Sunday, 25 May 2014

The Tudors: Season Four, Episode 5

"Catherine Howard, I have to tell you that you are going to die."

It all happens so quickly. The episode begins with Henry finding out about Catherine Howard`s colourful past from an anonymous letter and ends, after the most nightmarish judicial machinations possible and several tortuous executions, with the poor silly girl`s beheading. She was eighteen.

The interrogator is, of course, Richard Rich, and the likes of Francis Dereham and the disgusting Thomas Culpeper well and truly get their comeuppance, with Lady Rochford also doomed. Dereham has his fingers pulled out under torture, but is lucky to have his sentence commuted to beheading. The slimy Culpeper has no such luck, being hung, drawn and quartered in graphic detail, with much blood. Lady Rochford loses her sanity, but there is no escape from a vengeful king; horribly, Henry changes the law and has her executed anyway. The amount of gore is such that my then-fiancée made comparisons to the Saw films.

For poor, young, none-too-bright Catherine, the whole nightmare is simply beyond her limited comprehension. She is far too young for all this. She is told that she is no longer Queen and, in a bathetic yet pathetic scene, her desperate rush to speak to Henry and make things right is refused; this is the real, adult world, and it`s a cruel, cruel world.

The day before her death, Cathetine refuses all religious rites and chooses to die unshriven, admitting that she knows little of such matters. With a horrifying childlike innocence, she asks to spend her last night with the block so she can practice. Her last moments are less dignified but, perhaps, more tragic than those of Anne Boleyn, a much more adult, intelligent and worldly figure. Her last words are simply that "Life is very beautiful". She makes no reference to religion, caresses the block like a child, and dies. It all happened so quickly, much like her life.

With a hypocrisy and double standard that is by now hardly worth mentioning, Henry spends Catherine's final minutes cavorting with various girls. He likes them young, the dirty old man. By now we can hardly but regard him with utter contempt.

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