Previously on The Tudors: Henry married Jane Seymour, who persuaded him to forgive Mary. He did so, but only after she signed a document acknowledging her mother’s marriage to Henry as unlawful. Meanwhile, up north, Robert Aske and a few other Catholics got the common people whipped into a frenzy over the dissolution of the monastaries and started their very own rebellion pilgrimage.
At Whitehall, Rich catches up with Cromwell and asks what the latest news is. Both good and bad. The rebels in Linconlnshire dispersed after being promised a royal pardon (and a royal ass-kicking at the hands of the king’s army if they stuck around), but in Yorkshire it’s a different matter. The rebels have taken the city of York and there’re rumors they plan to march south.
We hurry north ourselves to see what’s up. The rebels are indeed on the move, and they’re now followed by a large gang of women—wives and hangers-on—just like a real army. Meanwhile, Lord Darcy, the Warden of the East Marches, who’s in charge of Pontefract Castle, is writing to the king, begging for more soldiers and arms, as he’s certain he won’t be able to hold the castle against the approaching rebel force, even though he’s got his own garrison there, prepping for battle. He urges Henry to negotiate with the rebels. Yeah, I’m sure that suggestion will go over well.
Henry’s got other things on his mind: he’s in bed, gasping in pain as one of his physicians pulls a small splinter of bone out of the gross ulcer on his leg. Henry’s worried because the physicians don’t really know what this thing on his leg is anymore. The doctor suggests a poultice to draw up any other splinters, and Henry shouts that the doctor and everyone else there treat him like a fool. He sends them away and mumbles that he’ll find his own remedies. He applies the doctor’s poultice, though, and screams in pain.
Brandon’s on the road with the royal army, looking much more splendid than the ragtag rebels. He meets up with some well-dressed men in a field and scolds them for not providing the guns they promised. The leader claims they have the guns all right, just no horses to pull them. The leader is apparently the Mayor of London, and he tells Charles that he didn’t want to upset the people by commandeering their horses, even if it was on the king’s orders. What, is it an election year? He would rather risk pissing off Henry? This guy’s a moron. Charles tells him to get the horses by whatever means necessary and to follow them with the guns forthwith.
At court, Lady Rochford sweeps into Jane’s room and tells her Henry’s still abed, but sends his love. Jane quietly says she’d like to be able to comfort her husband at such a time, and Lady Rochford fails completely to read the room or know her audience by starting to rail against the rebels, saying they want to drag them all back to the dark days of ignorance and superstition. Jane, as you’ll recall, is a bit of a closet Catholic on the show. She ends Lady Rochford’s tirade by telling her she has an errand for her, and one she’s sure the king will enjoy.
Pontefract Castle. Darcy climbs a battlement and looks out onto the surrounding countryside, where the vast rebel army is approaching. He’s joined by the Archbishop of York, and they both agree they never thought to see the king’s subjects rise in rebellion against him. On a side note, Lord Darcy is played by Colm Wilkinson, the original Jean Valjean. I knew he looked familiar! Too bad they don’t let him sing in this show, he’s got an awesome voice. Anyway, the Archbishop asks what Darcy plans to do, fire on the rebels? Darcy has few useful guns and knows a fight would be useless. He’s going to try the diplomatic route, even if it is against Henry’s orders. The Archbishop is aghast.
Darcy meets with Aske in the gatehouse, outside the castle walls. Aske greets Darcy politely and explains what they’re all about: preserving the church and petitioning the king to stop destroying the monasteries. The Archbishop calls Aske a traitor for leading this rebel gang, but Aske claims to be a loyal subject—he has no quarrel with the king, but with those close to him. People like Cromwell, for instance. Aske only asks (heh) Darcy for shelter and free passage, they have no plans to hurt anyone in the vicinity but are prepared to fight if challenged.
Down south, Cromwell puts Rich in charge of defense of London, telling him to commandeer or buy whatever he needs, and to tell all the noblemen to be ready to fight, with their men. Rich realizes that Cromwell’s nervous, which means things are getting pretty bad.
Bryan comes bursting in and informs Cromwell that Henry’s ready to see him. Cromwell’s looking terrified, probably because he has no good news, and we all know how Henry tends to take bad news. He steels himself and goes in with Rich.
Henry’s still in bed, staring at nothing. He’s received Darcy’s letter and can’t believe he won’t stand against the rebels. Cromwell has even more recent news: the rebels have already entered the town of Pontefract with overwhelming numbers. Darcy is so dead. Henry waves him closer, and when Cromwell approaches, Henry reminds him that Pontefract is the gateway to the south and, thus, is pretty important. He tells Cromwell to write to Darcy and tell him to hold the castle at any cost. Henry asks what the status is on the royal army, but there doesn’t seem to be any news of them.
Pontefract. Darcy throws open the castle gates and welcomes the rebel leaders like they’re old friends, embracing them and shaking hands, all smiles. What the hell happened here? Since when did he become buddies with these people? I’m not the only one confused—clearly the Archbishop is too, as he looks around at the men streaming into the courtyard.
Word has reached Henry, who can’t believe Darcy betrayed him, and that Shrewsbury and Brandon haven’t attacked the rebels yet. He screams at Cromwell, Bryan, and assorted courtiers that all he hears are complaints and excuses. He says he has a mind to go north himself and lead the army personally. I’ve noticed that, whenever Henry gets all crazy and shouty like this, everyone around him clearly checks out, refusing to meet his eye, just standing there blankly, like they’re waiting for him to finish his tantrum and settle down already. It’s actually kind of funny.
Henry stomps into his study, followed by Bryan and Cromwell. Bryan discourages him from going north, because his life is simply too precious. Henry, who knows he’s in no shape to go leading an army, orders Cromwell to send a message to Brandon, asking him why he won’t fight, and whether he’s a coward. Cromwell leaves and Henry collapses into a chair, huffing and puffing from pain and exertion. Bryan asks if he can get Henry anything, and Henry says he can.
At Brandon’s headquarters, things are plenty busy as men train and the leaders plan. The Earl of Shrewsbury is shown into Charles’s presence and is informed that what men they do have (and they don’t have as many as they need) can’t really be trusted, since many think the rebels’ quarrel is just fine. This whole thing’s such a lose-lose. Henry won’t give an inch, because he doesn’t want to appear weak, but the only way to end this any other way is basically to slaughter the rebels, which will just piss off a lot more people. This sucks, and I’m pretty sure Charles is one of the few people who actually realizes that. Henry certainly doesn’t. Shrewsbury asks if there’s some other plan, besides an all-out fight. Like Darcy, Brandon plans to meet with the leaders and speak with them, in an attempt to keep them from going south. Shrewsbury’s not going to hang for that one; he tells Brandon he’ll have to share that plan with Henry.
In Pontefract, Darcy and John, Aske’s right-hand-man, are going over battle plans. John guesses that Shrewsbury has only about 6,000 men, and Brandon even fewer. The rebels, on the other hand, are some 30,000 strong. Yikes! No wonder Darcy handed over Pontefract. The rebels have large forces in several places and are laying siege to the Earl of Cumberland’s castle, Skipton. In an interesting historical note, the Earl of Cumberland’s son married Brandon’s and Mary Tudor’s daughter, Eleanor. Sadly, she doesn’t exist in this Tudors universe.
North of the River Don, says John, they have almost complete control of the country.
Henry’s getting Ursula Missledon to tend to his awful wound, for some reason. And equally absurdly, she’s shown up to do this dressed like Barbara Villiers. Ursula sniffs at the concoction Henry wants her to pour on the ulcer, and she identifies a couple of ingredients. He fills her in on a few more (including crushed pearls) and says he whipped this lovely brew up himself, because he doesn’t trust his doctors. Why, because they have a vested interest in seeing you dead? Whatever, he’s clearly getting crazy paranoid. She pours on the ointment and Henry commends her for being braver than his captains. She wraps up his leg again and asks if Henry wants her to stay. Of course he does. She looses her hair, pulls off her robe, and moves in for the kill.
In Italy, the cardinal is meeting with Pole again, opining that they were rather foolish to think they could change Henry’s mind. He takes heart in the uprising, though, and asks Pole, on behalf of the pope, to write a pamphlet in English praising the rebels and condemning the heretics. Pole agrees immediately, but there’s more! The pope is appointing Pole an official legate and sending him to France and the Netherlands to meet with representatives of the French King and the Emperor. Pole will be tasked with persuading these two leaders to provide mercenaries and money to fight heresy in England. Pole accepts, though not all that enthusiastically. He’s more lively when he’s handed a cardinal’s cap and given a serious promotion, though. He claims he’s not worthy, but the cardinal won’t hear it, so Pole takes his new headgear.
At Whitehall, Cromwell’s summarizing Brandon’s letter to Henry, telling him there’s nothing they can do but sit down with the rebels and hear them out. Henry promises pardons to everyone except the leaders, which was always the plan, because let’s face it, they couldn’t go executing 30,000-odd people without pretty much devastating their economy, even if it was feasible back then, which it wasn’t. Charles finishes the letter by asking Henry not to be mad, because he has no intention of keeping any of the promises he makes to the rebels. Henry smiles, because that sort of thing is right up his alley.
North. Aske stands on a bridge, waiting to meet Brandon, who arrives on horseback and addresses the rebel army first, shaming them for rebelling against their king. He dismounts and approaches Aske, who is joined by Darcy, John, and a few others. Aske repeats that he means no offense to Henry, but wants to submit a petition to him. John pipes up that they want the monasteries restored, and some other guy adds that they want a new Parliament to be called to address the people’s grievances. Brandon eyes Darcy for a moment, then says he can’t promise anything, but he’ll allow two of the rebel captains to take the petition to Henry unmolested. Aske withdraws slightly to speak with John, Darcy, and Random Guy, but Brandon calls Darcy over and asks for a word. They step away, out of earshot of the others, and Brandon reminds him that he owes the king a great deal. Darcy swears he’ll always be true to Henry, as he was to his father before him. Brandon asks him to prove it by handing over Aske. Darcy refuses. So dead.
Looks like it might be party time at Whitehall. As Jane and the other courtiers wait in the Great Hall, Henry strides in and greets his wife, who’s happy to see him looking well. She’s got a little surprise for him: Mary, who comes in with a gaggle of attendants, to the surprise of the courtiers. They all bow, a little uncertainly, and when Mary reaches her father, she curtsies deeply. He presents her to Jane, who greets Mary with a kiss on the cheek. Then, in a supremely tactless moment that has basis in historical fact, Henry loudly says: “I recall that some of you were desirous that I would put this jewel to death!” What a complete dickhead thing to say right in front of Mary. Even Jane looks mortified. Mary, for her part, faints but is caught and revived by her father, who promises no harm will come to her. He hands her off to Jane, who informs her stepdaughter that Henry has agreed to give Mary lodgings at Hampton Court and Greenwich. Mary is breathlessly grateful to both Henry and Jane.
Henry, meanwhile, heads right for Bryan and whispers to him that he hears Mary is so innocent and good she is completely and utterly unaware of dirty talk. Henry can’t believe anyone would be so innocent as that and tells Bryan to go find out if that’s true. Bryan obediently goes to Mary and apologizes to her for threatening to beat her brains out. She says she’ll try to forgive him. He asks if she likes games, and when she says she does, he says there’s a new game being played at court called cunnilingus, which she might enjoy, adding that it’s a country sport. Oh, ha ha. Mary innocently asks how it’s played, and he starts to crack up, unable to come up with anything. Mary realizes she’s being made fun of and excuses herself. This moment, too, apparently really happened, though I don’t think Bryan was involved. Bryan turns to Ursula, who’s standing nearby, and strokes her hair, but she tells him to get lost: “You can’t touch me, for Caesar’s I am.” That’s actually a line from one of Wyatt’s poems, allegedly about Anne Boleyn. Nice callback, show.
On a rainy afternoon, John and Random Guy (whose name is Ralph) are shown into Henry’s presence. Henry’s receiving them in the presence of the whole court, including the queen, in a particularly magnificent throne room, all the better to intimidate them. They kneel at the foot of the dais and Henry reminds them that he’s been an awesome king, and tells them that nothing is more contrary to God’s word than rising in rebellion against the king, who is God’s representative on earth. John starts to reply but is quickly hushed by Cromwell. Henry goes on to claim that they haven’t done anything against the church that hasn’t been sanctioned by clergymen and done according to God’s holy law, which the common people don’t know anything about because they’re ignorant (and who keeps them that way?) and should know their duty. Neither John nor Ralph know what to do. Henry informs them that, since he’s such a nice guy, he’s willing to pardon all the rebels, as long as they lay down their arms immediately. Jane, watching from a nearby balcony, seems touched by Henry’s mercy. Henry plans to send Brandon (who’s standing beside him) back north to broker the peace and see the rebel army dispersed. With that, Henry sends John and Ralph away.
The two men have been given a room to stay in, where Brandon visits them later. John immediately informs him that their army isn’t going to disperse just on the promise of a pardon. Brandon knows, and Henry knows, which is why he’s given Brandon permission to negotiate with John and Ralph further, away from the prying eyes of the court. John asks for a token of Charles’s good faith for Aske, who’ll need such proof because “he’s a lawyer.” Heh. Brandon hands over a sealed document, written by Henry, promising to deal with them fairly, as his loving subjects. John won’t take it, but Ralph does, thanking Brandon.
In his office, Cromwell seals and sends off a letter for the Lancashire herald. The messenger opens it and starts to write a letter of his own, which is soon slipped under the door of John’s and Ralph’s room, along with a whispered warning not to trust Cromwell.
Henry’s in bed with his wife, for once, who’s fawning all over him about the mercy he showed John and Ralph earlier. Henry’s not listening at all, until she starts to urge him to restore the abbeys, which would be a nice PR move for him. Henry’s not keen and tells her once more not to meddle in his affairs, lest she end up like Anne. Jane shuts up quick.
Pole, now decked out in cardinal red, is now in the Spanish Netherlands, cooling his heels in the dining room of a large manor house. In comes a small entourage, led by a man who introduces himself as Mendoza. He and the others are advisors to the Emperor. Pole hands over a letter of legatine authority from the pope, which one of the men takes. They all sit at the table and Mendoza asks what Pole’s doing in the Spanish Netherlands. Pole reminds them of the uprisings currently going on across the Channel, and says that they’re the best chance they have at the moment of restoring Catholicism to England. The rebels need support, though, from other Catholic countries. Mendoza points out that this might mean the overthrow of Henry. Pole has no problem with that, since Mary’s ready to take the reigns of a re-Catholicized England. And if they’re not ok with her, there’s someone else who has a claim to the throne—the last member of the Plantagenet dynasty. And who could that be? Why, Pole himself, of course! And he pretended to be so modest when he was in Italy!
Ralph and John arrive at the rebels’ headquarters, where Ralph excitedly reports to Aske that Henry’s promised them a general pardon. Also, Brandon’s coming up to negotiate with them. John’s not looking so happy, and Aske notices. John says he doesn’t believe any of the king’s promises will be seen through, since Cromwell’s really the man in charge. Rather than meet with Brandon, John thinks they should call a muster, take over the whole north of the country, and only then condescend to a meeting. Talk about ambition. Aske wonders why he’s so sure the king’s word can’t be trusted, and John produces the letter he received in his room, which is actually a copy of the one Cromwell was sending to the Lancashire gentry. It basically says that the rebellion will be crushed mercilessly. Aske reminds John that the opposing forces can’t crush them at the moment, but John’s hung up on this sign of their deviousness. Aske, ever the lawyer, plans to sit tight and make sure their arguments are watertight and backed up by their church leaders. “What do we have to fear, John, when we’re about God’s work?” Aske asks him. Even John thinks that’s a stupid argument, but he just huffs that he hopes none of them live to regret this decision.
Down south, Henry, wearing a fairly insane outfit with a black pirate shirt open in the front, huge silver cross, and fur stole, is meeting with Brandon and telling him he hopes there’s a peaceful remedy to the current situation. He gives Charles permission to reiterate the pardon to everyone except for the rebel leaders. He wants them brought to court for punishment. Brandon pauses, then decides to try one last gambit. He reminds Henry that the rebels hate Cromwell and want him removed. He asks Henry what he should say about that. Instead of answering, Henry ostentatiously starts munching on a starfruit, informing his pal that it’s from the new world, and Henry has a great appetite for novelty. He then tells Charles to tell the rebels whatever he wants. Uh, ok.
Brandon and his men arrive at the rebels’ headquarters for their sit-down. Amongst their demands, as we’ve heard, is the desire for a new parliament to debate matters of heresy and faith. Charles tells them that Henry has conceded to this request, which surprises the rebels, as does the news that this parliament will be called in York, instead of hundreds of miles south in Westminster. John also asks for the teachings of Luther and other Protestants to be discontinued, and that Cromwell, Rich, and Protestant clergy be punished for subverting the laws of the land. Brandon says he has no power to decide that, but the special parliament can. Darcy asks after the general pardon and Charles says it still stands. Aske finally requests the abbeys be restored and Charles promises that all further destruction of the abbeys will cease until the parliament is convened.
The deal is sweet enough for the rebels to return to Pontefract Castle and tell their followers to lay down their arms and go home. Aske is happy they’ve achieved so much without bloodshed, then introduces the royal herald, who reads out the general pardon. The followers are pleased, especially with the fact that their faith will not be destroyed. Only John seems unexcited.
Aske, like his followers, has returned home, where he receives a letter from Henry, inviting him to court to tell Henry all about how the rebellion came to be. Aske takes the letter to Darcy, John, and Ralph, but John, of course, is all glass-half-empty and tells Aske to make sure Henry plans to honor his promises. Darcy offers to arrange post horses from York to London, so if anything happens to Aske while he’s at court, word of it will get north quickly and Darcy and the others will raise the rebels again. This thing is far from over.