Ok… so Jonathan Rhys Meyers looks nothing like the real King Henry VIII. Nor does the real Margaret Tudor marry the King of Portugal, (or Charles Brandon for that matter)! Yet no matter how strongly historians criticise the inaccuracies, no one will ever be able to diminish my love for Showtime’s ‘The Tudors’.
In defence of ‘The Tudors’, the creator Michael Hirst never denied his use of artistic licence. He was quite open about his aim to purely entertain a 21st century audience; hence the steamy sex scenes, glamorous costumes and historical exaggerations. I’m sure that for those of you who have already seen ‘The Tudors’, you will agree that Showtime’s recreation of Henry VIII’s reign was undoubtedly entertaining!
Admittedly, I may be ever-so-slightly biased in my adoration for ‘The Tudors’. I first watched the series many years ago, when I still possessed a romantic outlook of 16th century England and long before I developed my ‘historian habits’. Maybe if I were to watch ‘The Tudors’ for the first time today, I would not fall so madly in love with it?
Yet it was because of ‘The Tudors’, that I now dream of becoming a public historian. Despite its historical errors, ‘The Tudors’ did such an amazing job in bringing the drama of Henry VIII’s court to life, that I soon found myself itching to discover more. It was because of my obsession with the series, that my passion for history was reawakened and I picked up my first popular history book. It was because of ‘The Tudors’ that I volunteered for Sudeley Castle at 16 years of age; studied for my history degree at 18; began my job with Historic Royal Palaces at 20, and eventually created this blog two years later! This all sounds a little dramatic I know… (and I’m not certainly not guaranteeing that ‘The Tudors’ would trigger the same momentous impact upon your own lives)! But I’ve experienced first-hand just how influential history in the media can be, regardless of its flaws. I therefore encourage everyone to watch ‘The Tudors’ – (with an open mind and a pinch of salt of course).
Over the course of four series, viewers follow the tumultuous and bloody reign of King
Henry VIII. We first encounter Henry in his youth, when he’s married to his first wife Catherine of Aragon and dreaming of military glory. By the end of the fourth series, viewers have followed Henry throughout his six marriages, met his three children, witnessed his break with Rome and have sympathised with him after he confronts the inevitability of death.
Sympathise?! Sympathise with King Henry VIII, one of the most tyrannical kings England has ever known? Well I know it may be difficult to believe, but Jonathan Rhys Meyer’s portrayal of the Tudor King did fantastically well in bringing an element of understanding to Henry’s complex character. By simply presenting Henry VIII as a flawed – and sometimes vulnerable man – ‘The Tudors’ succeeded in making this infamous tyrant more human.
Jonathan Rhys Meyers was not the only brilliant actor in the series. Jeremy Northam, Sam Neill, Joss Stone, Sarah Bolger, Peter O’Toole, Joely Richardson and James Frain – (just to name a few!) – all exceeded in shedding light on the emotional aspect of Henry’s world. You can sense that every single member of the cast had developed a deep sense of respect for their historical figure.
Finally, if that hasn’t already persuaded you to experience ‘The Tudors’ for yourselves,
then let me talk a little about the brilliant and sublime actress: Natalie Dormer. Some of you may recognise Natalie Dormer from ‘Game of Thrones’ and ‘The Hunger Games’. Yet before all of that, Natalie Dormer starred as Henry VIII’s controversial second wife Anne Boleyn. Now, I don’t normally fan-girl over celebrities… but if I ever have the chance to meet Natalie Dormer, then I’ll be over the moon!
Her portrayal of Anne Boleyn was absolutely incredible. Whether you love or hate Henry VIII’s second queen, Natalie’s Anne Boleyn will not fail to move you. As Susan Bordo
explained: ‘Natalie Dormer really knew her history… she had a clear idea of who Anne was”. She realised early on that she possessed the power to make Anne a more relatable heroine to a wider audience, and so she fought for Anne to be portrayed as such. Natalie’s respect for Anne’s memory simply shines through the screen. No matter what your opinion is of period drama or Anne Boleyn, I’m sure you’ll still be impressed by Natalie’s iconic depiction of this infamous queen.
Well there you have it: my thoughts on Showtime’s incredibly entertaining series ‘The Tudors’. If I am still unsuccessful in persuading you to watch it, then at least I can say that I’ve tried! If however you do decide to give the show a whirl, I really do hope that you will appreciate its beauty as a great piece of historical drama, regardless of the artistic licence.
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