Thursday, November 27, 2014

Question from Rachel - Biggest inaccuracies of "The Tudors"

What are the three biggest/worst historical inaccuracies in The Tudors (in your opinion)?


PhD Historian said...

OMG!, as the kids say! How can you ask us to choose three errors from an absolute train-wreck of historical inaccuracies!

I watched only the first two or three episodes and had to stop before my head exploded, but I will offer three from just the initial episodes.

1) Costuming. Many film and television dramas are obsessively accurate when it comes to costumes, in an effort to faithfully recreate the period. Think “Downton Abbey,” or any of the Jane Austen books brought to film, or any Merchant-Ivory film. But not one item of costuming in “The Tudors” was even remotely historically accurate. From the plastic-appearing jewels to the design and fabrics of the men's doublets to the women's abstract, futuristic headdresses and Frederick’s of Hollywood gowns, the costumes were like something out of a really cheap local high school drama society production that had been heavily influenced by late 1990s nightclub-wear. Just appallingly inaccurate and abysmally poor quality.

2) Margaret/Mary Tudor. For some reason, the writers seem to have assumed that viewers were too stupid to be able to keep track of Henry's two sisters Margaret and Mary and to distinguish between Henry VIII’s sister Mary and his daughter Mary, so they rolled the sisters into one character and gave her the name dissimilar to that of the daughter. And rather than marrying the combo-sister off to a King of Scotland or a King of France, they married her off to a dotteringly-old King of Portugal (John III of Portugal would actually have been in his late 20s at the time of his fictionalized Showtime character’s marriage to Gabrielle Anwar’s “Margaret”).

3) Musician Thomas Tallis. Yes, there was a Thomas Tallis who was a court musician. But there is exactly zero evidence to suggest that he was homosexual, and sub-zero evidence to suggest that he had a sexual liaison with Sir William Compton. As a gay man, I was intensely insulted by this obvious bit of pandering on Showtime’s part to attract the gay viewer demographic. As if Kristen Holden-Reid and Henry Cavill and Callum Blue were not enough to fill that void! (Forget Jonathan Rhys Meyers ... any gay man who finds him sexy needs to have his Gay Card revoked!)

4) You asked for three, but I am throwing this one in as an “I can’t let it go without mentioning” bonus. Henry VIII masturbating into a bowl held deferentially by a servant ... on his knees no less!!! ... while courtiers stood in the door holding a conversation with the royal wanker! I seem to recall that this occurred within the first 15 minutes of the first episode, yes? Typical of Showtime, aka Sextime. I knew right away that “The Tudors” was going to be a sex drama ... approaching soft-core porn like so many other Showtime productions. “Desperate Palace-wives,” or “Real Royal Wives of Hampton Court.” Seriously, what purpose did that little semi-pornographic vignette really serve? It made Henry VIII seem like some barnyard dog ready to hump anything, be it animal, vegetable, or mineral! It set the character up to be dominated entirely by a totally-out-of-control sex drive, like some bottom-feeding sixteenth-century sex addict. Sex was not the historical Henry VIII’s motivation for divorcing Katherine of Aragon, and probably ranked lower than most modern people would believe when it came to his attraction to Anne Boleyn. The masturbation scene was gratuitous, misleading, grotesque, and entirely unwarranted and inexcusable.

kb said...

I echo PhD Historian on all counts.

For me, the MOST glaring inaccuracy was the conflation of Henry VIII's two sisters - Margaret married first to King James IV of Scotland, second to Archibald Douglas the Earl of Angus and third to Lord Methven, and Mary who married first King Louis XII of France and second Charles Brandon. As PhD Historian said, the production company believed that people were too dumb to be able to distinguish the Marys from each other. Yet, their real individual love lives and careers would have been perfect fodder for the screen writers.

But I knew pretty quickly in episode 1 that historical accuracy was not going to be relevant to this production when an 'uncle' of the king is killed by French agents in Rome. There was no such person as the king's uncle who served as an ambassador in Rome.

This was rapidly confirmed when a 19th century carriage rolled up to a palace.

Then - the costumes! I quite liked the costumes. They were inventive and creative and not anywhere close to historically accurate.

So after that first episode with the fake uncle-ambassador as an excuse to go to war with France and the 300 years later carriage, I tried to turn off my historian's eye. But then the Mary/Margaret sister thing happened and I reached for a huge bottle of vodka. The rest of the series passed before my eyes in a haze.

Laura said...

I agree quite heartily with the previous two responses. While I have, in fact, watched the series a couple of times (thank you, Netflix), it's not out of any gratefulness to the historical accuracy of the show. In fact, as kb says, there was a suspension of my historian eye, and a great deal of booze involved. Further, I rather annoyed anyone who happened to be in the same room with me by my frequent exclamations of "That's not what happened!" However, it was pretty to watch (Henry Cavill, Natalie Dormer, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Gabrielle Anwar...yum!) and I found Natalie Dormer's portrayal of Anne to be one of the best I've seen.

While I was quite disgusted by the show's combining of Henry's sisters and then marrying said "Margaret" off to a rather inaccurate king of Portugal rather than Scotland or France, the scene that irritated me the most came during the portrayal of the Field of the Cloth of Gold, when a young Mary I meets the Dauphin. She kisses him, he disgustedly wipes it away and she pushes him down. Royal children didn't behave at all like modern children would, or even like their contemporary counterparts. That incident alone would have been more insulting to the French than the wrestling incident.

Gary said...

I did not watch The Tudors, but a coworker did. He knew I have a BS in History so after every episode I would tell him what REALLY happened.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't watch that thing. I knew things were going to go south when I looked at the posters for it in the middle of Times Square, and I knew something was really, really, REALLY missing:

Every reigning Tudor monarch had RED hair. Henry VIII. His son. Both his daughters. Even several of the Brandon spawn, since Henry VIII's sister Mary had carrot red hair.

The only Tudor monarch who did not have it was Henry VII, who had dark hair; his daughter Margaret inherited his hair. I was incredulous. People COMMENTED on it constantly in Tudor times, especially in the reign of Elizabeth I, since women dyed their hair in honor of the queen and her hair was seen as proof of her paternity. Red hair is also not exactly a common trait, since it is the rarest of all hair colors amongst Caucasians. It would've been a good marker to determine, crudely, at court who was related to the king.

There were a few other things that stuck in my craw, too: one of them was Charles Brandon. Charles Brandon, going by the portraiture, was fat. Very very fat. And older than Henry VIII's sister, not younger. It was the other way round to what they had in the series. Henry's older sister, Margaret, was long since Queen of Scots and ruling in her son's name at Holyrood when Mr. Brandon was on the scene. Her temperament was not much like her younger sister's and why the writers would conflate the two is beyond me.

Lastly, Henry was only about 18 when he took the throne. They should've hired a teenage actor for at least the first two seasons.

Anonymous said...

The masturbation scene was in the last episode of the first season........One of the best parts I thought!

Jerry said...

My favorite series

Crushonjonathonrhysmeyers said...

I've quite enjoyed the series. I've watched it several times and found it to be very entertaining! I loved Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Henry Cavill. They're very sexy and beautiful men.

Anonymous said...

The 19th Century coach, and Mark Smeaton's perfectly formed modern violin with an 18th Century bow.

1tbo said...

Mark Smeaton's violin did not appear to be quite a "modern" instrument. But there would not have been violins at all in England in 1530, as the Italians were just starting to develop them, and any violin would have had only three strings until long after Henry VIII.

Unknown said...

Like most historical dramas, they are exaggerated and added to in order to make them more interesting tv viewing. I’m an avid history fan, but thoroughly enjoyed the Tudors, I take it for what it is, a drama with some facts and some fiction, after all we don’t know all that went on, we have to fill in some blanks ourselves. I liked how Thomas Mores character was handled, it even made me cry.
I watch the Tudors after The White queen and the white princess as a bit of an anthology, and soon will be able to add the Spanish princess in the mix also. The cousins war is my absolute favourite period of history followed by Alfred the great.
If you’re looking for lots of facts then go read a book or watch a documentary, if you want a bit of grit and some fiction mixed in, I don’t see what harm that does, the Tudors is a good watch.

Ann Martin said...

I thought the masturbation scene was fine and I know he’s an actor and that’s their job but I’m still amazed that he made it look so very real!

Unknown said...

Facts are valuable. Opinions not so.

Anonymous said...

I’ve seen them all…. I know a lot is left out or embellished… but the white queen, white princess, Spanish queen and tudors.. were all lovely. But tudors really show Henry as a winey baby when one could not get what he wanted. 😂

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

If you like Alfred the Great and don't mind a little tv exaggeration, I highly recommend The Last Kingdom

Anonymous said...

Completely agree with everything you have said.
They had Catherine of Aragon in headdresses that resembled a French hood. She would be raging with that.
May I ask though, why should gay people not fancy JRM? I think he’s quite cute. Mega over actor but looks pretty lol