The Tudors Recap – Season 4 Episode 7: Sixth and Final Wife (Part 1)

Sorry it’s late, Laura, Happy New Year.

Title Adjustment

There have been a few small changes in the titles in the last couple of episodes. The changes are mainly at the back end, but up top Lothaire Bluteau (Ambassador Marrilac) moves up to third billing. This change is mainly because the new queen is getting the ‘special guest star’ spot at the end of the character intros.

Where she is appropriately pictured studying a book, most likely something Protestant and uplifting.

Not long afterwards an aerial CG shot of London and scenes from Anne Boleyn’s execution episode have been added before the eternal joust.

And right before the flickers Warning – the flickers are pretty rapid and bright if you have photo sensitive epilepsy.(Where Cromwell now gets a prominent spot) we get a flyby from Katherine Howard’s only Christmas as Queen.

And with these small changes it seems as if the titles are being broadened out a bit, to reflect the changes in the season and bring in elements from the whole series.

Are We Invading France Yet?

Into the meat of the episode and we are having meetings about invading France, presumably as a bit of reorientation for the audience as well as the council group. The score gets quite worked up a provides a lot of the energy for this scene with a first installment of the “Henry Arrives for War” theme that’s going to accompany anything remotely grand or heroic happening in Bolougne.

Also, half the fun of invading France is the anticipation.

Henry turns to the guy that’s going to be his general – Charles Brandon, to officially ask him to take the post. Brandon always has a reliably patriotic and brave response in the French invasion call and response questions, and today he smashes it. There’s even a future echo of the words from the climax of Shakespeare’s Henry V speech set during another invasion of France:

“For Gentlemen in England still abed,

Shall think themselves accursed they are not here” Henry V Act IV Scene III (circa 1599)

And everyone is very pleased with that, as manly, hearty “Aye’s” spring up all around the table. Well everyone except Edward Seymour, who clearly is not 100% behind this, and gets some ‘Look at this total pansy that doesn’t want to invade France” reactions from Henry. He’s clearly against this whole plan.

And I can find no evidence for that actually historically. Seymour, now Lord Hertford, seems to have been given this attitude by The Tudors to inform his future actions and to have at least one mild dissenter to all this, and because he was conspicuously absent from the invasion forces. But actual historical Hertford’s role was to be at home, fighting Scotland as required. Hertford’s been disappearing off to fight from time to time in Season 4, pretty accurately, but he should be away right now. By December 1543 the Scottish Parliament had rejected the marriage treaty ‘offered’ by England and moved into resistance mode. The Scots sent the 1 year old Queen Mary north to Dunkeld for safety. In early 1544 Hertford was sent on the ‘burn Edinburgh and hit the borders hard’ (1) missions, which were needed to push the Scots back for at least that year’s fighting as Henry and all the men he could recruit went to France.

Seymour’s appointment as ‘Our Guy in the North’ was what released Charles Brandon to serve in France, and Seymour would be Queen Katherine’s northern defence while Henry was away so sending him on the foreign mission wouldn’t make sense.

Henry then announces the Actual historical visit (February 1544 (2))of the Duke of Najera. Surrey is going to be the official English host to the Duke, who was also a prominent Imperial general. Gardiner remembers Surrey is still alive and still in favour, and is displeased.

I was sure I left him in jail.

Lastly, Henry gathers himself for the speech he called you all here to listen to, and JRM somewhat plays the house down with it. In the speech Henry explains his justification for the war. He said he would kick Francis’ ass and well, he’s just too noble a guy not to do that now. Henry goes into a little reverie, humbly amazed by how great his personal honour really is.

As you will all agree, right? Hertford and Rich both turn their attention to the middle of the table and keep carefully blank faces as Henry claims to have never broken his word. Just as well, because right at the end of the scene he has a micro aggression (probably just thinking about the fight he’ll have with France bringing it out) and for half a second we see the real Henry – belligerent, beady eyed and ready to strike at anyone who steps out of line.



We are launched, mid ceremony, into Henry and Katherine’s marriage.

Theme: Doing it for England, apparently. That’s a lot of flag for a wedding.

It looks nice. We’re always actually historically a little off for weddings in The Tudors, because we the audience have royal wedding expectations created by more recent history that The Tudors has decided to meet, somewhat. Royal weddings really took a level into the “international event” league with the wide scale celebrations that accompanied Victoria and Albert’s wedding in 1840. The actual ceremony was still quite low key for them, it was basically family and visiting royalty only ceremony in the Chapel Royal in St James’ Palace.

But the huge popularity of the celebratory events for Victoria and Albert’s wedding had them looking to expand on those ideas for their chosen type of monarchy and when they arranged their eldest son’s wedding that became the first large scale royal wedding ceremony and was held at St George’s Chapel at Windsor in 1863.

Windsor Castle’s chapel is basically a cathedral with a light bone structure that apparently never needed to advertise itself to the population enough to get into the whole ‘Spires/Towers’ deal. Photo by A Guichard source Wikimedia

Tudor weddings were on a completely different scale – but this was one of Henry’s larger weddings, there were around 20 people in attendance. It happened in the Queen’s Closet in Hampton Court, which was a small chapel in a room around 14m x 10m (3). There’s a recorded guest list and it includes a lot of the higher ranked people at court, including Henry’s niece (Lady Margaret Douglas) and both of his daughters, which was a bit of a first.

The Tudors gives us an accurate recital of Katherine’s vows, including the old form of wife’s promise “To be bonyr and buxome in bed and at board”(4) Then there’s the ring exchange. Henry was recorded as being cheerful during the ceremony, but Katherine’s expression or attitude was not noted. In The Tudors she’s kind of bricking it. I was going to record her voice, but it turns out it’s not as shaky as I remember. Joely Richardson keeps Katherine’s public face going, it’s her expressions when she looks at Henry that have most of the nerves in them.

Did you expect me to look at you during our wedding ceremony? Your need for emotional connection is so middle class.

She should be nervous, but she shouldn’t be exclusively nervous of Henry.

Yes, there’s something about your celebrant, too, Ma’am.

It’s all very seemly and dignified, and you sense that while the fire may not be there this time there is a degree of contentment. He walks proudly back down the aisle with her and you get the idea that Henry is pleased to have found a woman that can do the job part of being Queen very well.

The State of Anne of Cleves

Anne of Cleves reaction to all this, and how invested Anne of Cleves was in a reconciliation with Henry is something that crops up in a lot of popular histories. But not in The Tudors, so I have been avoiding it, and have mehmaybe been gently called out in the direction of my avoidance by my most prolific commentator, and they were right, and I am grateful for the nudge. Actually historiographically, you really only lose when you fail to engage with the question. If this isn’t your thing there is a TLDR at the bottom.

It is fitting that we discuss this now because Henry and Katherine have both raided the ‘Anne of Cleves’ late season 3 wardrobe for their wedding outfits, from the emerald headpiece Katherine is sporting to Henry’s Rochford meeting super-bowling shirt.

I’m not sure any full conclusion to what Anne of Cleves took in stride and what she didn’t is possible given the available evidence. Bu there’s enough to make an informed guess. I think I can say that the “Anne of Cleves insult and attempted reconciliation tour: London 1541-3” has been significantly sodding oversold by some popular historians, and more carefully picked through by others.

Let’s context this out and begin with the the fact that there was really only one contemporary seller for this narrative- Eustace Chapuys.

Now it’s basically all from one guy but Chapuys is pretty close to Tudor canon. I’ve seen stuff reported by Chapuys before now and happily defined it as ‘actual historical’ largely by reason of the source.

He was a guy that wrote copiously at the time this all happened. He was a personal witness for a lot of his reporting. For most of the rest he was probably the best paying and most effective spymaster in London. He took his commitment to providing accurate intel to the Emperor seriously enough that while utterly detesting Anne Boleyn and reckoning she was guilty of other nefarious stuff, he managed to recognize that she was almost certainly not guilty of the crimes she was accused of and reported that, all with a pre-Enlightenment period brain. He is an incredible witness spotlighting a remarkable time, but his treatment of Anne of Cleves is problematic. Sometimes favorites are busy trying to live through interesting times.

Chapuys was a career diplomat of the highest level, the Empire’s man in England and known for keeping himself very well informed. Anne of Cleves was the single most speculated about woman in Europe in the period from Queen Katherine Howard’s arrest to Queen Katherine Parr’s marriage, all fueled by newly powerful Cleves going from ‘Maybe, no wait, Definitely Allied to France’ through ‘At War’ to ‘Basically Left to Sink by their Ally and Desperate’ in those 18 months, which made the Clevians get periodically very keen on a very improbable reconciliation between Anne and Henry.

If Henry suddenly decided he liked her and took her back that would be a romantic move that would reverberate through Europe (the strategic importance of Anne of Cleves did not disappear with Henry’s interest). So everyone was keenly interested in what was going on with Anne of Cleves, and the Empire and Emperor doubly so. In the historical record Chapuys reports on her repeatedly in this period, somewhat drowning out Marillac, the French Ambassador and Chapuys’ opposite number who, when he does mention her, describes Anne as perfectly stoic and serene in the same timeframe (5).

Marillac’s version of Anne of Cleves almost seems to be leaning into the Jane Seymour archetype, perfectly submissive, moderate and chaste. Chapuys’ Anne of Cleves does keep showcasing the opposite. And Chapuys actively dragged her reputation at the time. In one report he described how during Katherine Howard’s fall he used his connection with the clerk of the Henry’s council to smear Anne’s reputation for sexual purity (always a deal breaker for Henry even if he had little idea what was actually going on with it) because she was a bit of a drinker now, and she wasn’t that young when she got here, was she? So she had probably slept around, just like this other one – Right?(6).

If you have heard that when Katherine Howard was arrested Anne of Cleves went to Richmond to be close to Henry because she was desperate for a reconciliation – that was Chapuys reporting gossip (italics below are mine).

It is said that the lady of Cleves greatly rejoiced at the event, and is coming to, if not already at, Richmond, to be nearer the King” (7)

And while it doesn’t always happen, the context that Chapuys is only claiming this as “People are saying” has often failed to make it as it’s been repeated and repeated. In many historical texts, later authors have been a lot more certain than Chapuys was that that was what she did, and when and why she did it.

I mean Richmond Palace was her London home, and at that time serious shit was going down at Court. She didn’t need to be pining after a reconciliation to go there. And “People say” a lot of things while knowing very little.

In the period from Katherine Howard’s execution to Katherine Parr’s marriage, Anne of Cleves got all the headlines. Some of Anne’s servants got arrested for speculating about whether she would be Queen again, as well as being disrespectful of Henry (‘How many wives will he have?’) (8) and rumours that Anne had had illegitimate children with Henry would keep popping up for years. Her brother Duke William used envoys to ask Henry to reconsider the marriage, after Katherine Howard’s arrest and they were publicly rejected, but nothing actually from Anne.

Until 27th July 1543, 15 days after Henry’s remarriage when Chapuys reports his primo piece of evidence. The one that’s probably got some truth to it:

I hear from an authentic quarter that the said dame would rather lose everything in this world (estre en chemise) and return to her mother than remain longer in England, especially now that she is in despair and much afflicted in consequence of this late marriage of the King with a lady who, besides being inferior to her in beauty, gives no hope whatever of posterity to the King, for she had no children by her two first husbands.—London, 27 July 1543. “(9)

“I hear from an authentic quarter” – I think at some point Chapuys got a spy into her household, or perhaps bought someone she became close to in England. She and Chapuys probably didn’t know each other socially, and if Anne of Cleves was close to any European power not her own, it was the French. Margueritte de Navarre, Francis’ sister and noted intellectual (the one The Tudors did fast and libelously dirty in Season 1) whom Anne Boleyn had spent her whole career as Queen trying and failing to get a follow back from, was set up to be Anne of Cleves’ happy time penpal in January 1543, so the French were keeping her close at this time(5).

The report is curiously intimate. There’s observation of emotional states over time (‘now she is in despair and much afflicted in consequence’) and really only her household or relatives or a close friend would have that kind of access.

All of which adds up to if this is accurately reported, then it wasn’t happening in public. This report is of Anne of Cleves at home, or at least not knowing she was being noted, remembered and recorded for pay. Reading texts about the period you might think that Anne was popping up at social events to lament her fate and bitch about Katherine Parr to anyone who would listen, but that just wasn’t happening.

The content might be a bit oversold too. I think there’s truth in that report. But, and I am stealing this argument right from Linda Porter which she used for different ends(10), it’s worth mentioning that 16 days before reporting these insights Chapuys had found out that he had just made one of the biggest whiffs of his career. The first time he managed to report anything about Katherine Parr even existing was the day before Henry married her (11). In all the alliance prep he was doubtless up to his eyes in, ‘clued in guy that knows the gossip’ Chapuys had completely missed an incoming new Queen. Times like that might be when everything you’ve got on Anne of Cleves goes into the report. Times like that maybe the things that you have get oversold a bit.

Speaking of which, and finally, the last evidence stop on the Anne of Cleves Desperate for Reconciliation and Successful Insult Tour 1541-43 – the story of how Anne of Cleves said “A fine burden(12) Mistress Katherine has taken on herself”(13) and the backflips some historians have gone through to make that an insult to Katherine Parr.

That’s not from Chapuys.

It’s from the Spanish Chronicle.

Which, if you’re not a regular, is not quite contemporary and is about 60% fiction by weight. It was probably written in Edward’s reign, late 1540s- early 1550s, it’s good for what people thought and said about recent history at the time it was written, and gets some stuff right, but it’s riddled, right the way through, with large factual errors and impossibly reported dialogue. Still, I would love to tell you that this time it’s true because in context in the Spanish Chronicle that sentence was not an insult to Katherine Parr.

It was a ‘Henry so fat’ joke.

It is said this Madam of Cleves exclaimed,’A fine burden Madam Katherine has taken on herself!

She said this because the King was so stout that such a man has never been seen. Three of the biggest men that could be found could get inside his doublet” (13)

The joke is underlined, spelled out and given a packed lunch and a map by the second sentence yet somehow, sometimes, that escapes mention in the context when this incident gets an airing and it gets sold as Anne of Cleves bitching about Katherine Parr again. For the most part, though, you’ll notice some word tongs – “It is said”,or “even if it didn’t occur entirely as written” when a historian brings this one into play, but “Henry so fat” joke 20 years later is the original context for that quote. It’s evidence so bad for an Anne of Cleves/Katherine Parr feud it really just gets nailed to the argument for decoration.

TLDR: Anything that’s not been discredited (and completely reversed in context) in the narrative of “Desperate for reconciliation and disliking Katherine Parr” Anne of Cleves is from Chapuys. Chapuys is normally gold but Anne’s political importance meant he reported a whole lot about her, so what we have got has this political agenda and is of varying quality, from stuff he says had heard on the street to the intel he later got from what appears to be a spy he managed to plant in her household or friend circle.

So my legacy is partly written by the guy that dragged me non stop becasue it was his job? Well, never mind, worse things ‘appen at sea, yes? – Anne of Cleves may not have been as luminously upbeat as Joss Stone’s portrayal.

Later histories have not always differentiated between those reports, or pointed out that it was all coming from Chapuys. Chapuys also screwed up at work at that time, not seeing that Katherine Parr was incoming as Queen until it happened, so he might have been overselling Anne’s personal reaction in the best evidence he got for that, dated 15 days after Henry’s marriage.

She probably really did want to go home to Cleves (she would, later in life try very hard and unsuccessfully, to get her pension to continue to be paid if she moved back), and I think it’s entirely possible that at home, in her cups, after a possible second disappointment, that this woman who had been publicly dragged as deeply unattractive, pointed out that Katherine Parr wasn’t that good looking, and if it was all about fertility that woman has been married for over a decade and doesn’t appear to have been pregnant once.

It seems likely she said at least some of that, at that time,but it wasn’t happening in public. That indiscretion was either misreported or happened in front of a spy Chapuys had her friend circle/household . The rest of the evidence that’s not from the Spanish Chronicle is just reported “People are saying” gossip on a politically explosive woman from one guy. That one guy was Chapuys, but I think he was overselling it a bit at the time, and its been oversold on top of that ever since.

Home Living

We get invited to a supper with the newly married couple, who have changed clothes, Henry from gold to silver.

And Katherine is in a nice spring green and gold dress.

Anne Herbert gets a second introduction and her relationship to Katherine Parr explained. Anne did become her sister’s Chief Gentlewoman of the Bedchamber(14). The Latimers made it to the intimate entourage level too, step daughter Margaret and step daughter in law Lucy Somerset both became ladies in waiting (14).

The male side of the Parr family started to see big, asset laden gains. In 1543-44 Katherine made her uncle her Lord Chamberlain, Anne’s husband William (no title when she married him – bit of an adventurer) got grants of land in Wales and England and a knighthood, and Katherine’s brother William experienced a “King’s new brother in law” swing in fortunes. He became Lord Warden and Keeper of the Western Marches, a member of the Order of the Garter, and got an annulment for his ‘in name only’ marriage in April 1543 and despite the fact that he had now legally never been married to Anne Bouchier, he still got to claim the title she was supposed to inherit, finally achieving Mother Maud’s plan and becoming, at long last, Earl of Essex 6 months into Katherine’s marriage in December 1543 (15).

Katherine shows her ‘stayer’ credentials by contemplating and completing a quick mood assessment on her new husband before going in and asking permission from Henry to pick up step-motherhood duties towards all of his children.

And Henry is very pleased by this question. It seems “Excellent Stepmother” was something on Katherine’s CV that he liked and wanted, so he’s pleased she’s leaning in.

As far as Katherine ‘having known the Lady Mary for years’ that’s very probable. Mary was an adult and regularly resided at court, and Katherine was a long term London based courtier. They had good connections – Katherine’s mother had served Katherine of Aragon faithfully and Katherine was just 5 years older than Mary. They could even have been friendly already but there is no evidence of a significant pre-existing relationship between them. Mary likely knew about her father’s interest in Katherine quite early – Mary was the pre-eminent woman and hostess at Court from Katherine Howard’s death so she would have been around as the courtship between Henry and this new Katherine started, and we know she and Katherine got on well from the start of that.

Plague hit London right after Henry and Katherine’s marriage so Henry took them on a hunting progress. Mary went with them and on their way around the home counties they stopped at the nursery palaces, including Ashridge, where Edward and Elizabeth were staying(16). 

A decent amount of family time seems possible and that December Mary of Hungary (Charles HRE’s redoutable sister and Regent of the Netherlands) asked the British Ambassador she was sent if the King and his wife and all his children all still ‘kept in one house?’ (17)

It’s hard not to see Katherine Parr giving that good stepmother influence when in this first year of their marriage Henry was suddenly spending some time nearly, kind of, living with his family, when that had really not been a feature of his social calendar before.

In The Tudors Katherine gets Elizabeth permanent lodgings at court as well as her sister (this actually historically would happen later, after Henry left for France).  Henry’s fine with this but decides to establish his primacy over Edward’s care, by saying that he doesn’t want Edward to be at court too often.

Yeah, yeah, figured it would be something to do with that.

Henry has some more gifts for her and Katherine takes a bite our of her meal, chirpy at both her success and more incoming gifts.

Feeling cute, might get jewels and a functional relationship with my step-kids later.

Are We Invading France Yet?

The soundtrack has its adventure hat back on, and it’s all looking pretty military in the visual. So are we invading France yet?

No. We’re preparing to invade France. You’ve got to invade France a step and a day’s sailing at a time. Someone has found time to create a ‘French Invasion Experience’ room in Whitehall with the latest military equipment. Everyone’s banner is on display there for you to familiarise yourself with the symbology of your fellow nobles and they even have information signs.

Armour – You’ll want it when you see the pikes.

Brandon is in the room, taking the tour, when Surrey and Thomas Seymour come in to receive their commissions. The posts they are given aren’t historically accurate but they were both recalled from their current duties to take up command positions in the army.

Surrey gets a great title “Marshal of the Field”, I presume that’s an early version of Field Marshal, and in the British Army that’s the highest rank there is. Surrey, for once, is pleased with his level of importance.

Yes. It’s not bad, for once.

He is, however, consumed with curiosity when Brandon motions that he wants to talk to Seymour with some privacy.

He needn’t have worried, it’s not all that interesting.They just go over how Edward Seymour is not pro French war, and Thomas gets a chance to reiterate that the Seymours are a ‘Viva Henry’ party to Henry’s best friend, because the longer Henry lives, the more workable the transition to Edward becomes. If he dies in France then…

Realpolitik – does not require faith, hope or charity to work. It does break down if someone’s lying.

Surrey, having given them just enough space for apparent discretion, catches up and quizzes Brandon on the King’s health. There are rumours that he will not be well enough to lead the army.

There is no higher rank than Field Marshal, Surrey. Unless we’re getting creative already?

Brandon assures Surrey that Henry will be leading his army. Oh most definitely. Then we get a bit of an orchestral sting as Brandon goes to look at what I presume is the ‘battlefield works’ section with a wistful expression and gives us this.

Diplomatic Pass

We cut to Whitehall.

Looking good, kind of Springtimeish.

To take just a moment with Henry, as he looks within and centres himself before yet another diplomatic encounter.

The Duke of Najera’s actual historical visit to Henry’s court on 17th February 1544 started off just OK. His invitation to the court after arriving in London was delayed somewhat, and once he got there the Duke was ‘Well enough received’ by Henry when he got an audience (18), that’s pretty terse for Chapuys and the scenario The Tudors gives us in a minute is a fabrication but it’s also a reasonable dramatic explanation for that subdued historical record.

The Duke comes in, gets introduced by Surrey and Henry asks if he’s been well entertained during his visit. You get to see the professionalism of the Imperial diplomatic machine as the Duke turns to Chapuys, checks that that’s definitely the “So, are you having a good time?” Host form question before answering.

Oh, I can give delighted respectful tourist for days, Your Majesty.

Chapuys mentions how Surrey took the Duke to the Paris Gardens. You might think he met him over the channel, maybe, but Paris Garden was a manor in Southwark and was an entertainment space for the general public which meant there was animal fighting, because the working class entertainment as well as upper class entertainment also centered around animal terrorising or torture (Shakespeare and his successors would save an awful lot of bears and dogs and everything else), and once again there’s only one guy in this age that sees that as in any way unacceptable.

I don’t know where this Earl of Surrey unlikely early animal rights supporter flavour comes from in The Tudors but it is repeating and I am here for it.

The horrific entertainment the Duke describes was mentioned in the report written by his secretary of the visit, along with the description that it was ‘very laughable’ (19).

Get him, Surrey.

Once Henry hopes that the Duke will also be well entertained this evening, the formal part of the audience is over. There follows a change in mood, and a look between the Duke and Chapuys that says a lot. A question has clearly been required to be asked, either by the Duke or maybe someone even higher in the Imperial hierarchy, so that question will be asked, by Chapuys, who does not think this question is a good idea.

Henry really only has to take so much from a Duke, even one who is his Emperor’s general. It was an impertinent question and he gets to tell the Duke to shove it. Another look from Chapuys says “OK, so this is where we leave that, Highness”, and it is a mark in Henry the politician’s favour that his anger gets directed, pretty quickly (including the death stare at the end) at the guy that clearly originated the question, not at the guy that had to uncomfortably ask it.

An Evening at Court

It’s been a while since our last evening of dancing and intrigue. Everything does look pretty good.

The Duke’s secretary’s report describes a very successful reception and entertainment, including dancing, that Queen Katherine arranged and hosted, and Mary was a significant part of (19).

He is introduced to the Queen and kisses her hand, and the Queen immediately introduces him to Princess Mary, who intends to reduce this handsome Iberian to dust with a charm and awe offensive. She starts, as she was reported actually historically doing, by giving the Duke the good old “English Gentlewoman’s Formal Hello”, an often surprising kiss right on the lips. (19)

Before the poor, young, worldly general has time to recover, The Tudors‘ Mary follows it up with dropping into what (to my uneducated and unpractised ear) sounds like maybe not completely fluent but pretty good Spanish that gets more confident as she goes on.

At least good fluent enough that when he says “Oh, you speak Spanish” and she says:

You’re like “Yeah, OK Mary. Sure, you speak a little Spanish”

And then she ends, with a very slightly heaving bosom, asking,

I am also a legendary daughter of your royal house. If you’d like to drop to your knees right now and worship that would probably be fine.

And you think “Jesus Mary, put the poor general down a moment”.

And then the music starts up for the dancing.

The Duke partners Queen Katherine in the dancing and it all goes pretty well.

And we get a short bop around for the intrigue. We start with Chapuys and Marillac – Charillac? Well it’s too late for a portmanteau anyway. Marillac had, in fact, left England in 1543, but we’re getting all of Summer 1543 – Summer 1544 within the span of this recap so Marillac gets to stay a little longer than in actual history, and this scene to round out his and Chapuys’ relationship.

We’re both liars for our Lords, Charles. You knew that when you posed that damn question and we are both on the clock.

Chapuys has a lot of that wiser, older, bordering on Zen Master type energy these episodes and he’s had enough of “all subtext” diplomacy for one evening. It’s a lot of fun, and I like that these two great historical witnesses get another scene together.

We briefly cut to the dancing to hear Elizabeth somewhat pushing at an open door as she pleads with Kat Ashley to be allowed to dance. Kat is fine with that.

And she takes her over and finds her a partner. It’s a tiny moment that leans into knowledge of the later Elizabeth (very keen and accomplished dancer, famed for enjoying it). It also gets her to the dance floor, where Mary is currently excelling.

Nice to see the sisters together

And it gives us a second before we get to hang out on the mezzanine where Gardiner is basically leaning over Risley (Wriothesley), and making everything feel a bit crowded in his keenness to plot.

Yeah Risley knows where this is going and is still trying to watch the dancing.

He suspects Katherine of being a Shhh: Secret Protestant, and is pushing at Risley to get onside, and Risley carefully maintains a neutral position, bordering on anti -this- idea as he first denies there is an issue and then points out the danger inherent in what Bishop Gardiner is about.

I think Mr Risley would like to reconsider how much you ‘re expecting other people to risk, Bishop.

While we all watch as Queen Katherine gets called away from the reception by her sister. It must be urgent as this event is important, yet she leaves pretty quickly as Gardiner observes her, and plots from the wings.

Poultice, Stat!

It was urgent. Henry is sick again.

The timeline is getting smooshed. Katherine walked out of that reception Mid February 1544, and arrived in Henry’s room in late March 1544, when he had another acute infection in his leg (20). But we’re in the right area, staying roughly chronological, and linking together important events to save time.

Katherine walks in and starts taking charge of the situation. Henry tries to object to her looking at this ulcerated leg, but Katherine is sorry but she has to do this.

It’s been a while since anyone has tried “Yeeeah, I’m gonna have to do that anyway” with Henry.

And she looks anyway. It’s bad, and look, she’s trying to take command of the room so she can ensure her husband gets treatment, and make sure her husband knows she’s on his side in that, but I think we can all agree that the poultice prep guy not winging a poultice at her a second after being asked probably wasn’t the issue she was making it here.

Gnarly leg warning.

He’s lucky he had one ready to go. A few more moments and it would have been “Jesus Christ, Bob. I asked for that poultice 8 seconds ago”

The two actions taken by Queen Katherine here are from Antonia Fraser’s “Six Wives” – Queen Katherine sitting with Henry’s leg in her lap (21), and from Alison Weir’s “King and Court” for Katherine moving her bed into a closet off Henry’s bedchamber while he was ill (22).

They’re both not really sourced. The illness is in the letters and papers, the official version said he was ill for 2 days and was now better on 27th March 1544 (20) , Chapuys, writing to Queen Mary of Hungary reckoned Henry was ill for 8 days with a fever for 2 of them (23) , on the 30th March.

Chapuys said Henry hadn’t recovered enough to attend to business yet when he wrote to her again on 12th April 1544 (24), so ‘already recovered’ from the government on 27th March looks a little propagandistic.

Fraser doesn’t give a source and calls it a ‘vignette’ about the leg in the lap at this time so that’s word tongs to me and given nothing to check against I will discount it until evidence comes along. Weir “sources” to “L&P” for the room move but I’ve been through the electronic version of the Letters and Papers (we’re into Volume 19 Part 1 now) reasonably closely for this period and I can’t find what she might be referring to.

I might have missed it, but without positive contemporary evidence this picture of Katherine’s actions during Henry’s pre war illness seems to have been constructed later. It was part of popular history when The Tudors was filmed.

Devices of War

While Henry recovers we get to go outside, to a training camp as the army is selected and prepared.

Brandon is talking to an officer, and discovering that War has changed while he has been away. He talks about the first French campaign with Henry, how it was still breaking lances like a knight of the old days back then.

War. War totally changes.

You do feel a bit sorry for Brandon, but it’s a feeling every older soldier, returning after a long absence must get. War is always moving on.

One of the ways war keeps moving is that payment for participation, whether in cash or as in late stage democracies, with the bonuses for joining mainly in benefits, tends to represent a degree of opportunity for working class people, thereby ensuring a good supply of skilled labour. In Henry’s day it could be cash enough to make a start with, and in the school of Shakespearean dramatic tradition, we’re going to meet two common soldiers who are here to do just that, and get ourselves another perspective on this war. We start with Richard Leland, whose abilities are well suited to this new kind of fighting.

He hits it the second time as well, blowing off the crest and everyone is most impressed. I can’t decide on my head canon for Richard. He’s either very deferential, or very shy, or a masculine presenting gay man just not ready to handle the onslaught of attractiveness that is Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk heartily congratulating him.

He’s so incredibly bashful his deal is a mystery to me.

Others come up to try their skill with the gun and as Richard retreats, the small man with the hat that was most impressed by Richard’s ability introduces himself.

He’s not sure he’s going to get into the army.

Harry and Richard share the joke, and start their bond of friendship with it, a joke that later becomes ironic when Harry ends up being the highly useful one once the key English offensive strategy becomes ground siege works. This time, the guy good at shoveling shit will be key.

Little Guy

Back at Whitehall, Katherine is reading a book, when her sister interrupts her, respectfully, but with exited undertones.

And he is adorable.

Katherine is gentle and welcoming, and your heart breaks a little to see how thoroughly drilled in formal etiquette this small child is.

He was brought to visit his father, but his father is sick. Then The Tudors‘ Queen Katherine wins me over entirely by giving the little guy room to figure out what he wants to say and express himself.

And then she takes a Supernanny knee to answer him. Many points to you, Katherine Parr.

It seems all Henry can do to express his love for his son is give gifts and freak out about his health, like all the time. Sorry, kid. At least someone trying to be human is now involved in your upbringing.

Poor Council

I don’t know that it’s supported historically this time, but the Henry post illness berating of the Councillors The Tudors puts on is always fun.

Gird Thyself, Gentlemen.

And given the compression of the timeline this episode, it’s hard to tell if Henry has some points or he’s just generally working off his frustration. He comes, in, accusatory.

Rich lists out all the goods and ordinance that are packed and ready, and says that they have requisitioned 300 more ships, which will be in port within the month.

And if it’s June he’s got a point and if it’s April he’s being unreasonable. Brandon for once is not immune from the tongue lashing and blame.

Any reference here would be trying too hard. A bearded titan has fallen. F for respects.

Henry has a yell and smacks the table a bit as he reminds everyone that this is not just for honour and glory, this shit should already belong to him.


There wasn’t really a justifiable claim outside of Henry’s head. The Tudors were, oddly enough, a bit closer to the French throne than an English king had been in a while, and for once it was down to those freebooting Tudors themselves. Owen Tudor was the second husband of Henry V’s widow, Catherine de Valois, French Princess, and the Tudors descended from that marriage. But that wouldn’t count under French (Salic) inheritance law and that was about it.

Henry announces that Katherine will be Regent in his absence with Hertford as the lieutenant of the realm, and it’s this that causes Rich to hang back after the meeting, and what he says is conspiracy honey to Bishop Gardiner.

I think a power base may be forming.

The Best Act of Succession

We go to Whitehall, where Henry is taking his leave.

The Third Act of Succession was mentioned last episode, but gets another airing now, as Henry prepares to go on campaign. The Tudors often comes around to have another go at a subject, and I’m glad they did this time. It’s one of those quietly important moments that’s going to affect the future, and the greatest thing Henry ever did for his daughters, and the Queens Regnant since.

Because Henry’s Third Act of Succession was the first time the right of a female to inherit the Crown was written into English law. Female succession to the Crown was still muddy at this time, and in England’s history a Queen Regnant had yet to successfully succeed. Henry’s marital history, which included at least one bout of bigamy and two previous Acts of Succession, combined with his own lack of fecundity, left the succession to the Crown in doubt should it pass from Edward, now with a foreign Queen (Mary Queen of Scots) in the mix. And Henry was unwell and going to war.

So Mary and Elizabeth both got named as the second and third heirs, respectively. It was there in black and white and act of Parliament and it was made treason to interfere with it in 1547. So it was a solid defence for Mary when the Act was attacked, by a close to death Edward VI and the future Duke of Northumberland in 1553 (John Dudley, father of Robert. In 1544 he was still the new-ish Viscount Lisle and Lord Admiral, an up and comer in the court but with a long way to go), as Mary closed in on becoming Queen 11 years later.

Henry kept the power to alter the succession in his will, so he was hanging onto the reins like Logan Roy, only a little more generous and supportive and willing to change. With the ratification of the new Act of Succession by Parliament and public knowledge of it, if Henry ever did need to write one of the girls out of succession it would now take a lot of walking back. The law now said Edward, then Mary, then Elizabeth for the Crown. He did not formally legitimise either of his daughters.

Henry says goodbye to his girls, as the score becomes soft and uplifting, he tells Mary not to cry,.

And telling Elizabeth, who is not crying:

In probably a more personal and caring way than actual historical Henry would have managed. Then he returns to Queen Katherine and has a lovely sincere moment, where he talks about his utter faith in her to look after his children,

And he just saw ‘kind’ on her resume and…, yeah, he’s had two wives killed. This too shall pass.

Followed by a kiss from the Queen that seems to have a little more enthusiasm in it than their usual.

This scene is also a first run through for the dynamics that will happen in Henry’s final farewell to Katherine and his daughters, in the finale.

But wait, did the score just kick it up a notch?

Are We Invading France Yet ?

Well we have to be close, I hear seabirds.

I see ships, I see coastline, I see a guy riding up in a lot of gold chainmail! Yes! Yes we are damn well invading France right now!

Soak it up, bitches.

Brandon, in armour that actually looks better than Henry’s (Better than anyone’s really but Henry’s really gone for bling and it does not hold up against Brandon’s suit of exquisite detailing) comes riding up and gives Henry a situational report that’s pretty damn accurate. Henry did arrive a couple of weeks later than his army and the Dukes of Suffolk and Norfolk had done all the things Brandon mentions at Bologne (25), including ‘investing‘ the town which is a military term meaning surrounding and tactically cutting off them off (no reinforcements, communications, etc.).

And I now know what you mean by that.

Suffolk was in charge of operations at Boulogne and Norfolk in charge of the siege at Montreuil so lets take a quick look at a map.

Top town is Calais: last English possession in France and always the base of operations, Boulogne in the middle and Montreuil at the bottom. It’s roughly a 50 mile stretch of coastline that the English were trying to take.

Then Brandon points out the towns’ significant defences to Henry in front of one of the worst effects I’ve ever seen in The Tudors.

They filmed a Ken doll, or some guy with the Burger King Crown on his head in terrible focus, threw it in front of the CG and just spliced it in there and called it a day. I cannot tell you what is said in this scene. I’m still too annoyed to listen. Even now.

Henry goes down to talk to his army, and from the beginning Boulogne thinks you should get used to the mud.

They’ve been here a couple of weeks, and the main drag is nearly ‘slurry slide’ already.

There is no substitute for being there, and his men hail Henry delightedly.

The equestrian chain mail look they went for for Henry and Brandon’s horses has to be some kind of successor to the rubber woven chain mail developed for the ‘Lord of the Rings’ or the horses would really not be able to wear it, particularly as it seems to go under the saddle.

We drop in on our two citizen soldiers, Harry and Richard. Harry is incredibly exited and Richard enjoys the moment too in his more laid back and slightly sweary way.

Henry decides to give them a speech. It’s pure propaganda, sums up Henry’s attitude as it goes goes on about just rights and inheritances, and how it has all been unjustly taken away.

We also got them by violence and have made up half the law that entitles us to them back.

Which is all bullshit.

Englishmen, today you are invading someone elses’s country and you’re likely to be medium successful. You have whatever that gives you.

We get another call forward to Shakespeare’s Henry V’s “Cry God for Harry, England and St George” in the climax to Henry’s “I am, in fact, the legal owner of all this” speech and the supporting crowd goes wild.

Yeah that’s the blind patriotism things used to run on.

This is quite a special episode for me, it was the first episode of The Tudors I ever watched (original run on BBC 2). I don’t know where in the episode I started, I remember being grudgingly impressed with JRM’s Henry, while being confused about his physical shape, and pleased with the detail on Katherine Parr, but I know I got sold on the series in the following scenes in Boulogne.

I remember thinking, shit, that is a lot of money onscreen, and they’ve gone all the way to his sixth marriage and second campaign. I ordered the DVD of season 1 the next day and the other two available seasons the day season one arrived and I watched half of it.

The actual bombardment of Boulogne started in early August, after a delay for supplies (25), but as has been a theme for this episode we go right on into it. We start with the POV of the French, with muffled cheering and an elevated view of the besieging English.

The bombardment of Boulogne is a five minute montage, the first section of which is all preparation and increasing tensions as the cannons are made ready to fire, and for the men what has previously been drilled becomes actual battlefield movements.

The detail’s pretty good. Not many dramas ‘do’ cannon operation down to the straw wadding guy.

Who was making an interesting face the whole time he did this.

Once the Section 3 Commander gets the same orders shouted, the soldiers are shouted into trenches.

And we catch up with Harry and Richard as they go into the trenches. Meanwhile Henry and Surrey walk across the battlefield to Henry’s battle viewing pavilion.

And I’m really liking this armour on him.

The sky is a bright clear blue, as the preparation stage gives way to aiming stage , and the level of noise starts to lower just a a bit, as fewer people need shouting at, and the tension goes up another notch.

Soon the yelling about targets gives way to calls of “Hold your fire”, and then it gets so quiet all you can hear is the fluttering of the flags and the bells of Boulogne.

In the silence, from his Battle Pavillion, Henry gives Brandon the order to fire.

Little hand says its time to rock and roll, Brandon.

And all hell gets let loose. A little at first, but once Brandon gives the order for all sections to fire it all gets deafening and explody. My favorite might be this shot, where multiple canon trails head towards the town, accompanied by that really threatening descending tone that a heavy projectile makes. The shot the takes us all the way into the chaos unfolding below.

Although the reaction shots from inside Boulogne (Shaky cam included) to the English cannon assault are also a strong part of what makes this battle scene work.

The English hit something structural in one of the Towers, and it collapses, to the boisterous cheering of the English.

It’s only on screen for a split second but the CGI is showing its age, here.

Henry is delighted, the army is delighted. Joyful victory is everywhere, including Brandon’s slightly battle crazed reading of “Reload all guns!”

This is a good as the Battle for Bolougne is going to get. For everyone but Brandon, anyway, he has a couple of good weeks coming up. Siege of Boulogne is going to do wonders for his dating life.

Thanks to everyone that commented this year:

Laura, turtleduck18, mehmaybe, Scarlett, Sir George, James the Reviewest, Dinosaur, George G Simmons, Robyn, Stephanie, polaris, OWAIN, Tudors!!, Isaac Whittaker-Dakin, Anna, shiny trash, blueberry, Brittany Brown, Michael Weiss, Doug Blose, LKR and Pentel and Pad.

Thanks for dropping by, Happy New Year, may your Gunpowder be dry, and The Tudors is my Boulogne, you’re damn right I’m finishing this, and I’m finishing it this year.

To Victory.

Love n hugs

Slightly drunk Autocrat.

Autocrat on an edit – 05/01/2022. Tidied up a bit. Removed WW1 and 2 references, realized I have very little idea about that period, and they’re not really adding anything. Fussed about with some jokes . Still have not got hold of the rogue capitalisation.


  1. Also, once you have done the Tudors, could you be so wonderful and fabulous and fabulous and wonderful as to do The White Queen, The White Princess and The Spanish Princess reviews? I’d love to hear your take on them and the “Actually Historically”ness of it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Please, please don’t. White queen is superb, good cast and at least follows actual events pretty closely (thanks BBC), but the other two are, to put it mildly, dreadful. I’m still recovering from the amount of ridiculous absurdities of the spanish princess, it was just painful to sit through. Philippa Gregory writes good fanfiction though, I’ll give her that
      Agree wholeheartedly with you on TWQ, but there are other historical shows Autocrat could invest time in. Vikings, the last kingdom, The Borgias or Elizabeth: The virgin queen (also by Michael Hirst) for example. Or the 2005 Elizabeth BBC miniseries with Anne-Marie Duff

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Dear Autocrat,

    thank you so much for your reply and this (as always) amazing review! It was a perfect New Years surprise. A actually took really long to read this one, as I didn’t want it to be over so soon 😀
    I am looking forward to the next one and your comments on the finale. But I have no problem in waiting however long it may take. I can only imagine how much time goes into the research.

    Happy belated new year! May this year be better than the last (two)!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. OMG OMG I saw a new recap and I controlled myself for 2 whole days to draw out the anticipation!

    I’m so glad you covered the Anne of Cleves question, because in my head canon her response to learning about Henry’s marriage is now “WTF he did *what*? With *whom*? Bloody WHY?!?!”

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I just finished watching The Tudors for the first time and I’m so glad I found your blog. I don’t think I can overstate how much it added to the whole watching experience. Thank you so much for sharing this with us!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Love your write-ups as always!

    “Tudor weddings were on a completely different scale – but this was one of Henry’s larger weddings, there were around 20 people in attendance. It happened in the Queen’s Closet in Hampton Court, which was a small chapel in a room around 14m x 10m ”

    For we Americans and our crazy measurement system, that’s roughly a room 46 feet x 33 feet, or approx. 1,500 sq. ft.

    Liked by 2 people

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