The Tudors: Marriage Made in Hell

Previously on The Tudors: Cromwell tried to engineer a marriage between Henry and the Protestant Duchy of Cleves, and for some reason, the Duke’s caginess doesn’t raise any alarm bells at all.

Holbein hangs around in Cromwell’s busy office, waiting for the man himself to show up. When he does, he tells Holbein he needs him to head to Cleves and paint a portrait of Anne. He urges Holbein to make sure the Anne in the painting is easy on the eyes, despite her actual appearance, because there’s a lot riding on this marriage. Oddly, there’s a totally sloppy historical muck-up in this scene when Cromwell refers to Anne as the current Duke’s daughter, even though she’d been previously established as the duke’s sister (as she was in real life.) Oops!

In the council room, Cromwell informs the Council and Henry that the French and the Emperor are now moving to declare war on England. There are fleets gathering and an army moving around in the Netherlands. Charles rises and says that they’ve already set up warning beacons along the coast and are throwing up forts along the channel as they speak. They’ve also upped protection of their northern border against the Scots.

Henry finally speaks up to dump on the Pope and say that he’s clearly behind this. He adds that he’ll be paying visits to the barricades and troops, to keep morale up.

The meeting breaks up, and Thomas Seymour falls into step beside Bryan, observing that they seem to be threatened from all sides now. Bryan’s got more news: a couple of weeks earlier, Pole left Rome on some secret mission. Thomas excitedly asks if they’ll be going after Pole again and Bryan says they will, once they have more news of his whereabouts.

Seymour the elder, meanwhile, approaches Brandon and asks for a word. Brandon just blows him off.

Holbein’s miniature portrait has arrived, and Henry likes what he sees. He asks Cromwell if their ambassador has been able to meet with her and hears that the man has, and has turned in a full, glowing report. Of course he has. Cromwell takes the liberty of pointing out that, under current circumstances, the French candidates and the Duchess of Milan are all out of the running, whereas marrying Anne would gain him the support of the Protestant League.

At the coast, a man scans the horizon with a giant spyglass and spots a line of ships in the distance. He calls out his assistant, who emerges from a nearby tent, looks through the spyglass himself, and scrambles to light the nearby beacon.

Swan Castle. The Ambassador’s meeting with the Duke and informing him that Anne’s passed muster with Henry, so they’re ready to start talking dowry. The Duke thinks they’re jumping the gun, and that the king should come to him and beg for his sister’s hand and for the support of the League. Oh, yeah, that’ll happen. Right after Henry kisses the Pope’s feet. The Duke also says that Anne is already promised to the Duke of Lorraine’s son, which wasn’t, strictly speaking, true. She had been promised to him when she was very, very young, but the engagement was quickly forgotten as politics changed, and those sorts of engagements between very young children weren’t generally considered official anyway, because the kids couldn’t legally consent. The ambassador is aghast at these demands, but the Duke gets on his high horse and says they thought they’d be able to push him and his duchy around, which isn’t going to be the case. Fair enough.

A messenger gallops into the palace courtyard and is shown into the council chamber, where Henry waits with his Councilors. The message he has is from the Warden of the Cinq Ports, who writes that things are not as serious as everyone thought—there are a bunch of Imperial ships in the Channel, but they’re heading to Spain and aren’t well armed. Everyone breathes an audible sigh of relief. Well, that was anticlimactic.

Shortly after, Chapuys is ushered into Henry’s presence. Henry asks him about the alliance between the Emperor and the French and the supposed preparations for war. Chapuys tells him most of that is just rumors, and that actually the Emperor hates the French, because they’re buddies with the Turks, whom the Emperor despises. Chapuys says the alliance is already busted, and the Duchess of Milan is back in the marriage running. Henry tells him it’s too late for that and goes on to complain about once again being used as a pawn between the Emperor and the French. He gets close, as he does, and tells Chapuys that he’s had enough. Then stop falling for their ruses, Henry. That’s really nobody’s fault but your own.

Cleves. The ambassador returns to tell the Duke that Henry’s willing to forgo the dowry. The duke’s surprised to hear that all Henry wants is his bride ASAP. Henry’s also willing to pay the Duke a finder’s fee for introducing him to the League. They ask about this contract with Lorraine, but the Duke hurriedly reassures them that they looked into it and, wouldn’t you know it, the contract was never ratified, so it’s not binding. Anne’s free to marry Henry.

In England, Bryan’s working on some kind of coded message. Thomas joins him and asks what it is. It’s a letter from Pole to Rome, reporting that the Emperor won’t act against Henry. It also helpfully provides Pole’s new location. Thanks, Pole! Why not include a map next time, and a return address?

Edward Seymour’s in his room, sitting by the fire and rubbing his head like he has a stress headache. He leaps to his feet when Charles comes in and asks what’s up. Charles congratulates him on recently being named Earl of Hartford and offers to patch up their differences. Just like that, despite blowing him off earlier. Ok, what’s changed, exactly? Doesn’t matter—Seymour is only too happy to do so and offers Charles a drink and a seat. Charles tells him that he’s being sent to meet Anne at Calais, and he realizes that a lot of things hinge on this marriage. Seymour mentions that Cromwell’s whole reputation is staked on it. Charles muses that it would be a pity of things went awry and Seymour smiles delightedly at the thought of bringing Cromwell down. Can someone remind me of why he hates Cromwell so much?

Chapuys, as he does, is delivering the latest news to Mary, who’s enraged to learn that her father’s about to marry a “Lutheran heretic” and she’s to marry no one. She is relieved that she’s not going to be married off to some Protestant prince, at least, but she doesn’t get what Henry’s deal is, since he burns one Lutheran to death but then marries another. She has a point, there. Then she veers into rather creepy territory by saying if God wills it, Anne might drown at sea. Even Chapuys is taken aback by that.

At Chequers, a castle in Calais, a storm is raging outside and Anne’s representatives are meeting with Brandon inside. They’re welcomed officially, and then bring forth Anne, who’s preceded by about half a dozen ladies in waiting and finally arrives, heavily veiled. Brandon bows to her and tells her the weather will prevent their sailing for a few days. I’m surprised Henry would have sent Charles over to meet her, considering what happened the last time he crossed the channel with a princess under his charge. Anne asks if they can pass the time by having Charles show her some of Henry’s favorite pastimes. Too easy a setup, that one.

In the next scene, Brandon’s teaching Anne a card game. Cards are all new to her, because in her country only men play card games. He shows her how to play Pique, and she gets a flirty moment in by asking if Charles plays with hearts. As they get ready to play, she asks if the king always wins, and he merely says Henry hates to lose. I’ll say. He lowers his voice so the two Cleves (Clevish?) ambassadors hovering nearby can’t hear, and asks her what she’s been told about Henry. She asks him what it is she should know?

I guess we’re not going to find out, because now we move to Carpentras, the Papal Enclave of Venaissin, according to the chyron. Bryan and Thomas are met by a fancily dressed woman, who can apparently take them to Pole. In a moment of dialogue stupidity so bad I actually groaned aloud, she finds it necessary to respond to a question with “Si. Yes.” Now, come on, show! We all know that ‘si’ means ‘yes’ thank you very much. How stupid do you think we are?

Anyway, she leads them into a nearby brothel, which seems unlikely, and sure enough the guy being serviced by one of the ladies there is not Pole (but he is a cardinal). Thomas groans that they’ll never catch Pole and that this whole chase was a waste of time. Bryan purrs that it might not have been and strolls over to the woman who led them there, catching her up in an amorous embrace. And, there he goes again. No wonder he can’t catch Pole. He’s a terrible spy.

Pole is praying hard in church, begging to be delivered from his enemies.

Whitehall. Charles has made it back and has given his report of Anne to Henry. Although he still hasn’t seen Anne’s face, Charles reports that she plays cards well and seems nice. Henry’s due to meet her in three days, but he’s impatient to see her.

Henry changes subjects and asks what Bryan’s up to. Charles tells him Bryan and Thomas are in Carpentras and are searching for Pole, who’s gotten all paranoid about being assassinated. Henry says he should be.

Henry goes back to the subject of Anne and starts talking about how much he wants to possess her, even though he’s never seen her. He then wonders, almost to himself, what if he can’t get it up? He leaves off the last part, which leaves Charles a little confused. Instead of explaining, Henry calls for a groom and has him send for Henry’s horse, because he wants to go and surprise this bride, who’s relaxing in Rochester. The groom scurries out, and Henry gazes longingly at the Holbein portrait of Anne.

Soon enough, Henry, some guards, and friends are galloping across the countryside and arriving at a lovely house in Rochester. Henry sends one of the guys inside to tell Anne that a gentleman’s come to see her, bearing a New Year’s gift. Henry manages to wait all of two minutes before bursting into the house behind him. Anne, who was standing with her back to the door, turns around at the noise, looking scared.

Wow! What a hag!

Ok, here was, without a doubt, one of my biggest pet peeves with this series, and that’s saying something. Although nobody’s quite sure just how bad looking Anne was (or whether Henry was exaggerating when he described her as a “Flanders Mare”), but I think most people agree that she wasn’t the best looking chick. What’s more, her hygiene was poor, and her clothes were unflattering and not really up to snuff. And with that information, who did this show cast in the role? Joss Stone, a British pop star who’s totally adorable and does not, in any way shape or form, resemble a horse. What the HELL? They didn’t even dress her unflatteringly. This goes beyond Hollywood Homely–they weren’t even trying at this point. Problem is, it makes Henry’s reaction to her seem completely stupid and bizarre, like he was talking about someone else entirely. I’ve seen other versions of the Henry VIII story where Anne of Cleves was played by an actress who was on the plain side (though not downright ugly, which I think is about right, historically), and somehow they made Henry’s reaction less nonsensical. Here, his face drops as soon as he sees her, and I find myself saying: “why?” She’s no worse looking than the actress who played Jane Seymour.

Anne drops a curtsey and Henry looks questioningly at the gentleman he sent ahead before gesturing for her to rise. Henry sort of sighs in disappointment, then moves forward to kiss her on the lips, which startles her. He formally welcomes her to England, and gets very stilted as he does so. She thanks him, and Henry abruptly and very rudely swirls out. Anne retreats to her ladies and looks like she’s about to cry.

At court, quite a crowd has gathered in the Great Hall. Henry strides in and shouts to Cromwell and the Ambassador his rather famous line: “I like her not!” He immediately summons the Council and Cromwell looks at the Ambassador in confusion, as well he might. The Ambassador shrugs, as befuddled as the rest of us.

With the Council, Henry bitches about how Anne hasn’t lived up to expectations, which he knows after spending all of about thirty seconds with her. He shouts, right in the Ambassador’s face, that she looks like a horse. Is Henry going blind as well as crazy? No she doesn’t! The Ambassador quakes, and Cromwell promptly throws him under the bus, saying the Ambassador was the one who described Anne in the first place. The Ambassador gabbles he was never able to see her properly. Henry does his close-talking thing with Cromwell, asking if he wasn’t the one who spoke of her beauty and how wonderful the marriage between her and Henry would be? To be fair, Cromwell only had others’ reports to go off of when describing Anne. He reminds everyone of that fact as he apologizes for any inadvertent misleading he might have done. Henry asks Cromwell what they’ll do about this, but Cromwell says there is none, because the Emperor and the French king have renewed their alliance, and if they piss off Cleves, they may have a third enemy to deal with. Henry groans that this matter was not well handled, and he leaves to go sulk in private.

Anne has arrived at Whitehall at last, and she’s greeted by Henry, who waits for her with Mary and Elizabeth. Henry kisses her on the lips again, and she’s less caught off guard than last time. She smiles sweetly and thanks him for his welcome, and the court applauds. Hey, Duchess Kate is back! Henry next introduces Mary, who curtsies properly to her future stepmother, and then Elizabeth, who gives Anne some flowers, which she accepts kindly. Anne promises to love both the girls, and everyone smiles approvingly.

Later, Henry’s having dinner with his buddies and once again bitching about how much he doesn’t like Anne. Why not, Henry? Give us a reason! God, writers, show, don’t tell! This is just bewildering otherwise. Brandon comments that Cromwell isn’t too keen on coming up with a way to wriggle out of the marriage and suggests that Cromwell’s overreached himself in this matter. Henry groans and moans over having to marry this woman. Oh, poor you, you whiny baby.

In the dead of night, a young page goes into Cromwell’s office and is startled to see Cromwell himself kneeling in a dark corner, praying. Cromwell tells the boy he was talking to God, and the confused kid says he thought you had to go to church to do that. Wearily, Cromwell asks him if he understands anything of their reforms? Cromwell explains that God is everywhere and they don’t need priests to talk to him, anyone can do that. The kid seems to take that to heart and takes off, but not before Cromwell can give him an extremely fake looking pear to take with him, in a manner that makes me think of him giving forbidden fruit.

Wedding day! Henry’s getting dressed and scolding Cromwell for failing to find a way to get out of the marriage. Cromwell suggests that Henry might feel differently after he’s gotten to know Anne better, but like a child, Henry whines that he doesn’t want to get to know her better. He slams Cromwell up against the wall and says that, if it weren’t for the needs of his realm, he wouldn’t go through with this ceremony at all. He releases Cromwell and stalks out, as Cromwell doubtless considers early retirement. Or, at least, he should have.

Henry, glowering, makes his way up the candelabra-lined aisle in the chapel, which is much more sparsely populated than it was for his last marriage. Anne comes forward, dressed a little crazily in some sort of ice Princess-esque outfit, and curtsies to him several times as he looks at her in disgust. He finally leads her to the altar and they go through with the ceremony.

The headdress doubles as a mind-reading device

That night, Henry and Anne are playing cards by the fire, watched by several courtiers, who are seated like they’re at a play. What a strange way to pass an evening. At last, Henry sighs and suggests he and Anne go to bed. Anne blushes a bit. Henry dismisses the courtiers and goes over to the bed, barely even bothering to look at her. Anne joins him, looking heartbreakingly sad, and there she removes her robe, facing him across the wide mattress. They get under the covers and lie there, looking at the canopy. Henry glances her way a couple of times, and then finally starts unlacing her nightgown. He reaches in and starts feeling around, and honestly, it has all the eroticism of a breast exam. He reaches southward as she makes little nervous squeaks, and then he gives up and flops onto his back. Mortified, Anne turns her back to him.

The following day, Henry’s at work, signing papers. Cromwell comes in and gives him another to sign. Henry doesn’t even look at him. Cromwell pushes his luck by asking how things went, and Henry snaps that he didn’t like Anne before, so he sure doesn’t like her now. She smells, she’s ugly, and he’s sure she’s not a virgin because her boobs were too loose. Whatever. Henry couldn’t do the deed, it seems. He dismisses Cromwell, who promptly withdraws.

"Oh, it's so hard being me!"

Late at night, Duchess Kate emerges from her bedroom to find Charles and Seymour in front of the fire, heads together, plotting something. Charles urges her to go back to bed, saying he’ll be in soon. He won’t tell her who he’s talking to or what they’re talking about. She shakes her head and says that he can sometimes be so sweet. He tells her he’s as good as he can be, and says he loves her before she slips back into the bedroom.

Henry’s having his leg drained again, painfully, it seems. The doctor gently asks if Henry’s having any other problems, and Henry says that he hasn’t been able to consummate his marriage, because he finds Anne so gross he doesn’t get turned on at all. Henry asks the doctor if he’s heard any rumors that say as much, and he hurriedly adds that it has nothing to do with his virility—oh, no, Henry’s perfectly able to get it up, just not with Anne. The doctor smiles grimly and starts bandaging Henry’s leg.

Cromwell arrives at Anne’s rooms for a visit and asks to speak with her alone. She dismisses her ladies and Cromwell immediately warns her not to upset Henry, and to do everything she can to make herself agreeable to him. She’s not sure what she’s done to offend Henry. Cromwell desperately says that it’s very important that her marriage be a success. She says she wants that too, but you know what? Being married to Henry isn’t all that great either. She tells Cromwell that the sore on Henry’s leg is totally gross, and that it smells. Ha! Who’s the turn off now, Henry? She promises, however, to do everything she can to make herself agreeable to Henry.

Ok, so, for some reason, Lady Bryan is waiting on Anne, even though she’s supposed to be heading up Edward’s household. Whatever. Lady B asks Anne how things are going with the king, as she helps her get ready for bed. Anne says it’s great, he kisses her and says good night every night, and does the same every morning. She clearly knows that this isn’t how things are supposed to be. Lady B expresses a hope that Anne will be pregnant soon, but Anne knows better. Lady B somehow guesses that Anne is still a virgin, and she takes it upon herself to dish out some sex advice. Anne doesn’t really want to hear it and says she’s doing just fine with things as they are. Lady B helps her into bed, and Anne asks her if Henry will have her killed, if she can’t please him.

Later, Henry once again tries to bang his wife, but he can’t manage it, even when he tries to give himself a hand. He gives up, frustrated, and poor Anne begins to silently cry.

6 thoughts on “The Tudors: Marriage Made in Hell

  1. If I had to take a wild guess, I don’t think Anne of Cleves was ugly. I think he was an old stinky man who burst in on her, tried to take unannounced liberties with her and she was like “what the fuck, get off!” and he felt stupid and blamed it on her instead of him assuming she knew how to play the game.

    1. Fair guess. Henry might have also been desperately trying to cover up impotence by laying the blame for his lack of desire squarely on her.

    2. Yes, that’s always been my favorite theory–the one that makes most sense. It’s been speculated that he’d expected her to react to him like the young dashing man he thought he was, to be captivated by the “handsome stranger”…and couldn’t handle it when she reacted to him like the aging, unattractive man he really was at this point. (After all, look at the invectives Henry hurled against Anne–fat, unattractive, smelly. Who else could those adjectives have applied to?) But in this version, there doesn’t seem to be any reason for Henry to take against her–because we don’t see any of Anne’s revulsion towards him, or her shock or disappointment when she realizes who he is. Instead, she knows he’s the king right away…and people who aren’t familiar with the story are left scratching their heads as to why things went so wrong.

      It’s not Anne of Cleves who should have been made to look more unattractive–it’s Henry. It bugs me that we lost out on a lot of what went into Henry’s character in those later years–his deterioration from the handsome, athletic golden prince he was before seems to have been a factor in many of his actions and decisions. The Tudors dropped the ball on that–and all because Jonathan Rhys Myers was too vain to wear a fat suit.

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