Poor Henry Norris. What do you say when the King of England challenges you to a friendly jousting match, since you know no good will come of it? “I’d love to, your Highness, but that’s probably not the best thing for me right now as I don’t want to be the one to accidentally kill you or at least give you a putrid leg ulcer that results in gout”? Or “Dude, you realize you suck at jousting just like you stink at cards, chess, archery, and apparently siring a male heir. Puh-lease don’t put me in the awkward position of hurting you?” Anthony Knivert never recovered politically from banging the King in the face during a joust last season. I don’t have to tell you what’s in store for Norris.
The only worse Tudor-era predicament that comes to mind — besides, of course, sweating sickness, the plague, sex with Papa Boleyn — is having the King set his sights on you romantically. I’m sure it’s great to get some royal nookie and all. And the free jewelry is tops. But when the King declared to Jane Seymour (Anita Briem, pictured) that he wanted to worship her, I couldn’t help wondering: What goes through a girl’s head at this point? Does she think “Score!”? Or “I’m totally screwed”? It can never end well. It certainly didn’t for Mary Boleyn. Or Elizabeth Blount. Or Lady Eleanor. Or Anne. As for (a.k.a. Plain), she’s already won me over a little bit with her boyish gate and way too 21st century line deliveries. I loved the bemused — and slightly confused — way she listened to her brother and father discuss her virginity and their own designs for the throne. The scene basically ended with her saying, “Hold the phone, you want me to be Queen?”
addCredit(“Anita Briem: Jonathan Hession”)
A four year-old can pick up on the obvious similarities and contrasts The Tudorsdraws between Plain and Anne. They both have a father and brotherwho’ve tied their careers to her King-wooing and son-bearing. ButAnne’s father is the strong one with political designs and her brotheris the sap. In Plain’s case, it’s her brother who seems to run theshow. I’d take Daddy Seymour over Papa Boleyn any day, but I’ddefinitely prefer George over Plain’s bratty bro. (I keep having toremind myself that George’s wife has a good reason to hate him andshe’s not just a lunatic.) What I really want to know is why Jane getsto look all pretty in blue gowns, while Anne is starting to dress moreand more like Katherine (in her black-and-navy church dress) and a bigbrown poop (that episode-opening velvet number was hideous)?
Then again, who taught Anne to enter a room, one of the King’s roomsno less, without knocking? My heart broke for her when she walked in onHenry kissing Jane: You knew at that point that she would lose thebaby. Not that I didn’t think she was walking a little too close to theedge a few scenes earlier by washing the feet of the poor. On the onehand, I give her props for being so humble (and for handing out twiceas much cash as Katherine). On the other, that can’t be good for apregnant woman. It reminded me of pregnant Gene Tierney contracting measles while volunteering at the Hollywood Canteenduring WWII: Her daughter was born prematurely and with a host ofterrible health and development problems. I wanted to grab Anne, shakeher, and tell her about Gene.
That all said: This was Henry’s episode from the minute he snuck upon the Spanish ambassador at court. JRM did a blindingly good job atinvoking the brash season 1 Henry: Did you notice how he brazenlyslipped off his jacket in the middle of a serious policy discussionwith Chapuys (who, btw, had an interesting proposition for Cromwell:Spain will recognize the king’s marriage and your newfangled religionif you legitimize Mary)? Or how his eyes lit up when he and Norrischatted about Madge? This was all set up, of course, for his joustingmishap (he later tells Anne that “It was a mistake to think I couldbehave like I used to). But there’s another huge difference between theseason 1 man-about-town Henry and the one we saw in last night’s epi:The old Henry, though he cheated on Katherine with Anne, never reallybullsh—ed her about it. But the lines he fed the queen last nightabout how happy he was to have lived for her were deplorable. That’snot to say I think he should be excommunicated or invaded by France —though I did chuckle when the French king told the Pope that of all hisallies, Henry was the biggest pain in the arse. This was a great scene:I loved the contrast between Peter O’Toole’s high camp depiction of thePope with the King dressed in shepherd’s gear. Now will France reallyinvade England? Good ol’ Francis — speaking of which, shouldn’t he haveaged just little since we last saw him — didn’t seem too keen on doingit. And if the King nullifies his marriage to Anne, will he even haveto? With only two episodes left, I guess we better find out soon.
This episode hinted at so many interesting side plots: George comingout to his wife, Wyatt going mad over Elizabeth, Cromwell bringing hiswife and son (the future hubby of Jane Seymour’s sister) to court,Brandon being the only one who seemed seriously interested in theKing’s health, not as a political hanger-on but as a friend. I want todiscuss them all, but I’ve gotta end short: I’m in Boston for mysister’s college graduation, writing this from a hotel called Bertram’sInn (those of you who are anglophiles or Agatha Christie fans will knowhow cool this is to me). Just one last thing: thanks for recommending Slings & Arrows. I haven’t gotten to David Alpay yet, but I’m hooked! I’ve also Netflixed the 2004 Masterpiece Theatre Henry VIII with Ray Winstone as the king. Check out the cast:Helena Bonham Carter as Anne, Mark Strong as Norfolk, Charles Dance asBuckingham, David Suchet as Wolsey, Emilia Fox as Jane. And written byPeter Morgan! It’s like a wet dream! If any of y’all have seen it, Iwant to know what you think…