Is The Tudors based on a true story?

The Tudors follows the story of Henry VIII of England, but how historically accurate is it? We take a look at how much it is based on real history.

The Tudors Press Conference with Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Sam Neill
The Tudors Press Conference with Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Sam Neill / Vera Anderson/GettyImages

You know all about the six wives of Henry VIII. There have been plenty of shows about them, and we have the Broadway musical SIX. There’s another series that ran for fourth seasons that also tells the story of them. It’s all about The Tudors.

Jonathan Rhys Meyers stars as King Henry VIII in this story. It picks up with him around 10 years into his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, played by Maria Doyle Kennedy, as he meets and falls for Anne Boleyn, played by Natalie Dormer.

Of course, this is historical fiction. While it is based on history, just how accurate is it? This is one of those shows that couldn’t have continued the story of the Tudor lineage due to some of the changes.

Michael Hirst does admit that there are a lot of liberties taken with history. He was more interested in writing for television and not for historical accuracy.

Removing one of Henry’s sisters in The Tudors

We just have to start off with the fact that Margaret Tudor was Henry’s older sister who actually went to Scotland to marry King James IV of Scotland. She did not go to France. That was Mary Tudor, Henry’s younger sister. The part of Charles Brandon marrying Henry’s sister was true, but it was Mary and not Margaret.

This was one of the biggest changes to the real history. It changed everything as it mean that without Margaret marrying James IV of Scotland, there would be no James V of Scotland and no Mary, Queen of Scots.

This was just the biggest of the liberties taken with history. There were others, but for the most part, the story of Henry’s six wives was kept the same. Yes, Henry did break from the Catholic church to marry Anne but he never really believed in the Protestant religion and it was clear that he did regret that decision for a while. He struggled with a clean break, which is something his daughter, Elizabeth, would eventually manage.

Getting it right with Anne of Cleves and Katherine Parr

One thing I did like about The Tudors was reminding us that Anne of Cleves did survive. We got to see her become the King’s Sister, which was the title she was given after she agreed to the annulment. We also got to see her relationship with Mary, Henry’s daughter. Despite their differing religions, the two did get along and respected each other.

Likewise, there was some accuracy in Katherine Parr’s storyline. She was interested in Thomas Seymour and didn’t want to marry Henry VIII at first. But you can’t say no to the King of England, can you? Then there’s the fact that she helped to bring change to the line of succession. She encourage Henry to put his daughters back into the line of succession after Edward.

That part with the arrest warrant due to her beliefs? Some of that may have been for dramatic effect, but she did speak out a few times against Henry and he was growing tired of her. It didn’t help that by this point he was a grumpy old man always in pain and potentially suffering from syphilis.

These are the two queens often done slightly wrong as there isn't as much drama with them. Not everything was accurate with them or with the other wives, but some of the important elements of the story were.

Katherine Howard had a huge moment that is fabricated. It’s that line where she says she would have rather been the wife of Thomas Culpepper. While that has been written down since her death, it wasn’t recorded at the time. There is no way she would have risked saying something like that before her execution.

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The Tudors is on Prime Video.