The six lies of Henry VIII

May 28 - the-tudors Catharine 'Goose' Cody and I have been captivated by the plot twists and turns of the second season of the Showtime series, 'The Tudors.' The Goose is quite the fan of all things 'Ennnery' and somehow manages to find a new book on the subject on an almost weekly basis.

That said, the show's historical inaccuracies are enough to make us want to behead our remote control (or at least banish a battery or two).

To begin with, there's Jonathan Rhys Myers, who plays Henry. He's a fine actor and, says Catharine who likes to use Elizabethian prose at every opportunity, 'quite fetching.' Now, that was fine when Rhys Myers was portraying the youthful, 'rock star' Henry who bounced from Catherine of Aragon to Anne Boleyn to Jane Seymour faster than one can say 'The Reformation.' But, we're deep into the saga now and, despite a nagging leg wound, the Rhys Myers' version of Henry Tudor still looks like an up-and-coming bantamweight boxer. As everyone with a wit of historical knowledge knows, though, the historical Henry aged rapidly and, by the time, he'd dumped Anne of Cleeves in favor of the young tart, Catherine Howard, looked more like a pale version of Notorious B.I.G. than Snoop Dog.

The other characters' physical appearance also strains credulity. The actress portraying the notoriously unattractive Anne of Cleeves is a real looker who, in fact, bears a passing resemblance to the young Ingrid Bergman (who stole the hearts of Bogie and about 40 million other red-blooded American men when the film debuted in 1942).

Every actor sports perfect, pearly white teeth, neatly coiffed hair and immaculate wardrobes. This at a time, mind you, when personal hygiene was virtually nonexistent. The average Tudor subject bathed once or twice annually. Oral hygiene was unknown. And pigs, cows, sheep and other animals wandered London's streets mixing their filth with the human refuse. In short, it wasn't pretty.

Hollywood is notorious for taking poetic license with facts. But, 'The Tudors' breaks new boundaries. Its cast members look better qualified to compete on reality dating programs than interpret historical figures who often had pock-marked skin, horrific teeth and rank bodily odors.

I told the Goose that, if Rhys Myers' Henry VIII continues his Dorian Gray-like refusal to age, pack on about 125 pounds or so and, according to eyewitness testimony of the time, offend courtiers with the foul odors of an open leg wound, then this viewer is packing it in and channel surfing to a more believable show like, say, 'The Real Housewives of New Jersey.' It has just as much intrigue, illicit affairs and simmering violence. And, besides, some of the 'Real' women have plus-sized bodies that are far better suited to portray the historical Henry than the lithe Mr. Rhys Myers ever could.

8 thoughts on “The six lies of Henry VIII

  1. Thank you for answering my question. Miscasting – very good point! Brad Pitt/Biden — you made me laugh out loud. Cheers, Kate

  2. JRM playing Henry may not be historically acurate…but c’mon he’s freakin’ hot
    enough said.

  3. I was only half-kidding, Kate. When the characters are so badly miscast, it can distract from the credibility of a movie or TV show. I take my history seriously (as do many others). Casting Jonathan Rhys Myers as Henry VIII is like asking Brad Pitt to portray Joe Biden.

  4. I am disappointed because you know as well as anybody…audiences like their actors to be “pretty.” A few years ago the BBC (I think) produced a movie, “Persuasion” and the actors all appeared as closed to period as possible…great movie – not-a-big-hit. Are you actually expecting historical accuracy from your entertainment? C’mon, you are too smart to have that expectation. Look at another movie “Mississippi Burning” – not entirely factual in the casting area. (Tell me please I took this too seriously and you were kidding…please, really…).

  5. I totally agree. I’m addicted to the show. But Rhys Myers as a 40-something, obese and physically failing Henry VIII? Nope.

  6. When I say I love the Tudors everyone always points out how inaccurate it is. But if you just take it as a show … it’s SO GOOD!!!

  7. Interesting point, Linda. I’ll have to keep my eyes open for that. With Rhys Myers as Henry VIII, I half expect to see a plasma screen with World Cup soccer playing in the background.

  8. When watching these “period pieces,” my mother, who was a home ec major in college, always commented on the fact that they show dresses with zippers. Yet – zippers hadn’t been invented then! I now always look for that in movies, and am surprised how many anachronisms show up…