Saturday, April 17, 2010

Historical Saturday - It's good to be King

Henry VIII & Anne Bolyen

I love "The Tudors." And what's not to love? Jonathon Rhys-Meyers is HOT as young Henry VIII and the costumes are colorful and the palaces are lush. So I thought I'd gush (a little) and share my disappointment (a little) about a show I consider a "dirty little sin."

Mind you, I don't watch much TV these days. I've got a busy schedule and it's hard to find TV time for just me. Especially when Nick and Nick Jr are on 18 hours out of the day for the kids, but being the historical nut I am, when I saw Showtime was putting together a show about Henry VIII I had to tune in.

Thoughts on Pay TV
You have to pay for Showtime. Some people mind about paying for TV. That's understandable. But after watching THE SOPRANOS and ROME on HBO, I really liked the quality in which these shows were done. The production values were top notch and it realy was like having a movie theatre in my house. I knew Showtime's production values would be just as good as HBO's and I wasn't disappointed.

The Tudors, Season 1
With high expectations, I tuned into Season 1 of "The Tudors" The production was top notch. The costumes and palaces were spot on. I thought the cast was perfect for the show. The Season starts with Henry getting Elizabeth Blount pregnant. She carries to term and has his illegitmate son. Katherine of Aragon (Henry's 1st wife and queen) is saddened of course, because she has only given him a daughter.

Katherine of Aragon, The Tudors

And then there's Sam Neil as "Woolsey." I loved the Woolsey character in "The Tudors" and Sam Neil captured all the complex emotions of the character - his passion to protect the king, his own need for glory and possession, his own humanity and his own inhumanity.

And then there was Natalie Dormer as Anne Bolyen. We all know what happened there.

Syphilis and Henry VIII
Did Henry VIII have syphilis? Why couldn't he have kids with Katherine of Aragon? Anne Boleyn? Why did these women keep having miscarriages? Two healthy unrelated woman who went through pregnancy after pregnancy only to have that child be stillborn, or die shortly after birth?

While this topic isn't really explored in "The Tudors," it's one I feel passionately about - and I believe he did. Both Anne and Katherine of Aragon suffered with "Syphilis of the Innocent," allowing the syphilis to pass to their children in the womb. They got it from Henry of course. I digress a little here, and this is a blog post for another time and place.

Henry VIII & Jane Seymour, The Tudors

The point? The show highlights Henry's problems with having a healthy "male" child. And it's a problem of his own making since he's one giving syphilis to his lovers.

Season 2
Season 2 highlights the lusty yet combustable marriage of Anne & Henry's marriage culminating in Anne's death. It's tragedic in a way that love should turn so violently.

Margaret Tudor, "The Tudors."

What I didn't care for in Season 1 and 2 was the treatment of Margaret,Henry's sister. Margaret married the King of the Scots, James, and bore him a son. It is her descendants on the throne of England right now, not Henry's. Yet, in the story, Margaret marries Charles Brandon. Margarent never married Brandon. Henry's other sister, Mary, married him. Mary, Henry's sister is never even mentioned in the TV show.

Season 3
Season 3 Henry married Jane Seymour and finally has that son. She's only around for about 5 shows, but they are some interesting shows. We all know she dies in childbirth. Her son, Edward, is the interesting one. In history, reports are not consistant regarding his health. Some say he had poor health, some say he was healthy. Those reports that talk about ill health, rashes, fevers, etc, all point to Edward as suffering as a child with syphilis of the innocent symptoms would. Mary, Henry's daughter with Katherine of Aragon also suffers with syphilis of the innocent symptoms all her life and it's probably why she never had children. Surprisingly, Elizabeth, Anne Bolyen's child, was reported to be in good health all her life. What accounts for this is that syphilis has a "latent" phase and I have no doubts that Elizabeth was conceived during a latent phase in Henry's syphilis. He did not give syphilis to Anne Bolyen at the time they concieved Elizabeth so she was born in good health.

Anne of Cleaves, "The Tudors"

History implies Henry was going impotent during his marriage to Jane Seymour. After all they were married seven months before she conceived. Katherine of Aragon and Anne Bolyen conceived right away with him. There can be no doubt that Henry was impotent come Anne of Cleaves, his 4th wife.

I LOVED JOSS STONE as Anne of Cleaves. Brillant Casting! Joss has an innocenence about her that made Anne of Cleaves stand out. She's a surviour and Anne of Cleaves is, interestingly, the only surviour left standing after Henry's dead and gone.

Season 4
Season 4 starts out with Henry married to Katherine Howard. Katherine tries hard to have a baby with the king, but there's no doubt he's impotent. When she takes a lover, Thomas Culpepper, her head comes flying off. While there's plenty of evidence she's a cheater, Anne Bolyen, her cousin also accused of infidely, probably didn't cheat. Katherine Parr is next and Joely Richardson is set to play her. Katherine Parr goes on to marry Thomas Seymour, the love of her life after Henry. She dies giving birth to their child who they name "Mary."

Katherine Howard, "The Tudors"

The inaccuracies
One of the inaccuracies is the Margaret/Mary (Henry's sisters). Their stories are also rich goldmines and it's a shame the producers didn't tap into their stories. In fact, it's a SHAME the producers didn't start with Henry VII, Henry VIII's father. His story is rich with lies, greed, lust, and love as well.

Katherine Parr, "The Tudors"

Despite that, I love the Tudors. I love history comes alive with the show. I just wish there would be more after Season 4.

My favorite? Right now - Joss Stone as Anne of Cleaves but I'm dying to see Joely Richardson as Katherine Parr.

Tudor On!


  1. What a great post. I really enjoyed the information. I learn something from a blog and that makes me very happy!
    loved it.
    I don't have cable so I never get to see this stuff. Great!

  2. I love this period of history. I'm glad they're doing a show about it. Unfortunately, I don't get cable, either, or I'd watch it. Thanks for sharing!

    Liana Laverentz

  3. Interesting blog! I loved your overview of the Tudor dynasty, and your take on the birth difficulties. I don't write in that period, but I love reading about it. BTW, there are a lot of Tudor films on Netflix. I'm in a rural area which doesn't have cable. I'm on Dish, but I get wonderful historical films and documentaries from Netflix. Just watched one about the Medicis. Awesome. Nice blog. I'll be coming back.

  4. The Tudor period is fascinating. I only watched the second season of the show, we had a trial period during which Showtime was free. Maybe I'll have to see the rest on Netflix or buy them. :)

    And you might want to hop over to my blog. There's an award for you.


  5. Excellent post! I really enjoyed it. Thank you for sharing these insights. -Laura

  6. I rented the first season from Netflix but only watched the first show and sent it back. I expected history, not an hour full of too-detailed sex. The whole first show was about almost nothing but that and I watch for the story. A shame, since I love Jonathon Rhys-Meyers and I love historicals and looked forward to watching this.

  7. Thanks everyone for popping in. For those who don't have Showtime, you can get the shows on Netflix and Seasons 1-3 are available on DVD. (At least, I think Season 3 is) Also, if you're a fan of ITunes, You can download episodes from ITunes. I have Season 1 on my Ipod.

    Loraine, I agree - there is far too much of that in the show. I DEFINATELY watch the shows after my kids go to bed. It's a shame because I think the producer thought I better throw some sex in here to "sell" it without realizing it would probably sell without the heavy sex simply because of the topic.