Let me recommend this BBC-PBS series about Thomas Cromwell and Henry VIII. It’s not all pomp, pageantry, and patriotism; it’s about fear, power, and pettiness. Mark Rylance plays Cromwell with wonderful economy, inner life flashing behind still eyes. He is all intelligence and self-control, trying to manage a childish impetuous king, always in peril of death himself. The execution of Anne Boleyn in the sixth episode was truly excruciating, without ever showing the actual beheading: the barbarity, formality, ceremony, spectacle-as a young woman has her head cut off for allegedly cuckolding the king. We have come a long way since then–haven’t we?