Tuesday, 1 April 2014

The Tudors: Season One, Episode 5

"I have yet to decide whether to make your bedmate a head shorter...!"

Things don't go very well for Henry in this episode, meaning he's in a bit of a mood and others are therefore in peril. The Boleyns are in the ascendant- Sir Thomas Boleyn is ennobled and Anne Boleyn is made the King's official mistress. This doesn't mean she's getting any, however; Henry refuses to shag her until he's divorced Catherine and married her. So Wolsey, whose responsibility this seems to be, had better get that divorce. Or else.

Of course, getting said divorce requires the cooperation of Charles V who a) has the Pope by the short and curlies and b) is inordinately fond of his Aunt Catherine. Worse, he seems rather dismissive of Henry, releasing France's King Francis without even thinking to notify his supposed bezzie mate Harry and, worse, marrying his son to a Portuguese princess instead of Mary. It must be somewhat emasculating for an autocrat to be reminded of his less-than-alpha-male status on the European stage.

Still, he may not have an heir but at least he has his toy sword-wielding (aaah!) little Fitzroy to remind everyone that he is definitely all manly and virile and so forth. The Queen doesn't quite feel the same, and her own position is looking perilous; Mary is to be sent away from her, and Catherine's good friend the Spanish ambassador receives a bollocking from Henry. It's all gone very wrong, a line has been crossed and if Henry doesn't get that divorce then heads will roll. Except he won't.

Meanwhile, our new Duke of Suffolk may not have particularly offended the new King of Portugal in marrying his Tudor stepmother, but Henry is furious and has a potentially homicidal falling out with his friend. Elsewhere at court, a young Thomas Tallis is getting some cock.

Henry, however, officially confirms Anne Boleyn as his official mistress, a title which reminds us of the fundamental decadence of monarchical power. He will not, however, shag her until they marry. This is going to lead to a lot of sexual frustration for Henry, which will probably cause a fair few deaths.

The real meat of the episode, though, comes in the clash of principles between Wolsey, he of the realpolitik, who seeks to get the King his divorce, and More, who suddenly seems less progressive. The humanist is quickly becoming yesterday's man, and there is much friction. Wolsey, of course, is far more interested in manipulating the King into an alliance with the French.

It all goes horribly wrong at the end, as our little Fitzroy dies of that most Tudor of ailments, the sweating sickness, and the 1525 sack of Rome by Charles V happens right on cue. However autocratic Henry may be in his own kingdom, he is at the mercy of greater forces.

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