Historical Inaccuracies in ‘The Tudors’ Season 3


Henry VIII by Hans Holbein 1540
Henry VIII by Hans Holbein 1540

Episode 1 – Civil Unrest

  • Henry VIII introduces Ambassador Chapuys to Jane Seymour, like it was her first time meeting him – she had been at court for some years serving both Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn, so would have met the ambassador before.
  • Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford, served as Jane’s principal lady-in-waiting – Jane Boleyn did serve under Jane Seymour, but the latter’s principal lady-in-waiting was actually her sister, Elizabeth Seymour.
  • Francis Bryan first appears in season 3 – he was actually active at court from 1528, and was instrumental in helping Cromwell to bring about the fall of Anne Boleyn, although this isn’t shown.
  • Francis Bryan threatening to beat Mary’s head against the wall until it was as soft as a boiled apple – these words were spoken to Mary, but it was before her mother had even died (season 2) and it wasn’t by Francis Bryan, but by either George Talbot or Thomas Howard, both staunch Boleyn supporters.
  • The women at the Tudor court all seems to wear crowns and tiaras – all women in the Tudor court would have worn hoods rather than these, even queens.

Episode 2 – The Northern Uprising

  • Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford, speaks out against the rebels in the Pilgrimage of Grace – evidence suggests that Jane was in fact a Catholic rather than a Protestant reformer, and she more than likely supported the demands of the rebels to return to Rome and restore the monasteries.
  • Henry VIII’s affair with Lady Mistledon – there is no suggestion that Henry took a mistress during his marriage to Jane Seymour. There doesn’t even seem to be any evidence for a Lady Mistledon at this time.
  • Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, was sent to put down the Pilgrimage of Grace – Suffolk wasn’t a part of the recriminations against the rebels. He had been sent north to help put down the Lincolnshire rising earlier that year, but it was George Talbot and Thomas Howard who dealt with the pilgrims.
  • The character of John Constable was in reality Robert Constable, and there is no evidence that he was tortured, as he was in the TV series, with a hot poker.

Episode 3 – Dissention and Punishment

  • Anne Seymour (nee Stanhope) having an affair with Francis Bryan – there is no evidence that Anne was ever unfaithful to her husband, and Francis Bryan isn’t linked to her in any sources.
  • The Pope asks Reginald Pole to write against the divorce – in reality Henry VIII asked Reginald to write a pamphlet defending the divorce, but he in fact did the opposite.
Jane Seymour by Hans Holbein c.1536.
Jane Seymour by Hans Holbein 1536

Episode 4 – The Death of a Queen

  • Henry VIII couldn’t choose between the lives of Jane Seymour and his unborn child – there are many sources which suggest that Henry chose to save the child because he could find himself another wife.

Episode 5 – Problems in the Reformation

  • Robert Packington is shot on a bright morning in front of a crowd of witnesses – in reality it was a very early foggy morning, and there were no witnesses to the event.Henry VIII is shown as not considering a marriage for years after Jane Seymour’s death – in fact, marriage negotiations and queries were begun soon after Jane’s death.

Episode 6 – Search for a New Queen

  • Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury, is shown as being executed in 1538 with the rest of her family – she was in fact in the Tower from 1538, but wasn’t executed until 1541.
  • Anne’s brother, Duke William of Cleves, arranged her marriage to Henry VIII – in reality William just concluded the negotiations in 1539. It was their father, Duke John of Cleves, who arranged the marriage, but he died at the beginning of 1539.

Episode 7 – Protestant Anne of Cleves

  • Henry VIII refers to his daughters as princesses when introducing them to Anne of Cleves – in reality they were known as the Lady Mary and the Lady Elizabeth, as they were bastards in his eyes.
  • The Duke of Suffolk and Francis Bryan place Katherine Howard in front of the king – in reality it was Katherine’s uncle, the Duke of Norfolk, who obtained her a place at court.
Thomas Cromwell by Hans Holbein.
Thomas Cromwell by Hans Holbein.

Episode 8 – The Undoing of Cromwell

  • The Duke of Suffolk and Edward Seymour head the faction to bring Cromwell down – in actual fact the conspirators were Bishop Stephen Gardiner and Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk.
  • Duke Philip of Bavaria and Princess Mary fall in love, and she is heartbroken when he is sent home – in reality Philip of Bavaria loved her, but she didn’t love him back.
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