The final episode. How did it come up so quickly? I will admit, I very much put off writing about this episode, as I did not want it to be over so soon for me. Historically, of course, we all know how it ends. But, Michael Hirst brought these historical figures to such vivid life for us for four years and it makes it all that much more difficult for me to say goodbye to the series.
Just the promo for this episode alone gave me goosebumps. I found this version of it on YouTube…. it’s not the best sound or picture, but you can get an idea of what I am talking about…..
Writing about Showtime’s “The Tudors” series this past year has been a labor of love for me. I have never before attempted to write about a TV series or movie with such detail as I have done with this one. I hope you have all enjoyed reading my posts as much as I have enjoyed writing them. To be certain, this will NOT be my last post on the Tudor Dynasty or the Showtime series, but it is indeed my last detailed synopsis of an episode. With a heavy heart, I give you my last run down of the Final Episode…….
This episode is aptly titled, “Death of a Monarchy.” It couldn’t get more final than that, right? I love how they brought Maria Doyle Kennedy, Natalie Dormer, and Annabelle Wallis back on the opening credits. You can tell they reworked it to add some of the younger moments in Henry’s life.
The episode begins with a beautiful scene with a white horse, galloping towards the screen while you hear Henry’s voice. I love what he says….
“When we compare the present life of man on earth, with that time of which we have no knowledge, it seems to me like the swift flight of a single sparrow, through a banqueting hall on a Winter’s day. After a few moments of comfort, he vanishes from sight, into the Wintery world from which he came. Even so, man appears on earth for a little while. But, of what went before this life, and what will follow, we know nothing.”
King Henry and the Duke of Suffolk are sitting together, chatting. The King is in a very philosophical mood, pondering about time, and the loss of it. He quizzes the Duke about what is the most irrecoverable loss…. and informs him that time is the most irrecuperable of losses, “for it can never be redeemed.”
As usual, Bishop Gardiner is up to no good. He hands a servant a warrant for the Queen’s arrest to give to Risley….. this is definitely NOT good for the queen!
The Lord High Admirable of France pays a visit to court. Prince Edward greets him in fluent Latin, much to the delight of everyone at court. The Ladies Mary and Elizabeth are also presented to him by Queen Catherine. As they wait for the King to make an appearance, Mary uses the opportunity to speak with Bishop Gardiner, who reiterates to her the “people’s” desire to anoint Mary as queen, should the King die.
Henry makes his appearance to the Lord High Admiral of France. I like how Henry walks up to Edward and tousels his hair, and then brings the Prince to sit with him on the throne while he conducts his business with the French Admiral. Henry decides he will make peace with France and will have “no more business” with the Emperor, who he makes sure to advise to Edward has betrayed him at “every turn.” It’s clear that Henry is grooming his son to take over the throne for him. The King proposes that Mass be abolished in both England and France, but this clearly dismays the Admiral. We also learn that the French King is dying of syphilis. Henry makes no bones about using Francis’ condition as a means to gain leverage for his own desires. It’s almost laughable to hear him lecturing about how Francis’ lewd conduct is a lesson to his mortality. Certainly a bit of irony as well!
The servant that was given the arrest warrant for the Queen (I believe his name is Walter) decides to first take it to one of the Queen’s maids, who in turn secretly gives it to Catherine to warn her. The Queen is both shocked and terrified.
The King is in his chamber reading and you can hear someone sobbing very loudly in the next room. The King asks who it is, is told it’s the “Queen’s Majesty” and seems a little intrigued and suspicious as to why she is “screaming like that.” He decides to go and see her. He asks her what is wrong and she pulls herself together as best she can. She walks over, most likely terrified that now on top of everything else, the King has caught her crying. Henry asks her what is wrong. You can tell the Queen is choosing her words VERY carefully. She tells him that she fears he is displeased with her. Henry plays ignorant. He asks her what has caused her to think so and whyever would he be displeased with her??? He asks her very firmly if there is any reason he SHOULD be displeased with her. It’s a very tense moment as you wait for her to answer him. Of course, she replies that no, there is no reason for him to be displeased with her. Much to her relief, he bids her a good day and leaves the room. The way Catherine practically falls to the floor, you get a sense that her knees were probably ready to buckle at any moment and it took all she had to answer him with any composure. I will admit, I was not crazy about Joley Richardson playing Catherine Parr, as I really did not like her on “Nip/Tuck,” but I am being forced to reassess that opinion, as she has so far done a superb job.
As soon as Henry is far enough away from the room, Catherine immediately sets her ladies to work, getting rid of any books or literature whether they think it may be forbidden or not, so as to keep from incriminating herself further. She is frantic to absolve herself of guilt and she is intelligent enough to pull it off, as we will soon see…..
The Earl of Hertford pays the Duke of Suffolk a visit. Brigitte informs him that the Duke is ill, however, Charles gets out of bed to see the Earl anyways. He agrees to have a chat with him. There is a moment of concern from Brigitte about him being out of bed, and I must say, hearing Henry Cavill speak French is utterly DIVINE!!!! The Earl and the Duke quickly start discussing the unrest and unease at court about the succession. The Earl is asking for the Duke’s support for the Reformation, and in going up against Bishop Gardiner. He incorrectly assumes that since the Duchess of Suffolk supports the Reform, that Brandon does as well. He is quickly informed otherwise and hastily apologizes for his assumptions. Talk about sticking your foot in your mouth, eh? The Duke ends the conversation by telling the Earl he will not take sides in this matter and that he does not share Hertford’s beliefs in the Reform. Charles says that he would rather things were as in times past. Sad. He is very obviously tired of all of the politics.
This next scene had me actually cheering for Lady Hertford, even though she has not been a favorite character of mine. Historically, she was quite an abominable woman to deal with, and it’s very evident in this series as well. I really admired her unfailing spunk in this particular part of the episode. Lady Hertford is summoned to see Bishop Gardiner. She is perfectly aware of why he wants to see her and it does not ruffle her one bit. Gardiner, of course, questions her in regards to her affiliations with Anne Askew. She counters with the fact that Anne was illegally tortured, to which the Bishop decides to tell her that she is “guilty by association,” and shows her a warrant for her arrest. Anne stands up, reviews the warrant and hands it back to Gardiner, telling him he will never serve the warrant. She boldy informs him that she knows things about him…..things others do not. She knows he has been stealing property and money from the King and threatens to expose him if he does not tear up the warrant and forget about arresting her. She leaves him sitting there, quite deflated and I cackled in delight…. serves the wank right!
Now we come to a pivotal part in this episode, not to mention confusing. It’s fairly historically accurate, for this is truly how things transgressed, even though it seems crazy. But, that was par for the course when dealing with Henry VIII. Catherine Parr is summoned to have an audience with the King. The King is entertaining some nobles, sitting in a very luxurious room, drinking and chatting. The Queen is announced and Henry has her sent in. The room grows very quiet and you just know this is some sort of test. She dutifully kneels before him. He tells her he wishes her to clear his mind of some “doubts.” In front of the entire room of nobles, the King questions Catherine’s beliefs on what can be gained from reading the Gospels and other religious books. Like I mentioned before, Catherine was no idiot. She knew she was being tested, knew that her life depended on this one conversation and knew she had to make sure to please Henry. She quickly defers to him as Supreme Head of the Church, telling him that it is only through his knowledge and understanding of faith that she hopes to learn. He is not quick to believe her at first, telling her she has “become a doctor to instruct us all” and she did not seem to want to BE instructed. The Queen quickly assures Henry that he has misunderstood her, that she defers all things to him, her Lord and King. She begs his forgiveness, explaining that such discussions were merely meant as a distraction to his infirmities. Wow, that woman knew how to play the game. She quickly showed herself as a docile, and obedient wife, which is something Henry ultimately wanted from her. Strict obedience. He assures her they are perfect friends again and tells her he will never doubt her again. The Queen leaves, feeling reassured that she is once again in the King’s favor. Here is the really confusing part…. Henry’s servant asks him if he should rescind His Majesty’s orders to arrest the Queen. The King looks at him, surprised and indignant and asks, “Why?” Crazy… just crazy!
Poor Charles Brandon. He is getting steadily more sick. Brigitte is taking such good care of him, and it’s clear he is relieved she is there for him. He tells her he hates the night because it makes him think of “perpetual night.” It’s so sad. He knows he does not have long to live.
Let’s add some more confusion to all of this, shall we? We really get a good glimpse of how crazy Henry really was in his late years during this scene. Remember, he seemed indignant when asked if he would rescind the order to arrest Catherine?
As King Henry and Queen Catherine enjoy an outdoor luncheon, you see Lord Risley coming their way with a good number of guards. The Queen, VERY shaken and terrified, quietly asks the King what is going on. Henry, again, plays the ignorant role, pretending not to know exactly why Risley had come. Of course, he is there to arrest the Queen, under HENRY’S orders. See how this gets puzzling? What’s even more puzzling, is how the King reacts to Risley. The crazy Monarch gets out of his seat, calling Risley a knave, screaming at him to get out and take his “bastards” with him. He looks outraged and leaves everyone completely befuddled. He tells Catherine that Lord Risley was not her friend. Umm… I should say not!
Bishop Gardiner, ever the epitome of wankness, grills Risley about the events that occured, insisting that they should still try to serve the warrant to the Queen. Risley is obviously souring on the idea of arresting the Queen at this point.
Parliament convenes, and much to Lord Hertford’s irritation, Risley introduces a discussion in reference to Prince Edward’s care, education, and to whom the title of Lord Protector should fall to in the event of the King’s death. Seymour questions Risley as to why the discussion is taking place since arrangements have already been made. Risley and Gardiner staunchly defend their right to debate the arrangements already made, which angers the Earl. The Bishop goes even further to add that Seymour’s “intentions” toward the Prince and the Crown must be put before the King.” An outraged Seymour quickly punches Bishop Gardiner in the mouth. I am not a fan of violence, but that was fantastic!!!!
Following that awesome display, we come to Henry, sitting before the fire, reading again. His servant announces that the Bishop Gardiner requests an audience with him. Henry refuses his request. WOO HOO!!!!!! FINALLY!!!! The King tells his servant that the Bishop is one of a troublesome nature and that he no longer wishes to see him at court ever again. Gardiner is banished. I think he should have had a bit more come his way, but it was done in a most humiliating manner, so that is satisfactory enough for me!
The slimy Risley immediately seeks to rid himself of association with Gardiner, proclaiming his loyalty to Edward Seymour on the spot. Dastardly man. Edward accepts his loyalty and they become allies.
King Henry commissions Hans Holbein to paint a portrait of him. This will turn out to be the last painting ever done of Henry VIII and it is famous around the world. The actual portrait no longer survives, however, there are several copies done by other artists of the portrait on display throughout the UK that you can still view today.
The Duke of Suffolk is gravely ill. This part was so difficult to watch. Brigitte tells him a messenger from the King has arrived. The messenger tells the Duke that the King has heard of his illness and has asked to see him. Brigitte is incredulous (and rightly so!) and tells the messenger no. But, Charles, being the ever loyal friend and servant to Henry insists on going despite the fact that he is so weak he can barely stand on his own two feet. It’s so sad to see how pale and sickly he is. I was more than a little irritated at Henry for summoning Brandon that way when he was so sick. I know they probably were both thinking it would be the last time they would ever see eachother, but it’s so awful of the King to put Charles through that.
As Holbein is creating the sketches for his portrait of the King, it almost looks as if something walks into Henry’s peripheral view. And then you see Catherine of Aragon. Exciting!!!! The King rightfully looks as though he has seen a ghost, and asks Catherine what she is doing there. She replies that has come to see her daughter. She tells Henry he has been unkind to Mary, and she has wept often to see his treatment of her. “Is that why you have come back, to chide me? For all that I am not?” Jonathan Rhys Meyers does a very good job of making Henry look embittered and a bit tortured by his own demons. He begs her to go away. I love how she tells him very calmly, “You sent me away before, though I loved you. But I was still your wife in God’s eyes, and still am.” You can see that the King is getting delusional and becomes more “haunted” as the episode continues. I really, truly LOVE that Michael Hirst chose to bring back the first three wives!!!!! I cannot tell you how much I was bouncing in my seat to see Anne Boleyn with Elizabeth! But, I am getting ahead of myself…….
This next scene just had me shaking my head in exasperation at Henry’s insanity. Charles Brandon has finally made it to his audience with the King. Of course, it wouldn’t be Henry VIII if he wasn’t always thinking first and last about himself, right? The two best friends reminisce and Charles mentions remembering Margaret, the Battle of the Spurs, when the King made him a Duke, “God knows why.” I started crying at this point. It was so bittersweet. Henry asks Charles to trust him, literally trying to “forbid” the Duke not to die. He is confident that once again, the Duke will follow orders….. this shows Henry’s growing insanity, to be sure. He is clearly so full of himself, that he commands the ailing Duke to kneel before him, places his hands on Charles’ head and commands him to be healed. I don’t know if it is all delusion, or some wishful thinking as well on Henry’s part that it will work. I think the King was a bit in denial about being on the verge of losing his most loyal and trusted friend. It really tears at your heart as you see the glorious white horse running again………
And then, he’s gone. Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk dies at home, with Brigitte at his side. It was gut wrenching to watch this part of the show. To the very end, he was loyal to Henry alone…… not even his wife, whom he once loved deeply could persuade him to defy the King. They had grown up together as children…… and he was one of the few closest to Henry to live out his life in its entirety. Not many could claim that, as a couple of the King’s wives could attest to!
It’s even more tragic how we see Brigitte at Charles’ side, along with his son, Henry, however, when the Henry attends the formal funeral, he completely ignores her. Both him and the Duchess of Suffolk completely snub her. I am sure it was not expected otherwise in those times. After all, she was merely his Mistress. However, that had to feel like two knives in the gut rather than just the one.
The King commands that the Duke of Suffolk is to be buried at St. George’s chapel at his expense. I feel it is the very least he can do, after everything the Duke was to him……
Holbein requests an audience with the King, to show him his progress on the portrait. Henry is heartily disappointed, even indignant as to how his portrait “should” look. He orders Holbein to “do it again.”
As he is alone, mixing his “potions” to help ease his pain, Henry is confronted with the “ghost” of Anne Boleyn. I admit, since this woman is a personal passion of mine, I gobbled this scene up like a person starving. It was so well written and it’s sooooo good for Anne Boleyn fans to see her recognizing how wonderful Elizabeth has grown to be. She tells the King that although Elizabeth is like her, she is not as “intemperate” as she once was. Henry admits to Anne that he is very proud of their daughter, that he sees the wonderful qualities in her as well. He states that he wishes he could love her more, but that from time to time, she reminds him of Anne, and what she “did to him.”
Anne tells Henry that she did nothing to him, that all of the accusations against her were false. I love how she looks at him and says, “I thought you knew?” It tears the avid Anne fan apart to hear that, since we all heartily believe she was innocent. She also goes on to mention how poor Catherine Howard lies in the cold ground next to her.. how they were both like two moths drawn to the flame… and burned. And what makes it so tragic, is that it is all so very true….
Henry starts weeping, and you almost get a sense that he doesn’t quite want her to leave him when he turns and says, “Anne please dont!” But, “Anne, please dont… ” what? What did he not want her to do? Please don’t leave? Please don’t torment me? What did he really mean when he said that? That is a question that has stayed in my mind while watching this.
Now the time has come for King Henry VIII to bid farwell to his family. He is announced by his servant, and all whom are closest to him are in attendance. Henry bids Catherine, Lady Mary and Lady Elizabeth to come closer to him. He tells them he has decided that he will send them away to Greenwich. He will not spend this Christmastide with them or any thereafter. Everyone seems a bit bewildered by the King’s decision, but they accept his command. He asks Mary to be a kind and loving mother to her brother. She begs the King not to leave her an orphan so soon. He touches her face but says nothing more. To Elizabeth, he says that she is so very young, but asks her too to look after her brother. He tells her, “Bless you, child, bless you.” He comes to Catherine Parr. He says, “Cate, the time has come for us to bid farwell. It is God’s will. When I die, I order these gentlemen to treat you as if I were living still. And, if it is your pleasure to remarry, I order that you should have 7,000 pounds a year for your service, as well as your jewels and ornaments.” He then leaves a very grieving court as he walks away for the last time, ordering them all to go………
When he is gone from the room, Elizabeth immediately departs on her own leaving us to wonder what made her do that? Was it grief and a need to be alone? Was it fear of what was to come?
You hear Jane’s voice….”How’s my son?” You see Henry visibly relax. “Jane… ” he says breathlessly….”he is well. I have taken all care of him, sweet Jane and soon he will be King.” Jane keeps saying, “my poor boy… my poor child,” but Henry insists that is not true, that he is the MOST beloved boy. Jane tells Henry that their son will die young and Henry denies this telling her, “NO, NO!” Jane tells Henry that in essence, due to the way he has raised their son, the way his father raised him…. it will kill Prince Edward. Henry breaks down, seeing his Tudor Dynasty possibly dying before his very eyes.
In council, Henry appoints Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford, Lord Protector of Prince Edward during his minority, upon the event of his death, with the support of Chancellor Risley and Arch Bishop Cramner. He commands that a tomb be built and he be buried alongside his true and beloved wife, Jane Seymour at Windsor.
You see this dream like sequence of a young King Henry, staring off into space, as the white horse with comes closer and closer to him. Just as the horse reaches the young Henry……
Henry’s servant wakes him……he explains that Master Holbein is in the chapel waiting for him. The King slowly makes his way to the chapel.
The portrait is unveiled and immediately you get this rush of what Henry is seeing in the picture…. in essence, his life flashing before his eyes…. the good, the bad, the love, the hate, the friendships and the enemies….. it all comes together right here, right now. It encompassed, in that moment, everything we have loved and hated about The Tudors in the last four years. It couldn’t have ended better when Henry turns to Holbein and tells him “it is well done.” And it was. It was extremely well done and I don’t think many of us will forget this series and what it brought to us any time soon.
The last parts of music at the end were the very last bars of the theme song as the episode draws to a close. Four years of telling a story….ended. I have to say… I am grateful that Michael Hirst didn’t actually kill Henry in the end, leaving him as sort of this indestructible myth in a way. It was all very, very well done.
Thank you, Michael Hirst. For giving us this gift that most of us shan’t soon forget. You are an inspiration to those of us who continue to enjoy the history of the Tudor Dynasty and want to learn even more from it.
****All pictures for this post were found on the site – Showtime’s Tudors Wiki (which has been SUPER helpful to me!) http://tudorswiki.sho.com/photos . Other pictures also found at http://jrhysmeyers.com/wordpress/