Now we’re whiskin’! Everything’s happening at a fast clip and we are zooming on through the fall of the Seymours. While I harbor some distaste for how they have portrayed Thomas and Elizabeth’s relationship (does it need to seem so romantic when he probably just wanted power and she is a child?), I’m enjoying this nuanced portrayal of Edward Seymour, the Lord Protector. Well. Not Lord Protector for much longer.
It’s easy for executive branch–level histories to get bogged down in details, characters, bureaucracy, and alliances, and this show does an excellent job of keeping it simple and straightforward, despite a large cast. Everyone’s personality and appearance are very different and have noticeable qualities. Bishop Gardiner is that Catholic guy who’s on Mary’s side, but more so on Catholicism’s side. Henry Grey is that guy no one likes. John Dudley is the hale and hearty friend of Somerset, who has the romantic son and the ineffectual son (poor Guildford). This quick change in the position of Lord Protector could have become extremely confusing, but it was not. So let’s look at Elizabeth being on trial (unofficially), Thomas losing his head, Somerset losing his position, and Robin Dudley meeting Amy Robsart.
But what of our Boy King? Edward is a teeny tyrant, and I am glad he doesn’t hold the throne for long. What would have happened!! I don’t know and I don’t want anyone to write a hypothetical novel about it. I would read one where Mary, Queen of Scots, becomes queen of England because it’d be her being like, “Is this how you run a country?” and everyone would say, “No!” and then she’d keep doing it. Ha. That Mary. Always making terrible choices and then being defended by nineteenth-century German poets.
Edward is angry because the people are rebelling and his uncle tried to kidnap him. The latter is fair. I get that. He orders that his falcon be skinned alive because it reminds him of what’s being done to him? Which does not make sense? You hear bird screams. I hate this era for animals. Someone must stop Edward, and that someone is an unknown disease.
Thomas is a prisoner, and Elizabeth is under house arrest. Thomas won’t speak to anyone, pulling a Bartleby “I would prefer not to,” and John Dudley visits Elizabeth to interview her and arrive at some version of the truth. Dudley calls it “a battle of wills,” and am I not supposed to think of The Princess Bride? I know that’s “wits,” but they sound similar, so it counts. Elizabeth is very set on not giving anything away, but Kat Ashley has spilled at least some of the beans (she’s in a cell! With so many rats!). Kat didn’t confess to anything that incriminates Elizabeth, but she shared details of Thomas’s improprieties, like when he cut up Elizabeth’s dress while Catherine held her. I cannot get over this fact.
Dudley tries to draw a line from Thomas wanting to marry Elizabeth to Thomas trying to kidnap the king. Elizabeth isn’t helping him with this until Dudley says one of them has to be guilty. Elizabeth is a self-preservationist! Her actions here are how she makes it to the throne. She knows what to say to stay alive and out of jail (usually). Because it’s her or Thomas, Elizabeth tells Dudley that Thomas acted inappropriately, that he proposed, and that she did not know about his idiot plan to kidnap Edward. She gets to say her famous quote about Thomas being “a man of much wit, but very little judgment” (such a good line) and that if he has tried to abduct the king, he deserves to die. Damn, Elizabeth!
Kett’s Rebellion is still going on in Norfolk. Somerset, being pressured to find Thomas guilty and stressed, gets right up in Dudley’s face and shouts that he must obey him and go to Norfolk to quash the rebellion. He doesn’t say “quash,” but what a perfect time to do so. Dudley decides to bring Robin and Guildford, but he knows Robin wants to say goodbye to Elizabeth, so he annoyedly lets him go.
Robin and Elizabeth have a very cute scene! What a low-key, slow burn of a relationship. Robin is mad that Elizabeth cares this much about Thomas when he’s not even that great. What a relatable feeling. WE’VE ALL BEEN THERE, ELIZABETH. I mean. Not exactly where you are. But partially. Robin says Thomas doesn’t deserve this and hasn’t earned it.
The Dudleys are off to Norfolk, where Robin pulls a Romeo and goes from intensely pining for one girl to immediately going all moon-eyed for another. It’s Amy Robsart! Oh no! It’s the original The Staircase mystery. For those unaware, Amy Robsart is mainly known for being Robert Dudley’s first wife who was found dead at the foot of a staircase, and everyone thought it was suspicious, and they still do almost 500 years later. I’m just now realizing how many Tudor women are primarily portrayed as just moping around being sad, or else they are raging shrews or licentious harlots. It’s so weird; it’s almost like history was written by only one side.
Amy Robsart is another Tudor Sadgirl once she and Robin get married (spoilers? Is history spoilers? I still can’t tell), and while that may be true, I am so glad we get to see her as a person and not a walking version of the frowny face emoji. She has political opinions! I mean, yeah, those opinions are to kill all the rebelling peasants, but she flirts with Robin and she argues with her mom, and it’s nice to see her given more than she usually receives.
The council pressures Edward to sign Thomas Seymour’s death warrant for treason. I guess we don’t technically know it’s his death warrant, but he’s already under arrest, so. Makes sense. Somerset (I really do like him, even if he’s done a not-great job!) wrestles with co-signing it but finally decides to since it’s his job as Lord Protector. A job he won’t have for much longer!
Elizabeth visits Edward to really hammer home how loyal she is, and I have to comment on how very pretty Edward’s slashed doublet is. I love it so much. When Elizabeth comes in to see him, Mary is there, and basically says I told you so about Thomas and Catherine’s house until Elizabeth says can you not. Edward says maybe he’ll just have Thomas spend his life in the Tower, and Elizabeth says no, traitors definitely deserve death. Damn again, Elizabeth! I’m unclear on her motives here. Does she want to forever not be linked with him? Is she worried if he survives, she’ll feel tied to him? Does she feel unsafe having him alive? Lots of options here.
The council is trying to pick a new protector, and they offer the position to Mary; and I have no idea if this actually happened. It would be fun if it did! The offering, I mean, since she definitely never actually became Lord (Lady?) Protector. Mary wants to do it, and she mentions how terribly her father treated her, and she wants to keep Edward safe from that. I love that, except she says it to Somerset while he’s on his way to his brother’s execution, and she says it in the greater context of “I’m replacing you” and then ends it with “I believe your brother is waiting for you, sir.” Damn, Mary!
Somerset loses his shit at the idea that Mary is usurping his place, so he grabs Edward and hightails it out of there, sending an emergency message to Dudley to help him out. Except Dudley’s only help is — betrayal!! The Lord Protector is not Somerset, it’s not Mary, it is John DUDLEY. Twist!
Because of the grabbing of Edward and running away thing, Somerset does not appear at Thomas’s execution. Thomas’s execution where he tries to get his servant to deliver a note in Thomas’s shoe to Elizabeth, except that right before Thomas’s head gets chopped off (with an axe! ahhh!), the servant rats him out, and Thomas dies knowing the 15-year-old he proposed to probably won’t get his note.
Except she does. Elizabeth has encounters with both of her siblings about Thomas after his death. In the first, Mary enters Elizabeth’s room and reads while they both wait. When Mary is pretty sure the execution is over, she kneels by Elizabeth and tells her what cannot be cured must be endured and that she lived by that when she was younger. She also says when Elizabeth was a child, she loved to hold Mary’s hand, and “you still can.” OH NO, MY HEART. Again, all the Tudor sibling content. I am here for all of it. These are the children of Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, and Jane Seymour. That is amazing. And they’re all comforting each other and fighting and having religious disagreements. I love it so much.
Elizabeth’s final test is with Edward. He tells her Thomas wrote her a note and offers it to her, saying he has not read it. Elizabeth tells him they are the last words of a traitor and throws the note into the fire. IT WAS THE ONLY OPTION. I mean, I’m sure that was hard, even though he was gross and awful and made terrible decisions, but what else was she going to do? Prove to her paranoid child king brother that her utmost loyalty wasn’t to him?
Edward smiles at her and hugs her. Peace among siblings again! For just a moment, anyway.