Previously on the Tudors: Henry’s uncle/ambassador was turned into a pincushion by the French, which gave Henry the excuse to declare war. Wolsey and More pushed a treaty with France (and the rest of Europe) instead, using Henry’s daughter, Mary, as a bargaining chip. Henry knocked up Bessie Blount. Buckingham came up with a really, really stupid plan.
Credits! Henry VOs that we only know the end of any story—to get to the heart of it, you have to go back to the beginning. Lots of shots of women having their clothes ripped off, soldiers, Henry Cavill, sexy Anne Boleyn, pious Katherine, and some menacing swords being drawn. And many knowing looks.
In France, the grass seems greener, except in the Valley of Gold, where it’s actually quite golden. Henry and his cronies ride up to a crest overlooking the valley, where a huge tent city and fake castle have been constructed. They spot the French contingent approaching on horseback, and Henry goes out to meet them, ignoring Brandon’s warning that this could be a trap. Henry tells them to sit tight and goes to meet the French king, Francis, who’s wearing a ridiculous, floppy hat and a peacock blue costume. Francis welcomes Henry to France, and the two break the ice and ride into the fake castle.
Both courts have now gathered in the castle, with the kings and their queens enthroned side-by-side. Queen Claude has somehow transformed from the short, chubby, hunchbacked woman she was in real life into quite the hottie. Either the portrait artists back then were really mean, or the casting department didn’t want to mar the pretty even for a second. Trumpets sound, and a herald starts off a proclamation by calling Henry “King of England, Ireland, and France.” Henry calls for him to stop and informs the crowd that he can’t be called that, when Francis is there. Wow, how magnanimous of you to not claim to be king of some other guy’s country while he’s sitting right there. Henry is so the bigger guy. Francis accepts this graciously, and says he’s merely Francois, king of France. As he says this, Brandon gives a pretty hilarious blink-and-you’ll-miss-it single eyebrow raise, like, ‘enjoy it while you can, Frenchie.’
Wolsey asks the two kings to swear on the Bible that they will be BFFs from now on, and they do. The kids are now brought forward—Francis’s son, a little boy of maybe eight, and cute little princess Mary, who’s now got a crown of her own. They’re lifted up onto opposite ends of the table in front of their parents and introduced to each other. She curtsies, he bows, and they approach each other.
“Are you the dauphin of France?” Mary asks him. Little Philippe replies in the affirmative. “Then I’m going to kiss you,” she says, probably not realizing this is the last time she’ll kiss a boy for many, many, many years. She kisses him on the cheek, and like most little boys he protests, so Mary gives him a good shove and he lands on his ass.
“Mon dieu!” Francis gasps. Henry gently admonishes his daughter but looks a little pleased that his girl can whup Francis’s boy.
Later, a couple of Henry’s buddies are admiring the awesome invention that is the wine fountain affixed to a wall of the castle. Sooo much better than a chocolate fountain. Henry strolls by with Cromwell, Boleyn following, and takes a moment to cruise a wench he passes. Henry asks More what he thinks of the fake castle, lifting a wall to point out that it’s only painted canvas, like More didn’t know that. Seriously, does he think Thomas is such an idiot he can’t tell that wasn’t real stone? It’s well done, but it’s not that well done.
Back inside the castle, the nobility is being entertained by a swordfight between English and French guards. The English win, everyone applauds, and Francis presents Henry with a gift—a massive jeweled collar. Henry pretends to be embarrassed that all he can give in return is a large pie, which is being brought forward by a servant, who hands over a knife to Francis and takes off. Francis cuts into the pie, releasing a small flock of birds. That could have gone so wrong in so many ways. What if he’d stabbed one? Plus, I’m guessing nobody’s going to be eating that yummy looking pie now.
Brandon and the cronies are talking about the women they’re going to sleeo with, while Henry eyes Boleyn’s two daughters. Francis fills him in on Mary Boleyn’s details—he calls her his “English mare” since he rides her so often. Francis is a classy guy.
Boleyn strides through the twilight-lit tent city and arrives in what appears to be the brothel tent. At least, there’s a lot of flirting and heavy petting going on there. Quite a lot. And that’s where Boleyn finds his daughter Mary, to tell her the king wants to talk to her. Mary slips off to tell Anne, who just smirks.
Looks like Henry’s finally losing the lame beard. A groom shaves him while Thomas Tallis serenades him. Looks like Tallis still hasn’t been introduced to a comb, even though he’s singing in the king’s presence these days. Henry grants him a sovereign for his fine voice, which was quite a sum in those days, and Tallis is appropriately grateful.
Boleyn catches up with Wolsey, and fills him in on all the doings with Buckingham, including the assassination plot. Wolsey tells him to keep all the info on the down low.
Back with the courtiers, everyone’s watching a wrestling match between one of the French and one of the English. France throws England, and Francis starts to bait Henry, saying that France pretty much kicks England’s ass at everything, from architecture to hot women to wrestling. Henry takes the bait like a catfish and challenges Francis to a wrestling match. This whole thing is kind of absurd because, when they stand next to each other, Henry just about comes up to Francis’s chin and is much skinnier.
The fight begins, and the queens look a bit nervous, for some reason. It’s not like they’re fighting to the death here; it’s far less dangerous than jousting, but whatever. The courtiers get really into it, cheering on their respective king and making bets as Wolsey and the French bishop look on. Henry gets Francis in a hold, but Francis ends up throwing Henry and winning the match. Henry immediately throws a fit, like the baby he is, and demands a rematch, but Francis is done with this silliness. So, of course, Henry does the mature and responsible thing and tells More he’s not going to sign the treaty. God, what a child. This is the problem with any kind of inherited leadership position. Not that voting for leaders always works out for the best, but at least it gives people a fighting chance to have someone in charge who might, every now and then, actually consider their welfare.
More lays it out and tells Henry that if he throws a hissy and refuses to sign, the whole world will think he’s a shallow wuss who can’t handle losing a friendly wrestling match, which won’t be so good for England. This manages to calm Henry down, and he leaves.
He retreats to his room, where Brandon shows up to usher in a cloaked and hooded woman. Henry doesn’t really look like he’s in the mood, but pulls it together and decloaks her. It’s Mary Boleyn, of course, and he tells her he’s heard all about her. He asks her what she’s learned in her two years at the French court, and she proceeds to kneel down and give him a bj right then and there. Way to hold something back, Mary. By the way, is Brandon still there, watching all this? I don’t remember seeing him leave. Ew.
We cut to the treaty signing, which is being done to some pretty, churchy music courtesy of a boys’ choir. Queen Claude is looking sullen, but that might be because of the absolutely hideous, gigantic crown that’s jammed onto her head. Seriously, it looks like some bizarre gold inverted dog bowl with cheap fake stones just randomly pasted on. I thought the French were supposed to be fashion forward?
The two kings sign the treaty, although Henry hesitates for just a moment. Everyone looks relieved. Except for Buckingham, of course.
Back in his room, Henry’s decided to pretend he’s a member of the Doors and trashes the hell out of it, throwing bowls and cups and furniture around in a full-blown royal toddler tantrum. A guard comes running in and promptly leaves once Henry takes a huge axe to the table. The hell was that all about?
As the nobility hit the road, workers begin dismantling the fake castle. Oooh, symbolism!
London is rainy and gloomy compared to France. In Whitehall Palace, Henry lays in bed, staring off into the distance, ignoring Mary Boleyn, who’s in bed with him, trying to entice him to have a little fun. He shortly tells her to leave, without looking at her, and Mary looks a little confused, like she can’t quite believe he would be such an asshole. Oh, honey, you are in for a long, tough slog. She realizes he’s serious and goes.
Henry’s done with the French and now wants to join up with Katherine’s nephew, the Holy Roman Emperor, of whom he is insanely jealous. He rants about him to Wolsey—he’s richer! He’s younger! He orders Wolsey to visit the emperor personally and see if they can do business. Wolsey rather reluctantly agrees, no doubt already seeing his treaty of perpetual peace start to crumble. Don’t say I didn’t warn you, Wolsey.
Boleyn goes to meet with Buckingham, who asks him what he thinks of the King’s behavior at the summit. Boleyn plays along perfectly, telling Buckingham he wishes there had been a greater, more powerful man on the throne. Buckingham eats it up and tells Thomas he plans to crush Henry like a spider. Boleyn’s starting to look a little nervous, which isn’t helped when Buckingham tells him he’ll feed Boleyn’s body to the dogs if he betrays Buckingham. Folks, take note—that’s how you make friends and influence people.
Back with Henry and Wolsey, Henry’s done ranting for the day and quietly asks Wolsey what he’s discovered “here”. Wolsey tells him Buckingham’s making moves—raising an army, borrowing lots of money, the usual suspicious behavior. Henry tells Wolsey to invite Buckingham to court for the new year, but not to alarm him. It’s so much more fun to catch him unawares.
Henry’s now out on the royal barge with More, the two of them looking really, really uncomfortable together. He asks after Thomas’s children (they’re well) and More tells him how well they’re being educated, even the girls. “Always the idealist,” says Henry, although he educated his own daughters very well, so obviously he believed in educating women too. Talk shifts to The Prince, which Henry’s recently received as a gift. And loved, I’ll bet. More’s not much of a fan. It’s all about opportunism, as opposed to More’s book, Utopia, which is, as Henry so eloquently puts it, more utopian. Thanks for clearing that up. The Prince does pose one interesting question for Henry: is it better for a king to be feared or loved? I think we all know which of those choices Henry preferred.
Buckingham’s going to try and kill me, Henry says, More looks surprised.
Wolsey goes to see the now heavily pregnant Lady Blount and asks how she’s feeling. She’s only interested in messages he might be carrying from the king. There are none, but her husband has a message: he’s come to terms with the situation (paid off well, I’ll wager). Bessie calls after the departing Cardinal to tell the king she loves him, but Wolsey doesn’t even give her a backward glance.
At Buckingham’s estate, the duke’s already enthroned, receiving promises of loyalty from his followers and wearing a GIANT medallion. I think it’s roughly the size of Henry’s head.
Wolsey and Thomas are working together, and Wolsey confides that Henry has decided he doesn’t want to be friends with the French anymore but wants a new treaty with the Holy Roman Emperor instead. More mildly observes that Wolsey must be very disappointed. I wouldn’t be surprised if right now, in Wolsey’s room, there’s a table with an axe sticking out of it, but right now he seems calm enough. More admits to being disappointed himself, even though both he and Wolsey knew that keeping this treaty together was a long shot at best.
Next More decides to do some confiding of his own, telling Wolsey he’s pretty sure Henry’s not so into him anymore. Wolsey advises him to give Henry whatever he wants, if he wants Henry to love him.
Buckingham heads to court with his entourage as picturesque snow falls. In the throne room, Norfolk is presented to the king and gives him a “humble token” as a Christmas gift—it’s a huge gold chalice. Katherine looks tickled pink and smiles happily at Henry like Norfolk has just given them a new sex toy.
Meanwhile, Bessie’s in labor.
Buckingham is shown into the throne room and slowly approaches the king as Henry’s buddies look on. Henry gives Buckingham his hand to kiss, which Buckingham does, reluctantly. Buckingham presents Henry with a clock engraved “With a humble, true heart”. Wow, what a hypocrite. Henry praises the gift and tells Buckingham his words are his greatest gift, “greater than any riches.” He delivers this last line while leaning forward creepily and getting right in Buckingham’s face. Buckingham backs away as everyone else in the room stares at him.
Bessie gives birth to a six-month-old boy, by the look of him, while back at his palace, Henry checks out his new clock, shirtless. Like you do.
Buckingham and his entourage are out riding or heading home when they’re intercepted by one of Henry’s friends (since they still haven’t bothered to introduce this guy, as far as I can tell, I’m just going to go ahead and tell you that this is William Compton) and several guards, who place Buckingham under arrest. Buckingham’s followers stupidly draw their swords and are warned they’re about to commit treason by trying to interfere. Buckingham tells his guards to put their swords away, then insults Compton by calling him a “new man” and saying he’ll be tried by a jury of his peers and that no lord would find against him. Famous last words. Compton doesn’t seem concerned.
Henry tells Wolsey that he’s appointed a special court to hear Buckingham’s case, with a panel of lords to judge it, led by Norfolk. What could go wrong with that plan? Seriously, did Henry not know anyone else who was involved in this? Why not just appoint Buckingham’s father or brother to the panel, they’re just as likely to be impartial. Wolsey apparently thinks this is a crap idea—not the appointing Norfolk part, but finding Buckingham guilty of treason at all. Come again? Wolsey suggests Henry find Buckingham guilty of some lesser offense, and have him fined and banished from court (yeah, that’ll teach him). He’d be out of Henry’s hair that way, but his friends and allies wouldn’t really have much reason to hold a grudge against Henry. Um, ok, but there’d still be a murderous, plotting rival claimant to the throne out there, right? Who still has access to a private army? What would stop him from doing all this again?
Henry doesn’t consider any of that, just agrees and tells Wolsey to take care of it.
Tennis time! Henry tells Brandon about Wolsey’s idea and asks him to make sure Norfolk is aware of his responsibilities. Mary Boleyn watches the game with her father, who asks her if the King’s still nailing her. Apparently not, she sadly tells him.
Brandon intercepts Norfolk in a hallway, chatting with a young boy I’m just going to assume is a son or a grandson or something. Norfolk impatiently asks what Brandon wants, and Brandon tells him he just wants to pass along Henry’s best wishes, and the hope that Norfolk would perform well at Buckingham’s trial. Oh, and a gift from Henry—a giant ruby ring, which was apparently Norfolk’s father’s before he was executed by Henry VII. Brandon asks if the boy is Norfolk’s son, and he is, apparently, and Henry’s his godfather. Norfolk moves away, and Brandon tells him he should have a care for his son’s inheritance. It’d be a shame if Norfolk did anything to endanger that, now, wouldn’t it?
The courtroom’s pretty full for Buckingham’s trial. He’s led in and seated before Norfolk, giving Wolsey a nice hairy eyeball. Norfolk rises and tells Buckingham he’s been found guilty of treason and will be sentenced to death. Buckingham’s shocked, and raves that this is all Wolsey’s doing, and Wolsey looks horrified. Looks like Henry’s starting to ignore Wolsey already. Buckingham’s tossed into a cell and finally seems to realize that the whole treason plot was a really, really bad idea. In the cell with him is the clock. Nice touch, Henry.
Henry’s out riding, and is met by a messenger, who passes along some news that makes Henry a very happy man indeed. He gallops off, whooping like a kid.
It’s time for Buckingham’s execution. He’s half-dragged towards the scaffold by the guards, totally ignoring a woman who tries to get him to take a rosary. As he stumbles along, Henry arrives at Bessie’s house and bursts into her room. The maids all curtsey and Bessie manages to sit up in bed to greet him.
In the audience at the execution, Buckingham’s daughter watches and weeps as her father reaches the scaffold and is told to kneel. He can’t seem to bring himself to do it—his mind’s pretty cracked, it seems, so he’s forced down, weeping. The executioner orders him to stretch out his arms, but he can’t. He looks up and sees his daughter and cries even harder.
Henry lifts his newborn son, marveling at him, and kisses him tenderly. Bessie smiles proudly.
One of the guys in the audience finally steps in, grabs Buckingham’s arms, and stretches them out for him. The headsman strikes, and it sounds like it’s a fairly clean death, so there’s that, at least.
Henry’s back on his horse and barks to the sky and the world at large that he has a son. A son! A son! An illegitimate one that’s not eligible to take the throne, but he doesn’t seem bothered by that. His boys work!
What do you do when your girlfriend has your kid? Throw a big old party in the house you share with your wife. There are fireworks over Whitehall, a banquet spread out, and Henry randomly appears to shoot a pistol for no apparent reason at all. Boys and their toys. Wolsey congratulates him, followed by Brandon.
“I always knew it wasn’t my fault,” Henry sneers. Asshole. I can’t imagine what this must have been like for Katherine, who, I might add, did actually give birth to a living son, although he died within the month. So it’s not that neither she nor Henry were capable of birthing live male babies, it was just hard to keep those babies healthy at a time when everything was filthy and diseased and people were living on alcohol because it was the only thing safe to drink.
Bessie’s watching the proceedings from a balcony, and Wolsey approaches to tell her that Henry’s decided to recognize the child (I wonder if he’d have done that if the baby was a girl…) and will name him Henry Fitzroy. Little Henry will have estates and a pretty comfortable life. Bessie thanks him but she’s crying, knowing that she’s already peaked and it’ll be all downhill from here.
Someone announces Katherine, and she sweeps in as everyone bows, even Henry. She curtsies to him, takes a goblet of wine, raises it to her husband, drinks, and takes off. Wow. Talk about being the bigger person here. Could you imagine showing up at the giant party your husband’s holding to celebrate the kid he’s just had with another woman and congratulating him? Damn. That woman’s got chutzpah, that’s for sure.
As soon as she’s gone, Henry raises a toast to his son, and everyone drinks and applauds enthusiastically.
In Rome, the long-dying pope looks to be on his last legs. At his bedside, another cardinal asks the French bishop what he promised Wolsey. The bishop answers that he promised the French vote, in return for England not going to war with France. The cardinal tells the bishop that Wolsey is meeting with the Emperor, and the Bishop takes this as an indication he’s off the hook for the votes. A priest gives the pope his last communion as the cardinal and bishop look on dispassionately.
“Anyway, we don’t want an English pope,” the cardinal says. “We had one once; he was insane. The pope must be Italian.” Yes, because Italian people never do crazy things. The priest administering last rites is freaking out that the pope isn’t swallowing the communion wafer. So the cardinal tells him to just push it in and get on with it already. The priest obeys, his lip quivering sadly, and everyone crosses themselves and removes their hats.
In rainy England, a carriage arrives at a church, and a veiled, barefoot Katherine steps out. Inside, she kneels before a statue of the Virgin Mary and starts to pray desperately for a son. This poor woman. She went through so much shit and did everything she was supposed to do, except for the one thing Henry really wanted, which she couldn’t control. She was a really good person and a great wife and queen, as far as we know. Life can be such a bitch.
Wolsey tells More that the court will soon be leaving Whitehall and heading for Hampton Court, to escape the sweating sickness, which was this really bizarre plague that kept hitting the upper classes throughout the sixteenth century before disappearing as mysteriously as it arrived. Henry was a germophobe of the first order and tended to lock himself up with just a few servants and close friends when contagion came near.
More asks how the king’s doing, and Wolsey just shakes his head. Wolsey’s got other things on his mind, like Cardinal Orsini’s recent election as pope, which has mightily pissed Wolsey off at the French. More frets about corruption in the church allowing “that heretic” Luther to continue to gain followers. More’s certain that if Wolsey had been elected pope he’d have cleaned that dirty church right out. Yeah, sure he would have. Because his election wouldn’t have been corrupt at all. Hasn’t More been a politician for years? He knows how things work.
More strides down a corridor and comes face-to-face with Bessie, who then comes face-to-face with Katherine, who gives her a scathing look before sweeping by. You might want to pick your confidantes a little more carefully in future, Katherine.
Kate, Henry, and a hell of a lot of furniture are on the road to Hampton Court. Norfolk has decided to take the opportunity to visit family—his niece, Anne Boleyn (daughter of Norfolk’s sister). Boleyn fills his daughter in on what’s happening: Henry’s tired of the French and of her sister, Mary.
“Poor Mary,” Anne says, not sounding at all like she cares. Poor us, dad counters. Having a daughter as the king’s mistress was lucrative. They’ll need to find a replacement. Anne’s not playing that game—she’s heard a bit about Henry. His liaisons don’t last long; like a child, he gets bored with his new toys. Perhaps, her father suggests, she can find a way to keep his interest for longer? He gets super creepy as he strokes her face and guesses she must have learned a thing or two in France. Ew. She’s not nearly as weirded out as I would be, and just smiles.
Henry’s on the road in a cage-like carriage with Wolsey, asking how the meeting with the emperor went. Well, according to Wolsey. Productive. The emperor hates the French and is just dying to ally with Uncle Henry. Once the alliance is made, he and Henry will jointly invade France and overthrow Francis, allowing Henry to claim the French crown.
Ahead, the curves and warm brick walls of Hampton Court are just coming into view. Henry compliments the house, and then gets closer to getting down to brass tacks by going on and on about how he has nothing to compare with it. Wolsey looks a little nervous, and, perhaps remembering what he told More earlier in the episode, he offers Henry the palace right then and there. And thus Henry gained yet another palace. As if he needed it.
So, moving right along! Kind of a packed episode—we had parties, intrigue, an alliance, a treaty, an execution, a birth, and the gifting of a major palace, which only serves to teach Henry that he gets whatever he wants. That lesson is going to come back and bite Wolsey in the ass sooooo hard.