The Tudors is a British-Irish-Canadian historical fiction television series set primarily in sixteenth-century England, created by Michael Hirst and produced for the American premium cable television channel Showtime. The series, although named after the Tudor dynasty as a whole, is based specifically upon the reign of King Henry VIII of England.
The series was produced by Peace Arch Entertainment for Showtime in association with Reveille Productions, Working Title Television, and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and was filmed in Ireland. The first two episodes debuted on DirecTV, Time Warner Cable OnDemand, Netflix, Verizon FiOS On Demand, Internet Movie Database and on the website of the series before the official premiere on Showtime. The Tudors premiered on 1 April 2007; it was the highest-rated Showtime series in three years. In April 2007, the show was renewed for a second season, and in that month the BBC announced it had acquired exclusive United Kingdom broadcast rights for the series, which it started to broadcast on 5 October 2007. The CBC began broadcasting the show on 2 October 2007.
Season Two debuted on Showtime on 30 March 2008, and on BBC 2 on 1 August 2008. Production on Season Three began on 16 June 2008 in Bray, County Wicklow Ireland, and that season premiered on Showtime on 5 April 2009, and debuted in Canada on CBC on 30 September 2009. The day after broadcast, downloadable episodes debuted in Canada on MoboVivo.
Showtime announced 13 April 2009, that it had renewed the show for a fourth and final season. The network ordered 10 episodes that were first broadcast on 11 April 2010. The series finale was broadcast on 20 June 2010. The final season was shown in Canada on CBC starting 22 September 2010, and ending on 23 November 2010.
International distribution rights are owned by Sony Pictures Television.
Chronicles the period of Henry VIII's reign in which his effectiveness as King is tested by international conflicts as well as political intrigue in his own court. Cardinal Wolsey plays a major part in the series, acting as Henry's trusted advisor.
In Episode 1, Wolsey persuades his King to keep the peace with France and the two Kings meet at Calais to agree a pact of friendship. While the pressure of fathering a male heir compels him to question his marriage to his Queen, Katherine of Aragon. He also has a string of affairs and, in Episode 2, fathers an illegitimate son with his mistress, Elizabeth "Bessie" Blount, who is also one of Queen Katherine's ladies-in waiting (the son, Henry FitzRoy, later dies).
Anne Boleyn catches Henry's eye—she has been attending the French court—and she is encouraged by her father and uncle to seduce the King, though she also falls in love with Henry as the season unfolds. Her shrewd refusal to his open invitation to become his mistress unless he will marry her pushes him to use Cardinal Wolsey to take action against the Queen, the King instructing his trusted advisor to get papal dispensation for his divorce on the grounds that his wife did indeed consummate her marriage to his brother, Arthur. In Episode 6, Wolsey's increasingly desperate efforts to persuade the Catholic Church to grant a royal divorce, primarily as a result of Emperor Charles V's influence over the Pope as Katherine's nephew, starts to weaken his position.
In Episode 7, the mysterious sweating sickness arrives in England, killing both the high-born and low-born, and Henry, who is terrified of catching the plague, secludes himself with his homeopathy medicines in the deep countryside away from court. Anne Boleyn contracts the illness but recovers. A Papal Envoy finally lands on English shores to decide on the annulment and, at the end of a specially convened session at which both Henry and Katherine are initially present, eventually decides in favor of Katherine. Cardinal Wolsey is stripped of his office, in Episode 9, and banished to York, where he pleads with the King to restore him to office. Sir Thomas More, Henry's devotedly loyal friend, is chosen as his successor.
In the final episode (Episode 10), Cardinal Wolsey makes one last desperate attempt to save himself by allying himself with his old enemy, Queen Katherine, but their plot is discovered and Wolsey kills himself during his internment in the Tower of London after saying a brief prayer apologizing for his sins, but asking no forgiveness for them.
Henry will do whatever it requires to marry Anne Boleyn, even by defying Pope Paul III. He prepares to take Anne on a royal visit to France, having demanded loyalty from the English clergy. The papacy in Rome organises an assassination plot against Anne but the assassins' attempts fail.
In Episode 3 the newly appointed Archbishop of Canterbury annuls Henry's marriage, clearing the way for Henry to marry a by now pregnant Anne, which also increases the growing rift between England and Rome. Bishop Fisher refuses to recognise the validity of Henry's marriage—after Henry issues a decree ordering all his subjects to recognise their new Queen—and is finally joined by Sir Thomas More, who is granted permission by Henry to retire from his public office. In Episode 5, Fisher and More's refusal to sign an oath of allegiance recognising Henry's supreme authority as head of the English church eventually leads to their executions.
In Episode 6, Thomas Cromwell, who has assumed More's office as Chancellor of England, announces his plans to cleanse England of dissenters to the New Monarchy. Also, England's relationship with France is complicated by King Francis's refusal to unite their kingdoms in marriage, thus causing Henry to question his decision to have married Anne. Episode 7 sees an increasingly ill and disillusioned Katherine who has been forbidden to see her daughter, Lady Mary, and Cromwell has legislation approved by Parliament agreeing to the dissolution of first the smaller and then the larger abbeys and monasteries.
In Episode 8, Henry has Cromwell initiate overtures to the Emperor to make peace with Rome as a bulwark against a hostile France, and the King starts to pay court to Lady Jane Seymour after Anne's two miscarriages following the birth of Princess Elizabeth. It is his long-time friend, Charles Brandon and Cromwell who eventually alert Henry to Anne's apparent indiscretions and her fate is sealed. She is conducted to the Tower of London and her four 'supposed lovers', one of whom is her own brother, are executed followed eventually by her own—delayed by some hours as a result of the French executioner's late arrival from Calais. Her devious father, who shows little remorse at the death of his son and Anne's impending death, is allowed to go free but banished from court and is shown leaving the Tower without even acknowledging his daughter waving from her cell window.
On the morning of his Queen's execution, Henry enjoys a lavish breakfast, symbolically consisting of the mate of a swan he has seen outside his window, as he looks forward to a new start and heirs with Lady Jane Seymour.
Focuses on Henry's marriages to Jane Seymour and Anne of Cleves, the birth of his son Prince Edward, his ruthless suppression of the Pilgrimage of Grace, the downfall of Thomas Cromwell, and the beginnings of Henry's relationship with the free-spirited Catherine Howard.
Henry happily marries his third wife but his honeymoon period is soon spoilt by a growing resentment against the Reformation in the north and east of England. The growing band of rebels disperses in Lincolnshire but gathers strength in Yorkshire, primarily because of its able leaders such as Robert Aske and Lord Darcy. The royal troops, commanded by the Duke of Suffolk, are severely outnumbered and are forced to parley, whilst on the Continent the papacy sends a newly appointed English cardinal to persuade the Spanish and French monarchs to support the English rebellion, deemed the Pilgrimage of Grace by its followers as their objective is to restore the old Catholic religious practices.
In Episode 3 Henry is determined to stop at nothing to suppress the revolt, his fears stirred by remembrances of the Cornish uprising during his father's reign. He deceitfully persuades the rebel leaders to lay down their arms and disperse their followers, promising to hold a Parliament in York to answer all their grievances which is never convoked. A second uprising is savagely suppressed and the leaders executed as Henry, via Cromwell, instructs Suffolk to shed quantities of blood to act as an example. Jane Seymour goes into labor and produces a baby boy, but dies soon after as a result of her protracted labors. In Episode 5, Henry retires from public view, bereft by the loss of his Queen, but finally emerges: his first act is to get the church leaders to agree on a new Protestant doctrine, one that threatens to undermine Cromwell's Reformation.
In the ensuing episodes, the King has the last remaining Plantagenet heirs, the Pole family, put to death (mother, son and grandson) as a result of Cardinal Reginald Pole's actions to undermine his rule. This creates a schism with Spain and France and, upon Cromwell's urging, Henry agrees to an alliance with the Protestant League by marrying Anne of Cleves after first dispatching the English Ambassador to Holland to negotiate terms, followed by Hans Holbein to paint her likeness. However, Cromwell's plans to bolster the Reformation are undone by Henry's dislike for Anne, whom he calls a 'Flanders mare'. He is unable to consummate his marriage and vents his frustration on his Lord Privy Seal, which is encouraged by the Duke of Suffolk in league with Edward Seymour, as both want Cromwell removed from office. With his enemies encircling him, Cromwell pleads with Anne of Cleves to submit herself to her husband, but she is powerless to deflect King Henry's antipathy towards her. Finally, Cromwell is dragged off to the Tower after being accused of being a traitor by the King's Council and, despite writing a letter begging his master's forgiveness, is gruesomely beheaded by a drunken executioner.
In the meantime, Sir Francis Bryan is instructed by the Duke of Suffolk to find a woman to rekindle Henry's jaded love interest, and the beautiful Catherine Howard, a distant relation of the Duke of Norfolk, is introduced at court and, catching the King's interest, he beds her in secret and a new romance begins.
The fourth and final season covers Henry's ill-fated marriage to Catherine Howard and his final, more congenial, marriage to Catherine Parr. The ageing King seeks military glory by capturing Boulogne, France. In his final hours, he is troubled by the ghosts of his dead wives.
King Henry VIII marries his seventeen-year-old wife, Catherine Howard, and is besotted by her beauty, calling her "his rose without a thorn", and feels rejuvenated. Catherine starts to dally with the King's groom, Thomas Culpepper, and is encouraged by her senior lady-in-waiting, Lady Rochford—Henry's sister-in-law—who is also being bedded by Culpepper. In Episode 2, Henry invites his former wife, Anne of Cleves, to court to celebrate Christmas as he wants to reward her for keeping her word to him and for her loyalty. She, in turn, is grateful for the charity he has shown towards her. After the festivities, he is struck down once again by his leg wound—from his former jousting days—and Catherine makes love to Thomas Culpepper.
Feeling the need for company, Henry visits Anne and has a liaison with her. He and Catherine embark on the royal Passage to the North to forgive the former rebels, accompanied by the Princess Mary who is popular with the King's northern subjects. It is during this period that Catherine and Culpepper consummate their relationship and Catherine is truly in love with him. In Episode 4, Henry makes friendly overtures to the French Ambassador, hoping to prevent an invasion, and Francis Dereham, Catherine's former lover when they both resided with the Duchess Dowager of Norfolk, arrives at court and blackmails the Queen into making him her private secretary. Some weeks later Henry receives a secret letter about their prior sexual exploits.
In Episode 5 the King grants permission to the Earl of Hertford to investigate the Queen's infidelity. He plans to pardon her but is then informed by his Council of her affair with Culpepper—revealed by Dereham under torture—and he has all three executed, along with Lady Rochford who has gone mad in the Tower. On the scaffold, Catherine states that, although Queen of England, she would have preferred to have been Thomas Culpepper's wife. In Episode 6, Henry is courted by both Spain and Rome to form a military alliance against the French, who have allied with the Turk, and he is persuaded to form an alliance with the Emperor and invade France. Thomas Seymour introduces Catherine Parr at court and she catches the King's eye, even though married. Henry pursues her and sends Seymour over to Belgium to remove him as a love rival.
Military preparations are made and English troops lay siege to Boulogne, bombarding it with cannon as an Italian engineer digs a tunnel to blow up the castle. Charles Brandon, the Duke of Suffolk, captures a French father and daughter and falls in love with the daughter Brigitte. At home, Catherine is acting as Regent in Henry's absence and uses her power to further the Protestant cause but is checked by Bishop Gardiner and his Catholic faction, supported by the Princess Mary. In Episode 8, the castle of Boulogne is overcome and the keys to the city handed over to Henry by the French mayor. Henry returns to court in triumph, leaving the Earl of Surrey in charge of the new possession.
At home, Henry is disturbed by the struggle between the Catholic and Protestant factions and Catherine alienates him through her support of the Reformation. Bishop Gardiner continues his campaign against heretics and gathers enough evidence to persuade the King to issue an arrest warrant against the Queen for heresy. In the meantime, Henry Howard, now Lieutenant General Surrey, loses a disastrous battle at Boulogne and, in an attempt to usurp power away from the new men like the Seymours and Richard Rich, he is arrested and tried for treason and executed, despite the paucity of evidence against him.
In Episode 10 an increasingly frail Henry is facing his own mortality. His mind is on the succession and he appoints Edward Seymour, the Earl of Hertford, to be Lord Protector until Prince Edward reaches his maturity. Catherine, knowing the mortal danger she is in, orders her ladies-in-waiting to destroy all their heretical books and no longer to discuss religious matters; she also submits herself to her husband and he pardons her. Charles Brandon, the King's most trustworthy friend and loyal servant, is reunited with Henry for one final meeting before he dies. As the end approaches, the ghosts of Henry's first three wives confront him over their ends and his treatment of their children. Henry orders his family to spend their Christmas at Greenwich, bidding them his final farewell and instructing the Princesses Mary and Elizabeth to care for their brother. The final scene has him approving the portrait painted for him by Hans Holbein, depicting him as a virile, youthful King.
Showtime/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment/Peace Arch Entertainment, The Tudors, The Complete Series (1-4)
|Season||# of episodes||Season premiere||Season finale|
|Season 1||10||1 April 2007||10 June 2007|
|Season 2||10||30 March 2008||1 June 2008|
|Season 3||8||5 April 2009||24 May 2009|
|Season 4||10||11 April 2010||20 June 2010|
Departures from history
Many events in the series differ from events as they actually happened in history. Liberties are taken with character names, relationships, historical costume, physical appearance and the timing of events. As creator Hirst said, "Showtime commissioned me to write an entertainment, a soap opera, and not history ... And we wanted people to watch it." He added that some changes were made for production considerations and some to avoid viewer confusion, and that "any confusion created by the changes is outweighed by the interest the series may inspire in the period and its figures."
- Time is compressed in the series, giving the impression that things happened closer together than they actually did or along a different timeline. By the time of most of the events in this series, King Henry VIII was already in his mid-to-late 30's. In reality, Catherine of Aragon was only six years his elder, and he was approximately a decade older than Anne Boleyn. Maria Doyle Kennedy is thirteen years older than Jonathan Rhys Meyers, who is, in turn, only five years Natalie Dormer's elder. Also, Anne was recalled to Henry's court from France three years after her sister Mary Boleyn, not simultaneously, and Henry did not begin to court her until 1526. The matter of Henry falling enough in love with Anne to seek an annulment, ultimately severing from the Catholic Church, setting aside Catherine and marrying Anne took another seven years to resolve, culminating in Anne's coronation in 1533. In the series, the timeline from introduction to marriage seems to take little more than a year. The assassination attempt on Anne during her coronation procession was a completely fictional event, invented by Hirst "to illustrate how much the English people hated her".
- Historically, Cardinal Wolsey died of an unspecified illness in Leicester in 1530, while en route to London to answer charges of treason. In the series, it is implied that this report of illness is part of a cover-up by Henry and Thomas Cromwell, to prevent anyone from knowing that the cardinal had committed suicide.
- The character of Henry's sister, called "Princess Margaret" in the series, is actually a composite of his two sisters: the life events of his younger sister, Princess Mary Tudor, coupled with the name of his elder sister, Margaret Tudor. This was reportedly done to avoid confusion with Henry's daughter, Mary I of England.
- Historically, Henry's younger sister Princess Mary first married the French King Louis XII. The union lasted approximately three months, until his death; Louis was succeeded by his cousin Francis I, who was married to Louis's daughter, Claude of France. Mary subsequently married Charles Brandon, 1st Duke of Suffolk, and had four children with him; their eldest daughter, Frances, was the mother of Lady Jane Grey, who held the English throne for nine days between the death of Henry's son Edward and the ascension of Henry's eldest daughter Mary. Mary Tudor died of unknown causes in 1533, not long after Henry's marriage to Anne Boleyn. Henry's eldest sister, Margaret Tudor, was in fact married to King James IV of Scotland, was grandmother of Mary, Queen of Scots and died of a stroke in 1541.
- Early in the series Henry VIII is also styled as King of Ireland, a title he in real life did not use until his break with Rome. Until that point he was only Lord of Ireland.
- As The Tudors begins, Louis XII has already passed away, and Henry is already negotiating a peace treaty with Francis. The series's Princess Margaret thus marries a fictional, elderly Portuguese king, who lives only a few days until she smothers him in his sleep. She then marries Brandon against Henry's wishes, and the pair have only one child, a son, before the fictional Margaret dies of consumption. Her death scenes are juxtaposed with Wolsey's, implying that they died at the same time. The fictional Brandon goes on to marry again, but has no further issue. This composite character and her life-story arc completely eliminate the children that led to Mary, Queen of Scots (mother of James VI and I) and Lady Jane Grey, both of whom played important roles in future monarchical politics for Henry's daughters. Neither of the sons of Mary Tudor and Charles Brandon lived to adulthood: one died at age six and the other at age eleven.
- The series also portrays Margaret as Charles Brandon's first wife, that he married Catherine Willoughby to be a mother to his and Margaret's young son, and that he had no other children before or after the child he had with Margaret. In reality, Mary Tudor was Charles's third wife and Catherine his fourth. In addition to the four children he had with Margaret, he also had two by his second wife, Anne Browne (who was the niece of his first wife), and two by Catherine. He also had three illegitimate children.
- The king's illegitimate son Henry Fitzroy was shown to be born near the beginning of the series and dying at a young age from the sweating sickness. In fact, he lived until 1536, long enough to marry the only daughter of Anne Boleyn's uncle Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk, and be a witness to Anne Boleyn's execution.
- Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, whose parents were rulers of Castille, is given a Spanish accent when dealing with the king of England (S1E3), when in fact he was Flemish-born (though he never mastered Flemish) and French-educated; he did not learn Spanish until 1518.
- Thomas More is seen ordering the death of Simon Fish by burning at the stake. However, Simon Fish, while arrested for heresy, died in prison of bubonic plague. His widow married James Bainham, another outspoken religious reformer, who was ultimately burned at the stake by Thomas More.
- The Countess of Salisbury (Princess Mary's governess) was executed during Catherine Howard's time as Queen-consort. In the series, however, she and her son, Lord Montagu are executed before Henry meets Anne of Cleves.
- The court of Cleves shows not the coat of arms of the United Duchies of Jülich-Cleves-Berg but of the Kingdom of Prussia of the 18th century!
- At the welcoming reception for Anne of Cleves, Henry introduces his daughters as "Princess." As both Mary and Elizabeth were still considered by Henry to be illegitimate, he would never have accorded them such a title, as it would in effect be declaring them legitimate. Neither Mary nor Elizabeth ever regained the title of Princess, and continued to be known as "Lady" until they each in turn succeeded to the throne.
- After the annulment of his marriage with Anne of Cleves, it was only rumored that they had an affair: there is no evidence of this and it seems likely that Anne remained a virgin until her death. Anne is portrayed as being extremely popular, with just about everyone preferring her to Catherine Howard. Although it is true that both Mary and Elizabeth remained close to Anne and seem to have preferred her company to Catherine's, Anne was a rather neutral figure who inspired no great affection from either courtiers or commoners.
- Catherine Howard was referred to as a "distant relation" of the 3rd Duke of Norfolk in the series. In reality, he was her uncle, just as he was to Anne Boleyn, who was Catherine's first cousin; Norfolk helped orchestrate both marriages. Contrary to the series' portrayal of the household of the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk as a shelter for distantly related "aristocratic bastards", and the resulting implication that Catherine Howard was an illegitimate child, in real life the Dowager Duchess was Catherine's step-grandmother, wife of Catherine's deceased grandfather the 2nd Duke of Norfolk, and Catherine was born to one of the 2nd Duke's many sons in lawful wedlock – she was sent to live in the household because her father was impoverished and recently widowed. Norfolk is also barely mentioned with regards to Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, being called a mere kinsman to him, when in actuality Surrey was the Duke's eldest son and heir.
- By the time he married Catherine Howard, the real Henry was middle-aged (49) and obese, not a svelte, still relatively young man as portrayed on the show. This is perhaps quite relevant to appreciating historical context since Catherine's affair with Sir Thomas Culpeper and her declaration of true love to him on the block would sit better with a 17-year-old girl trapped in a marriage to a much older king.
- A few liberties are taken with Catherine Parr as well. Parr is portrayed as meeting Henry while her husband, Lord Latimer, is still alive and she was a casual acquaintance of Mary's. In fact, she came to court only after his death, using her status as Catherine of Aragon's goddaughter to secure a place in Mary's household. Further, Mary is shown to be openly hostile towards Catherine Parr after discovering her Protestant views. In fact, Mary got on rather well with Parr and did not fall out with Catherine until after Henry's death. Even then, her hostility had little to do with religion: she was angered when the dowager Queen married Thomas Seymour so soon after Henry's death.
- In the series, Thomas Cranmer stops appearing after Anne's downfall, and that Bishop Gardiner was the one to interrogate Catherine Howard at Syon Abbey after her sexual indiscretions and adulteries were exposed. In reality, Cranmer was the one to interrogate the young queen, and although his popularity with the Crown might have fluctuated, he remained an influential member of Henry's court and the Church of England until the ascension of Mary I in 1553. In the show, Henry does however put Edward Seymour in charge of the government after Henry's death alongside Cranmer.
- Also, in season 4 during the execution of Lady Rochford and Catherine Howard, it is depicted in the series that Rochford was beheaded first. In fact this was the other way round and although Rochford appears to weep on the block, many accounts have praised both her and Catherine for their alleged bravery in the face of death. Though Rochford had suffered a nervous breakdown during her pre-execution imprisonment, the series exaggerates her mental instability just prior to her death. In reality, one eyewitness, a merchant named Ottwell Johnson, wrote that both Lady Rochford's and Catherine Howard's souls must be with God, for they made the most godly and Christian end.
- In the series, many characters were introduced only when they would produce the most drama or when they became prominent in the story arc for some reason. In reality, Jane Seymour is believed to have become a lady-in-waiting to Catherine of Aragon around 1527; Anne Boleyn had been serving Catherine in the same capacity for five years at that point, which means they were at court at the same time. Maud Green, Catherine Parr's mother, was also an attendant of Catherine of Aragon's, and Catherine of Aragon was Catherine Parr's godmother. Anne Herbert (Catherine Parr's youngest sister who is featured only in the last season of the series), was lady-in-waiting to all six of Henry's wives. Catherine Howard was lady-in-waiting to Anne of Cleves, and Henry's pursuit of her began during that time, rather than after the end of his fourth marriage as is shown in the series. Sir Frances Bryan, featured in the series only during Season 3, was actually a second cousin to both Anne Boleyn and Jane Seymour, and he became a member of Henry's Privy chamber sometime between the king's ascension and 1519. He was instrumental in the machinations behind Anne's downfall, earning him the sobriquet: 'The Vicar of Hell'. Also, the Earl of Surrey was present in the court during the tenure of his first cousin, Anne Boleyn, though the series portrays him as coming back to England around the time Jane Seymour became Queen.
- The incident of rape/murder which marks the introduction of Sir Thomas Culpeper in the series was a real event, but it took place in 1539, a full year before Catherine Howard's marriage to Henry and nearly two prior to the beginnings of their affair. In reality, Culpeper was a favorite of Henry's at court and a knight of the realm, having served as a courtier for other nobility as early as 1535. He was a member of Henry's Privy chamber by 1540, when he was a member of the envoy that greeted Anne of Cleves when she arrived in England to marry Henry.
- Catherine Parr was only four years older than Mary I, and Mary was nearly twenty years old when her younger sister Elizabeth was born. The series portrays Mary as much younger: barely an adolescent at the time of Elizabeth's birth and at least a decade younger than Catherine Parr. Also, Catherine Parr was a member of Mary's household at the time of Lord Latimer's death. Elizabeth, on the other hand, is depicted as being much older, with the series portraying her as a teenager when Henry married Catherine Howard. Historically, she was six years old at the time. Although Laoise Murray does indeed bear resemblance to the historical Elizabeth, being pale-skinned and copper-haired, she looks nothing like the dark-haired Jonathan Rhys-Meyers (Henry VIII); historically, Elizabeth was the spitting image of her father, although she had her mother's eyes.
- In the second episode of the first season, Thomas Boleyn holds a Harris's Hawk (Parabuteo unicinctus) while addressing his daughter. In episode ten of the second season, Henry overlooks a pond with two Trumpeter Swans (Cygnus buccinator). These are American birds, which at the time would not have been present in English collections. In the sixth episode of the fourth season, Stargazer Lilies (Lilium Oriental Stargazer) are featured in the scene with Henry and Catherine Parr playing cards. Stargazer lilies did not exist until 1974.
The premiere of The Tudors on 1 April 2007, was the highest-rated Showtime series debut in three years. On 23 March 2008, The New York Times called The Tudors a "primitively sensual period drama ... [that] critics could take or leave, but many viewers are eating up." A 28 March 2008 review, also by the New York Times, reported that "despite the scorching authenticity of some performances," in particular the "star-making, breakout performance of Natalie Dormer as the defiant, courageous proto-feminist martyr Anne Boleyn" the series "fails to live up to the great long-form dramas cable television has produced" largely because "it radically reduces the era's thematic conflicts to simplistic struggles over personal and erotic power." According to the ratings site Metacritic, the show had 64% favourable reviews for the first season, 68% for the second season, 75% for the third season, and 63% for the fourth.
In the United States, the season 1 premiere drew almost 870,000 viewers. The premiere earned a combined 1 million views online and via cable affiliates.
|DVD Name||Release dates||# of Ep||Additional Information|
|Region 1||Region 2||Region 4|
|Season One||8 January 2008||10 December 2007||19 March 2008||10||The four-disc box set includes all 10 episodes. Bonus features include commentary tracks on selected episodes. There is a special edition in United Kingdom, with a headless picture for the cover, exclusive of Amazon.co.uk. This season was released on Blu-ray in Europe and Canada.|
|Season Two||11 November 2008||6 January 2009||13 October 2008||7 July 2009||10||The four-disc box set includes all 10 episodes. Bonus features include commentary tracks on selected episodes, as well as other featurettes. This season has also been released on Blu-ray in Europe and Canada.|
|Season Three||10 November 2009||15 December 2009||7 December 2009||23 November 2009||8||The three disc box set includes all 8 episodes. Bonus features include audio commentary on certain episodes, an exclusive tour of Hampton Court and an interview with Joss Stone.|
|Season Four||9 November 2010||12 October 2010||21 March 2011||24 November 2010||10||The three-disc box set includes all 10 episodes.|
An original soundtrack for each season, composed by Trevor Morris, has been released by Varèse Sarabande.
|Season||Release Date||Catalog Number|
|Season One||12 November 2007||302 066 867 2|
|Season Two||14 April 2009||302 066 959 2|
|Season Three||24 August 2010||302 067 039 2|
|Season Four||10 December 2010||302 067 049 2|
Awards and nominations
The series was nominated for eight Irish Film and Television Awards in 2008 and won seven, including Best Drama Series, acting awards for Jonathan Rhys Meyers (Lead Actor), Nick Dunning (Supporting Actor) and Maria Doyle Kennedy (Supporting Actress), and craft awards for Costume Design, Production Design and Hair/Makeup. Brian Kirk was also nominated for Directing, but lost to Lenny Abrahamson of Prosperity. The series won the 2007 59th Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards for Outstanding Costumes for a Series and Outstanding Main Title Theme Music. Later the series won six awards at the Irish Film and Television Awards in 2009 including Drama Series, Director, Actor in a Supporting Role, Actress in a Supporting Role, Costume Design and Make Up & Hair. In 2010 it was nominated for seven Irish Film and Television Awards, winning one in the category Best Supporting Actress in Television (Sarah Bolger).
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