A Head Count of Henry's Wives on Showtime's "The Tudors"

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Henry VIII is on wife number five in Showtime's fourth season of The Tudors. That means there's one more wife to go.

And it's been fun, hasn't it? The Tudors has had it all: sex, politics, religious persecution, murder, intrigue. When it came to wives, Larry King had nothing on Henry VIII, except that so far Larry has only used the divorce courts to dispose of his wives.

Image: Showtime

Since we're nearly at the end, let's review the wives, shall we? At least as they were portrayed in the series:

1. Katherine of Aragon (Maria Doyle Kennedy)-- 1509-1526; divorced

Beautiful, loyal, Spanish and Catholic. She loved Henry to death, but unfortunately she didn't bear a son, and Henry really, really wanted a son.

2. Anne Boleyn (Natalie Dormer) -- 1526-1536; executed

Beautiful, a conniver, and smart enough to make Henry put a ring on it before she set foot in it. His bed, that is. But Henry quickly tired of her as she bore an "XX" child instead of an "XY" -- Elizabeth I, as it turned out -- and as soon as Anne was accused of adultery, Henry decided it was time to for her to go.

3. Jane Seymour (Anita Briem, Annabelle Wallis) --1536-1537; died

Beautiful, a conciliator, and deeply loved by Henry. She's the only one of the wives who bore him a son that lived past the age of five, but the effort killed her.

4. Anne of Cleves (Joss Stone) -- 1540; annulled

Beautiful, German, and the pawn in a political game orchestated by Sir Thomas Cromwell. After agreeing to the marriage, the king eventually declared that Anne had the "face of a horse" and refused to consummate the marriage -- hence the annulment, and also Sir Thomas Cromwell's downfall.

5. Kathryn Howard (Tamzin Merchant) -- 1540-1542; executed

Beautiful and pathetically young to be queen. Think a 17-year-old, 16th-century version of Lindsay Lohan. She's flighty, spoiled, and doesn't seem to realize the danger she's in because of her past sexual exploits.

6. Catherine Parr (Joely Richardson) -- 1543-1547; widowed

Beautiful, mature and ready to appear as soon as Katherine makes her unfortunate exit.

Now, much has been made of the historical license the writers of The Tudors have taken throughout the series, from portly Henry being played by hot and hunky Jonathan Rhys Meyers to some dicey historical facts and figures, but Sorica MacNasty At Sassafras Junction has a very funny post called "The Tudors," Showtime's Attempt at History. One of her top three ways the show is "f**king up history" is a visual comparison of the actresses in costume with actual portraits of the wives.

Carlyn Beccia at The Raucous Royals also points out some historical inconsistencies:

Yes, the English always saw the French as uncouth and the French saw the English as positively barbaric, but the English court system was ten times harsher than France's criminal system. In England, a man could be hung for stealing a sheep. France would take the lesser punishment of removing a limb or two.

However, Eileen Murphy, "Return of the Tudors" for the Irish Echo Online, likes some of the historical changes:

Writer/producer Michael Hirst has created a fascinating world in "The Tudors" -- in large part because he has chucked any of the historical details he felt would slow things down. The characters speak in a satisfying mix of period and modern dialog, which means no "thee" or "thou," plenty of "Your Grace" and "My Lady," and the occasional F-bomb. The cast is almost uniformly young, sexy and good-looking -- imagine doing "Little Women" with Victoria's Secret models -- but that's part of the fun.

In the post, A Single Minded Tutor on "The Tudors," Jill Brown explains why she thinks modern women can learn a few lessons from those lovely ladies:

While many of them will go down in history as the condemned, the tragic and the shocking –- these historically single minded women each have admirable qualities that we modern women can take away with us.

So enjoy The Tudors while they last.

The Tudors airs Sundays at 9pm et/pt

Related Links:;

All Tudors, all the time at the Tudors Fan

The Tudor Book Blog

Tudor Digital Library

Anne Boleyn dresses because let's face it, even then it was all about fashion.

Anne Boleyn Gets the Chop on "The Tudors"

The Anne Boleyn Files, a roundup of posts and links

Megan Smith is the BlogHer Contributing Editor covering Television/Online Video.     Her other blogs are Megan's Minute, quirky commentary around the clock and Meg's Rad Review.


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