Thanks to everyone who commented but particularly Rachel K and Nacho, who got the cart moving. Thanks to everyone who came around and read again, and that kept the cart ready to roll again.
War is Bringing the Whole Crew Around
First we meet Death.
There’s, like, a whole lot of it. So The Tudors is digging in on that. Looking the barbarity of the waste in the eye, somewhat.
Which remains depressingly relevant. A soldier watches the mass grave, with concern.
The score has a low threatening tone at the bottom. A rythym picks up to remind us that time. is. passing. human. before we open out into the rest of the siege.
Surrey is overlooking the battle field and tutting when Famine (or the skinniest actor playing a soldier we could find) rolls up having found no new food source.
So it’s a reasonable question to ask before we get further into the episode: How real was all this death and sickness and starvation pressure?
Well , for the main part that was going to depend very much on where you were stationed. In Bolougne, Henry’s shiny focus and the main event, then you should basically have been doing fine, and this depiction is off. If you were part of the much smaller force stationed 20 miles further into France, around Montreuil, and serving under the Duke of Norfolk, then the starvation, disease, discomfort and danger were probably a lot closer to what we see here.
The most detailed piece of contemporary evidence we have for the seige of Bolougne is an account of daily events written by a nobleman(1) that was at the Bolougne siege and was concerned with noblemen things.
He was way more interested in what battle manouvers were used and how many French got captured and killed and by whom. He was also into weather reports, and what nobleman had gone where, what they were wearing if he found them important, and how ‘seemly’ their welcome was, and exactly whose retinue the man that got hanged for sleeping on watch was in, so the lot of the common soldier was not his focus to the point where you think that maybe they could have lost a thousand or so guys to dysentery and this chap may well have been completely unaware it had happened or not found it worthy of note of he did.
There’s no real evidence of notably bad conditions in Boulogne, but with the smaller force around Montreuil, Norfolk was getting increasingly frantic and bordering on mutinous complaints about late pay, low rations and disease, which he reported to the council.
“They bemoan the dying of their horses and people; and not without cause, for very many of our horses die and our men fall sick in great number.” (2)
Montreuil was 20 miles down the road, and while notionally it was supposed to be the next town taken, Norfolk’s men were not equipped for seigeworks. The men at Montreuil were, effectively, the forward camp containing local resistance and preventing it from assisting Bolougne while keeping an eye out for the actual French army, should it show up.
Surrey was stationed there for most of the time, so he was at the sharper end for most of the expedition. In The Tudors he gets a short monologue where he’s the old soldier who was good at the old kind of war, looking at the new kind of war and finding it lacking.
And he’s right about the deserters. A quick look will determine that the hanged guy is not French but wearing an English uniform, and for English high command in the field and the Regent at home one of their prime concerns was deserters(3). Once you’ve got the commoners there, got to keep them in the fight.
Can ‘Insane Working Conditions’ be a Horseman?
He’s got his dues in since humanity got going.
Down in the dangerous French hole in the ground Harry Hirst, his new shovelhelmet friend and Italian foreman live an exhausting and exhilarating existence, like they’re working class Chicago chefs or something, made all the more precarious by Henry’s deep commitment to crazy deadlines. Harry moves a rock, which moves some earth which starts a bit of ominous crumbling from the ceiling so everyone gets some impromptu cardio in right back up that tunnel.
And then they get up the tunnel and wait for about 10 seconds, watching.
And that’s it, that’s all they get.
I mean, is there evidence of this? No, not really, but if a Lord could get something done by disregarding the life needs of the commoners, well consider that thing done in the 1540’s you know?
It’s just in those days the price for their lack of thought was you getting buried alive in a siege tunnel, and these days it’s sudden overtime. And so we progress, hopefully increasingly at time and a half.
Italian foreman can look as rueful as he wants. He still ordering them back there with an “As long as it’s not currently vibrating, keep digging” imperitive.
Hello Season Siege, Let’s get Sickening
Pose, pose, fingersnaps, Pestilence is here, ladies.
And she’s ready to slay, but they’ve crazy inflated her numbers, 2000 already dead, with 3000 sick is way, way high. Even Captain Recorder’Oooh, who had a French Trompet Man in their retinue?’ would have noticed that. So it’s interesting to note that in this monologue, which for the show is all crazy denial with a “tell me the truth” ironic cherry on top, Henry of the tantrums is, in fact, absolutely right this time.
His army was not dying of disease.
After the rightly fearful doctor hustles out, Brandon gives Henry a look across the tent.
Ah, to be Home and Intriguing
Back at home, comfy in the Queen’s chambers, the news that Bishop Gardiner has asked for an audience is taken appropriately.
The sneaky Bishop is here to see if he can get her to act against her constituency and beliefs, or if he can prod her towards admitting them. He starts by making small talk, about the King and praying for his success and then “Just one more things” her.
Actually Historically, as in the series, this move is the sequel to the Windsor prosecutions, where those musicians got arrested, and a bunch of the Protestant men working at the Court at Windsor got tortured and executed. Gardiner had tried to reach some mid ranked court regulars and his perennial target Cranmer with this evidence and failed(4).
He also tried to use the info he got (or said he got) from the men at Windsor to take down some members of the privy chamber. In The Tudors it’s the barber and the cook, there actually was a whole list of them, I don’t know if there was a barber, but there was a cook they wanted arrested, William Snowball.(4)
And Gardiner did try. Actually historically it was about a year before this in 1543, and Queen Katherine was involved in the foiling of it. She had a servant called Fulke who, along with one of the accused he had warned (William Cawarden) , intercepted the Clerk of the Peace who was carrying the trial reports, and had their Ally, William Paget, (Member of the King’s Council) sieze the propsed indictments inside and take them to the council first instead of letting everyone get arrested(4).
The Council and Henry were outraged at this attempt to short cut them, and to arrest people personally close to Henry without reference to him. Gardiner kept just enough distance from the action to avoid being compeltely cut out over it, but the reaction settled him down for a good while and a lot of people around him got punished(4).
We tend to only remember the one exchange where he nearly got her killed, but Queen Katherine and her good man Fulke outplayed Bishop Gardiner this time. In The Tudors we don’t get the whole deal, but Queen Katherine gets to foil Gardiner, dismiss him and not give her game away while using the actual historical reasoning that so hacked off Henry.
And then she reverse “Just one more things” him.
Apparently there has been an outbreak of plague near Windsor (There was an actual historical outbreak while Henry was in Boulogne,but it was in London and Westminster (5)) and she’s having Prince Edward brought to court as a consequence. That will set up our next scene with Katherine and will help explain why all the kids will be there.
Gardiner is suitably impressed that she stopped him at the door to tell him that.
And she unclenches visibly once he has left.
The Boulogne Two Step
Let’s start with the intro scenelet, three wordless shots telling the story of a King and a City that won’t reciprocate.
And then we two step into night in the general camp.
Thence to Brandon’s tent where…
Where something weird starts to go down. Brandon sits there, greeting Brigitte with a slightly chipper expression and makes his opening move, reuniting her with her papa.
And I’m giffing this because what I find adorable is the way Brigitte damn near teleports over to her father, that and the apparent sincerity of the hug, totally sold the moment.
But also this is one of those scenes where the subtitlers decided it was important to document all the ambience voices as well as the leads. And while the whole moment is charming, it does make Brandon’s next move feel a bit… Supervilliany.
And then what, one of them picks up a box and walks for three miles?
Brigitte goes on a whole journey in this gif, from “Oh wow, we forgot you were there in the corner” to “Dad, I think I can make this work but I don’t quite know how to explain it to you.”
Brigitte’s father is pursuded to go by her, because Brandon is a deeply troubled smokeshow.
Why must he go now? No one asks. But Papa does go now, with his assurance that he thinks he judged Brandon rightly as an honourable enemy.
But this faith will be strangely warranted because Brandon is in a relationship with Honour, and what he’s going to be trying for so hard it has to be kinking is the Nearly Full Jedi.
The whole 95% Sir Galahad. Well, maybe 90%. You have to work in the fact that he will, in the end, fail.
Back at the Front
There is no doubt which side of the economic righteousness divide The Tudors is on when it looks at the 16th Century.
In this touching little scene, Richard Leland notices Harry, sat, exhausted on a brief break. In the world Richard has about half a scone. You want to know what happens to that half a scone?
Yeah, it goes right to his friend Harry who he figures needs it more. For the war effort.
And to what do we cut?
Henry Crisis Meeting
The table of outrageous excess from earlier.
Henry manages to both hold and crash this meeting, so good luck keeping any of that down. He’s a rollercoater today. Lord Hertford is visiting and there’s quite a bit of passive aggression going across the table.
Lord Hertford praises Katherine as regent by talking about a woman’s touch soothing…
Oh would they? Right. Henry asks how his son is doing and clearly the answer is very well or Hertford would not be daring that, or this.
OK, so that’s a shock, and Henry’s not going to take it well. Charles V,Holy Roman Emperor took St Dizier on 11th August 1544(6). The difference between him and Henry was that Saint Dizier wasn’t what he was after, it was a heavily defended strategic point that Charles would need in order to get his army anywhere near Paris by the deadline.
There was a practical deadline all the command would have been aware of but which The Tudors hasn’t mentioned and is using all these magnified issues to avoid.
The deadline was about the end of September. Before the campaign ever began Charles V pinpointed 25th September as the date he needed to turn around(6). Because everyone had learned, the way to keep an Army was you don’t keep it in the field through the Winter, you get them to winter quarters, let them spend some of their pay getting comfortable and then you pick them up again in Spring.
No one could afford the”Needlessley Dead Mercenaries” tax. Your next year’s mercenaries would cost a fortune.
And everything was getting impassable by October anyway, there wasn’t a real road network, so you also wanted all your heavy stuff, like your early artillery, somewhere snug and far from the enemy by then. Henry might have been a bit more generous in his deadline, as he was much closer to home fortified ground, and had proportionately way fewer mercenaries in his army than the other two. (6a).
The difference this made in the war was that from about mid August Charles was on the offensive and he had over a month to get to Paris or something vital enough to force Francis’ surrender, on Charles’ terms, which was what Charles was after.
Henry was after French territory he could hold. He would have a free hand to take it as long as the war continued. So it’s not unversally good news that Charles is on the move now.
Henry reacts to news of his allies’ success in an entertainingly poor way. First he explodes with anger on a different topic.
And spends some time telling his Engineer, actually in charge of a medium sized digging team, that he doesn’t know how to handle all the soldiers. I mean that’s been a problem. If only someone had thought to ask him, Henry, what he thought seige warfare would do to the men then the general effort would have been far better in many ways, and definitely quicker on the tunneling.
And then when he gets the mildest disgreement, well at that point Crazy Henry happens and he is a whole lot, very nearly all at once.
We check them in a crisis BY BEING THE CRISIS. The English have the craziest Royal General, no competition. Girolamo talks him down, by tightening his already insane deadline and in reponse gets a possible cessation of hostilities (I mena, Henry stops talking) and a tooth sucking and quaff I can only describe as pointlessly aggressive.
I think what I like most is Girolamo kind of half turning to the others: Is that Good? Is that- He won’t grenade our own men tomorrow or not? Yeah, no one knows Girolamo, no one knows. Welcome to crazy sitting your tyrant.
Brigitte and Brandon in Boulogne Part Deux
Brigitte looks at the food Brandon has brought her and is like-
And yeah, but don’t weep for him yet, Brigitte. He was at a mini banquet earlier that it sounds like he hasn’t mentioned. She’s really looking for reasons to think well of him.
I won’t sport with you about their seige conditions small talk prior to him sighing and walking away, just treat you to the time spent of him choosing not to address that she is suddenly wearing a very pretty top and is biting her lip and they are staring at each other at the tentflap.
Unless you are part of the 0.05% of the population as good or better looking than Mr Cavill, the Nearly Full Jedi is a move completely destined for celibacy.
If you want him, you’re basically going to have to put a tiddy in his hand, Ma’am, and I’m not sure that would be right, unless you’re very sure that is, in fact, what he’s after.
As It Should Be
Queen Katherine Parr spent most of her husband’s summer campaign of 1544 in one household with all the King’s Children(7). She gathered them together as a family in what they all probably looked back on as a really weird year.
And we get a scene in The Tudors updating us on the relationships at home.
Mary and Katherine’s relationship is going to go to crap early, but as far as I can tell in Actual History they got along fine until Katherine wanted to remarry 4 months after Henry died. Her choice of Thomas Seymour was politically explosive, and Mary went off them both. If there were undercurrents before that then the record doesn’t show it, and Mary really found her religious fire once she was sure God had made her Queen.
Still, The Tudors‘ Mary has definite tone and a proto agenda not a million miles away from Bishop Gardiner’s as she delivers a translation and talks to the Queen about how important their religion is to them.
Mary did do translations for Katherine Parr’s heftiest literary project, the Translation of Erasmus’ Paraphrases of the New Testament. And she did most of the work on the Gospel of St. John. (8) But the biggest controversy between actual historical Mary and Katherine during the work was that Mary felt uncomfortable taking the credit, when she’d gotten ill part way through and she felt more credit belonged to Francis Mallet, the scholar that was helping her.
Queen Katherine wrote to her, assuring her that she should take credit and doing everything short of saying “Look Mary, Francis Mallet knows the deal, it’s fine“(8), and it seems like they had a good relationship at this point, despite the tension The Tudors is selling quite well.
Next Prince Edward comes running in (He’s really been discovering that the last couple episodes), and gets confronted with a whole life change from a smiling Katherine Parr. It was time for his formal schooling to start (AH the previous year, 1543, when Henry was still home). Which is going to involve his whole home life changing too. He’s going to be ‘breeched’ from the woman that has raised him (Lady Bryan) and the household he has known, to have a whole new one.
Young Edward looks appropriately horrified.
At least Katherine Parr doesn’t expect him to be stoked by his life being upended. She points out the positives, that change can be a good thing and all the opportunities he will now have by getting educated. I mean everyone says good night in a positive way, but I’m not sure everyone in Edward’s household is sleeping too easily tonight. The whole “Can we also do this by not upending the child’s life?” was not a question anyone was asking yet.
Queen Katherine didn’t get to decide who the Prince’s tutors were, but she was influential when they were chosen and was a reliable source of political backup for those tutors (along with Cranmer) during their work. So Henry was the director, but Queen Katherine Parr was a big influence on the Prince’s eduction through attention and tending to it and one of the reasons it was so Protestant.
Next Mary says good night, and then Queen Katherine calls in Elizabeth for an actual hug, calls her ‘Young Lady’ and goes mildly prophetic.
And then it’s time for the intrigue section of the scene. Queen Katherine starts with asking Kat Ashley for a moment and getting sister Anne to shut the doors. She has that tone that Joely Richardson’s Katherine Parr gets when she’s nervous, which is pretty breathless, but mixing it with majesty in this moment. The Queen literally then ends it with “This conversation never happened”, we’re full Moscow Rules intrigue level and back to Shhh: Secret Protestantism.
Now while ‘honouring the religious wishes of the mother’ is a nice idea, I’m not sure it’s the thesis for what QKP is doing. I notice it’s happening for Mary where there isn’t really an alternative, and Elizabeth where the mother was clearly Protestant, but for Edward whose mother was low key Catholic? Not so much. “Bound to Obey and Serve, right? She’d go with Henry and Henry’s fine with my plans. It’s all good”
But beyond that, this is a great moment showing her as a diligent and reasonable stepmother and setting us up for the religious weather change and turmoil coming on Henry’s return.
A Titan Finally Rises
Brandon rides through the battlefield.
The soundtrack’s feeling ominous, there’s coughing in the background and I thought this was a body cart but now I think it’s some very uncomfortable improvised sleeping arranagements.
And then Ladies and Gentlemen and Variations Thereupon, I believe it is time to press F for respects, and the passing of an era with the last The Tudors full sex scene. There will still be nudity, we’re not done with eroticism, but all the characters are getting older and there’s a lot more rackings than racks in our future.
It begins with Brigitte Ladycreepin all the way into Charles’ tent.
Oh you both deserve each other. Charles “I must remain Prone” Brandon just lays there faintly dazzled as she dabs at some blood he somehow got on his brow, before he finally finds the 10% that’s not Jedi and goes in for smooches.
He is enthusiastically smooched back and they’re off to the races. If you’re, ahem, ‘into’ audio it’s a pretty hot soundtrack moment.
Right, that’s quite enough, put those bongos away. We’ve got a city to invade.
Time to Finish This
It is presumably the morning after Brandon’s honour’s besmirchment, and in Henry’s battle pavillion all is ready for the big event.
There’s a call across the battlefield and a shot of one little guy, clearly in the wrong place just racing across the shot. In the Battle Pavilllion the mood is very, very tense.
Below them and a good 150 yards ahead, Girolamo de Treviso, our Italian Foreman is about to shame me. You see him saying good bye to everyone, he goes down the line, hugging everyone, including Harry.
And I was still thinking “Dick”. But it turns out he is one of the three volunteers (which frankly seems like overkill) who are each going to light a fuse and hope they can outrun it. He’s hugging everyone and everyone looks so solemn because he’s one of the ones staying. Which means I cannot judge him.
Everyone but the three volunteers leaves,
And Girolamo da Treviso looks up that tunnel like he knows the odds in front of him, down to his bones.
Meanwhile, topside Surrey’s made it to the Pavillion.
Below Harry, Girolamo, and Guy #3 light their torches and a hush comes over the battlefield. We stop by Richard at his post.
The three guys down the tunnel light their fuses.
And it all kicks off, just not quite fast enough to prevent one last Henry mini meltdown.
But then it hits and suddenly he’s “Why is my Battle Pavillion shaking?”
You see the real chaos unfolding underground for Harry, Girolamo and whoever Guy#3 was.
There’s shockwave above that ripples off the ground.
There is a long, high note, and then a large tower inside the walls falls, followed by more and more crumbling towers and walls. And then the elevated theme lets loose.
And through this whole thing we’ve been worried about Harry, Harry underground racing for his life though that tunnel. But The Tudors undercuts us (and it was still a fresh move in ’08) we should have been worried about Richard Leland, who has been there with us and Harry from the start, a truly great guy and lost in a careless moment of celebration as the one French guy not in a falling tower or blinded by dust shoots him.
Perhaps, as Richard himself did with that French officer that walked the walls, he’d had his eye on him for some time.
I mean The Tudors doesn’t let you have even 10 seconds of the “oooh Victory” endorphins without reminding you of the waste, and fair enough.
Girolamo might be “Sane again”, but he’s dead. Girolamo dies in the tunnel trying to save Guy #3. According to his biography he actually died a metal death by cannon – getting hit with a shot while on the battleground at Boulogne (9).
The guys that rushed to get Harry out ask him if there was anyone else behind him and he’s sure Girolamo was too far back to save.
But it’s a good day to be Henry who is victorious, happy and glorious, albeit over just the one city.