How Accurate Is: The Tudors (TV Show, 2007-2010) S1E1

Henry VIII, by Hans Holbein the Younger.
Henry VIII, by Hans Holbein the Younger.

Hello everyone! Today, I will be posting about the show The Tudors, which aired 2007-2010 on Showtime. As has been said by just about everyone who reviews this show, the true standout is the costuming; it is brilliantly done and appears (based on the many paintings of Henry VIII, I am no expert on court fashion) to convey the style of the period accurately. The actors are also impressive, and the storyline, at least as of the very first episode, is fairly compelling. Historically, as always, there are several things to discuss.

  • First of all, the opening event of the episode, the murder of the King’s Uncle, the English Ambassador to Urbino, by French soldiers, does not appear to have occurred historically; the Treaty of London of 1518 was not signed in response to a direct threat of war between France and England, and in fact was signed four years after a conflict between the two ended.[1]
  • Mary appears to be between five and ten in this episode; historically, she was born in 1516 and so could not have been older than two when the Treaty of London was signed in 1518.[2]
  • In a similar note, while Henry says in the episode that they have had five stillborn children (though in fact only one of Henry’s children was actually stillborn; the others all lived at least a few days), the fifth has yet to be born at the point the show has reached.

For more, continue past the link.

All in all, this show isn’t the least accurate I have ever seen; it does use (probably) false stories of Edward Stafford’s (the Duke of Buckingham) treason to provide a suitable villain for the first season, but this at least makes some sense because the real Stafford was executed in 1521 by Henry on trumped-up charges.[3] Similarly, in making Mary significantly older it is possible that they are trying to set up a storyline involving her later that would be more interesting if she is somewhat older. The change I find most annoying is the false murder at the beginning of the episode; they were likely trying to come up with a compelling reason for Henry’s 1523 attack on France, but it still seems like an unnecessary fabrication. After all, they could simply have begun the show eight years earlier and had several exciting battle scenes (including Flodden, where the King of Scotland was killed) to work with.[4] I can’t pass my final judgement yet, but so far I am cautiously impressed by this show. I hope you enjoyed this post, and have a good day!


1 University of Wisconsin-Madison. “Accession of Henry VIII.” n.d.

2 Encyclopedia Britannica. “Mary I: Queen of England.” Last modified July 2014.

3 Encyclopedia Britannica. “Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham.” Last modified January 2008.

4¬†University of Wisconsin-Madison. “Accession of Henry VIII.” n.d.

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