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The Tudors: Message to the Emperor

“Why is my land so marked out for disfavor? What have we done that has displeased Almighty God so much that he brings this pestilence upon us? Is it my fault?”

Unlike previous episodes, this installment of The Tudors offers a central event that every character must react to: the mysterious and terrifying Sweating Sickness. Some will die, some will live, some will break their musical instruments.

All You Need is Love

This was a major episode for the Henry/Anne relationship which is a little odd, considering how much of the episode they spent apart. Henry’s clearly in love with Anne. This has officially surpassed infatuation. Despite his paranoia and hypochondria this ep, he willingly sends his doctor away to tend to his ailing lover. That’s love, or as close as Henry gets. For him, putting himself second to anyone is a major step.

Henry really gets to be a decent guy for a large portion of the episode. He goes to church, expresses specific concerns over Anne, Catherine, Mary, Charles, and Anthony, and shows a very real concern for his country, not just his ego. He is terrified of getting sick and dying not only for himself, but because he would be leaving his country leaderless. He doesn’t have a son, his daughter is still a child, the country is in the grips of a mysterious epidemic and is officially at war with the Emperor. Not a great time to die.

Also showing her good side this week is Anne. Usually, she’s a manipulative, power-hungry bitch (which is why I love her), but she gets to be softer in this episode. Her interactions with her servant are really sweet. She comforts her, touches her, and hugs her. Whether or not your maid is sick, it seems like very kind behavior to interact that personally with someone so beneath you in station. Natalie Dormer does a fabulous job in that scene, particularly when she realizes her servant is actually afflicted. She is just so nonplussed. What the...wait...what do I do? I should probably get up, right?

We also get a look at her family relationships. Her connection to George seems to be very real and very loving, but her father is another issue. When she was sick, he seemed only concerned for his plans and not his daughter. When she survived, his first comfort was that things would be just as they were. Ugh. I dislike him. Your daughter’s alive, man! Be happy about that and not the fact she’ll be able to get back to seduction in no time! Clearly, this is where Anne gets her calculating side.

Hello, Goodbye

I love the scene with Thomas Tallis at William’s grave. It’s my favorite Tallis-centric scene of the entire series. He’s sad, he’s shocked, and now he’s ruined his mandolin à la Pete Townsend. Poor Thomas Tallis. He didn’t get to say goodbye to his lover and he doesn’t even get the recognition of being a loved one like William’s sort of wife. Although she does die, so it’s a win-lose situation. Tallis then begins to flirt with Joan only to have her die later in the episode. Poor guy just can’t catch a break.

Ballad of an Evolving Madman

Thomas More has so far bored me as a character. This episode marks the point where he really begins to piss me off. It makes me angry when people attribute natural disasters and the like to punishment from God. Although it was more understandable back then, I still think it’s stupid.

In addition, More’s obsession with Protestantism grows. Northam plays it dark and creepy which is perfect for More’s transition from upright moral figure to obsessive executioner. Previously, More’s been idealistic to a fault, decrying war and valuing his integrity over anything. Now he’s willing to burn people to death because they think differently from him. Not attractive. And yes, I’m aware that I’m unfairly applying contemporary morality to the 1500s.

Random Historical Fact:

So, obviously, we know much, much more about disease now than they did back then. But we still do not know what the hell the Sweating Sickness was. Seriously. We have no idea. But don’t worry, folks. It hasn’t recurred since the mid-1500s, so unless you’re planning on time traveling, you’re probably safe.

Costumes of the Episodes:

Anne Boleyn

Catherine of Aragon
Joan Larke


Yes, I know “Ballad of an Evolving Madman” isn’t a Beatles song. Or any song. It just sounded cool.

I can’t watch that first blood letting scene with William Compton. I just can’t. God they were so stupid back then. How on earth could doing THAT help? Ugh. Idiots.

I love that Joan (Wolsey’s mistress) gets all done up to meet the king. Honey, you’re a live-in mistress to a cardinal. I’m pretty sure you’re supposed to be a secret.

We get our first glimpse of how disliked Anne Boleyn is. Thanks, random heckler!

Your eyes didn’t deceive you. The woman Charles was working up a sweat with was not Margaret.

This is the episode in which any series-long bodycount becomes unfeasible. From here on in, it will just be “um, a lot?”

Henry’s hallucinations are awesomely creepy.

Most Illustrious Quotations:

Wolsey: “His Majesty would like you to supervise grain production. And North Sea trade.”
Norfolk: “Trade? Trade? What do you take me for, a butcher’s son?”

Joan: “You’re weird.”
Cute, but this word wasn’t in use at the time. William Shakespeare coined it in Macbeth in the early seventeenth century. Even then the word didn’t mean the same thing as it does today. The modern definition of “weird” can only be traced back to the 1800s.

French Ambassador: “His Eminence, Cardinal Wolsey has told me all about you, but he did not tell me how beautiful you are. For a Frenchman, that is almost a crime.
Anne: “But Frenchmen tell every woman she is beautiful. Is that not a crime too?”
I mentioned this in the comments on something previously: Natalie Dormer’s French is about as good as mine, which is not good at all. Unlike me, Anne Boleyn is supposed to have spent much of her youth in France, and so should have a better grasp of the language than someone who just took it as an elective in high school.

Anne: “This dog is very fast, really formidable.”
French Ambassador: “What’s his name?”
Anne: “Wolsey.”

Catherine: “Are you sending me away so that you can be with her?”
Henry: “No, she’s not...Do you mean Lady Anne Boleyn?”

Anne: “I can’t breathe.”
Corsets and panic do not go well together.

Henry: “I would that you were in my arms again or I in yours, for I think it long since I kissed you.”
Quote from a real letter from Henry to Anne. Yeah, he killed a lot of people for some really dumb reasons, but the man could write a love letter.

Joan: “You have a letter from Lady Anne Boleyn[...]‘I beseech you never to doubt that my opinion of you will ever change as long as I have any breath in my body.’”
Wolsey: “Well, at least she has a sense of humor.”

another good one
four out of four mysterious illnesses

1 comment:

  1. This was a very, very good episode. I was intrigued by how little actually happened, but how high the tension was throughout.

    I've mentioned it before, but one of the problems with historical drama is that we know the end. We know that Wolsey, Anne and Henry will survive; yet, it was watching how they all reacted to the crisis around them that was so interesting.

    I agree with you completely about More's transition. Creepy to watch -- again, because we know what is going to happen.


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