Right royal ripper
SOMETIMES true stories from history are far more sordid and twisted than anything fiction could throw up.
This is certainly the case with The Tudors, the fourth and final season of which starts tomorrow night on ABC2.
That is not to say there is no creative licence employed in writing this series, as it does have its inaccuracies, but by and large this epic tale of the life, reign and wives of King Henry VIII adheres remarkably closely to the truth.
Known for his insatiable lust for all the fun things in life – sports, food, power, wine and, of course, women – Henry VIII was a walking soap opera hundreds of years before such a thing existed.
Arguably most famous for having six wives ( and executing two of them), Henry VIII also broke away from the Catholic Church by creating his own Church of England and placing himself at its head. So he was something of a gogetter kinda guy.
This history is so rich with intrigue, violence and sex that the writers of this series had some brilliant source material to work with.
Most of the storyline across the series follows recorded Tudor history surprisingly closely and any historical inaccuracies you spot are more likely to be in the finer details of character development and interaction than in any of the truly shocking events. For instance, the slim, dark- haired, well- groomed Jonathan Rhys Meyers ( pictured) is a fairly curious casting choice to play Henry, who by this stage in his life was a fat, jowly, bushybearded redhead.
But it must be remembered Henry Tudor was considered to be a devilishly attractive man at the time, especially in his youth, and even in his later years would have been considered a pretty good catch.
Looking back through modern eyes, this is a little difficult to see, so casting the dashing Meyers in the role makes a certain kind of narrative sense.
His good looks help us to see him the way his contemporaries would have.
Part of the fun of watching The Tudors is to head to the history books after each episode to compare the actual events with those presented on screen.
As the final season begins, it is the summer of 1540, 30 years into Henry’s reign, and the king has just married his fifth wife, the teenage Katherine Howard ( Tamzin Merchant).
Although of aristocratic blood, Katherine was raised in a boarding house and has a dangerous secret, known only to a fellow boarder, whom Katherine hires as a lady- in- waiting.
But if you know your history, you’ll already know that matters are bound to, um, come to a head eventually.
The dialogue is occasionally a bit heavy on exposition but a combination of excellent acting performances and clever scripting lifts The Tudors well above the level of your average period costume drama. Truth really is, after all, stranger than fiction.