Wolf Hall: More’s Season Ends As Anne Becomes Queen

Photo Courtesy Of BBC
Photo Courtesy Of BBC

Warning: Spoiler Alert

We rejoin the denizens of “Wolf Hall,” in the year 1531, according to the graphic that greets us at the onset of the third episode, of this six-hour miniseries. We’re informed, that having failed to secure an annulment of his marriage to Katherine Of Aragon from the Pope, King Henry VIII, is attempting to convince both houses of Parliament, to declare him head of the Church Of England.  The Monarch’s first act as head of the Church, would be to annul the union, thus clearing the way, for Henry to marry Anne Boleyn. Many are against England’s breaking with Rome, including the country’s Lord Chancellor, Sir Thomas More.

More’s the first character we see in this chapter, reading the Bible in Latin, through a set of magnifying spectacles, while his men torture an English lawyer, James Bainham. Bainham’s been declared a heretic by the Church, as he owns and has read in public, the Bible in English, something Rome strictly forbids. The Church contends that having the Bible printed in any language but Latin, would constitute blasphemy. Those on Bainham’s side, believe that Rome wants to keep the “Good Book,” in the ancient language, to keep the true meaning of its words, a secret from the common man.

Thomas Cromwell meets with Henry’s wife Katherine Of Aragon and the current heir to the throne, Henry and Katherine’s daughter Princess Mary, referred to as Shirley the Shrimp, by the Duke Of Norfolk. Princess Mary wobbles on her legs as she’s dealing with what she refers to as her woman’s problems, to her mother. Thomas finally pulls up a chair for the Princess and convinces her to sit down.

Katherine does nothing to hide her contempt for Cromwell, telling her daughter, he’s evolved from being a money launderer, to become the man who writes all the rules. She blames Cromwell for Henry’s decision to break with Rome, Thomas counters that she knows the King can’t be lead, she replies that he can be enticed. Cromwell informs them that they’ll be relocated to another Palace. Katherine responds, that she knew this moment was coming, but she never dreamed Henry would send someone like Cromwell to deliver the news.

That night in the bed he now share’s with his late wife’s sister Johane, Thomas tells his lover he wants to get her a gift and asks what she’d like? She smiles briefly, then tells him about James Bainham, she then asks if Cromwell’s certain that the bill to break with Rome is the correct move? She talks of a young woman from the countryside, whose said to be touched by God, she receives visions and can communicate with the dead. She says that if Henry marries Anne Boleyn, he’ll die seven months later. Cromwell’s not impressed by the tales and tells Johane that all’s well.

We watch the vote take place on the bill by the lower house in the next scene. Stephen Gardiner, per Cromwell’s instructions tell the members that those in favor of Henry becoming the Head of the Church Of England, stand to his right, those opposing the bill to his left. At first the two groups are pretty evenly divided, then one of the members, realize going against Henry, with the Monarch watching the vote, might not be too bright a move, so he switches sides. Many others follow his lead, leaving just a few on the side, voting against Henry. Gardiner declares the ayes have it and the bill passes the lower house. Gardiner tells Cromwell, that his tricks won’t work in the House Of Lords, as Thomas More’s a far more worthy opponent.

Cromwell’s ward Richard, returns from Antwerp, where he met with Tyndall, the man whose produced the English Bible. In a message to Thomas, he replies he’s not returning to London anytime soon and he’s against Henry, annulling his marriage. Thomas says to Richard that More and Tyndall deserve each other.

Anne Boleyn’s sent for Cromwell, when he arrives at the estate, she’s practicing her archery. Her sister Mary sidles up to Thomas, telling him that Anne’s still pure, which has Henry climbing the walls with frustration. Cromwell tells Mary he want’s a position in the Royal Court, he’d like to be in charge of the Jewel House, knowing Mary will convey the message to Anne.

After she’s finished shooting, Anne receives Thomas in her home, she tells him of the sermon a Parish Priest told the previous Sunday. The Priest told the tale of a good King and the wicked Jezebel that lead to his undoing. She proclaims that the Priest was referring to her as the Jezebel and she’s had more than her full of the derogatory remarks directed at her.

He then tells her of the plight of his friend James Bainham and asks her to intercede on his behalf. She says Bainham will recant his Blasphemy and then get freed, Cromwell asks what if refuses to recant? She looks at him as if he were insane, of course he’ll recant to save his life, she says. She looks at Cromwell and says you would under similar circumstances. Thomas remains silent, as he knows she’s correct, Cromwell values life too much to allow doctrine to determine his fate.

Cromwell’s back home, when he receives a visit from Thomas More, informing him that Bainham, recanted and got released. Cromwell says he heard More tortured Bainham on the rack, the Lord Chancellor says to save his soul, he would have whipped him until his skin was in tatters. He then says that he realizes Cromwell’s faith’s for purchase and he tells Thomas he’s aware of his correspondence with Tyndall. Thomas says curiosity begs that he ask More if he’s being threatened, More hisses that’s precisely what he’s doing.

Thomas and Johane get a moment of privacy, he says she still hasn’t told him what she wants as her present. She turns from him, saying her mother’s found out about them. She then says she believed the two became intimate as a way of grieving for Liz, and now it’s time to stop such behavior. He’s about to plead for her to disobey her mother’s wishes, when Richard rushes into the room. Francis Brian’s arrived, a member of the Boleyn family, meaning there’s a crisis Thomas must attend to. His career once again takes precedence over everything else and he leaves for the Boleyn estate.

Upon arriving he sees the family’s in a full-blown state of panic, Harry Percy’s declared that he and Anne are married, they’ve got a contract and they physically consummated the marriage. Mary says that the couple never were intimate, as she attests her sister’s a virgin. Apparently Percy had tried the same gambit, years earlier and Cardinal Wolsey made Percy drop his claims, but of course Wolsey’s now dead. Cromwell still angered that Percy’s arrest of Wolsey, hastened the Cardinal’s demise, is all too happy to put Harry in his place.

The scene that follows, perhaps is the most powerful few moments so far in this production, as Mark Rylance portrays Thomas Cromwell in full attack mode, without a hint of violence or even raising his voice. He sees Percy as the spoiled, entitled, punk that he is, skating by on his title and the things it affords him. Percy however, is a creature of pleasure and he’s spent his family’s fortune, indulging his vices, leaving him in debt up to his eyeballs. His world falls apart, if the men he’s indebted to call in their loans.

Cromwell’s well aware of the contempt that the nobles have for him, it only makes calling one of them out, that much sweeter. Thomas shows no respect for Percy’s class, addressing him like he would any peasant, attempting to pull off a scam.  He tells Percy he’s aware of all the debts he has and all those that hold those debts, he says one word from him and they’ll all call in their loans, then Henry will take away his land and his army. If he proceeds with his plan, his future lies in a hovel, with Harry wearing home-made clothes, bringing home a rabbit for his wife Anne to skin for dinner.

Cromwell then tells Percy, that he’s wrong in where he believes the World’s power lies, it’s not in Palaces or even in Rome. It’s in the counting houses in Lisbon, Genoa, Antwerp, it’s the money changers that hold the real power in life, able to destroy dynasties with a simple signature on a piece of paper. He tells Percy to recede back into the shadows, or his future will end badly.

The last obstacle to Anne Boleyn becoming the next Queen of England, steps aside in the next scene as Sir Thomas More’s read the handwriting on the wall and has resigned his position as England’s Lord Chancellor. He meets with Henry on the Palace grounds, handing over the chain of office in a velvet bag to the King. Anne and Cromwell watch the ceremony take place from a window, then Anne has Thomas accompany her down to meet her soon-to-be husband. She tells Cromwell she thinks he’s be a good fit as keeper of the Jewel House.

More bows to Lady Anne, and she’s accompanied by Henry back to the Palace. Cromwell asks More what his plans are, the former Lord Chancellor replies to write and pray. Thomas advises him to do little writing and lots of praying. More asks if that’s a threat, Cromwell smiles saying he’s earned the right.

Henry and Anne get into a shouting match that Cromwell and others can hear, causing them to comment on the couple. Mary runs in asking if they have a bible as Anne want’s Henry to swear on it. Later we’re informed that Henry told Anne they were married and would have a formal ceremony later. They consummate the relationship and then the King drinks a tad too much.

Later that evening, he’s being helped to walk back to his bedroom by an advisor, when he sees Thomas and Henry lets the other man go and starts hanging on Cromwell. Thomas is taken by a painting, Henry asks if Cromwell knows the woman in the foreground. Cromwell responds he knew a woman that looked like here in Antwerp. Henry then straightens up, looks Cromwell in the eye and says all that you are and all that you’ll be, shall come from me, then tells him he’s putting him in charge of the Jewel House.

Anne and Henry lead the Royal Party on a trip to Canterbury Cathedral, they encounter the young woman from the village that has the visions, she’s got some Priests with her when the party approaches. She tells Henry he has only seven months to live if he marries the heretic Anne. Anne’s Uncle the Duke Of Norfolk insults the young woman, getting the crowd to boo lustily at the Royal Party. Cromwell sneaks off and approaches the young woman and the Priests, he says he’d like to speak with Cardinal Wolsey, since she can communicate with the dead. One of the Priests says such a conversation would require a costly donation, Cromwell smiles saying he’s got plenty of money. The woman says she has to discuss the matter with a local Priest and Cromwell should return.

A visibly pregnant Anne Boleyn’s coronation as the next Queen of England takes place, soon after she’s taken by boat to begin her confinement, before giving birth to hopefully the next King of England. When Cromwell returns that evening, Johane shows him the new gift he’s received from Henry, the painting Thomas admired the night Henry got drunk.

The Story Continues Next Sunday Night at 10:00 pm on Your Local PBS Affiliate.

4 thoughts on “Wolf Hall: More’s Season Ends As Anne Becomes Queen”

  1. Thanks Emma! As a fan of history as well as great acting, I’ve gotten totally wrapped up in this splendid production. The praises I’ve read of Mark Rylance’s work on the stage, don’t do him justice! The man can say more with a look, or raised eyebrow, than a lesser actor can with a soliloquy. I remember Joanne Whalley from a film she did in the late eighties/early nineties entitled Scandal with John Hurt, back in her femme fatale days! A character totally the opposite of Katherine of Aragon, you’d be hard pressed to realize they’re the same actress. As you mention they completely recreate the era, so well that it’s tough readjusting to 2015, after spending 58 minutes in Henry VIII court!

  2. The best of all the recaps out there. But hard to find other episodes on your site. How do I find every episode review you did on this please.

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