Please do feel free to add any inaccuracies you have spotted in the comments section below.
The Tudors Season 1 Episode 1 – In Cold Blood
The episode opens at Ducal Palace, Urbino, Italy, in 1518, with the brutal assassination of Henry VIII’s uncle, the English ambassador, by the French. This act causes the grief-stricken and furious Henry VIII to call his council together and put forward the idea of war on France, something which is backed by the Duke of Buckingham and Duke of Norfolk. Cardinal Wolsey agrees that there is just cause for the war and the King tells him to make preparations for war. Sir Thomas More is not keen on the idea.
Henry VIII is having an affair with Elizabeth Blount whose husband is jealous and is threatening to make a scandal and put Bessie in a nunnery. Henry has stopped visiting Catherine of Aragon’s bedchamber and she begs him to visit her so that she can be his proper wife again. In the next scene, Henry symbolically devours a pomegranate, Catherine’s symbol and the symbol of fertility, before visiting Catherine’s bedchamber. Unfortunately, Catherine is at prayer so Henry sleeps with one of her ladies-in-waiting.
Cardinal Wolsey meets with the French Ambassador and Bishop Bonnivet and presents him with the outline to a new peace treaty between England and France. In return, he wants something that only the Bishop can give him.
Joust – The King challenges the Duke of Buckingham and wins.
The King visits Thomas More and his family. He asks More why he doesn’t come to court more and More explains that he doesn’t like court. They discuss war and More says how, as a humanist, he abhors war. More advises the King to spend money on the welfare of his people, not war, but the King is intent on being remembered like Henry V. He too wants to be famous and immortal.
The Duke of Buckingham believes that Henry VII was a usurper and that the crown really belongs to him, as a direct descendant of Edward II, not the Tudor line. He talks to the Duke of Norfolk of how one day he will be King.
Charles Brandon, the King’s friend, sleeps with Lady Buckingham, Buckingham’s daughter, and Buckingham walks in on them.
Lady Blount visits Cardinal Wolsey to tell him of her pregnancy, the father is the King. Wolsey advises her not to tell anyone and says that she will be removed from court when she starts showing, to give birth to her “bastard” in private.
Thomas Tallis arrives at court with a letter of introduction from the Dean of Canterbury Cathedral, saying that he is a musician and can sing.
The King meets with Wolsey and More. Wolsey talks of the expense of war and puts forward his plan for peace, backed by More. The idea is for a treaty of universal and perpetual peace in Europe, involving a marriage match between the Princess Mary and the Dauphin. The King agrees to the idea.
The Duke of Buckingham insists on seeing the King. He is furious with Brandon for sleeping with his daughter and bringing shame to his family. He demands that the King banishes Brandon from court and punishes him. The King says he will only act if Buckingham’s daughter accuses Brandon on rape and there is no need for punishment if there is no offence. More warns the King that Buckingham has a private army at his disposal and should not be crossed.
Wolsey meets with Bishop Bonnivet, demanding his reward for saving his master from war.
Henry VIII writes to the King of France regarding the treaty. He says that he will not shave again until they meet and that his beard will be a token of universal friendship, of the love between them.
Bishop Bonnivet visits Wolsey to tell him that Pope Alexander is dying and that the French cardinals will support Wolsey’s election as Pope.
Catherine of Aragon talks to Lady Blount regarding her sadness about not being able to give the King a living son. She speaks of the death of her baby boy at 4 weeks of life and how the King blames her.
The King goes to confession and speaks of his concerns regarding his brother, Arthur, who died, and of his marriage to Catherine, his brother’s widow. He talks of the five stillborn children, a boy who lived for 26 days – and a single living daughter. He is concerned that Leviticus says that if a man marries his brother’s wife, they will die childless.
Sir Thomas Boleyn, who has just returned from France, visits Buckingham. Buckingham talks of how the King’s father acquired the crown by force, not by right, but Boleyn tells him that no-one wants Civil War and “what is done is done. The King is the King.” However, neither of them like Wolsey – a man of the cloth with a mistress and two children.
Boleyn meets with the King and Henry asks him about the King of France. Henry asks him about his legs, whether his calfs are as good as his and whether he is handsome. Boleyn reassures the King. The King asks Boleyn to be in charge of all the diplomatic negotiations for the summit in France.
The King sees his daughter Mary who looks about four or five years old. Catherine asks to speak to Henry, she does not like his beard and the fact that he is giving their daughter to her sworn enemies, the Valois of France.
Paris, France – Thomas Boleyn, the ambassador, visits his daughters and tells them of the summit that he is organising. He toasts the futures of Mary and Anne Boleyn.
Wolsey and Henry meet. Buckingham, who is waiting on them, deliberately pours water down Wolsey’s robes. The King orders him to apologise. Buckingham is furious. He goes straight to Boleyn and Norfolk and tells them that “it is time”.
Wolsey tells the King of how the summit will take place in the Val d’Or, the Valley of Gold. 1000 labourers are building the Palace of Illusion, the 8th wonder of the world. He tells the King that lady Blount is with child and that he will deal with her husband. The King is looking forward to the summit, he says that he and Wolsey will be immortal.
Buckingham starts to raise men. He acts out how he will assassinate the King by stabbing him.
- The assassination of Henry VIII’s uncle – This is fictional. Henry VIII did not have an uncle who was assassinated.
- Elizabeth Blount was the King’s mistress and gave birth to his son, Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond, on the 15th June 1519, but she did not get married until 1522 and so was single when she was sleeping with the King.
- Anna Buckingham is a fictional character and it is thought that she is based on the Duke’s sister, Anne Stafford, Countess of Huntingdon, who actually had an affair with Henry VIII in 1510, not Charles Brandon, and then went on to have an affair with Sir William Compton who acted as their go-between. Buckingham was furious at his sister’s behaviour.
- Bishop Bonnivet does not seem to have existed and there is no evidence that Wolsey plotted to become Pope, although he did hope to become Pope on the death of Pope Leo X.
- Thomas Tallis was an English composer whose first recorded post was as organist at the Dover Priory in 1530-31. He did not appear at Court until 1543 when he became a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal and started to compose for the King.
- The Treaty of London, a peace treaty promoting everlasting peace in Europe, between France, England, the Holy Roman Empire, the Papacy, Spain, Burgundy and the Netherlands was designed by Cardinal Wolsey but it was signed in London in 1518 and did not have anything to do with the Field of the Cloth of Gold.
- Catherine of Aragon and Henry VIII’s son, Henry Duke of Cornwall, lived for 52 days, not 26. He was born on the 1st January 1511 and died on the 22nd February 1511.
- Henry VIII and Francis I both vowed to grow beards in the lead-up to the Field of the Cloth of Gold.
- Henry VIII asked the Venetian Ambassador, not Thomas Boleyn, about the King of France’s looks: “The King of France, is he as tall as I am?… Is he as stout?… What sort of legs has he? …Look here! and I have also a good calf to my leg.”