Friday, June 25, 2010
THE END OF A DYNASTY
A few nights ago Ed and I watched the series finale of 'The Tudors'. For those of you who may be unfamiliar with the Showtime series, 'The Tudors' was a four seasons long adaptation of the reign of King Henry VIII, whose last name, of course, was Tudor.
Starring in the titular role was the gorgeous Irish actor, Jonathon Rhys Meyers who artistically nailed King Henry's tyrannical demeanor.
Jonathon Rhys Meyers as Henry VIII
What Henry Tudor wanted, Henry Tudor got and Jonathon Rhys Meyers did a beautiful job of portraying someone whom we really have no idea how he sounded, walked or even looked as even the well known paintings of the infamous king should really be viewed with an abstract eye as most paintings of that era portray everyone -- men and women alike -- as pretty much looking the same with heavily lidded eyes and small mouths. I, personally and in my humble opinion, attribute this more to the artistry of the era rather than accuracy.
What we do know is that King Henry VIII changed the face of religion as we know it today and added divorce to our vocabulary.
Throughout the series, Ed and I remained perpetually in awe of this man who wielded unstoppable power.
*Season one saw Henry married to Catherine of Aragon of Spain, his brothers widow.
Maria Doyle Kennedy as Catherine Of Aragon
They have one child, a daughter; Lady Mary.
Henry, in addition to being King, of course, was also a virile man, supposedly quite good looking and charming allowing him to have any woman he desired in his bed chambers, and he did, having several illegitimate children along the way.
When he meets Anne Boleyn, it is then -- with Anne Boleyn's encouragement and manipulation -- that he becomes increasingly dissatisfied and distasteful of the much beloved by the people, Queen Catherine, who miscarried numerous times unable to bore him a son, with Henry then seeking to annul their marriage so he could marry Ms. Boleyn (whose older sister, Mary, as history tells it, allegedly bore the King's illegitimate son whom Henry wouldn't acknowledge).
When the pope refuses to grant him an annulment, Henry puts in motion to make himself the head of the Church Of England, thus making his own rules and religion and 'divorcing' Queen Catherine to marry Anne Boleyn.
Natalie Dormer as Anne Boleyn
Queen Catherine died shortly thereafter alone and in poverty by royal standards.
History: Lady Mary, of course, would later become known in her short reign as 'Bloody Mary' for her burning of hundreds of so-called heretics when she tried to reinstate Catholicism as England's only religion and denouncing protestants as heretics.
Sarah Bolger as Lady Mary
*In season two we see Anne Boleyn then crowned and married to King Henry as his second wife and already pregnant with Elizabeth who was born in September of that year. After several miscarriages thereafter and not producing Henry a son, he soon becomes bored with Anne and starts courting his future wife, Jane Seymour.
Cries of alleged heresy and incest with her brother surrounds Anne and she is soon imprisoned, tried for treason, found guilty (though she was not) and ultimately, infamously beheaded. Elizabeth was not yet three.
Anne later becomes a sympathetic figure in the women's movement and their daughter, Elizabeth, 'The Virgin Queen', becomes the longest ruler in England's history with her reign known as 'The Golden years'-- she was the last of the Tudor dynasty.
Laoise Murray (right) as Elizabeth Tudor
*Season three opens with Henry marrying who is said to be the true love of his life, Jane Seymour, Henry's third wife.
Annabelle Wallis as Jane Seymour
Jane was said to be a gentle, agreeable woman and whom encouraged good relations with Henry's daughters, Mary and Elizabeth, who went largely ignored by their father.
She gives birth to their son, Edward VI, but dies less than two weeks later from post-natal complications, sending Henry into a long period of grieving.
History: Jane Seymour was the only one of Henry's wives to receive a queens funeral.
Henry is then advised he must have a queen and it is arranged for him to marry Anne Of Cleves, a German noblewoman, who would become Henry's fourth wife.
Joss Stone as Anne Of Cleves
However, Henry is immediately dissatisfied in not being attracted to Anne and has the marriage soon annulled, bestowing upon Anne a home, generous income and the royal title of Henry's 'sister'.
Anne is particularly close to Henry's daughters and Henry and Anne remain good friends, often visiting and playing cards -- she becomes one of his confidants.
Edward VI was nine when Henry died and thus became ruler of England under his maternal uncle's (Jane Seymour's brother, Edward Seymour) guardianship and guidance.
King Henry's daughters, Mary and Elizabeth, were deemed illegitimate and therefore, not eligible at that time for ruling England: Mary was deemed illegitimate due to Henry's annulment from her Mother, Catherine Of Aragon. Elizabeth was deemed illegitimate due to her Mother's, Anne Boleyn's, execution.
Edward VI died when he was fifteen naming Lady Jane Grey, Henry's great-niece (oldest granddaughter of Henry's long deceased sister, Mary), the successor to Edward's throne.
Very soon after, Parliament declared Henry's eldest daughter, Mary, the rightful queen and reinstated her as such.
Lady Jane Grey was then executed less than two weeks after her succession to the throne for high treason.
Lady Jane Grey became a protestant martyr for centuries.
*Season four, and the final season, shows Henry now married to fifteen year old Catherine Howard, his fifth wife (and Anne Boleyn's cousin), with a renewed vigor for the aging king who is painfully afflicted with gout.
Tamzin Merchant as Catherine Howard
Catherine is young, immature, ill prepared and disinterested in her duties as queen. She is also immensely disliked by Henry's eldest daughter, Lady Mary.
Catherine's youth is the catalyst for her bad decisions, including allowing several people into her service who know of her past affairs as well as Catherine then beginning an affair with one of the Kings courtiers, Thomas Culpeper.
This is all soon found out and she becomes the second wife of Henry's to be tried for treason, found guilty (unlike Anne Boleyn, Catherine was guilty) and beheaded.
Catherine and Henry had no children.
After her arrest, Catherine Howard admitted her past liaisons prior to meeting and marrying Henry but would never admit to an affair with Thomas Culpeper although it is alleged that her last words before the blade struck were: "I die a Queen, but I would rather have died the wife of Culpeper."
Upon her house arrest prior to being taken to the tower for imprisonment and, ultimately, her execution, it is said that Catherine Howard escaped the guards and ran to Henry screaming and begging for her life.
It is said Catherine's ghost still roams the palace halls re-enacting this scene.
The end of 'The Tudors' final season shows Henry's interest in Katharine Parr, a twice married protestant wealthy widow.
Joely Richardson as Katharine Parr
While she does not necessarily love Henry at first, she nonetheless marries him, thus becoming his sixth and final wife, and carries on her duties efficiently.
She is well informed, kind, intelligent and deeply loves Henry's children. In fact, it is she who reinstates the Lady Mary and Lady Elizabeth back at the palace, thus, helping them grow closer to their father.
In spite of the new queens love for her, Lady Mary, due to her strong Catholic beliefs, goes on a quest to have her new protestant step-mother denounced as a heretic and tries, with the help of an ambitious and pious clergyman, to have her arrested.
Their plot is unsuccessful due to interference from Henry.
Katharine Parr and Henry had no children together.
Prior to Henry's death -- at the age of 55 in 1547 -- he told Katharine that she will be treated and regarded as Queen of England even after his death. She was also granted a generous stipend from Henry's fortune and was given his blessing for her to remarry with no interference of her income and status.
She then married Thomas Seymour (another one of Jane's brother's), her fourth husband, six months after the kings death, causing a small scandal. Thomas Seymour and Katharine were having an affair prior to her marrying Henry, however, there is no evidence to suggest that the affair continued during her marriage to the king.
Katharine and Thomas Seymour had a little girl named Mary in August of 1548.
Katharine died a month after giving birth to Mary at the age of 35 due to post-natal complications, as was quite common back then. Katharine's husband, Thomas Seymour, was executed when Mary was one due to treason.
Not much is known about Mary Seymour although it is speculated that she was orphaned penniless as it is said her late Mother's wealth was later confiscated by the crown.
It is suggested that Mary Seymour didn't live past the age of ten after being passed around from family to family.
There are also speculations saying she indeed grew to see adulthood marrying a member of the household of Queen Anne Of Denmark.
Another theory suggests she became a lady in waiting to Elizabeth I.
The end of the series:
During the reign of King Henry VIII, we see him execute Sir Thomas More, Cardinal Wolsey, Secretary Cromwell and Lord Surrey -- all one time friends and advisers of the king.
In the end, we see a re-emergence of most of Henry's dead wives in the series finale come back to chide and taunt him in his near death state.
Henry is left with but one true friend, Charles Brandon, the one he's had the longest, and not since the death of Henry's beloved third wife, Jane Seymour, do we see such a decline and grief in the king as we do when Charles dies.
Henry Cavill as Charles Brandon
Henry, in a fit of uncharacteristic generosity, insists on Charles being buried in the royal cemetery, with full honors and fully paid for by the king.
It was this moment of immortality and rare humanity that touched me at the end of this series the most.
We don't see Henry die, instead we see him commission what will become the most famous painting of the king and as he sees it's unveiling, we see Henry reflecting back on the glory days of his reign, his loves, his children, his tyranny, his life.
We then see in slow motion the grim reaper on a white horse coming towards a youthful king....
Well done and....long live the king.