Historical Inaccuracies in ‘The Tudors’ Season 1

Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Henry VIII in 'The Tudors (2007-2010).
Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Henry VIII in ‘The Tudors (2007-2010).

Episode 1 “In Cold Blood”
Assassination of the Duke of Urbino – Henry VIII had no uncle at this time, and so the scene that was included was completely made up.
Charles Brandon and the daughter of the Duke of Buckingham – there is no evidence of Brandon having an affair with any daughter of Buckingham.
Richard Pace – Pace was never accused of spying and was never imprisoned in the Tower of London.
Thomas Tallis – there is no record of Tallis being at court until 1543, not as early as is portrayed in ‘The Tudors’.
Katherine of Aragon’s first son – in the television show, Katherine of Aragon says that he lived for four weeks, but it was actually seven and a half weeks.
Marriage of Bessie Blount – in the television show, Bessie Blount is already married during her affair with the king, but in reality she didn’t marry until 1522.
Thomas Boleyn’s family – Buckingham refers to Boleyn’s family as “old” but in reality his grandfather was Mayor of London, and before that the family was rather obscure. Boleyn only had noble connections because his wife was the sister of the Duke of Norfolk.
Whitehall Palace – Whitehall is shown to be the home of Henry VIII right from the beginning of the series, but in fact it did not fall into Henry’s hands until the fall of Cardinal Wolsey in 1529.
Katherine of Aragon prays – Katherine of Aragon can be heard praying in English, but Catholic prayers were always spoken in Latin, it was only reformers who believed they should be in English.

Sam Neill as Cardinal Thomas Wolsey in 'The Tudors' (2007).
Sam Neill as Cardinal Thomas Wolsey in ‘The Tudors’ (2007).

Episode 2 “Simply Henry”
Mary I and the Field of the Cloth of Gold – the future Mary I was not present at the Field of the Cloth of Gold, it was actually Henry’s sister, Mary.
Wrestling match – there is no evidence of Henry VIII and Francis I engaging in a wrestling match, though they did both joust.
Mary Boleyn – she supposedly returned to England in 1519, before the Field of the Cloth of Gold and her affair with Henry VIII lasted around five years, much longer than on TV.
Wheeled carriages – they did not exist in Tudor times; people would travel either by litter or on horseback.
Hampton Court – in the TV show, Wolsey gives it to Henry as a gift in the early 1520s (or thereabouts), but in reality it was forfeit to Henry on Wolsey’s arrest in 1529.
Conversation with Thomas Boleyn – the conversation with Thomas Boleyn over a game of chess about Francis I in ‘The Tudors’ actually happened with the Venetian ambassador in 1515.
Buckingham arrested and executed – in the TV show Buckingham is seen to be plotting against the king, but in reality there was no evidence and the accusations were all based on hearsay.
Death of the Pope – Pope Alexander is depicted as dying in 1520 around the time of the Field of the Cloth of Gold, but there was not a Pope Alexander at this time, and Pope Leo did not die until the end of 1521.
Field of the Cloth of Gold – the treaty that was signed in the TV show was probably supposed to be the Treaty of London, actually signed two years earlier in 1518.

Henry Cavill as Charles Brandon in 'The Tudors' 2007-2010
Henry Cavill as Charles Brandon in ‘The Tudors’ 2007-2010

Episode 3 “Wolsey, Wolsey, Wolsey!”
Henry VIII’s sisters – in reality Henry VIII had two sisters, Mary and Margaret, but in the TV show these seem to have been combined into one, who would have been Mary, but is instead called Margaret.
Henry VIII’s sister’s marriage – she did not marry the king of Portugal in reality, but the King of France, Louis XII, and many years earlier than portrayed on screen.
Duke of Suffolk – Charles Brandon was made Duke of Suffolk in 1514, not 1522 as implied in ‘The Tudors’ (judging by the Chateau Vert pageant).
Eustace Chapuys – in the TV show, Chapuys is shown as visiting England in 1522, but his first visit was not actually until 1526.
Anne Boleyn’s relationships – her relationship with Thomas Wyatt is shown (or at least implied), but nothing is mentioned of her relationship with Henry Percy, which supposedly also happened around this time.

Natalie Dormer as Anne Boleyn in 'The Tudors' (2008).
Natalie Dormer as Anne Boleyn in ‘The Tudors’ (2008).

Episode 4 “His Majesty, the King”
Marguerite of Navarre – it was never recorded that Henry VIII had an affair with Marguerite of Navarre, or any of Francis I’s sisters.
Brandon and Mary Tudor – there is no evidence to suggest that Charles Brandon and Mary Tudor (Henry’s sister) had sexual relations before the latter’s first marriage to the king.
Death of the King – Princess Mary (Margaret in the TV show) did not kill her first husband, the King of France (Portugal in the TV show).
Anne Boleyn’s form of address – in some early episodes she is referred to as ‘Lady Anne’ but she did not have the title until her father was made Lord Rochford later on. She would have been Mistress Boleyn up to this point.

Zac Jenciragic as Henry Fitzroy in 'The Tudors' (2008)
Zac Jenciragic as Henry Fitzroy in ‘The Tudors’ (2008)

Episode 5 “Arise, my Lord”
Henry Fitzroy – he does not in face die young, but lives to the age of seventeen, outliving both Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn.
Brandon and Mary Tudor – they did not in fact marry in secret in England, but in France with the support of Francis I before their return to England.
Thomas Tallis and William Compton – in the TV show they are shown to be having an affair, but Tallis didn’t come to court until after Compton’s death, so it’s unlikely they ever met.
Episode 6 “True Love”
Alliance against Wolsey – Suffolk and Norfolk did not form an alliance against Wolsey, Suffolk was absent from court a lot at this point.
Episode 7 “Message to the Emperor”
Sweating sickness – when Anne Boleyn catches the sweating sickness in 1528, her father and brother do, too, but this does not happen in the TV show.

Maria Doyle Kennedy as Katherine of Aragon in 'The Tudors' (2007-2008)
Maria Doyle Kennedy as Katherine of Aragon in ‘The Tudors’ (2007-2008)

Episode 8 “Truth and Justice
Charles Brandon meets Queen Claude of France – this event supposedly took place in around 1528, but Queen Claude of France was dead by this time in reality – she died in 1524!
Episode 9 “Look to God First”
Margaret Tudor’s death – Henry’s sister is shown to die of consumption while Henry is still fighting for his divorce, but in reality she didn’t die until after Anne Boleyn’s coronation in 1533.
Episode 10 “The Death of Wolsey”
Wolsey’s death – Wolsey did not commit suicide in his cell awaiting trial, he was ill when he was arrested and died of illness en route to London.
Thomas More watches Simon Fish burn at the stake for heresy – Fish never actually burned at the stake, and it was a couple of years later than portrayed in the TV show when he was arrested; in reality, he died of plague in 1531 before his trial could take place.

12 thoughts on “Historical Inaccuracies in ‘The Tudors’ Season 1

  1. Was it just me who found Henry asking some rando for consent to be so jarring that i had to stop there? Maybe I’m too cynical, but that was the moment i laughed hard and turned it off. Sure, the guy who chopped women’s heads off and forced a woman already in love to marry him made sure to always get consent like a good 21st century boy. Tell me another one, oh historical fanfiction.


  2. In Episode 4, it shows the sister of Henry VIII, Mary Tudor arriving in Lisbon and marrying the King of Portugal Manuel I, it never happened in history, this is a fake. The King of Portugal that had the biggest Overseas Empire of the world at that time married with 3 Queens, Elizabeth of Aragon, Mary of Aragon and Leonor of Austria. Totally unthruth although good actors and good Scenarios, but trying through Irony to make fun and fooll, king Manuel I and a country that was Portugal.
    It is Historically wrong but worst it shows a great deal of racism and the usual stupid bristish actitude of superiority in a time where my country dispite small was the country to be followed and so much so that without the navigation knowledge of Portugal the British would never had their Overseas Empire that made them big.
    It is a disguting TV serial and racist! It should not be aloud to go on TV, because it disrispects a country it´s great history and culture.it should be subject to a serious diplomatic complain from Portugal.
    I hope Great Britain will not deeply regreat, in the very near future their superior actitude of leaving European Union too. Will see where it will lead this idiot country.


  3. I was so appalled by the errors in The Tudors that I kept watching only out of morbid curiosity to see how much more they could possibly mangle history… rather like a train wreck that you know is coming and the only question is how bad will the damage be! :-/

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I agree, I think she was by far the most believeable of the characters. I made the mistake of watching the film version of The Other Boleyn Girl and, um… let’s just say I was underwhelmed by that other Natalie’s portrayal of Anne. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Yeah, I thought that, too. Even more underwhelmed by the “other” Other Boleyn Girl – the BBC version! I thought that one was worse – I didn’t think any of the characters were all that believeable, and I think the storyline went out the window in places.


          1. Hm, didn’t realize there were two versions so I ferreted around the internet a bit; guess I missed that one somehow (though it sounds as if there wasn’t much to miss, LOL)

            One of these days perhaps someone will actually make a movie out of the life of Anne of Cleves, but I’m not holding my breath for that one. :-/


    1. Thanks, the carriages used in the TV show seem to be Georgian or Victorian in style, whereas the Tudors would have had wagons used for transporting furniture and the like, and not really used for people. It was quite interesting to research!


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