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10 May 2010

Katherine's Last Laugh

So, we're now halfway through the fourth and, presumably, final season of The Tudors. Five queens down, one to go. Actually, this week, I was pleasantly surprised by a number of historical accuracies in this episode that saw the downfall of the constantly giggly, pretty, silly, slutty Katherine the Second and her lovers and co-conspirators (as she is portrayed here, at least):

  • Lady Rochford (Jane Boleyn) really did go bonkers when she was sent to the Tower for her role in helping and encouraging the queen to get it on with Thomas Culpepper while married to the queen. 
  • Henry did push a new act through parliament that allowed him to execute insane peeps. In The Tudors, she came across quite sympathetically, even though as Anne Boleyn's sister-in-law, Jane's testimony that her husband George had carnal relations with his sister Anne was pretty much the main evidence the king had for executing Anne. In reality, she likely tempted Katherine into her dalliances with Culpepper far more than the show suggested. It is generally accepted that unlike her cousin, Anne Boleyn, Katherine was probably guilty of most of the offences of which she was accused.
  • Culpepper was beheaded and Dereham was hung, drawn and quartered at Tyburn after extensive torture "determined" that they had done bad with the queen. Dereham may well have vommed after seeing Culpepper's beheading, knowing that his own death was only going to be much worse.
  • Katherine was sent to Syon Abbey while the king decided what to do with her. The trouble with Katherine was that Henry still deeply loved her right up until the point that he found out that she had cheated on him during their marriage as well as living a naughty, loose existence at her granny's house as a teenager. He really wanted her to be innocent but it was not to be. The opposite was true with Anne Boleyn--she was almost certainly innocent of adultery with the king but he was no longer in love with her and therefore charges had to be made and evidence must be found that would allow Henry to execute her.
  • Katherine did become very sensible and quiet once she learned her fate. She really did ask for a block be sent to her cell the night before so that she could practise resting her head on it and so that she wouldn't look silly during her execution. 
  • Lady Rochford did apparently regain her wits a little once she reached the scaffold (not that her madness would have saved her). In reality, her speech was very long-winded; the executioner in The Tudors sensibly interrupts.
  • Katherine and Lady Rochford did die on the same day but in reality Katherine died first. She would never have had to watch Lady Rochford's beheading and then lay her head on the same bloody block where her maid had just died (this might have happened with noble men but not for a queen or an ex-queen). Perhaps if she had, she might have wet herself in real life too. Katherine didn't really say, "I die a queen but I would rather die the wife of Culpepper." Not least because she didn't die a queen--Henry stripped her of her queenhood as soon as it became clear that his "rose without a thorn" turned out to be a way pricklier species than he had ever imagined.
Still, Henry, at least, is as Oirish as ever in this episode and in fact, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers is looking younger than even though Henry would have been over 50 at the time of Katherine's execution. I was most amused that Henry VIII (as portrayed by The Tudors) and Blair Waldorf (of Gossip Girl) both deal with a broken heart in the same way: they organise a lavish meal at their place with only the most attractive and eligible members of the opposite sex as guests. Blair might be known as Queen B but she didn't quite have the authority of Henry, however, and the likely lads stood her up.


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