The Welsh Dynasty of Tudors? That'll Be Needing a Film Made in Ireland with English Actors

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), April 20, 2007 | Go to article overview

The Welsh Dynasty of Tudors? That'll Be Needing a Film Made in Ireland with English Actors


Byline: By Tryst Williams Western Mail

A new tv drama about royal dynasty the Tudors has been accused of rewriting history for its lack of Welshness. The BBC this week announced the lavish 10-part series The Tudors will be broadcast this autumn after proving a US ratings-winner. But with the show, shot in Ireland and with a cast mainly of Irish and English actors, historians fear one of Wales' most celebrated contributions to British history could be marginalised. Cultural historian Peter Stead, of the University of Glamorgan, said, 'It's Ireland stealing a march again because of the international clout it has, that we can only aspire to. There's an awareness we're trying to catch up with them. But given that we've got Michael Sheen, Ioan Gruffudd, and Rhys Ifans, all of whom could have played Henry VIII, they've gone for an Irish actor. We've got to reclaim that ground.'

The Tudor dynasty ruled from 1485 to 1603 and consisted of six monarchs including such larger- than-life figures as Henry VIII and Elizabeth I.

Yet this quintessential element of British royal history was Welsh through-and-through, with a proud lineage stretching back to Llewelyn ap Gruffydd - the 'last native prince of Wales' - and beyond.

Not that you'd know it from the new production's cast or location list.

The pounds 20m drama was shot on location around Dublin and Wicklow, and stars Irish actor Jonathan Rhys Meyers in the lead role of Henry VIII.

The series focuses on the king's late twenties and early thirties when he was still married to the first of his six wives, Catherine of Aragon, played by Irish actress Maria Doyle Kennedy.

At the time he was also pursuing Anne Boleyn - who would later become his second wife before being executed - as well as other pretty faces that caught his eye.

The show has proved such a hit with US viewers that a second series has already been commissioned for the Showtime channel, with shooting starting in Ireland in June.

Meanwhile, Professor Stead said the history of the House of Tudor often unfairly overshadowed important aspects of Wales' past.

'Having made the point about it being an Irish production, there's a slight groan factor with the Tudors,' he added. 'Why does everybody love them? Students would say they wanted to specialise in them and in a sense they're the Jane Austen of history. There are other strands that need to be done, like the whole issue of industrial history.'

Their reign wasn't without controversy from a Welsh perspective, with Wales and England effectively joined under Henry VIII in an Act of Parliament that saw English installed as Wales' sole official language to the detriment of Welsh.

The Tudors was written by Michael Hirst, who also penned Elizabeth, the acclaimed film starring Cate Blanchett.

As well as Meyers, the new series also features Gosford Park actor Jeremy Northam as Sir Thomas More. …

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