The Tudors is a historical and dramatic series about the reign of King Henry VIII who lived in the 16th century. The series is named after the Tudor dynasty to which Henry VIII belonged. The series was produced between 2007 and 2010, filmed in Ireland and consists of four seasons. The creator is Michael Hirst, an English screenwriter, whose best known films are “Elisabeth” and “Elisabeth: The Golden Age”, starring Cate Blanchett.
The Tudors has an impressive cast. First of all, there is the central character King Henry VIII, played by the Irish actor and model Jonathan Rhys Meyers. Then you have the six wives of the King: Katherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Katherine Howard and Katherine Parr. Anne of Cleves is played by the well-known English soul singer Joss Stone. Princess Mary, Princess Elisabeth and Prince Edward are the King’s legitimate children. There are many different characters within the King’s court, Charles Brandon, the 1st Duke of Suffolk, is the King’s best friend. Thomas Cromwell is his chief minister and Cardinal Thomas Wolsey becomes his powerful Lord Chancellor. Thomas More is the King’s Lord Chancellor after Wolsey, he is also an important lawyer, philosopher, Renaissance humanist and author. He wrote the famous book “Utopia”.
The story focuses on one of the greatest figures of English history, King Henry VIII. He is represented as a lustful, egotistical and harsh ruler, which corresponds to the historical King’s personality. He is especially in a bad mood towards the end of his life, due to his bad health. The series emphasizes political affairs as well as the King’s marriages, thus his life with his six wives.
Season 1 represents King Henry as a young and ambitious monarch. He is married to Katherine of Aragorn and they have a daughter, Princess Mary. There is a growing distance between them because Katherine cannot bear a son and it is the King’s greatest desire to have a male heir. He meets Anne Boleyn and is immediately obsessed with her. Things go so far, that he wants a divorce from Katherine. Cardinal Thomas Wolsey is made responsible for arranging this divorce, but he is unsuccessful. This is one important point that explains his downfall.
In season 3, Henry is declared the head of the Church of England. He breaks with the Roman Catholic Church, because the Pope didn’t grant him a divorce from Catherine. The King marries Anne Boleyn who is rather an unpopular Queen in comparison with Katherine. There are also several attempts to kill her. Thomas More is executed in the second season because he cannot accept the King as the head of the English Church; it is in conflict with his strong Catholic faith. Towards the end of this season, the relationship between Anne and Henry becomes difficult, too. They have a daughter, Elisabeth, but Anne has not yet given him a son. Henry’s attention even shifts to Jane Seymour. Anne Boleyn’s situation is aggravated by the fact that she is accused of adultery and incest. Even if there is no clear evidence, she is found guilty and beheaded at the end of the season.
In season 3, Henry is married to Jane Seymour who finally bears him a male heir. She dies after her son’s birth which affects the King very deeply. He needs a new wife and Thomas Cromwell arranges the marriage with Anne Cleves which is really unsuccessful. The King is disgusted by his fourth wife and wants a divorce. Cromwell makes himself really unpopular with Henry. Accompanied by serious accusations, Thomas Cromwell is executed for treason and heresy. You already see the beginnings of Henry’s relationship with Katherine Howard in season 3.
Katherine Howard becomes the new Queen in season 4; she is very young and referred to as a teenage Queen. She is considered to be frivolous and is accused of adultery and beheaded like Anne Boleyn. But she really had affairs with other men. Then, there is the final successful marriage to Katherine Parr who outlives her husband. Season 4 also focuses on the question of the kingdom’s leadership after Henry’s death. The King dies at the end of this last season.
In my opinion, it is a great historical series, a wonderful production with brilliant actors. I think that Jonathan Rhys Meyers plays the role of King Henry VIII very well. I am really fond of the thespian abilities of Natalie Dormer who plays Anne Boleyn. According to the reviews, they are some which are very positive; The Tudors is called a “Masterpiece” and a “wonderful show”. But you can also read some references to historical inaccuracy which is seen as a negative point. Opinions are quite divided. With regard to the historical inaccuracy, it is interesting to know that the creator Michael Hirst said: “Showtime commissioned me to write an entertainment, a soap opera, and not history ...”
I would warmly recommend it to those who like historical films and series.
by Désirée Andres