Category Archives: Wolf Hall

Wolf Hall: I Need Guilty Men So I’ve Found Men Who Are Guilty

Photo: Courtesy Of The BBC
Photo: Courtesy Of The BBC

Warning: Spoiler Alert

As the BBC series “Wolf Hall,” reached the closing minutes of its sixth and final chapter, Sunday night on the PBS showcase Masterpiece Theater, I found myself drawing parallels between Anne Boleyn and the subject of an ancient Greek Myth. The Greeks told a tale of a young man name Icarus, who built himself a pair of wings and attempted to fly to the sun. Although the young man amazed all around that he could actually fly with his wings, his attempt to do the impossible, lead to his death. As Icarus got too close to the sun, the wax that held his wings together melted, sending the young man crashing to his death far below.

Anne Boleyn also had lofty goals in 1529: to make the English Monarch King Henry VIII fall in love with her, annul his first marriage to Katherine of Aragon, proclaim himself the Supreme Leader of the Church Of England and crown Anne as the country’s new Queen. Against overwhelming odds, Anne Boleyn got everything she wanted, but she couldn’t hold onto it. Failing to produce a male heir to the throne, she lost her hold over Henry and the sins she committed throughout the years would lead to her ultimate undoing.

The episode opens with a graphic telling us that we’ve reached the year 1536 and Henry’s love for Anne Boleyn has given way to anger and distrust. His attention now fixed on Jane Seymour, he’s instructed Cromwell to rid him of his second Queen. Sensing her loss of favor the Queen’s enemies are gathering.

Thomas Cromwell sits at the head of an enormous banquet table, surrounded by older men and women, clearly members of the aristocracy. The Duke of Norfolk asks Cromwell where’s the food and the host signals to his wait staff to start serving the meal. As platters of all sorts of delicacies are served, Cromwell suddenly sees Anne Boleyn being pulled down the table as she lies on her back, by two ropes attached to her shoulders. Boleyn looks around the room, finally making eye-contact with Cromwell. He stands up with a knife in his hand and stabs downward.

It’s a fantasy as we soon see that in reality, he’s at home having dinner with his family members, but Thomas can’t shake the vision. He remains silent and contemplative as he eats his dinner, staring off into space as if he was eating alone in the woods.

We are at Whitehall as Anne fusses over her red-headed daughter Elizabeth, showing Henry the new bonnet she got for her. Henry stares in silence takes a slug from his goblet of wine and picks his teeth. Finding the bothersome morsel, he gets up from the table and walks away. Cromwell starts to follow the King, when Anne calls for him.

She tells her husband’s right-hand man, that she heard that when Henry nearly died in the jousting accident, Cromwell started making arrangements for Henry’s first daughter Mary to return to the Palace. She asks why he was not planning on her, or Elizabeth or the baby she carried at the time, that she subsequently lost.

Thomas looks at her and says he can’t hold the throne for a baby in the cradle, or for a baby yet to be born. Anne  glares at Cromwell, telling him she promoted him and she ‘s the reason he’s had the success he enjoys. She then says the first chance he got to betray her, he did exactly that. Thomas looks her in the eye and dryly says Madam, there is nothing personal.

She lets out a cruel laugh at the remark, then she says he thinks he doesn’t need her any longer. However he’s forgotten the most important rule, those who’ve been made can be unmade. Cromwell says he wholeheartedly agrees with her statement, Anne’s unaware that Thomas is thinking of her in those terms.

That night at home Cromwell’s visited by the Duke of Suffolk, who tells the King’s secretary that we want the concubine gone and we know you do to. We’re fine with Henry marrying the Seymour girl, she follows the Church and might get Henry to reunite with Rome.

Cromwell asks the Duke who besides him, he speaks for. The Duke responds many who are close to the Crown, from the days of old King Edward. Lord Exeter, Lord Montague, the Chauncey family and Lady Margaret Pole. Cromwell asks the Duke what he proposes to do with the Queen and the Duke says he’s not sure, possibly send her to a monastery. He then asks the Duke what he wants of him and the Duke responds we want you to join us and help England get a new Queen.

Things start to unravel in the next scene, as Anne’s playfulness backfires and her reputation and honor get brought into play. Anne starts flirting with the young lute player, Mark Smeaton and the young man gets embarrassed and he runs out of her room, his eyes filled with tears. Her sister-in-law, Lady Jane Rochford says that Smeaton should be dropped from the top of a building, as Anne’s dog was.

Anne hauls back and slaps Rochford in the face, Jane says if Anne hits her like that again, she’ll hit her back. She says that Anne’s not a Queen, just the daughter of some Knight. Anne calls out to Harry Norris and asks him to do her a good turn and drown her brother’s wife. Harry tries to calm her down and she says you told me you would walk barefoot to China for me. He laughs and says it was somewhere within the confines of England.

She says to her sister Mary that Harry will never marry her as he says that he’s in love with Anne. She says however, he apparently doesn’t love her enough, to put Rochford in a bag and drown her. Norris says that if she wants to tell tales out of school, would she care to talk about their son. He then walks off and Anne’s mortified and terrified,  requesting somebody bring him back, so he can deny the remark. Nobody goes after him, so Anne chases after him herself.

Thus the beginning of the end for Anne Boleyn and things unravel at a rapid pace. Anne chases Harry to the courtyard and they argue out there for all to see, including Henry. The Queen went right to her husband after talking with Norris and Jane says he did not seem forgiving.

Jane Rochford immediately finds Cromwell and decides to air out all the dirty laundry. Perhaps the most shocking accusation she makes, is that her husband George and his sister Anne Boleyn engage in incest. She says she’s seen them kiss and not as brother and sister, but as if they were lovers. She tells Cromwell that she believes that her husband and the Queen are hoping to produce a male heir that looks like a Boleyn, so there won’t be any accusations of adultery.

Thomas advises Rochford not to speak to anyone else on this matter. She then tells Cromwell that she advises he speak to Mark Smeaton, as he can reveal a lot of information. Thomas sets up a meeting at his house with Smeaton, Rafe and Richard.

Mark’s a foolish and uneducated teenager, whose full of himself. Being a member of the Queen’s court, Smeaton’s convinced that he’s the equal of any noble. He says they call him boy, but they all fear him. Cromwell then asks the teen why the Queen’s constantly upset and he responds because she’s fallen in love with me. Thomas says he can see why she would be attracted to Smeaton as he’s young and good-looking. He then starts asking about Anne’s other lovers.

Smeaton suddenly realizes this isn’t just some bull-session, trading tales with other commoners about his prowess in the bedroom. He says he takes it all back, but Cromwell tells him it’s too late for that. He’ll either talk to them willingly or under force, the choice is his. He starts crying saying he was just making the whole thing up and Thomas tells him he’ll spend the night in Cromwell’s home. Richard takes the teen to a room and Mark’s scared and asks what is this place, Richard tells him that’s where the phantom lives.

In the middle of the night, Cromwell’s woken by the banging and screaming of Smeaton. This time he’s very cooperative, providing a list of names and saying he had relations with Anne about three or four times. He doesn’t realize it’s only going to get much worse from here on out.

Cromwell then starts bringing in the accused men, including Harry Norris, Francis Brian and George Boleyn. Cromwell’s relentless in his questioning and uses the statements from one man to implicate one of the others. However it’s with Harry Norris that Thomas admits why he’s going after the men he’s pursuing. He asks Norris if he remembers being in a performance, depicting Cardinal Wolsey getting chased to Hell by some demons? Harry gasps and asks is this what this is about? Cromwell says I need guilty men Harry so I’ve found men who are guilty, although maybe not of the same offense.

Harry says he won’t confess to anything or name anybody else, he says we’re cultured gentleman. Henry doesn’t believe in and would never allow torture. Cromwell walks over to the table that Norris sits at, and puts his hands on Harry’s cheeks rather forcefully. He says it can be informal, right now I could put my thumbs in your eyes and have you sing Green Grows The Hollie, if he so chooses.

The Duke of Norfolk gives Cromwell an arrest warrant for his niece, family loyalty means nothing to him. He says perhaps Henry will listen to his advice after this. Anne greets her uncle, the Lord Chancellor, the Master Treasurer and Cromwell. She says to the group, this is the man I invented and Norfolk says he invented her as well and now he grieves that he did so. Norfolk asks Anne if she’s ready and she replies she doesn’t know how to be ready. Cromwell extends his hand and says, why don’t you just come with us.

Anne’s taken by rowboat to the room she’ll live out her days in, Cromwell’s in the boat with her. She stares at all the buildings as they float by, realizing deep down this could be the last time she sees them.

Cromwell meets with Henry and the Archbishop of York at Whitehall and the Archbishop berates himself for allowing Anne to deceive him for all these years. Henry comforts the Priest by saying they were all taken in by her act, then he says he believes she committed adultery with over 100 men during their marriage. He says she said she loved me, but alas the opposite was true.

Thomas goes to visit Anne and she asks Cromwell if this is all some sort of test? She asks when Henry will release her and let her return to the Palace? Cromwell says to her they are compiling the confessions as they speak and soon she’ll be on trial. She grabs hold of Cromwell’s arm and says that he doesn’t believe these terrible stories about her. She looks him in the eyes and says deep in your heart, you know I’m innocent. Thomas removes her hand from his arm and remains silent.

The trial takes place and Anne’s voted guilty by each member of Parliament. The Duke of Norfolk says that she’ll either be burned at the stake, or have her head cut off, whichever Henry prefers. The King decides to give his wife the quick death and orders her head to get cut off.

Before the execution Cromwell goes down to the stage she’ll be executed from and he meets the executioner, a man from France. The executioner tells Thomas that if she’s steady she won’t feel a thing, it will happen between heartbeats. If she’s steady.

There’s a mob surrounding the stage as Anne and he ladies in waiting descend the stairs to the stage. She quietly but calmly addresses the crowd, She says she’s come here to die, because that’s what the law calls for. She says God bless the King and she says that he always treated her kindly and fairly. The headband’s removed from her head and a bonnet’s placed upon it, then they blindfold her.

When the blindfold’s put on she starts to show her fear, sobbing softly. A stray lock of hair escapes the bonnet, she fusses with it to put it back in place. Cromwell whispers move your arm. The executioner goes to the Queen’s left and shouts out, she turns that way and he slices off her head from the right, in between heartbeats as he predicted. The ladies in waiting pick up her head and body and place them in a plain wooden casket.

Cromwell heads inside Whitehall and Henry stands there waiting for his secretary with open arms, beaming from ear to ear. He embraces Thomas and the expression on his face is one of complete joy, looking as if the weight of the world’s lifted off his shoulders. Cromwell however got shaken by the experience, his face’s creased with worry and he looks disoriented and confused.

Wolf Hall: Keep Your Wrists Crossed It Confuses The Pain

Photo Courtesy Of The BBC
Photo Courtesy Of The BBC

Warning: Spoiler Alert

We begin chapter five of the BBC series “Wolf Hall,” in the year 1535, six years after we first met these characters. An opening graphic informs us that the Act Of Supremacy, has declared that Henry is the Supreme Head of the Church Of England. However the Royal Emperor and his ambassador Eustache Chepuys, refuse to recognize the English Monarch, as the head of any church, or acknowledge Anne Boleyn as England’s Queen. The King’s secretary Thomas Cromwell, recently recovered from an illness that nearly killed him, has put together the itinerary of Henry’s Royal Progress. Cromwell’s included a five-day visit to Wolf Hall, the family estate of Jane Seymour in early September.

The night of their arrival, John Seymour throws a lavish banquet for his guests. However the trip apparently tired Henry out and he falls asleep at the head of the table and begins to snore. While the King’s advisors determine the best way to wake up Henry, Jane gets up from her seat at the table and taps the King on his hand till he wakes up. Clearly embarrassed, he says he was just resting his eyes.

Cromwell’s had designs on Jane for years and he’s finally ready to act on them, during this visit. That is until he looks out his bedroom window and sees Henry holding Jane’s hands, while talking to her. The next morning, Cromwell’s included in a meeting of the Seymour men, as Jane relays what happened the night before. She says Henry asked if she’d look kindly on him if he sent her a poem. She says she would.

One of the men tells her if he attempts to touch her, she should scream. She asks what if nobody arrives, if she did? Cromwell tells her that instead of screaming, she should pray as that would appeal to Henry’s sense of piety. She smiles and says she’ll study her prayer-book, to find an appropriate prayer for such an occasion.

Thomas and his ward Rafe head to Kimbolton Castle,  Katherine Of Aragon’s home, since she was sent into exile. Henry’s first wife’s close to death and she asks Cromwell, if he can arrange for her daughter Mary to come and stay with her through her final days.

She then brings up Anne Boleyn, saying she heard that she lost a child, something she too experienced far too many times. She asks if Anne asks about her and Thomas evades the question. Katherine then tells Cromwell that Henry once referred to her as his flower and gave her six-dozen silk roses, when she lost their first son.

Cromwell heads back to Whitehall and talks with Anne’s lady in waiting, Jane Rochford. He asks if the Queen’s with child and she says she is, but she’s not ready to tell Henry. He then visit’s the Queen, whose overcome with grief as somebody pushed her dog out the palace window and the pup died when he hit the ground below. We meet Anne’s fool for the first time, a dwarf whom Anne calls Mary, an insult to Henry’s first daughter, that her uncle the Duke of Norfolk refers to as Shirley the Shrimp.

She says she’s heard that the Pope’s looking to set up Mary to marry a French Prince, she then berates Cromwell for not setting up a match with French Royalty, for her own daughter. Cromwell says that the French stated very clearly they had no interest in marrying one of the country’s Princes to Henry’s second daughter.

She then tells Thomas, she’s aware he’s talking with the Seymour family. She says that Henry will never leave her, that since she became Queen, a new England’s emerged. One that can’t possibly subsist without her. Cromwell keeps his face blank and his mouth shut, as he bows to Anne and leaves her quarters.

That night at his home, Cromwell’s visited by Eustache Chepuys, who says that he’s heard tales that Cromwell’s about to send all the monks and nuns on the road. Cromwell then rips apart the clergy of the Catholic Church, saying among other things the monks steal from the poor and molest the young novices in their charge. He then tells Chepuys that he intends to increase good religion, not to see it wither.

The Ambassador gets down to the real reason for his visit. He’s been told that Katherine of Aragon, will die within days and he wants permission to go stay with her until she passes. He says that Henry refuses to grant him permission, so he’s begging Cromwell to intercede on his behalf.

Thomas talks with Anne and Henry the following day, as they walk through the Royal Garden. Anne’s naturally against showing Katherine any kindness. Cromwell, however tries to appeal to Henry’s sense of diplomacy, saying this small act maybe the first step in restoring relations with Rome. That with Katherine’s death, the church may finally recognize his marriage to Anne. Allowing his wife to influence his decision, Henry denies the Ambassador’s request.

Anne wakes up to find her bed curtains are on fire, she’s able to leave her bed without any harm. Henry and Cromwell are summoned, Thomas examines the curtains and then smells them. Henry’s truly shaken, but Anne assures her husband that she’s perfectly fine and blames the fire on an errant candle.

Henry’s hosting a jousting tournament at Whitehall and Cromwell begs the King to take it easy if he’s matched up against Thomas’ son Gregory. He tells Henry it’s Gregory’s first joust and he’s afraid his son will get killed in the competition.

He then goes to Gregory as he’s getting fitted for his suit of armor, for the competition. Thomas tells his son he’s got too much going on to attend the joust, but the truth is he’s afraid of witnessing his son’s death. He tells him that Henry says Gregory represents his house well, he tells his son he’s proud of him and wishes him luck.

Crowell’s at his desk a while later, when Richard enters the office his face white as snow. Thomas grabs his chest and asks if it’s Gregory, Richard says that Henry’s dead. His horse tripped while entering the ring and fell on top of the King. Rafe asks Thomas if they should leave immediately, before their enemies close the roads? Cromwell says he’s going to see Henry.

The King’s laid out on a couch outside the Whitehall with all the aristocrats just standing there, discussing who’ll take over the throne. Thomas asks for a mirror to see Henry’s breath, then he slams the King in the chest and the rudimentary version of CPR, brings Henry back to life.

Cromwell’s shaken by the incident, saying to a colleague that he’s likely the only person who can say the King Of England’s his only friend. He says though it appears he has everything, he’s got nothing without Henry on the throne. He’s then asked if he would have supported Anne as Regent and he says that’s the way he was leaning.

Henry’s back on his throne, when Anne and her handmaidens come into publicly greet the King after his accident. Anne says she prays and England prays, that he will give up jousting after the incident. He motions for her to approach him, when she doesn’t come close enough, he repeats the motion. When she gets close enough for his liking, he stands and screams that she might as well geld him while she’s at it. He says that would suit her fine, wouldn’t it? She turns on her heels and storms away silently.

The death knell of the marriage, sounds in the next scene as Anne once again has a miscarriage. Jane Rochford tells Henry that the doctor says the embryo was 13-weeks-old and appeared to be male. Henry screams at Rochford that Anne should have had a nurse by her side, but the Boleyn’s always turn away outsiders.

Later that evening, Henry tells Thomas that he believes he’s cursed and will never father a male child. He says if a King fails to father a son and bring stability to his realm, nothing else he does matters. Victories, adjusting the laws, the famous course, it’s all meaningless.

He then stares at Cromwell, and a slight smile paints the corners of the King’s mouth. He says he believes that he got tricked into his marriage to Anne. That he thinks she might have seduced him with charms and spells. He asks if that’s the case then the marriage would be null, wouldn’t it?

Henry sends a purse to Jane Seymour, accompanied by a letter. She sent back the purse and refused to open the letter, but she kissed Henry’s seal. Whether she planned to or not, it made Seymour even more attractive in Henry’s eyes as he now thought of her as chaste with a sense of honor.

Chepuys pays a visit to Cromwell’s home and the King’s secretary convinces the Ambassador to attend Mass at the Royal Court the next morning. Cromwell’s intentions are far from honorable, as he knows that Chepuys will run into Anne at the Mass and will finally have to acknowledge her. As he sees her and her handmaidens, he bows to her, they curtsy in return. Eustache’s furious with Thomas, but Cromwell says now that he’s acknowledged the marriage, Henry can end it.

King and Ambassador meet and it turns into a screaming match, as Henry tells Chepuys that he runs England and he’s not about to follow Rome’s orders with blind obedience. He then pushes the Ambassador and storms off. Chepuys is seething with anger, saying he acknowledged that creature (Anne) and Henry still treated him terribly.

The King storms back, this time calling out Cromwell, blaming him for everything. He says that Thomas believes he’s got Henry in his pocket, that Henry’s the son of a blacksmith and that Cromwell’s truly King of England. Thomas crosses his wrists in front of his face, then says God preserve you, Your Majesty, excuse me.

He heads to his office and he flashes back to his childhood, where we see how he picked up the custom of crossing his wrists. He went to see his father making horse shoes and young Thomas picked up a red-hot rod of metal, burning his forearm. His father tells him to cross his wrists and stick his arms into a trough of water. He tells his son to keep his wrists crossed, as it confuses the pain.

The aristocracy despise Cromwell and all the success he’s attained and they’re ecstatic that Henry dressed down his secretary in a public fashion. One of them walks into his office and says hopefully Cromwell finally learned his place, he’s nothing but a money-lender, despite all he’s attained. Thomas recognizes the man as one of those that participated in the play showing Wolsey going to Hell. Cromwell says he intends to profit from this incident.

There’s a meeting of Henry and his advisors the next day and Cromwell remains silent for most of it, getting another dressing down from an aristocrat when he decides to speak. After the meeting ends, Henry tells his secretary to walk with him. Although the words I’m sorry never come close to the King’s lips, he tells Cromwell that he’s his right hand man.

Henry then brings up dissolving his marriage to Anne, he mentions Harry Percy and how he and Anne were practically married, years before. He then tells Thomas of his affair with Anne’s sister Mary and says that might void the marriage as they’re sisters.

He grabs Cromwell’s arm in a brotherly fashion, then says he trusts in Thomas’ discretion and skill. He then smiles and tells him to make sure he’s very secretive.

Cromwell’s in his office at home, when suddenly he hears a man’s voice. Cromwell sees Cardinal Wolsey standing beside him. The Cardinal says “The problem is Thomas, he wants a new wife, so fix him one. I didn’t and now I’m dead.” Crowell looks up and the spirit’s gone, he’s in his office once again alone.

The Season Finale Airs Next Sunday at 10:00 pm on Your Local PBS Affiliate.

Wolf Hall: To Save One’s Body Or One’s Soul?

Photo Courtesy Of The BBC
Photo Courtesy Of The BBC

Warning: Spoiler Alert

Chapter four of the PBS Masterpiece Theater presentation of the BBC series “Wolf Hall,” dealt mainly with issues of principles and conscience, along with the hypocrisies those subjects highlight. We saw the comparison of two men, both stubborn and set in their ways, with the ultimate wheeler-dealer, doing his best to avoid one of those men, becoming a martyr. Despite the best efforts of Thomas Cromwell, whose shown the ability to look objectively at a situation and predict all the possible outcomes of any situation, England ended up with a martyr.

We saw similar behavior displayed in the previous episode, that time by an associate and friend of Cromwell’s, the lawyer James Bainham. Despite his encounter with torture and recanting previous statements, Bainham felt compelled to read the Bible in English. The book considered blasphemous by Rome, cost Bainham his life, as he couldn’t stop himself from reading the English bible in public. He was burned at the stake in public, before a crowd believing the punishment fit the crime.

This episode opens with a graphic, summing up the story so far. Anne Boleyn promised to bear England’s King Henry VIII a son. So he cast off his first wife and, over the objections of the Pope and Christendom crowned Anne Queen. In September of 1533, Anne returns to Whitehall with her newborn child….a daughter.

The first person we encounter is Henry himself, whose not masking his disappointment, as the only question he asks is if his daughter’s healthy. He walks away leaving behind the Arch Bishop of York, the Lord Chancellor, the Solicitor General and Cromwell. They’d been banking on the Royal Couple having a son, to give Anne the legitimacy by England that the King and Queen sought so desperately. However, the girl to be named Elizabeth just compounded the problem, as she was in reality second in line to the throne following her half-sister Mary, Henry’s daughter with Katherine of Aragon.

Cromwell comes up with a solution to the succession problem, a bill calling for Parliament to declare Mary illegitimate and for only the children of Henry and Anne, be in line to inherit the throne. However, there’s another situation to get resolved, the increased support for  the woman from the country who’s said to have visions, of Heaven, Hell and Purgatory, Elizabeth Barton. The Priests who support her, have tried to increase her legendary status among the common-folk, by supplying a letter to Barton, they claim to have been written by Mary Magdalene. Cromwell decides to bring her in for questioning.

Questioned by Henry’s chief advisors, she tells them she’s seen the devil and he looks like a bird, with huge claws. He’s filthy and his claws are covered in blood and feces. She says once he appeared to her as a young man, trying to tempt her and pawed ay her. When she rejected his advances, he spit in her face and she wiped it off with a napkin. She claims the napkin turned black and emitted the stench of Hell. One of her advisors now possesses the napkin and shows to people for a donation to their cause.

She’s asked to explain why Henry hasn’t died, despite her predictions he would die seven months after marrying Anne? She says in God’s eyes, Henry’s not the legitimate King of the country. Cromwell says there are reports that she favors the Courtney family to takeover the throne. She says she’s met with both brothers and their wives and they value her support. She then tells the men that England will be struck by a plague in six months, it will kill Henry, Anne and all of them as well. She then tells Cromwell, that all the members of his family are heretics and will die by the plague. Considering Cromwell lost Liz and his daughters to the “sweating sickness,” this likely struck a nerve.

Turns out Cromwell’s got Barton under close surveillance, the young woman who cares for her is his niece and Barton realizes she’s a fake and she’s very close to confessing she got put up to her performance by those around her. Thomas then has meetings with all the prominent people who met with her, he tells them each to write Henry a letter begging for his mercy. They all follow Cromwell’s directions and he convinces Henry to pardon them all. However there’s a list of people, who’ll get arrested and tried for their associations with Barton.

Anne wants Thomas More to be put on that list, but Cromwell tells her More decried Barton long ago. However she’s insistent on him getting arrested. She considers More to be one of the main contributors to her not being accepted as the rightful Queen by many of her subjects. Henry’s silence on the matter, tells Cromwell he’s got to be proactive on this development.

Henry’s advisors beseech the Queen’s Uncle, the Duke of Norfolk to beg for More not to get arrested. After swearing and acting contrary, he agrees to do it, if Cromwell also joins in. He then cackles saying Anne will scream bloody Hell, when she finds out what he did.

Henry agrees to keeping More off of the arrest notice, in return for his signing the loyalty oath, stating he agrees with the new line of succession. The advisors travel to More’s home and present him with the bill and the loyalty oath. After reading it, he declares although he’ll not speak out against it, or encourage others to, he can’t sign the oath. Cromwell pushes a quill and inkwell towards More, stating that won’t be enough.

The Lord Chancellor, tells More they’re not allowed to let him go home, unless he signs the oath. More asks if he’ll see his daughter again, Cromwell says there’s just the matter of a few words, standing in the way of that. More surrenders himself to the guard, this wasn’t the conclusion that Cromwell hoped for.

Back at home Cromwell’s told by his sister-in-law that More’s wife has come to talk with him. Lady Alice tells her host, the last time she visited his home was a musty old place. She then says her husband always says that you could put Thomas Cromwell in prison, by evening he’d be sitting on cushions and the jailers would owe him money. He then asks Lady Alice to explain why her husband’s being so stubborn?

She says she’s got no idea what motivates his stance. She then asks Cromwell to deliver a message to her husband. She wants him to ask More if his principles are more important than keeping his wife company, giving his son advice or protecting his daughter? She wants Cromwell to stress More’s proper place’s back home with his family.

More won’t back down, or give in. He says he doesn’t cause or wish anyone harm, he just wants to be left alone to live out his days. Cromwell’s head nearly explodes when he hears More’s words, he then asks More if he remembers Cromwell’s friend James Bainham? The man he had on the rack in More’s own home, the man that More’s men beat so badly, he had to get carried to his execution in a chair. Cromwell slams his hands down on More’s desk, then says he should be grateful he’s not receiving the torture he’s inflicted on others. The Lord Chancellor informs More that the King will proceed with More’s indictment and trial.

Back at Whitehall, Cromwell attempts to soften Henry’s stance on the More situation, but the King instead displays a steely-coldness. When Thomas tells his King, the case against More for treason’s slender and getting a guilty verdict won’t be easy, Cromwell sees that he could also find himself out of Henry’s favor if he fails to come through. He tells Cromwell, that he didn’t bring the son of a blacksmith on for easy assignments. He says Cromwell’s a serpent, but he best not be a viper in Henry’s bosom, he has his assignment, go carry it out. For the first time we see Cromwell with his confidence shaken, he realizes that Henry’s loyalty will only last as long as Cromwell’s effective.

Thomas goes to visit More by himself, he tells the former Lord Chancellor that he’s been instructed to take away the man’s pens, papers and books. More lets out a sigh, then says fine you might as well take them all now. Cromwell pulls the loyalty oath out of his pocket and puts it in front of More. He then tells him his wife came to see him, she wants More home and his family does as well. He says that he’ll supply the barge to escort More home, that soon he can be back in his own bed.

When he realizes More’s refusing to cooperate, he asks if More’s not afraid of the pain he knows that he’ll soon experience. The prisoner admits he’s terrified, but he says the pain won’t be for long and God will erase the memory after it’s over. Cromwell leaves the cell and asks that Richard Riche personally removes all the pens, papers and books from More’s cell.

The day of the trial arrives and Riche says that if they lose the jury, the King will skin them alive. Thomas corrects him, saying it will be Anne who does the skinning. More enters the courtroom looking frail and weak, trying to elicit sympathy from the Parliament members that will determine his fate.

Riche questions More about the conversation that the two of them had when the Solicitor General, took away all of More’s possessions. He states that More said that if Parliament wanted to they could name Riche as the new King of England, but they couldn’t choose Riche to be God. Furthermore, Parliament lacked the authority to name Henry head of the Church Of England.

More tries denying they had that conversation, but his patience quickly wears out and his anger kicks in and he says that Riche’s as important as the devil’s spit. The Lord Chancellor says to address the Solicitor General with the respect he deserves, but More melts down and Parliament quickly convicts him of treason.

The ruling’s announced but before they sentence him, the Lord Chancellor asks More if he has any words on his own behalf. More says he no longer has to keep his tongue in check, then proceeds to rip Henry and Parliament apart verbally. Soon his words are drowned out by the boos of Parliament.

More gets his head chopped off in a public display, Cromwell stands in the crowd and flashes back to his childhood. We see young Thomas as a serving boy, likely about five or six years old and More’s a 14-year-old scholar, already being hailed as a genius by his elders. Thomas remembers watching some of the students playing in the courtyard, but More was in his room, playing his recorder in front of his open window. The young Cromwell waved to the teen, who then shut his window.

Soon after the beheading, Cromwell gets incredibly sick and seems near death as he’s burning with fever and delirious. He thinks Johane’s his late wife Liz and begs her to let him love her. The doctor comes and Cromwell says that if he’s dying he needs to speak to his son Gregory, he’s there but Cromwell passes out. He seems to wake up the next morning, but we realize he’s dreaming as Liz’s next to him in bed. He then wakes up in reality, finding himself alone, his fever broke and he’ll be fine.

Cromwell gets dressed and comes down to his study, giving Rafe the itinerary for the King’s upcoming Summer Progress. He ticks off a bunch of locations, then suddenly stops. Rafe asks him what’s wrong and he tells the young man to insert a five-day visit to Wolf Hall, the home of Sir John Seymour and family in early September.

Sir John and his family come down to welcome the Royal party and he and Henry exchange pleasantries. A couple of rows back stands Seymour’s daughter Jane and she and Cromwell make eye contact with each other.

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

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.

Wolf Hall: Cardinal Wolsey Dies As Cromwell Gains Favor

Photographer: Giles Keyte BBC
Photographer: Giles Keyte BBC

Warning: Spoiler Alert

The power-play discussed in the first episode of the BBC Production of “Wolf’s Hall,” being broadcast in the states on PBS stations under the Masterpiece Theater, heading’s, gone into effect as we begin the second episode. A graphic that starts off the program, informs us that we’re in December of 1529, Cardinal Wolsey’s left London, now living in his home in Esler. However, the Duke Of Norfolk and his niece Anne Boleyn, who seeks to marry King Henry VIII, are less than pleased with the situation, wanting the Cardinal living in Yorkshire County, too far away to influence the English monarch.

Wolsey’s aide Thomas Cromwell,  sits in a hallway of the palace, waiting for Henry to appear, when he does he motions to Cromwell to come forward. Cromwell gives Henry a parcel of paperwork, in his attempt to defend Wolsey, the King gives the papers to his aide Stephen Gardiner, and tells Thomas he can’t talk about the Cardinal. Cromwell attempts to speak, when Henry interrupts him, saying don’t you understand, I can’t. He and his advisors leave, save Gardiner who stays behind to talk to his former colleague. He chides Cromwell for thinking, Henry would grant him a meeting.

Thomas heads to Wolsey’s home in Esler, the Cardinal’s in a panic, as a cat gave birth to a black kitten, under his bead which he believes is a bad omen. He says he’s decided to move to York, however Cromwell tells him to stay where he is, he’ll soon be back in favor with Henry.

Returning home, he finds his only surviving child and least favorite, his teenage son Gregory’s home from Cambridge. Father and son, genial and affable with all, can’t talk to each other, Thomas believes Gregory fears him, while his sister-in-law, Joanne, his late wife Liz’s sister, believes Cromwell spoils the boy. He reminisces about when Gregory was an infant, says he misses having a baby in the house and Joanne, says don’t look at her. He asks her if John Williamson, (her husband) does his duty? She replies his duty’s not her pleasure and leaves the room. Cromwell mutters to himself that’s a conversation he shouldn’t have had.

Thomas meets with the Cardinal’s caretaker George, who shows Cromwell a whip, that Wolsey’s started using on himself. The lawyer says that Wolsey would be better off in York, but George asks how they’d pay for the move? Cromwell waits in the palace hallways for Henry and his advisors to pass and the King acknowledges his presence, then sends his advisors on ahead. He tells Thomas that he certainly sticks by his man and Cromwell responds, Wolsey always treated him well, Henry asks if he has no other masters, the lawyer remains silent.

He then tells Cromwell he’ll give him a thousand pounds to move Wolsey, for Thomas to keep the information to himself and to have Wolsey pray for Henry. He then tells Cromwell that he  misses the Cardinal of York, greatly every day.

Thomas heads to Esler and tells Wolsey this is a strategic retreat, not a surrender. He says that he’ll remain in London, as his advocate with the King, who’ll soon change his mind and have him restored to full power. He says he’ll come to York himself, to fetch him, once Henry issues the decree. The Cardinal then gives Cromwell, a black velvet bag, containing a present for Thomas, that he asks that Cromwell not open until he’s gone. He then tells Thomas to get in good with Anne Boleyn, as she influence Henry greatly.

Cromwell’s been invited by Thomas More to his estate to dine, More’s against Henry trying to annul his marriage to Katherine Of Aragon, as well as the talk of breaking with Rome. Stephen Gardiner’s also a guest at the dinner, feeling quite uncomfortable, as the center of More’s “Fool’s” attention. Rumor has it that the “Fool,” fell on his head from a bell-tower, as a teenager, scrambling his brains. But Gardiner tells Cromwell, he wouldn’t put it past More, if the man were just acting the fool.

The dinner’s a tad bizarre, complete with a little monkey, eating on the table. More’s wife asks Cromwell, when he’ll marry again, Thomas responds, no one will have him. She says, that’s nonsense, his master may be down , but he’s got plenty of money, then asks if everything works “downstairs”? More’s humiliated, telling his wife she needs to cut back on the spirits, as her nose is glowing.

After the dinner, Cromwell takes a boat to visit Lady Anne. When he heads inside, he’s greeted by her sister Mary Boleyn, whose not shy about revealing her crush, on the far older man. She says she needs a husband to stop her father and Anne from insulting her, Thomas tells her to ask for someone young and handsome. She says she wants someone, her parents would hate, he tells her they’d kill her, she agrees he’s likely correct. She ten tells him Anne will ask him to perform a service for her, if he does it, she owns him. She says turn around and run the other way.

When he goes to see Lady Anne, she asks where he’s been and he replies Utopia, she asks the subject of conversation and he responds, talkative women. She then gets down to the true reason she summoned him, a crude sketch she found in her bed. At that point Cromwell’s introduced to the Boleyn family Priest, then she tells him that the drawing’s supposed to represent her as the villain, she says that the chambermaid who made up her bed, cries whenever she approaches her. She asks Cromwell to see what he can find out. Cromwell and the Priest go to look for the girl.

The Priest points her out and Thomas knows her, but forgets her name, he introduces the Priest, then says this is where you tell him your name. She replies that she’s Thomas Seymour’s daughter, could this possibly be Jane Seymour, who’d become the third wife of Henry VIII?

When he gets home, Joanne asks about Lady Anne, while she serves Thomas dinner, was she tall or short, Cromwell replies neither. Joanne says she’s supposed to be a great dancer, Thomas responds, they never danced. She asks how are her teeth, Cromwell says when Anne sinks them into her, he’ll give her a report. Joanne, then asks why God tempts us so, kisses her brother-in-law on the cheek, then rushes from the room.

George comes to London to give Cromwell a report in how Wolsey’s faring, although the Cardinal hates the food in the North, he’s got thousands of people coming to visit him, from all over the country. George says that Wolsey’s got his spirit back, Cromwell warns George to keep him in check, so Henry doesn’t perceive him as a threat. He tells George that the Duke of Norfolk’s furious with all the attention the Cardinal’s receiving, but we can tell George isn’t paying attention to the message.

While Wolsey’s stock’s rapidly falling, Cromwell sees his begin to rise, as he’s invited to the Royal Court while Henry shows off his archery skills. When it’s his turn to take the bow, Thomas impresses his King greatly with his talent, Cromwell says he participates every Sunday in a neighborhood match. Henry suggests he attend one week in disguise, Cromwell says the King’s team would surely win.

There seemed to be a bond between Thomas and Henry the first time they met, an unspoken mutual-respect and Cromwell’s display with a bow and arrow, made the King respect him more. The two take a private walk around the palace’s private grounds, as Thomas educates his King on the intricacies of taxation and the amount of revenue the crown could derive from it. Henry tells him to meet with the King’s lawyers on the matter.

That night, there’s a knock upon the front door of Crowell’s house, waking all within. When Thomas gets to the front door, the Royal guard say that the King’s summoned him to Essex for a meeting, Cromwell tells the women and girls to head to bed, he takes Rafe, Richard and Gregory with him. Once they get outside, they’re met by Harry Norris and the Boleyn family Priest. Norris tells Thomas the King’s nearby and wants to meet with them both.

A deeply troubled Henry, greets them in his night-clothes, scared to death, from a dream he had in which his older brother appeared, standing in a circle of white fire. Henry says his brother looked quite sad, he believes his brother showed himself, to express his anger in Henry taking his Kingdom. He says his brother’s ashamed of him and will testify against him when Henry gets to Heaven’s Gates.

Cromwell asks the King, if his brother said anything or made any signals, Henry responded he didn’t. Cromwell then says that Henry’s misinterpreted the dream. The King’s brother appeared to show his support, not his displeasure. The man who would have been King, wants Henry to show the world, he’s the supreme ruler of his nation. Henry thanks him, then says, I always know who to call.

When Thomas gets back to his bedroom, he finds Joanne there, she was worried there’d been a reckoning, for all the nice things they have. Cromwell kisses her, she returns the kiss hungrily, as the scene fades to black.

Thomas’ high spirits, are short-lived as George arrives to tell him that the Cardinal passed. He’d gotten arrested a few weeks before by Harry Percy for high-treason, George believed Percy arrested him as Wolsey ruled against his petition years before to marry Ann Boleyn. He was eventually taken to the tower, but by the time Wolsey got there, he was close to death, after stopping eating days earlier. The Cardinal died, asking where Cromwell was.

However, as the episode concludes, Thomas is named a Counselor to the King. He also opens the present he got from Wolsey, before he left Esler. It’s one of Wolsey’s rings, which Cromwell puts on his index finger and wears from then on out.

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

Wolf Hall: Cromwell Impresses King Henry VIII

Photo Courtesy Of PBS
Photo Courtesy Of PBS

Warning: Spoiler Alert

Welcome to 16th Century England, the year 1529, to be exact the setting for the new PBS Masterpiece Theater production, the BBC adaption of “Wolf Hall.” The series based on the first book of a trilogy, by British Author Hilary Mantel, takes place during the reign of English Monarch King Henry VIII, a character seen often over the years by American audiences. However, Mantel tells her story through the eyes of Master Thomas Cromwell, born the son of a blacksmith, whom starts the series as a lawyer and the top aide to English Cardinal Wolsey.

Although American networks, have had great success with “Period-Dramas,” in this writer’s opinion, The BBC are the masters of the genre. Although the Alexander Dumas’ classic, The Three Musketeers, rivals Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, in versions created for the screen, I defy you to find a better telling of the story, than the BBC Original Series “The Musketeers.” Coming off two brilliant seasons, the series returns as King Louis XIII prepares for war with Spain.

Although Wolf Hall has a less contemporary feel, than the story revolving around the French King’s soldiers, the series provides a gritty realistic version of England in the Middle Ages. It’s an era of great upheaval and one of great loss, as a plague referred to as the “Sweating-Sickness,” claims the lives of young and old alike. Something that Master Cromwell, will soon feel the sting of.

While The Musketeers use a bright color palette to depict France, Wolf Hall has a drearier look to it, reflecting the English weather and the mood of the country. Even in one of the final scenes taking place midday in the Royal Garden, the sky’s far more gray than the blue skies we see in Paris in the late 1600’s.

Although the tale of Henry VIII, trying to annul his marriage to his first wife Katherine Of Aragon’s quite familiar to American audiences, it’s the performances that make this version stand out like a beacon in the night. Starting with the series lead actor, veteran stage actor Mark Rylance, portraying Thomas Crowell. For years I’ve read the raves that Mr. Rylance, earned on the stages of Broadway and London, after spending an hour with him, I can see why he gets such praise. Mr. Rylance’s an understated actor, playing Cromwell with great humility, yet when the time’s right he displays how clever he actually is, which bodes well for his future.

The British Monarch’s turned on his wife of eighteen-years, for not producing a male heir to the throne. Taken with a young noblewoman Anne Boleyn, the sister of his former mistress, Henry wants Cardinal Wolsey to secure the Pope’s promise to grant an annulment, so he’s free to marry Anne and make some male heirs. The Pope’s against the concept, but Henry expects Wolsey into changing the Pontiff’s mind.

Cromwell’s truly a self-made man in an era, when birth-right determined one’s future. His father a drunkard and abusive, made Thomas leave his home as quickly as he could as a young man. He emigrated to France, becoming a soldier and lawyer. After nearly two-decades he returned home, gaining the favor of Cardinal Wolsey, who became his patron. Cromwell also had a family, his beloved wife Liz and two adorable daughters, Ann and Grace. Liz and Thomas also have an older son, Gregory, but Crowell seems to have no use for the boy, relying instead on his nephew Richard and his ward Rafe.

Thomas reads the writing on the wall, realizing Wolsey won’t secure an annulment causing him to lose favor from the King and giving the Cardinal’s enemies including Sir Thomas Moore, a chance to strike. Wolsey’s heading to France, to speak with influential church leaders, but Cromwell declines to take the trip.

Thomas heads home finding Liz making him a new shirt, while his youngest daughter Grace’s wearing her Angel Wings, meant only to be worn on Christmas Day. Liz tells her husband that his sister stopped by that afternoon, imploring him to see his father, saying the man’s given up drink and truly mellowed. Liz says his father’s never met the children, Cromwell says let’s keep it that way.

The next morning, Thomas leaves his bed to head to the palace, Liz says please let me know before you go, Cromwell reminds her he’s not going to France. The buzz around the castle’s that Moore’s brought back 100 bibles in English, so the people could know what the Bible actually says, instead of taking Wolsey’s interpretation.

Cromwell returns home to find two women standing there on the verge of tears, he spits out just tell me. Thomas heads into the bedroom, to find Liz’s passed due to the “Sweating-Sickness.” She said she felt tired after her husband left, fell asleep and quickly spiraled downward, the Priest couldn’t leave quickly enough. Suddenly Richard and Rafe walk in and say it’s the girls. Although the women try to revive them both, they both pass as well, suddenly Cromwell’s beautiful family swiped cruelly away from him.

That evening Richard and Rafe visit Thomas, Richard says that with his father gone, Cromwell’s really his father and asks if he should take Cromwell’s name. He says he lights a candle for his father each night, but it fails to give him comfort. Thomas responds, then it would do me comfort for you to become Richard Cromwell. The boys smile, Richard thanks his uncle and they leave.

Wolsey heads back from France with unsatisfying news, the French church officials didn’t give him support, however they got a Papal representative that’s coming to the English Royal Palace and they’ll get a hearing. Cromwell realizes there’s little chance of getting a favorable ruling and tells Wolsey he lost his wife and daughters to the sweating sickness while the Cardinal traveled. Wolsey offers his sincere condolences.

The hearing’s far from a good thing for the English Monarch, as Katherine Of Aragon speaks, saying she was pure when she married Henry and it wasn’t her fault that God saw fit to take her babies, in their infancy. An old lecherous servant testifies that the morning after Henry’s wedding night, he came out to the hallway, asking for something to quench his thirst. He said he’d been in Spain all night, then the old man cackled, pointing out that Catherine’s Spanish.

The decision for an annulment a lost cause, Cromwell’s priority’s saving Wolsey’s life, as many of the King’s adviser’s making a strong case for executing the now useless Church Official. Cromwell hopes to gain favor from Ann Boleyn as he delivers her the inventory of her new property, the Hampton Court. Boleyn’s sharp-tongued and very intelligent, seemingly enjoying the debate she has with Cromwell. When he’s dismissed, her sister Mary runs after him telling him to return soon as she enjoyed the show.

Cromwell tells Richard and Rafe that he needs to secure a seat in Parliament again, in order to save Wolsey’s life. Later that evening, he’s visited by the Duke of Norfolk, a man who dislikes Wolsey and seems to hear everything that takes place around the Palace as soon as it occurs. He asks why Cromwell has to act like such a “person,” to which Thomas smiles. He tells Cromwell he’s a nobody and that Henry well remembers the last time he held a seat in Parliament, as Thomas spoke out against the King. Nevertheless, the King will meet with Cromwell the next day in the Royal Garden.

We finally get our first chance to visit with Henry, portrayed by Damian Lewis, well-known for his part of Nick Brody in the first three-seasons of the Showtime Original Series, Homeland. The screen literally crackles for the barely three-minutes the two have together, showing us what we have to look forward to in the rest of the production.

The King talks of Cromwell’s first time in Parliament, opposing Henry’s desire to declare war on France, saying that if Henry got captured by the French, the ransom for his return would bankrupt the nation. He asks Cromwell if he’s huddle indoors like a sick little girl, Thomas responds, that would be ideal fiscally. Henry laughs, taken by Cromwell’s candor and wit. Cromwell says a strong man acts, within that, that constrains him, telling Henry distance is the King’s restraint. Henry needs to take control of a French seaport, to have any serious chance of beating his enemy.

Henry’s intrigued, he says you’ve got a bad reputation Cromwell, Thomas remains silent. The King asks will he not defend himself? Thomas says Your Majesty can decide for yourself, Henry smiles and as he walks away he says Oh I will.

Cromwell gets back to the Cardinal’s quarters, a boy asks if he’s to paint over Wolsey’s coat-of-arms, Cromwell says to paint it brighter.

The Story Continues Next Sunday Night at 10:00 pm on PBS Masterpiece Theater.