What You Need To Know:

FIREBRAND is a historical drama about Queen Catherine Parr, the sixth and final wife of King Henry VIII of England. The movie depicts Catherine’s interest in spreading the ideas of the Protestant reformers. She even instructs Henry’s three children, Mary, Elizabeth and Edward, in the Bible. Eventually, Catherine comes under attack by people in the King’s administration trying to stop the reformers. Also, Henry becomes suspicious of her friendship with the younger brother of his third wife, who died after giving birth to Edward.

FIREBRAND accurately portrays Catherine’s commitment to Protestant reform. However, it features a brutal rape scene. Also, it has a strong Romantic, politically correct, feminist worldview with revisionist history. For example, it says Catherine was friends with a famous female Protestant reformer, Anne Askew. The movie falsely turns Anne into some kind of proto-feminist revolutionary preaching overt treason. FIREBRAND also adds two fictional plot twists to promote this revisionist history. Anne was eventually burnt at the stake by the same people who later tried to get rid of Catherine. MOVIEGUIDE® finds FIREBRAND unacceptable because of its false feminist revisionism.


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Dominant Worldview and Other Worldview Content/Elements:
Strong Romantic, politically correct Marxist feminist worldview with some strong revisionist history in a depiction of the final two to three years of Queen Catherine Parr’s relationship with her husband King Henry VIII, but the movie accurately depicts Catherine’s interest in the ideas of the Protestant Reformation, which got her into some trouble with people in Henry’s administration who opposed the newer ideas of the Protestant reformers, plus there’s a light lesbian implication regarding the Queen’s friendship with a female reporter, Anne Askew, who was burned at the stake in 1546, a precursor in the latter attempts by Catherine’s enemies to get rid of her too (there’s no record that the two women ever actually met, much less knew each other well enough to be old friends, plus the movie makes Anne more of a feminist and modern political social revolutionary than she was);

Foul Language:
One “f” word said in anger by King Henry VIII, one “s” word and four light profanities including two “for God’s sake” lines;

Disturbing fictional scene of violence in an historical drama where a man thinks his pregnant wife has fooled around with a former lover and rapes her and beats her to the point where she loses her baby (there’s a pool of blood around her and blood on her clothes afterwards when she retires to her own bedchamber), and woman strangles her terminally ill husband to death;

Brutal rape scene (described above under “Violence”), and two scenes of depicted marital intercourse;

Rear male nudity during one depicted marital sex scene, but no female nudity;

Alcohol Use:
Brief alcohol use and some light drunken revelry;

Smoking and/or Drug Use and Abuse:
No smoking or drugs; and,

Miscellaneous Immorality:
Court intrigue, betrayal, and King gets jealous in a paranoid and false and violent way when his Queen dances with a former lover at a court function even though he let her dance with him because he can’t dance anymore due to an ulcerous leg.

More Detail:

FIREBRAND is a historical drama about Queen Catherine Parr, the sixth wife of King Henry VIII of England and Ireland, her relationship with her husband and her commitment to the Protestant Reformation, which got her into some trouble with a powerful bishop in the King’s court. FIREBRAND accurately portrays Catherine’s commitment to Protestant reform in England, but it features brief disturbing violence and lewd content and gives a false Romantic, politically correct, feminist spin to her life and the eventual rule of her stepdaughter, Queen Elizabeth I, whom Catherine instructed in Protestant beliefs for four years before the King died.

The first part of the movie shows Queen Catherine being Regent of England and Ireland while King Henry is off to war in England. Catherine strongly supports the Protestant reformers in the country at the time and teachers her stepchildren, Mary, Edward and Elizabeth, in the Protestant understanding of the Bible. However, further Protestant reforms were opposed by other people in the royal court, especially Stephen Gardiner, the Bishop of Winchester and a top foreign affairs adviser to the King.

Catherine risks exposure of her strong support for more reforms when she goes to a local Shrine of Mary to visit a popular female reformer named Anne Askew. She lies to her bodyguard, saying that the shrine is only for women.

When Henry returns early from France, she fears for Anne’ safety. Catherine travels to the shrine once again to warn Anne. However, she risks exposure even more when she gives Anne a necklace Henry had gifted her and urges Anne to sell it to help her protect herself and even flee England.

Shortly thereafter, however, Bishop Gardiner’s cohorts capture Anne, torture her and burn her at the stake. This puts Catherine’s life in further danger. So, she asks for help from a former lover, Thomas Seymour, Prince Edward’s uncle, by way of his mother, Jane Seymour. He agrees to go search for the necklace, which has disappeared. The movie doesn’t tell viewers, but, according to the historical record, Thomas and King Henry were both suitors to Catherine when her second husband unexpectedly died, and Catherine chose Henry, even though she always remained fond of Thomas apparently.

Things begin to improve for Catherine, however, when she becomes pregnant by Henry, who hopes fervently for a second male heir to the throne besides Edward. Catherine’s position proves precarious, though, when Henry wrongly suspects Catherine with having an affair with Thomas.

FIREBRAND accurately portrays Catherine’s commitment to Protestant reform in England. For example, she briefly gives a strong defense in the movie of the Protestant doctrines of Sola Scriptura and justification by faith alone. The movie also accurately shows Catherine giving lessons in Protestant doctrine and the Bible to Henry’s three children, Mary, Edward and Elizabeth. Finally, it’s also true that Bishop Gardiner, King Henry VIII and other people committed to the Church of England didn’t like Sola Scriptura, because it threatened Henry’s power as King. That later would change, of course, as Protestant reformers won the day.

Despite these accuracies, FIREBRAND gives a Romantic, politically correct, feminist spin to Catherine’s life and to the eventual rule of her stepdaughter, Queen Elizabeth I.* For example, the movie opens by writing that most history concentrates on the subjects of men and war. So, anyone who wants to focus on other topics must resort to making “wild conclusions.” A final note at the end says that Elizabeth became a powerful queen, but that men and war did not define her reign or rule. Also, in the first scene with Catherine’s friend, the Protestant reformer Anne Askew is depicted as somewhat of an anti-male, feminist firebrand preaching revolution against the King and the country and the church’s other male leaders. In Anne’s brief sermon in that scene, she urges her listeners to “question everything.” In reality, Anne’s Catholic husband kicked her out of his home because of her Protestant views. She then returned to her maiden name and tried to get a legal divorce, citing biblical precedent.

So, FIREBRAND tries to make its historical story more of a Marxist feminist story than a story about Protestant reformers. Other scenes in the movie also contain some revisionist history and speculation. There’s no historical record, for example, that Queen Catherine personal knew Anne Askew, much less that she secretly gave Ann a bejeweled necklace that King Henry gave to her. Also, history is silent whether she gave Anne any money or gifts to help her before her execution. That said, Anne Askew’s martyrdom at the hands of Bishop Gardiner and other people in the King’s administration inspired many Protestants, and possibly even Queen Catherine.

True to its opening line supporting making wild conclusions about history, FIREBRAND invents two plot twists out of thin air in its second half. These plot twists are meant to validate the short feminist epilogue about Queen Elizabeth I’s reign. However, since the plot twists never really happened, they kind of undermine the truth in the feminist epilogue.

FIREBRAND also contains brief foul language, including an “f” word, and a brutal, fictionalized rape scene.

So, MOVIEGUIDE® doesn’t find FIREBRAND an acceptable viewing experience for moviegoers, especially for those who want their historical movies to be as truthful and as free of graphic sex and violence as possible.

* Note: Of course, Edward and Mary preceded Elizabeth as head of England before their deaths in 1583 and 1588, Edward being a male and Mary being the elder child.

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