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HIDDEN MEANINGS on the Tudors
"The Tudors" has many symbolical scenes
which the writer has teased us with.
What are the Hidden Meanings?
There are some traditional symbols & cultural perceptions but
ultimately, symbolic interpretations are up to you to determine.
*Notice the symbolism of this promo pic - the king holds a crucifix in his left hand with his catholic
wives on that side and in his other hand, a sword, with the wives who are connected to protestant reform
Symbol & Scene
Possibilities & Links
Season 2 Episode 10
Season 3 Episode 1: Henry & Jane 's Wedding
Season 3 Episode 3: Jane's pregnancy announcement
Interestingly Anne wears a costume
inspired by Degas paintings of the ballet
costumes of "Swan Lake"
The Royal Ballet's "Swan Lake" 2007
In peerage, the swan holding a Tudor rose (the swan and the rose are both symbols of Aphrodite) represents constancy in love, the theme of Shakespeare's poem, 'The Phoenix and the Turtle', The poem refers to the death-divining swan. An allusion to the belief still current, that dying swans break out into beautiful song turning the act of dying into a divine event.
1. The swan is symbolic of the hypocrite because its plumage is pure white but underneath is black skin. It also has beautiful wings but can hardly fly.
2. The swan symbolizes the end of one’s life.
3. A swan’s song symbolizes a last effort.(www.christiansymbols.net)
The Swan holds a multitude of representations including love, grace, purity, beauty and sincerity. Another attribute of Aphrodite, the Swan also symbolized chastity.
The Celts believed the Swans were benevolent deities and legend has it that their images were forged into silver medallions worn around the neck for protection.
Swans are known for their long delicate necks and so was Anne Boleyn. At the moment that she is beheaded there is an image of the swan's feathers as it is being killed & later is brought to the king ....to eat.
Swans also signify Monogamy since once they find a mate, they stay with them for life and are known to pine away after their mate dies. Henry has only one killed. Is he turning his back on the old ways of monogamous marriage by eating the swan?
Also Swans have belonged only to the Monarchy since the 13th century so is he making a display of his Absolute Power by having one killed and eating it, publicly ?
Henry's killing and eating of the swan may also be seen as a culmination of ritual sacrifice. The priest says, before the meal, "May the Lord Jesus be drink and food." (Henry, and apparently Anne as well despite her reformist ideas, believed in transubstantiation, in other words, that the eating of the host at Mass was literally the consumption of the body of Christ.)
Eating the sacrificial animal can be part of a sacrificial rite. Some cannibalistic societies have believed in consuming the flesh of an enemy who has been killed in order to absorb that person's power. The swan is seen flying when Anne is killed, as though it is her soul, and later, Henry eats the swan, and looks skyward, as if up to Heaven. Symbolically, the swan maybe interpreted as being Anne herself.
What was the purpose of the sacrifice of Anne? Having a son. Henry wants something, Henry commits human sacrifice to get it, Henry gains power by consuming the sacrifice, and Henry gets what he wants, the son. However, in the process, he loses his a good chunk of his own humanity. That's the tragedy of the final scene of Season 2. Anne has become a better and wiser person and is in Heaven. Henry has sunk to killing and symbolically eating his victims to get what he wants.
Season 2 Episode 10
Anne sees a flock of birds in flight as
she is executed by the swordsman.
The birds could be ravens or crows.
Bird flies into hall where
Henry is viewing the Holbien portrait
A part of the second version of the promo shot of season 3
A raven sits beside Cromwell and many fly behind him in the background
| Birds equate with Souls. A Flight of the winged soul back to God. |
(Symbols & meanings)
Carrion birds like Ravens & Crows always congregated when there were executions. There is a legend that if ever the Ravens leave the Tower of London, the monarchy will fall hence the reason the 9 ravens presently at the Tower have their wings clipped.
Additional note: crows and ravens in particular are said to carry the souls of the Dead. Symbol recently used in the very well known movie the Crow.
The opening credits show a flash of black fluttering wings.
Legend has it that Anne herself was also called "the Black Crow" due to her long black hair
The hoodie crow is associated with death and regeneration goddesses (sometimes called "The Dark Goddess") such as the Celtic goddess Morrigan or Morgan. Anne Boleyn was often portrayed on the Tudors as a dark figure, obsessed with the idea of her own impending death and with trying to protect herself and her child by eliminating Katherine of Aragon and the Lady Mary.
Season 4 Episode 10: As we see a bird fly through the scene, Henry speaks the words : "When we compare the present life of man on earth with that time of which we have no knowledge, it seems to me like the swift flight of a single sparrow through a banqueting hall on a winter’s day. After a few moments of comfort he vanishes from sight into the wintry world from which he came. Even so, man appears on earth for a little while; but of what went before this life or what will follow, we know nothing."
(See : A history of Christian theology: an introduction By William Carl Placher and The Venerable Bede)
| Falcon/Hawk || The Heraldic meaning of the Falcon/Hawk is One who does not rest until the objective achieved. The falcon or hawk signifies someone who is hot or eager in the pursuit of an object much desired.|
Perhaps the scene where Anne's father is tending to a hawk while telling her her eyes are like "hooks for the soul" that he has an ambitious objective and she is like the hawk that will get it for him.
Anne Boleyn herself chose the Symbol of the crowned falcon holding a sceptre on a tree stump with red and white flowers sprouting. The white falcon was derived from the heraldic crest of the Earls of Ormonde as her father had been recognized as the heir. It is frequently found in the coats of arms of nobility from the time when the falcon played an important social role in the sport of kings and nobles. It is found as a heraldic bearing as early as the reign of King Edward II of England. It was also later adopted by her daughter Queen Elizabeth I.
See also : Falconry in the Tudors
Henry takes a pomegranate & eats it
Woodcut of Katherine of Aragon's coronation,
with her pomegranate symbol over her
| The pomegranate is a symbol of fertility and abundance. The association is derived from the fact that the pomegranate is a fruit composed almost entirely of seeds and was thought to reproduce itself prodigiously because of this. The pomegranate itself is closely associated with the womb with its seeds symbolic of offspring.|
In Classical tradition, pomegranates allude to the story of Persephone (daughter of Demeter the Greek goddess of Harvest) and how she was made queen of the Underworld by eating the seeds of the pomegranate. In Christianity pomegranates signify - Immortality; resurrection; unity; nourishment of the soul (Symbols & meaning)
Katherine of Aragon spent most of her childhood in the Spanish controlled kingdom of Granada. Granada was conquered by her parents, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella in 1492 and expelled the Moors who inhabited there since the 8th century. The Moors brought the fruit to Spain and it came to symbolize the Moorish Empire. In Spanish, Granada literally translates to "pomegranate". (more on Granada's pomegranates)
The symbolism could be that Katherine's usefulness and fertility has been "used" up.
Thomas Wyatt offers Anne
an apple in her nightmare
| In religious traditions, the apple is a forbidden fruit and even in secular art, the apple has been used a symbol of love & sexuality.|
By taking "the Forbidden Fruit" from the Tree of Knowledge Adam and Eve provoked God's anger and ended up being cast out of the Garden of Eden. Anne's dream is all centered around her fear of falling from grace so this symbol seems very appropriate.
Interestingly, it would appear that no apple was ever mentioned in the book of Genesis (contrary to what popular tradition would have us believe) - have a look here for an interesting theory.
Whether is was actually mentioned in the Genesis or not, the apple was seen throughout History as the forbidden fruit.
Anne talks about having a craving for apples with Wyatt as a way of showing she is pregnant.
In season four the use of forbidden fruit is relevant with the character of Katherine Howard, in episode one Henry offers Katherine an apple at this point Katherine has noticed Thomas Culpepper and the use of this apple is forshawdowing events to come. At the end of the same episode Katherine is dancing near a bucket with apples in it and Thomas Culpepper is watching her maybe he is ready to taste the forbidden fruit?.
or Armillary sphere
| The astrolabe is one of the oldest navigation tools known, and as well as navigation could also be used for astronomy and astrology. It was used by travellers to work out the position of the stars and also allowed its user to determine the hours of day and night.|
*The spherical astrolabe, a variation of both the astrolabe and the armillary sphere, was invented during the Middle Ages by astronomers and inventors in the Islamic world.
The armillary sphere was introduced to Europe in the late 10th century Pope Sylvester II applied the use of sighting tubes with his armillary sphere in order to fix the position of the pole star and record measurements for the tropics and equator. Further advances were made between 1546–1601 when these elaborate armillary spheres became astrolabes. Renaissance scientists and public figures often had their portraits painted showing them with one hand on an armillary sphere, which represented the height of wisdom and knowledge.
Anne Boleyn wrote in her Book of Hours ” Le temps viendra”, “the time will come”, with her signature, “Je anne Boleyn”, beneath a miniature of the Last Judgement. There is also a drawing of an astrolabe, by Anne, to symbolise time.
In the scene on the left with Henry filmed through the astrolabe, Henry makes a decision that "everything will change" and determines he will get a divorce.
Thomas Boleyn is seen with the astrolabe on his desk when he discovers that Wolsey is pilfering money to his private accounts. (knowledge)
Holbein paints Henry & Katherine in one scene with the astrolabe. (wisdom)
His famous portrait of the ambassadors also features the astrolabe and art scholars believe that portrait to have many hidden meanings.
As well as being a double portrait, the painting contains a still life of several symbolic objects, the meaning of which is the cause of much debate such as the skewed (anamorphic) skull at the bottom of the painting.
One possibility is that this painting represents three levels:
- the heavens (as portrayed by the astrolabe and other objects on the upper shelf),
- the living world (as evidenced by books and a musical instrument on the lower shelf),
and death (signified by the skull).
The upper left corner, is a crucifix with Jesus on the cross behind the curtain which may represent the diplomatic efforts to achieve reconciliation between Catholics and Protestants
| A sundial is a device that measures time by the position of the sun. In episode 2.3, Sir Thomas Wyatt says of Anne Boleyn, "Everyone prefers a rising sun to a setting sun." In essence, the dream sequence of a young Anne tracing the marks of a sundial is an allusion to her status as a "sun," which as it rises will reach its zenith and eventually will set with the passage of time. Before the child version of Anne runs off at the beckoning of her brother George, the shadow of her finger stops at the roman numeral for 9, the exact hour of her execution.|
A sundial "prompts the viewer to reflect on the transience of the world and the inevitability of death" (Wikipedia/Sundials) and it features in the collective of Anne's memories as she is faced with the inevitability of her own demise and the timeline of her own rise of power, which in itself was short and fleeting.
A sundial in a dream can mean that something in your life is not quite real, and that you are trying to live up to unrealistic expectations and goals, something that Anne, as a Queen in Tudor England, was faced with ten-fold. Her meteoric rise to power and equally swift fall from grace must have been quite surreal to the disgraced Queen, who was common born and had expected no more out of life than an "advantageous marriage" and "to bear sons."
The Cross is used in an obvious sense to show the religiosity of certain characters. CGI is used to highlight the cross in some shots to very good effect.
Have you ever noticed that the Tudor Rose forms a pentacle or pentagram? Draw a line from leaf to leaf then circle the rose and you will see it does. This does not mean that the Tudor Dynasty worshiped the devil or practiced witchcraft.
Pentacles were used often as protection against those who mean them harm or you can even say, protection against evil. With meanings such as "life" and "health" this symbol was often placed above doors and/or on containers to protect their home and the contents/possessions within.
Christians often used the pentacle as a symbol for the 5 wounds of Jesus. Old churches can still be found with pentagrams as decoration. The rose in this era was usually drawn with 5 petals each. Which is why to us, the rose does not look exactly like a rose. The red rose's spiritual affiliation is with blood which must be shed for freedom and the church, eg. Jesus shed his blood for our sins, as well as the rose's well known affiliation with love, comfort and generosity.
The Heraldic Rose of the middle ages generally had 5 or 10 petals thereby showing it's relationship to the spiritual mystery of man through the Pythagorean pentad and decad (mathematical relations for groups of five or ten.) The rose is often found in heraldry to symbolize England and of course the red and white rose to symbolize the Tudor Dynasty.
As far as how the Tudor Rose came about... The red rose stood for the House of Lancaster and the white rose stood for the House of York. The division of the two families became known as The War of the Roses. When Henry VII married his beloved Elizabeth, this combined the two houses, therefore Henry created the Tudor Rose symbolizing the end of the struggle between the two families.
In Episode 3.7, Cromwell hands a young servant a Pear after discussing the ability to speak to God anywhere. In Christian art, a pear often symbolizes God's love for mankind. Cromwell giving the pear to the boy alludes to the accessibility of God's love for every man---as was one of the major themes of the Reformation. Having given the boy the pear even after he had attempted to steal it also speaks to the forgiving nature of God in demonstrating His love.
The ancient Chinese viewed the pear as a symbol of immortality, which in this scene could be reference to God's love representing immortality for all mankind.
In Chinese the word li means both "pear" and "separation," For this reason, tradition dictates that to avoid separation, friends and lovers should not divide pears between them. In a short-time, Cromwell would be separated from the love of his King,his family, and his from his head!
In season three, we also witness Cromwell's downfall as his careful planning to procure the alliance with the Protestant League goes hopelessly awry with the Anne of Cleves marriage debacle. "Pear-shaped" is a British expression used to mean that something has gone horribly wrong with a person's plans, and in this way the Pear represents Cromwell's current state at court.
| Chess |
when we first see Thomas Boleyn with Henry
season one episode one.
Charles-season 2 promo
Chess the game has pieces representing a royal court very fitting for The Tudors.
The first time we see Henry with Thomas Boleyn they are playing chess and Thomas checkmates Henry's Queen. This game forshadows events to come as Thomas replaces Katherine of Aragon (Henry's Queen) with his daughter Anne Boleyn.
Charles in season two promo is with a game of chess with pieces fallen over- representing the characters that have become out of favour in Season One. Charles has got his hand on the Queen showing his character will play a big part in Anne Boleyn's downfall- by spreading false rumours.
The last chess game we see is with Henry and Henry Norris, King Henry wins the game this refering to the game in season one with Thomas Boleyn symbolising he is ready to get rid of Anne.
| Cat || |
A black cat symbolizes black magic or witchcraft which Anne was accused of by Henry as bewitching him. The cross around the cats neck symbolizes how Anne "shook up" the church.
| Hour Glass || |
An Hour Glass symbolizes the running out of time, the hour glass is immediately shown after Anne is seen being comforted by her brother George. The next scene shows Thomas Cromwell through the hourglass, which could symbolize that Thomas is getting tired of Anne and will contribute to her downfall.
| Sleeping attendants |
Season 2, Episode 10
Anne remembers her childhood the night before her execution
Symbols: Anne's sleeping ladies in waiting, Anne's prayer, possible allegorical meaning behind the importance of Anne's memory
View the entire scene here.
In Season 2, Episode 10, an imprisoned Anne Boleyn recalls a childhood memory while she kneels in prayer alone in the Tower the night before her execution, her ladies in waiting sound asleep on the floor and beds of the room. This sequence may possibly and subtly reference the story of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane (otherwise known to some Christians as "The Agony in the Garden") as Anne's sleeping ladies are similar to how the disciples of Jesus lay sleeping in the garden of Gethsemane whilst Jesus contemplated his death (alone) in the garden the night before his crucifixion, not far from where his disciples slept. Anne speaks similar words to the prayer spoken by Jesus in the biblical story when she says that her death be not of her will, but of God's. In the bible passage, Jesus later tells his disciples that their time of "comfort and assistance" has passed and that they should rest, again referenced (visually) in the sleeping ladies in waiting-whose primary job, of course, was to be of comfort and assistance to the Queen.
This is taking it by a long shot but in the biblical passage, an angel is sent as a means to comfort Jesus. Similarly, Anne also feels comfort amidst her turmoil in the form of a childhood memory.
| Moon || The Moon has two sides a dark (negative) and a light (positive).|
The moon has 2 sides, a light side - and a dark side. Henry's idealistic vision of Katherine ("rose without a thorn") is a false one. She has a dark side (and a dark past) which he has hitherto failed to see but which is rapidly becoming apparent to the audience. The moon may also symbolize the marriage between Henry and Katherine as a whole - happy on the surface but, in reality, established upon a shaky foundation.
The moon has always been a symbol of change since it waxes and wanes. Change often equates with decay, aging, and even death in literature. Katherine's fortunes, although on the rise at the beginning of the season, plummeted to utter destruction in so short a time. This might represent the transience of power.
| Mask || A Mask represents something hidden away or not appearing as they seem.|
The first time Henry sees Anne she is wearing a mask in a masquerade very fitting for how their story ends and plays out. During their relationship (in history) Henry tried to hide the fact he was romantically involved with Anne till the last minute this represents that Anne was hidden away. Anne's story ends in betrayal with Henry thinking she conducted affairs behind his back and was not a virgin when they married.
In the season four opening credits Katherine Howard is wearing a mask representing that something is not as it seems. Katherine's story ends with Henry feeling betrayed by his council as they tried to hide the fact that she was not chaste when she was married (in the show) and had an affair during their marriage being not at all close to Henry's "rose without a thorn" imagery of her.
| Red Rose || Anne holds a rose in the season one and two promo shoots, Katherine is surrounded by red roses throughout season four. |
The red rose as a symbol of love
The red rose is a universal symbol of romance, passion and most importantly true love. Red roses are most often used as a strong expression of love.According to Greek and Roman mythology, the red rose was strongly associated with the Goddess of Love, Aphrodite. Due to this connection, early civilizations adorned wedding functions with red roses and these flowers were also often part of traditional wedding wear. Red roses have since come to be known not only as a symbol of love but also of fidelity.
The red rose - A symbol of desire
The meaning of the colour red can be traced to early primal periods. It started off as a symbol and has since evolved over time as a symbol of deep emotion. The colour red speaks of consummation, burning desires and the deepest of passion.The red rose symbolizes desire. It expresses the excitement and heat of a new love and the indescribable surge of attraction.
The red rose also symbolizes female sexuality, due to the physical appearance of the flower.
Red rose buds
The mysterious and yet to be bloomed red rose celebrates young love that is innocent, fresh and youthful. It stands for the simple beauty and purity of young love. On the other hand, red roses that are fully bloomed are metaphorical of a relationship that have grown and is now enjoying the sweet harvest of love. Full-bloomed red roses are perfect for anniversaries.
Apart from being the ultimate symbol of love, red roses can also be used to celebrate courage, send out a message of congratulations, and symbolizes power.
Season 4 Episode 10
Season 4 episode 10 : Henry dreams of a white horse galloping towards him and as he turns it becomes evident that "Death" or the grim reaper is riding it. There are autumn leaves blowing around and he sees himself as a young man. This could signify the swiftness of time passing.
Christians regard the horse as a symbol of courage, generosity and the swiftness of life. The four horses of the Apocalypse are white (pestilence), red (war), black (famine) and pale (death). Most sacred horses are white. During the Middle Ages, virgin heroes, saints, and Christ were depicted riding upon white horses. At the end of the age, Christ and His heavenly armies arrive, mounted on white horses. Henry viewing himself as appointed by God would have expected such a sacred horse.
Dreams: to dream of a white horse is considered an omen of death.
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