The Tudors

Francois Rousseau/Showtime

It's back. The Tudors returns to Showtime this Sunday at 9 p.m. The beautiful people of Renaissance England don't disappoint in round two, serving up another helping of dirty sexy babymaking, fabulous outfits (ermine robes are the new black) and political violence.

I've seen the first five episodes of season two, so click in for my cheat sheet to the The Tudors...

Natalie Dormer, The Tudors

Jonathan Hession/Showtime

1.  As Cerie from 30 Rock once said, "You can have a career at any time. But you only have a short period where you can be a young hot mom." This might have been little comfort to Anne Boleyn (Natalie Dormer) as history closed in on her, but unlike her no-good husband, who grew grossly obese as he aged and was reportedly covered with "supperating boils" in his last years, Anne was quite successful at living up to the credo of every gorgeous young adventuress: "Live fast, die young, leave a beautiful corpse."

2.  You know what's awesome? Representative democracy, civil rights, universal suffrage and freedom of religion. The Tudors is an excellent reminder that these things should not be taken for granted. Viva la American Revolution! (Maybe The Tudors should always be matched with a chaser of HBO's John Adams?)

The Tudors: Jonathan Rhys Meyers

Jonathan Hession/Showtime

3.  Henry VIII was a jackass. There's no two ways about it, the man may have been a tolerably good head of state, but on a personal level the narcissism and egoism were abhorrent and devastating. Still, Jonathan Rhys Meyers backs the king's megalomania with deeply felt and entirely human feelings of desperation, petty jealousy and resentment. Every king is also a man, even if he's not a very good one.

4.  If the king likes you, he will reduce your death sentence to...beheading. This is the good option, see, because the default option is to be tied to a cart, dragged through the streets, hung until you are only half-dead, pulled down, disemboweled, forced to watch your own intestines set on fire, and then lose your head and have your private parts cut off. After that, of course, you are cut into four quarters, and then your head gets put on a stake for a month until your daughter can pull together enough money to buy your rotting flesh back from the government so your head can have a decent burial. The ax alone is definitely a step up.

Jeremy Northam, The Tudors

Pat Redmond/Showtime

5.  I imagine watching the persecution and imprisonment of Jeremy Northam's Sir Thomas More is a little like watching Bill Cosby being convicted of sedition and sent to the electric chair. Northam is outstanding in the part, and I think he could very well take home a trophy or two for his performance.

6.  Your heart will break for Lady Mary (played here by Sarah Bolger and later known to history as Bloody Mary). The daughter of Henry's discarded first wife, Catherine of Aragon, she was just 16 when family and national politics had her exiled her from court, separated from her parents and demoted from crown princess to baby half-sister's lady-in-waiting. No wonder she was kind of cranky when she finally took the throne.

7.  If you ever become a marquess, and your boyfriend gives you the crown jewels of the queens of England as a little precoronation gift, please note that the proper and correct thank-you for this involves reaching into the royal trousers.

8.  Did you know there were giant scary spears made especially for boar hunting? Did you know Lambeth Castle is the historic seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury? Did you know Michelangelo was painting the Sistine Chapel ceiling at the same time Henry VIII was throwing his whole English Reformation hissy? You will know these and many other factoids by the end of the first five episodes of The Tudors. This year's AP European History exam will be administered May 9. Good luck.

9.  If you wear a silly gold crown, yell a lot and are not careful, you might remind people of Mr. Rogers' King Friday puppet. Just watch out for that.

Intrigued? You should be. Tune in Sunday, or go to Showtime's website to check out a preview of the premiere.

And if you need a little help on the test, just remember: three Catherines, two Annes and a Jane; divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived!

—Reporting by Jennifer Godwin

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