Previously on The Tudors: Henry trashed part of France, then got bored and went home, leaving the Earl of Surrey in charge of Boulogne. Chapuys retired, much to Mary’s distress, and Henry’s health took a turn for the worst.
It’s now 1545, as we’re helpfully informed. A groom fetches a nifty little pair of eyeglasses for Henry, who uses them to read some important document. He signs it, then greets Seymour, who comes in for an audience. Seymour informs him that Surrey’s acting like a total idiot in France, attacking supply trains and the like for no reason at all, and sustaining huge losses in the process. Henry sighs and sends Seymour away.
Later, Henry meets with the council and tells them about Surrey’s recent defeat. He also shares the news that he’s sent for Surrey to return to England and answer for his actions. He’ll be replaced in France by Seymour. Henry also appoints Risley Lord Chancellor and makes him a Baron. That was a far more productive council meeting than most.
Charles breaks in to inform Henry there are rumors of a French fleet being assembled and kitted out for war. The Emperor has also ordered all English ships and properties in the Netherlands to be seized. Henry gets a little teary at the thought of being betrayed by those he once considered his friends, like this is the first time ever the French and the Emperor have turned on him. You’d think he’d be used to it by now.
After the meeting breaks up, the French ambassador, Marillac, intercepts Seymour and asks for a moment. Marillac comments that this has been a bad year for England: bad harvests, plague, massive debts. He tells Seymour this is all due to Henry’s foolish and unsustainable occupation of Boulogne. Seymour admits he wasn’t gung-ho for the war in France, but it’s done now. Marillac tells him he can still make a case for peace and try to persuade Henry to withdraw from Boulogne. Yeah, like that’ll happen.
Risley, meanwhile, is waylaid by Gardiner, who congratulates him on his elevation and takes it as a sign that their cause is being more firmly favored by Henry. Risley knows Henry well enough to realize this means nothing—Henry’s too changeable to make up his mind long enough to favor anything firmly.
Charles and Brigitte (who’s quite the fashion trailblazer, it seems—she’s wearing a dress that won’t be in style until well into the 17th century) stroll into Charles’s rooms, where they find his teenage son, Henry, waiting for them. Charles greets the boy warmly, and Henry sweetly greets Brigitte, whom he’s obviously met before and is quite fond of. Charles informs his son that Brigitte is now his official mistress. What was she before? Was some sort of declaration made? Did she get a certificate? Unnecessarily, Charles tells Henry that this is all because Henry’s mother, Duchess Kate, has made Charles unhappy for years. So, I guess that other son, Edward, died and this one was born without anyone commenting on it? Whatever. Even Brigitte tries to tell Charles not to be so mean about his child’s mother but Charles says Henry’s old enough to know the truth. Henry kindly says that Brigitte makes his father happy, so she makes him happy as well.
Henry’s having dinner with Katherine and her sister, Lady Herbert. Katherine asks him how he’s doing and he says he was better in France, because he hates the court and all the hypocrites in it. Katherine changes the subject by telling him she’s written a book, called Lamentations of a Sinner. She presents him with a copy and points out that it’s dedicated to him, in pretty flowery language. Henry’s pleased by all her praise, but then he notes some of the Protestant wording in it. He dwells on that very briefly, but then focuses on more praise, and that appeases him. So, he raises a glass to the work.
His groom enters and announces Gardiner, who sweeps in and asks Henry to agree to the arrest of a Protestant woman named Anne Askew, who is rumored to have friends at court. Henry grants permission and Katherine tries not to have a heart attack right there at the table.
We now join Mistress Askew herself, preaching against Catholicism. Her fiery speech is interrupted when a group of palace guards appear to arrest her. She starts to pray as they drag her off.
Surrey is facing the music, or, rather, a collection of councilors that includes Charles. He claims that his most recent defeat wasn’t that bad of a defeat at all, and that, in fact, the French lost more men than he did. Gardiner counters that the English loss was greater, because all of Surrey’s captains were killed, having been sent to the front lines. Surrey says Gardiner was clearly never in battle, and that the captains begged to be put in the front lines. They destroyed most of the convoy, but the remaining men panicked and bolted, costing the English their victory. Charles reminds Surrey that he took a huge risk in attacking the convoy in the first place, and the risk didn’t pay off. Surrey was forced to flee the battlefield in dishonor, one of the few circumstances which can see a man stripped of his position as a Knight of the Garter.
Tom Seymour now brings up some new charges of corruption while Surrey was in charge of Boulogne. Surrey claims never to have been corrupted in any way. Nonetheless, he’s stripped of his positions as captain of Boulogne and lieutenant general and ordered to sit tight in England. Surrey says he’s sure Henry will decide differently after Surrey’s spoken with him. Tom informs him that Henry has refused to grant him an audience, which is evidently news to Surrey.
Rich goes to see Mary and regretfully delivers the news that Chapuys died shortly after returning to Spain. Damn. I’ll miss him. Also, what a strange choice for the writers to make, since in real life Chapuys lived well into the 1550s. Oh well. Mary struggles to maintain her composure and fingers the ring Chapuys gave her. She looks up at Rich and tells him that Chapuys was a good man and a true friend, and now she has nobody. Rich kindly reassures her that she has many friends, such as Gardiner and Edmond Bonner, Bishop of London (and, presumably, Rich himself, who I guess gave up on being a Protestant somewhere along the way. Another weird choice, since he was such an avowed Protestant in reality that he actually took part in the prosecutions of both Gardiner and Bonner during Edward VI’s reign). Rich kneels and kisses her hand, and Mary tells him Edward’s being brought up as a Protestant. Rich informs her there are plans afoot to stop that, but Gardiner needs to know he has her full support, even if his efforts may harm people close to her. Mary tells Rich to tell Gardiner she prays for his success.
Gardiner and Rich meet up at the Tower to interrogate Askew, who readily admits to preaching in public. Gardiner brings up a brother of hers who served in the king’s household, as well as some friends Askew allegedly has at court. Rich asks if those friends include Lady Herbert and Duchess Kate (odd, since as far as we know she hasn’t been to court in ages, although in this case that’s historically accurate—she was devoted to the Reformation and was a friend of Katherine’s. I wish this show would get it together and be consistent—either stick to actual history or stick to the logic of the show!) Askew admits she was given money by a man who claimed it came from Anne Seymour. Gardiner doesn’t care about that so much as screwing Katherine over—he wants her to tell him Anne sent the money with Katherine’s support and permission. He threatens to torture Askew but she clams up. So, Gardiner calls over the warden and whispers something in his ear that horrifies him.
Soon, two guards are leading Askew down the hall of horrors that evidently leads to the torture chambers. It’s decoratively lined by bloodied and broken men. At last, she arrives in a room that’s dominated by a large and scary looking rack. She looks rightfully afraid.
At court, Surrey’s trying to elicit support from Charles by explaining that his actions in Boulogne have been misinterpreted, and the council had refused again and again to send reinforcements, which was the reason for the most recent debacle. Charles seems sympathetic but urges Surrey to suck it up, essentially, and wait for a chance to serve Henry again and regain his honor. Surrey’s too obsessed with the idea of destroying Seymour for besmirching his honor to listen to reason. He tells Charles he has no choice but to go after Seymour now, because it’s likely Henry will die while Edward’s still a child, and who’ll reign then?
Askew’s strapped onto the rack and they start, well, racking her while Risley and Rich ask her for the names of the queen’s ladies-in-waiting who sent her money or gifts. When she doesn’t start talking, Risley calmly says they’ll have to rack her more. The warden, Sir Edmund, steps in and reminds them that it’s illegal to rack women, and he won’t allow it to go any further. Rich, who’s just going full-on monster now, tells Edmund that they have the king’s full authority to question her. Edmund’s pretty sure that loose wording doesn’t include this, so he calls for the rackmaster or whatever the name of the guy who does the actual racking is to leave. And then Edmund and the torturers take off, and leave Askew on the rack, with Risley and Rich in the room. What the hell? Is Edmund a moron? What’s to stop Risley and Rich from just doing their own racking?
So, of course Risley starts unbuttoning his coat in a really creepy way and asks Askew a few questions about her faith. When she sticks with the Protestant line, he and Rich rack her viciously. And the Foley guys have way too much fun with the sound of her joints popping. It’s awful.
Sir Edmund goes to the king and tells him that Askew’s being tortured, in direct violation of Henry’s own laws. Henry invites him to sit and explains that, in cases of extreme heresy, the laws don’t really exist. Because they’re eradicating the devil, after all.
Askew’s apparently passed out from the pain, so Rich throws some water over her and tries to revive her. It’s not looking too good. Still, Risley asks her about Katherine again.
Seems Parliament’s gotten new digs—Henry’s meeting with it in a totally different set from what they’ve used before, unless they’ve done some serious redecorating. It doesn’t look like it has all those balconies I remember from seasons past. Henry starts talking about how there’s all this discord all over the country, and he doesn’t like it one little bit. He scolds the lords and priests for being greedy and backstabbing and tells the lords that, while they’re allowed to read the bible, they’re not allowed to form any real opinions about it. That’s what the priests are for. Sigh. Henry tells everyone to just love each other already and stop fighting. Well, now you’ve said it, I’m sure it’ll be so, Henry.
Tom Seymour reports back to Katherine, Anne Seymour, and Lady Herbert, to tell them what Henry said in Parliament. He’s pretty disgusted over the whole stupid “you can’t interpret the bible yourself” thing. Katherine thinks Henry’s a bit foolish (though she doesn’t use those words) for thinking he could just half-reform the country. Tom says that Henry thinks he’s a direct conduit to God, so whatever he thinks should be so, no matter how absurd it is. Man, does he have this guy pegged or what? I kind of love that everyone’s figuring out just how insane and impossible to deal with Henry’s become.
While walking with Brigitte in the gardens, Charles confesses he’s worried about all the plots and nonsense swirling around the court. He’s feeling out of step, since nobody, not even Henry, seems to confide in him anymore. Except Surrey, I guess. He’s worried about being shut out in the future, since all the movers and shakers at court are angling to start controlling young Edward.
Seymour’s back from France with good news: France wants peace with England, the terms being that England hands back Boulogne in eight years and receives 2 million crown. Not a bad deal. Henry tells Seymour he’s done well and dismisses him. Henry’s next meeting is with Risley, who asks on Gardiner’s behalf to arrest three of Katherine’s ladies-in-waiting, acting on Askew’s evidence. Those ladies include Lady Herbert.
At night, Surrey meets up with four gentlemen in either a very low room or some sort of cellar area. Apparently, they’ve met to start planning a kidnapping: they’re going to snatch Edward from Windsor. Awesome plan! That won’t piss Henry off at all!
Party time! The courtiers’ dance is interrupted by the arrival of Katherine, accompanied by Mary and Elizabeth. Katherine pauses to greet both Risley and Gardiner politely, then crosses the room and welcomes Seymour back from France and whispers to him that Gardiner’s arrested her sister and two other ladies on suspicion of heresy. Seymour and his wife exchange a slightly alarmed look.
Mary, meanwhile, asks Gardiner how the investigation’s going. He tells her they’re going well—they’ve found some suspicious books in the closets of the ladies they’ve arrested, and Henry’s condemned Askew to death by burning. Mary is pleased by this development.
Surrey is wandering the corridors when a guard suddenly calls out and he’s surrounded by pikes and put under arrest for treason. He looks mildly confused by this turn of events.
Anne Seymour, being a total moron, goes to Smithfield herself and hands the executioner a small bag of gunpowder to tie around Askew’s neck to kill her quickly. Is she suicidal? Why didn’t she send a servant to do this? She’s not even trying to blend in with the poorly dressed people who have gathered for the event.
Askew is carried into the square, too broken to even walk. Anne, acting even more stupidly than ever, pulls the hood down on her cloak so now everyone can get a good hard look at her, and gives Askew a pitying look. As Askew’s loaded onto the pyre, wailing in agony, the poor woman, Anne stays in the square to watch, and soon she’s joined by Risley, who tells her Gardiner wants to see her. Anne, if they didn’t suspect you earlier, they sure would now. She can join the ever-growing roll of characters on this show who are too dumb to live.
The executioner places the gunpowder around Askew’s neck and tells her it’s a gift from a friend. Anne starts to cry as the fire’s lit, and Askew begins to scream in renewed agony. At last, the gunpowder explodes, and thankfully we don’t have to see the no-doubt grisly result of that.
Rich is a busy man these days. He’s now questioning Surrey, accompanied by Sir Edmund, who is, apparently, a cousin of Surrey’s somehow. Sir Edmund’s not a fan of his kinsman, though, and tells Surrey that if he ever came to power in England, he’d go abroad and stay there, out of fear of Surrey’s malice. Surrey tells Edmund he’s too low to be bothered with, that his malice goes much higher.
That little throwaway is taken as evidence he means to go after the king himself. At least, that’s what Seymour seems to tell Henry. Seymour goes on to say that Surrey and his accomplices planned to murder the whole council and kidnap the prince so they could control the realm. Henry sighs that he used to love Surrey, but that’s done now. Yeah, I guess so.
One of Surrey’s men, identified as Martin, goes to see him at the Tower and hands him a dagger he smuggled in. Didn’t they check people for those sorts of things? Come on, where was the security? No wonder the crown jewels got stolen. Surrey uses the dagger to lift the seat on his toilet, which opens just over the river. He tells Martin to get a boat and meet him at midnight.
I guess Rich was too busy with Surrey to be so bothered with Katherine’s ladies, because one, at least—her sister, Lady Herbert—has been released and is sobbing in Katherine’s arms. Katherine tells her everything’s going to be fine and that she’s safe now.
Surrey’s working on his Shawshank Escape, which apparently includes removing whole stones from the toilet edge. A passing guard catches sight of him, though, and raises the alarm, and Surrey is dragged away from his escape route and, presumably, put in a cell that only has a bucket in it.
The escape attempt is pretty damning, but he gets a trial anyway. Surrey gives a spirited defense, but we all know this is a kangaroo court. He gets in some digs at Seymour and accuses Charles of having betrayed him, though, for what that’s worth.
Outside the courtroom, Seymour tells Rich he’s surprised Rich hates Surrey as much as Seymour does. Rich reminds Seymour that Surrey hates them both for being men elevated for actual ability, rather than having really old and aristocratic families. Rich figures they’ll all be better off if they don’t have Surrey around.
Their powwow is interrupted by the jury foreman, who tells them the jury’s not convinced by the evidence against Surrey, since there’s no real proof of the plot against Henry. They’re reluctant to condemn a man to death on flimsy evidence. Seymour tells them that, flimsy evidence or not, Henry wants this guy out of the way, and it’s their job to make that happen, or risk Henry’s wrath. The foreman leaves to go do some serious convincing.
Katherine, her ladies, Elizabeth, and Mary are all having a pleasant afternoon together, sewing and reading. Or, it would be pleasant if Mary didn’t keep shooting her stepmother death glares. Katherine finally asks her what’s wrong and Mary says she’s heard rumors that Henry’s looking for a new wife, since Katherine hasn’t fallen pregnant. She delivers this in the most deliciously bitchy, slap-worthy way. Katherine manages to keep her cool and reminds Mary that they used to be friends, but clearly Mary no longer loves her as she once did, even though Katherine still loves her. Mary starts to look a tiny bit guilty.
Surrey, naturally, is found guilty and condemned to death. The crowd watching jeers the decision, but Surrey quiets them so he can once again condemn the “low men” Henry keeps around him. Oh, God, give it up already! I’d like to point out that those “low men” have proven to be the most capable on this show, while the aristocrats, for the most part, have bumbled and screwed up. Look what a mess Surrey made in France! Case proven. Also, those low men never committed treason, and in the universe of this show, Surrey did, or at least planned to. And he kind of sucked all around—remember his behavior after he got the garter? If that’s not shameful and low, I don’t know what is. The others have been far more dignified.
In a rare “well done” moment on this show, we get a nice callback as Surrey starts to recite The Means to Attain Happy Life in voiceover as he’s led from the court, past his supporters, who are almost rioting at this point.
From that, we shift to the rather refined scene of Henry playing cards with Katherine while a select group of courtiers dine nearby and musicians play light and soothing tunes. Henry comments that he hears Katherine’s been busy with her books and she says she has, she’s been doing some translations of Erasmus and the psalms. Henry admires her diligence, and she says she sees it as much a duty as a pleasure to put such good books in English so the English people can enjoy them. Henry advises her to be cautious, since not everyone can understand the gospels and it’s unwise to encourage them to try. Katherine foolishly takes up the argument and says Henry’s begun a great work in “banishing the monstrous idol of Rome,” and now he can go ahead and finish it by purging the dregs of Catholicism from the Church of England. Rich and Gardiner are listening intently, no doubt feeling like Christmas just came early. Katherine seems to realize she just stepped a little too far and tries to apologize but Henry cuts her off and says he’s just tired. Katherine nods and excuses herself. She’s followed by all the guests except Gardiner.
Alone with the bishop, Henry grouses about being lectured by his wife and Gardiner, of course, feeds the fire by telling Henry he has no need to be taught by anyone, since he knows so much about churchy things. Gardiner finds it unseemly for any of Henry’s subjects to argue with him, and those who do, as Katherine just did, have been condemned to death in the past. Henry says he’s surprised Gardiner would accuse Katherine of heresy without proof, but Gardiner says he has proof, he just needs Henry’s permission to draw up articles against Katherine so she can be put on trial. Henry says she can be put on trial, but he has no intention of executing her. “Certainly. Whatever your majesty desires,” Gardiner says, in a creepy, silky voice. And with that, the penultimate episode of the whole series ends.