Episode Summary: Meet Henry VIII. He’s young, handsome, rich, powerful, and like other kings he wants to be remembered forever. And what better way of becoming a legend than by going to war with France? Why France? The French have just murdered Henry’s uncle and he is clearly devastated. Why, right after declaring war with France he plays a very somber game of tennis.
However, not everyone in the English court is so excited about the prospect of war. Cardinal Wolsey for one enjoys the friendship of the French Cardinals and is hoping for their future support. He recommends that the King sign the “Treaty of Universal Peace” with France instead.
Meanwhile, The Duke of Buckingham is complaining about the King. He believes he has a greater claim to the throne and is thinking of ways to take it from Henry. Annoyed, Henry tells his closest friend, Charles Brandon, that if he sleeps with Buckingham’s daughter he will give him 100 crowns. Brandon ends the episode 100 crowns richer.
We also meet Queen Catherine. Catherine is not happy about the upcoming treaty with France or with her daughter Mary’s betrothal to the Dauphin. She warns Henry about trusting Wolsey, but he doesn’t listen. In fact he trusts Wolsey so much that later in the episode he tells Wolsey he can, “Always be assured of our love.” Catherine is also upset for another reason. Henry hasn’t been visiting her at night lately (He’s been too busy with her lady-in-waiting, Elizabeth Blount). So Henry goes to visit her that night, but she is still at prayer and he sleeps with Lady Blount instead.
It’s then time for one of Henry’s favorite pastimes, jousting! After several other matches, Henry decides to take on Buckingham. Henry wins and Buckingham gets to keep his head… for now.
Elizabeth Blount finds out she’s pregnant. She goes to Wolsey for advice and he tells her that she is not to tell anyone on pain of death (Congratulations!).
In preparation for the treaty with France, Henry declares he will not shave until he meets the French king. Behold the beard of friendship. Catherine however is not feeling friendly. She confesses to Lady Blount that she believes the King blames her for the death of their only son. Her suspicions are confirmed when we see Henry confessing that he is worried that God is preventing him from having a son because he married his brother’s wife.
To make matters worse for Catherine, in comes the Boleyn family. The Duke of Norfolk and Thomas Boleyn (brothers) are not happy about Wolsey’s influence over the King. They believe he is a corrupt man (hypocrites!) and are hoping to find away to humiliate him and rise in favor (I wonder what they’ll come up with…).
Jen Says: I imagine this episode was quite a task for The Tudors writers. In order to make the story work, they needed to give enough information about what’s already happened with setting up all the story lines for the season. I think they did a pretty good job. For those of us who don’t know a ton of British history there may still be some questions about why Buckingham has a claim to the throne or what happened to Henry’s brother, but if the writers tried to include every piece of important information the episode would be several hours long. Another reason it doesn’t need included - The Tudors isn’t historically accurate at all. It’s a series very loosely based around the actual story of Henry VIII.
One of my favorite things about this episode is how juvenile Henry is. He calls his council and declares war against France for the murder of this uncle (which never really happened) and then goes to play tennis. At this point in the series Henry needs to be viewed young and fun. The shenanigans of the King and his friends (particularly Charles Brandon) keep the court interesting. While the idea of Buckingham planning to overthrow Henry adds tension, he really comes off as sulky. Catherine (my favorite of Henry’s wives) doesn’t play a huge role in this episode. It’s mostly about Wolsey and his constant pathetic pursuit of power. And poor Lady Elizabeth Blount who is beautiful enough to catch the King’s eye and then gets pregnant and is shoved to the side.
Towards the end of the episode we meet the Boleyn family. The series is full of creeps but Thomas Boleyn really takes the cake. We don’t see much of it in this episode but most of seasons one and two are full of Thomas’ and his brother, the Duke of Norfolk’s, scheming, which usually involves using Thomas’ daughters as pawns. His daughter Anne however is really what makes The Tudors. Anne, played by actress Natalie Dormer, and her affair with Henry is the plot line that will keep viewers watching. We haven’t seen much of her yet but we will be seeing a lot more of Anne Boleyn.