Last time, I promised you that I would return to discuss those crazy Tudors on film. Zany bunch, really, which is why I've always loved them. Now that I've finished my scone (and am now in London), we can carry on.
the man and his women
The first Tudor on the English throne was Henry VII, who took the throne from Richard III. Henry apparently died having beaten it into his son's head that he must produce a male heir. Henry VII had produced two living ones, actually. Henry VIII's older brother, Arthur, was originally slated to have the throne. In preparation, they married very young Arthur off to Catherine of Aragon, the daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain. (1) Arthur died. Henry VII decided to marry his wife's widow off to Henry VIII to keep the connection with Spain.
It took a couple of years to get permission. Marrying your sibling's widow was against Catholic doctrine (it's seen as a form of incest). The fact that Arthur was very young allowed an annulment, as it was understood that the marriage hadn't been consummated anyway. Henry VIII married his first wife in 1509, at age seventeen. It was the same year he took the throne.
By 1525, Catherine had not succeeded in producing a male heir. She had many miscarriages and stillbirths and one healthy daughter, Mary. Henry had had several mistresses, but a new woman caught his eye: Anne Boleyn, sister of a former mistress, Mary. Anne refused to become Henry's paramour until he got rid of Catherine and put Anne on the throne.
This is where several movies come in. Despite their differences, they have to tell the same tale. Henry cannot just get rid of Catherine. He cannot divorce her (he's Catholic). The Pope won't give him an annulment, even after Henry is a total jerk and says that Catherine really did sleep with her first husband, making Henry's marriage illegal & incestuous and making his daughter Mary a bastard. Catherine is powerful in influence—the Holy Roman Empire is on her side.
Henry has to break with the religion of his childhood, which he had defended when other Protestants threatened it, and
has to kill lots of his friends who refuse to go along with him, including Sir Thomas More. Henry makes a new church, the Church of England.
I'm not mentioning this series cause it's tv (and I haven't seen it yet)
ANNE OF 1000 DAYS is a movie based on a play about Anne's time. The movie was made long after the play, as the film industry had more "moral" standards than the stage (movies about incest and adultery and beheadings are not cool, especially when the bad guy, Henry, gets to win). After three years of marriage to Henry, several miscarriages, and the successful pregnancy that produced Elizabeth, Henry and his inner circle conspired against the Queen. She was accused of adultery, witchcraft, and incest (with her brother). Evidence was lacking, but Henry got his way. Queen Anne was beheaded by a French swordsman, which was supposed to be better than an English axe man. I don't suppose anyone ever told Henry that his claim that Catherine had slept with his brother made him guilty of incest, too. At least no one told that to Richard Burton, who played in Henry in this award-winning film.
Richard Burton turned down the role of Sir Thomas More in the also-award-winning A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS, which focused on More's shift from a supporter to Henry to a man who refused to sign the document declaring Henry head of the Church. The movie is primarily a movie about male friendship. Anne is mostly absent, in the same way Queen Eleanor's presence is undermined in BECKET. I haven't seen this film since high school, when we had to watch it as a part of European history, but I remember it being very good.
This stands in contrast to a newer film, THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL, starring Eric Bana, Natalie Portman, Kristen Scott Thomas, and Scarlett Johansson. The novel on which this is based was written by Philippa Gregory, who writes soap-opera historical novels. Thus, the socio-political situations are mentioned only in passing, while Anne's character is given a rather stupid motivation to be a bitch to everyone, including her sister. The rumour of Anne's incest is given basis in fact here, too, in a way that strains credibility. If I
were Henry, I would have gotten rid of this Anne, too.
you can tell who's naughty
Henry married Jane Seymour (not the medicine woman one) eleven days after Anne's death. She gave him the son he longed for, Edward, but died of complications from the birth. Henry favoured her for eternity, choosing to be buried by her side, although he was married three more times. Although he's remembered for beheading everybody (and for writing "Greensleeves"), he divorced the fourth (a political marriage), beheaded the fifth (for adultery), and was survived by the sixth. These women feature in mini-series about the King, but none has inspired movies the way Anne did.
Edward, who became Edward VI after Henry's death, also hasn't inspired many films. He does, however, feature in movies about the problems of succession after Henry VIII's death. Edward was crowned at nine, so other men ruled as his regents—Edward Seymour and then John Dudley. Edward was sickly and died of what was likely TB. Before his death, he signed an order that excluded his sisters from the throne (he wanted to make sure to have Protestant rule). His cousin Lady Jane Grey, who happened to be married to John Dudley's son, was given rule for nine days until Mary, Henry's daughter by Catherine, came in with her supporters and troops. Jane and her husband likely could have escaped with their lives (they were young and obviously puppets of their parents) had they been willing to convert to Catholicism. Jane's father's squashed rebellion in her name while she was in the Tower put the final nail in the coffin.
Mary would go on to earn the name Bloody Mary for her hard line against the Protestants. If you ever played that mirror chanting game as a child, you were conjuring her. She's also whom you're talking about when you say the following:
Mary, Mary quite contrary (contrary to Protestants in her nation)
How does your garden grow? (the garden is the blooming cemetary)
With silver bells and cockle shells (the bells of funerals and the shells headstones were made of)
And pretty maids all in a row. (under the ground)
which chronicles this time, is one of my all-time favorite movies. The ending still makes me cry as much as it did when it came out in 1986. Helena Bonham Carter is Jane, Patrick Stewart her father, Cary Elwes her husband, and John Wood her father-in-law, John Dudley, aka the puppet master. This was directed by Trevor Nunn, the most famous director of the Royal Shakespeare Company. It's a movie of fierce love and fierce Protestantism. It's such a good representation of the time (with the exception of loving your arranged marriage) that I convinced my high school history teacher to show it in class. See if you can guess which scene he wouldn't let the class see.
did he and Buttercup fall down a hill?
I'll end with LADY JANE. Take the next two weeks until the third and final installment to see it. Then we'll pick up with the most famous of all Queens—Elizabeth I and those royals who came after. I'm off to Stonehenge. We druids have to go; it's a pilgrimage.
(1) Yes; that Ferdinand and Isabella; the ones who sent Columbus off in search of a fabled land and a route to India (and who banished the Moors and Jews from Spain in the same year, setting off the high years of the Inquisition). However, none of them thought the world was flat. Ships had sailed off the horizon before and come back. The world-flat thing is something we teach to children to instill a lesson in believing in yourself. We do this sort of lying all the time. (2)
(2) Like how we tell the story of George Washington not lying about chopping down the cherry tree. This story is odd in two ways. One, all the pictures show him with the hatchet still in hand and no one else around. How would he have gotten away with that lie in the first place? Two, the whole story was invented by George Washington's biographer. He knew that Washington's life would be taught to our youth and he wanted that life to have nice didactic lessons in it. Thus, he lied about an experience to teach a lesson to children about lying. This is the stuff aneurisms are made of.
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