The Tudors Recap – Season 4 Episode 2: Sister (Part 2)

Back on the Mezzanine

It’s the same night, but late. The servants are clearing up the hall and decorations, there’s a couple kissing in the corner.

Up on the mezzanine, Thomas Culpeper is suspiciously back down for a chat and Jane Boleyn is ‘Come and get me’ problematically drunk.

Which used to be a good way to show a woman showing her availability by acting a bit drunker than she actually was, but since the 90s could also indicate ‘actually drugged drunk’ and since, let’s say the mid 10’s, should really be assumed to be ‘getting too drunk to consent’ drunk.

Anyway, Thomas Culpeper’s opening line is…

So we’re entering this scene the same way we did when Joan told Jane. We’ve missed the start and she’s already spilled enough that he knows it’s worth digging there. Joan Bulmer’s “Tell no one” secret has lasted a couple of weeks or so before landing in the lap of someone who is going to use it. What its lost is the urgent request not to be repeated as it has now got away from the people its revelation would actually hurt.

Jane knows details, down to what Dereham used to bring with him, to help the evenings along, so Joan (who wasn’t actually historically at court) apparently kept talking.

Actual historical list (1)

And, of course, Dereham was a buyer in Dowager Duchesses household, and food made up a huge part of that. He would be ideally positioned to get treats from the stores as a way to gain admittance to the maiden’s chamber.

What isn’t included here is something Katherine actively denied in her confession (2), but was claimed by two separate people from the household when they were questioned: That it was Katherine that stole a set of the Duchesses’ keys to facilitate these parties (3).

When they get to an intriguing point for Culpeper, Jane Boleyn positively weaves over to the bench, and invites him to pour more wine as he invites her to, please, complete that story.

Hang by their bellies like two sparrows(4)

And, having spilled the beans, Jane Boleyn is either unknowing or uncaring that she’s just a stop on the journey for him,

for she is first responsive and then ravenous as he initiates some kissing.

Neuroses at the Seymours

Over at the Seymours everything is a lot more conflicted as Anne Seymour contemplates both her reflection and embarking on another ahistorical affair. The whole Seymour family dynamic after Jane’s death is all for the drama. The rivalry between the two brothers would only really boil over once Edward was king. When brother in law Thomas comes in as a result of Anne’s blatant invitation earlier that evening, she’s suddenly wondering aloud if this is what she wants. Thomas, however, also had a pretty good idea of why she offered.

It’s more a love/hate thing for Anne, evidenced by the fact that she tries to slap Thomas immediately after he says it. She looks really sad, almost grief stricken as he starts kissing her.

Is crying when she kisses him back, and then gets herself together, mounts her bed and invites him into it, saying it will be interesting to compare him to his brother.

Oh yeah, this is going to go great.

Peak Feud

We return to Whitehall in the daytime for a rumble.

Where Mary is praying and looking utterly correct as one of her ladies comes in, and informs her very deferentially that the Queen is here. Mary gives her a tiny nod, to indicate she has heard, and the lady backs off, eyes on the floor.

Meanwhile, at the door, Queen Katherine Howard is already utterly unable to stand still. Mary is all control and patience and correctness and this Katherine Howard is basically none of those things.

Mary walks in and oh, it is on...

Right, I’ve made my cup of tea, got a chocolate biscuit, let’s do this thing.

Mary’s curtsey is very small, and Katherine has to jump in so badly she is talking before Mary’s “Your Majesty” is complete. The rest of the first round is basically Mary delivering a series of roundhouse kicks to Katherine’s chest.

Katherine’s opener is to point out the discrepancy between Mary’s behaviour to Anne of Cleves and Katherine as the Queen, but unfortunately she belittles Anne of Cleves a bit while doing so, calling her “worth no account” at least as far as etiquette goes, being a private person in relation to a Queen. And Mary just soaks that up going “Great, now I can horsewhip you for all your shortcomings while still seeming reasonable, Thanks.” And that’s what she does.

What virtues does Anne of Cleves have? Anything you obviously don’t Your Majesty.

Then she calls her shallow, and unworthy of her position. Katherine’s comeback gets hit with being married 6 months and still not being pregnant yet. It’s appropriate that Mary, who hates her, is the first to get in on that but she certainly won’t be the last to up Katherine’s procreative tension. And finally she ends with implying that Step mothers, in her world, have proven pretty disposable, and she has no doubt Katherine will prove that way also. She gives every weak point some bruising attention.

Then, both ladies step up.

You can see Mary doesn’t really think anything of consequence is coming from Katherine. She has no fear of round 2. But finally, Katherine makes a significant offensive move and becomes the mouse that roars. She sees, finds and whacks Mary’s weak spot repeatedly with a hefty bit of wood.

The one thing I think Katherine gets wrong is that I don’t think it’s jealousy, but Katherine would see it like that. Mary is being cruel because she in despair that her father has arranged his fifth marriage to a lightweight by sabotaging the best chance she’s ever had, and he probably didn’t even notice he’d done it. Mary’s been due to get married since her mother was alive. Her first engagement was when she was 2, and yes, she is still not married. She was quite a bit older than Katherine, somewhere from 5-7 years older, which was significant for women of the time, and was 24 in 1540.

If she weren’t in so much pain about it, and in denial of Henry’s role in the total lack of reward for her endless patience, she could point out that that has happened (or failed to happen) because she’s politically massively important to the country, whereas no one really gave a damn who Katherine was or what she did until Henry decided he wanted her. But Mary is in significant pain about this, and no less than shocked by Katherine’s surprisingly accurate assault on her. All she can manage is a sputtering “How dare you”, because almost no one talks to Mary like that. As a potential heir, even one declared illegitimate, she outranks near everyone.

Except Katherine has finally noticed, as Mary has not, that Katherine actually does outrank her. Katherine doesn’t have to play nice, she did that because she wanted to be friends and she was a bit intimidated by the born to the Ultra Purple Princess Mary. But if friends isn’t going to happen, and you’re just going to be a bitch, well then screw you, Mary, I’m the Queen.

The “Good Day to You” is the cherry on top. Congratulations on your graduation, Queen Katherine.

Mary is breathing heavily, she was not expecting that at all, and there is nothing to be done. Henry’s no more going to sort out his new wife then he was going to sort out his daughter’s behaviour.

Was there a backup plan for when the Queen was tired of being your punching bag, Mary?

And Mary’s first attempt at giving some pain back to the world is suddenly going very poorly. And once again we get a great invented scene for an actual historical feud which did culminate in Katherine dismissing two of Mary’s ladies over Christmas 1540.(5)

The Gifts

This is, perhaps underlined when we cut to Katherine and Henry facelocked.

As we pull back we see Culpeper, Jane Boleyn and Joan Bulmer, and hear the voice of Anne of Cleves. So they were making out at dinner. In front of the servants and while they had his ex wife sitting at the table as a guest. The path of love does not always pass through taste and discretion avenues.

Fortunately Anne of Cleves is fine with it and once they’ve finished, announces a toast to Katherine, Queen of England.

And if not, well, Good Luck with that.

She also, while meaning it kindly, adds a half a pound to the reproductive pressure, but Katherine doesn’t appear to be feeling that yet. On the other hand, from the moment Anne says this, Henry is ready to add two or three pounds to that and starts feeling around Katherine’s lower stomach, actually checking to see if there’s any sign she might be carrying, right now.

Once again, thanks to u/sulliedandunusual for pointing out this moment on r/TheTudors subreddit, we all remember Anne Boleyn’s motto was “The most happy”, right? Well, check out Henry’s reaction as Katherine glides by that phrase.

I always found JRM a capable Henry. Once I got over the lack of physical accuracy I accepted him pretty quickly. “One note” is harsh, but through Seasons 1 and 2 I certainly thought that his Henry was a performance with a limited gear range. Season 3 he starts stretching his Henry out a bit more, there were a couple of monologues I loved and particularly in the second half of the season his reactions start being noticeably good.

Season 4 and his reactions are character informative, beautifully pitched and fitting. They’re reactions so it’s not the script helping him out. His Season 4 Henry is the wrong shape and colour (and health) but that guy is convincingly older, has an inner life, and he is now lighting up my screen on a regular basis.

Henry decides Katherine needs more presents, and indulgently (he seems as interested in the wine as her reactions tonight) gives her a ring.

Katherine is pleased, Anne of Cleves asks to see it and while they are admiring it, small barks are heard and two spaniels arrive.

In a moment of generosity (and perhaps, having compared Anne’s gracious behaviour with Mary’s this evening) Katherine gives the dogs to Anne of Cleves, after asking Henry’s permission. He gives it, and they are a happy trio at the conclusion to a very pleasant evening.

Very close to an actual historical incident. Henry sent the gifts rather than gave them personally, and Katherine gave Anne the dogs and the ring, and Chapuys certainly thought it was the Queen’s own idea. (6)


Ryan Murphy’s Feud is an amazing way to spend 8 hours, and contains Catherine Zeta-Jones as Olivia De Havilland (a woman who knew a little about feuding herself) delivering this gem right at the beginning.

And boy, is this ever true of Mary’s. She’s still mad when Chapuys, her Politics Dad, shows up. She says she’s going back to Hunsdon and tells him two of her maids have been dismissed (The surviving maid is Miss Correct Deference, obviously). Chapuys is immediately concerned that she doesn’t have permission to leave.

Only leaving a palace when you have the required permission from the Monarch was, and apparently remains, an important part of royal protocol (interesting, what they choose to keep hold of). The anger from Mary continues until it breaks, and there is so much of this in Sarah Bolger’s voice and full performance, and it is Season 4, so lets go a little mad and have more few videos this season. This time to cap off the Mary/Katherine Feud.

Politics Dad turns out to also be Emotions Dad, and Mary can finally express all that pain.

And maybe at some point from now, move on from it. Get a little harder, start thinking vengeance upon the world through before embarking upon it, and maybe doing better than just picking on someone she sees as weak, and a little beneath her.

Mr Culpeper and the women

We walk into the Queen’s apartments with Thomas Culpeper to deliver the ‘How is Henry’ news (once again, wasn’t his actual historical job). And Jane Boleyn is all about the chemistry she thinks is going on.

In fact, the whole way through this scene she’s stuck between resenting the attention Thomas is giving Queen Katherine, and brimming over with secret joy at being Culpeper’s lover.

Culpeper gives her a report about military success in Scotland, and Jane Boleyn and Joan Bulmer share a micro moment of contempt as Katherine does not know that “the field” means the battlefield in this context. Culpeper corrects her, reasonably and deferentially enough.

Katherine isn’t actually being flirtatious, she is playful, today, though.

And yes, Richard Jonas book of midwifery was going to be dedicated to Anne of Cleves (7), and he now like to dedicate it to Queen Katherine, or as Thomas, standing too close, being a bit presumptuous, and throwing the compliments puts it:

Katherine, being Katherine, goes straight to the ‘rude’ pictures and shares them with Culpeper. She’s not being flirtatious but they are both being overly familiar, and she’s not putting a stop to it. Jane Boleyn continues to be caught between annoyance at Katherine, and secret satisfaction.

And we cut straight to Jane being sexually satisfied by Culpeper, presumably that evening. She is apparently delighted by the experience, but like, the moment he finishes he’s talking about Katherine.

She’s still coming down, and asks him who he’s talking about. He says “Who do you think I’m talking about”, and Jane’s quiet satisfaction comes crashing down. He clearly wasn’t even mentally in the room while they were having sex.

And then Jane’s makes the weird, but psychologically plausible decision this arrangement hangs on in The Tudors, and I’ll buy that it’s partly out of desire for one party and contempt for the other that she picks this direction.

And suddenly Culpepper is all interested in her again, and she looks partly pleasured and partly victorious as Culpeper turns out to be a guy without a refractory period, (The Tudors appears to be convinced this is something that can be overcome with enough enthusiasm) or a guy who just faked an orgasm, because he’s right on top and at it again.

The poison has no way out

The music changes to something with beating tension and we follow Brandon as he marches up the palace corridors.

Henry’s health has taken a sudden and worrying turn, and Brandon appears to be the guy with power of medical attorney for him.

Henry actually historically did have a serious illness from an infection in his leg in February 1541(8). Henry had been planning to visit the device forts which he ordered created when he was on the wife search that brought about the Cleves marriage (early 1539). Unfortunately Henry often ended up building for effect rather than practicality, and while some were very stalwart, others were falling down. This all got stopped by the ulcer on his leg closing over and his life was feared for.

Did you not catch the condition of that leg? Here, have a good look.

Beautiful, that thigh is basically all scar tissue at this point. Well done makeup and effects.

Henry is in agony as they slice open the festering wound. And yeah, this is the one with the pus.

Available, like the nudity, in the original, should you need to see it.

The subtitle writers miss out Henry’s whispered “Charles” as he is at his high point of agony, but I forgive them, because they catch the whispered conversation that goes on after the operation between Gardiner, Brandon and the doctor.

And we get Henry’s reaction to it.

We are briefly taken outside, to Whitehall, it’s a time change. It’s daytime and we’re at least a few days later.

Whitehall is looking way better than Henry, who has made it to a council meeting.

He is flanked by Culpeper, as ever these days. Almost all of Henry’s dialogue here is Actual Historical, coming from two reports about Henry’s behaviour during his illness by Marillac to Francis I and Montmorency (9). It’s amazingly done, JRM is fantastic and the reactions from all his Councillors are great. Thomas Seymour gives his brother a “The hell? this is getting serious” look as Henry says “I know what you are plotting”, and Brandon, appropriately enough given that he’s the only one that’s ever been remotely selfless, is the only one that dares eye continuing contact.

I mean, imagine being a Councillor of Henry VIII and hearing this, while trying to hold on to your bowels.

Yeah, he thinks you’re plotting, he’d like Cromwell back now, and it’s all your fault he died.

I mean it’s hard not to lol as you get to “I mourn Cormwell’s death” but that lol has just a bit of nervousness fueling it and I’m near 500 years later and not working for him. Jesus.

The Seduction

Before we get into it, while she is really only seen in her rooms in the series, Katherine did have some political Queening to do in Spring 1541. On 17th January, Sir Thomas Wyatt had been arrested for that second imprisonment we’ve mentioned before, at the same time as Sir John Wallop, who was as prominent a conservative Catholic as Thomas was a Protestant reformer.

No one knew why Wyatt had been arrested, but such was the atmosphere that no one was speaking up for him. Well, no one except Queen Katherine, as Chapuys, Marillac and the Privy Council all reported that she had been lobbying for the release of both men. (10)

Releasing them would also happen to be a good way to remind everyone who was actually in control of these factions, and declaring them guilty, promising them a pardon in return for a confession and then attributing their pardon to the Queen’s intercession was a great way to get them out and avoid repercussions for the arrests. But she had been working for it.

It was the route Henry took, and he announced their pardon and Katherine’s place in it on their formal return to London on 19th March 1541. Wyatt got court ordered to return to live with his wife as part of his conditions of release. (10)

Actually Historically Katherine was kept away from the King during his illness. In The Tudors she is distraught, and confused although her fake crying basically involves looking under her lashes and sniffing a bit. The guy who is supposed to be telling her about the King’s condition has his own agenda and he is being very economical with the actualites. When Katherine gets hold of the wrong end of the stick he does everything in bounds that he can to encourage her to keep holding it that way.

Little looks between him and Jane Boleyn imply that this is the time, and once he’s gone, she has the other ladies leave. She then indicates to Joan, who has apparently been drawn into this, to make the first approach.

Joan lays it on pretty thick. If what she says is true then Culpeper was directed to confess to her by Jane Boleyn.

And this is not how it actually historically happened. Katherine and Culpeper kick off early in The Tudors. The first known approach wasn’t until Easter. Also the instigator wasn’t Culpeper, and it wasn’t Jane Boleyn. It was Katherine, and in the beginning it was a little off, behaviour wise, not an instant scandal.

The first sign that all was not entirely platonic between Katherine and Culpeper was on Maundy Thursday 1541. Katherine did the public charity in the morning, and handed out gifts in her rooms in the afternoon. Except one gift, which was given in private, near secretly. She had arranged it with the help of Jane Boleyn, and Henry Webb, one of her ushers brought Culpeper to the small corridor that linked Katherine’s public and private rooms. She got Culpeper a cap, and he got two from the King that year, but she was certainly acting like this was a romantic gift, and apparently that’s the spirit Culpeper took it in. She begged him to hide it under his cloak when he left and he said

“Alas, madam why did you not this when you were a maid?” and she said

“Is this all the thanks ye give me for the cap? If I had known ye would have these words you should never have had it” She clapped back. (11)

She was doing well at the time, not hugely political but she’d been having some successes, and she also thought she was holding a trump card for safety. At the time she first met Culpeper privately, she thought she was pregnant. That’s coming next episode, and it all happened a bit later than shown here.

Katherine seems to have been the initial instigator, and the evidence indicates that Jane Boleyn’s rise was due to the fact that she was providing Katherine with access to Culpeper, not the other way around.

Poking at the Wolves

We get a short reminder of the Seymour/Surrey feud, as Surrey has been writing poetry about them. Specifically that Anne “The Wolf Lady” attempted to entrap him “The Lion” but he was too noble a beast…

I haven’t been able to find such a poem in his works, but Actually Historically he did have a crack at seducing Anne Seymour, which failed and she was not pleased with the attempt. (12)

In The Tudors Surrey has also included accusations of judicial murder at the Seymours in the text.

The scene ends with some significant staring between Anne and Surrey and it looks like the Surrey/Seymour war is warming up.

Calling Time

A bell is tolling the time at the end of the Surrey/Seymour scene. It continues as we go upstairs to where Culpeper is tending to and sitting up with a feverish Henry.

While Katherine, feverish in a different way, and struggling to sleep hears Culpeper’s voice from earlier in the day.

And stops struggling in her bed, focused on a new direction.

it’s a new rainy day in Whitehall.

Inside the Queen’s rooms Katherine is alone with Jane Boleyn, playing a desultory game of cards.

Not knowing that Jane Boleyn is neck deep in all this, Katherine asks who she is talking about, and Jane says Culpeper.

Good thought, Queen Katherine, hold that thought.

The Tudors is going in on Jane Boleyn ‘involved procurer’, and she actively persuades Katherine around to it. Katherine isn’t exactly hard to persuade, but her initial reaction is not positive and it is Jane that is intent making all this possible, promising a level of secrecy she can’t possibly deliver, helped by all that info she got from Joan and making a huge impression on young, naive Katherine, who is kind of ready to hear that she can have what she wants.

Katherine looks intently and the knave of heart in her hand.

Before whispering “Are you sure?” to Jane Boleyn, who isn’t going to say “No” at this point.

And as the score mixes magic and danger,

a torch wielding Joan Bulmer is leading Culpeper around the back corridors, toward the Queen’s rooms.

And finally, with the help of quite a few of the women supposed to be helping her avoid this kind of mess, Culpeper breaches the impossible door for a private, romantic visit with the Queen.

While a weakened but slowly recovering Henry stares alone at the moon.


  1. WOW, I looovvvveee ur recaps!!! Like I can’t watch them cuz I don’t know where to watch the series, and most other recaps are pretty general and a brief summary, but urs is just sooooooo fun! And that clip with Mary and Chapuys, I-I just— I mean I just LOVE that scene! I’m looking forward for more, and I was just wanting to ask you if you can also recap the Spanish Princess, because apparently I can’t watch it!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Love it- your recap! I agree that JRM comes into his own this season. He even scared me a bit- I mean in light of brutal times of execution that were not based on any legal bases, but rather the king…I would of been scared to death at angry paranoid Henry. It felt like only Brandon was safe, as we have seen the only predictable thing about Henry was his unpredictability. Now knowing that the best predictor on future behavior is past behavior- I might of wet my pants a bit. Well not really but I’m making a point here…(sorry for the over word play of predictable but it had to be done)

    Thank you for shedding some new light on Katherine, Culpepper, and the still odd person in this love/lust triangle, Jane Boleyn. I can barely wrap my mind around Katherine being the one that sought him out, and Jane’s star rose by giving Katherine access to Culpepper. It boggles the mind. Well my mind, how she could risk all. I mean I do recall being a 17 year old female, and focusing more on instant gratification and/or a sort of notion you will live forever- I mean not like immortal but at 17 many believe that you will just live and experience and being even 30 is like a zillion light years away. But a risk that large- maybe she had fallen in puppy love, or thought herself so powerful she was untouchable. Ummmm wrong. Very wrong. I always wondered about Jane boleyns involvement. I remember in the first season Katherine of Aragon told the Spanish ambassador that her maids spied on her and when ask what they got in return she said money or even sexual favors. I didn’t know what that would look like until now. I took it as some overt sort of deal but here it’s really based on desire or love. Huh. Well I’ll be. (Naive?)

    Mary Mary. Poor Mary. Chapuys is more of a father than her father. He tries to help balance her or is at least concerned when he thinks she might be acting a little over the top… she will really need some of that later on. Signs of bullying – never a great sign for a monarch. Hmm I wonder where she gets that from….anyone? Just kidding. I know you get that training in the class ‘our flesh is sacred and god chose me to rule so I can be an absolute asshat’ class. Sorry. Couldnt help it. Not that life wasnt hard on her, it was awful at times. And Henry didn’t understand why there were no father of the year award nominations in the great European monarch Father’s Day .

    Thank you again for all you add to this show…you have a huge brain 😉!

    Liked by 1 person

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