m king of fond of Henry and Katherine’s sex, here. It’s not the graceful, cramp and rubbery leg free, near balletic stuff we are sometimes asked to accept as coitus. It’s…like they’re moving furniture the hard way.
And Katherine’s dirty talk is basic and earthy. The subtitles would use up my curse allowance for months. She is a young woman convincingly abandoned to the moment.
Stationed outside the door, and so required to be present for the moment that they’ve brought their sewing with them, are Joan Bulmer and Jane Boleyn.
Jane is wheedling information out of Joan, as they both have to sit listening to Henry and Catherine’s enthusiastic but really loud and repetitious sex. Her argument for why she needs to know is really only convincing if you ignore all her body language, and the fact that Joan is just assuming that she’s right about everything.
Joan needs to shut up, but apparently she’s already told half the story, and she’s about to fail that oath she took, with big consequences for Katherine, and little to no excuse, really.
Once Katherine moved on from Manox, she got another admirer called Roger Cotes, which didn’t come to anything. Francis Dereham had been employed in the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk’s household two years by then. He was from a well founded gentry family, and was a gentleman with a rental income, though it was not much. He was like a buyer (goods, consumables, food) for the household, and he was slowly moving up, being young, good looking, reckless and a favorite of the Dowager Duchess, as Katherine was. (7)
His wingman was Edward Waldegrave, though that wasn’t who Joan was seeing at the time. She did meet up with Waldegrave, her fellow alumni from the Dowager Duchess’ household again and they got married later in life.
The schemes started with after hours feasting, flirting, talking to the small hours and progressed from there.
The recent theory that Katherine was coerced or repeatedly raped by Dereham runs into some issues. First, it’s narrated like Francis gets the run of the house and Katherine is like a sexually exploited under maid. I think this misinterprets the relationships and situation. She might have been a poor Howard but she was a Howard, he wasn’t. Her status in the house was high, and she got away with a lot because she was kind of brave and deeply charming. The girl that emerges from the accounts is vital, and active and engaged. The accounts also suggest things progressed between them, rather than just happened to her.
By the time Dereham and Katherine’s behaviour was probably headed to foreplay, Mannox wrote a letter to the Dowager Duchess, warning her to enter the maiden’s chamber after hours . Katherine and Dereham happened not to be meeting that night. If others were, there weren’t many and the note was obscure enough that the Dowager Duchess thought it referred to a guy called Hastings and a girl that wasn’t her step granddaughter. Katherine, apparently as willing to take risks as the men she admired was the one who got into the Duchess rooms to steal the letter to see if they could determine who wrote it. (8)
Frequently another girl would be in the bed when they began foreplay (most people didn’t get their own bed). One, Alice Wilkes, asked to move beds so she could get a decent nights sleep without their puffing and blowing. (8a)
Lord William Howard, senior man of the house (and Katherine’s uncle) said “What mad wenches! Can you not be merry amongst yourselves but you must thus fall out?” (9), at the note and visit incident, and really didn’t want to be bothered with all this drama. And honestly, if Katherine never married the King it would be unlikely to ever come out, and if it did, the consequences would be minor. As long as she couldn’t be pregnant when she married, if she wasn’t a virgin it wasn’t the end of the world. Look hard enough into the past of most aristocratic girls in that era, and they weren’t all Jane Seymour. Anne Boleyn may well have slept with Harry Percy before she married Henry, he was heir to an important Earldom, her unofficial fiance, and a big leap for a Boleyn. He might well have been worth the risk to secure, when she was just plain Lady Anne.
Katherine and Dereham’s relationship didn’t have that ambition, it was about passion, but he might just have been acceptable as a marriage partner, if he could meet certain conditions. Thomas Boleyn was still a ‘Sir’ when he married a daughter of the last Duke, and while the Boleyns were a lot richer than the Derehams, had Francis had his talent and ability and started to make some serious money he might just have worked out for her.
She would also have needed to wait, and that seems to have been their plan when he went away to Ireland. But Katherine was ready to move on when the news came that there was to be a new Queen, and a position had been secured for her. She got called to court and became enamored of Thomas Culpeper very quickly.
Joan, you just failed at that and you were the one that made the promise, asking the clearly disingenuous Jane (who has promised you nothing) to do better because you haven’t is just never going to work. If you want to keep a secret you don’t tell anyone, it’s the only thing that works.
Interestingly, the Duke of Norfolk was barely around for the early part of Katherine’s Queenship. He was getting old, in his late sixties, and might have been waiting until he felt safe to go back to his estates, Cromwell’s death lessened the pressure. He might have wanted to give Surrey his chance to lead the Howard faction…or he might have been briefed, and decided that not being at court might be a great look if things did not turn out so well. No way to tell, but he went back to his estates, did some military missions and he was at court far less than he used to be, yet he had a niece for a Queen again.
There were plenty of occasions when Surrey’s behaviour brought him right into the sights of a prosecution. The one this scene is representing actually historically happened in February 1543. Surrey and a party of rich young scoundrels (including Thomas Wyatt’s son) got hold of some crossbows that could fire stones and broke windows, until that got boring, and then started firing at the prostitutes in Bankside.(10)
In The Tudors he and his companions walk down a street in the poorer/very poor end of London, being generally belligerent and pushing people out of the way.
Until they get to where the prostitutes congregate, and as one of them starts having a go at him, perhaps about that window that just got smashed, he slaps her really hard. He and his companions end up held at bay in a dead end with an unhappy mob, that they spend the last five minutes pulling.
We jump to Henry, deep into the extensive building work he planned last episode for Whitehall.
Throughout this scene the subtitles also pick up the foreman’s working instructions, so that’s why “Hammer in that post, keep the lines tight” kind of thing keeps popping up this discussion of Surrey’s guilt.
Henry and Richard Rich both seem a little amused by Surrey’s antics, and somewhat astonishing defence.
The unspoken partner in all this is Bishop Stephen Gardiner, “Bishop Gardiner and I…”, “His Grace believes…” who has apparently sent Risley and Rich to try and get Surrey into his clutches with a measure of subtelty. Bishop Gardiner suspects that while eating meat under licence during Lent, the Earl procured it at a known evangelical butchers where (and here they start OANing it) ‘some people suspected that they might’ like be a whole nest of heretics distributing forbidden books or something.
Risley’s a bit delicate, a bit talking around the fact that Gardiner wants to torture Surrey, until Henry flat out tells him, that is clearly what he’s asking. When Henry gets back an unpsoken “Oooh, ooh yes, Bishop Gardiner would very much like to torture the Earl of Surrey” the point of disturbing him while he’s hobbying becomes clear, he gives a “Well that’s spicy” expression and literally weighs the man’s life and pain in the balance and finds…
Nope, not today. But no admonishment for trying for you or Gardiner either, so come on back if you get something solid. Henry’s a little surprised at the blood-thirstyness of his court, but it is what he has been and is actively encouraging right now. This is the world Henry has created, they constantly jump at and bite each other, but the only ones that actually fall are the ones that fall foul of their enemies when Henry has also decided it’s time for them to go.
As they are leaving he has a couple of instructions for the upcoming Christmas festivities, Mary and Anne of Cleves are to be invited, and he sounds as surprised as Rich and Risley look when he mentions that second one, but it turns out he’d like to see her.
Queen Katherine is in her apartments, watching the snowfall as Winter arrives, suddenly. the score is back to the soft, romantic and slightly magical theme.
It is Christmas and her presents are announced.
Katherine Actually Historically got for Christmas 1540 – ‘an upper habiliment containing eight diamonds and seven rubies’ and a necklace of ‘six fine table diamonds five very fair rubies with pearls in between’ (11).
Also a necklace of two hundred pearls, a golden bejewelled crucifix, and some large brooches (12)
But wait, according to Joan Bulmer’s expression the star present of Christmas 1540 is at the door.
I think that must be, yes it is,
Yes, it’s the ‘muffler of black velvet, furred with sables, hanging from a chain of thirty pearls and further ornamented with rubies and pearls strung on a chain of gold(11/12). Pretty close anyway it’s not a muffler but it is a bejeweled fur. Joan takes it over to the Queen and as everyone admires it Jane takes the opportunity to say to the Queen again that His Majesty spoils her.
There are more presents to feel and experience and discuss, and her maids are delighted to help her, except Jane Boleyn who circles around them like a school mistress.
And there are more presents, except these have been sent to Henry. They’re outside and Katherine has been summoned to enjoy them along with Henry.
The Gifts of Anne of Cleves
Anne of Cleves’ visit to court was a lot less spontaneous than The Tudors has it. It was a unity showing, and for showing up and being appropriate, Anne was going to get a healthy increase to her already generous living allowance(13). This, and how we know about the presents, and most of the details of the visit are from Chapuys’ eyewitness account of it.
The presents Katherine is taken outside to admire,
are from Anne of Cleves. She actually historically sent two large and fine horses caprisoned in mauve velvet(14). A great, subtle choice.
They were expensive, and Henry loved getting new horses. While they were officially a gift for Henry she sent two of them. She brought presents for a couple. And The Tudors gets them right down to the blanket colour. Purple, the colour of royalty. She brought presents explicitly for a royal couple.
Henry might also have brought Katherine outside to admire the presents because now, apparently, is when she gets to find out that her predecessor is arriving tomorrow and staying for the New Year.
Katherine is wary, because The Tudors Katherine has not met Anne of Cleves before and the Mary Experience has left her a little “Royal Woman” shy.
Seriously, they were digging trenches in green grass a week ago.
Oh Shit, we have to get back in there. The latest round of the Katherine and Mary feud just got announced.
A couple of things happen as she walks up to the dais. Henry has that flush of emotional recognition he’s had upon seeing her before and Anne Seymour and Surrey stare at each other (more than one feud in the main hall today). Mary arrives and curtseys and Henry’s welcome is warm and genuine, but she is blanking the Queen until instructed to say hello.
And it’s back to blank immediately after she manages the curtseyless ‘madam’ that was basically designed to insult. Katherine’s olive branch gets snapped back in her face, and Henry will be no help.
He’s still delighted to have seen his daughter, she’s a chip off the old block, that one. And he’s still all proud Dad, very much glad at the reconciliation when she’s all “What the hell, she blanked me again, and you’re fine with it?”
And yeah, I’m afraid he is, Katherine. You want to fix Mary? Stop relying on Henry to do it for you. Figure out what powers you have and she doesn’t and use them. That is someone else with an emotional anchor for Henry, but if she’s the gladfly trying to get him to solve her problems she’s going to find him as elusive as you have.
The Presence of Anne of Cleves
As the band starts up with the old school hits (Greensleves – Not written by Henry), someone is peeking around the door, wondering what kind of reception she’ll get. She didn’t learn to play an instrument while she was away but it was noted she was now fluent in English. She had put on some weight, which suited her, and was now dressed lavishly in fashions other than German. (15)
Actually historically there was a bit of a pause here, caused by Katherine, but it wasn’t rudeness, it was that emphasis on correctness of hers, again. She wanted advice on the best way to greet Anne. She wanted a precedent for the etiquette, and was in a bit of a conundrum. It was agreed by her and the two advisors she had called in, The Earl of Sussex and Lord Audley, the Lord Chancellor, that lavish but apparently spontaneous courtesy, brought on by delighted appreciation of her guest could smooth any bumps caused by the uncertain formal protocol. Plan in place, they got to it.(16)
In The Tudors she gets greeted and escorted in by Charles Brandon. The chemistry between Charles and Anne of Cleves is not historical or particularly leaned on in the script but I am so here for it in The Tudors. He really should have asked for an annulment and permission to marry Anne of Cleves, they get on so well and he’s always kind of delighted to see her, and that’s an ahistorical spinoff I would watch. She seems happy enough being single, but I think she might have gone for it. Without it, I fear she might have an equally ahistorical problematic one night stand with a problematic ex who has suddenly decided he’s not entirely over her.
Katherine, in particular, appears to have been expecting someone very different to walk up. She also spots the chemistry suddenly coming off of Henry, and her body language is basically yelling “We’re a couple” for the entire exchange. Still, the hot, charming German lady is very gracious and respectful and that’s a nice change of pace for Queen Katherine.
Mary’s Second Dad
Once the dancing begins we go to the other points of the room, and find Mary meeting her other Dad, who is Chapuys who actually historically looked out for her, sometimes prioritising her needs over the Emperor’s (from time to time). Who she invites to sit as soon as she knows that with his gout, he is finding standing difficult.
She gets onto the subject of Queen Anne getting supplanted by Queen Katherine. She is not.a.fan.
The Other Anne Bams
She’s still seething as we hop the room to catch up with Anne Seymour and rogue brother in law Thomas who is asking if she has news of brother Edward?
OK, apparently this is the calling people on their bullshit week for The Tudors. Anne spots that Thomas is kind of just making conversation, but there’s a subtext, he’s keeping way in the distance. So she leans out, drags the subtext up to the service window and asks him if he’s going to order or what?
Henry’s getting a twinge.
It might be more than a twinge. He decides to retire early with the excuse that he was up early this morning.
But a slight urgency to him as he makes his goodnights to Anne, Katherine, Mary and the court, an increased pace as he gets near the door, a smile that’s grimacing a bit and a rapidly repeated “Boy. Boy.” aimed at Culpeper indicate all is not well.
Elizabeth’s Other Mothers
Katherine and Anne settle down on the thrones, and are both very ready to Prosecco this thing out.
That’s a yes, and you can feel the relief coming off of Katherine as she peeks under the shell of formality and finds warm, friendly responses coming back.
Anne tries to explain her deal. And throughout you see Katherine just not quite get how Anne’s so happy with it.
Yes, amazingly a boatload of cash, her own palaces, castle, estates and staff, no one to tell her what to do with it and a brilliant child that needs support, for some women that’s a big win, Your Majesty. That can be the jackpot if you’ve got the right attitude.
And Anne and Elizabeth were close into Elizabeth’s adulthood. Catherine Parr would come closer to being Elizabeth’s second mother, but Anne was a constant support to both of Henry’s daughters.
Hold it Down
We’re upstairs with Henry I’ve skipped the pus, it was gnarly. Still, the extent to which Henry was concealing his pain is shown the second he’s in private with Culpeper.
The massage ‘clears’ whatever is going on in there, and Henry settles down, out of acute pain for the moment.
While he is dressing the leg Culpeper asks permission to ask a question.
This moment gives us Henry’s changing attitude to Anne. Time and experience have shown him her worth, apparently. It also shows us the fondness he has for Thomas Culpeper who attends him in these intimate, painful moments.
Shall we dance?
Actually historically Anne’s visit was a big success. She and Katherine were polite, respectful and cordial and Henry actually did retire early the first evening. (17)
In The Tudors, once Henry has gone Anne notices that Queen Katherine is watching the dancing wistfully, and has an idea.
And everyone is delighted at this public, actual historical (17) demonstration of harmony from the two women.
Except Mary, who can barely stand to see them get along while they are at the other end of the room. She leaves, like, pointedly. Seriously, Mary is not winning diplomacy awards right now, and she could win so easily. Anne is a little perturbed to see Mary leave like that but she doesn’t stop dancing with the Queen. And the Lady Mary’s pique is soon forgotten in the jollity of the evening.
Meanwhile, upstairs, where the music is audible but muffled, Henry is brought low by his body and must recover at least a little before he can be the King again.
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Thanks for the support everyone.
Teensy edit 14/02/2021
Added 2nd audio 16/02/2021