Previously on The Tudors: Henry locked himself away to grieve, and the court went right to hell. Once he reemerged, Cromwell suggested he marry again. Also, Reginald Pole, now a Cardinal, has been stirring up trouble in Europe.
Henry’s getting dressed with Brandon standing nearby. After dismissing his servant, Henry says that all the fighting at court was unacceptable, so he’s naming Charles president of the council and Lord Great Master. He’ll be in charge any time Henry’s indisposed or not around. It might have been a good idea to think this out before you locked yourself away for weeks or days or however long it was. Henry also mentions that he’s having Seymour look into the activities of the Pole family, all of whom are now under suspicion, thanks to Reginald’s activities.
Painfully, Henry lowers himself into a chair, then asks Charles how his family’s doing. Charles, in a low, sad voice says they’re fine, except his wife lost the baby. Guess she got her wish, then. Henry makes that all about him by commenting that now they’ve both lost something. Kind of a dick response. Henry’s a bit stressed, though, because his leg’s hurting and he’s scared all the time that his only son will die. Brandon comments that what they’ve both really lost is their youth, and it can never be returned. Indeed. Remember the carefree young men playing tennis in season one?
At the Poles’ country estate, the countess is just sitting down to dinner with her elder son and, I guess, her grandson. There’s a ruckus at the door, and then Bryan comes in with a contingent of guards to arrest everyone, even the kid, who looks to be about eight. Bryan creepily looks like he’s happy about that. Ick.
Also having dinner is Henry, who’s sitting down with the French ambassador, because (he claims) he favors taking a French bride rather than the Emperor’s choice. The French ambassador sucks up and compliments his taste. Henry favors Marie de Guise, since she’s said to be pretty and is a better age (the other contestant, the king’s daughter, was pretty young). Sadly, Marie de Guise is already set to marry the King of Scotland. Henry tells the ambassador to tell the King of France to break the engagement. The ambassador advises against it, since that might throw the legitimacy of Henry’s eventual marriage to Marie into question. The French king proposes another plan: his son Henri marries Mary, and Henry marries one of Marie de Guise’s sisters. Henry doesn’t seem too keen, since he’s not getting exactly what he wants.
At the Tower, Lady Salisbury’s grandson plays with a toy horse in his cell, but then gets bored and tells the guard he wants to see his father. The guard ignores him, so the kid runs at him and starts to tussle. The guard just makes fun of him, because this little boy is clearly no match for a grown man.
Back at court, Henry’s talking wives with Cromwell and Brandon. He says the French are just jerking him around and asks who the Emperor proposes. The Emperor suggests his niece, Christina, Duchess of Milan. She’s supposed to be hot and likes playing cards and hunting, according to Charles. Henry tells Cromwell to have their ambassador in the Netherlands make inquiries. Cromwell immediately goes to do so, catching the ambassador right outside Henry’s study and also asking him to make a list of other potential brides. The doughy ambassador says he’s not great with the ladies, so he’s kind of at a loss as to how to do so. Cromwell tells him to swing by Cleves and ask about the Duke’s two sisters on his way to see Christina.
Tower. Pole the elder is asking Seymour to see his son. Seymour reassures him his son is unharmed and they’re just keeping them there until they can determine that the whole family isn’t made up of traitors, like Reginald. Elder Pole reminds Seymour that the family’s disowned Reginald, but Seymour knows better, because he has a letter EP wrote, supporting Reginald’s work and criticizing the direction England was going in. EP pales, knowing he’s now completely screwed.
Party time! Twelve and a half minutes, not too bad on the Start-to-Party Meter. Henry sits on his throne, watching the dancers. He catches Bryan’s eye and calls him over to talk about the Poles. Now they’ve got evidence against the son, they need to find something to condemn the mother with.
Henry moves right along to admire one of the dancing ladies. Bryan fills her in on her details—a widow. Henry’s interested, but then Bryan says, “Wait. I know she doesn’t look it, but she’s over forty.” Ok, who wrote this? What a completely obnoxious, shitty, unnecessary line! Why does this show seem to have such a women problem? Michael Hirst, you’re on notice!
Increasing the ick factor, Bryan suggests Henry go for a 14-year-old at court. Ugh! Is there anything likeable about this guy anymore? Henry tells him to let the fruit ripen before you pluck it and leaves it at that. I need to go take a shower.
Cromwell enters and makes his way over to Henry, who greets him coolly, because this is once again one of those days when Henry hates Cromwell for no reason whatsoever. Cromwell produces a letter regarding Christina, which gets Henry’s attention. He leans forward and eagerly asks what it says. All good things, of course. Henry asks if the letter mentions any other ladies, and Cromwell happily tells him it also mentions Anne, the sister of the Duke of Cleves. Before he can get started, though, Henry cuts him off, saying he’s heard of her, and nobody speaks highly. Cromwell points out that the match with Cleves would have some advantages, as it would keep Henry from being tied to either the French or the Holy Roman Empire and would instead align England with the Protestant League. Henry shrugs it off and tells Cromwell to send Holbein to do a sketch of Christina.
In Brussels, where Christina’s living these days, Holbein’s doing his sketch and the Ambassador’s giving her the hard sell on Henry. She says she’s at the emperor’s command as far as her marriage goes, but she’s not doing cartwheels over the idea of becoming Henry’s fourth wife. She points out that Henry goes through wives at a pretty high rate and tells the ambassador that, if she had two heads, one would be at Henry’s service, but sadly, she only has one. Heh. That is, allegedly, what the real Christina said when the idea of marrying Henry was proposed to her. The ambassador tries to plead with her, but she cuts him off and says she’ll never marry Henry, unless the Emperor commands her to do so.
Bryan trashes the Poles’ home, looking for evidence of the countess’s guilt. One of his men finds the royal banner of the Plantagenet family (whom the Poles were descended from) and Bryan reacts like it’s a voodoo doll of the king. Bryan paws through a nearby chest and finds a banner similar to those carried by the rebels during the Pilgrimage of Grace. In reality, this banner was found a good six months after her house was searched and is therefore believed to have been planted. Nonetheless, Seymour takes both items to Lady Salisbury and asks her to explain how they came to be in her house. She plays the age card (the real Countess of Salisbury was over 60 at this point), begs for leniency, and swears she hasn’t done anything against the king; all she wants is a quiet life. Seymour says there’s plenty of evidence against them now and swirls out. When the door opens, Lady Salisbury can hear her grandson calling out to her. She dissolves into tears at the sound.
Holbein’s sketch has made it to court, and Henry’s pleased by what he sees. Charles agrees that she looks lovely. Henry gets ahead of himself and starts planning titles for the sons he and Christina will undoubtedly have. He also carelessly mentions that Mary can marry Don Louis after all. Henry starts getting a little crazy and intense and says he knows that’s what Charles wants, an imperial marriage, like Brandon gives a crap at this point who Henry marries. Henry starts whining about how everyone has an agenda, including Brandon and the Poles, whom everyone feels so sorry for now. Brandon’s got this great look on his face as he listens to Henry rant, like he really has no idea how to respond to the massive amounts of batshit crazy being unloaded in the room. Henry gets so worked up he annoys his leg wound and collapses. Charles springs forward to catch him and helps the king to his bed, yelling for a groom to fetch the doctor.
Some days later, Seymour enters Henry’s room later and tells Brandon he has to see Henry. Brandon gets snippy and won’t let him through, so Seymour tells him that the king’s been ill for a week, and rumors are starting to circulate, including one that Henry’s already dead. Brandon sneers that that would suit Seymour, since then his young nephew would be king. Seymour’s taken aback and says that a child king would be no use to anyone. He just wants to see the king so he can put all the rumors to rest. Brandon finally steps aside and lets Seymour through.
Henry’s lying on his bed, dressed only in the royal boxers, and there’s a giant boil on his leg. Brandon informs Seymour that this time the ulcer didn’t burst, as it’s always done before. Seymour suggests lancing it, like he’s a doctor all of a sudden, but the actual doctor who’s there said doing so might kill the king.
Back out in the great hall, Seymour grabs his brother Thomas and tells him to lock down the prince and to allow no one access.
Charles looks solemnly down at Henry, shivering on the bed, then goes to a servant and tells him to send a detachment of servants to keep an eye on Mary, just in case Henry dies and people start thinking of putting her on the throne instead of little Edward. Charles then kneels down beside Henry’s bed and begins to pray for guidance.
Later, Henry’s really shivering with fever, and Charles still sits beside him. Cromwell enters, having been summoned by Charles, who bids him to fetch the surgeon barbers to lance the leg wound already. He says he’ll answer for it, if things go wrong. Cromwell obeys immediately.
The surgeon barber sterilizes a small knife over a candle flame, asks Henry’s forgiveness, and stabs the ulcer. Henry screams in pain.
Hampton Court. Maids open the curtains and curtsey to someone walking through the rooms. The camera pulls back and we see it’s Henry, carrying little Edward. Henry and his son appear on a balcony to wave to a rather small crowd of extras. After the waving, Henry retreats inside, grunting in pain, and hands the boy off to a nurse. He asks Lady Bryan how Edward’s doing and she says he’s the sweetest kid that ever lived. Henry thanks her, collects Cromwell, and heads back to Whitehall.
In the carriage on the road, he asks Cromwell about Marie de Guise and learns she’s already gone and married the King of Scotland. Cromwell mentions another couple of French contenders and Henry says he needs pictures of these ladies, since he’s not going to marry sight unseen. Henry also asks after Christina but Cromwell shuts that down too because she’s Katherine’s great-niece, which raises a question of affinity. Normally a papal dispensation could be issued for that, but of course that’s not an option. Henry muses that, as head of the Church of England, he could issue his own dispensation, if the Emperor accepts it. Cromwell allows that it’s a possibility.
Seymour’s wife, Anne, is in bed with Bryan, just like I figured she would be eventually. She says her husband doesn’t care who she’s screwing around with anymore. Bryan finds Seymour to be an interesting enigma, because one never really knows what he believes. I think it’s just that he’s poorly written, but we’ll go with what Bryan and Anne say. Anne says he only believes in himself, and his destiny as the future king’s uncle. Byran asks how Seymour feels about Cromwell, and she says she doesn’t know, but wonders if anyone ever figured out who shot Packington. Wait, so she’s saying that Seymour is having members of Parliament executed now? I really don’t think so. Plus, when did the Seymours start hating Cromwell so much? Weren’t they friends when they were first shoving Jane at the king?
Tower. Seymour and Bishop Gardiner interrupt Elder Pole’s prayers. Gardiner’s there to give him last rites, essentially. EP bitterly says that Seymour knows he isn’t guilty, but he’ll execute him anyway. He asks Gardiner where Lady Salisbury is and learns she’s also in the Tower. He begs Gardiner to have a care for her and Gardiner says he will. EP moves along to Seymour, warning him that Henry never made a man without destroying him someday. Not entirely true—Brandon’s made it through all right.
At Whitehall, Henry’s looking through sketches of potential brides and, for the first time, wondering if they’re actually true to life. No, Henry, they’re probably not. They’re portraits done by an artist who was probably usually asked to make people look better than they actually appeared. I’m sure he eliminated a mole or a pimple here and there. He asks Cromwell to have a word with the French ambassador and see if they can arrange actual face-to-face meetings with some of these ladies. Cromwell once again pitches the Cleves sisters, but his plea is interrupted by the arrival of Gardiner. Cromwell withdraws and Gardiner reveals to Henry that there are still people out there preaching against the six articles of faith introduced in the last episode. He names names—one name, at least—a certain Mr. Lambert, and Henry promises to burn the guy. Gardiner also throws Cromwell under the bus, saying that he’s old friends with Lambert and had charges of heresy against Lambert dismissed. Henry thanks him for the info.
Mary is, as usual, strolling with Chapuys. She asks about Henry’s marriage to Christina and he regretfully tells her it looks like a no-go. Mary realizes this means her own marriage prospects to Don Louis are DOA too, for some reason. Chapuys mentions there’s talk of a French marriage, and Mary guesses that wouldn’t make him too happy. Chapuys sweetly says anything that pleases her makes him happy. Mary doesn’t think she was born for happiness, and judging by how her life’s gone so far and how it went in the future, I think she’s right. She asks about Lady Salisbury and thinks the arrests of the Poles are all Cromwell’s doing and that he’s a messenger of Satan. She says she’d happily burn him, if she could. The determination in her face and voice is chilling.
The French ambassador sweeps into the throne room to meet with Henry, who tells him he wants to meet some of the marriage contenders. He asks for King Francis to gather a few of them up and put them on show in Calais, so Henry can inspect them and choose the best. The ambassador is rightly offended by this icky proposition and tells Henry that won’t be happening. He suggests Henry send an envoy to any lady who takes his fancy and have said envoy report back, as per usual. Henry doesn’t like that idea, and the ambassador clearly starts to lose his patience and asks if Henry wants to mount them one after another and choose the show pony he likes best. Woah, dude. Henry gives him ten seconds to clear his court before he kicks his ass. Yeah, I’m thinking a French match isn’t going to happen now.
Henry next turns his attention to Cromwell, asking him how he knows Lambert, who’s now in the Tower waiting for his human bonfire. Cromwell says he knew the guy at Cambridge but that’s it. Henry asks if Cromwell also subscribes to Lambert’s beliefs but Cromwell swears he doesn’t. For some reason, Henry doesn’t even ask him about getting that heresy charge dropped. Henry lets it go and instead asks what the Duke of Cleves’s sisters names were. Henry asks Cromwell to send someone to Cleves to examine them.
Swan Castle in Cleves. The ambassador from earlier is shown into Duke William’s presence. William seems pleased Henry’s interested in his sisters, though he’s also rather guarded. The ambassador also proposes a marriage between Mary and William’s eldest son. Mary as duchess in a protestant country? She’ll love that. William likes what he hears and says they have a lot to discuss. The ambassador’s assistant or whatever the second guy there with him is says they’d like to meet William’s sisters first. William asks why, which should really be a red flag for all involved. The ambassador says they have to report back to Henry, and he wants a portrait too. William claims his court painter is ill, so the ambassador’s assistant offers to send for Holbein. William says they’ll open negotiations, and maybe at some point they can meet his sisters. With that, the audience ends.
Tower. Cromwell rather foolishly goes to visit Lambert, calling him John, so they’re clearly still buddies. Lambert’s happy to see him and they sit down together. Cromwell tells him that he doesn’t have to die, all he has to do is lie and say he’s cool with transubstantiation. Lambert’s not willing to do so and is willing to be a martyr, but Cromwell tells him he’s useless as a martyr. What they need are actual people on the ground preaching their beliefs. Lambert’s still not game, so Cromwell freezes over and says he’s sorry Lambert won’t save himself. Later, he watches as Lambert is burned at the stake, watched by a crowd that calls out encouragement and blessings. It’s still fairly awful, as he screams in pain, and Cromwell finally has to look away.
Cross-fade from the burning pyre to a fire in Henry’s room. He’s slurping down oysters and rolling his eyes as Cromwell comes in to report that Lambert’s been executed. Cromwell produces a letter from Mary, begging Henry to spare Lady Salisbury, who at one time was Mary’s governess and was like a mother to her, according to the letter. Henry, of course, couldn’t care less about what his daughter has to say. Cromwell reluctantly moves on to another bit of bad news: William’s not willing to furnish a portrait of his sisters. Henry tells him to send Holbein, then grossly slurps up another oyster. Cromwell withdraws.
The ambassadors have returned to Swan Castle. William emerges and tells them they have his permission to see his sisters. The two girls come out, dressed the same and heavily veiled. Ok, at this point everyone should have turned around and run the other way. This guy is clearly gaming them. The ambassador’s assistant tries to explain to William that they have to actually look at these women’s faces but William won’t hear that.
Edward Seymour and several guards enter Lady Salisbury’s cell, where she’s combing little bits of her hair in a manner that suggests she’s gone insane. He meanly asks if she’s been praying, since her head’s about to be cut off, and she babbles that she doesn’t want to die and begs the guards not to hurt her. She sobs and screams as they drag her out and Seymour tells her to have some dignity. Someday, he’ll get to see just how hard it is to be dignified at such a time.
In Rome, word of his mother’s and brother’s executions has reached Pole, who sobs on the floor when his cardinal buddy comes in to comfort him. Lady Salisbury’s execution was actually pretty horribly done—she tried to run away and the executioner chased her down and ended up hacking her to death, which got a lot of bad press at the time. I hope, for his sake, that Reginald didn’t hear that part. The cardinal denounces Henry as a cruel tyrant and says he must be overthrown by force. He says the pope’s ready to issue the bull of excommunication (I thought he already had?) and the Emperor and the French are prepared to invade England. Somehow, I doubt that. The pope wants Reginald to go back to the Netherlands to prepare for this supposed invasion. Reginald’s not eager to do so, but the cardinal talks him around and finally manages to convince him by sharing his own sob story of family loss.
The last little Pole, the grandson, is waiting in the Tower. Seymour enters his room and gently calls him over, holding out a hand for the boy to take. The boy, after some hesitation, takes the hand and leaves with Seymour. The camera moves over to his toy horse, now lying on its side, forgotten in the cell.
Henry paces his rooms, settles down by a window, and urges Pole to eat his heart.