The Reproductive News
Henry and Katherine take a walk in the gardens at Whitehall, while discussing preparations for the great Northern progress. He gives a list of locations and says they’ll be ‘hunting and hawking’ along the way, and their journey was punctuated by hunting stops, that could last from several days up to a fortnight, to give the court a rest from traveling and the nobility chance for their favorite pastime. But there would be ceremonial occasions as well.
Katherine says that all of this still seems like a dream from which she hopes never to wake. Well, smelling salts incoming, Your Majesty, for a hard truth is about to be faced. She asks if Henry will come to her bed chamber that night.
And that’s why her predecessors were very careful about their pregnancy announcements. No one wanted to have this conversation with Henry. Actually historically it could have been one of three things, an early term miscarriage, an ill advised ploy (Where would it be heading? ‘No sex during pregnancy’ was the advice of the time so it wasn’t a ploy with a future) or a mistake.
A very young woman, under massive reproductive pressure, mistaking her period dates and maybe getting a rogue symptom, then rushing headlong to the conclusion everyone is desperate for her to reach is pretty damn understandable, unless you’re Henry. Henry is happy for all the pluses of a young, inexperienced wife but the completely predictable occasional negatives of that experience are not to be borne, apparently.
The serious disappointment with Katherine’s false alarm was joined by reproductive news from Scotland. Marie de Guise continued to smash expectations for a royal wife and had now produced 4 sons from about as many pregnancies, 2 for her first husband (of which the younger, Louis, had died early) and 2 for James V, who now had an heir and a spare. Marie had given birth to her fourth son on 12th April 1541, but tragedy struck fast and hard. Both of her her sons by James died within hours of each other, when the elder was nearly one year and the younger just 8 days old. The tragedy was so complete and sudden that poison was suspected by the Queen and half of the Scottish court(1).
In The Tudors, Katherine then goes straight from her uncomfortable situation to her escape from pressure, called Thomas Culpeper. The Tudors times the letter, as most historians did last decade(2), to Culpeper’s illness in May or June 1541, hence we get it now. However this decade is the one that has finally seen some work done on Katherine Howard and the general consensus now is that it was more likely to be written quite late during the Northern progress instead. It is her only surviving letter.
Katherine mentions Thomas being ill in the text, and his going away for a while. This was assumed to be his illness in Greenwich in May and June (when she sent him the meals) but he was also ill at one point during the progress and had a week long trip with Henry to Hull while everyone else stayed at York. That and the tone of the letter (which used to confuse historians for being pretty ‘warm’ for what the other evidence they had said was still an early stage in the relationship) mean it was probably written in September 1541 at York, not now(3). That would also help explain how it survived to be discovered in Culpeper’s rooms in November, it was relatively recent.
In The Tudors Katherine is looking out the window at Culpeper and crying, as the slow, sad music starts up and we start to get, in voiceover, a truncated and edited but pretty faithful version of her letter. It starts as the original starts:
I heartily recommend me unto you, praying you to send me word how that you do”
Then it moves to what she said at the end of the original, as Katherine writes it in her rooms at night.
Her handwriting is pretty terrible. The original is a lot better, but comparatively not great in an age where handwriting was an art form.
In The Tudors we go to Jane and Thomas in bed, with Jane reading the letter aloud and unkindly.
“I heard that you were sick and never longed so much for anything than to see you” is slightly edited/modernised for clarity, as the original goes:
“It was showed me that you was sick, the which thing troubled me very much till such time that I hear from you“
similarly the next line in The Tudors:
“It makes my heart die to think I cannot always be in your company“
“…it makes my heart to die to think what fortune I have that I cannot always be in your company“
And she signs off, as she did
“Yours as long as life endures“
While Jane continues facetious and Culpeper looks quite moved.
The letter is hugely truncated. Most of the rest of the original is trying to set up their next meeting. She mentions his promise to be good to her servant, and you think Oh great, that’s unusual, she was thinking about her servant on this risky mission. But it turns out that’s only because that servant is apparently the only way she has of communicating with Culpeper at that time. She also includes the line:
“…praying that you will come when my Lady Rochford is here for then I shall be best at leisure to be at your commandment.“
Which would pretty much confirm what the rest of the staff had at that time been observing about Lady Rochford. But The Tudors misses that out to go straight to the heart of the matter. It’s a love letter, and presented as one. It’s more than warm, it’s nearly passionate, there’s a lot of longing in there, which Historians trying to sell the ‘Culpeper was actually a Blackmailer’ theory basically do backflips to avoid mentioning, and talking a lot about ‘context’ while never actually providing any that supports the idea that this is not a love letter. Should you want to read it I’ve included a transcript of the letter (with modernised spelling) taken from Young & Damned & Fair in the footnotes page, at (4).
Jane says “It’s not her fault, she’s so young” in a way that I think was supposed to bond her and Culpeper together in a “Look at us, two seasoned courtiers wise in life and she’s just a young fool” kind of thing and then tries to initiate foreplay. But Culpeper is still drawn to the letter, and speaks surprisingly tenderly as he says:
And I think that’s bang on. I think Katherine was in love with Culpeper and the earliest meetings they had (soon after Henry’s serious illness) were about putting a marker down and making sure he knew he had a prospect with her and he didn’t marry anyone else during what could surely just be the few years she’d be married to Henry. And I think it got away from her because she was young, and in love with him, under huge pressure from her position, and she thought she’d got away with something similar before, when in fact those consequences were just taking their time to catch up with her. In the end, I think it was inexperience, the confidence of youth and a lack of ruthlessness that brought her down.
Jane finds Thomas unreceptive, and snatches the letter away again, trying to re-engage his attention. He snatches it back and she says ‘whatever’ with her eyebrows and drinks her wine while he studies the letter again.
Katherine’s lack of pregnancy admission sends Henry back to Hever. For presumably another meal, some more discussion and now a card game that’s getting kind of…saucy.
Henry does a little thing where he pulls the card she needs to pick from him back a little. Anne gets giggly.
The tension rises as the game draws to a conclusion, and then Anne lays down the hand that sweeps the game away from Henry.
I’m not saying they were at zero, but they were at about thirty and Henry’s gone straight to one hundred. Actually, given that this is a woman he divorced because he found her hideous they might well have been at twenty five.
Meanwhile, back at Whitehall, Lady Rochford’s eye is back at the door. And Katherine and Thomas are accelerating, too.
He gets her top off, calls her sweet, which becomes “Sweet little fool” and tells her he loves her just before heading towards what The Tudors is sure is penetrative sex. It’s underlined when she reminds him about the ‘interruptus’ part of coitus interruptus, which is apparently the contraception method being used.
Once he’s promised to interruptus, she hops on board with enthusiasm. So The Tudors picks a side on another theory of Katherine Howard, the one that says she was using Culpeper in order to get pregnant. That’s a ‘No’ in The Tudors. It’s been used in a few adaptations, but historians on the whole don’t go for it. If Henry was having impotence issues serious enough for a Queen to doubt if she’d get pregnant she’d better damn well not show up pregnant when she shouldn’t.
Her first recorded approach to Culpeper was when she thought she was pregnant, and both the timing of their relationship (they were nowhere near this point, yet.) the later testimony and the letter indicate a romantic attraction on Katherine’s part rather than a requirement for a sperm donor.
There’s a cool shot of Jane Boleyn’s eye at the keyhole, and we pull away from the scene as she does.
Back to Hever, where clothes and jewelry have been cast aside.
Henry and Anne are clearly post coital. As we didn’t see them at it, we get to hop by the fact that Henry was up to exactly the same thing as Katherine. And as Anne seems happy we get to hop by the fact that when you have the power of life and death over a woman and have done a hell of a lot more than just pay for dinner there wasn’t a realistic ‘No’ available to her.
This is Joss Stone‘s last appearance on The Tudors, which in the effort to give her character a finally fuckable day has had one of its least historical ones.
Still, despite Henry’s total lack of interest there were recurring rumours that he would take back Anne of Cleves, which even upset Katherine in May 1541. It was after her pregnancy alert, and one day in May she was sad and withdrawn enough that Henry asked her what was the matter. She said it was due to rumours that Henry was going to take Anne back. In a very Henry moment, he said she was wrong to believe such rumours. Why, even if he did have to marry again, it wouldn’t be to Anne of Cleves. (5)
I’m sure that settled her concerns right down.
The Most Beloved
Back in Whitehall, Henry’s going to have a meeting with his son before he goes on progress. You can tell how important he is because it’s a double announcement. Risley comes in and announces Lady Bryan, who comes in and announces Prince Edward.
Henry checks to see the his son is well looked after and no one is being mean to him, and then gives him a gift. He’s decided to give his very precious son a weapon.
I’m amazed Lady Bryan isn’t screaming. The woman’s job means she has to freak out every time Prince Edward gets a cold and his dad just gifted the 5 year old weaponry.
He explains to Edward that he’s going away but Edward’s uncle will be staying in London. Speaking of which, Henry has managed to talk to and about his son for like two minutes and he hasn’t mentioned what to do in case of a cold or fever once, yet. Of course, he immediately self corrects.
Henry and Jane’s theme starts up and Henry says:
And he asks Prince Edward if he knows who she was. Edward nods adorably solemnly, and produces a miniature of Jane, saying “This is her”, and goes to rummage in his pockets for something else he apparently carries with him as Henry contemplates the picture.
And he comes back with “And this is her thimble”. Henry kisses the thimble tenderly, and tells Edward he’s a good boy, from the heart. He loves Edward so much, both as his son and heir and the remainder of his mother so much that it’s painful, and he lets us see a bit of that once Edward has left.
Henry’s years are numbered, and Edward is still so young.
Well he’s been banging number 4, missing number 3, and time spent with number 5 has suddenly become work. She’s in her apartments, where the book on midwifery that was all a big joke last week has become an object of fascination and quiet concern.
She jumps up when told the King has arrived. He has come to give her the news that they will be leaving in two days and to ensure she’s prepared. He’s also come to drop the news that Mary will be coming with them, as she did actually historically (6). And while it’s not generous, or kind, it is kind of satisfying to see Katherine deploy her one trick she’s previously employed to use Henry against others (looking cute and wheedling) and for Henry to finally and roundly slap it down.
Still, The Tudors‘ Katherine does have great emotional intelligence. And while what she does next might not be proper, it does cut right to the heart of her issue with Henry.
He doesn’t say anything because what is he going to say? There are two things going on in his relationship with Katherine. 1) The infatuation period is coming to an end and 2) he’s angry about the fact that she mistakenly thought she was pregnant and he’s started taking it out on her. So he walks out silently, and if anyone dared press him he’d probably talk about that being inappropriate behaviour for a Queen, but she was right on the money about the problem and apologising for her part in it. Henry’s anger has nowhere to go.
That was pretty smart. Should buy her a few months.
The atmosphere in the Queen’s apartments is nowhere near the light hearted fun it used to be. Katherine retreats to the bed and the book, definitively drawing the bed curtain against a concerned Joan Bulmer and returning to her study of something she was probably terrified of happening to her when she started sexual experimentation, but now pregnancy is the key to her life and future, and it’s proving damn elusive.
Everyone was putting their house in order before the progress set off on 30th June 1541. Henry got all those executions done (Lord Dacre, Margaret Pole etc.), Katherine’s visits to her step children and a formal reconciliation with Mary all happened in the early summer of 1541, rather than 1540 as The Tudors had it.
And once all that was done, they set off. Before Henry VIII progresses were used as a political tool to solidify the Crown’s influence over the country. Most medieval kings nearly lived in the saddle, Henry VII helped solidify his rule with a series of progresses after he won the Crown at Bosworth, and managed to make it to York twice in his lifetime(7). For Henry VIII, progresses were basically about recreation. He hadn’t really needed to secure his rule, and bureaucracy was coming on so his traveling was mainly around the home counties and by waterways as much as possible.
Travelling by road for any distance was damn hard, and the English weather decided to make the summer of 1541 as wet as the summer of 1540 had been dry. It rained heavily for a long time, making the roads borderline impassable and the Queen fell ill. As a result, they were still in Northamptonshire in mid July and running about well behind schedule. (8)
The Tudors bypasses this month and a half and sets us on what is probably the road to Lincoln with the next scene. A small boy, not much older than Edward, is working with his family in the fields when he hears something, drums and hoofbeats.
Maybe the kid had already heard about the King coming north, because despite the protestations of the foreman he goes sprinting off to see what’s up, and we get to see it through his young and amazed eyes.
It would have been bigger than it’s implied to be in The Tudors. Henry went North accompanied by a military force larger than the first army he sent to deal with the actual live rebellion in Lincolnshire at the start of the Pilgrimage of Grace(9).
The boy gets a friendly wave from the Earl of Surrey (Culpeper’s going to teleport briefly in a continuity error, he’s shown right behind Surrey now and then a little distance behind the Queen later in the scene).
We get to see the boy’s wonder at the guards in their bright uniforms, the horses, the banners, the wolfhounds nearly as big as him.
And the boy’s POV is key as we see Henry shot from the boy’s perspective, from below, as the actual King of England comes into view.
The boy gets a golden coin that could probably buy his home to remember the King by and whatever his family spend it on they will know it came at the gift of Henry VIII.
Mary has her own growing fan base among the people, but Henry’s getting so much adulation he doesn’t feel threatened by that today.
While the Queen’s mind is on other things.
Assuming we’re in Lincolnshire by now, quite a lot has happened in the month and more of traveling The Tudors has skipped over.
While the court was at Loddington, Northamptonshire, Queen Katherine gave Lady in Waiting Margaret Morton (later a star witness for the prosecution) a letter for Lady Rochford. Morton handed it over, and Lady Rochford said to tell the Queen she’d have a response for her in the morning. When she picked it up the next day it apparently came back with a warning to the Queen from Lady Rochford to ‘keep it secret and not lay it abroad’.
By 7th August they were staying at Grimsthorpe Castle just inside of Lincolnshire (10), one of the properties of the Duke and Duchess of Suffolk (the Brandons). This time Katherine used her distant cousin (and the girl from the Duchesses’ household who had got a job as her chamberer) Katherine Tilney to ask Lady Rochford if she ‘had the thing she had promised her’. The response was that Lady Rochford promised to bring her word herself when it arrived. (11)
It’s a very good bet that the secret meetings with Culpeper were being arranged, and apparently, at Queen Katherine’s insistent request.
Audley (Lord Chancellor), Ralph Sadler, Edward Seymour and Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer were left at home in London to run things (12). And we are back at Whitehall for a moment or two.
In this scene, Gardiner comes in to semi innocently ask after the King’s Progress with Edward Seymour, now Lord Hertford.
This recreational slaughter actually historically happened a little after the visit to Lincoln (which Henry and Katherine are traveling towards at this point in the show), at Hatfield Chase which is between Lincolnshire and South Yorkshire.
Ambassador Marillac was amazed by the number of deer they had (not knowing that the Earl of Shrewsbury had been moving stags into the area) (13). They really did kill 400 deer in two days. But many of them weren’t shot, at least not fatally, and it wasn’t actual hunting. The deer got enclosed into a small area and then they shoved greyhounds in there to kill them.
Astoundingly from a modern point of view this was their entertainment, they didn’t see anything wrong with it, and apparently everyone still had their appetite when served the venison for dinner. They even did it again the next day. It was what they did, and called ‘sport’.
But that’s not really what Gardiner is here for. He segues into the kind of obvious fact the Surrey is accompanying the King, but that gets Edward’s attention.
And Gardiner reveals that he has been monitoring Surrey (that guy in the cloak at the tavern turns out to have been one of his guys). He has got some sworn statements about what Surrey did, and apparently decided to turn it over to someone in power and known to be Surrey’s enemy to see what happens.
But Gardiner revealing his motivation for arresting Surrey is either a swing and a big miss at recruiting an ally, or a power move, because the one thing Edward Seymour and Surrey have in common is the fact that they’re both Protestant. The temperature drops about 10 degrees as he leaves.
Are we there yet?
The Progress is approaching Lincoln.
They get Lincoln Cathedral, and the way it would have dominated the town, largely right. They’re just missing the spires that sat on top of the towers, of which the tallest central one, blew down in 1548, the year after Henry died.
Actually Historically Henry and Katherine were met at the city gates by local dignitaries and presents were given and pleasantries exchanged. Then they went to a prepared tent to change. Henry changed from Green to an outfit of Cloth of Gold, and Katherine from Crimson to Cloth of Silver, then they entered the Cathedral. It was a public occasion and there were a lot of records of what they did, and what they wore. (14)
In The Tudors we get some prayers by the Bishop that really underline how King was to be considered a completely divine appointment now.
When the bishop gets to remembering the ladies to God, he manages to underline the reproductive pressure on Katherine again (at this point maybe all the subtext of every conversation she has might be ‘Pregnant yet?’) by hoping that God maintains her in faith, in love…
“Fecundity” basically meaning fertility but with an emphasis on quantity. May God give you many, many children, Your Majesty. Mary is remembered and gets a ‘blessed’ in there.
And then Henry is invited to speak. Which actually historically he wasn’t and didn’t. But it’s the kind of speech he would have given, although he’d probably have leaned more on the first part, which his reminding everyone about their unnatural unlawful and now impious act of rebellion in 1536.
But there’s forgiveness at the end so yay.
We go the the Bishop’s Palace that Henry and Katherine are staying in.
And Katherine is particularly interested in the layout of the place, exploring everything with an apparent purpose in mind, with Lady Rochford being her super understanding tour guide.
She’s particularly exited to find an entrance to the King’s chamber down the backstairs, with the implication that it also allows access for those that accompany him.
That night, Henry is having his leg bather by Culpeper, in a room with two chandeliers made entirely of antlers (I suppose they’ve had to find uses for all those carcasses). His leg is too bad to visit the Queen, which is a shame because he wanted to tonight.
Back in the Queen’s chambers at nearly Midnight, Katherine is impatient for Henry to get to sleep so she can sleep with the equivalent of his valet.
Actually Historically that night at Lincoln was the first night we know Katherine and Culpeper met privately. Jane Boleyn had been asked to set something up during the progress and Lincoln seems to be the place where it all came together.
Lady Rochford’s room was above the Queens and accessible by a narrow flight of stairs. Lady Rochford’s room at Lincoln also had a second entrance.
One of the things that’s very different from The Tudors’ depiction is that she was nowhere near this open about it. There was no blatant agonies of impatience or this, when Jane Bulmer comes back with news that the King is asleep.
Instead, very late that night, Queen Katherine suddenly announced she was going to Lady Rochford’s rooms for a chat. She was accompanied up the stairs by Margaret Morton and Katherine Tilney, but Katherine dismissed them at that point, saying she would go in alone.
Once they were happy they were alone, she and Lady Rochford went out the other entrance to the rooms to wait at the back entrance to the Queen’s apartments for Culpeper’s arrival(15).
There was actually more drama than shown, here. A night watchman noticed that a door to the Queen’s Apartments was open and locked it, while the Queen and Jane hid. Culpeper and his servant (who was subsequently told to wait outside) got there once the watchman had left and Culpeper picked the lock. Katherine got kind of frantic at this and apparently needed calming down (16), this perhaps being one of the moments where she realised just how much of a risk she was running.
She was calmed and the three of them went into her stool chamber (which was large enough for Lady Rochford to sit some distance away from them).
They were not, as The Tudors had them, actual lovers,
actually humping that night. They were still talking, but they were increasingly talking like lovers. They discussed past loves, Culpeper’s current mistress (Bess Harvey), and at one point Katherine said if ‘Well, if I had tarried in the maiden’s chamber I would have tried you'(17)
All not particularly innocent, but not, you know, actually having sex. Katherine returned to bed about 2 or 3am, all of which made Lady Rochford’s later claim to have slept through half of this at least somewhat plausible.
But others were not sleeping on this. Adding this to what she had seen earlier Margaret Morton stayed up until Katherine actually went back to bed, Katherine Tilney asking “Jesus, is not the Queen abed yet?” she answered “Yes, even now” (meaning just now) she said.
Katherine’s behaviour was strange, and getting noted, and this was not the Dowager Duchesses household, and out in the world her early life was, even now, catching her up.
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