Monday, 21 April 2014

The Tudors: Season Two, Episode 3

"What harm can a nobody inflict on our Holy Church?"

This is a big, big episode. The fact that this is the break with Rome is signalled by Peter O'Toole's promotion to the credits, and we start with a bang. There's a duel over Anne. The two sides are entrenched. It's all very serious except for Thomas Wyatt who, despite his promotion to the Privy Council, takes nothing seriously.

Catholicism in England is clearly in retreat, with the King promoting arch-Lutheran Thomas Cranmer to the See of Canterbury, but Pope Clement VII remains airily complacent. But soon a surprised Cromwell is appointed Lord Chancellor and, most significantly of all, Henry and Anne are finally married. After all that build-up it's almost an anticlimax.

Catherine is utterly humiliated. But Brandon, it seems, is getting close to her, and siding more firmly with More and Fisher. The English Reformation finally takes off as even this Pope takes steps to excommunicate Henry and he finally breaks with Rome. Cranmer says he's legally married, like a good little lackey (albeit, like Cromwell, one with an agenda), and that's all that matters.

In other subplots, Wyatt carries on a casual affair with one of Catherine's maids. King Francis, quelle surprise, breaks his promises. The Jesuit order is founded. And Anne is pregnant, to excitement all round.

The build-up to Anne's coronation as queen consort leads to an attempted assassination- the people still like the old Queen and the old religion. Fisher and More, who sadly notes that his once-close friendship with Henry is over, snub the ceremony. Anne, as Queen, establishes uber-Protestantism in her household, giving them all a copy of Tyndale's Bible, which is still technically illegal.

One feels most sorry for Mary, no longer a princess and forbidden from all contact with her mother. But this does not quite feel like a total victory for Protestantism in England. For one thing, we get a shot of the King and the new Queen in bed, shot from above, he half-naked and her fully clothed and turned away from him. It seems their relationship, following marriage and pregnancy, may be losing it's ardour. And, given the context, this could potentially have huge political and religious ramifications.

Anne finally gives birth, and it's a girl, and future Virgin Queen. Henry hides his disappointment, but summons a Lady Eleanor to his chamber for sex. Is he beginning to lose his desires for the woman he wanted so desperately for so long? It looks more and more desperately vital that she gives him a male heir, and soon.

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