Historical INACCURACIES of the Tudors

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Showetime's The Tudors

The Tudors: Historical Inaccuracies and MysteriesFact or Fiction?

History buffs!
Have you sniffed out a few historical inaccuracies within The Tudors drama? Whether minuscule or huge, catalogue them here to see how the show sizes up against British history.

What about historical accuracy?
One of the Creators of the Tudors, Writer Michael Hirst believes that The Tudors brings out into the open the gaps and contradictions in the historical record that academic history shies away from. “Of course, there are certain facts which are incontrovertible,” he says, “but beyond that there’s just interpretation and there are surprisingly few sources.
So I discovered that the truth is variable and I also discovered that most historians are very bad psychologists:
They don’t tell you very much about the human relationships in history. I’ve discovered that nearly all the
caricatures of Henry’s wives for instance, are nonsense or only tell a little bit of the story.”

Click the Links below for each season

Showetime's The Tudors

The Tudors Fan Wiki
Historical Inaccuracies of Season 1

The Tudors Fan Wiki
Historical Inaccuracies of Season 2

fleur de lis Historical Inaccuracies of Season 3

The Tudors Fan WikiHistorical Inaccuracies of Season 4

Was Henry VIII that good looking? ? Does Pope Paul III suggest an assassination attempt on Anne Boleyn? ?
Did Edward Stafford try to kill King Henry VIII?
Did Elizabeth Darrell really hang herself?

Was Katherine of Aragon so much older than Henry VIII?
Was William Brereton a member of the Jesuits?
Did Henry VIII write Greensleeves for Anne Bolyen?
Was Jane Seymour truly so beautiful?

So everyone is saying The Tudors isn’t historical. Why should it be?
By <a class="external" href="http://www.patrolmag.com/author/David+Sessions/" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">David Sessions</a>

The “televisionization” of a seminal historical event, a classic work of fiction, or a beloved superhero, is often decried in American critical pretention as a minor tragedy, an event to be mourned by anyone with an appreciation for all that is true and good in the art world. The critics apparently liked the smooth flesh and colorful costumes in the first season of Showtime’s The Tudors to at least say it was “entertaining,” despite their professional objections to its “neutered” history.

What the history buffs fail to realize is the latent absurdity of the demands they place on their television (or perhaps our television). There’s nothing wrong with shooting up a stodgy, self-important attempt at illustrating what really happened (yes, this means you, Oliver Stone), but complaints over shows like The Tudors are simply asinine assertions of imaginary intellectual authority. Truth is, I remember more of English from catching up on the first season than I did from History of Western Civilization II.

The Tudors, now in the early stages of its second season on Showtime, is a deliberately ahistorical depiction of Henry VIII’s “reign and marriages.” Young badass Jonathan Rhys-Meyers of the "Smoldering Blue Eyes" plays the Henry, who by historical accounts probably looked more like <a class="external" href="http://us.movies1.yimg.com/movies.yahoo.com/images/hv/photo/movie_pix/new_line_cinema/the_lord_of_the_rings__the_two_towers/john_rhys_davies/towers2.jpg" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">the ruddy, bearded John Rhys-Davies</a>. Rhys Meyers, who stunningly portrayed the intense, womanizing Raskolnikov character in Woody Allen’s Dostoevsky allegory Match Point, is without question flat and dimensionless as a monarch. He vacillates between sensual whispering and petulant shouting without much of anything memorable to say or without as much as hinting at his complex motivations. But he is one thing that’s entirely believable: insane. The real, unscriptedness of Rhys Meyers’ acting does give The Tudors the quality of seeming like it might be showing us the actual Henry VIII in action. In this sense, the unrealistically hot Henry is a success; we watch him because he’s Jonathan Rhys Meyers, and hate him anyway, just like we would if he were played by someone more repulsive ! more historically accurate.

The New York Times <a class="external" href="http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/28/arts/television/28tudo.html" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">whined </a>that the show is “spritzed with Febreze,” but that’s precisely why it works as “historical” entertainment from the masses. I’m trying to imagine Greek artisans hovering over Homer’s shoulder during his composition of the Odyssey, objecting: “You’re sanitizing history! Odysseus had complex motivations! We need to feel what those peasants felt when they angered Zeus!” In the fantastic event that such a dialogue occurred, Homer was wise to toss their input onto the ash heap of history. After all, everybody knows that the beachfront breakup with Calypso is far more compelling. Common people, arguably the target audience of The Tudors, have always remembered more of history as sexed-up, simplified storylines than as nuanced, academic psychoanalysis. No objection to accurate, scholarly history here or even to the occasional intellectual T.V. series, but this is still television. And people still primarily watch television to enjoy attractive actors and the escape of a fictional story.

Watching with the motive of being entertained, the occasional intellectual stimulation The Tudors provides is a pleasant surprise. The back-dealing, sinister Cardinal Wolsey (Sam Neill) is a creepy delight to watch, and a painful reminder of the medieval Catholic church as a parallel political system, all the more inhuman and disgusting for wrapping its misdeeds in the will of God. (Also noted: these 16th-century Christians are portrayed, fairly or unfairly, exactly the same way modern ones always are). But bad as the church is, The Tudors doesn’t play to evangelical Catholic-bashing. Martin Luther, seen from the stained-glassed windows of the English monarchy, was a crackpot heretic who posed a serious threat to Christianity and to the Western world. Which got me thinking: if I were a devout Catholic at this moment in history— not one of these creepy red-headgear types, but a truly pious one— would I have objected to the bonfire that consumes Luther’s books in the first season? The reign of Bloody Mary, darkly foreshadowed in the scenes of Henry’s pretty little daughter? Reporting from the set of season two, the Times noted that despite critics being split between taking and leaving the series, viewers are “eating it up.”

“Showtime commissioned me to write an entertainment, a soap opera, and not history,” creator/writer Michael Hirst told them. “And we want people to watch it.” Considering <a class="external" href="http://www.patrolmag.com/index.php?id=193" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">the lengths other television markets travel</a> just to get people to watch, a Cliff’s Notes history of England and a renewed appreciation for the physiques of Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Natalie Dormer are hardly a bad thing to be taken away. And if that’s all America gets from The Tudors, we will still have it just about right: Beautiful people fought battles, had sex, and died. And everybody—king, church, and all—were selfish, corrupt human beings.

David Sessions is the editor of <a class="external" href="http://www.patrolmag.com/arts/361/henry-fussy" rel="nofollow" target="_blank" title="Patrol">Patrol</a> His writing has appeared in <a class="external" href="http://www.slate.com/" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">Slate</a>, <a class="external" href="http://www.nymag.com/" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">New York</a>, <a class="external" href="http://www.politicsdaily.com/" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">Politics Daily</a> and <a class="external" href="http://www.theamericanscene.com/" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">The American Scene</a>. He is currently an editorial assistant at <a class="external" href="http://www.thedailybeast.com/" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">The Daily Beast</a>.

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