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The Tudors: The Death of Wolsey

“For all I’ve done and for all I’ve yet to do, there can be no forgiveness.”

Guess what happens in this episode? Please tell me you don’t need a hint.

The End of Wolsey

Wolsey’s prayer and suicide, intercut with the mask depicting his downfall, is just what this show does best: beautiful, dark, and clever. It should be noted that this is the first (and only) time we ever see Wolsey praying or partaking in any religious activity. I’m not Catholic, but aren’t Cardinals supposed to do this sort of thing more often? Wolsey’s been too busy running England, attempting to become Pope, and sleeping with his mistress.

No one is really sad to see Wolsey go, as evidenced by the mocking play being performed at the time of his demise. Henry is possibly the only man to regret Wolsey’s fall from power. It’s not only because he’s having such a difficult time running the country without him (although that’s certainly part of it). Throughout the series, Henry routinely shows remorse for the deaths of his political allies-turned-enemies, even when he was the cause of that person’s death. Again, it must be remembered that Henry is not evil nor is he heartless.

The Beginning of More

Remember what I said? Nothing good can come from burning books. Now we’re burning people. “Boy, that escalated quickly.” As angry as I get when people who did nothing but speak their opinions freely are lit on fire, I do love watching Jeremy Northam doing it. His face as he watches Mr. Fish burn is almost inscrutable. It seems to be a mixture of pleasure, pride, smugness, disgust, and horror. I’m glad Northam takes More’s character where he does and lets him experience a sick sort of pleasure in killing religious dissidents. It’s much more interesting than the guy with good intentions who simply takes things too far.

The End of the Beginning for Henry & Anne

Poor Henry just can’t get no satisfaction in this episode. We’re in year five of the seven year long wait Henry and Anne went through before they got married and finally fully consummated their relationship. In the meantime, all Henry can do is masturbate (how’d you like that page’s job) and attempt to overcome Anne’s unrelenting sense of propriety.

Okay, so it’s not really propriety. You know she wants it just as much as he does. Witness the determined and deliberate way they undress. She is just as frustrated as he is when she pushes him off at the last second. She doesn’t want to. It’s complicated. First of all, she can’t get pregnant before they’re married due to the social edicts of the time. Secondly, if she gives in to all of what Henry wants, will he still stay by her side? She’s been using sex as a carrot on a stick. Won’t Henry throw the stick away once he gets his carrot? It’s been his pattern in the past.

Random Historical Fact:

In history, Wolsey died of an illness. The show implies that this cause of death was a rumor circulated to spare Wolsey’s character the shame that suicide would cast on it. I like that they deviated from the historical facts, but acknowledged that they were doing so and made an excuse for it.

Costumes of the Episode:




I love when the whole ‘only royalty wear purple’ thing is explained to Chapuys. It reminds me of Mean Girls. “On Wednesdays, we wear pink.” In a weird way, the dress codes in Tudor court and high schools are similar. They serve to reinforce the very real social hierarchy.

For the first time, Anne is shown in a plotting meeting with her uncle and brother. Clearly, she is being shown more deference by everyone, family included.

Cutting your own throat must be hard. If I were Wolsey, I’d have gone with a strike on the femoral artery. Less psychologically taxing, plus you leave a prettier corpse. It’s weird I’ve thought about this, isn’t it?

Most Illustrious Quotations:

Cromwell: “You condemn all reformers as heretics?”
More: “Wolsey was far too soft on them. I intend not to be.”

Charles: “Anthony is one of our finest horsemen.”
Anthony: “Except for when I fall off.”

Anne: “You know, I sometimes wish that all Spaniards were at the bottom of the sea.”
Lady in Waiting: “Mistress Boleyn, you should not abuse the Queen’s honor with such language.”
Anne: “I care nothing for Catherine. I would rather see her hanged than acknowledge her as my mistress!”
Anne Boleyn really said this. Feisty little thing, wasn’t she?

Anne: “I would only be unhappy if you ever stopped loving me.”
Henry: “London would have to melt into the Thames first.”

Chapuys: “Perhaps the King’s Majesty is more inclined towards the reformers than you know.”
More: “I don’t think so. I know him better than you do, Excellence. His deepest instincts are traditional and faithful.”
In this, More reveals his big mistake. More imagines Henry to be the man he wants him to be, and not the selfish, spoiled child he is.

Charles: “Look at it this way, when Satan fell from heaven, was he ever invited back?”
Norfolk: “You were.”

Wyatt: “For what it’s worth, I did fuck her.”

Wolsey: “If I had served God as diligently as I served the King, He would not have given me up in my grey hairs.”
Another real quote.

More: “I am reminded of something Wolsey once told me, that I should only ever tell the King what he ought to do, not what he could do, for if the lion knows his own strength, no man could control him.”
And thus we tease Season Two.

More: “We’re standing on the edge of the abyss. God knows what shall become of us”
So do I! So do I! Do you want me to tell you Sir More? I’m not sure you’ll like it...

good end to a great season
four out of four mysterious illnesses


  1. This is making me want to watch more of The Tudors :) I've seen some of it, but not much. I like the idea of Wolsey committing suicide, it seems dramatic and plausible.

  2. The scene of Wolsey praying while the court was making fun of him was strangely moving. I think, for the first time, we heard him speaking the absolute truth. All kudos to Sam Neill who knocked it out of the park.

    Great end to the first season and a great review, as they have all been. Congratulations, sunbunny, for completing the first year and thanks for getting me into such a great show.

  3. ChrisB - Ditto for you on Downton. :) I actually had a Downton Abbey dream last night. There were escalators. It was weird.


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