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

Kingship Tutorial

We go to Windsor.

Where late stage monarchists would be annoyed to find that the Royal Standard is flying when Henry isn’t there, but maybe delighted that it appears to be the right one? (There’s a yellow square with a red lion for Scotland these days)

Where Elizabeth is visiting Edward, and while she is there, trying to impart some Latin. She uses a Latin poem widely used in education a little later than this and for centuries afterwards – William Lily’s Carmen de Moribus from 1549. The opening lines of this text that she tries to get Edward to memorize are very apt –

“Qui mihi discipulus, puer es, cupis atque doceri”

Translates to-

“Boy, you who are a student of mine and desires to be taught, come here.”

But Edward keeps drifting off and playing with his toys.

The Tudors gives us a slightly larger age gap at this point than actual history, Edward was 4-5 years old in 1541, while Elizabeth was 8-9 years old.

This scene starts imparting the idea that Edward and Elizabeth were relatively close siblings for the Tudor royal family, which they were. Also, the slightly older Elizabeth gives us chance to see her diligence in education, and to see her early thinking on kingship and statecraft, as she can’t resist trying to get what she feels is basic and necessary ruling advice to stick before letting him go and play.

Having Lady Bryan show up and smile approvingly completes the picture of a period of relative domestic happiness in their childhood.

Stress Fractures

Unlike the situation in the North, where a brief look at the ladies before we turn our attention to the Queen confirms that life is no longer a shower of rose petals.

Queen Katherine is middle distance staring and reduced to a fugue state by the stress she’s under. She did get noticeably stressed toward the end of the progress. One night at Pontefract Mistress Luffkyn (one of her chamberers) forgot the ‘only Lady Rochford comes in’ rule and Katherine threatened to fire her and Margaret Morton (1).

Then Lady Rochford drifts by staring at the back of her head like a passing Japanese vengeance ghost and her brand new gentleman usher and panic source comes in to announce her current lover and everything gets worse.

The Tudors goes in on the tension between Katherine’s current and ex being suddenly in the same household, which works dramatically but doesn’t have an actual historical basis (maybe there was, but once they thought Katherine had been committing adultery no one really cared what her two men thought of each other), and the rest of this scene muddles its characters, contains some really offensive dialogue and drifts further from actual history.

First Culpeper looks over at the ladies, indicating to Katherine that she should dismiss them, and she does that with a hand flap and pained expression, like they should already know to go because Thomas Culpeper has indicated it. It’s nicely done and shows, rather than tells, us about a Culpeper who is used to being in control of the room these days.

Dereham takes a bit longer, and a stare from Culpeper to get going, and then Culpeper is right into wanting to know who is this fresh jackass trying to muscle in on his turf?

And then The Tudors wanders further from actual history for the drama, uses some offensive dialogue and seems to give its characters a bit of a concussion.

Well, to begin with (standard disclaimer for this not being particularly accessible knowledge when The Tudors was filmed) Culpeper already knew about Dereham. He and Katherine discussed past lovers pretty extensively at Lincoln (2).

The ‘never a child’ line is pretty horrific, but maybe par for the course with 16th century misogyny, it’s certainly been used as an insult and justification to the abused more recently than that, and The Tudors‘ Culpeper is a rapist, so it sounds like something he’d say.

But both their motivations are so muddled here. If they’ve talked about her sexual history then why is she denying previous intimacy with Dereham? And if they haven’t why should Culpeper particularly ‘know’ with some tone and implied blame? They actually historically met just before she became Queen, and in the series, well after that.

Katherine also didn’t play the recent virgin with Thomas. Another of her ladies, Dorothy Bray, was mistress to one Sir William Parr (Brother to Catherine). Sex outside of marriage for one of the Queen’s ladies should have been a scandal, but Katherine was fine about it, neither Bray not Lord Parr getting censured, and saying to Culpeper in one of their meetings:

“If I listed I could bring you into as good a trade as Bray hath my Lord Parr in”

Culpeper said he didn’t think she was the same kind of woman as Dorothy and she replied

“Well, if I had tarried in the maidens chamber I would have tried you.”(3)

Certainly by the time they got to this point, she wasn’t claiming maidenly modesty. She was a married woman with a history and he knew it. So both of the character’s attitudes here don’t square with actual history, and at some points, even with their history as shown on The Tudors.

Thomas tries to touch her face, and his silent utter shock that his hold over Katherine is not complete is very well played. As is a version of Katherine she could really have done with letting out at Francis Dereham last recap, and later in this one.

And Where the hell has this Your Majesty been?

Finally the cruel denial she uses at the end of the scene to break up with him:

Was an actual historical joke. One night while they were staying at York, Culpeper arrived and Katherine joked she had a store of other lovers at other doors as well as he, and Thomas said he had no doubt about that (4). It came out when their interrogators were fishing around for something to prove Dereham had slept with the Queen after marriage, and they tried to imply she was serious and she might have meant Dereham. here it’s used as ammunition for a temporary break up.

Katherine yells at him to get out, he goes back to formal dignity, saying ‘Your Majesty’ and retreating, and you can tell she’s regretting it 3 seconds after doing it.

This is not going to last is it?

The King of Scots

We go to York with a rare composite CG aerial shot, designed to show off the grandeur of York minster and give us a sense of place.

It’s a good trick. If you’re not concentrating you might not notice it’s Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin again with a heavy disguise on to convince you she’s got a broader and longer nave than you remember.

Henry and his crew come up the aisle looking well dressed and confident.

To meet the slightly nervous clergy and secular important men of York.

Including a low key bricking it Archbishop of York Edward Lee, who was more rebellion adjacent than rebellious in Season 3.

The immediate formal apology for being part of the rebellion follows, as does the handing over of gifts of money.

So, that Scottish visit. It seems that facts kept coming up against a tyrant who really wanted something (and to whom no one really wanted to be the one to say – isn’t going to happen) so the preparations for James’ visit went on long after there was any real possibility of it going ahead.

Anglo-Scottish relations weren’t going well, and things on the border were getting aggressive, and Henry was going to come North with a not inconsiderable military force, hence James even considering a visit. When Henry started the progress James sent out 2 envoys at the same time, Thomas Bellenden to Henry, and Cardinal Beaton to Paris to meet Francis I (5). It looks like he was hedging his bets.

During his meeting with Henry, Bellenden appears to have offered a meeting with James, which Henry had been after for a while (5). Whether he overstepped his brief, whether it was instruction to throw the English off until James got word back from his allies the French, or whether Bellenden said ‘maybe’ and Henry heard ‘Yes’ is unknown but James was never that keen on a visit.

Henry, however, was determined it should go ahead, so he sent for all his best tapestries and plate and tents to come on up to York, leading to all that speculation about Katherine getting crowned or being pregnant – it was all actually for the visit of the King of Scots. Their time at York was to be extended to basically the month of September and he would fit in a trip to Hull while they were waiting (taking Culpeper, and that’s when it’s probable Katherine’s love letter was written).

Part of the reason Henry desperately wanted the meeting is that he was convinced he could get his nephew to cast off Catholic Rome and reform his church like Henry did. Which perhaps demonstrates how bad Henry was at looking at things from another’s point of view. James had absolutely no motivation to do that. His biggest allies, the French, would have hated it, the Catholic church was still strong in Scotland and James was a supporter – the movement towards Protestantism in Scotland would not get going until some time after Henry’s death. This also meant that the Catholic church in Scotland had no wish for their King to meet the heretic across the border, who was determined to drag their good Catholic King into apostasy.

The location was another issue. Henry might have traveled a long way north but York was still deep into England from the perspective of the Scots. Even members of James’ court that wanted a meeting wanted it at Newcastle, Carlisle or somewhere not as far south into what was, from time to time, enemy territory (6).

Signals were missed in Henry’s determination to have this go ahead.

On 2nd September Sir Thomas Wharton wrote from the Scottish borders that James had, in fact, headed north instead, and was now at Falkland Palace with the Queen so there was no possibility he was coming (7). Every point about the meeting put by the English was met by equivocal responses from the Scots, but Henry kept ploughing ahead like it was a certainty.

They had never met, but Henry’s letters to his nephew tended to hector and lecture him, and sometimes got sharp replies back, James once implying that he hadn’t had to deal with a big rebellion as recently as Henry so maybe he could shut up a bit (8).

Maybe a long visit with your perma-arrogant uncle and the prospect of 10 days worth of “Why I’m awesome” monologues and ‘What you want to do is…” speeches is more likely and more off putting than actual attempted murder, Henry.

Slo-mo Self destruct

The King and Queen stayed at the repressed abbey, St Mary’s, where Francis Dereham is utterly failing to fit in to his new station in life. We see it through the lens of the increasingly concerned Lady Rochford and Joan Bulmer.

Francis’ manners were boorish, and his appointment caused apprehension and suspicion in the Queen’s household (9). As frustrating a character as he is, I like the spin The Tudors puts on him. We see Katherine, engaged in almost pointedly refined and polite conversation at the head of the table.

And Francis with his own ideas halfway down.

She right there, this girl that used to be completely his. Everyone’s acting like she’s the centre of the universe but she used to be at his beck and call. Now he finds them both in a similar situation, in the milieu of service to a great household, except somehow he’s the supplicant and she’s elevated, uninterested and distant.

So he tries what worked before, in the same way as before, and gets a very different result.

She was doing so well until the “Thank you”. She’s desperately trying to normalise things when Dereham is hint immune, acting like a jackass, and that isn’t going to get anyone anywhere except dead. Then, obviously to everyone, the upset Queen is forced from the table by the behaviour of her usher, which shouldn’t be allowed to stand.

Enter Laurence Spellman’s John Fell, agent of order, and my hero of the episode to tell this bounder Dereham that this is unacceptable behaviour, man. But nothing will keep Francis Dereham from his headlong sprint to the grave.

“Did he just encourage me to imply something that could get his tongue torn out?” Yes, Mr Fell, yes he did.

This encounter is based on an actual historical incident. It was a Mr Johns in the Queen’s service who had noticed Francis hanging around at the table after the meal was over, a privilege normally reserved only for members of the Queen’s council. He sent a pageboy to ask Francis ‘Whether he were of the Queen’s council?’ Dereham sent him back with the massage “Go to Mr Johns and tell him I was of the Queen’s Council before he knew her and shall be when she hath forgotten him.”(10).

Dereham was suicidally open to implying undue familiarity with the Queen. In history as in The Tudors, it is almost like he hadn’t noticed, or fully grasped, who she was married to now.

Windsor Fever

At Windsor, Elizabeth comes in to kiss her brother goodnight when she notices his laboured breathing, and the heat of his skin, and suddenly the household is in a panic.

Edward did get ill, but it was when Henry was almost back to London, and the first time it’s mentioned was on 29th October 1541, in a letter from Marrilac to Francis I (11). The Tudors messes with the timeline, first because it’s not going to have Henry and Katherine appear to stay in York for as long as they did (nearly a month) and it’s going to use it as a reason to have Henry high tail it back to London between scenes.

The Beginning of the End

We’re back to York that evening, where Dereham appears to have not stopped drinking since we last saw him. Mr Fell approaches him again, presumably an emissary from the rest of the staff (Sir Edward the shoe overseer is also there in support) and tries to get him under some semblance of control. Dereham once again says how he is very familiar with the Queen.

He takes umbridge when talked to about his bragging and lies (apparently forgetting that if it’s true that’s unspeakably dangerous), and gets given the line actually historically spoken by Manox that he has “…had her by the c*nt and would know it among a hundred others”.

This serves two purposes. First, The Tudors only has an episode for this all to start coming out, and it’s going to skip how it happened actually historically, so Francis has to go beyond the pale pretty quickly. Also, this makes Sir Edward, or John Fell possible authors of the letter that will bring Queen Katherine down. They certainly now have claims from the inexplicably still employed Dereham of what was in that letter, namely that Katherine had a sexual relationship before Henry.

But it wasn’t one of them that wrote it, and this isn’t how it came out.

Actually historically, it all started with Mary Lascelles, now Mary Hall. Mary Lascelles, after being disturbed at Katherine’s sexual exploitation by Manox, and helping extricate her from it, had apparently been disappointed in Katherine’s subsequent relationship with Dereham, and kept herself distanced from the group around Dereham and the midnight parties.

The high spirited group was probably uninterested in the opinion and company of the young proto-Puritan Mary, but she had been kept informed, and when Alice Wilkes, who had been sharing a bed with Katherine when she and Francis were having sex, came to her and asked her what to do, Mary’s answer was to, “Let her alone for [if] she hold on as she begins we will hear naught of her in a little while” (12)

Mary never asked for a place at court, or anything for what she knew, and like many of the little people faded from the memory of Katherine and the Howards trying to protect her. She married a man called Hall, and settled in Sussex. In the summer of 1541, her brother, John Lascelles, one of the hotter kind of Protestants and a court employee somewhat out of favour since Cromwell’s fall came to stay with them while the court went north(13).

And he was very curious, with so many who had known the Queen capitalising on their relationships, why his sister had not. And here the timeline gets a little muddy, because if you heard about treason you were supposed to report it immediately, within about a day(14). So while John portrayed this happening in one conversation, it actually might have been the discussions of a week or weeks.

So it could well have been around now in the timeline, Mid September perhaps, at a quiet table in a modest house in Sussex, that Mary Hall told her brother that she would not be suing for a place at Katherine’s court, though she felt sorry for the Queen, for Katherine was a woman of light (loose) morals. Mary told John some of the stories of those years at Lambeth, that Manox had claimed to have seen Katherine’s private parts, that Katherine had later had a full sexual relationship with Francis Dereham (15) .

And John Lascelles had to figure out what to do with that very dangerous information.

Yeah, It didn’t take

Meanwhile, Katherine is getting her feet bathed by Lady Rochford, and getting her inevitable break up regret.

Yeah, I mean you don’t have to dump him but a break from meeting right now could be just the thing. You’re all about what you need this moment and taking to hints like Francis Dereham, your majesty.

The Prince’s Health

Back at Windsor Edward looks tiny and frail, breathing shallowly and with his arms splayed out.

A Physician mops his brow, while Lord Hertford asks very pointed questions. The Physician calls it a tertiary fever which these days would mean a fever where the symptoms worsen every second day. Hertford wants to know if this is going to threaten Edward’s life and the answer is that if it doesn’t break, then yes. Children just don’t have the same bodily resources to deal with fevers as adults, so they are more dangerous to them, and how much more so in age without effective medicine.

Prompted by a question from Lady Bryan, Hertford decides not to inform the King. The progress is important, and right now the risk of Henry’s anger at being called back unnecessarily is slightly higher than the alternatives. Still, he reminds the Physician of the paramount importance of this child and his work, saying “For the sake of peace in this realm…

Pressure, lots of pressure.

Up North

It’s very nice. That looks like a really pleasant picnic.

Henry saunters over to see Katherine, shares that he’s left her alone a lot because there’s so much to organize fort this summit that definitely going to happen. She’s feeling insecure so she’s very attentive to Henry.

For his part it would be nice if he didn’t turn every conversation to whether she’s pregnant yet, and for her part her claim to be at his command, always, would feel a bit more sincere if she weren’t looking after Culpeper desperately about 10 seconds after saying it.

St Mary’s of an evening looks nice.

If it weren’t for Francis Dereham’s determination to drunkenly dominate the room every single evening, even when it’s clear that no one else is into it.

Katherine drags Lady Rochford over to the window to find out if Culpeper is coming. Lady Rochford says he is, but is having trouble concentrating on Katherine’s questioning with the spectacle Dereham is making of himself.

Francis is hammered. Manox wasn’t Scottish but his surname was, and in The Tudors Francis remembers him as being Scottish. We see his return to his bulldozer seduction technique by just wandering over to Katherine and deciding to stroke her face.

He’s incapably drunk and light years over the line, if there was ever an opportunity to call the guards on him, that was it.

Francis seems to be mistaken because he loudly and rudely implies that Joan Bulmer was with Manox. With him so out of control, and endlessly bragging and acting like a former lover, pretty much her whole household must be thinking that’s exactly what he is now. Her silence has long passed the point where it is more dangerous then action, but Queen Katherine retreats, again.

As she leaves Francis is sad. He knows things have changed, that he’s got no future with her, he just refuses to act like it.

He finally gets a full on confrontation from Mr Fell, and just hauls off and punches the guy.

From the Ridiculous to the Sublime

Well, time for the second full video this season. Somewhere else in St Mary’s Brandon wanders over to see what his friend Surrey is up to.

It’s fantastic. First it gives you an idea of why Suffolk and Surrey are still friends. Surrey might be insufferably proud and belligerent, but he’s a real talent, too, and that talent sometimes shows the moments of shining wisdom within.

He’s convincingly a writer talking about his work here, as well. After getting a compliment he’s relaxed enough to let his friend read it, giving him an efficient introduction and then, by breaking off from eye contact, letting his friend experience the poem without intruding.

Brandon’s eyes flick up when he hits something he really likes. He’s like: “And this came out of your brain?” impressed.

Until he’s bowled over by the lines at the end (of which, for me, by the way, while it’s not in the original, or here if you believe the subtitles, is a Knight discharged of all care, which moves me in a way a night discharged of all care…doesn’t), and has to repeat some of them.

And then Surrey allows a reaction.

Yeah, I fucking nailed it.

The poem exists, it is a translation of an epigram by the Roman poet Martial, and was written by the Earl of Surrey. The original can be found here.

And I think Hirst adapted the hell out of it. He edited it down for the 21st century ear, pulling out the intro line and the parts that are less focused than the lines he kept, so every line just sings. He changes a bit of the wording “True wisdom joined with simpleness” becomes “Wisdom joined with simplicity”. He repeats “the quiet mind”, makes it the end to the poem, and now it becomes the central thesis.

The quiet life, be these, I find,

The riches left, not got with pain,

A fruitful ground, a quiet mind,

The equal friend, no grudge nor strife,

No charge of rule nor governance,

Without disease a healthful life,

Wisdom joined with simplicity,

A night discharged of all care,

The quiet mind.

Appropriately enough, because the poem and the score we hear will return for Surrey’s fall, which in The Tudors is a fall largely caused by his reach, ambition, and inability to find the quiet mind.

Hirst then gives the poem an epilogue as profound as the poem itself:

My God, How I wish these things were true

Which of these, Your Grace, do you not have?

Then you are like me. And like all the Romans. And all the Barbarians. And all the generations before us. And all those yet to come.

For who does not wish, Your Grace, for the quiet mind?

Yeah, Hirst fucking nailed this one.

To the Prurient

Meanwhile, upstairs, Katherine waits for Thomas to show up.

When he does she is wildly apologetic, loving and submissive. She gets lines like the ones from her letter.

Culpeper has identified the problem and insists that Katherine needs to get rid of Dereham. She says she will.

How will getting back to London first make that suddenly possible?

She pleads with him not to be angry with her, and then uses a line very similar to the one that worked so well on Henry that morning (and originally sourced from her letter).

Oh, it works. Culpeper is heavy breathing, horny and kissing her within 20 seconds. It turns out that the price for righting the relationship ship with Culpeper is a blow job. But Katherine’s a sexually adevnturous girl, and the moment she says yes, takes the initiative and shoves Culpeper down on the bed.

Still his choice of dirty talk is highly questionable.

That should really be a great way to only get half a blow job with no happy ending, Thomas.

No Better

Back at Windsor, little Price Edward is no better, and Lord Hertford looks at the tiny form, and deals with it as he deals with most things. With rage.

Hertford is just one serious childhood illness away from plunging back to genteel obscurity, and look what’s shown up.

Waiting for James

Meanwhile in York, everyone is waiting on James. In Actual History it call kind of petered out with Henry ignoring all the signals that said James wasn’t coming – like a letter from him in early September, addressed from Falkland Palace that went over some issues they had been discussing before and did not mention the meeting at all (16). I mean, there was a hint there.

Henry ignored it and everything else until finally deciding James wasn’t coming at the end of September. This was followed by serious skirmishes on the border but The Tudors makes this an event, we’re going to get it all at once on the date they were supposed to meet.

Before Henry gets his chance for a rage out, the tension builds. First he is shown his present to James, which is apparently like the ancestor to a Faberge Egg.

Pretty Sweet

Then we all get to enjoy the uncomfortable silent wait in our best clothes, while the score works to add tension in the background.

And JRM was never going to be able to play proper fat guy, but Henry is getting padded out to be a bit chunkier these days. He’s well thicc.

A messenger rides in full tilt into the courtyard and rushes in, covered in mud to deliver the news that not only is James not coming, but there have been attacks over the border. There were attacks which escalated, on both sides into 1542 (Particularly after Henry’s sister Margaret, James’ mother, died on the 18th October 1541) but here it’s shown as a sudden thing at the end of September. Henry reacts to the news in a very Henry way.

Henry Smash

He is nearly roid raging as he leans against the table, when a second messenger comes in an the emotional journey they both go on in the next 10 seconds is something to behold.

And with that Henry launches himself back to Windsor.

As I said earlier, The Tudors has messed with the timeline somewhat to give us this climactic moment. Edward fell ill, and Henry found out about it when he was virtually back to London. It actually historically took a month for them to come back, Edward’s illness and Margaret Tudor’s death happening near the end.

One thing that happened during the journey back was that, at Chenies Manor, the home of Sir John Russell, Alice Wilkes (Now Alice Restwold) was invited to visit the Queen. It was that Alice Wilkes, now living quite close to Chenies, that had been put into such a difficult position by having to share a bed with Katherine, who was busy with Francis back in the day(16).

Alice was lavishly welcomed and was brought in, (one must think not coincidentally) by Katherine Tilney and Francis Dereham. The Queen kissed her, invited her to stay the night with her chamberers and gave her gifts of jewelry, dresses and French hoods (16).

Katherine was apparently thinking of loose ends, and tying them up. Unfortunately for her one that no one had been thinking of had already unraveled.

How was your flight?

We’re back at Windsor

Which is just outrageously pretty.

Wow, so is Henry.

Did you get chance for an in flight meal? I see you didn’t have time to change.

Henry, father of so many children that did not make it, and a man paranoid about his surviving son’s health shows us his intense distress at Edward’s illness. Hertford wisely stops the Physician from pointing out that a hug right now probably isn’t the best idea.

Henry will stay by Edward’s side for the rest of the illness. Actual historical Henry’s reaction was less emotional but practical, gathering physicians to consult on Edward’s health on his return. His reaction in The Tudors humanizes him more.

While the music swells we go around to see what everyone is doing while Henry keeps vigil. We see Mary praying with intensity for her brother.

And Culpeper being smuggled through the cellars.

So he and Queen Katherine can, Oh for the love of God, woman, can you not keep it in your drawers for one night?

Apparently not. Well, she doesn’t have many flings left now.

Back in the sickroom in what appears to be very early morning, Edward has woken, the fever has broken, Henry is delighted and even Hertford manages a rare ‘once a decade’ smile at the sight of his nephew restored to health.

Henry arranges for a thanksgiving mass. But someone is writing a letter, to bring at least half of his thanks crashing down.

The Archbishop’s Hand

In The Tudors I think we’re being led to believe that this is Sir John or Mr Fell. Actually historically it wasn’t either.

John Lascelles had figured out what he was doing, and he took the information to Archbishop Cranmer, last seen in Season 2 of The Tudors but actually historically a court survivor, a Protestant, and probably the one man Henry fully trusted to be honest. Cranmer truly believed that Henry was the head of the church and what he did was, by definition, God’s will, which is the kind of attitude that would fully recommend you to Henry.

Cranmer consulted with Hertford and Audley (both fellow council members, both Protestant) and they told him he had to tell the King what he knew. It was risky but if it emerged later as true, having withheld it would, without doubt, bring him down.

So Cranmer wrote down everything he knew, and what he had been told in a letter. Henry would know who wrote it, it wasn’t anonymous, but he did drop it into Henry’s seat at the next church service they would both attend. That happened to be the thanksgiving service for Edward’s recovery and the King’s happiness with Queen Katherine.

Cranmer must have had quite a few moments where he wondered about the odds of his being executed as he heard Katherine get praised to the skies during the service.

Still, no turning back, now.

Edit 09/06/2021 – Corrected Sir John (Katherine’s servant) to Sir Edward. Removed bit about The Tudors not mentioning Manox, because oh yeah, he gets mentioned a lot next episode. Added text of the poem.

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