Without a doubt The Tudors, the hit series on Showtime, is the network’s biggest ratings success since Queer as Folk. Although it is a riveting period drama, replete with dangerous sexual liaisons, bloodthirsty courtiers, and all of the soapy trappings that make a period drama such a pleasure for us to watch and although it is an excellent series, it should in no way be used a lesson in history. Although it remains fairly faithful to history (as we know it, in any case,) the following are some of the more glaring historical inaccuracies in season one of The Tudors.
Cardinal Wosley Did Not Commit Suicide
Although the series shows Thomas Wolsey slitting his own throat in a gruesome suicide, in reality he died on the way to his trial, presumably of natural causes. However, it is important to point out that he was indeed arrested on charges of treason and that, had he reached London, he no doubt would have been executed (as almost every man named Thomas that served Henry was eventually executed.)
Henry Actually Had Two Sisters, Not One
Although in the series Henry has one sister, named Margaret, in reality he had two, Margaret and Mary. Margaret, the elder, married James IV, King of Scots and later Archibald Douglas. Her granddaughter, Mary Stuart, would eventually be executed by Henry’s daughter Elizabeth for treason. The younger, Mary, after being widowed by the king of France, would eventually marry Charles Brandon and give birth to several children. She did, however, die at a fairly young age, as depicted in the series. It is important to note, however, that neither of Henry’s sisters married the King of Portugal, nor is there any suggestion that either of them murdered their respective husbands.
Henry’s Illegitimate Son, Henry Fitzroy
Although Henry did indeed have an illegitimate son with the lady-in-waiting Bessie Blount, he did not die at a tender young age as depicted in the series. Indeed, he lived well into his teens. Obviously, however, a child’s death incites more audience sympathy and emotion than a teenager.
Henry’s and Katherine’s Age
Although the series would like viewers to believe that Katherine was many years older than Henry, in fact she was only a few years older than he was, though she most likely did age considerably as a result of the terrible way she was treated by Henry during the annulment proceedings (and their aftermath.) Furthermore, at the time the first season of the series supposedly takes place, Henry was already advancing into middle-age had already begun to show signs of the unfortunate obesity that would later plague him (and, it can be assumed, all of the women who would become his wives.)
Although it takes great liberties with history, the series The Tudors is actually more accurate than some other representations of the Tudor period. Although it is not the best historical guide to that most tumultous period of English history, it can be hoped that the series, with all of its giltz and glamor, its plots and intrigues, and of course its delicious sexiness, will inspire viewers to hunt down a few history books and learn the true stories behind the series.