The Tudors - Departures From History

Departures From History

Many events in the series differ from events as they actually happened in history. Liberties are taken with character names, relationships, historical costume, physical appearance and the timing of events. As creator Hirst noted, "Showtime commissioned me to write an entertainment, a soap opera, and not history ... And we wanted people to watch it." He added that some changes were made for production considerations and some to avoid viewer confusion, and that "any confusion created by the changes is outweighed by the interest the series may inspire in the period and its figures."

Time is compressed in the series, giving the impression that things happened closer together than they actually did or along a different timeline. By the time of most of the events in this series, King Henry VIII was already in his mid-to-late 30s. In reality, Catherine of Aragon was only six years his elder, and he was approximately a decade older than Anne Boleyn. In The Tudors, these age differences are reversed: Maria Doyle Kennedy is thirteen years older than Johnathan Rhys Myers, who is, in turn, only five years Natalie Dormer's elder. Also, Anne was recalled to Henry's court from France three years after her sister Mary Boleyn, not simultaneously, and Henry didn't begin to court her until 1526. The matter of Henry falling enough in love with Anne to seek an annulment, ultimately severing from the Catholic Church, setting aside Catherine and marrying Anne took another seven years to resolve, culminating in Anne's coronation in 1533. In the series, the timeline from introduction to marriage seems to take little more than a year. The assassination attempt on Anne during her coronation procession was a completely fictional event, invented by Hirst "to illustrate how much the English people hated her."

Historically, Cardinal Wolsey died of an unspecified illness in Leicester in 1530, while en route to London to answer charges of treason. In the series, it is implied that this report of illness is part of a cover-up by Henry and Thomas Cromwell, to prevent anyone from knowing that the cardinal had committed suicide.

The character of Henry's sister, called "Princess Margaret" in the series, is actually a composite of his two sisters: the life events of his younger sister, Princess Mary Tudor, coupled with the name of his elder sister, Margaret Tudor. This was reportedly done to avoid confusion with Henry's daughter, Mary I of England.

Historically, Henry's younger sister Princess Mary first married the French King Louis XII. The union lasted approximately three months, until his death; Louis was succeeded by his cousin Francis I, who was married to Louis's daughter, Claude of France. Mary subsequently married Charles Brandon, 1st Duke of Suffolk, and had four children with him; their eldest daughter, Frances, was the mother of Lady Jane Grey, who held the English throne for nine days between the death of Henry's son Edward and the ascension of Henry's eldest daughter Mary. Mary Tudor died of unknown causes in 1533, not long after Henry's marriage to Anne Boleyn. Henry's eldest sister, Margaret Tudor, was in fact married to King James IV of Scotland, was grandmother of Mary, Queen of Scots and died of a stroke in 1541.

As The Tudors begins, Louis the XII has already passed away, and Henry is already negotiating a peace treaty with Francis. The series's Princess Margaret thus marries a fictional very elderly Portuguese king, who lives only a few days until she smothers him in his sleep. She then marries Brandon against Henry's wishes, and the pair have only one child, a son, before the fictional Margaret dies of consumption. Her death scenes are juxtaposed with Wolsey's, implying that they died at the same time. The fictional Brandon goes on to marry again, but has no further issue. This composite character and her life-story arc completely eliminate the children that led to Mary, Queen of Scots and Lady Jane Grey, both of whom played important roles in future monarchial politics for Henry's daughters. It should also be noted that neither of the sons of Mary Tudor and Charles Brandon lived to adulthood: one died at age six and the other at age eleven.

The series also portrays Margaret as Charles Brandon's first wife, that he married Catherine to be a mother to his and Margaret's son, and that he had no other children before or after the child he had with Margaret. In reality, Mary Tudor was Charles's third wife and Catherine his fourth. In addition to the four children he had with Margaret, he also had two by his second wife, Anne Browne (who was the niece of his first wife), and two by Catherine. He also had three natural children.

The king's natural son Henry Fitzroy was shown to be born near the beginning of the series and dying at a very young age from the sweating sickness. In fact, he lived until 1536, long enough to marry the only daughter of Anne Boleyn's uncle Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk, and be a witness to Anne Boleyn's execution.

Charles V, King of the Romans, whose parents were rulers of Castille, is given a Spanish accent when dealing with the king of England (S1E3), when in fact he was Flemish born (though he never mastered Flemish) and French educated; he didn't learn Spanish until 1518.

Thomas More is seen ordering the death of Simon Fish by burning at the stake. However, Simon Fish - while arrested for heresy - died in prison of bubonic plague. His widow married James Bainham (another outspoken religious reformer), who was ultimately burned at the stake by Thomas More.

The Countess of Salisbury (Princess Mary's governess) was executed during Katherine Howard's time as Queen-consort. In the series, however, she and her son, Lord Montagu are executed before Henry meets Anne of Cleves.

By the time he married Catherine Howard, the real Henry was middle-aged and obese - not a svelte, still relatively young man as portrayed on the show.

At the welcoming reception for Anne of Cleves, Henry introduces his daughters as "Princess." As both Mary and Elizabeth were still considered by Henry to be illegitimate, he would never have accorded them such a title, as it would in effect be declaring them legitimate. Neither Mary nor Elizabeth ever regained the title of Princess, and continued to be known as "Lady" until they each in turn succeeded to the throne. After the annulment of his marriage with Anne of Cleves, it was only rumored that they had an affair; there is no evidence of this and it seems likely that Anne remained a virgin until her death.

Henry's daughter Mary is shown to be openly hostile towards Catherine Parr having discovered her Protestant view. Mary didn't fall out with Catherine until after Henry's death, when the Queen hastily married Thomas Seymour.

The series portrays Thomas Cranmer as having fallen out of favor with Henry after Anne's downfall, and that Bishop Gardiner was the one to interrogate Katherine Howard at Syon Abbey after her sexual indiscretions and adulteries were exposed. In reality, Cranmer was the one to interrogate the young queen, and although his popularity with the Crown might have fluctuated, he remained an influential member of Henry's court and the Church of England until the ascension of Mary I in 1553.

In reality, at their mutual execution, Katherine Howard was killed first and Jane Boleyn second. Though she had suffered a nervous breakdown during her pre-execution imprisonment, Jane was noted to be calm and dignified in the moments before her death. However, the series plays up Jane's mental instability just prior to her death, and she is executed before Katherine, who loses control of her bladder at the sight of what will shortly also be her end.

In the series, many characters were introduced only when they would produce the most drama or when they became prominent in the story arc for some reason. In reality, Jane Seymour is believed to have become a lady-in-waiting to Catherine of Aragon around 1527; Anne Boleyn had been serving Catherine in the same capacity for five years at that point, which means they were at court at the same time. Maud Green, Catherine Parr's mother, was also an attendant of Catherine of Aragon's, and Catherine of Aragon was Catherine Parr's godmother. Anne Herbert (Catherine Parr's youngest sister who is featured only in the last season of the series), was lady-in-waiting to all six of Henry's wives. Katherine Howard was lady-in-waiting to Anne of Cleves, and Henry's pursuit of her began during that time, rather than after the end of his fourth marriage as is shown in the series. Sir Frances Bryan, only featured in the series during Season 3, was actually a second cousin to both Anne Boleyn and Jane Seymour, and he became a member of Henry's Privy chamber sometime between the king's ascension and 1519. He was instrumental in the machinations behind Anne's downfall, earning him the sobriquet: 'The Vicar of Hell'. Also, Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey was present in the court during the reign of his first cousin, Anne Boleyn, though the series portrays him as coming back to England around the time Jane Seymour became Queen.

The incident of rape/murder which marks the introduction of Sir Thomas Culpeper in the series was a real event, but it took place in 1539, a full year before Katherine Howard's marriage to Henry and nearly two prior to the beginnings of their affair. In reality, Culpeper was a favorite of Henry's at court and a knight of the realm, having served as a courtier for other nobility as early as 1535. He was a member of Henry's Privy chamber by 1540, when he was a member of the envoy that greeted Anne of Cleves when she arrived in England to marry Henry.

Catherine Parr was only four years older than Mary I, and Mary was nearly twenty years old when her younger sister Elizabeth was born. The series portrays Mary as much younger: barely an adolescent at the time of Elizabeth's birth and twenty years younger than Catherine Parr. Also, Catherine Parr was a member of Mary's household at the time of Lord Latimer's death. Elizabeth, on the other hand, is depicted as being much older, with the series portraying her as a teenager when Henry married Katherine Howard. Historically, she was six years old at the time.

Read more about this topic:  The Tudors

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