Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Harri Tudur

The Tudors provided five sovereigns who reigned over us, one after another, for 118 years. The first, Henry VII, was perhaps the cleverest, and certainly the most hard-working man to wear the English crown, his son was the most colourful, and his three grandchildren were successively a sickly and short-lived boy, an excessively devout woman whose only achievement was to make the English the undeviating enemies of Rome for three hundred years by publicly burning at the stake three churchmen and three hundred humble Protestants, and finally one with the body of a weak, feeble woman but the heart and stomach of a king, who gave her name to an age.

The founder of this royal dynasty had a very poor title to the throne and seized it by force of arms, then by his cunning, industry and skill held it without more executions than were strictly necessary for nearly a quarter of a century, ending the Wars of the Roses and leaving England with a modernised government and legal system, richer and happier than it had been under his predecessor Richard III.

So it is unfair that he has been less celebrated on stage and screen than his flashier descendants. Shakespeare was a propagandist for the Tudors but gives Henry VII only walk-on parts, and in TV and films he scarcely features at all. There was an excellent six-part 1972 TV series called The Shadow of the Tower which did him justice, but it made little impression and was never repeated, and, as a (literally) crowning insult, in Olivier's Richard III Henry pops up at Bosworth Field played by Stanley Baker, an appropriate casting for a Welsh tough, but ruined by giving him a silly auburn wig.

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