Chances are, you knew somebody in high school who got busted for not reading the book on their English reading list, all because they based their book report on the film adaptation of the book, and not the book itself. The lesson: don’t trust every movie or TV show you watch.
In the case of historical TV dramas, it’s important to realize that many characters never even existed. It’s common practice for period dramas to conflate two or more characters together into a single character, simply for the purpose of clear storytelling. Believe it or not, all of the following historical dramas are based on true events…but they all feature characters who were mashed together from multiple historical personages.
Several characters on “The Borgias” are amalgams of multiple historical figures. Vanozza, who has numerous children with the Pope, is actually married to a man called Theo (and Theo is hinted to be Juan’s real father.)
But in real life, Vanozza never even had a husband named Theo: the character is a combination of two of Vanozza’s four historical husbands. In addition to marriages to Domenico d’Arignano, Antonio da Brescia, Giorgio della Croce, and Carlo Canale, it was also rumored that the real Vanozza had a dalliance with Cardinal della Rovere.
In real life, King Henry VIII was the third child of six. However, half of his parent’s children died young, including Arthur, the first-born son who died at just 15. He had two sisters who survived to adulthood, however: Mary and Margaret.
But in “The Tudors,” the two surviving sisters are combined into one person named Margaret. However, the Margaret character has Mary’s historical backstory. This was done to keep the audience from getting confused: Henry was also destined to have a daughter named Mary who would have an important role.
Of course, giving Henry a single sister named Margaret didn’t do much to minimize confusion: there were plenty of other Margarets on the show, including Margaret Pole (the Countess of Salisbury) and Margaret, Lady Bryan.
In Season 1, the audience is introduced to Nan Britton, the alleged mistress of President Warren G. Harding. In real life, the link between Nan and President Harding was never proven in a court of law, despite claims that he fathered her child. On the show, Nan Britton is a combination of the historical Nan Britton and Harding’s confirmed mistress Carrie Phillips. The poem Nan reads on the show is one Harding wrote for the real Phillips.