How Accurate Is: The Tudors (TV Show, 2007-2010) S1E2

The Field of the Cloth of Gold
The Field of Cloth of Gold

Hello! Today, I am going to do a second post on The Tudors, this time on episode two of the first season. This was quite a strong episode; the costumes in the treaty scene were well done in particular. The plot also moved along at a nice pace, and continued several of the key storylines begun in the last episode, including the downfall of Edward Stafford, the Third Duke of Buckingham. However, this episode was also over reliant on purposefully confusing the timeline; the result being that it was difficult to ascertain the year at any point in the show, a strategy that was also utilized in the previous episode. Therefore, there are quite a few things to discuss regarding the historical accuracy of this episode.

  • First of all, while the episode opened with the signing of the Treaty of London (which historically took place in 1518), the Treaty should have been signed in London, as the name suggests; the location in the show is Calais.[1] This is because the show is merging the original signing of the treaty in 1518 with the more famous meeting of the two kings (Henry VIII of England and François I of France) at the Field of Cloth of Gold in Calais in 1520. This second meeting was designed to repair the original treaty, which was already in danger of falling apart.[2]
  • This leads into the second point; if one assumes the meeting took place in 1518, as the first meeting did historically, then the execution of the Duke of Buckingham in what is apparently the following year is inaccurate, because he was executed in 1521; however, if one assumes the meeting was in 1520, accuracy is maintained.[3] Therefore, it can be seen how these inaccuracies aid the showrunners, somewhat ironically, to maintain some semblance accuracy in the end.
  • To look at something that is accurate, the wrestling match between Henry VIII and Francis I did actually take place at the Field of Cloth of Gold in 1520.

For more, continue past the link.

This next point also relates to the constant date confusion this show suffers from. Henry Fitzroy, the illegitimate son of Henry VIII with Lady Blount, was born in 1519; the execution of the Duke of Buckingham, which is depicted in the show as occurring simultaneously, was two years later in 1521.[4] However, once again, the show stops me from being able to say conclusively that this is inaccurate; because of the combination of the two events (the Treaty of London and the Field of Cloth of Gold), both the birth of Fitzroy and the execution of Buckingham technically did take place a year after the meeting depicted, although in different years. Finally, the mention by More that another Cardinal was elected Pope (instead of Wolsey) can only refer to the election of Adrian VI in 1522; this fits only if the 1520 date is assumed.[5] This, then, is why I disapprove of this constant changing of historical dates. It allows the writers of the show to get away with things that they should not be allowed to. Finally, something I should have mentioned in my previous post; while I know that many of you are probably used to seeing Henry VIII depicted as obese, in his youth he was actually regarded as quite athletic, so his depiction in the show is accurate; it will be interesting to see what they change as the show goes on, since historically he put on a great deal of weight later in life.[6]

Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed this post. See you next time!

References:

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

https://faculty.history.wisc.edu/sommerville/361/361-06.htm

2 Yale University Press. “The Field of Cloth of Gold.” Last modified 2012.

http://yalepress.yale.edu/book.asp?isbn=9780300148862

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

http://www.britannica.com/biography/Edward-Stafford-3rd-Duke-of-Buckingham

4 University of Wisconsin-Madison. “The Henrician Reformation.” n.d.

https://faculty.history.wisc.edu/sommerville/123/123%20222%20English%20Reformation%20I.htm

5 Florida International University. “The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church.” Last modified 2015.

http://www2.fiu.edu/~mirandas/conclave-xvi.htm

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

http://faculty.history.wisc.edu/sommerville/123/123%20211%20henry%20viii.htm

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