It’s Christmastime in London, where the snow is falling prettily and Henry and Jane are attending a candlelight mass with Mary and the rest of the court while a choir sings and walks in cross formation down the aisle of the chapel royal. Rich growls to Cromwell that it’s going to be pretty hard to banish Catholic ritual throughout the kingdom when it’s being practiced right at court. Oh, please, even the Protestants liked a Christmas carol now and then (well, except for the Puritans, but then, they weren’t really into fun or color, were they?) Aske, who’s come down for the holidays at Henry’s invitation, asks Jane’s brother Edward when he’ll be meeting with the king. Soon, says Edward. In the meantime, Henry wants Aske to write up a detailed account of everything he did during the rebellion and the reasons for it. Uh oh, that sounds like the type of document that could really get used against you someday, Aske. Judging by the look on his face, he agrees with me. Jane turns and catches his eye, smiling and nodding a greeting, which he returns.
Lady Ursula is stretched out naked in front of a mirror, posing for a portrait. The artist makes a few tweaks to the scene, but before he can get down to business, a man bursts in, takes in the scene, and is definitely not happy. It’s Lady Ursula’s erstwhile fiancé. He shoves the artist out of the way, but the artist (Holbein) is a hothead and throws the poor man into some furniture. Lady Ursula asks, emotionlessly, if he’s dead.
Henry’s enjoying a chess game with Bryan when Holbein comes in to ask for Henry’s forgiveness for assaulting the fiancé. Henry can’t believe an artist could possibly be responsible for such a thing, and he and Bryan seem amused by the story (also, we learn that Henry commissioned the portrait of Ursula, which should make Jane happy.) Henry forgives Holbein and tells him to finish the portrait.
Holbein withdraws and Sir Robert Tavistock, the wronged fiancé who’s probably now sporting an egg-sized bump on his noggin, comes in. He complains to Henry that he found Holbein painting his fiancé naked. Henry meanly pretends to be outraged, as Sir Robert demands Henry punish Holbein for his lewdness and for assaulting him. Henry comes down on Holbein’s side, of course, claiming it’s because he’s so talented, so Sir Robert withdraws his complaint.
Christmas party! Jane, Henry, and Mary are all enthroned in the great hall as a choir sings for their entertainment. Mary asks for permission to present someone to Henry and calls forth the Countess of Salisbury, whom Henry greets warmly enough. That shouldn’t last—she’s Reginald Pole’s mother. Speak of the devil, Henry asks after Reginald and is told he’s now at Padua University, at Henry’s expense, until recently. Henry reminds Lady Salisbury that her son once refused his offer of the Bishopric of Winchester. She swallows hard and says he wasn’t being ungrateful, he just didn’t want public office and notoriety, as he’s such a private person. What a huge lie—the guy was offering to become king last episode. Lady Salisbury knows, too, because she curtsies and turns away, looking a little terrified.
Up on the dais, Henry notices Jane and Mary exchanging significant looks. He asks what they’re up to and Jane quietly says that they’d like to present someone else to him. He gives them leave to do so, and little Elizabeth is brought forward, dressed in festive red and green. She looks scared to death, as well she might, facing down the man who had her mother beheaded. Henry leans forward and waves her closer. She greets him in French, which pleases him. He pulls her up into his lap and kisses her on the forehead, sweetly, and announces to the court that he is “en famille” (with his family). Everyone applauds, and then Edward steps forward to announce Robert Aske. Henry sends Elizabeth to sit next to Mary as Aske approaches the dais and bows to Henry. Henry gives Aske his hand to kiss and takes him into his study for a private chat.
Henry’s actually pretty nice to Aske, which is surprising, all things considered. He tells Aske that he’s read his account of the rebellion and finds himself persuaded as to the justice of their cause. Aske’s happy to hear it, and humbly asks Henry if he plans to uphold all the promises Suffolk made on his behalf. Henry promises to do so. He even pledges to come to York and have Jane crowned there. Aske is nearly overwhelmed. Henry moves on to a sticky subject: Aske has written about some of Henry’s advisors (Cromwell, definitely Cromwell), bitching about their lack of noble blood. Aske starts to apologize but Henry hushes him, saying he agrees with Aske, but Aske should probably keep silent on the subject. He cheers things back up by giving Aske a gift: a rather magnificent cloak. Now Aske really is overwhelmed. Henry wishes him a merry Christmas.
Bryan is in bed with a dark-haired woman who looks a lot like Lady Ursula. He finishes and she climbs off and guesses he doesn’t even know who she is. Oh, but he does: she’s Edward Seymour’s wife. Charming. She says Edward would kill them if he knew they were screwing around. Bryan’s surprised he’d even have the balls to do so.
Elsewhere, Aske’s at prayer when a special visitor comes in: Mary. She’s come to wish him well. He returns the sentiment and hopes to someday see her queen, as she’s well loved by the people, as was her mother. Mary gives him a HUGE diamond as a keepsake and leaves.
The next day (presumably), Jane and Edward come to the gates of the palace to greet a large crowd of well wishers. She asks her brother how their father is, as she’d heard he’d fallen ill. Edward bluntly tells her their father is dead. Jane struggles to absorb that news and asks when it happened. A week ago—and the funeral’s already come and gone as well. She tells him he really should have told her, but he tells her that her place is at court.
Henry comes out and Jane pulls herself together as he takes her hand and leads her to their waiting horses. Anne, Edward’s wife, catches up with him and asks how Jane took the bad news. Just fine, he tells her. She’s the queen, after all, like somehow that makes a difference.
From his spot on his horse, Henry reassures the crowd that he’s pardoned all the rebels and hopes they’ll all fall back in line. He wishes everyone a happy and prosperous new year before he and Jane ride away.
Back at Pontefract Castle, Aske reassures the other rebel leaders that the king has agreed to all of their demands. John killjoys that these are just empty promises, and even Darcy says nobody up north believes what the king says anymore. John’s also upset that Henry hasn’t made a definite promise about halting the dissolution of the monasteries, though Aske counters that it’ll be discussed at the parliament to be held in York. John’s done, though, and rises to go march on yet another city. Aske pleads with him not to be so damn stupid, but stupid and rash have both become John’s middle names, so off he goes, followed by several of the other leaders.
At court, Jane and some of her ladies talk about how awesome Mary and Elizabeth are. Lady Ursula passes by, and Lady Rochford eyes her for a second, then tells Jane that Henry’s taken Lady Ursula as his mistress. Why would she feel the need to tell her that? It seems kind of unnecessarily bitchy to me, it’s not like Jane can do anything about it. Lady Rochford sucks.
Jane stares at her for a second, then stiffly says that he will do whatever he wants, it’s the ladies who must be obedient. Then, she gets smiley and tells Lady R. that she shouldn’t worry, because Jane has “great reason to be happy.” Whatever could that be?
In his own room, Henry uncovers the portrait of Lady Ursula. It’s kind of ridiculous, to be honest. It looks like one of those awful photos-turned-into-a-fake-painting things that you can have done at Michael’s. And the style isn’t even close to right. If anything, it looks like a painting from the Romantic period, not the Renaissance. It’s definitely not a Holbein.
Servants come in and announce Brandon and Cromwell. Henry wastes no time telling Brandon that he’s going to go north and administer an oath of obedience to the gentlemen of Yorkshire and Lancashire. He tells Brandon that, if they refuse to take the oath, he’s to apprehend them and deliver them up for trial and possible execution. Cromwell asks after the promised parliament in York, but of course Henry has no intention of setting up any parliament. He says to tell the rebels that there have been unexpected delays. Brandon’s not happy about that, because he gave his word and his word actually means something to him, unlike Henry. Henry doesn’t care, because these people are rebels and have committed a terrible sin by rising against their king. He wants them punished. Cromwell starts to gently break in, but Henry, out of nowhere, snaps that Cromwell’s low birth renders him unfit to meddle in the matters of kings. Come again? What, Aske bitches about Cromwell not being a member of the nobility and suddenly Henry doesn’t care about everything Cromwell’s done for him? Might I add that Henry himself raised Cromwell to the nobility and made him Lord Privy Seal, which does, in fact, give him the right to have a say in what happens? God, talk about a fair-weather friend. Henry’s such a huge asshole.
Rebels’ camp. John rides up and greets Charlie, the shepherd with that port wine stain, and makes a crack about the rabbits Charlie’s cooking over an open fire. Dick. Feed the 5,000 men yourself, if you’re so smart, John.
Somewhere off-camera, someone yells, and John and the others quiet down and look out into the misty woods in confusion. After a few tense moments, a riderless horse comes galloping into the camp, and then arrows start raining down, catching men left and right as they scatter in panic. John just stands there like a dolt for a minute, then finally grabs his sword and starts shouting instructions to the fleeing men.
At Pontefract, Aske and Darcy are sitting quietly by the fire when a crowd brings in a wounded man. Darcy calls for water as the man is set down in front of the hearth. Aske asks him what happened, and the man tells him that, while gathered at Carlisle and preparing to attack, Suffolk and others had the audacity to attack first. They chased after the fleeing men and captured a lot of them too. Darcy asks after John and learns he was among those captured.
Word of the assault has reached Cromwell, who’s positively gleeful at the news (and who can blame him?). He goes to see Henry, shouting that they’ll impose martial law on the whole of the north. Yeah, that’ll help restore peace.
Up north, rebels are getting their asses kicked. Suffolk’s men pile banners and weapons in the courtyard of the castle where they’re headquartered as prisoners are dragged through the mud. John’s brought before Brandon, who confirms that John was a leader in the rebellion. He informs John that he’ll be sent to London and tortured (not in so many words, but John knows what’s up). John wails that Brandon broke his word, as he’s hauled away. The Earl of Shrewsbury brings over a scroll with the names of the men who refuse to renounce their actions, all 74 of them. That headsman in London’s going to have a busy week.
The prisoners are marched south, followed by a crowd of women and children screaming and wailing so animatedly it’s actually more comical than sad. Seriously, ladies, I know you’re upset, but the histrionics are a bit much. And director? Sometimes less is more. Remember that.
Oh I guess they weren’t going south. The seven rebel leaders that were in the cart being accompanied by the wailing women are now hanged, as the women continue to wail, still insanely. From a distance, Brandon watches, looking conflicted. He makes a small sign off the cross and rides off.
Later, still dressed in full armor, Charles is soberly drinking. Shrewsbury approaches and gently tells him it was all well done (and I guess, in a way, it was—it looked like it was a quick, clean death for all the hanged men, so there’s that, at least). He also informs Charles that they’ve been ordered to arrest Darcy and Aske, even though they didn’t have anything to do with this idiotic repeat rebellion. They’re to be tried for treason. Charles sighs, unable to even look at Shrewsbury, who leaves.
Darcy (backed by Aske) emphatically tells Charles that he and Aske had nothing to do with the most recent uprising, which Charles knows, but orders are orders, you know. He tells the men Henry wants them to travel south to explain what happened up north. Darcy pleads bad health, and Aske worries about being treated unjustly by “some of the king’s councilors.” Why not just say Cromwell and have it done, boys? Why keep playing coy? We all know who you mean. Charles promises to write letters to Henry and the council in Aske’s and Darcy’s favor. Darcy seems to be the only one who realizes that this is the beginning of the end for them.
Charles and his men muster in the courtyard as Aske comes out of the castle with his family, who bid him a tearful farewell. He reassures them that Brandon wrote a really nice letter of recommendation to Henry and the council, and he’s sure everything will be fine. I don’t really think even he believes that at this point, but he’s putting on a brave face for the family. He mounts his horse and they all move off to the sad, slow tolling of a churchbell.
It’s dinnertime at Whitehall, and the camera lingers for a moment on a dish of quail eggs as Jane spears one and delicately nibbles it. Henry notices she’s eating quail eggs for the second day in a row, and she coyly says she seems to have developed a fondness for them. It takes Henry a moment to twig to what she’s saying, but when he realizes she’s not just fond of the eggs but actively craving them, he sends the servants away and correctly guesses she’s pregnant. Jane confirms it, smiling happily, and Henry comes over and kneels beside her, stroking her face tenderly and kissing her. It’s kind of sweet, actually. It’s been a good Christmas at court, hasn’t it?
For anyone who’s interested, Jane was actually craving quails, not the eggs, during her pregnancy (and aww, remember Anne’s craving for apples? Both that and Jane’s quail mania are true to life and part of historical record). To get in good with the royal couple, Lady Lisle, the wife of the governor of Calais, kept up a constant supply of the birds throughout Jane’s pregnancy. As a reward, Jane took one of Lady Lisle’s daughters, Anne, into her household as a lady-in-waiting. Anne allegedly became one of Henry’s mistresses and was rumored to be in the running to become one of his wives.
In a much less pleasant room, John’s chained to the ceiling of a cell, preparing to be tortured. Edward Seymour comes in and calls him a traitor. John starts to sob and pray as Seymour tells the guards to bend John over a table and hold him down. Another guard hands him a wickedly sharp, white-hot poker, and Seymour…well, use your imagination, if you must. It’s not nice. And Seymour’s face gets really creepy and scary as he does it. Seriously, Bryan better watch out.
Back at the palace, Bryan meets up with Aske and Brandon in a hallway and tells Aske that he has orders to take him to the Tower, allegedly for his own safety. Aske’s face is inscrutable, but when he hears Cromwell wants to ask him a few question, he pales slightly. He starts to talk to Charles, but Brandon cuts him off and says he did his best for him. So, he’s screwed, basically. And his face shows that he knows it, too.
Brandon goes immediately to Cromwell, who’s sent for him. Brandon, as always, has no patience with Cromwell, who tells him he’s had reports from the trials of the other rebels in Carlisle. Charles snaps that the trials were all done properly and legally, but that’s not the issue. The problem is that only 74 men were found guilty, despite the fact that it was once estimated there were more than 40,000 rebels. Man, Cromwell’s really reaching for an excuse to get Charles in trouble, isn’t he? How many people was he supposed to hang? Thousands? How would that be managed? Who would bury the bodies? Charles says he hanged the leaders, which sounds about right. Cromwell adopts his nice voice to inform Charles there have been rumors that he’s too lenient on the rebels and upholders of the old religion. It’s even said that Charles is, at heart, still Catholic. Don’t go there, show. It’s pretty well known that Charles Brandon supported Henry’s Reformation (and profited handsomely from the dissolution of the monasteries), and his wife, Duchess Kate, was a major Reformer. Don’t go rewriting the histories of actual people for no reason at all again.
Charles demands to know who accuses him of such things, and Cromwell tells him Henry does. Charles is to go back north and kill a whole lot more people to teach a harsh lesson. Charles clenches his jaw, but there’s not much he can do, so he just turns on his heel and leaves.
At the Tower, Aske is patiently explaining (for, I’m sure, the umpteenth time) why he did what he did, as Cromwell sighs and paces like a bored kid. We cut back and forth between Cromwell’s interrogations of Aske and Darcy. Cromwell accuses Aske of spreading false rumors about religious houses being suppressed, in order to whip up support for the rebellion, but Aske won’t play and says it was the actual fact that religious houses were being suppressed that got people so upset. We don’t learn anything new, although Aske does do a nice job of explaining why the abbeys were important in the communities (feeding the poor, educating kids, etc.) and Darcy informs Cromwell that he only has himself to blame for the current rebellion, and that he’ll get his in the end. Before he leaves, Cromwell tells Aske that he has a very good reason for wanting to save him. We don’t get to hear what that reason actually is just yet.
Charles has repaired to his gorgeous house in the country, where he sits broodingly and frowns prettily inside instead of enjoying the nice, sunny day. Duchess Kate joins him and gently asks him to talk to her, since she can tell he’s unhappy. Charles is reluctant to open up to her, because what he has to say is fairly ugly, but she sits and waits patiently, so he tells her he has to go north and just start killing people without trials or anything. And apparently he has to include women and children amongst the victims, although I don’t recall Cromwell saying anything about that. Was that some random stipulation that was tacked on later? And why? Executing women and kids was a big deal back then; it just wasn’t done. It wasn’t seen as honorable, since they typically were non-combatants.
Duchess Kate tells Charles not to go, but the only other option is, basically, get thrown in prison or beheaded by Henry. Kate stomps off in disgust, even though, once upon a time, she was the one telling him to make sure to hold onto his head.
Henry’s having a slow day, I guess, so he goes to the Tower to visit Aske. Gone is the friendly Henry who spoke with Aske at Christmas. He coldly informs the prisoner that he’s come to talk with him about the religious houses he cares so much about. They sit down together and Henry launches into a litany of the abbeys’ sins—they claim to live in poverty but amass great riches, they refuse to obey their king, they’re idle, etc. We’ve heard it before. Henry sighs and admits he likes Aske, despite his mistakes, and he knows, in his heart, that Aske is loyal. Aske confirms that and Henry looks conflicted. Aske’s fellows haven’t gotten off quite so well, though—outside the tower, we see Darcy’s, John’s, and Charlie’s heads on spikes. Wow, they executed Darcy fast.
At Whitehall, Henry’s back in his ugly black pirate shirt and huge silver cross, reading a book when Bryan announces a messenger from Calais, who’s brought a large box of quail eggs. Henry opens it, examines one of the eggs, and tells Bryan what they are, even though he would know what quail’s eggs were. Eh, whatever. Weak way to end the episode, I think.