The Tudors

May 16, 2010

Showtime Productions can’t fool me into believing that Jonathan Rhys Meyers plays an accurately aging interpretation of King Henry VIII in ‘The Tudors’ simply by making the side of his hair a little bit grey, and giving him a bit of a beard. He still looks about 18.

I wouldn’t usually blog about a TV show, because there are no shades of grey with TV for me. It’s either great, or shit. And so I can’t really write much on it. I’ll show you………. Have I got news for you, is great. The Sopranos, is great. The West Wing, is great. One Tree Hill, is shit…….. You see?

The Tudors is an oddity. It is both great and shit at the exact same time. I don’t know how this has happened. I cannot explain why it’s so great, apart from saying that it brings the tumultuous time period to life in quite a creative and modern way. By making Henry some sort of male model, and his wives; sex crazed power hungry venom, they have simultaneously distorted the truth so much so that Fox News should consider taking tips, but also made it easy to look past the horrendous inaccuracies and just watch it as a piece of entertainment, rather than historical fact. However, if it were that simple, then I could just say that it’s a great TV show. It isn’t that simple. Which is why it’s also shit, for me.

I studied the reign of Henry VIII for A-Level, and half of my book collection are studies of that time period. Not necessarily just Henry VIII, but also studies on Henry VII, Thomas More, Thomas Cromwell, The Wars of the Roses, the Reign of Mary Tudor, the Reign of Edward VI, the Reign of Elizabeth I, The English and European Protestant Reformation, Kett’s Rebellion, Renaissance Florence, Emperor Charles V, and the rise and fall of the Medici. I have taken a greater interest in 16th Century England and Europe, than I did when I actually studied it. I know the subject pretty well. And so, when presented with a TV show that tries to commit itself to the subject, throwing thirty years worth of reality into four seasons of Americanised TV, I get horribly frustrated, yet can’t stop watching. I then get frustrated with myself, for continuing to bother watching a show, that makes me frustrated in the first place. But there’s the paradox; whilst it makes me frustrated, I absolutely love it. WHAT IN GOD’S NAME DO I DO!!!!! ARGH!!!

I will give you a few reasons why The Tudors frustrates me.

  • Charles Brandon, in the 1530s, was in his 50s. He was married four times previously. He married a girl who was then just 15. It is true that he was perhaps the King’s best friend, and most trusted confidante. But in the show, he is about 25, for about thirty years, and marries early on, and doesn’t get divorced at all.
  • Henry had two sisters, not one.
  • There are an entire two episodes based on Pope Paul III signing off on an assassination attempt on Ann Boleyn. This never happened. Totally invented by Showtime.
  • George Boleyn, Ann’s brother is depicted as gay. Sleeping with Mark Smeeton. This never happened. There is no evidence that George was gay. Someone at the production meeting must have said “I know, let’s make George Boleyn into a raving homosexual.”…. “why?”….. “We’ve made the fattest monarch in history into a toned male model, so making an easily forgettable character gay for a couple of episodes isn’t going to be much of a problem.” Oh, and they made him a rapist. George Boleyn, was not a rapist.
  • Imagine in 500 years from now, someone depicting Elvis as making his rock n roll debut, in 2010, or the first moon landing in 2019. It’d be ridiculous right? In an episode of The Tudors, Thomas Cromwell shows a few people the Printing Press and introduces it as a new invention that will change the World. The Printing Press was brought to England about fifty years before the date depicted, and everyone, even the commoners who got by in life from burning witches and pooing in holes in the ground, would have heard of it.
  • The Vatican in the show, has Bernini’s statues in front of it. Bernini was born in 1598. Sixty years after the time depicted. Pope Urban VIII commissioned Bernini to work on the Basilica in 1626, almost 100 years after the time depicted in the show. That’s the equivalent of someone saying “Titanic DEFINITELY sunk in 2012.” Why even go that far? Bernini’s statues around St Peters are not essential to the show. Surely you’d just leave them out, for continuities sake?
  • By Season 4, we are well into the 1540s. Henry died in 1546. He was morbidly obese, brought on from a horrible leg injury some years prior. His weight supposedly prevented him from even getting out of bed, without assistance. In the show, Henry is still a lean, well toned, very good looking, 20+ man, with a few grey hairs and a beard.

    Having said all of that, I still love the show. It’s shaming. I’m actually magnificently disappointed that they are ending it after season 4. It’s epic sets, and it’s costume designs are incredible. I particularly love the sweeping sky shots of 16th Century London. The acting is enticingly top class, and the storylines, whilst distorted factually, are captivating. I would like to see it carry on, into Edward’s reign. The last few years of Henry’s life were not even half as interesting as the entire reign of his son, Edward VI and the Protectors Somerset and Northumberland. I’d even quite like to see Mary’s reign portrayed. The actress who plays Mary is fantastic. It should end, at the coronation of Elizabeth; considered the greatest Monarch England has ever had. Watching a time period you adore, come to life, makes for exciting viewing. The makers of The Tudors have certainly found a winning formula. It’s just a pity they made ridiculous, unneeded historical mistakes. I do think more could have been made of the Reformation Parliament, and the massive and swift change it would have brought to ordinary people. To gloss over in two or three episodes, a part of our history that set the course for the religious settlement of England for the next five hundred years, was weak and disappointing. Also, the portrayal of Thomas Cromwell is acted brilliantly, but I would have liked to have seen him more involved. Cromwell, according to pretty extensive research by one historian in particular, changed Government forever. He introduced a bureaucratic style of government, with departments, and auditors, rather than a one man strong council that existed previously. Crowell was massively important for his political and religious reforms. He wasn’t depicted this way at all. But even then, I am still enticed by the show.

    I hope next, they depict World War II, and how the tall, skinny Winston Churchill; the compassionate, articulate truth teller George W Bush, and tall, definitely-not-crazy, magnificent actor Tom Cruise defeated the evil Nazi’s in Russia, using the giant moon laser. Surely, that’s next? I’ll probably love it =(


  • Never be tired of England

    April 23, 2010

    Happy St Georges Day.
    Did you know that King George III never formally acknowledge the independence of the USA? Therefore, we still own it. Nor did we agree to the full independence of Australia (The Australia Act of 1986, I choose to ignore). Therefore, we still own that too. And when I get there in July, I will proclaim myself Governor of Australia for Her Majesty The Queen. We’ll forget this silly “independence” thing in no time.

    The Daily Mail in it’s quest to tarnish Nick Clegg as some great evil, had this to say earlier this week:

    “His wife is Spanish, his mother Dutch, his father half-Russian and his spin doctor German. Is there ANYTHING British about Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg?”

    It’s amazing isn’t it?
    Nick Clegg, the posh English intelligent Lib Dem leader, is apparently an evil foreigner, despite the fact, that he was born….. in Berkshire.
    Given that the husband of the Queen is a relative of the Russian tsars, I hope the Daily Mail will soon begin an anti-monarchy quest.

    Today is St Georges day.
    It is beautiful outside.
    I have sat in my garden with a book and a drink sat by me, for most of it.
    The reasons I do not fly the St Georges cross flag is something I dislike about the way it has been manipulated. St Georges cross and the Union Jack have been hijacked by the far right in recent years, to show that they aren’t too keen on muslims. It is used by those who keep claiming muslims are out to destroy England, rape your children, punch your grandmother in the face, and ban Christmas. It is from those who use the phrase “it’s political correctness gone mad” to cloak their inherent stupidity and ignorance. “You know, you can’t even smear shit into a a pakistani man’s face in the shape of the cross of St George whilst telling him to fuck off out the Country any more, without the politically correct bias liberal media telling you it’s racist. It’s political correctness gone mad!!!” I don’t want to associate myself with that type of person. Anyone who associates England with “the white race” is disgusting, in my view.

    But I do love this country. In fact, I absolutely adore this country. I do not appreciate the far right telling me that I hate this country, simply because I am not a nazi. I do not believe in a singular concept of “Englishness”. My views on Englishness, are pretty post-modern in that respect. I love this country, for my own reasons, which I will now list.

    I love the English summer time. I love traditional English seaside holidays. I love the sound of English amusement arcades on the seafront. I love Tudor history. I love being in the city centre for Diwali celebrations. I love the English countryside. I love standing in the sea on the English south coast despite it being freezing. I love the scent of England in the early summer mornings. I love English Christmas, the food, Morcambe and Wise, and bucks fizz. I love red post boxes. I love the majority of the people who are always polite, friendly, and tolerant. I love that I am the grandson of a World War II navy veteran. I love eccentric Brits. I love Camden. I love not understanding a word the speaker says over the tannoy at a local Tesco. I love Newstead Abbey. I love Bradgate Park. I love feeding ducks. I love those little green or red or blue or yellow arm bands the local swimming pools give you, to let you know when your time in the water is up. I love how we are a mash of cultural differences and historical struggles. I love how we cannot go a day without at least one cup of tea. I love Brit pop! I love getting into bed, under a huge new duvet on a freezing winter’s night. I love wearing an England football shirt throughout the World Cup and Euros every couple of years. I love reading the papers before the World Cup that tell me that Wayne Rooney is at his peak. I love not understanding why our clocks go forward and backward every now and again. I love trilby hats. I love speakers corner. I love hearing the sound of an ice cream van. I love that we are part of Europe. I love Devon and Cornwall. I love our charity days like Red Nose day and Children in need. I love the National Health Service. I love that we are a country that still cares for it’s sick and injured. I love that we are a nation of compassion and acceptance rather than distrust, dogmatic individualism and miserable hatred. I love great British comedians like the Pythons, and Spike Milligan and comedies like Blackadder and Only Fools. I love our sense of humour. I love our sarcasm. I love talking to random people on the park when i’m taking the dog for a run. I love our political music like The Clash and The Jam. I love London. I love bike rides around England. I love black cabs. I love that on one long road just outside of Brighton there is a church, a mosque, a synagogue and a gay bar a little further down, and no problems arise. I love that we have minimum wage. I love the BBC. I love how overly excited our papers get when Wimbledon begins. I love our poets like Wordsworth and Byron. I love that Darwin was English. I love traditional English breakfasts. I love that we do not care what our leaders’ religious beliefs are. I love random games of football on the park. I love our regional colloquialisms. I love the words of Shakespeare and Milton.

    I highlighted “I love how we are a mash of cultural differences and historical struggles” because I think it raises an important point. We have never been a single culture, that is now being “eroded“. You cannot erode something that is not static. We have always been a mash of cultures constantly updating and changing. There have been times when those in control or those sporting racist and xenophobic views have tried to impose uniformity, but Britain is great because we have always rejected uniformity in that sense. I will give you an example.

    For the majority of English history, since the year 0, this country has been Catholic. Our history, is Catholicism.
    Before the 1530s, England was a Catholic nation. The Catholic church was a predominant feature of every community within England. It’s Latin mass, it’s imagery and it’s elaborate dressings along with it’s rituals and rites were what defined England. We weren’t really a nation state at all. We were a vassal of Rome, in all honesty. Given that our own King could not divorce without the permission of the Pope, suggests that ultimately, control lay with Rome. The English people liked it that way. That was England. That was our culture.

    During the Reformation Parliaments of the 1530s, the preambles to the statutes written by Thomas Cromwell, try to rewrite this culture, to suit their own needs. The break from Rome and establishment of an English Church would have been massive. Within the space of three years during the 1530s, the entire English system of power, law, and the basis of community had changed beyond recognition. The Henrician church and the Roman Catholic Church were vastly different systems of control and belief.

    According to historian Sir William Holdsworth:

    “The preamble to the Statute of Appeals is remarkable.. because it manufactures history upon an unprecedented scale.”

    Anyone who happened to disagree with the King’s god-given right above the Pope, to be “Supreme Head of the Church in England“, was swiftly and quite horrifically dealt with. It did not bother Henry or Cromwell or Cranmer or any of the other reformers within Court, that the vast majority of the English public, did not believe the King had power above that of the Pope. English culture, for over a millenium, put the Pope as their true ruler, and no one else. Catholicism, (which by the way, was brought to us by immigrants – the Romans, after Claudius invasion of the Country) was so ingrained in the minds of the public, that people like Thomas More were willing to die for their opposition to Cromwell’s reform, rather than betray their beliefs.

    The preamble by Cromwell, to the Act of Supremacy of 1534 intriguingly tries to force opinion again, rewrites history, imposes the Act as objective truth (so much so that the accompanying Treason Act made it punishable by death to say the King was not Supreme head of the Church, or talk about the Pope being Head before him), and one wonders whether Cromwell would have gone this far, had the Pope granted Henry his divorce from Catherine in the first place:

    “Albeit the king’s Majesty justly and rightfully is and ought to be the supreme head of the Church of England, and so is recognized by the clergy of this realm in their convocations.”

    I cannot express just how momentous a change this Reformation Parliament truly was. We were now completely cut off from the Church in Rome, and therefore, cut off from Europe in it’s entirety. Propaganda from the government of Henry made it an offence to be Catholic.

    A little over fifteen years later, after Henry had backtracked a little, adding more confusion to what it meant to be English; his son Edward was a child, and only allowed to read books by Protestant writers. He grew up anti-Catholic. When the Duke of Northumberland became the defacto King whilst Edward was still too young, the first thing he did, was rid the council of anyone who still held even slightly Catholic views. After Edward died, Mary then tried to revert back to Catholicism and rejoin the jurisdiction of Rome. Elizabeth, after Mary, settled the dispute, and created a settlement that held mainly Protestant beliefs, but incorporated Catholic beliefs too, although the authority of the Pope was still denied.

    The point of this, is that we have never been one single minded Nation. We have always been a mesh of different beliefs and forced uniformity. Catholics viewed Protestants with suspicion in the same way that those racists who claim to be pro-British now view Islam. Irrational fear. There is nothing English about it. We have always updated, and we have always been in a constant state of change, there is no single identity. English culture is created by it’s people, and it is changed and updated with every passing generation. The people can be Catholic, Pagan, Protestant, Muslim, Hindu, Atheist, Sikh, Black, White, Asian, Gay, Straight, fat or thin. It doesn’t matter. That is what makes Britain great, and it is the one thing I love most about this country.