Historical Inaccuracies in ‘The Tudors’ Season 2

Episode 1 “Everything is Beautiful”

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

Charles Brandon and his ward – Charles Brandon married his ward, Katherine Brooke, but in reality she was Katherine Willoughby. On TV, Charles married Katherine in 1532, but in reality they didn’t marry until after Anne Boleyn’s coronation, in 1534.

Assassination attempt – According to the TV show, Pope Paul III organised an assassination attempt against Anne Boleyn before her coronation. In reality he wasn’t even elected until after her coronation, and there is no evidence for an assassination attempt.

Episode 2 “Tears of Blood”

Margaret More – Margaret More is shown to be in her mid-twenties when Henry VIII married Anne Boleyn, but at this point she was actually in her early thirties.

David Alpay as Mark Smeaton in 'The Tudors (2008)
David Alpay as Mark Smeaton in ‘The Tudors (2008)

Mark Smeaton plays a violin – It looks like a very modern violin; pre-baroque instruments needed a lot more pressure and a harsher bow than the actor is using, and the placement of the instrument and the fingering is also wrong.

Episode 3 “Checkmate”

Mary Tudor’s appearance – Mary Tudor is shown as having brown hair, but in reality it was naturally red like both her mother’s and father’s.

Thomas Cranmer smuggles his wife into England from Germany in a box – There is no evidence that she was smuggled in a box, and her name was Margaret, not Katarina.

Henry talks to Anne after the birth of Elizabeth – the quote that Henry says about both of them being young and boys will follow, was actually recorded as being said to Katherine of Aragon after the birth of Princess Mary.

Eleanor Luke – Lady Eleanor Luke is seen as Henry’s mistress in 1533 while Anne was pregnant with Elizabeth. There are only two mistresses Henry is known to have had while with Anne – an unknown lady in 1534 and Madge Shelton in 1535. Eleanor Luke never existed.

Anne Boleyn holds the sovereign orb at her coronation – The sovereign orb didn’t exist in Henry VIII’s time; it wasn’t created until the time of Charles II.

Episode 4 “The Act of Succession”

Padraic Delaney as George Boleyn in 'The Tudors' (2008)
Padraic Delaney as George Boleyn in ‘The Tudors’ (2008)

George Boleyn and Mark Smeaton’s affair – There is no evidence of George Boleyn being a homosexual, in fact he was described as a ladies’ man.

William Brereton and the Jesuits – Pope Paul III asked Brereton to join the Jesuits in 1533 in the TV show, but in reality they weren’t formed until 1540, by which time Brereton had already been dead four years.

Lady Bryan introduces herself to Princess Mary – Lady Bryan had no need to introduce herself to Mary, as she did in the TV series, as in reality she had been governess to Mary for years, as she also was to Princess Elizabeth and Prince Edward.

Episode 5 “His Majesty’s Pleasure”

Henry VIII and Bess in the forest – There is no evidence that Henry picked up a woman in a forest, or even that he had many mistresses, as shown in the TV show.

Episode 6 “The Definition of Love”

Cromwell shows George Boleyn a printing press – The printing press had been introduced in England by William Caxton in 1476. George Boleyn, even if he had never seen one before, would certainly have been aware of them and would have seen their work.

Henry Norris speaks to the king about Madge Shelton – Henry Norris tells the king that he would like to marry Madge Shelton. In reality, it was Francis Weston who was rumoured to have wanted a relationship with Madge.

George Boleyn marries – In the TV show, George Boleyn is seen marrying while Anne is Queen, in around 1535. In reality, George had been married since around 1525.

Joanne King as Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford in 'The Tudors' (2008-2010)
Joanne King as Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford in ‘The Tudors’ (2008-2010)

George Boleyn rapes his new wife – In the TV show, George Boleyn is seen to rape his new wife, Jane Parker, but there is no evidence in the historical record. If it did happen it probably wouldn’t be recorded, but George Boleyn was said to be a nice person in reality, and popular.

Episode 7 “Matters of State”

Elizabeth Darrell commits suicide – Elizabeth Darrell, one of Katherine of Aragon’s ladies, is seen in the TV series committing suicide after the death of her mistress. In reality, she bore Thomas Wyatt three sons and outlived him.

Princess Elizabeth joins her parents in the palace gardens – Princess Elizabeth at this time would have been around two years old. The actress playing her looks at least four years old.

Episode 8 “Lady in Waiting”

Jane Seymour comes to court – Jane Seymour supposedly comes to court for the first time after Henry VIII visits her father at Wolf Hall. In reality, she had been at court for years, in the service of Katherine of Aragon and then Anne Boleyn.

Anne Boleyn miscarries a deformed foetus – Anne Boleyn did miscarry after Katherine of Aragon’s death, but there is no evidence of it being deformed. If it was, surely there would have been some talk, especially among Anne’s enemies, like Chapuys.

Episode 9 “The Act of Treason”

William Brereton confesses – Brereton never confessed to adultery with Anne Boleyn. Smeaton was the only one who did. Brereton was executed, but always denied his guilt.

Nick Dunning as Thomas Boleyn in 'The Tudors' (2007-8)
Nick Dunning as Thomas Boleyn in ‘The Tudors’ (2007-8)

Thomas Boleyn is arrested along with his son and daughter – Thomas Boleyn wasn’t arrested in connection with Anne’s arrest. He actually sat on the trial of Anne’s “accomplices”, judging them guilty and, by extension, condemning his own daughter.

There is no evidence of a Francis Weston – Francis Weston was a prominent courtier during Anne Boleyn’s period as Queen, but the TV show has cut him out all together.

Episode 10 “Destiny and Fortune”

Thomas Cranmer is shown at Anne’s execution – Thomas Cranmer didn’t attend Anne’s execution; he was out walking when the news came and he sat down and wept.

4 thoughts on “Historical Inaccuracies in ‘The Tudors’ Season 2

  1. Hi, although too late, but I just started watching the Tudors. Finished season 2. After every episode I have been Googling for the historical accuracy and found this post very helpful. One question, I read somewhere the poet Thomas Wyatt sat on the trial as well as Anne’s uncle. The series cut out both parts and shows Thomas was arrested. It’s this correct?


    1. Thomas Wyatt was imprisoned in the Tower of London when Anne Boleyn was tried, and his name doesn’t appear on the trial documents. He also wasn’t a peer so wouldn’t have been eligible to sit on the jury of peers. I hope you’re enjoying watching it; one of my favourites!


  2. I doubt if It really matters to the average viewer. The Tudors is a great story…even if it takes a certain dramatic license.


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