The Tudors

The Tudors on Showtime….. The show is all the rage. Mmmm…… I have studied and read numerous books on  the Tudor dynasty for the last 30 years. I love all things Tudor. I’m goofy that way. But one thing bothers me…. People throughout TV land are getting their lesson in British History from a TV show. Good idea? No.

Where could I begin? I think the first and most glaring   problem is Henry himself. Henry is now on his 6th marriage. On the show, he is still trim, young and dashing with women throwing themselves at him. In reality, he was a bloated, obese, cruel man, who most women avoided as no one dared to be his wife (bad track record!).  Sure the show makes a point of his leg ulcer, but in reality, he had a lot more problems than that.

Another problem with the show is the combining of Henry VIII’s sisters, Margaret and Mary, into one character, “Margaret” .  In reality, Mary (aka grandmother of Lady Jane Grey) married the King of France and later the Duke of Suffolk.  Margaret married the King of Scotland. On the show “Margaret” marries the King of Portugal and kills him shortly after.  Mary Tudor was not a murderer. Also big problem, without the real Margaret Tudor, there is no Mary Queen of Scots, which in turn means no James I, which….. well lets just say the house of Windsor would not be around.

My next problem is the clothing. The clothing of the time is far different then what they have us see on the show. Dresses  not from the time period, head coverings unlike anything seen in history, and several actors looking nothing like the people they are portraying. Jane Seymour is a prime example.  Jane not only looked nothing like the actress portraying her, she was well-known to dress plainly and brought back the gable hood that went out of fashion with Anne Boleyn.  I kept looking for a gable hood and didn’t see one at all.

Want the real Henry VIII? And the real wives? Try David Starkey’s  Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII or perhaps The Six Wives of Henry VIII by Alison Weir. Both authors have written many books on the Tudor dynasty and are considered experts in that field. Weir’s book is a bit of an easier read, but Starkey’s explodes some of the myths surrounding Henry.  Each wife is given their due, with most emphasis on Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn of course. There are also some wonderful collections of paintings by Hans Holbein that show in detail the typical clothing of the time.

Finally, if you prefer a fictional slant on the Henry VIII story try The Autobiography of Henry VIII:  With Notes by His Fool, Will Somers by Margaret George. This is one of the best fictional books on Henry VIII I have ever read and is told from the  first person view of Henry himself, with an occasional paragraph or two by his court fool Will.  Liberties are taken in spots, but  the story for a whole is more to reality then the show.

In the end, perhaps the show serves the purpose to interest people in Tudor history. Maybe I am over protective of the Tudors? Or the historian in me is too picky?

– Christine J.

3 thoughts on “The Tudors

  1. It’s entertainment! I’ll tell you what…

    Okay. I got interest in Tudor history from The Other Boleyn Girl which is wildly incorrect, to say the least. However, it did pique my interest in the subject, which lead to my own research. The show adds visual effects to the story. It’s fun to watch. They translated the old boring story which does not really appeal to the youth of today, and made it visually enticing. No one wants to watch a huge fat old guy, mmkay?

    The show is just that – a show. Take the entertainment for what it is and leave it alone.

  2. Sadly though, it misleads people about history. By having Henry thin and still handsome, it misses the point as to why no one wanted to marry him. He was horribly mean and not very attractive anymore. Would we want to see George Washington as some swashbuckling rogue with Martha a buxom young beauty? Or perhaps Ben Franklin a handsome, thin man sans glasses? Even better, following the Tudors example, Martha could kill her first husband in order to marry George! The show is amusing, but when it is off, it is very off. You realize it is off, but a lot of people may take it as God’s Honest truth and that is the problem. Besides, the real story is just as exciting as the show!

  3. Thanks for sharing such a wonderful review with us. I like the characters, the story and the music of the show. Its all seasons are very interesting but season 1 is my favorite.

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