The Tudors Recap – Season 4 Episode 5: Bottom of the Pot (Part 2)

There Will Be Viscera

Sorry. For a while there, I was not ready for the journey.

The Turn

Late on the 11th or at some point on the 12th November 1541 Dereham, under torture, gave up the reason that he wasn’t the man they were looking for. Their assumption radar was not operating flawlessly. Katherine Howard had moved on again and she wasn’t seeing Dereham, she was seeing Thomas Culpeper.

Thomas Culpeper.

And that she’d been seeing him during the progress. This was when a lot of her ladies in waiting got questioned, and all Katherine’s chickens of indiscretion came home to roost. Margaret Morton (noticer of longing looks and apparently the wrong person to keep waiting on the backstairs for hours) was a star witness – although she blamed Lady Rochford for pretty much everything. Katherine Tilney, the young cousin of Katherine’s who worked at Lambeth and then came to court, was central, too. Her role in history was confused with Joan Bulmer’s until recently so The Tudors‘ Joan Bulmer takes a lot of her actual historical role.

Gareth Russell, in his book Young & Damned and Fair convincingly argues Tilney’s importance as a witness- she was the most in danger outside of Culpeper, Katherine, Dereham and Lady Rochford, because she had known about Katherine and Dereham’s relationship at Lambeth, had been directly affected and was involved (at least as a witness) with the Queen’s behaviour on the progress, and was likely Dereham’s source for his information about the Queen’s infatuation with Culpeper (He only joined at Pontefract, and Katherine Tilney was just about the only friend he had on the staff). Towards the end of the interrogation process Wriothesley, who had not met Tilney before these events, made time to mention “My woman Tilney hath done us good service”. And Katherine Tilney would end up walking free.(1)

Well, they were all in a tight spot, and everyone was having to shift for themselves. The Duke of Norfolk was dropping his niece as hard and as publicly as he could, repeating the worst rumours of Katherine’s misbehavior (that she had had six or seven lovers before marrying the king) to Marillac before describing the King’s pain at these revelations with tears in his eyes. While, from his point on the diplomatic intrigue circle, our friend Chapuys described, with distain still apparent half a millennium later, how he had heard from the Earl of Southampton that:

“The Duke of Norfolk has declared, God knows why, that he wishes the Queen to be burned alive.”(q)

Given Norfolk’s behaviour it seems pretty easy to forgive a legally highly vulnerable girl being interrogated at the Tower for co operating with the authorities.

That testimony from Katherine’s staff is where we get most of the evidence for what Katherine did during the progress and her relationship with Culpeper. The Tudors elects to miss the gathering of that out, but what it gets very right is the way the three principals in this adultery investigation turned against each other.

Katherine’s Version

It was a whole deputation that questioned Katherine after the Culpeper development,(2)but in The Tudors the job falls to Richard Rich.

For her last interrogation the dialogue came direct from Cranmer’s actual historical report and legal submission for mercy, this time Hirst makes up the dialogue while following the broad strokes of her confession and and it comes across as a bit more believable. Here she moves from minimizing her relationship with Culpeper (We met a few times in private, maybe I gave him a present or two) to throwing Lady Rochford right under the moving carriage as the prime protagonist.

Rich’s eyeroll at the ‘little sweet fool’ nickname and the moment where she tucks her hair behind her ear and goes all ‘big eyes ingenue charm’ for the answer that she really needs to land is all great. And her approach of minimising the relationship and blaming Lady Rochford for everything is how it went down.

It was Lady Rochford who would not shut up about Thomas Culpeper and how he wanted to meet with her and she said she was sure his intentions were honest. Katherine was very dubious about the whole idea of meeting him, but Lady Rochford swore she could make it work.

It was Lady Rochford that sought out routes for him to get to her, and oh, the trouble Katherine had with her careless chaperoning, having to say:

“For God’s sake, madam, even nearer us” more than once. Oh, It was all down to Lady Rochford.(3)

Of course, that didn’t jibe with what everyone else remembered. The anxious Queen who had checked the backstairs for secret routes herself, who was often sending indiscreet notes and messengers asking Lady Rochford ‘if she has that thing I wanted yet’, and who spent the summer throwing longing looks Culpeper’s way was just evaporated away in Katherine’s version.

Misprision of Treason and Culpeper

Culpeper gets the heavy interrogator, Lord Hertford. And Hertford is right down to business today. His energetic and convincing delivery of “If you don’t tell me the truth, Mr Culpeper, you will be tortured until you do.” gets the listless young man up from leaning on the wall being vague and into a fatal admission.

OK. First, lets get our Treasons sorted out. High Treason is a crime that still exists involving disloyalty to the monarch or other head of government. Back in the day, there was also Petty Treason, which was violating the authority of a social superior, like a wife usurping a husband or a servant their master. Conforming to a strict social order was more important the further back in History you go. Misprision of Treason is concealing treason intended either by yourself or others.

In Henry’s day it was a crime to even think about his death. Even so, as neither Thomas nor Katherine would ever admit to anything physical beyond a kiss on the hand, or ever talking about what they’d do in the event of Henry’s death, Katherine and Thomas’ pretty clear intentions to be together at some point would be hard to prosecute. But in Hertford’s actual historical interrogation of him Thomas Culpeper did admit:

“He intended and meant to do ill with the Queen and that likewise the Queen was so minded with him” (4)

And that was it. That was the ball game, whether or not they had actually had sex, he said they had intended to, and intent of treason and treason were basically the same thing at that time. No one in the Katherine Howard prosecution was actually attainted or tried and found guilty of actual adultery, they were killed under law just for the intention of doing so.

As soon as Thomas realises his goose is cooked, he, as he did historically, also starts blaming the other two.

Cut to Jane Boleyn.

The Infamous Lady Rochford

Who was not into it at all. Why don’t you understand?

So, as the characters and we Rashomon this thing out, we might as well confront how different this story looks in 2021 from 2008-09 (When this season was presumably researched and written as it was released in 2010).

Historically Jane Rochford was the only one of the three to say that she thought that Katherine and Culpeper had sex (5). But she didn’t link it to anything she’d seen directly. She claimed to have been a highly improbably/basically impossibly heavy sleeper during those meetings, seeing and hearing virtually nothing according to her testimony. When asked to elaborate on this once imprisoned in the Tower she never said she’d caught them in the act, but that she believed it from all she’d heard and seen(6). How truthful she was being on these points is impossible to tell, she was interrogated regularly, under a whole lot of pressure, and from her later reaction very aware of how much danger she was in. She might have just said it in a moment where she thought it could help her. She might have been telling the truth as she remembered it.

The Tudors was clearly drawing pretty heavily on Alison Weir’s Henry VIII King and Court version at this point, as Katherine Howard saying Jane Boleyn spread a rumour about her and Culpeper being lovers (in Katherine’s Tudors confession), and that it was the King himself (rather than his secretary, Anthony Denny) that got locked out of the Queen’s apartments during the progress are both dubious vignettes that I haven’t found elsewhere. (q2)

Whether Katherine and Culpeper actually had sex has been considered a ‘maybe’ by a lot of historians for a long time. It’s worth remembering that if you start your perspective somewhere other than Katherine Howard=Harlot, then while she had had sex before, this was the first love affair she had that she was in primary control of. It accelerated slowly, but given the lengths of time they were together, and the locations they chose, they certainly had the opportunity to become physical. Might have risen to a sexual affair, it might not. The Tudors presents us with a ‘Certainly’ physical, sexual affair.

For the infamous Lady Rochford herself in the nineties and aughts, the motivations of Jane Boleyn got considered all the way from ‘vicarious thrill seeker'(7) to ‘vicarious frustrated romantic'(8), and The Tudors goes in on ‘thrill seeker’. These days her actions maybe being connected to her massive rise in court importance by being Queen Katherine Howard’s fixer, and possible stable, socially important and lucrative future attached to a dowager Queen (And with what Lady Rochford knew about her, some added job security in there) have finally made it to consideration for Jane Boleyn’s motivation.

At the end of the scene Lady Rochford runs across the room to ask the leaving Thomas Seymour a pretty obvious question that in its intensity foreshadows the next turn of her story.

Oh, hell yes.

King Reacts

Time for a very uncomfortable meeting.

Yes, here’s one that really could not have been an email.

Hertford leads the meeting and gives his report. He reports Katherine’s suspected adultery and as he leads up to naming her suspected adultery partner he has Henry’s full attention. Henry’s carrying a lot of unreleased anger, maybe it’s a council member he can drag out of the group, whale on and then send to the torture chamber right now.

But when he gets the news his reaction is total shock, and the air goes right out of the rage balloon.

It was Culpeper, Henry’s near constant companion these days, in the series an almost literal right hand man, and one of the very few people Henry truly cares about and trusts. JRM just sells it beautifully, particularly as Hertford moves on to reading Katherine’s letter.

The half smile says regret, but the eyes say someone’s getting disemboweled.

But fear not, raging Henry was just being held back a moment by human emotional attachment, and he comes back in swinging.

Hell yeah, that’s the ‘Finds out he’s a cuckold’ Henry reaction moment I was looking for. He comes in at 80%, with the inevitable delusion that, now it’s turned to shit, he was pushed and persuaded into this marriage by his council. Who, in the series, just threw Katherine at him as a distraction/way to sabotage the Cleves marriage and bring down Cromwell. And in the series, as in History, making Katherine a Queen was entirely Henry’s choice.

Then we get that Henry’s Personal Inventory in this crisis is throwing up this:

Finally he surges to 100% as he rocks in his chair winding up, alpha chimpanzee style, to a truly savage threat.

This whole vengeance speech is derived from an Actual Historical report of Henry’s reaction from a letter by Marillac:

“…that this King has changed his love for the Queen into hatred, and taken such grief at being deceived that of late it was thought he had gone mad, for he called for a sword to slay her he had loved so much. Sitting in Council he suddenly called for horses without saying where he would go. Sometimes he said irrelevantly (hors de propoz) that that wicked woman had never such delight in her incontinency as she should have torture in her death. And finally he took to tears regretting his ill luck in meeting with such ill-conditioned wives, and blaming his Council for this last mischief.” (10)

More Seymours

In the Seymours’ apartments a fire crackles and Anne looks good for a woman who seems to have recently delivered her first child.

Like, slightly flushed and dewey. Well I’m sure that’s how it works.

Edward comes up to congratulate her.

So, there’s literally no time you’re informal ,then.

In The Tudors it’s very possible he’s aware he’s not the father, with some significant looks between him and Anne, but his reaction appears to be low key pleased at having an official heir, and just low key annoyed by probably not being the father.

Anne at least hasn’t given away the father’s identity with the name – It’s a running Tudors joke that half the court seems to have been called Thomas. Actually Historically, Anne had no record of infidelity, she and Edward had 10 children, the oldest was born in 1537, the year Queen Jane Seymour died, and Anne had no sons called Thomas. This couple went all in on the name Edward. Anne had three sons that they called Edward, plus he had an earlier Edward, giving Edward Seymour a total of 4 Edward Seymour Juniors, 3 of whom made it to adulthood. Which must have made family functions complicated.

Insanity Plea

To the tower.

Looking good

Where Thomas Seymour has arrived to interrogate Lady Rochford.

And yes, it looks to have all gone a bit Gollum, and Lady Rochford plays with…

The soil in her bucket? Let’s say it’s that.

Three days into her imprisonment Lady Rochford went mad, and got moved to Russell House to be nursed back to ‘execution level’ sane under the care of Lady Russell. The King sent his physicians to check on her every day (11). It wasn’t kindness, as soon as she was fit to be executed, he wanted to know.

Nonsuch Sympathy

Henry couldn’t really settle that winter, and went out to his various homes and palaces in the countryside. As they’ve paid for the modelling, The Tudors has him retreating to Nonsuch.

Which gives us a new well lit room to see Henry in, at least.

Brandon comes in, and whatever else he’s given up about being the Duke of Norfolk, he’s kept the Catholic religious outlook, so when asked by Henry he confirms that he has never personally read the Bible. That gives Henry a chance to read a very pointed extract from Proverbs 5

Oh, yes. The news about Katherine Howard had got over to France, and the French court was having a time with it.

Katherine’s uncle William was ambassador to France, and the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk had been persuaded not to warn him about what was going on in case it could be interpreted as a conspiracy. So he ended up finding out either during or just after an audience with King Francis, who had got the news from Marillac. When William was recalled his colleague reported that the French court was having somewhat of a field day(12).

And in that spirit Francis did send at least two letters, to condole with his brother King at this oh, so difficult time. (13)

Plus ca change, Plus ca meme chose

The Tudors gins it up and extends the message somewhat, but includes some of actual historical text and gets Francis’ general message right.

So, you’re a Cuck now, Henry.

Suffolk gives Henry news of Dereham and Culpeper’s trial. The trial merits about three sentences, and Brandon gets some of it wrong. He says that both men pleaded not guilty, but that Culpeper changed his plea to guilty last minute. Actually Historically the trial happened on December 1st 1541 and they both pleaded not guilty. They both changed their plea to guilty once the court had found them guilty, which was the style at the time, as implying that the execution of the law could be unjust was simply not done if one had an execution coming up and your execution method was still undecided. (14)

While the Council had their guilty verdicts in, Dereham was still a bit of an issue. Culpeper had confessed to intent to commit adultery, but Francis had only confessed to having sex with Katherine before her marriage. Which was not a capital crime. And the Council wanted moral certainty for these convictions. Henry’s subsequent actions would reveal he was far more angry with Dereham, but his legal case for pursuing him (despite a guilty conviction) was basically non existent.

Robert Damport, you might remember, was a friend of Francis’ and a servant to the Dowager Duchess. He was imprisoned and interrogated early, and then tortured, on the grounds that he was in a position to know useful stuff. Which was kind of all it took back then. And amazingly enough, shortly after the trial, Robert Damport remembered and reported a conversation he and Francis had had, where just before he went to Ireland Francis lamented the fact that Henry was starting to love Katherine, and hoped that if the King died, they might get back together. (15)

This was almost certainly untrue. The timing was wrong, for one thing. Henry hadn’t shown any particular interest in Katherine before Dereham went to Ireland. Also the timing of the revelation is suspect, Damport came up with this when it was useful for the council and when he could no longer save his friend. Damport would end up surviving the ordeal but this was a guy who got tortured for being friends with another guy who had sex with a girl that would unexpectedly one day be Queen, he’d really suffered enough for his proximity.

Both Culpeper and Dereham begged for their full traitor’s death sentences to be commuted to beheading, but Henry gave this mercy to Culpeper only, to the guy actually suspected of adultery. How and why that happened is one of those questions to which there is no definitive answer available. The Tudors, in this scene and the ‘informing Henry’ scene goes for a combination of personal friendship with Culpeper making Dereham the true scapegoat in Henry’s mind, and Henry’s virginity obsession directing the anger back at Francis.

Then Henry asks ‘What of Lady Rochford?’ and the conversation doe not progress well for Lady Rochford.

Pretty actual historical, Henry was heavily involved in his wife’s prosecution, with lots of letters and instructions going back and forth from wherever his team at his country retreats were and London. There’s a contemporary report from Chapuys saying that Lady Rochford’s execution was delayed because of her insanity (16), and the Parliament that would convict the Queen and Lady Rochford was only too happy to be help Henry out. That Parliament didn’t just give him their convictions, it also made it so he didn’t have to personally sign Katherine’s execution warrant(17), made it a crime to conceal the virginity or lack of it in a future bride for Henry(18), and then in between conviction and execution passed a law saying if anyone went mad after being imprisoned, it did not count(19).

Henry gets a bit of passive aggression in on Charles before he leaves, and is still really trying to pin the blame for the marriage anywhere he can reach.

Corpse De Ballet

No brilliance here I’m afraid. I have once again lowballed my estimate of how bad future executions are and we have a new winner in the ‘hardest to watch’ bracket. First, Katherine dances in the crumbling priory and she makes it to graceful now that she has no audience.

We cut from there to the execution grounds at Smithfield. Throughout the scene the soundscape has three elements, the mournful violin music, the action at Smithfield, and Katherine narrating us through the most loving language used in her relationships with both men.

Dereham’s having trouble walking and there are some Snorri Cam shots for Culpeper, dragging us into the scene and giving us vertigo at the same time.

They mount the scaffold as we hear Katherine repeat the text of her letter to Culpeper.

Culpeper gets executed, creating a big uptick in volume from the baying crowd.

And Francis vomits over himself.

As Katherine talks about some of the most joyful and innocent parts of their relationship, many of them sourced from her actual historical first confession, how they got silk flowers made for each other, and how they called each other ‘wife’ and ‘husband’ (20), Francis undergoes the full body horror show.

He’s hung, then taken down when still alive, and tied to a table.

The executioner gets his blade and raises it above Dereham.

And cuts into his torso, bluntly, savagely, and as Francis dies at length and in agony in front of a cheering crowd, finally just running out of screams, you might well think that even without the religious burnings, the Aztecs really weren’t the only society of the period still into ritual human sacrifice.

The music ends, and we drift away from the execution grounds and back to Katherine, whose dance is over.

Moving to the Tower

While in The Tudors, we go direct from Culpeper and Dereham’s execution to Brandon picking up Katherine to go to the Tower, in actual history Culpeper and Dereham died on the 10th December 1541 and Katherine wasn’t moved to the Tower until 10th February 1542. (21)

In between, many of the witnesses from the Dowager Duchesses household and Katherine’s close Howard relatives were arrested, tried and found guilty in the interim. Mainly because of one of Henry and his Council’s obsessions. Everything was a conspiracy in Henry’s court, and upsettingly ‘Not knowing your step-grandughter isn’t a virgin’ wasn’t an actual crime. In order to get to the Howards, Henry and his Council convinced themselves there had been a Howard plot to cuckold Henry using Francis Dereham.

So, it’s possible that some Henry’s venom towards Francis came from this conviction that it had been a dastardly plan all along, in which Francis was a key player. But as this really only made sense if you were a raging out Henry, it was difficult to find any evidence for it.

So Francis got tortured in between his conviction and execution, and everyone got arrested and often re-interrogated as the Council tried to build a case against the Howards, which failed to materialise. They would all eventually walk free, but the only one pardoned immediately was Mary Lascelles. Henry didn’t want to discourage potential future informants.

Katherine and Lady Rochford also got convicted by act of attainder from Parliament. Historians often say that one of Katherine’s biggest mistakes, along with not claiming a pre-contract with Dereham, was failing to take the trial option, in favor of Parliament’s act of attainder. She seems to have gambled on utter submission to Henry, and it was a terrible shock to her when it failed to pay off.

In the Tudors she’s surprised, and we get this reaction when Brandon (who was actually historically there but as one of a group) comes to remove her from Syon Abbey, and take her to the Tower.

Actually Historically Katherine was put into a panic by the news she was to be moved to the Tower, refused to move, and had to be manhandled into the waiting barge (21). They would have passed under London Bridge on that journey, where Francis’ and Thomas’ heads were still on display. The Tudors Katherine gets the moment of seeing them as she arrives at the Tower.

Oh, come on, putting them on her route in has to have been a choice.

Katherine’s distressed reaction is very affecting, even if poor suffering Francis remains forgotten in the face of her grief over Thomas Culpeper.

Nonsuch Empathy

As her jailer coaxes her along the path we cut to Nonsuch, where Henry is day drinking.

And is not covering it up that well as Risley comes in with news.

Risely gives Henry the news that Katherine has been found guilty, and Culpeper and Dereham have been executed and Parliament has given him everything he could have asked for and Henry has an interesting reaction.

An outrageous, historically well sourced reaction. Henry had been self isolating as much as he could, but around the time Katherine’s conviction was coming in, he started lightening up and throwing parties.(22)

In The Tudors, once Risley is gone he stops and considers the ring they bonded over, because well, it’s still from a King of France so he’s still wearing it.

And with a sniff he drops it into his wine cup. Nothing like the search for a new wife to get you moving on from the old one.

Which is not a comfort Katherine has, sitting alone, without distraction in her cell in the Tower, motionless apart from a light trembling, just waiting for the next thing that’s going to happen.

Katherine’s request to practice with the block the night before her execution is actual historical, recorded and reported by Chapuys. (23)

Well, the new constable’s not William Kingston (who had retired and died) but he’s cut from similar cloth, calm, reserved and accommodating.

The next part isn’t historically sourced. In The Tudors the constable of the Tower asks if she wants a confessor, Katherine refuses on the grounds that she ‘had spoken to God so seldom she was afraid he would not know who she was’, and the constable goes a bit wide eyed at such laissez faire christianity.

Actually, Katherine’s confession (during which she utterly denied committing adultery) was taken by John White, a clergyman that would one day become a Bishop of Winchester (24).

The Tudors gives us Henry’s ‘lack of subtext’ party, cut with Katherine reckoning with the block.

Henry wasn’t just inviting women to his parties, there were men there too, and under the rules of courtly love flirtation that aggressive was damn near criminal. But Historically Henry was starting to live it up, and rumours said his eye for the ladies had come back.

In The Tudors an increasingly drunk Henry referees an enthroning competition.

which ultimately does not distract him enough, and he ends up doing the thousand yard stare.

He’s getting widowed in the morning, Ding dong the bells are gonna chime.

While Katherine, appropriately for the physical animal The Tudors version has shown us, decides to be nude while she practices her execution. It’s about the physicality of the act, and that’s how she spent her last night, practicing with the block, over and over again and making it her own.

Which brings us to this moment, which I really didn’t want to do but…

Goodbye, Queen

Nothing’s been egregious for the character recently and Merchant’s been bringing it home these last episodes but I can’t bring myself to write ‘Great’ or ‘Good’.

If I’m forced to provide an adjective then The Tudors’ Katherine Howard has been fucking work, Queen. From the moment she showed up in an invented brothel that everyone then tried to forget had ever existed she’s needed reconciliation in some way or another. The Tudors could have done better, but they also had to adapt from the storylines that the History of the time gave them, and the work on Katherine Howard really got done after The Tudors aired.

The Tudors gave us a gauche Katherine Howard, somewhat of an outsider that often ignored the social norms.

Since then Actual Historical Katherine Howard has been established as a definite insider, highly aware, trained in, and respectful of protocol and etiquette. She didn’t get much chance to be political but did well with what opportunities she had, freeing Thomas Wyatt and getting glowing opinions of her appearances on the progress until everyone found out what she’d been doing with her nights.

The Tudors gave us a near sexually rapacious Katherine, with no doubt whatsoever that her relationship with Culpeper was actually adultery, while that conclusion has been getting steadily less certain this decade. As for me, I think the answer is most likely somewhere in between ‘Just kissing/dry humping’ for her and Culpeper, to Katherine using the ‘Bill Clinton/Elizabeth I/Her Society’s’ model of measuring sexual relationships, that anything other than full penetrative sex wasn’t really on the books.

I blame none of this on Merchant. What was good about The Tudors’ Katherine Howard was largely down to her solid portrayal of an ephemeral character. What she gave us was a character that was often deeply annoying by design and she sold the hell out of it. Probably best known for this performance and for being one of a very small number of people whose quality of life was improved by how Game of Thrones Seasons 7 and 8 turned out, it’s been good to see Merchant going into her thirties and getting solid parts in series like Supergirl, Salem and Carnival Row.

Ultimately the character gets taken deep on things that aren’t that likely or are actively untrue. The world is still waiting for a really great interpretation of Katherine Howard.

The End of the Spring Queen

The Sun is up and in London it’s one of those bright crisp winter days that’s nice to be out in as long as you’re coming back to central heating.

Everyone is on their way to the execution site, and it all feels a little more restrained than on the day the guys died.

We’re back in Smithfield, which isn’t actually historically correct. Katherine died on pretty much the same spot as Anne Boleyn (At the Tower, and just in front of the building that houses the Crown Jewels these days). Still, a lot of the court made it.

It’s an execution of long pauses, and hushed tones. Once the low hubbub dies down after Katherine’s and a slighly Space Cadet Lady Rochford’s entrance then the execution might be happening on high plain in Patagonia for all the noise that’s made.

Well at least I can comfortably make the assertion that women tend to get the lighter execution deal in The Tudors. Surely nothing can jeopardize that so close to the series end.

Anyway, Lady Rochford gets intercepted by the Deputy Executioner as they arrive, and Katherine recognises someone on the platform.

Unfortunately that individual has gone from ‘Cousin Surrey whose career you could really help” to ‘Cousin Surrey looking at his biggest liability’ so no reassurance there. Lady Rochford gets asked if she wants to say a few words, and she manages a short prayer of contrition and farewell.

Looks like they’ve decided to deal with crazy first, not so actually historically, where Jane Boleyn waited in the Tower for the end of Katherine Howard’s execution. We also get to see that some of Katherine’s ladies in waiting are at the execution, and are the most sympathetic part of the audience.

Still, Jane is crying as she lays her head down on the block, for a really great moment. You see the chop through character reaction and sound effects.

And then we get some of Katherine’s POV of this sudden scene of carnage.

My favorite part of which is Anne Herbert, wobbly with shock and Adrenalin, making excellent work of managing head collection duty. Jane Bulmer is not on head collection duty so she and Katherine share a brief supportive look, before Joan’s face collapses into sorrow. Katherine has prepared as much as she could but there are some things she could not prepare for.

Pints of it.

And she finds that, in her terror, she has wet herself. Hertford appears to be the only one that notices. He gives her a snitty look.

Oh screw you Hertford, when was the last time you faced execution?

Katherine looks up, taking courage from her planet, the Moon hanging high in the sky.

Before proceeding to her execution in a pretty much fictitious way. Her and Jane’s death speeches were both conventional (25). The famous line from her execution, which The Tudors showcases, is not historical. It comes from the ‘Daily Mail but less accurate’ of its time – the Spanish Chronicle(26) .Which, as far as accuracy goes, gets her the wrong way round with Anne of Cleves. Still, “I would rather die the wife of Culpeper” is a great moment, showing Katherine taking back her agency in the last moments of her life.

The Tudors makes one more invention for Katherine Howard, this time quite worthy, I think. Katherine gathers herself together before the block, raises her head and while we cannot see what she sees, we can be quite sure she is looking at the moon in one final moment of joy, saying:

She learns to ignore the blood, practicing as she had the night before, knowing that her head has to go right here.

The bloody axe drips, the bee passes and we are whisked away to black the breath before the axe descends.


  1. Ep 5
    So so sooop much to comment on- thank you for your delightful recap! Okay first I have to say I loved that you used the word gauche. I mean in describing Katherine as presented in tudors! It’s a perfect descriptive for this Catherine Howard! (I know I said In any earlier comment I could be gauche but not this level..a more intentional on the nose type of gauche) I think what the Tudors did was try to explain or show through personality portrayal what a flibberbygibbit she must of been to make such choices, to take the risk she did. It’s not accurate as you explained but I guess it’s how the Tudors explained her. That and being hypersexual and sort of this raw, earthy, physical lustful being. I mean that’s how they explain the wtfeck were you thinking? Oh, she was this silly gauche somewhat annoying giggly being. Oh so that’s why she risked her life to make out or flirt or dry jump or…… maybe it was love. I mean I’m just throwing things out there…or as I said before this idea that your infallible. Eeer you’re not Katie. Didnt you see the previous seasons I mean queens – they all rose high and fell/ or died.

    I love how by the end she is suddenly graceful- I read your recap and I was omg ‘again!! The meeting of the minds!!! Me too me too’’ on sooo many things but the dancing is at last graceful. Notice the hands. And the arms? She had it in her all of the time…I wonder if Merchant has been trained in dance…bc she really does a lovely bit that I wanted to watch more of but it was spliced into that awful horrible terrifying execution scene. While the words and the visuals were a great contrast, I couldn’t watch it. I really do not get the group psyche of enjoying violence and gore. I mean clearly it’s a thing, they used to let lions eat people for fun (I don’t know really but something like that or gladiators). I’m not saying it doesn’t exist but I just don’t get it- who wakes up and says ‘yeah (fist pump) I’m going to go see someone disemboweled!’ I don’t get it now/ I’m sure I have been conditioned to be somewhat this way but I was also terrified of the cartoon scooby do when I was younger so there’s that….and my brother used to show or tell me disturbing shit before I went to bed and I had nightmares. It’s HIS fault I can’t go enjoy a good execution!!

    I read so much of the resources you listed! Thank you again for all work. People references like these are rare- take a ton of time. Respect.

    So I learned so much from reading your recaps and resources and here are the things that struck me. One source said that Katherine asked for Culpepper every day since her ‘troubles’. That is crazy right? I mean it is said she was asking for him in a secretive manner before this all came up with Derehem but every day after too? Maybe that is just court gossip. Because that is just terrible decision making. Well, this queen wasn’t known for her judgment was she. (I am doing something awful and against my nature by not providing references. It is a lot of work which is why ms Autocratonasofa deserves an award and maybe should write a show…I digress, I read so many of the resources that they are all jumbled in my head. If anyone wants me to find them let me know. I do know I read a lot of Henry VIII: November 1541, 11-20 which ms Autocratonasofa left an digital link, thank you!)

    Marillac had a conversation or it is written as someone as though it was- said that the queen was being accused of inappropriately entertaining gentleman and that the doctors say she is unable to bear children. I found that interesting. It seems that before any trials or before they had much evidence that they already saying the king may change wives. Hmmm. They certainly got in there and did an inventory of her jewels quickly (and also wasn’t allowed to have dresses with jewels or pearls). Back to child bearing part- I mean as it’s written it’s like saying it’s part of the charges, the physicians you can’t have spawn so we will find a way to be rid of her… it sort of made it sound like she was found guilty early on whatever the evidence. But of course the author of this could not of known what was happening or didn’t want to document it graphically at the time.

    Okay I was a bit surprised to read the queen said to Culpepper “ Well, if I had tarried still in the maidens’ chamber I would have tried you.” What? Like a version of a liquor sampler you would sample the men? Is it normal to have a smaller platter at court? And something to the effect of ‘you know the king is head of both church and state so do not mention our dry humping or fling in confession’ yikes. She is not as empty headed as one night of thought given her choices. She clearly knew it was something she should not be doing.

    One thing that surprised me and might be to interest of people in the US (or maybe I just don’t know much) is how wealthy Culpepper was. I mean the inventory of his things from personal items, horses, to the income of his many properties – it surprised me. I know that it was seen as a great privilege to wait on royalty but I had no idea how wealthy he was. I mean when did he have the time to enjoy those things- do grooms rotate in and out? Nannies and servants in the United States to my general knowledge are not wealthy and high up on the socioeconomic status. (I should know I was a nanny and worked between universities, 10-12 hour days and paid very little. They offered to let me use their vintage Porsche as part of my salary and I was like ummm you want me to drive your infant in a 2 seater open sport cars? Or when late told me I could go into the wine cellar and open whatever I liked…so you want me to drink and drive too? Nah, I’ll just take an increase of wages thanks. It was not a privileged position but one of trust.) I guess seeing a list of all of his stuff and income from properties is just so different than here or at least my experience. If you have those things here, you don’t wait on people.

    Of small not but not importance to Katherine perhaps- at least I know she could day drink – I loved the note of making sure the master of syon Mr. Weldon was to make sure they had beer, wine, and other items. I mean that’s better than having your fingernails taken off and being thrown onto a hard floor with hay. At least to me.

    Oh Henry, you can wash the vagina ring off. You don’t have to throw it away….

    Thank you again for your amazing and lovely (and so sooo funny) recaps!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A silly question that I have read a lot of judgement on but differing opinions- this is frivolous but in some portraits it looks as though they are wearing a shift so to speak under the women’s gowns up to their neck and others it appears to be either a sheer cut with a V or a necklace that hung down to where cleavage would be. As I said I’ve found all sorts of information but what is your learned opinion (I’m not asking about anyone in particular. I thought that they must of have something under but then there were some portraits that appear just to have a necklace or sheer material) so pls let me know your thoughts.

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  3. I just watched this for the first time. For all the gripes I have about this show and its accuracy (as well as stuff like Rhys Meyers becoming more Irish by the episode as the show sprints for the finish line), Catherine’s execution was remarkably well-handled. After almost screaming at the TV for several episodes out of frustration at her stupidity and immaturity, the crew and Merchant did a great job at making you feel sympathy and respecting her courage in her final moments. That paled next to Lady Rochford’s brief time on the scaffold though – that may have been the biggest tearjerking moment in the whole of this series for me. I loved how the crowd’s sorrow came across as well, compared with the reception Culpeper and Dereham received.

    The way people visibly wince onscreen as well at the thud of the axe – despite flocking to a public execution, these folks weren’t all bereft of humanity. It was just a different time. There was a report from Richard Roose’s execution of a pregnant woman swooning at the horrific sight of him being dunked into the boiling cauldron and then yanked out again, although supposedly most people in attendance were pretty chipper about it.

    Liked by 1 person

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