Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Confessions of Catherine de Medici

Author: C. W. Gortner
Publication Date: 2010
Length: 397 pages
Cost: It's still newer, so Amazon has it for 33% off of the $25.00 price ($16.67). The softcover is listed at just under $10, and the Kindle edition is just over $13.
Where Did I Hear About It: I was made aware of Gortner when I picked up The Last Queen, which I reviewed here. This is actually the book I was looking for when I picked up the other one first.

The Backstory

It's hard to tease out exactly how people perceive Catherine de Medici, the subject of this novel. Many people can match her with the famous Florentine Renaissance family, but her personal story is shrouded in mystery. Perhaps her portrait "says" it all--a strong, unflinching woman, up to the challenge that the many events of her life presented to her. Above all, the word "ruthless" has come to be associated with her, and this is primarily because of her involvement in the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre in 1572 during which hundreds of Protestant Huguenots were killed in Paris, France.

Catherine de Medici was born in Florence in 1519, and her parents died quite soon thereafter. Starting in 1520, she was raised by her aunt with her cousins, but when yet another Medici was elected Pope, this time, Giulio de Giuliano de Medici (Pope Clement VII), Catherine was moved to Florence to the Medici Palace there. As Catherine was the only child of the Duke of Urbino, she was acknowledged to be his successor. This worked against her when the Medici were violently overthrown in 1527. Pope Clement had his own problems with Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor, at the time, but Catherine joined him in Rome in 1530 after the rebels in Florence surrendered.

Catherine was betrothed to Henry, Duke of Orleans and second son of King Francis I and Queen Claude. They were both 14 at the time of their marriage, which took place in 1534. Pope Clement VII died the same year, and his successor, Pope Paul III refused to pay Francis I the large dowry his predecessor had promised. This put Catherine in a rather odd, vulnerable position that she had not anticipated. Added to this was Henry's neglect of his wife during the first ten years of their marriage. Instead of focusing on producing a family with Catherine, Henry preferred the company of several mistresses, the most notable being Diane de Poitiers, nearly 20 years his senior. Things changed for Catherine, for the better, when Francis' first son, Francis, died in 1536, probably of tuberculosis exacerbated by his previous living conditions in Spain. Francis had no children, and the responsibility to continue the Valois line fell to Henry and Catherine. Still, it wasn't until 1544 when Catherine gave birth to their first child, a son also named Francis.

It seems that Henry never warmed to Catherine, although they had nine children together. His primary mistress, Diane, actually encouraged the couple to have children, and this may the primary reason why they produced such a large family even though there was no affection between them. In 1559, Henry died after a jousting accident in which a lance broke in his eye. This changed everything again for Catherine. Her oldest son, Francis, then married to Mary, Queen of Scots, became king at the age of 15. He was immediately surrounded by a Catholic faction at court headed by the family of the Duke of Guise. This faction was interested in prosecuting the increasing Huguenot population in France, although Catherine encouraged her son to be tolerant. Francis died in 1560, and her second son, Charles, succeeded him. Catherine was far closer to Charles--he was only 9 years old--and wielded considerable power during his reign. Not wishing to push the country, on the brink of civil war, any farther, she adopted a policy of general inaction against the Protestants. This didn't stop the simmering unrest throughout the country mostly controlled by the nobility. One of the leaders, Admiral Gaspard de Coligny, refused to disband a force of nearly 2,000 Protestant-sympathizers, and Catherine decided enough was enough. Catherine's Catholic forces, primarily under the control of the nobility of the affiliated court faction, struck back. However, at a siege of the city of Orleans, the head of the Guise family was killed in 1563. Unrest between Catholics and Protestants would remain a prominent political feature on the French landscape through the end of the century.

Catherine sought important marital alliances with the most prominent families in Europe. The most fateful alliance involved Catherine's daughter, Margaret, and Henry III of Navarre. Margaret wasn't much in favor of this match, and the couple never entirely got along. Margaret married Henry in 1572, days before the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre. He returned in Navarre in 1576 without his wife, but she eventually joined him there. Eventually, after causing unnecessary unrest in Navarre, she was imprisoned by her brother, Henry (who succeeded Charles) in 1586 and spent nearly 20 years under house arrest.

Catherine's third son, Henry, succeeded Charles in 1574. Henry was an adult, and Catherine's role was not as prominent in his reign as it had been previously under Francis and Charles. Henry gradually lost patience with the Catholic court faction, and he murdered their leader, the Duke of Guise, in 1588. Because Henry had a childless marriage, he was forced to recognize Margot's husband, Henry, King of Navarre, as his successor. Navarre was a Protestant and living estranged from Margot, but regardless, he became king of France in 1589, eight months after Catherine de Medici died at the age of 69.

What About the Book?

Although this book is just as readable as The Last Queen, the story isn't quite as compelling in this novel as it was in its predecessor. There are plenty of interesting moments, personal challenges, and there is a huge cast of characters. Unfortunately, I think it is the fact that Gortner attempts to cover such a long period of time--nearly Catherine's whole life--that makes it difficult to keep the momentum in the narrative going from the beginning to the end.

Gortner again takes on the role of Catherine from a first-person perspective, and this is the same approach that he takes in The Last Queen. However, his perspective is more limited in this novel, and his lack of complete understanding of women peeks through far more. For example, when other women discuss Margot's narcissism, the solution proposed by Catherine and her other daughter, Claude, is that Margot should just have children and all will be right with the world. I see too many parallels between this perspective and this same mistaken assumption made by some men today to ignore it. There is more complexity in the character of Juana than there is in Catherine's character, and I think Gortner had a huge challenge in attempting to tell such a long story with so many events in only 400 pages. The story of Juana is much shorter, and it is clearly easier for Gortner to develop her character in that time frame.

I think one of the problems that can't be ignored by someone who has read both of Gortner's novels is how many similarities there are between them, and between the two women at the center of their stories. Both novels are "confessions" composed years after the events featured. Both novels attempt to "apologize" for and explain why the heroines did what they did to gain the reputations that history has afforded them. Juana is known as mad; Catherine is known as ruthless and cruel. Gortner tells their stories to try and explain the events that gained them these reputations. Both had troubled marriages, and they resolved these troubles somehow so their spouses, who preceded them in death, could die in peace. It's a little too neatly laid out for the reader--I think it wouldn't matter which novel a reader were to pick up first--he/she would come to the same conclusion.

Because the time frame in the novel moves so fast, it is hard to gain a true perspective of the conflicts between Catholics and Protestants in France at this time, and it is this conflict that is at the center of the novel. Readers don't grow to understand either perspective, but rather, to dislike both. Since Gortner's Catherine attempts to be sympathetic to both, it would only be fitting that the reader come to the same conclusion.

Gortner offers titles of other books at the end of the novel, again, which is an excellent touch. He also explains a few of the inconsistencies in the book and why he made the changes. As with any piece of historical fiction, some of it is accurate and some of it isn't. The series of events surrounding the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre are pretty accurate, but the fact that Charles, Catherine's son and king at the time, is poisoned by Margot after being unable to live with himself after these events is not--Charles lived another two years after the fact, and it is completely improbable that his sister would have taken his life.

Rating: A 7--it's a fast-moving read with a lot of interesting events and people. However, Catherine's character isn't as well-developed, the book covers nearly her whole life in 400 pages, and it isn't as easy to buy Gortner's apology for Catherine's reputation for cruelty.
Buy It or Borrow It: Borrow it. It's actually well worth your time. However, I still think that The Last Queen is the better novel of the two.


Catherine de Medici by Francois Clouet after 1559

Catherine de Medici by Santi di Tito

Henry II of France, formerly the Duke of Orleans, by Francois Clouet

Gaspard de Coligny by Francois Clouet

Marguerite de Valois by Francois Clouet, c. 1560

The Tudors Fact Check: Good Queen Jane?

So, who was Jane Seymour? The Tudors paints a picture of a beautiful, young blonde woman who stole King Henry's heart and was a beacon of kindness, compassion, and selflessness. The king, his daughter, Mary, and the court mourned her sudden death after the safe, if difficult, delivery of King Henry's most longed-for son, Prince Edward.

But, is that really who she was?

In the series, Jane is discovered by Henry while he is visiting Wulfhall, the home of Sir John Seymour, a friend and former partner-at-arms of King Henry. During the visit, Jane sneaks a peek at the men eating dinner together. Henry notices her, and Sir John introduces her to him. He is immediately taken by her beauty, and he offers to have her installed as one of Queen Anne's ladies at court.

Henry begins to court Jane, who appears to be the paragon of maidenly female virtue. She is completely taken by the king's attentions, falling on her knees whenever he approaches her personally. Queen Anne is aware of Henry's interest in Jane, but she is unable to remove her from her service for fear of inciting Henry's increasingly unpredictable wrath. Anne is far less concerned when she becomes pregnant for the third time.

Henry, ever confident of his physical prowess, fights in a jousting tournament among his friends. Jane, newly arrived at court, is asked for her "favors" (generally a piece of ribbon or something like it) to give Henry luck when he faces his challenge. He tucks the piece of ribbon into the side of his chest plate, positioning it over his heart. Upon a charge, Henry is struck from his horse and thrown into unconsciousness. He awakens hours later, the whole court and his family frightened by the proposition of Henry's death. Henry later tells Jane that her image was before him in his subconscious state and that she represents all that is good and pure.

Anne and her family feel that Jane could be entirely ousted if Anne were to finally bear the son that Henry so dearly desires. Henry sends Jane a purse of coins and a letter, which Jane accepts. He also gives Jane a locket with his picture inside of it. Anne discovers this locket, demands to see it, and rips it from Jane's neck after she inspects the picture inside. Lady Margaret Sheldon (Madge) finds the locket later on the floor and gives it back to Jane.

The pivotal moment occurs when Henry summons Jane to see him. He sits on a chair at the head of a table, and he invites her to sit on his lap. He lures her into a kiss just as Queen Anne, several months pregnant, bursts into the room. She flies into a rage. Henry attempts to calm Anne down, hoping to save the life of their child, but, later that evening, Anne miscarries for the second time of what appears to be a deformed boy, about three or four months old.

Henry has had enough of his marriage to Anne, and he, working with Cromwell, mercilessly brings Anne down. Anne is charged with adultery, as are several others, including her brother. While Anne is in prison awaiting her fate, Henry is eager for the change that Jane presents him--her purity will mean his rebirth after years under the influence of the dishonest, power-hungry Anne and her family. Jane is pictured joyfully planning her wedding with Henry while Anne languishes in the Tower.

Henry marries Jane at the beginning of the third season of the program, and it is clear that this is quite soon after Anne's execution. Jane immediately demonstrates her mythical kindness by accepting Lady Rochford, the widow of Anne's brother, into her household given how bad circumstances have become for her since her husband's death. Jane also begins to campaign for the return of the Lady Mary Tudor to court and into the King's favor. Henry warns her that she is treading on dangerous ground by meddling in his affairs, and she immediately is quieted. Jane also learns that Lady Elizabeth Tudor is not given any money for new clothes, and she sends her one of her jewels to make up for the lack of funds.

Lady Mary Tudor is received at court again after signing a document declaring Henry the head of the Church of England and her parents' marriage to be unlawful. Jane encourages a more positive relationship between Henry and Mary by accompanying him to visit Mary and inviting Mary to court for Christmas as a surprise for Henry. She also invites Elizabeth, and she is received warmly by her father. In an intimate moment with Henry, she attempts to argue for the reinstatement of the monasteries in the north, but Henry again demands that she stay out of his affairs lest she end up like Anne.

Jane becomes pregnant, later than Henry would like, but it is still an occasion for joy. Jane demonstrates a craving for quails' eggs at dinner with Henry, and Henry realizes Jane's condition. He is convinced this is the son he has so longed for. Jane invites him into her rooms to let him feel the child move in her womb. Soon, Jane goes into labor, and it is hard and long. Physicians are sent in, believing that a Cesarean section may be necessary, but in the end, Jane, manages to deliver Edward safely. Henry is overjoyed. Within days, Jane falls ill--Henry recognizes her condition as "childbed fever," of which his mother previously died. He prays that Jane not be taken away from him; her kindness and goodness sustains him.

Jane dies, her body laid out in a chapel, Henry kneeling by it, whispering that he will lie with her soon, for all eternity.

What's the real story?

Very little is known about Jane Seymour, mostly because her origins are so obscure and because she was queen for such a short period of time.

Jane Seymour was probably born in 1508, and historians generally agree upon this year because, at her death, 29 ladies walked in mourning in her funeral procession, traditionally one for each year of her life. She was born at Wulfhall, which is in Wiltshire, and historians believe that she was in service to Queen Katherine of Aragon before working in Queen Anne's household. She may have been in Queen Katherine's service as early as 1527, but she may have been discharged when the Queen's household was reduced in 1533. However, she was probably already working for Queen Anne by the beginning of 1534--one year before Henry's "fatefull" visit to Wulfhall.

The story of Henry's visit to Wulfhall is certainly embellished after-the-fact. Henry AND Anne visited Wulfhall for a few days in 1535, and it is unclear whether Jane was present. Even if she was, this certainly couldn't have been when Henry first met Jane as Jane, even if she was first hired to work for Anne and never did for Katherine, would have been working in the queen's household for over a year by that time. This visit seems more significant for Edward, Jane's elder brother. Edward Seymour would be very significant later on. When Henry VIII died in 1547, he arranged for a council of regency to act for and guide the young King Edward VI. Edward Seymour, then Earl of Hertford, was elected by the council to act as Lord Protector of England and Governor of the King's Person. It's a position he would come to regret.

Henry was not knocked out by a blow in a joust, but, on January 24, 1536, his horse tumbled and he was unconscious for about two hours. Publicly, Anne claimed that news of this incident, brought to her by the Duke of Norfolk, was the main cause of her miscarriage five days later. However, Emperor Charles V's ambassador to the English court, Eustace Chapuys, makes mention in a letter sent at the beginning of February that Anne privately was worried about her potential inability to produce children and Henry's continued attentions to Jane Seymour. There is no evidence that the fetus was in any way deformed, and as Anne believed she was 15 weeks along, the sex of the child may have been unable to be determined with any certainty.

Henry did send Jane a letter and a bag of coins in March 1536, but in reality, she sent them back. This was probably a sign that Henry was summoning Jane to become his latest royal mistress, and Jane must have known what was in the letter if she sent it back, without opening it, and made the statement she did in response to its delivery. She kissed the letter, returned it to the sender with the coins, and claimed that nothing was more valuable to her than her virginity. If the king wished to send her money, she asked that it be done when she had contracted an advantageous marriage.

This was Anne Boleyn's trump card, played so many years earlier. Whether truly because she valued her virginity or because she valued the favors she and her family would enjoy if she held out from the king for a while, Anne did exactly the same thing. Anne won a king with this trick--so would Jane.

It is important to understand where Jane and her family stood regarding the reformation of the church, which was ongoing at the time. Anne and her family were reformists, and Henry had surrounded himself with people of like-minds while they enjoyed influence at court. However, there were many of considerable, long-standing noble origin who did not support the separation of England from the Catholic Church, and Jane's association with them cannot be ignored. In particular, this faction was interested in the restoration of the Lady Mary to the succession. Anne had also done quite a bit of damage on her own. She was well-known for her sharp tongue and hardened opinions, and this had resulted in the alienation of many who had been her supporters.

There is no written evidence of Jane's immediate association with Anne's enemies, but it is clear that she was Anne's foil in every possible way. She was quiet, humble, and submissive. She wasn't particularly well-educated, although she could read and write. Her motto was "Bound to obey and serve," and she embodied this to the letter. She was also not particularly attractive. Eustace Chapuys wrote to Charles V that "nobody thinks she has much beauty." Her portraits generally attest to that reality. What was she, then? Probably many things that made her attractive at the moment Anne was about to lose her life--she was a completely different personality, she was available, and the king had been paying her attentions and growing in ardor just at that time. Henry had given up his marriage to Katherine of Aragon once he had her successor secure. He seems to have sought companionship with women--not simply idle lust--and expected that he would be married, if not to one, throughout his entire life.

It is possible--even probable--that Jane was coached to be who she was with Henry. It won her a crown in the end.

Henry married Jane on May 30, 1536. She did argue for the Lady Mary's reinstatement, but she was quieted by Henry's demand that she stay out of his affairs. It seems that Henry was already softening to Mary's case once Anne was out of the picture. Cromwell obtained Henry's blessing for Mary to write to him on the same day. In June, the terms of their reconciliation were made clear to Mary--she would have to accept Henry as the head of the church and her mother's marriage as incestuous. On June 22, Mary yielded to most of these demands, finally later capitulating entirely. Henry and Jane visited her on July 6, and Mary was given funds. Mary returned to court after this, and Elizabeth would return as well. However, these were Henry's decisions and arrangements--not Jane's.

Jane's pregnancy was public by May 1537. Jane's main craving was for quails--not quails' eggs. The labor was extremely difficult for her, lasting several days. On Friday, October 12, she gave birth to Edward Tudor, Henry's only legitimate, living son. Jane made a good recovery initially, but she took a turn for the worse suddenly, and she died on October 24. How did Henry feel about this? Seemingly, not very touched. He had delayed a trip to Esher because of Jane's health, but it was reported that he was "determined" to be there on the 25th, regardless of her state by that time. However, it is also recorded that Henry assigned Norfolk the task of arranging for the funeral because he was "too broken" to do it himself. It is more likely that Henry's claims to be beside himself with grief were exaggerated niceties--kings didn't arrange for their wives' funerals customarily anyway. Everything was arranged as befit Jane's status. Her body lie in state until November 8, and she was buried four days later in a vault of St. George's Chapel. Court mourning lasted for three months following.

Henry did decide to be buried beside her upon his death nearly ten years later. Family portraits commissioned by Henry, regardless to whom he was married at the time, always featured Jane as his wife. This is generally considered a testament to the fact that Jane was the only wife who produced his longed-for male heir. Perhaps it is a commentary about how Henry perceived his wives' main roles to be. Whatever the reason, Jane, plain, quiet, and dull, was immortalized by Henry as his one true wife.


The Tudors gets an 7 for events, but a 3 for casting Jane's character. Most of the events surrounding Jane and Henry are true or only slightly adapted. However, there is no evidence that Jane was extremely kind. It is more likely that her "kindness," especially to Lady Mary, was motivated by the desires of her connections to an anti-Boleyn, Catholic court faction. Henry certainly did not have the same ardor for her that he previously had for Anne. The series casts Jane as the light in his life, whereas she was probably more of a dull, and therefore more attractive, alternative to Anne's spectacular wit and alluring appearance. It is also more likely that Jane was acutely aware of where Anne's actions landed her, and she was probably unwilling to directly affect the affairs of court and of Henry's family in order to keep herself in Henry's good graces. Henry generally distanced himself from things "unpleasant," including death in any form, so the bedside plea to God for Jane's preservation is almost completely out of the question. Had Jane lived longer, we may know more about her and her character today. However, the idea that she was all goodness and light--or that she was even pretty--is a little far-fetched, to say the least.


Annabell Wallis as Jane Seymour from The Tudors, Season Three

Anita Briem (Jane Seymour) and King Henry VIII (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) from The Tudors, Season 2

Presentation of Jane Seymour to court after her marriage to King Henry VIII from The Tudors, Season 3

Annabell Wallis as Jane Seymour from The Tudors, Season Three

Jane Seymour by Hans Holbein, 1536

Jane Seymour, miniature, by Lucas Horenbout

Jane Seymour by unknown painter from the Cast Shadow Workshop, 1536

Prince Edward by Hans Holbein, c. 1538

"The Tudor Dynasty," a copy smaller of a life-sized mural, now lost. The original was done by Hans Holbein. The copy was done by an unknown, less talented, artist.

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Tudors Fact Check: Margaret Tudor and Charles Brandon

In Season One of Showtime's series The Tudors, the viewer meets several characters and begins to follow their stories. One of the few characters who is featured throughout the series is Charles Brandon, the Duke of Suffolk. In the first season, Charles and Henry VIII are close friends, sharing adventures, sport, and womanizing together. Then, things take a turn for the scandalous--Charles gets romantically involved with Henry's sister, Margaret.

Here is how the story plays out in the series:

Henry VIII asks Charles Brandon to escort his sister, Margaret, to Portugal to marry the old, decrepit king. Charles protests that his rank isn't high enough to warrant his taking on such an important charge. Henry responds by granting him the title Duke of Suffolk. However, knowing Charles' reputation as a notorious womanizer, Henry warns Charles about getting involved with Margaret. Margaret, on the other hand, isn't thrilled by the idea of being married to the King of Portugal or by being escorted by someone as low-born as Charles. She demands that Henry promise her that should she go through with the marriage, when the King dies, she should be permitted to marry who she chooses.

Charles accompanies Margaret to Portugal. Along the way, they become romantically involved. When they arrive, a terrified Margaret is introduced to the King of Portugal, and she is immediately repulsed by his age and pronounced limp. Regardless, she married the King, and he manages to perform in the nuptial bed. When Charles informs her that the English escort is due to leave, she smothers the King, suffocating him with a pillow. As a result, she returns with the escort, enjoying Charles' company on the way back. Both of them are at a loss as to what to do about their relationship. Charles proposes that they marry.

Charles and Henry's mutual friend, William Compton, breaks the news to Henry, and he is incensed. He banishes Charles and Margaret from court. Under these secluded circumstances, their marriage quickly starts to fall apart. Charles begs Henry for the opportunity to return to court, and, after winning an arm-wrestling match against Henry, he is welcomed back. Margaret returns as well, but, because she disapproves of Henry's relationship with Anne Boelyn, she chooses to spend more time at home in Suffolk. Charles returns to his womanizing ways, growing more and more neglectful of Margaret. Margaret quickly dies of consumption while he is at court.

What's the real story?

Although several sources claim that "Margaret Tudor" in the series is actually a composite of Henry VIII's two real sisters, Mary and Margaret Tudor, I fail to see how there is much of Margaret Tudor in either the story or the character presented in the program. The story is based nearly entirely on the life of Mary Tudor, and certainly with more than a few liberties taken. It may have been that the screenwriters didn't think it made much sense to have two regularly-mentioned characters with the same name, and decided against simply calling the character Mary Tudor (the other Mary Tudor was Henry's daughter by Catherine of Aragon). As far as I can see, the only "composite" of Margaret and Mary Tudor is the fact that Margaret's name is affixed to Mary Tudor's story.

Margaret Tudor was Henry VIII's older sister, born in 1489 and married James IV of Scotland in 1503. She was closely involved in Scottish politics during her lifetime and especially after her husband died in 1513. She married twice more after the king's death, and it is through her that her grandson, James I, had enough of a claim to the English throne that he succeeded Elizabeth I, Henry's last surviving child, known as the Virgin Queen.

Mary Tudor was Henry VIII's younger sister. She was born in 1496 and was rumored to be extremely beautiful. She was originally betrothed to the future Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, due to marry him in 1514, but Henry VIII decided against this match after he succeeded his father as king of England. Henry and Mary were close, and their shared interests meant they spent a lot of time together at court. Henry, interested in cementing a positive relationship with France, arranged a new marriage contract for Mary with Louis XII of France who was, unfortunately, about 34 years older and apparently, not a very attractive prospect. Henry was aware that Mary was attracted to Charles Brandon, the Duke of Suffolk. Charles Brandon was granted the title Duke of Suffolk while Henry was working to encourage a marriage between him and Margaret of Savoy, the governor of the Netherlands. This ennoblement was also in response to Charles' father's involvement in the pivotal battle of Bosworth in 1485 in Henry VII's favor. Mary did, though, ask her brother for the right to marry who she chose after Louis' death, and Henry, eager for her to accept Louis, granted this request.

Louis XII didn't last long, although longer than the King of Portugal did, and Mary certainly didn't directly kill him. They were married for just over 80 days at the end of 1514, and there was some implication that his active, physical involvement with his wife put enough strain on him to hasten his death rather abruptly. Mary was rushed into seclusion after his death to ensure that she was not pregnant with Louis' heir. She was later kept in relative seclusion by succeeding King Francis. Henry dispatched Charles Brandon to bring Mary back to England. Upon his arrival, he learned that Francis was aware of Mary's feelings for Charles, and Mary demanded that Charles marry her then and there. Charles, taken aback by the situation and overwhelmed by emotion, agreed. Charles and Mary married secretly in France. Charles immediately knew this was going to be problematic, so he wrote to Cardinal Wolsey, Henry's chancellor and friend, to ask for help. Wolsey managed to plead Charles' case to Henry successfully, and they were allowed to return to England. They had to pay Henry back Mary's dowry, over a period of time, and beg the king's forgiveness. They were married again, publicly, in May 1515 in England.

Mary was close to Catherine of Aragon, and Charles' working against Catherine and in favor of Henry's divorce proceedings may have put a wedge between the two of them, although this is unclear. Mary and Charles had four children together during the course of their marriage. She exhibited signs of failing health after a bout of the sweating sickness in 1518, and she died, probably from cancer, in 1533. Months later, Charles married his ward and his son's betrothed, Catherine Willoughby.


The Tudors gets about a 5 for historical accuracy. "Margaret" Tudor does marry an old king she isn't happy with, although this should have been the king of France. Since the timing of this is everything, and the series starts in the 1520s, it was probably necessary to change the monarch (all of this really happened between 1514 and 1515). She does ask Henry for the right to marry who she chooses later on. However, she had feelings for Charles Brandon long before she married him. The marriage was definitely an illicit one from a political standpoint, and Henry was angry, but not enough to banish them from court in the real history (and not enough to require that Charles arm-wrestle him for the right to return). The real Charles Brandon certainly had a multitude of problems with women, but whether or not this made him a womanizer in real life is a mystery. "Margaret" did disagree with Henry's divorce proceedings against Catherine. However, her death in the program occurs before 1530, and she lasted into the decade another three years. There is also no mention of the Brandons having had any children in the series, which they certainly did. The impression is given that their marriage was a short one, when it actually lasted 18 years. She dies of consumption in the program, but it is more likely that she actually died of cancer.

One of the best points? The story of Charles Brandon and Mary Tudor, whether portrayed on the screen or read as factual history is equally fascinating in either case. It may be a little much to call it a true love story from the historical standpoint, but it was definitely a case of truth being just as entertaining as fiction.


Henry Cavill as Charles Brandon, the Duke of Suffolk in The Tudors

Gabrielle Anwar as Margaret Tudor in The Tudors

Margaret Tudor by Daniel Mytens c. 1500-1503

Mary Tudor and Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, unknown artist, c. 1516