Tag Archives: the emperor

The Would-be Medici.

28 Jun

It is the desperate moment when we discover that this empire, which had seemed to us the sum of all wonders, is an endless, formless ruin, that corruption’s gangrene has spread too far to be healed by our sceptre, that the triumph over enemy sovereigns has made us the heirs of their long undoing.

        Calvino, Invisible Cities.

It can hardly be a secret that all things medieval fascinate me right now. Inveterate telly hound that I am, showtime’s recently deceased Tudors was almost the first thing devoured. I might have started Wolf Hall before, but there is no doubt which was finished first (as well I could, given the final season had barely begun back then).  I wasn’t really interested in the television show post Cromwell’s execution (the end of the third season). Besides, even Michael Hirst began to think it was unconscionable to make Henry look like the delectable Jonathan Rhys Meyers by 1540; and Henry finally got crotchety and fat, which was my cue to exit. He had run through four wives by then, the onset of the fifth being well underway.

The Tudors has Katherine Howard (wife 5) played like the original valley girl, though contemporary portraits indicate a rather more sober woman. She was the one who infamously cuckolded Henry with his valet, and who can blame her? Imagine being 17 and married to a man three times your age. An obese man with a stinking leg wound; who, in words of a contemporary Reformer “celebrates each wedding by burning someone at the stake” and has a history of disposing of wives like so much short change. This Katherine must have realised her young life was not long for this world, and proceeded to enjoy it as best she could. This is, of course, assuming that the charges against her weren’t as trumped up as those against her Boleyn predecessor.

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