Summary: The Tudors is a series created by Showtime based on the life of King Henry VIII of England and his six wives, covering the latter twenty-seven years of his thirty-eight-year reign. It was filmed in and around Dublin, Ireland, and features a predominantly Anglo-Irish cast.
Although not entirely historically accurate, the show does provide an entertaining look at the Tudor era. There are four seasons in all, beginning with King Henry starting to feel unhappy with his current marriage to Catherine of Aragon to the tough decision of who will be his successor after his death; his romance with Anne Boleyn would not yield a simple answer to that decision, but instead transform England forever over the course of the next few seasons – to the alarm of his best friend, Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk. Factions would be continually pitted against one another across the country – led by men such as Cardinal Wolsey, Sir Thomas More, Lord Edward Seymour and Thomas Cromwell – as they vied for the King’s good graces. It’s not only sexy, but also educational.
Almost every episode of The Tudors is a little gem and it never gets boring. It is intense all the way through and not only the main players but also all supporting characters and one-off appearances are masterfully crafted and “filled from inside” with psychological truth. I think people who nag at the historical accuracy don’t really get the vision of the show. This series does not have the ambition of being to-the-dot-accurate history lesson, it’s ambition is to create an exciting drama. And that function it fills beautifully.
Any movie maker knows that even if you make a documentary you cannot take every hour of every day and show every minute of it. You have to make a selection of the facts – and that selection will always be subjective. Besides, even historians do not know exactly what went on in Henry’s court on a daily basis because they did not sleep in his bed and did not eat at his table, did they? The facts we have from history are also just a selection and there is no knowing whether it is a whole truth or not. And movie making is an art form – and in the work of art it is perfectly legal to bend the reality any way you like – as far it is engaging to the audiences.
The bending of some facts is totally insignificant from the point of view of a bigger picture. The show has two main layers – one is timeless, universal – this is the story about human nature and basic forces that drive it, about darkness and light in human soul – and the other is a specific period in history, the specifics and the feel of it. The show blends both aspects naturally and beautifully.
Many people complain about the choice of the actor for Henry the VIII. In my opinion the choice of Jonathan Rhys Meyers was a stroke of genius. Yes, he did not have the physique of the character but he portrayed brilliantly the nature of Henry the VIII – his dark side, his inner conflicts, his human side. I loved the way they had sexed up the historic characters.
The other stroke of genius was to cast Natalie Dormer as Ann Boleyn. Hers was the best Ann Boleyn portrayal I’ve seen. She had exactly the quality that has been described about the historic Ann Boleyn – she was not a classical beauty, but there was something irresistibly captivating about her. I never got tired of watching her. Also Dormer and Meyers had a wonderful on screen chemistry.
What made that series overall so good was that almost all characters, both big and small were intense and believable. They may have bent the facts now and then but I feel they portrayed the psychology of the people of Henry the VIII times very well. The dreams and goals people had, their fears, their mindset, etc. They managed to show the inner life of historic figures in such a way that it was really believable and captivating.