Historical Inaccuracies in ‘The Tudors’ Season 4

Tamsin Merchant as Katherine Howard and Torrance Coombs as Thomas Culpeper

Episode 1 – Moment of Nostalgia

  • Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, and his wife, Katherine, are separated – later on in the series he has an affair. In reality, there is no evidence that the marriage of the Brandons was unstable, it seems to have been relatively happy.
  • On screen, Henry Howard, is shown as being in his mid-forties and calls Katherine Howard his niece. In reality, Henry and Katherine were cousins, and he was actually only in his mid-twenties at this time.
  • When Princess Elizabeth meets Katherine Howard she looks around 13/14 years old, but in reality she would only have been around 6/7.
  • Henry VIII speaks of the death of the French dauphin just after his marriage to Katherine in 1540, but the dauphin died in 1536.
  • Henry VIII is shown condemning Viscount Lisle to death, but he actually died in 1542 when being given news of his release.
  • A marriage between Princess Mary and the Duke of Orleans is proposed on screen, but the duke was already married in reality by this point.
  • There is no evidence that Anne Stanhope cheated on her husband, the Earl of Hertford, let alone with his brother. This perhaps parallels the supposed affair of Hertford’s first wife with his own father.

Episode 2 – Sister

  • Katherine Howard asks whether she’ll like Anne of Cleves when Anne is asked to court for the New Year celebrations of 1541, but in reality Katherine would already have known Anne, as she served her as a lady-in-waiting during Anne’s marriage.
  • Princess Mary is shown as snubbing Katherine Howard at every turn but, from all accounts, they actually had a cordial relationship.
  • There is no evidence that Lady Rochford had an affair with Thomas Seymour.
  • Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, did get in trouble for eating meat in Lent, but the TV show shows this as happening in 1541, whereas it was actually 1543.

Episode 3 – Something For You

  • It is suggested that Henry VIII had a sexual relationship with Anne of Cleves during his marriage to Katherine Howard. There is no evidence of a sexual relationship between the pair, either during their marriage or afterwards.

Episode 4 – Natural Ally

  • Charles Brandon is shown as being haunted by what happened in the aftermath of the Pilgrimage of Grace, but he wasn’t involved in the executions in the aftermath – it was the Duke of Norfolk in reality.

Episode 5 – The Bottom of the Pot

  • None

Episode 6 – You Have My Permission

  • Katherine Parr and Thomas Seymour are shown together almost as a couple and anticipating their marriage even before the death of Katherine’s second husband, Lord Latimer. There is no evidence that the two were thinking to marry before Latimer’s death, or that Katherine was unfaithful to any of her husbands.
  • Katherine Parr is first noticed by Henry at the Christmas festivities in 1542 on the TV show. She had been around court for a number of years before this and the king would have known her by sight. In reality the king became attracted to Katherine when she became a part of Princess Mary’s household.

Episode 7 – Sixth and Final Wife

  • Henry VIII and Katherine Parr are shown in the TV show as marrying in a church with a large number of guests, but in reality they were married in a private ceremony in the queen’s privy chamber with only close family and friends in attendance.
Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Henry VIII in The Tudors Season 4

Episode 8 – As It Should Be

  • Suffolk’s affair with the Frenchwoman, Brigitte is fictional – she herself is a fictional character invented for the TV show.

Episode 9 – Secrets of the Heart

  • Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, was sentenced to be dragged through the streets to Tyburn where he would be hung, drawn and quartered. In reality, the king changed his sentence to beheading.
  • It is shown that Henry Howard attempted to kidnap Prince Edward in order to stop the Seymours holding the reins after Henry VIII’s death. In reality he seems to have suggested that his father, Norfolk, should be regent, but there is no evidence that he went after the prince himself.
  • Princess Mary is told that Eustache Chapuys has died – in reality he didn’t die until 1556, after the death of Henry VIII.
  • The Constable of the Tower in 1546 wasn’t Sir Edmund Knyvet, but Sir Anthony Kingston.
  • Henry VIII was actually much more obese than he is depicted at this stage in the TV show.
  • Anne Parr, Katherine’s sister, is shown as being arrested, but this never happened because Katherine managed to persuade the king of her innocence in time.

Episode 10 – Death of a Monarchy

  • Charles Brandon is shown as dying in late 1546, but he actually died in mid-1545.
  • Henry VIII explains that he wants Holbein to paint a picture of him like he did of his father, but Holbein never painted a portrait of Henry VII, except the one in the Whitehall mural. Holbein also died in 1543, so he wasn’t around towards the end of the king’s life.
  • As far as we know Henry VIII didn’t say farewell to his family, as he is shown to do.
  • It wasn’t a servant who revealed the plot to Katherine Parr, but it was actually the king’s physician.
  • Henry VIII never appointed Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford, as protector as he is shown to do in the TV show – he instead appointed a group of executors who included Hertford.

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

  1. Here are some historical errors in episode 5-The Bottom of the Pot. A big error throughout the season is the absence of Thomas Cranmer, the Archbishop of Canterbury. It was Thomas Cranmer, not Stephan Gardiner as seen in the episode, who interviewed Katherine Howard. Also, Katherine Howard was beheaded first (the episode shows Lady Rochferd, Jane Boleyn losing her head first). Finally, Katherine never gave the “I die a queen” speech.


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