Previously on The Tudors: Henry made friends with the French, and then decided he hated them and wanted to be buddies with the Holy Roman Emperor. Wolsey was not elected pope, as he expected; Buckingham lost his head, and Bessie Blount gave birth to a son.
We open at Whitehall Palace (and by the way, they’re really trying to get their money’s worth on that CGI image of the palace, aren’t they? They show it constantly). Inside, scenery’s being erected and a frustrated director is yelling for everyone to start the rehearsal again and to concentrate this time, please. Various courtiers take position—the ladies in a scenery castle, the gentlemen down below. When the director tells the gentlemen to attack they do, haphazardly, with one guard stupidly actually shooting his gun in the director’s direction. Or maybe it wasn’t stupid, maybe his aim was just poor. At any rate, the director looks shocked at how badly this is going, although it seemed like they’d been practicing this before, so have they all just gotten worse? Whatever. He bellows for them to stop and then, like any director, lectures them on the cost of the production and what a waste of money this all is. Then, without actually telling anybody what they should do to make this less of a steaming pile of crap, he just tells them to do it again. I guess those who can’t act direct, huh?
Henry and Charles Brandon are out for a ride, and Henry tells his friend he has a task for him. Henry’s sister Margaret is set to marry the king of Portugal, and Brandon’s to take her and her dowry over there for the wedding. This was one of those things that really irked me about the show—its assumption that the viewers were all incredibly stupid. See, while Henry did have a sister named Margaret, she was older than him and had been long married to the King of Scotland (Mary, Queen of Scots was Margaret’s granddaughter, hence Mary’s connection to the English royal family in later years). The sister this character most closely resembles is Henry’s younger sister Mary, who was married to the king of France (who was not Francis, they messed that up too). Mary was also the grandmother of Lady Jane Grey, the famous Nine Days’ Queen. Why the name change? The scriptwriters were afraid we’d somehow manage to confuse this Mary, an adult about to marry the King of Portugal, with Henry’s young daughter, Princess Mary. Thanks, writers.
Anyway, Brandon, quite reasonably, asks why he should do this, and I can’t help but wonder that myself. Why the hell would Henry want to send one of the most notorious seducers at court to accompany and safeguard his sister as she heads off to be married to a foreign head of state? Seems like he’s just asking for trouble here. Henry tells Brandon he needs someone he can trust, and Brandon reads my mind and snorts that Henry actually trusts him with a beautiful woman? Henry stops his horse and does the “Dude, she’s my sister!” routine and scares Brandon enough to agree. Besides, Margaret should be safe because Brandon’s engaged to Elizabeth Grey, a relative of the Marquess of Dorset. In a last bid attempt to get out of this job, Brandon points out that he’s not high enough in rank to be an appropriate escort for a princess, so Henry tells him he’s naming him Duke of Suffolk. Well, ok then.
More is escorting the new Imperial ambassadors to court, and it seems they’re anxious to meet the king, as they should be. More tells them the best way to reach Henry is through Wolsey. One of them—a slightly younger looking man with dark hair, says he heard Wolsey’s a fan of the French, but More waves that off and turns the conversation to religion, one of his favorite subjects. He asks what the Holy Roman Emperor’s opinion is of Luther and his followers, and the dark-haired ambassador replies that the Emperor does all he can to suppress the heresy, but Luther is well protected by the German princes. More tells them Henry’s writing a pamphlet denouncing Luther and defending the papacy, which will be pretty ironic in a few years, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves. The other ambassador, an older, quieter, more thoughtful man, is surprised Henry’s actually writing this himself, but More tells him Henry’s a man of many talents.
At Hampton Court, the emperor’s envoys are show in to Wolsey’s presence. Wolsey greets them politely and enthusiastically and says he hopes they can work well together. The older ambassador (it’s Chapuys, so I’m just going to start calling him that because it’s shorter) agrees that they all want the same thing, so Wolsey invites them in, telling More to get lost. More looks surprised and hurt by this turn of events.
Alone with Chapuys and his buddy (Mendoza, we later find out) Wolsey asks if the Emperor’s really committed to the treaty. Chapuys assures him his Excellency is, so Wolsey suggests they betroth Princess Mary to the Emperor. Who’s in his early 20’s. And a first cousin. Ew.
Chapuys is cool with that, and they all grab goblets to have a toast, but before they drink, Chapuys tells Wolsey that the emperor wants to grant him a very generous pension. Let’s see how he feels when he finds out he’s marrying an eight-year-old. The emperor also promises to throw his weight behind Wolsey’s papal ambitions. Wolsey looks pleased.
At Framlingham Castle, one of the Duke of Norfolk’s places, Norfolk and Thomas Boleyn are taking a walk with the dogs and chatting about the plan to shove Anne into Henry’s bed, now that Henry’s tired of her sister, Mary. Norfolk’s main plan is to get Anne to bring Wolsey down once she has Henry’s attention. Maybe I missed something, but I’m not really clear why Norfolk has an issue with Wolsey. Whatever.
Back at court, a large gathering is in full swing in the room with the castle set. Wolsey is announced, along with the Emperor’s ambassadors, Chapuys and Mendoza, and everyone applauds . The three men take a seat up on a dais with Thomas More, and the show begins.
Lovely ladies dressed, basically, in their underwear (seriously, they’re wearing the most absurd sleeveless corset things and gauzy skirts that never, ever would have flown back then) take their positions on the castle. Now, despite the fact that Mendoza is a highly educated man, he has to play the idiot for the sake of the audience and asks Thomas More for a full explanation of what’s happening. The ladies are the Graces, with names like Constance, Mercy, Kindness, and Pity. They’re prisoners in the castle. Henry’s sister, Margaret, is up there too, fortuitously alongside Anne Boleyn. Chapuys asks who’s keeping them prisoner? Envy, Scorn, Distain, More tells him, as more ladies in black costumes take their positions and are booed by the crowd. Damn, did they pick the short straws or what? This seems a little harsh.
A group of gentlemen in masks and black armor enter, and Mendoza eagerly asks if the king is one of them, like he’s a fanboy at a Justin Bieber concert. In a complete conversational nonsequitor, More tells him that the men represent Youth, Vigor, etc., oh, and yeah, Henry’s there too. That was some really lazy writing right there.
Ardent Desire, the leader of the gentlemen, tells the ladies in black to release the graces, and one of the ladies tells him to buzz off. While this not-so-witty exchange is going on, Henry’s eying Anne. At least, we hope he’s eying Anne, and not his own sister, who’s standing right next to her. Desire calls for an attack, and the men swarm the castle, fake swords drawn. Henry scales a wall and grabs Anne Boleyn’s hand. He seems momentarily struck by her, and then recovers and tells her she’s his prisoner now. Anne giggles and disappears, leaving room for Henry to claim his sister and escort her out onto the dance floor. Anne follows with her own designated partner as her father smiles approvingly. Desire calls for everyone to be unmasked, and courtiers step forward to remove everyone’s face masks. Then the dancing begins, and it’s quite pretty. As they dance, Margaret tells Henry she wants to have a word. Henry knows what’s coming , and tells her she’s marrying the Portuguese king, the guy’s already written of his love for her and everything! She groans and pleads with him, as his sister, to reconsider since Portugal’s pretty over the hill at this point, but the deal’s done. Henry separates from her and begins to dance with Anne. He asks who she is and she introduces herself before they reunite with their original partners.
The dance finishes, and the assorted courtiers applaud as Henry checks out Anne. Thomas Boleyn subtly hands over a purse of cash to the director, who was also playing Ardent Desire, and thanks him for all his help.
A random lady-in-waiting is standing out in the gardens, staring at a fountain, when Brandon comes up behind her and asks to speak with her mistress. The woman smiles and fetches Margaret, who’s standing a few feet away. She greets Brandon a little snottily as “Mr. Brandon” as he’s not yet been invested as a duke. She informs him she’ll be taking 200 people to Portugal, and if he has anything to discuss, he can do so with her chamberlain. Brandon agrees.
Margaret then moves into a full flight of snobbery, telling him she’s surprised Henry chose someone without noble blood to take her to Portugal. Even Norfolk would have been better, she sneers before stomping off. She’s charming!
The Emperor’s envoys are being shown into Katherine’s presence chamber. She greets them in Spanish and asks after her nephew, sending along a gentle rebuke that he should write to her more, but telling them she’s pleased by this turn of events. More quietly, she warns them to be careful of the Cardinal. They bow as she leaves, and they are then shown into Henry’s presence. Henry greets them formally, and tells them to trust Wolsey, as he represents Henry in all matters. He also invites the Emperor for a visit before waving them off. Way to make them feel welcome.
In the garden, Henry examines a target that’s been set up and asks Wolsey when the Emperor plans to come. End of the month, apparently, which Henry takes to mean the Emperor plans to attack the French soon, and needs troops to do so. Wolsey agrees that this is, in fact, the case. The Emperor plans to attack first and wants Henry to back him. Henry tells Wolsey to start preparations for an invasion. Oh, and he wants another warship. Wolsey, speaking to Henry the way a parent speaks to a spoiled child demanding yet another new toy before he’s even played with the old ones, reminds him that he just launched a warship. But Henry wants another one! He wants a big navy, they’re an island nation, after all! Wolsey points out that ships cost money—lots and lots of money, but Henry counters that his father was a cheapskate who saved lots and lots of money. Yes, Henry, but then you came along and spent it all on warships you didn’t need and expensive pageants with fake castles and stupid costumes. Well done!
Henry’s been playing with a musket this whole time, and finally takes aim and manages to hit the edge of the target. He seems inordinately pleased with himself for that, and I know weapons weren’t very accurate back then, but that shot didn’t seem worth that much preening. Thomas Boleyn interrupts the fun, though Henry doesn’t seem to mind, because he has plans for Thomas: in return for his diplomatic efforts on Henry’s behalf, he’s being made a knight of the garter and comptroller of Henry’s household, which was a big deal back then. Boleyn humbly accepts and goes to withdraw, but Henry calls him back and asks Thomas about Anne. Thomas mentions that Anne is, very luckily, about to come to court as a lady-in-waiting to Queen Katherine. I hope Katherine doesn’t try to make a confidante of this one too. Henry accepts this news without jumping around in jubilation, surprisingly, and Boleyn turns to go, exchanging a meaningful look with Norfolk as he passes him on the way back to the castle.
Anne is, at this moment, up at her family’s place in the country, Hever Castle, where a young man is draped over a branch, reciting poetry to her as she reclines on the grass below. The young man finishes his verse, which he apparently wrote, and asks if she likes it, and she points out that it essentially accuses her of being cruel. He smiles and goes to kiss her, but she turns away and tells him he has no claim on her just yet. She calls him Master Wyatt, so I guess this is the show’s replacement for her real-life lover Henry Percy. I also guess this is the poet Thomas Wyatt. He tries to kiss her again, and she once again puts him off, mostly because he’s married, as she points out. Yes, but he’s separated, he protests, although that didn’t hold much water back then, because the Catholic church had no patience for divorce, as Henry later found out. Anne raises herself to a sitting position and tells him he must never ask to see her alone again. He gets indignant and asks if she loves someone else. Instead of answering, Anne gets to her feet and tells him not to ask for her anymore, and never, ever to speak of her to anyone else. Somehow, I don’t think that’s going to save this guy, a few years down the road.
Henry’s cronies are drunk and bitching about Brandon’s promotion. One of them suggests they get laid, but they’re too wasted, so they decide the only thing to do is to get more wasted. Apparently, they’re 16th century frat boys.
At a much quieter table, Henry’s dining with Katherine. She asks if the Emperor’s envoys left in a good mood, and Henry says that they did. So, then, her nephew will come for a visit? Henry tells her they’re waiting on news. I thought Wolsey said the Emperor was coming in a month? Was he talking about someone else? Why would Henry lie about that? I’m confused.
Katherine tells Henry she had a dream he basically had sex with her and said everything was going to be ok, and she tries to put the moves on him, telling him, pretty much out of nowhere, that she never slept with Henry’s brother, her first husband, a claim that makes sense to the audience because we saw Henry stressing about it a couple of episodes ago, but is completely out of left field within the narrative. Why would she be bringing this up now? It doesn’t matter, I guess, because Henry’s not really responding to any of this, although she’s very sincerely professing her love for him, and it’s a bit hearbreaking. Henry comes around to her side of the table, strokes her face, and kisses her on the forehead before taking off abruptly.
He heads through a crowded chamber nearby and checks out a blonde woman curtsying to him as he passes. One of his servants whispers instructions to her before following Henry out of the room. He’s really into the blondes these days, isn’t he? First Bessie, now this one… I wonder if it’s a sort of reaction to the dark-haired Katherine (who was actually a redhead in real life, like Henry).
In her own room, Katherine is dressed for bed, and staring pensively into the fire when a nurse brings in little Mary. Katherine hugs her closely and asks if she’s said her prayers. Good little Mary says yes, and her mother hugs her again.
Henry enters his bedroom and is met with the blonde, who strips off her robe and asks him if he likes what he sees. Henry stares pretty emotionlessly.
Katherine’s going to bed, accompanied by her ladies. She asks one if Henry’s sent any word that he might visit that night, and the lady-in-waiting replies that he hasn’t. Katherine tries not to burst into tears and sits to have her hair brushed.
Cardinal Wolsey’s having some tension worked out by his pointlessly topless mistress (I have to ask, was this show paid by the boob or something?) She’s pounding on his back and expressing concern for him. He works too hard, she says, and it’ll kill him. He says he knows, but what is he supposed to do? He’s kind of stuck now, isn’t he? And let’s face it, he likes the power.
Thomas Tallis, still with the dreadful bird’s nest hair, is wandering around court when he’s met by another young gentleman, who excitedly tells him the queen’s new ladies have arrived. They all come in one shipment? That’s convenient. I half expect someone to open a box and have them spill out with a bunch of packing peanuts. Tallis joins the other men forming a gauntlet of leer. We see that Anne Boleyn is, of course, one of these ladies, and she’s one of the few who doesn’t seem either very receptive or very disturbed by the gentlemen’s attention.
Henry’s apparently finished his pamphlet and has given it to More to read. It’s getting fairly good reviews from More, aside from a suggestion Henry tone down some of the language for diplomatic purposes. Henry refuses to take down the anti-Luther rhetoric, and furthermore, he’s going to dedicate a copy to the Pope and send More to Rome to present it to his holiness in person. Why me? asks More. Because he was the inspiration, replies Henry. More tries to be modest, but Henry tells him this was all thanks to him and his passion for religion. Oh, and by the way, Henry’s going to knight More. More protests that a knighthood is more than he deserves, but Henry says it’s the least he can do. You think, Henry? Especially considering the fact you gave your best friend a dukedom in return for, basically, babysitting your sister? Henry tells More not to be so modest; after all, More’s not a saint. Oh, har har.
One last thing: Henry wants More to go out and seize every copy of Luther’s works he can find and burn them. I think More’s going to end up taking that directive just a little too far.
Wolsey’s hard at work in his study when a servant brings a large, sealed letter from France. Wolsey slyly melts the seal just enough to open the letter without anyone being able to notice and reads what it says aloud to the servant, for some reason. King Francis has discovered the treaty with the emperor and is, needless to say, displeased. The servant wonders aloud who could have told Francis. Wolsey gets a look on his face like he has a good idea.
In Saint Paul’s Cross, London, More’s hosting a bookburning while a high-ranking clergyman solemnly reads from the bible. More tosses a few Lutheran works on the fire (they’re helpfully marked M.L. just in case we have no short-term memories and don’t know what he’s doing) and watches them burn. Time passes and the small crowd that was gathered there gradually drifts away.
The Emperor has arrived on England’s shores, to the tune of trumpets and a magnificent fireworks display. He’s wearing a hat that’s slightly less ridiculous than King Francis’s, which is nice to see. As he’s parading into the room, a man approaches Wolsey and asks for a moment of his time. Eyes blazing, Wolsey orders the man (Mr. Pace) to move away. Mr. Pace does so instantly.
Now that the Emperor’s made his entrance, Henry has to make his. He calls down to his nephew by marriage from an upper floor balcony, and everyone applauds as Henry comes down to greet the Emperor and calls for music. Apparently, his presence there is unexpected, which seems a little odd, but ok, I’ll go with it. Wolsey quietly orders a guard to remove Mr. Pace.
In an adjoining room, Pace waits nervously until Wolsey appears. Wolsey asks if Pace knew Henry was going to make this surprise appearance, and Pace admits he did, since he’s Henry’s secretary and all. Of course, says Wolsey, and Pace would know all about the treaty too, and about the details of this visit. Pace speaks Spanish too, doesn’t he? Almost as well as he speaks French. Ohh, now the pieces start to fall into place. Wolsey accuses Pace of spying for both Wolsey and the French, and he’s blackballed from court. Pace protests, swearing he wants only the best for Henry. Wolsey just calmly tells him that it’s treason to plot against the king, and Pace freaks as he’s dragged out by guards, pleading for his life.
The next day, Henry’s showing off his newest toy, his flagship, the Mary Rose. He goes into all her specs in detail, and it all sounds very impressive. Too bad she’s going to upend and sink right in front of him someday, taking quite a few men with her. The Emperor gazes out over Henry’s impressive fleet and says he has nothing like this. Ahh, but what he does have, Henry points out, is vast armies. Combined with Henry’s powerful navy, the two of them could be invincible. By the way, good casting on the Emperor. The beginnings of that Habsburg jaw (which he jokingly refers to now) are pretty evident.
Poor Pace is rowed to Traitor’s gate at the Tower of London, still begging for his life and proclaiming his innocence. Naturally, this does not move his jailors.
As they wander one of the palaces, the Emperor reminds Henry that they’re bound pretty tightly, being family and all. Henry’s his uncle, after all, a fact that Henry seems to find hilarious. He shows the Emperor into Katherine’s presence, and gazes at Anne Boleyn as she turns to enter the queen’s rooms.
Katherine manages to both regally and warmly greet her nephew before presenting him to her daughter—his future bride. I think I was a little off on her age—she looks to be about five or six, not eight. The Emperor applauds his infant bride and then leans down to kiss her on the cheeks. He tells her they have to wait to be married and asks if she has the patience. Instead of answering, she tells him she has a present for him. She leads him to a window and points to three lovely horses out in the courtyard. He cutely tells her they’re the best presents he’s ever had, but that doesn’t make this any less creepy. And yes, I know that this was common back then, but it’s still squicky.
Garden party! Courtiers are dancing as Henry, Katherine, Mary, and the Emperor watch. The Emperor tells his royal hosts that they have to come visit him soon, so he can show off the lovely treasures his explorers have brought back from the Americas. Henry tells him that’d be great, and then catches sight of Anne bringing a plate to the table and setting it down in front of Katherine. She then goes to refill her father’s goblet, and he quietly tells her to put herself in Henry’s way. She nods and moves away.
Back at the head table, Henry asks the Emperor how the preparations for war are going, and he’s told things are going pretty well. The Emperor should be able to take Milan by the following spring, and then they’ll invade France together. Henry tells him that would make him very happy. Well, yes, because it would make him king of France.
The dance ends, and the Emperor asks for permission to partner Princess Mary. As they leave the table, Princess Margaret approaches Henry and gives him a simpering look that apparently means she wants to dance and whine. She’s really such an obnoxious character I couldn’t care less that she’s being married off to a man old enough to be her grandfather. She pouts and whines and drapes herself all over the furniture in these absurd costumes that are ridiculous even by this show’s standards. The dress she’s wearing now looks like it’s about to side right off her, and since the role’s being played by Gabrielle Anwar, who looks like she hasn’t eaten more than an almond a day since 1992, that’s a very real threat. Anyway, she complains that she hears the King of Portugal has gout and Henry awesomely just rolls his eyes, refusing to dignify any of this with an answer. Margaret extracts a promise from her brother—once the king’s dead, she can marry whom she pleases. Henry says nothing as they join the dance.
Off to the side, Charles and the Cronies are watching, and the Cronies tease him about being a duke now. The teasing quickly turns unnecessarily mean, and at that point, they tell him to get Henry to give them something too. Wow, what a bitchy bunch. I kind of hope Charles just dumps them and tells them to get their own damn titles if they want them so bad. Maybe if they sucked less at tennis it would help. Charles apparently hears me yet again and tells them to show him some respect.
After the dance ends, Katherine sends her daughter off so she can have some alone time with her nephew (not like that!) They chat and she admits that things are not well in her marriage. The Emperor is incredulous, since Henry’s been so attentive while he’s been there, and Katherine tells him that’s pretty much all a show for his benefit.
Elsewhere, Henry finally manages to shake Margaret and turns to see Anne, who curtsies politely. He remembers her, of course, and greets her by name, just as Katherine tells her nephew she’s afraid Henry will divorce her. The Emperor tells her that’s impossible, but Katherine’s not a fool. She watches Henry as he stares at Anne for a moment before stepping out of her way and letting her pass.
Henry’s wandering down a dark, echoy corridor lit by candles. He enters a large room and spots Anne, who pauses for just a moment before turning and running away in slow motion. Henry gives chase, and they playfully do a hide-and-seek around a large pillar for a few moments before she runs off. He pursues and finds her sitting on the edge of the dais in the throne room. He jumps at her, but she pushes him away, telling him he’s going to have to work a little harder for it. She tells him to write poetry and letters and seduce her with his words. Then she slams a door in his face. Henry opens the door and sees her standing naked on the other side. For some reason, this makes him wake (this was, of course all a dream) gasping like he just had the worst nightmare, which wakes the guard sleeping next to him. The guard sort of hilariously pulls a knife, like he can just stab a dream, but Henry tells him it’s all right, she’s gone. And to the guard, he’s sounding a little crazy just now.
In the daylight, the king and the Emperor have gathered to sign a treaty of perpetual friendship, like that worked out so well the last time one of these was signed. Oh, but this one is different because it also provides for the Emperor to become engaged to Princess Mary as soon as she reaches the ripe old age of 12. Both men sign, Henry more enthusiastically than he signed the last one, and everyone applauds. Henry takes off, and the Emperor takes the opportunity to tell Katherine that he’ll always be on her side. Katherine smiles and nods, grateful for an ally.
Henry heads over to Wolsey and asks him where Pace is. He’s just now noticing that his secretary has been missing for days, possibly weeks? What?! Didn’t he have any work to do at all, anything to sign in that time? Wolsey regretfully tells Henry that Pace has been removed and hey, on the bright side, Henry won’t have to pay Pace a pension! Henry tells Wolsey to find him a replacement and moves away, probably to find Anne. Speaking of: Norfolk approaches Boleyn and asks him how things are proceeding on that end, and Boleyn reassures him Anne’s doing her job. Norfolk seems a bit impatient, so Boleyn suggests they include Brandon in their plan, since he’s Henry’s closest friend and no fan of Wolsey’s. He could be useful, for a while, at least.
It’s been a whole episode since we’ve had a joust, so it’s time for another one, don’t you think? Riders charge each other while, behind the scenes, Henry pours some water over his head and greets a well-dressed man who’s shown into his presence. Henry asks the man if he’s brought the pieces Henry asked for, and the man hands over four HUGE brooches. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess these aren’t for Katherine.
In the tower, Poor Pace is wandering a dank and drippy cell with a single lit candle. He sits on the bed for a little while, and then notices a pile of straw in the corner. He unwisely nudges it with his foot and a bunch of rats come running out. He panics and goes back to screaming about his innocence while pounding on the door, insisting that it was Wolsey who spilled the beans to the French. Like anybody’s going to believe him at this point. Poor, Poor Pace.