The next scene is seemingly thrown in to show the tension between evangelists and Catholic conservatives. On November 13, 1536, Robert Packington, a mercer and rumored evangelist was ironically on his way to mass when he was shot dead.* Packington was a man of sizable wealth and influence in Parliament. Unfortunately, his choice of friends (Cromwell may have been one) had also earned him many enemies in conservative sects. To this day, no one knows who shot Packington. John Foxe in his martyrologies of 1559 claimed John Strokesley, bishop of London, paid a priest to shoot Packington. But in later writings by Foxe, he changed his murder suspect to John Incent, the Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral. Although we will never know the murderer, some sort of clerical conspiracy is possible.
Meanwhile, Cromwell is on a mission to find Henry a new bride and his first choice is one of the nubile French royalty. But Henry cannot be bothered with marriage plans because he is too busy grieving over his dead wife. In Hollywood timing it looks like Henry grieved an awfully long time. In reality, Henry grieved for about a month before Chapuys was noticing that Henry was having a jolly good time enjoying his masques and planning his next marriage. (Of course, Chapuys comments must always be taken with the usual ill humor he sometimes showed toward Henry.)
Really, if anyone can cheer Henry up… it is his diabolical fool Wil Somers. The scenes with Meyers and his fool are, in my opinion, some of the best acting yet in this season. I really can’t do the sheer darkness that envelopes Meyers character justice in writing, but I can give the background on their relationship…
Wil Somers came into Henry’s service in 1525 and became by far his most beloved fool and companion. With his monkey hanging over his stooped shoulder, his colorful attire and his caustic wit, Somers kept everyone in the court entertained. The job of the fool was basically to make the king laugh, but also to always speak the uncensored truth. At least that is how it worked in theory, but Henry wasn’t always a good sport to playful jesting. One time, Somers had to leave court when he made the comment about Anne Boleyn, “Anne is a ribald, the child is a bastard!” Henry didn’t think that one was so funny.
But if Somers can’t cheer Henry up then perhaps spending some of that hard-earned church money will do the trick. Henry begins plans for Nonsuch Palace (built right where a church once stood). Nonsuch Palace was named its ridiculous name because Henry was in one of those “my castle is bigger than yours” phases in his life where he was trying to rival Francis I’s Chateau de Chambord. Thus, Henry believed no such palace would match the splendor and grandiosity of Nonsuch Palace. Unfortunately, Henry might be a bit disappointed to learn that the Chateau de Chambord is still arguably one of the most beautiful castles in the world and Nonsuch no longer exists. **
Back in the royal nursery, Lady Bryan must supervise Edward’s household and that includes overseeing the cleanliness of his chambers. Henry decreed Edward’s chambers were to be scrubbed down daily so that not a single germ came near the royal heir. You would think all this overzealous attention to cleanliness would have actually weakened his immune system, but by all accounts Edward was a very healthy and robust child.
Meanwhile, Henry enacts the Act of Six Articles. The Tudors breaks down each of the six articles and everything that is listed is true including Cranmer now having to hide his wife. (priests could not marry)
Back in pirate land, Sir Francis Bryan is off searching for Reginald Pole in Italy. (Henry actually appointed several assassins to hunt Pole down. …none of them caught him) The violence depicted on the Tudors might make you wonder if the show is over-dramatizing Sir Francis’ thug appeal, but Francis didn’t get the nickname, ‘the Vicar of Hell’ for nothing. He certainly had no scruples about bringing down his cousin, Anne Boleyn, even though she had been the one to secure his position in Henry’s court. But don’t worry…he will get what is coming to him. (Maybe next episode?)
Although Reginald has escaped his assassins, his actions are not earning him any fan mail. His brother, Lord Montagu and his mother, Margaret Salisbury renounce him and his treasonous actions in a letter. All true. But as the Tudor implies, Montagu and the Countess of Salisbury were forced to write condemning letters to save their heads. In truth, they shared Reginald’s views, but not his bravery/foolishness to go against the king. Would letters really save Reginald’s family? Find out in the next episode…
*Murder by gun was uncommon at this time and Packington may have been the first case in London killed in such a manner.
**Charles II’s mistress, Barbara Castlemaine demolished the castle and used the building materials to pay off her gambling debts.