Thomas Tallis is a musician, singer and composer whose burgeoning career forms a small sub-plot of Season One of The Tudors. He is presented as a bisexual youth who is devoted to his music but gradually begins to find other things in life to appreciate. Tallis dissapears from the series after the first season, despite continuing to flourish into the reign of King Henry's daughter Queen Elizabeth.
Tallis- rather shabbily dressed- arrives at court in episode 1.01 of The Tudors and is accosted by the Royal Secretary, Mr. Pace. He presents his letters of introduction, demonstrating his variety of talents- various instruments, singing and composing. Tallis is tentatively taken in, and later in the episode King Henry himself finds his singing pleasant, giving him a crown for his song; he later accompanies the royals to the summit in France.
By episode 10.03. Tallis appears to have partly replaced the former choirmaster, Cornish, as he is shown leading the orchestra at Henry's masquerade and later at the garden banquet in honor of the visiting Emperor Charles V. Tallis doesn't seem to notice the swirl of plots around him at court and simply continues diligently working, unaware that he is attracting the attention of two young ladies until they all but ask him to come to their beds in 1.04; he politely but bluntly refuses, being busy with his latest compositions, so they instead turn to George Boleyn. Moments later, however, Tallis catches the eye of Sir William Compton, one of the King's close friends.
Compton, who is secretly homosexual, continues to flirt with Tallis in episode 1.05, asking him to 'say yes'; Tallis resists, saying, "You're a Lord- what am I?" to which Compton replies "a genius." They kiss, and Tallis is later shown in bed with a sleeping Compton, once again writing his music. However, during the next episode, Tallis ruefully tells Compton he will be leaving soon: Cardinal Wolsey invited him and a group of artists to come to France, which he believes is foolish to refuse.
While in France in the next episode, Tallis befriends the poet Thomas Wyatt, the former betrothed of the King's lover Anne Boleyn. Wyatt suggests that Tallis put some of his poetry to music, which Tallis agrees to; however, he quickly realizes the poems are Wyatt reminiscing about Anne, and while they are good, he seems exasperated with his friend's gloom.
Returning from France in episode 1.07, Tallis is devastated to learn that Compton has died during an outbreak of the sweating sickness; he tearfully smashes his lute over Compton's grave marker, admitting he doesn't know what to say to him. Tallis finds solace (oddly quickly) with one of the sisters, Joan, who earlier flirted with him, but she dies soon afterwards from the same disease, leaving him to comfort her sister Jane. At the episode's conclusion, when the plague has mostly died out, Tallis is shown tearfully directing a church choir before the King, Queen and various other mourners who lost friends and family during the epidemic.Tallis subsequently repairs his life and career, forming a relationship with the surviving Jane and planning to marry; however, they remain somewhat in one of the few supernatural incidents in the series, the ghost of her sibling is shown watching them making love. In the final episode, Tallis and Wyatt discuss the importance of patronage, and the rise of Thomas Cromwell (who is Wyatt's new patron, to Tallis' dissaproval) and Anne Boleyn. Though Wyatt remains at court, Tallis dissapears from the series after Season One ends, contrary to history; he would continue having success through the mid-to-late 1500's.
"An invitation from a Cardinal is like an invitation from a King- and we 'little people' must put our hands in the fire if we're offered to."
- William Compton: "What are you thinking?"
- Thomas Tallis: "I wasn't thinking- I was listening."
- Compton: "You working on something new?"
- Tallis: (smiles) "To work on something, I have to hear it first."