Previously on The Tudors: An utterly adorable Anne of Cleves arrived in England and got a strange, disgusted reaction from Henry, who married her nonetheless, mostly because he didn’t have a choice.
Henry starts off with his council, informing everyone that he can’t bring himself to have sex with his wife because he’s sure there’s some kind of impediment to the marriage. I think we’ve all heard that one before. He brings up Anne’s alleged precontract with the Duke of Lorraine’s son, and as the camera pans across the council members, we see Rich with the most hysterically funny flummoxed look on his face, like even he can’t figure out what Henry’s problem is with this woman. Henry tells them to look into the matter and find out if his scruples are justified. He leaves, and everyone bows, Brandon and Seymour exchanging smug smiles.
The rest of the councilors leave, trailed by Cromwell, who’s looking shell-shocked, and Rich, who urges Cromwell to find some way to get Henry off this line of questioning. Cromwell seems bewildered.
Henry’s hanging out with Charles now, moaning that God won’t give him any more kids if he continues with this marriage. Charles asks if she was so unschooled in sex she didn’t know what to do? Henry doesn’t answer that, just declares that he’ll force Cromwell to dissolve the union somehow, Protestant League be damned. Apparently France and the Emperor are fighting again, so Henry figures they’ll both want to be friends with him, and he won’t need the alliance with Cleves. Yeah, not this week, maybe, but as you know, Henry, the Emperor and King Francis fight and make up on an everyday basis, so give it a few days and you may need Cleves again. But then I’m forgetting that Henry has the recall of your average goldfish.
Anne’s enjoying some downtime with her ladies, playing the virginals or some similar instrument, when Princess Mary is shown in, wearing a hell of a lot of scarlet red. Anne greets her warmly and asks her to take a seat. Mary’s not quite so smiley as her stepmother, and she gets even less so when Anne tells her that her (undoubtedly Protestant) kinsman wants to come to England to pay court to Mary. Anne tries to play down the man’s religion, telling Mary he’s good looking and nice. Mary tells her to write back and invite him to come, if he wants, but not to expect much. Well, with an invitation like that, I know I’d be willing to travel hundreds of dangerous miles by horse and sea!
It’s late at night, and Cromwell’s still in the office, where he gets an unexpected visit from his hitherto unseen son, Gregory, who chides him for forgetting to take some meds. Cromwell pours them both wine and, when his son asks, tells him he’s working on some bills for Parliament and a request that Henry start appointing councilors based on merit and nothing else. Yeah, that’ll happen. Gregory observes that his father looks tired and asks after the king. Cromwell swears the king’s all good, though a bit short tempered at times. Gregory asks if that’s why Henry tends to be an abusive boss, and Cromwell tells him that it’s not Henry’s fault, really, it’s because there are others at court who turn Henry against Thomas. Is it me or is he sounding disturbingly like he has some form of battered women syndrome? Why does this show seem to keep excusing outright abusive behavior? Cromwell urges his son not to worry about him, worry about himself and his pregnant wife, if he must, and trust in God.
Party, at just under eight minutes. Not bad, show. Bryan and Brandon are sitting at a table together, and Brandon’s saying how sorry he is that Bryan wasn’t able to capture Pole. Talk moves to Henry’s predicament: Bryan’s aware that Henry’s not so keen on wife #4 and suggests Henry find some “distraction.” Brandon says that Henry’s more jaded than before, but that something more “extreme” might distract him. More extreme? Like sex while skydiving? What is he even talking about? Bryan promises to see what he can do.
Mary comes in right then, and is soon accosted by a rather handsome young man who charmingly greets her. She guesses immediately that this is Duke Philip, Anne’s kinsman. He asks to kiss her hand and Mary gives permission, looking a little fluttery. He says he hopes to see her again, and Mary, smiling girlishly, promises to delay leaving court.
Bryan’s taken a field trip to Lambeth Palace, where he puts his feet up with an elderly, flirty noblewoman. Or maybe she’s some kind of madam, because she guesses that he’s there to “look over [her] little darlings.” Ewww. She sends him along to look over the goods, bemoaning the fact that the women who bore them couldn’t be bothered to raise them. He shrugs that he thought most of them were illegitimate, and she say they are, but they’re aristocratic bastards, thank you very much. I guess that makes all the difference.
Bryan makes his way through a large bedroom, where an assortment of young ladies are chatting and gossiping and mostly just hanging out. This totally gives me the creeps. He stops when he sees one—a pretty blonde who looks just a little too sorority girl to fit in with this show. She gives him a come hither look and he smiles. Wait, this is extreme? She’s just a pretty blonde, what makes her different from any of the others? I don’t think Bryan knows what extreme means.
Bryan reports back to Brandon and Seymour that he’s found someone to amuse Henry: young Katherine Howard, a distant relation of the Duke of Norfolk. Oh, hell no. I let this show get away with a lot, history-wise, but this is just absurd. Katherine Howard was not a) illegitimate, b) a “distant relation” of Norfolk’s, or c) a prostitute. She was a dim-bulb slut, yes, but not a prostitute ever. If she had been, there’s no way in hell Henry would have married her, no matter how hot she was. She was the Duke of Norfolk’s niece, the daughter of his younger brother, Lord Edmund Howard. Not distant at all. She was also a first cousin to Anne Boleyn, through her Howard connections (Anne Boleyn’s mother was a Howard). The Duke, not Bryan, was actually the one who introduced Katherine to Henry in the first place, in a bid to increase his own power and influence by making his niece queen.
Also, the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk (the old woman at Lambeth Bryan was talking to) did not run a high-class whorehouse filled with illegitimate aristocratic offspring. Like many high-ranking women of her time, her home was a sort of finishing school for well-born young ladies. Girls weren’t dumped there by their parents because they weren’t loved, it’s because that was the thing to do. God, show, what the hell was the point of doing it this way? It’s just gross and stupid and so much less compelling than the actual history, which included Norfolk’s creepy wheeling and dealing and plotting. That aspect of it actually makes Katherine Howard a much more sympathetic figure, later on, than having Bryan offer her up to Henry as a distraction. That just makes her smutty. But maybe the actual history wasn’t salacious enough for this show.
Sigh. Bryan brings Katherine out and introduces her to Brandon and Seymour. Brandon asks her how old she is and she tells him she’s 17. She fills them in a little bit on her background—dead mom, dad remarried to an evil stepmother, wild times at Lambeth Palace. Seymour approves, and so does Brandon. Guess it’s on.
Mary’s visiting Anne again, and Anne asks her if she spoke to Philip. Mary says she did, and she thinks he seems intelligent. Anne tells Mary that he’s very taken with her, and Mary’s surprised, since he doesn’t even know her. But speak of the devil, he’s come to see his cousin. Mary scurries away to hide just before he comes in and embraces Anne. They talk a little bit about Mary, as she listens in, and he praises her to the heavens. What he says clearly hits home, judging from the look on Mary’s face and her heaving chest.
Later, she and Philip are dancing at the second party of the episode. Brandon, meanwhile, is telling Henry that the council is looking into Anne’s previous engagement. It seems there was a slight bump in the wording which might mean the contract was binding. Henry, of course, is pleased to hear it.
On the dance floor, Mary can’t keep her eyes off of Philip.
Off to the side, Katherine Howard is giggling with Seymour, attracting Henry’s attention. Seymour notes that Henry’s perked up and he warns her that Henry may soon ask to see her. She smiles toothily back at Henry, then goes back to probably gabbling a bit mindlessly with Seymour. Henry asks Brandon who she is, and Brandon obligingly offers up her name. Henry stares at her for a while, then asks Brandon to bring her to him.
Henry repairs to his study, and soon enough Brandon returns with Katherine, introducing her before withdrawing to give them some privacy. Henry invites her to sit, then asks the important question: “you married?” Nope. “Do you read?” he asks next. Only enough to write a letter, she tells him. Man, her education was really neglected, wasn’t it? Not that this was a great period in the education of women, but the nobility typically knew how to read pretty well. The conversation quickly descends into her giggling like the silly child she is.
Back on the dance floor, Philip suddenly grimaces in pain and tells Mary she stepped on her foot. How hard, dude? It’s not like she’s that heavy; he’s acting like she just kneecapped him. What a baby. Mary follows him, apologizing, as he limps out of the great hall. But wait—it was only a ruse to get her alone for a bit! Ha! She didn’t really step on his foot, because “how could [she] when [her] feet don’t even touch the ground?” Oh, vomit. I’m sorry, I’m pretty romantic, but that was just lame. He says he just wanted a moment alone with her, and then leans in to kiss her. Mary’s so happy she starts to tear up, which is kind of touchingly sad. Imagine how loveless her life must have been for her to start crying because a guy kisses her once (briefly). Philip kisses her again, less quickly.
Henry shows Kate a ring he pilfered from the shrine of Thomas a Becket. Charming. She asks to touch it, and he hands it over. She kisses it, then, uh, sticks it up her skirt, drops to her knees in front of Henry, and finally hands it back.
The party’s over, and Philip’s bidding Mary good night (chastely and politely). She watches him head off to his room, looking happier than we’ve seen her in a while.
In the daylight hours, Henry asks Cromwell how the crazy new palace of Nonesuch is coming along. Cromwell reports that it’s nearly complete and will soon be ready for his inspection. Henry’s glad to hear that. He next orders Cromwell to find some land to give to Kate as a gift. Cromwell apparently thinks about as highly of that plan as I do (really, could you imagine this girl as a landlord?) but there’s not much he can do. Henry then moves on to the matter of Anne’s precontract, which Cromwell doesn’t think is grounds for a dissolution of the marriage. Henry approaches Cromwell, who’s now so utterly terrified of this crazy man that he cringes and clutches his ledger to his chest like a talisman or a shield, but Henry just wants to tell him that, no matter what anyone else says, he still loves him. Yick, yet another relationship on this show that’s getting some really creepy undertones. Henry pats him on the cheek and sends him on his way.
Cromwell strolls through the great hall, smiling, and is accosted by several sycophants looking to gain access to the king. Brandon and Seymour watch him go for a moment, then head into Henry’s study. Henry asks Brandon about a recent meeting with the French ambassador and learns that it went well. France is ready to play ball with Henry, in an effort to shrug off their alliance with the Emperor. Brandon also tells Henry that, according to the ambassador, relations between France and England would improve if Cromwell was no longer an obstacle. Wow, dick move.
A hooded figure waits in a boat on the river, and is soon joined by a boatman wearing Bryan’s rather distinctive pirate hat. Bryan makes his way into a riverside house, where Kate waits, and he hands over an ugly brooch as a gift from Henry. She asks him to thank Henry for her, and instead he moves away so Henry can step inside. She bows and kisses his hand while Bryan withdraws, and Henry leans forward and whispers something in her ear. Whatever he said, Kate’s clearly game, because she moves away and starts undoing the laces on her dress while Henry watches and snuffs out the candles in the room. She lays herself down on the bed and Henry stares at her, like he’s never seen a naked blonde before.
Back at the Palace, Anne sits beside the fire in her room, sewing and looking scared.
Elsewhere, Bishop Gardiner knocks on a door and is told to enter. He does, and finds Seymour, Seymour’s slutty wife, and, I think, Bryan and Thomas Seymour waiting for him. Seymour says they can begin now and someone closes the door in the camera’s face.
Gregory goes to see his father, to tell him that Gregory’s wife has given birth to a son. Cromwell hugs him happily.
Speaking of sons, Henry goes to see little toddler Edward, hugging him close.
The council has gathered as usual, and Cromwell goes to take his seat at the head of the table. Brandon tells him not to sit there, because traitors don’t belong in the council. The who in the what now? When did this happen? Two guards step out of nowhere and place Cromwell under arrest for treason. Cromwell fights them in a very undignified way and asks the other councilors if they really believe he’s a traitor. Seemingly as one, they start shouting yes, completely bewildering both him and me. What sort of treason is he supposed to have committed? In what way did he plot against king and country? The guards take him away as Charles smiles smugly in a way that makes me really want to slap him. Cromwell, shouting that he’s no traitor, is tossed into a cell in the Tower.
Also having a bad day is Mary, who’s been summoned to Anne’s room to get some news. Philip has been sent away by Henry, for no apparent reason at all—I’m guessing it has something to do with Philip being related to Anne. Anne apologizes sincerely for the whole matter, even though she didn’t really have anything to do with it. Mary puts on a brave face and says it’s no big deal, since she wouldn’t have married him anyway, due to the religious differences. She drops a quick curtsey and leaves the room before bursting into tears. Oh, poor thing!
Gardiner goes before Parliament and Henry to introduce a Bill of Attainder against Cromwell on the charge of treason. Gardiner denounces Cromwell as a deceiver and a heretic who allowed Protestantism to flourish in the kingdom. He also claims that Cromwell wished for the death of the king. Off to the side, Seymour asks Rich if he really cares for Cromwell so much. Rich is interested in staying alive and sells Cromwell out, saying they were friends, yeah, but if he really was a traitor, then Rich is glad he was found out before he could do any more damage.
At court, Henry’s having a slightly uncomfortable dinner with Anne. He asks her if she’s happy and well treated, and she immediately tells him that she has no complaints. She looks over at the clutch of nearby gentlemen-in-waiting, as though looking for some sort of cue from them. They give none. Henry observes that she’s not eating, so she goes to start the soup, but then puts the spoon down and starts to say something. Henry interrupts to tell her he’s sending her away for a little while to Richmond, for both her health and her pleasure. She thanks him. Seymour comes in and nods slightly to Henry, who excuses himself, pleading business.
Just outside the curtains around the dining area, Seymour tells Henry that the bishops should be able to annul his marriage, but they might want to provide proof that the marriage was never consummated. Henry tells him to send someone to Cromwell to get a statement to that effect. Apparently Cromwell’s word of Henry’s many complaints about Anne’s existence is good enough evidence.
Charles drops by Cromwell’s cell to order him to write the statement Henry needs to wriggle out of his marriage. Charles is, by the way, needlessly dickish to Cromwell, who humbly bows to him and everything. Dear Charles: kicking a man when he’s down is not attractive, it’s crappy. Cromwell says he wants nothing more than to make Henry happy and give him what he wants. Charles, for some horrible and bizarre reason, responds to that by telling Cromwell how, not two hours after his arrest, Henry sent some of his goons to Cromwell’s home to loot the place. See what I mean about him being a dick? What the hell was the point of that? Cromwell’s face here is totally heartbreaking, and as much as I’ve liked Charles in the past, I really just want to kick him in the nuts right about now.
Sometime later, Cromwell sits down to write the statement Henry demanded, which is then read aloud by Katherine as she lies in bed with Henry, who chuckles over his own cruel descriptions of Anne. Cromwell also includes a personal plea for Henry to show him mercy. I’m sure that’ll strike home with Henry the Heartless.
Court. Duchess Kate rounds a corner just in time to hear her husband crowing to Bryan and Gardiner about how awesome it is that Cromwell’s going to have his head cut off the next day. It looks like these guys are throwing a party, along with the Seymours, to celebrate a man’s completely unwarranted disgrace and death. Nice. They think it’s hilarious that Cromwell’s going to be executed on the same block as some crazy man who was accused of incest with his daughters and trying to predict the future, or something. These people are all disgusting. Bryan tells them that he and Thomas Seymour have come up with another way to have some fun at Cromwell’s expense, but he won’t ruin the surprise right away. Grossed out, Duchess Kate leaves, observed by her husband, who seems to be feeling the beginnings of a twinge of remorse. Too little too late, Charles.
Thomas and Bryan are in a tavern somewhere, having drinks with some guy, who’s already at least a few sheets to the wind. They urge at least one more pint on him, despite the fact that he can barely sit up or stay awake.
The next day, Cromwell is led to the scaffold in chains, and who would the executioner be, but the man who was drinking heavily with Tom and Bryan the night before. Jesus. Bryan strolls over to the scaffold and greets the man, saying he hopes he’s feeling clear headed that morning, The guy, of course, is so hung over he can barely see straight. Show, I already loathed Bryan to the depths of my soul. He’s boring, lame, useless, and hasn’t shown a single redeeming quality throughout his whole run, so what’s with this overkill (pardon the expression)? I can’t hate him more than I already do, so stop working so hard at it, ok? And really, what kind of psycho would do this to someone? Bryan and the others have already conspired to have Cromwell hit rock bottom—he’s lost his freedom, soon his life, and his family’s been tossed out onto the street. Why add a horrible and torturous death to that as well? How did Lady Bryan, who seems fairly nice, raise such a complete monster?
Back at Whitehall, Seymour is shown into Anne’s room, where he informs her that her marriage has been declared invalid, and she’s to be called the king’s sister henceforth. He asks if she consents to this, and because she’s not stupid, Anne does. In that case, she gets a handsome annuity and several estates (including, rather horribly, Hever Castle, former home of the Boleyn family, which fell into Henry’s hands because he had the only heir beheaded.) Anne is also free to remarry. She actually got a pretty good deal, and she was, historically, content with it and remained close friends with Henry and his children. Right now she’s looking a little shell shocked, which is only to be expected. She recovers enough to ask Seymour to tell Henry that she hopes they can still be friends. Seymour bows and withdraws, and Anne’s ladies (including Lady Rochford—I didn’t realize she’d stuck around until now) hurry to comfort her.
Cromwell approaches the scaffold, and his son leaps forward for one last farewell. Cromwell claps the young man on the shoulder and ascends the scaffold, where he addresses the crowd, which jeers him. Charles and Thomas Seymour are there to see the show, as per usual. Henry, we soon see, is riding out to see Nonesuch Palace with Katherine, probably utterly oblivious to the fact that the only reason this palace exists is because Cromwell found the means of scaring up the money for it. It’s one of the fakest matte paintings of a location this show has ever had, and that’s saying something. Cromwell starts to get teary about halfway through his speech, during which he begs the people to pray for Henry (too late for prayers to do him much good, I think). He finally finishes his speech, kneels and prays, and puts his head down on the block. He begs the executioner to try to get the head off in one blow. I don’t think that’s going to happen, Tom. I’m so sorry.
The executioner raises the axe and, oh, god, this part’s awful. The guy’s clearly still drunk and can barely hold the axe straight. The first blow hits Cromwell’s back, and he screams in agony as the crowd flinches as one. Charles looks horrified. This goes on and on, as the guy keeps hefting his axe and hacking Cromwell to death, failing each time to hit the neck. Even Bryan looks like he feels bad, though it’s waaaaay too little, far too late for me to feel anything good for this character. Finally, one of the Beefeaters grabs the axe from the worthless executioner and manages to get the job done. Please tell me that executioner got fired.
We’re not done yet! Henry’s reclining on a bed, watching Katherine, naked, swinging on a swing strung from a tree that’s…in his bedroom? This is really strange—I can’t figure out if this is some kind of fantasy he’s having, or if they’re in a building that’s missing a wall, or what. And, with that, season 3 draws to a close.