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Historical Discrepancies in the
Showtime Television Series The Tudors

While I enjoyed the first four episodes of Showtime's "The Tudors" immensely, there were some historical inaccuracies which irked me greatly. So much, in fact, that I had to make an entire page devoted to the liberties the show's creators took.


King Henry VIII looked little like Jonathan Rhys Meyers. Sure, the show's creators wanted to portray Henry as "a hottie," but this casting choice stretches the audience's willing suspension of disbelief a bit far. Here is a portrait of Henry VIII c.1520, the time period of the first two episodes.

Catherine of Aragón had golden brown hair and plump features; she was not a brunette. Furthermore, she was only 6 years older than King Henry VIII; the casting makes the age difference seem more like 15 years.

Elizabeth Blount was a girl of 15 when she attracted the notice of Henry VIII—she gave birth to Henry Fitzroy at age 17. The casting makes her seem 10 years above this age.

Anne Boleyn had reddish-brown hair. Not dark hair, as in the show.


Elizabeth Blount was not married at the time she got pregnant with Henry's child. She was married off afterwards to an acquiescing nobleman in exchange for money and titles; the show makes it seem as if she were the one committing adultery, not Henry.


Henry's meeting with Francis I of France at the Field of the Cloth of Gold lasted three weeks; the show makes it seem a matter of two days.

Henry Fitzroy, King Henry VIII's illegitimate son, was born in 1519, before Henry's meeting with Francis I of France at the Field of the Cloth of Gold in 1520, instead of after, as the show portrays.

Buckingham's trial was in 1521, 2 years after the birth of Henry Fitzroy; this was not a near-simultaneous event, as the show would have the viewer believe. The show would further have the viewer believe beyond reasonable doubt that Buckingham was guilty of treason, whereas no conclusive evidence, only hearsay, exists. Furthermore, there is no evidence to suggest that Anne Boleyn's father, Sir Thomas Boleyn, was part of the setup against Buckingham.

D. Grusin emailed, noting that the carriage in which Wolsey and Henry are riding seems to be from a later period than the early 16th century.


First and foremost, the King's sister. Margaret Tudor was, at this time, Queen of Scotland. The sister being married to an older King was MARY Tudor, who was married to King Louis XII of France — the king before Francis I. So A) we have the wrong sister B) marrying the wrong king (this mythical marriage to the King of Portugal) and C) 10 years too late! The only thing historically true about this scenario is that she had enacted a promise from Henry that next she would be allowed to marry a man of her own choosing.

On the same Margaret/Mary in this episode: Gabriell Anwar, while beaufitul, is much too tan. Noble women in the Renaissance (and after) did their utmost to avoid a single ray of sun, because pale was beautiful—to be a "Nut-Brown Maid" meant that you were a farmer's daughter, working the fields, not a woman of the court. Furthermore, how much collagen has she had put in her lips? Didn't know collagen was the in-thing in the Renaissance! She looks like Goldie Hawn in the "First Wives Club" with those lips.

The women's costumes for the entertainment at court are 70-100 years too early — the half-naked masquing costumes didn't become the mode until the court of King James I — the costumes being sleeveless, just plain white corsets (which looked like they were underwear only) would never have been acceptable, even in an entertainment situation, in the court of Henry VIII.

The subplot of the King's secretary, Richard Pace, being framed by Wolsey is preposterous. Pace was well respected, and was on the continent as Wolsey's agent at this time. Nowhere have I been able to find any reference to him being sent to the Tower.


As said, Margaret Tudor really should have been Mary Tudor. She had fallen in love with Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk before Henry married her off into France. This, however, took place in England — although a steamy love scene on a Renaissance ship makes for good television. King Louis XII of France (not of Portugal, as the writers would have it) was indeed an old man, and died within a few months of the wedding, but the writers have Margaret/Mary suffocating him with a pillow. Hmmm.

The King's secretary, Richard Pace, whom the writers fictitiously threw in the Tower in the last episode, in this episode, just as fictitiously goes mad and sees his dead wife hanging around.


Henry VIII's "natural" son (illegitimate), Henry Fitzroy, is shown dying as a child of six. In fact, he was 17 and married by the time that he died; perhaps from a sickness, perhaps through poisoning.


I didn't catch any major inaccuracies on the first viewing — anyone else?

More will be added as the show progresses. If you catch any others, please share!

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This page created on April 7, 2007. Last updated May 1, 2007.