I fear I must have been sick in the school sanatorium the week my history teacher taught about the Tudors. My understanding of the reign of Henry VII bears very little resemblance to the portrayal of his reign currently being broadcast on the BBC (‘what?’, I hear you cry, ‘the BBC broadcasting revisionist history – surely not!?’).
The problem is that The Tudors is compelling viewing. I have the DVD box sets and I avidly watch the new series. Does it matter that Henry VIII never seems to put on any weight and is as buff as he was at the beginning of story? It may do. It is clear that no one has bothered to pop into the National Portrait Gallery to have a look at Holbein’s later, or even early, portraits of the king. And wasn’t Henry ginger? Is there an anti-ginger (or should that be strawberry blond) mafia at the Beeb?
Anyway, at present we are most of the way through Henry’s life and we have seen wives come and go. I did wonder whether after the first series there would be a campaign for the canonization of Catherine of Aragon, a wonderful and much underrated queen. Certainly the portrayal of the Pilgrimage of Grace was enough to warm all good Catholic hearts, as was the portrayal of the trials and martyrdoms of St John Fisher and St Thomas More.
What is clear is that everyone from Anne Boleyn to the lowliest servant in the court feared for their future, whether it was the future of their faith or the future of their status. It is possible to characterize The Tudors as a bodice ripper of a programme that puts the sex into the sixteenth century and I would have to admit there is quite a lot of that goes on. Every now and again it reveals some truth about that troubled period in our history. It may even have some bearing on our lives today. Politicians interfering in Church affairs, surely not…?
Petra Robinson ND