BBC2’s Tudor Court Season kicked off with The Last Days of Anne Boleyn. BBC2 pitted a mix of historians, David Starkey, Suzannah Lipscomb, Greg Walker and G.W Bernard and authors Alison Weir, Philippa Gregory and Hilary Mantel, against each other in a debate on the downfall of Anne Boleyn.
The format itself worked well, with Lipscomb, Starkey and Walker presenting some compelling arguments, while Gregory and Mantel provided some comedy relief.
Philippa Gregory made a royal ass of herself presenting the deformed foetus theory, while later spinning out her Other Boleyn Girl proposal on why Anne may have actually slept with her brother George.
Hilary Mantel hammed it up something fierce with much leaning forward and conspiratorial tones. Her final statement was her usual sort of misogynistic twaddle “It doesn’t do Anne any favours to cast her as a victim, she was a woman who chose to step into the tough political game,” clearly meaning to be chilling, but hard to hear over my loud scoffing every time she came on screen.
Alison Weir surprised me, placing the blame firmly with Cromwell.
“it was one of the most shocking and audacious plots in English history…it was Cromwell. Cromwell masterminded it, he got the evidence and the evidence was laid before the King and it was compelling”
While Lipscomb and Walker argued that it was not a coup engineered by Cromwell, Starkey was his usual succinct self
“The best and the most convincing liars believe their own lies. Henry had an amazing gift of persuading himself that whatever is convenient is true.”
Suzannah Lipscomb has followed up with a blog on BBC The Last Days Of Anne Boleyn: The evidence keeps us guessing
Henry VIII’s Enforcer: the Rise and Fall of Thomas Cromwell was presented by the excellent Professor Diarmaid MacCulloch. This was, as a documentary, fairly broad, with only an hour to spare for the life of Thomas Cromwell. MacCulloch was at pains to present Cromwell as, not a “thug”, but as a “pioneer and principled statesman who set the country on the road to parliamentary democracy”.
It’s difficult to praise Cromwell for securing monks a pension after he destroyed their abbeys while MacCullough is wandering in the ruins of Hailes Abbey. But it was pleasing to see him present Cromwell as genuinely dedicated to reform.
Next week, Thomas Penn will present Henry VII – Winter King. Penn is the author of last year’s Winter King: The Dawn of Tudor England.
Thomas Penn charts the dark story of the godfather of the Tudors, a man who was never meant to be king but founded the most famous dynasty ever: Henry VII.