Previously on the Tudors: Henry ditched Catholicism, had his marriage to Katherine annulled, and married Anne and crowned her queen just before she gave birth to little baby Elizabeth.
Speaking of little Lizzy, she’s being christened by Cranmer, with Mary Boleyn standing by, smiling proudly at her little niece. She takes the wailing baby, who’s probably pissed because she’s completely naked and those churches were cold. The baby’s wrapped up again and paraded past Anne’s ladies and the gathered courtiers before being carried back to her mother’s room, where Anne’s sitting up in bed, ready to take her. The courtiers bow to her and her royal offspring and Anne tenderly kisses the baby’s forehead.
Henry, meanwhile, is meeting with Cromwell, telling him to put a bill before Parliament that makes his and Anne’s children England’s legitimate heirs, with no others in the line. Cromwell obediently says he’ll do so. Henry admits he’s aware there are some people out there who don’t accept his marriage to Anne. He thinks there should be some sanction against them, and that everyone should be given the opportunity to demonstrate their loyalty. He says this last bit with a sinister eye flash, and we then ominously cut to Ludlow Castle, Mary’s place in Wales.
There, Mary’s having dinner with Chapuys, who’s sharing news of how upset Anne was at having given birth to a daughter. Mary takes a moment to smirk at this before asking after her mother. Chapuys tells her that he can’t get in to see her, and he has little communication with her ladies. They tell him she’s still strong and keeps begging Henry to be allowed to see Mary. Poor Mary’s clearly struggling to stay strong herself and not burst into tears (it should be noted that Mary was only in her late teens at this point in history). She says that she’s sure Henry will relent at some point, because she’s certain that, in some tiny little corner of his heart, he still bears some love for her. Man, that’s just heartbreaking to hear her say. Sarah Bolger really sells it, too. Chapuys tenderly says he’s sure that’s true. Aww, Ewok’s such a sweetie!
Maison More. More’s meeting with a bishop, Tunstall, who’s come to see him. More cautiously asks what the guy wants, and Tunstall says he merely wants to see how More’s doing, since he doesn’t see too much of him. More softens a bit and says he’s doing fine, but he’s concerned about Fisher, who you may remember was placed under house arrest. Tunstall says that yes, the outcome of Fisher’s intransigence is quite regrettable, and More suddenly realizes whose side this guy is on. Getting the lay of the land pretty quickly, More asks Tunstall if Henry sent him, and Tunstall admits that Henry was wondering why More didn’t attend Anne’s coronation? More answers by way of anecdote: Once upon a time, Emperor Tiberius enacted a law that made crimes punishable by death unless the criminal was a virgin. Okaaay. Unsurprisingly, a virgin was finally brought to the bench and Tiberius didn’t know how to proceed. Wait, he didn’t anticipate this happening at some point? Was Tiberius a moron? One of Tiberius’s councilors came up with a solution: just rape her, and she’ll be executable. Or, as More says, “let her first be deflowered, so she can then be devoured.” I am so glad I don’t live in ancient Rome, folks. More says that attending the coronation is a slippery slope, as one would be implicitly approving of the new religion, and after that you’d start going along with it and then actively defending it (the deflowering), and then it wouldn’t be too long before you too would be devoured. More firmly says that they shall never devour him.
Mark Smeaton is practicing violin, shirtless, as one does, and doesn’t even notice that George Boleyn’s appeared in his bedroom doorway to listen. When Mark finishes, George remarks that it was beautiful (and I’m guessing he’s talking about more than the music here). I’m having terrible flashbacks to that stupid and awkward set up between Compton and Tallis, which started in exactly the same way. I don’t know if this was supposed to be some kind of parallel to that or a throwback or if the writers were just lazy and unimaginative. I’m going to go with the latter.
Mark turns and asks George if he plays. George comes in and whispers “All the time.” Mark immediately starts undressing him. Sigh. Why, writers? This makes no sense! George Boleyn was a notorious womanizer! This is starting to make me suspicious that the writers are doing their research by reading The Other Boleyn Girl, and don’t even get me started on Philippa Gregory and her apparent inability to crack a book to check even the most basic facts.
Also getting laid tonight: Henry. He bursts into his bedroom, where he finds Lady Eleanor waiting for him, and he starts stripping down to get right to it. Busy man, I guess. So much for foreplay. Lady Eleanor doesn’t seem to mind, though.
At his place out in the country, Brandon’s teaching his young son archery. Their cute father-son interlude is interrupted by the arrival of Cromwell, whom Brandon invites to try his hand with the bow and arrow. Cromwell turns out to be an incredibly good shot—better than Brandon. Ha! Brandon takes that in with a hilarious “Ohhhh, crap, that backfired,” face and invites Cromwell to take a stroll. Cromwell tells Brandon that Henry wants Charles and Duchess Kate back at court—he misses Charles’s company. Charles knows there’s more, and after a moment’s prompting Cromwell goes on to say that Henry’s aware that Charles is a fan of the emperor, and that he also might have some sympathy for Katherine, as Cromwell himself does, surprisingly. Cromwell says he’s not heartless, and I do have to commend the show and James Frain for making that much clear. Typically, Cromwell is portrayed as being a fairly heartless social climber. Here, he’s a climber, yes, but he’s also fiercely loyal to his king, and that’s the only reason why he goes along with all the divorce runaround.
Cromwell informs Charles that Henry intends to vest the succession in the children he’ll have with Anne. Henry wants to know if he has Charles’s support. Judging by the look on Charles’s face, he doesn’t.
At court, Anne and her ladies are fussing over Elizabeth as Henry watches, unobserved, smiling. Anne sits and starts to unlace her dress so she can feed the baby but Henry intervenes, telling her queens don’t do that (and neither did the vast majority of upper-class women until the late 18th century, when it suddenly became cool, but the real Anne Boleyn actually did want to feed Elizabeth herself, so good catch, show). Henry gently takes the baby and cuddles her while he tells Anne that Elizabeth will soon be given her own establishment at Hatfield, where Mary will be attending her. Anne’s not delighted at the though of Katherine’s daughter being around her own, but Henry wants Mary to know her new place. Anne promises to give Henry a son someday soon, and asks him to come see her soon. She kisses him on the cheek as Henry eyes Lady Eleanor, standing nearby.
Over at More’s House of Righteousness, a family dinner’s in progress. More rises to make an announcement: his income’s been cut since he resigned the chancellorship, which means he has to cut expenses. He tells those gathered around the table that they must now live at their own houses and eat at their own tables (so, I guess he was taking in extra relatives or something? Who are these people?) He goes on to tell all these kids (and they do mostly seem to be kids) that real life is raw and difficult and they need to face that fact. Uh, thanks, dad. Worst dinner party ever.
Mary is arriving at Hatfield House, a rather lovely place in the countryside. She’s greeted rather coldly by Elizabeth’s governess, Lady Bryan, who introduces Mary to the baby, who’s in the arms of a nurse. Lady Bryan informs Mary that she’ll start work in the morning, after prayers, and Mary quickly says that she’ll be saying her prayers alone. Lady Bryan, with her back to Mary, closes her eyes for a moment, but says nothing as she leaves the room. Another lady shows Mary into her new room, a pretty spare cell with one window, too high up for her to see through, and a tiny, narrow bed. Mary looks around and her face starts to crumple as she sits down on the bed and finally starts to cry. There’s been a lot of historical speculation that the reason Mary ended up being both so fanatical and so completely medically messed up (she had at least one phantom pregnancy, and suffered from migraines and menstrual disorders all her life) was because of all the emotional strain her parents’ divorce and this rather cruel demotion put on her. It all started up in earnest right as she was going through puberty, so I think there might really be some credence to this particular theory.
Even though the exterior shot of Hatfield showed lush greenery and lawns, it’s apparently now Christmas at court, so I’m assuming we flashed forward a few months. There’s a party going on, of course (you know what? I think I should do what Television Without Pity did with the Sopranos, where they graded episodes partially based on how long it took to get to a shot of Tony in his robe. They called it Start to Robe. Mine should be Start to Party. We’re at about 17 minutes in, which isn’t bad, but isn’t quite in the first quarter of the episode, which I think should count against them.)
Moving on. Wyatt’s chatting with George Boleyn, wondering why it seems like, as you get older, it always seems to be Christmas. Come again? I feel like it’s always Christmas to me because Christmas ads and whatnot start up in about mid-September, but I don’t think that was a problem during the Tudor period. This conversation provides a rather awkward seguay into a list of some of George’s new titles, which include Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports. That was a really important title, as the Warden was responsible for collecting taxes and arresting criminals. Wyatt recalls that George has also been appointed Master of the Bedlam Hospital for the Insane. Hee! Wyatt gets a total kick out of that, but George seems less excited. Oh, come on, George, have some fun with it!
George whirls on Wyatt and spits that he read one of Wyatt’s satires about life at court, and that Wyatt should be more careful about poking fun at those who have the power to hurt him. Damn, someone lost that sense of humor I used to love. What happened to the guy who made fun of Henry’s sappy love letter?
Anne, dressed in a fetching red silk gown, is dancing with Henry, but she leads him off the dance floor to show him a gift she’s had made for him: a huge, multitiered…thing. I don’t really know what it is—it appears to be some sort of table ornament. It’s sitting on the banquet table with some fruit on it. She tells him Master Holbein made it, and Henry seems pleased. He kisses her tenderly and calls both her and Holbein geniuses.
Chapuys and Brereton, the world’s worst assassin, are standing off to the side of the party, watching the proceedings while dressed in black. The return of the buzzkill brigade. Brereton says he could still find some way to get rid of Anne, although I thought he’d already thrown in the towel on that one. And left England because he couldn’t stand to be there anymore. Why is he still at court? Chapuys puts the kibosh on any further attempts on Anne’s life, since it’d just be blamed on the emperor, and the emperor doesn’t need any bad PR just now. Brereton sulkily says that nobody would ever know, but it looks like Chapuys has lost patience with this guy, and he says they’d find him and torture him into telling the truth at some point. Brereton says he’d die a martyr’s death, but Chapuys snorts and says he’s never seen a man being tortured. He’d squeal like a pig on the rack.
Over by the banquet table, Anne leaves Henry alone so he can greet Brandon, who says he has a gift for Henry, but he’ll have to wait for the new session of parliament to unwrap it. It’s Charles’s vote for the new Act of Succession. Henry claps his friend on the back and they rejoin the dancers.
Henry seems to have really, really stupidly partnered with Lady Eleanor, while Anne’s dancing with George. Anne knows something’s up between Lady Eleanor and her husband, based on the way Henry looks at her. George tells her that Lady Eleanor’s Henry’s mistress, and Anne tells George to get rid of her before plastering on a smile and switching partners so she’s with Henry again. She has a brief interlude with her sister Mary, where she says they’ll have to find Mary another husband. The two girls giggle before Anne rejoins Henry and tells him she has another gift for him: she’s pregnant. Henry embraces her, and she snuggles into his shoulder, looking more scared than happy.
After the holidays, the council is meeting, and Cromwell is presenting the Act of Succession, which will shortly be introduced before Parliament. Aside from making Henry’s and Anne’s kids sole rightful heirs to the throne, the act makes it treason to speak or write against Henry and Anne’s marriage or against any of their children. The punishment for that, of course, is death and forfeiture of all goods to the crown. Henry gets this twisted little smile on his face when he hears that. Man, they really made him kind of a wacko on this show, didn’t they?
At the More Home and Foundling Hospital, or whatever it was back when he had lots of money to take in random minors for dinner, Thomas is reading the act aloud to his kids. Part of the bill requires all subjects, if commanded, to swear an oath to uphold said bill. The oath would also recognize the king’s supremacy in all matters, both spiritual and temporal.
Back at council, Henry praises the bill and tells Cromwell he’s pleased.
More looks somewhat terrified.
In Rome, the pope’s praying away while Campeggio waits to see him. Once the pope’s done, he asks if Henry remains stubborn. He gets a firm “yay” on that and also learns about the bill and its oath. The pope decides this can’t just be swept under the rug—he needs to act. He’s decided to make Fisher a cardinal, and he orders Campeggio to send his snazzy new cardinal’s hat to England, and then they’ll see if Henry’s willing to prosecute a prince of the church. Um, do these people not remember what happened to Wolsey?
Henry takes a little field trip to Hatfield to visit Lizzy. He asks Lady Bryan how she’s doing and Lady Bryan gushes that she’s a credit to Henry in every way. A nurse hands him the baby and Henry cuddles and kisses her sweetly. He then remarks to Lady Bryan that someday, this little girl may preside over empires. Clunky, writers. We all know who Elizabeth is.
Henry whispers to the baby that he doesn’t have much time, and he’s sorry, before kissing her again and handing her back to the nurse. He thanks Lady Bryan for her care of Elizabeth and heads out. In the courtyard, he pauses and looks up to where Mary’s standing on a rampart, looking down at him. He bows to her, and she curtsies politely back, but that’s as much interaction as she’s going to get with her father just now. Poor girl.
At court, Lady Eleanor’s intercepted in a corridor by George Boleyn, who accuses her of theft. She protests that it’s not true, but George says he thinks it is, and if her crime were ever reported, nobody would believe her. You know, since she’s a slut and all, and the double standard is really alive and well on this show (as it was at the time, so I can’t knock them for that). George tells her to leave court and go back to her family.
Anne’s trying to get some sleep when she’s awoken by giggling and talking in an adjoining room. She drags herself out of bed and goes into the room, where she finds three ladies gathered around a book, giggling like schoolgirls. She asks one of them—a buxom girl she refers to as “Cousin Madge”–what they’re reading and the girl idiotically hides the book behind her and says “nothing” like she’s four years old. Madge finally says it’s poetry by Wyatt. Anne takes the book and tells them they shouldn’t be wasting their time on such trifles; if anything, they should be reading the bible she has on the table in front of the fire. She sends the ladies on their way as her father comes sweeping in.
Boleyn’s looking happy for the first time this episode (he practically glowered at Elizabeth’s christening). He tells her she looks well. Anne asks how his trip to Paris was, and gets a pretty mixed response. Francis apparently sent wedding presents but won’t officially recognize Anne as queen as long as Katherine’s alive. Geez, Francis, pick one! Anne looks pissed, so Boleyn distracts her by asking how Henry was. Anne admits she’s afraid Henry will take another mistress during her pregnancy. Boleyn offers a certain brand of comfort by telling her that, when a man’s wife is hugely pregnant and can’t have sex with him, it’s pretty much normal for him to find “temporary” comfort elsewhere. And in kings, that’s even more to be expected. Boleyn warns her that the risk to her and to the family is not that Henry takes a mistress, but that he takes the wrong one—someone they can’t control, who might seek to control Henry. Boleyn tells her to make sure Henry’s mistress is her choice, and not Henry’s. He then pats her on the cheek, takes his leave, and leaves Anne to her thoughts. She glances at her buxom cousin, who’s fussing with some flowers and generally behaving in a way that makes me wonder, well, if she’s a few shillings short of a crown, if you get my meaning. In other words: she’s perfect.
Looks like Fisher’s been moved from house arrest to arrest arrest. Cromwell sweeps into the cell where Fisher’s now being held and greets him as “Reverend Fisher.” Cromwell says he just came by to see how Fisher was doing. Yeah, I’m sure that’s why he stopped by. Fisher takes him at his word and says that hid aged stomach can’t handle the lousy food, but that’s no big deal, since it pertains to his body and not his soul.
Cromwell observes that Fisher’s refused to take the oath, and asks why he’s holding out? Does he not accept Henry’s new marriage? Obviously not, Cromwell. Fisher gives a pretty lawyerly answer by saying he believes Henry thinks the marriage is legal and aboveboard. Cromwell presses and Fisher admits he still believes Henry’s marriage to Katherine was always valid and can’t be undone by anyone, not even Cranmer. He also doesn’t believe Henry’s head of the church. Cromwell sighs and looks frustrated. Fisher changes tactics and asks how More’s doing, but he gets only silence is response. As Cromwell goes to leave, he turns and tells Fisher he’ll see about getting him better food. Fisher thanks him sincerely. See, Cromwell’s not heartless!
Henry and Anne are having a cozy evening together, but Henry just has to bust the mood and ask her why she got rid of Lady Eleanor. She replies that Lady Eleanor stole something precious. They toss that back and forth for a little while before Henry lets it drop and Anne seductively says she hopes Henry wasn’t too disappointed. He shakes his head, with a look that suggests he was already getting tired of Eleanor anyway. This is Anne’s chance to present her cousin to him. Madge kneels before him and hands Henry a little pouch containing a miniature of Elizabeth. Henry looks down at Madge, and then up at Anne with a knowing smile. They understand each other.
Henry’s at work, signing papers and such, when Cromwell hands over a large sheet and explains that he’s been investigating some small monastic houses where the monks refuse to take Henry’s oath. The paper before Henry is a bill for their dissolution, which would conveniently funnel the monasteries’ considerable funds right into Henry’s pocket. He signs that one right quick. Even Cromwell seems surprised by that and looks at him uneasily, like he’s really just starting to realize how much of a monster he’s gone and unleashed. He then carefully breaks the news that Fisher’s been promoted to cardinal, which amuses Henry. Henry says that when the hat arrives, he’ll have to wear it on his shoulders, because by the time it gets to England, Fisher won’t have a head to put it on. Henry then asks if More will take the oath and once again Cromwell answers with silence.
We cut to Hatfield, where Anne’s cuddling Elizabeth and asking after her health. The baby’s very healthy and hardly even cries. Anne tells the baby she loves her very, very much. Elizabeth squawks in response and Anne hands her over before sending Lady Bryan to fetch Mary. Mary enters but refuses to look Anne in the face. Anne, seeming sincere, tells Mary that she’d be happy to welcome Mary back to court and reconcile her with Henry if Mary will accept Anne as queen. Mary looks Anne right in the face for the first time, mustering all her royal pride, and coldly says she recognizes no queen but her mother, but if the king’s mistress will intercede with him on Mary’s behalf, she’d be grateful. Damn! Mary’s awesome! I’d totally forgotten about this scene.
Anne’s face twitches slightly and Mary bobs a curtsey and leaves.
More’s finally being called to the carpet over the oath. He’s shown into Cromwell’s office, where Cromwell politely tries to make him comfortable and offers him refreshments, which are coolly rebuffed. Cromwell actually looks hurt that More doesn’t want his ale, but he sets the jug down, seats himself at his desk, and gets down to business. They both know why they’re there, and he really doesn’t want any harm to come to More, since he’s a pretty great guy and all. Cromwell asks More what his opinion is of Henry and Anne’s marriage. More answers that he has no opinion, and he’s never said anything for or against it. Cromwell next asks what More thinks of Henry taking over the church. That’s a bit stickier. More says that he struggled with that for a while, but then he reread the pamphlet Henry wrote all the way back in the early days of season one (the one that condemned Lutheranism and got Henry named Defender of the Faith). Cromwell gets an absolutely hysterical WTF? face on as More says this, and then reaches into a satchel to produce said pamphlet. The whole argument of the pamphlet was that the pope is supreme head of the church, and nobody can change that. More is certain that Cromwell will find Henry’s arguments just as powerful and persuasive as he did. Cromwell’s face says: “Well played, sir,” but he has a job to do, and he asks point-blank if More will take the oath. More says only that he’s a loyal subject who does no harm to anyone, least of all the king, and if that’s not enough to keep a man alive, he’s happy not living.
More rises and turns to leave in a huff, and Cromwell calls after him that Henry doesn’t want to coerce his old friend, he just asks him to relent and take the damn oath already. More turns and asks Cromwell to pass along his best wishes to Henry. As he leaves, Cromwell picks up the pamphlet and starts to read.
In Anne’s rooms, Anne is stitching away at something beside the fire as Madge comes in with more wood. Anne invites her cousin to come talk to her and starts chatting about boyfriends. Madge gigglingly says she keeps in mind what Anne said about the ladies not being loose and all. Anne asks her what she’d think if she knew one of her admirers was the king. I have to put a pause on this for a second and remark that I think Anne’s chosen really poorly here. Yes, Madge would be easily controlled, because she’s a giddy idiot, so it’s a good choice that way, but in every other respect, from what we’ve seen, Madge isn’t Henry’s type at all. He likes blondes (Madge is brunette), and he seems to go for the slender types (Madge is not). He also seems to like his women to have a certain mystery to them, or at least the ability to hold a decent conversation. Madge has none of that. She’d annoy the hell out of him in five seconds flat.
Whatever. Madge stammers that Henry couldn’t possibly be interested in her. Anne reassures her that it is true, and furthermore, Madge has Anne’s blessing to become Henry’s mistress. Madge scrunches up her face in confusion, because thinking is hard, so Anne lays it out: Henry needs someone to screw while Anne’s knocked up, and she wants to keep it in the family.
Before we get to hear whether or not Madge would happily take Henry into her bed, we cut to Henry’s throne room, where he’s relaxing when Chapuys is announced. Chapuys tells Henry that he’s come on a mission of mercy: Mary’s very sick, and Katherine has written a letter, begging to be allowed to nurse her. Henry actually looks concerned, and allows Chapuys to read some of the letter. He offers to send his personal physician to attend to Mary, but he can’t allow Katherine to see her. Chapuys begs, but Henry’s starting to get all conspiracy crazy and thinks Katherine and Mary would take the opportunity to plot against him. Henry actually thinks Katherine could go out, raise an army, and start waging war against Henry, which just goes to show that Henry hasn’t kept himself informed of Katherine’s health and situation at all, because from what we’ve seen, she’s hardly able to get up to greet visitors. Chapuys looks horrified.
At Maison More, More’s informing his family that he’s been summoned to Lambeth Palace to finally take that oath. He’s pretty sure he’s going to be in prison soon, so he urges them all to be good, and then, cutely, he tells the littlest one that if they can’t be good, be the least bad they can be. More hugs the kids, kisses his wife, and slowly walks out of the room.
Henry’s cooling his heels on horseback outside the palace when Madge appears and apologizes on behalf of Anne, who’s feeling indisposed. I’m surprised that she would want to go riding at all, in her condition. That was generally considered fairly dangerous back then. I think even now it’s not strongly encouraged that one gallop around on horseback for hours while pregnant. Henry looks annoyed and goes to leave, but Madge pipes up that Anne wondered if it would be ok with Henry for Madge to go riding with him instead? Henry says sure and Madge mounts Anne’s waiting horse. Meanwhile, in her bed, Anne weeps, alone.
More is rowed through some gorgeous scenery to Lambeth Palace. As he goes in, the camera rises to reveal a really nice shot of the river beyond the palace, and what I believe is Whitehall. They definitely made the CGI guys earn their keep with that one.
Out on their ride, Henry makes small talk with Madge, while back at Lambeth, More strides into a room where Cranmer, Moore, a cardinal, and a couple of bishops wait for him. Cranmer asks if More’s ready to swear the oath. He asks to see it first, and it’s handed over. Cranmer impatiently asks if he’ll sign, and More says he’ll swear to the validity of the succession, but not the rest of it. One of the bishops says it’s a shame, since it’ll upset Henry quite a lot. Another bishop shows More a thick book of all the clergy and members of the Houses of Lords and Commons who have already signed. Cranmer gets uppity and snarls that he doesn’t believe there was ever a man so traitorous to his king as More. I think Cranmer needs to crack open a history book if he thinks that’s true. How about Richard III, who murdered his king (a teenage boy) and the king’s younger brother and his own brother, all so he could take the throne? I think that was way more traitorous than refusing to sign a piece of paper. And that all occurred within living memory.
Another bishop tries another tactic and warns More that he’ll be thrown in prison, and terrible things will be done to him. More tells them to save their threats, so Cranmer whips out Henry’s pamphlet and accuses More of bullying the king into writing it. More glares momentarily at Cromwell, who looks like he wants to cry, and says he never bullied the king to do anything. Cranmer demands to know why More won’t take the oath, but More says nothing, just stares them all down proudly.
Out in the countryside, Henry and Madge are taking a break to have some lunch. They’re both clearly a bit wasted, laughing uproariously over Madge’s name, because it’s funny, according to Henry. Henry says he likes her dimples, and then invites her to join him on his side of the table. She looks a little terrified but obeys, sitting on his lap. He asks to examine her dimples and pulls her in for a kiss.
More, meanwhile, is shown to his new quarters: a lovely prison cell. Before he leaves, the guard tells him Fisher’s lodged in the cell just below. This might be a good time to invent Morse code, Thomas. It’s not like you don’t have time on your hands. More goes to the barred window and looks out over the city, where churchbells toll ominously.