Filed under: Tudor Movies
By Maxine Shen
March 5, 2008 —
SURE, there was that whole Revolution thing against the British king. But today, Americans seem to be smitten with royalty – especially when it comes to the Tudor dynasty.
You know: Henry VIII, his six wives, beheadings, England’s divorce from the Catholic Church, “Bloody” Mary, the Virgin Queen . . . Ring a bell?
We’re currently experiencing serious Tudor Mania thanks to this month’s return of the popular Showtime series “The Tudors,” plenty of historical fiction, and the big-screen adaptation of Philippa Gregory’s best-selling novel “The Other Boleyn Girl” – No. 4 at last weekend’s box office.
There’s even a Tudor reference in ABC’s “Ugly Betty” – Betty’s “B” necklace is the same as the one worn by Anne Boleyn.
“It’s really like a soap opera, it has everything: love, hate, drama, intrigue, murder,” says Tudor fan Kate Klenfner, a Jersey City resident. “Henry VIII was basically a murderer who had no training to become king – his brother was supposed to become king, but he died – and completely indulged himself in every way that he could.”
Henry VIII’s notoriously bloody behavior is precisely what appeals to people, says Suzannah Dunn, author of “The Sixth Wife,” about Katherine Parr, the wife who managed to outlive Henry.
“He managed to have six wives, have two of them killed and set the rest of them aside,” she says. “You might think that that sort of thing went on in those days, but it didn’t – it was just as shocking then as it is now.”
Still, the Tudors did set many archetypes that we’re currently familiar with, says Dunn. The triangle between Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn and Catherine of Aragon – Henry’s first wife, who couldn’t give him a son – might remind you of another celebrity triangle. Aniston-Pitt-Jolie, perhaps?
Like their modern-day counterparts, the Tudors and their associates from the era (1485 to 1603) were just as tabloid-worthy back in the day as Paris and Lindsay are today.
“Before the Tudors, people didn’t really keep records,” Dunn says. “Suddenly, you could easily read accounts of Anne Boleyn’s fights with Henry because all these diplomats scurried off and wrote about them in shocked letters to their people back home.”
“There is definitely an element of Tudor history that you could almost see being plastered on tabloids today,” adds Lara Eakins, who runs Tudorhistory.org.
“I guess the sex lives of celebrities, be they movie stars or long-dead royalty, has a universal appeal.”
BELIEVE it or not, casting directors aren’t taking huge liberties by tapping hunky actors such as Jonathan Rhys Meyers (“The Tudors”) and Eric Bana (“The Other Boleyn Girl”) to play the part of Henry VIII.
“Most people don’t know that Henry was a dynamic, handsome, athletic, fantasy-type person for a lot of his life,” says Diane Haeger, author of the upcoming novel “The Secret Bride,” about Henry VIII’s sister, Mary Tudor. “He was wild and adventurous, always out riding, shooting bows or falcon hunting. He didn’t become the gluttonish, awful old guy with a bunch of wives until the end.”
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