Becoming Elizabeth – Episode 6 – What Cannot be Cured – The fact behind the fiction

In episode 6 of “Becoming Elizabeth”, “What cannot be cured”, we saw Thomas Seymour pay the ultimate price for his recklessness and ambition, Elizabeth betray her former lover, the royal council plot against the Lord Protector, John Dudley come to the fore, and Robert Dudley meet an opinionated and intriguing young woman…

Yes, another jam-packed, and rather disturbing episode, but just how much of it really happened?

Join me, historian and author Claire Ridgway, as I look at the main storylines of this week’s “Becoming Elizabeth” and sort fact from fiction.

My online event “Elizabeth I: The Life of Gloriana, the Virgin Queen” doesn’t start properly until 7th September, but participants can enjoy two events this week:

  • On Friday (22nd July), we have a zoom group discussion call on episode 6 of Becoming Elizabeth. It was a jam-packed episode so there will be lots to discuss, and it’s a wonderful opportunity to talk Tudor with other Tudor history lovers.
  • Then on Saturday (23rd July), we have a Q&A session in our chatroom with Christine Hartweg, author of “Amy Robsart: A Life and Its End”, about Amy Robsart, her marriage to Robert Dudley, and her controversial death. I interviewed Christine about Amy for our event and participants have access to that video interview. Christine is such an expert on Amy and also the Dudley family, and it’s always a pleasure to pick her brains. I thoroughly enjoyed hearing Christine’s views on the cause of Amy’s death.

It’s not too late to register, so do consider joining me, Christine, Dr Tracy Borman, Dr Linda Porter, Dr Estelle Paranque, Dr Elizabeth Goldring, Dr Elizabeth Norton and Dr Owen Emmerson for a 10-day online event where you’ll learn more about the iconic Queen Elizabeth I, and uncover the facts behind series and movies like Becoming Elizabeth and the Cate Blanchett films. Find out more at

Further reading and resources:

4 thoughts on “Becoming Elizabeth – Episode 6 – What Cannot be Cured – The fact behind the fiction

  1. I almost turned off after the falcon incident, totally needless.

    The use of the f word seems to have calmed down but its still there. I was thinking the same thing about the Prayer Book or Western Rebellion as its called. I think they probably hoped to mix the two things, so as not to confuse people. It’s OK for those of us in the know but most viewers won’t have a clue or even care.
    I loved the scene in the Tower between Tom and Ned Seymour. It was moving and you got an insight into their difficult relationship. It must have been difficult for Edward to sign the death warrant of his own brother, but that’s understandable and even rivals have some feelings towards each other.
    I thought Elizabeth did well in this episode but is this all she did, run around after Seymour? How much of what her servants said was true? Can we trust their evidence? I would say some was true, some was consensual but but most inappropriate given his position as her step father and her youth. Also she is a royal lady, even without legal entitlement to the term Princess and the daughter of Henry Viii. Seymour should keep his hands to himself. I think Elizabeth did want to marry him but put him off until she got permission. At that point he was free to marry her. She was old enough to marry at 15 and not the first noble woman to wed a man of 40.

    I still think it was all creepy himself following her around and the going into her room etc. There wasn’t a sex scene between them and she didn’t have his baby as suggested in the series. Tom Seymour groomed her and if Elizabeth did find him attractive it was maybe a dependency. Kat Ashley did think Elizabeth might consider him as a husband. If the Council did agree then it wasn’t impossible. It was more probably just part of whatever madness he was plotting. That he was nuts is shown in his alleged crime of abducting the King.

  2. I’ve gone from disgust at the blatant fallacies in each episode to deciding the whole show is a joke, so now I watch only to see what made up hookum they come up with next. I think the part of Elizabeth has been miscast. However, I agree with Claire that the actor portraying Mary is excellent. I agree with the comment above, there is too much emphasis on a made-up sexual attraction between E and TS. Was 5 episodes really necessary? Boring and quite tiring.

  3. Thank you for another excellent historical overview, Claire.

    Generally, I’m finding each episode engrossing and dramatic. This one left me drained. I covered my eyes a number of times, beginning with the falcon and definitely with the beheading of Thomas Seymour. I disliked Elizabeth actively advocating for Thomas Seymour’s death. Even as fiction, I found it hard to believe.

    That said, I thought many of the scenes were great, in spite of being a historical mishmash.

    Only two more episodes? I can’t help but think that they’re going to take it to Elizabeth’s coronation, so the next episode might be the drama of Edward’s death, Lady Jane Grey’s short reign and Mary’s triumph, perhaps ending with Elizabeth’s imprisonment during Mary’s reign, Mary’s death and Elizabeth’s coronation. Whatever they do, it’s bound to be interesting.

    1. I have a hard time with some scenes and I survived Game of Thrones, twice. I did watch the execution but was perplexed at his servant’s actions. How did he get that close to hold his head down? You can take bets on that not happening. The scaffold would be much higher and these people where allowed some dignity. It did take 2 blows unfortunately. An axe simply isn’t designed for execution. Tom would have been allowed to pray and give a signal of readiness.

      I knew what was coming with the falcon but didn’t think they would show it. Didn’t manage to mute in time and sat there, eyes closed screaming.. Don’t show that! Don’t show that! So, they showed it, off screen but you could hear the bird screaming. Tudor Dynasty might try to say it probably didn’t happen as its reported by an Ambassador but why would an Ambassador report such a thing? Edward said it was how he was being plucked by his Council at the time. Edward vi was Joffrey Baratheon incarnate. The kid was deranged. Its not the only incident reported of cruel behaviour and let’s face it these royals where not known for loving animals. Falcons where expensive birds, but Edward was a 12 year old with the weight of a kingdom on his young shoulders. Expressing his mixed up hormones came out in dramatic fashion. I can’t see an Ambassador reporting it unless it happened. I am sure they had more juicy stuff to report.

      Nethertheless this was something that the series didn’t need, especially to open an episode of cruel acts. The Rebellion was put down without mercy and Kett and his men did hang after a trial. The Prayer Book Rebellions are obviously represented here with that of Kett and in reality 3000 people where killed in battle and several hung. 16000 rebels took to the field under Kett. The Western Rebellion was treated with even more ferocity and Somerset was blamed for that. John Dudley wasn’t a merciful man and he himself fell after his coup with Mary.

      I don’t know how far the series will go. I can’t see this going beyond the fall of Somerset and another series following Elizabeth under Mary etc. That’s a dynamic which needs more study. Elizabeth really did get herself into deep soup there. Mary was being cautious and I can imagine the pressure to execute her half sister. Without any evidence of a plot she couldn’t do it and showed her resolve in not doing so.
      For her part Elizabeth must have been terrified. Although kept in the Royal Apartments in the Tower of London, this was where her mother had been in May 1536. Elizabeth showed she had developed a wise and cool head by writing that Tide Letter to Mary. It meant she had to go in daylight. She was questioned again and was ill as well. Anxiety does that. She was released on 19th May 1554, the anniversary of her mother’s death. A reminder? Probably just a coincidence but it may have been to her. Mary could have executed Elizabeth with justification. Although Wyatt didn’t implicate her on the scaffold, there was enough suspicion that she knew of the Rebellion and chose to hide that knowledge. It’s never been proved but some people think she received a letter from Wyatt and destroyed it. The plot involved putting her on the throne and killing Mary. That’s high treason. Even though the main danger was passed the country was on alert and The Council thought danger still existed. Mary summoned Elizabeth to Court but she put off coming.. That was suspicious in the circumstances. Mary must have been torn in two minds. She made the right decision but the relationship between the sisters wasn’t the same. Might Mary have had her executed? Yes. There was precedent. Edward iv ordered the death of his brother George after his last bout of treason. In a rebellion, in a time of crisis, with rebels at the gates, with people wanting Elizabeth as Queen or dead, Mary could easily have gone the other way.

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