Wolf Hall Recap: Episode 3

April 20, 2015


With the Cardinal out of the way, Henry is now ready to take the matter of his divorce up on his own — with Cromwell at his right hand. A motion is brought into parliament that would formally break England from Rome and instate Henry as the supreme head of the Church of England. The court is full of dissenters, however – with Lord Chancellor Thomas More at the forefront – and they won’t go quietly.

The Catholic loyalists employ desperate battle strategies. There’s a woman known as “the holy maid” (who More later claims is not an instrument of his – but we have our doubts) who is prophesying an early end to Henry’s reign should he divorce Katherine. More has also arrested a friend of Cromwell’s, charged him with heresy and subjected him to brutal torture.

Despite their better efforts, the vote is taken to parliament, and under the vaguely threatening eye of the King, passes – thus founding the new church.

In exchange for his role in the passage of the bill, Cromwell asks Anne to plant the seed with the King for an official post: keeper of the Jewel House. The keeper of the Jewel House was a sort of Treasurer position – Cromwell would have been in charge of the safekeeping of the crown jewels and other elements of the Royal treasure, which were stored in the Tower of London. This was an important post mainly because of its proximity to the Royal Household – which meant Cromwell was securely in the King’s inner circle.

Cromwell also asks Anne to intercede on behalf of one of his incarcerated friends. This tactic works, and infuriates More, who visits Cromwell at his home to hand-deliver a new threat. Cromwell has been corresponding with Tyndale, who remains out of the king’s favor, and More threatens to make it known.

Another firebomb is lobbed Cromwell’s way when accusations come to light that Anne Boleyn is already betrothed to Harry Percy – the young man whose romance with Anne was scuttled by the Cardinal. With the Cardinal gone, Cromwell is sent to force Percy to recant. In sharp contrast to More’s brutal tactics, Cromwell shows his color as a sharp negotiator – threatening not violence, but poverty and peasantry. To an English nobleman, that’s a fate worse than death.

Digging up Harry Percy was More’s Hail Mary pass, and it’s failed. In protest, he resigns his post as Lord Chancellor. Of course, Cromwell jumps at the chance to to install a friend in the newly vacant post – and now that he’s ostensibly playing for her team, Lady Anne is eager to do his bidding.

While on their way to Calais to discuss the terms of the separation from Rome, the King and his entourage are confronted by the Holy Maid. She calls Cromwell a heretic and threatens the King with eternal damnation. Not taken by this pageantry, Cromwell follows the lady back to the abbey, where he asks if she might be able to contact the spirit of Cardinal Wolsey, as one of her claims is to be a medium. When she asks for a large donation in exchange for the prophecy, the ruse is confirmed in Cromwell’s mind.

After Anne’s flirtatious nature rears its head at dance, she and the King fly into a vicious fight, which somehow culminates in the King swearing his hand in marriage to Anne before God, and the two of them finally consummating their union.

Mary approaches Cromwell in the garden that evening, suggesting that they too join forces, so to speak. But when another suitor turns up, Cromwell realizes that Mary’s advances were not wholly pure. As a cast-off former mistress of the King, her future is in jeopardy unless she marries. And in fact, Mary Boleyn never did get the husband she so fervently searched for.

Although the opportunist King Henry has agreed to split from the church to advance his own purposes, he still has relatively little interest in the catechism of the Protestant Reformation. When one of Cromwell’s fellow dissenters causes a ruckus during mass by reading from Tyndale’s English gospel, he’s arrested and thrown in the Tower of London, facing execution. Cromwell offers to save his friend, but his friend declines. Much like Thomas More forfeiting his position of power in the name of true belief, Cromwell’s friend is prepared to burn.

The King keeps his promise, and marries Anne Boleyn, who is then crowned Queen of England. And in short order, Anne becomes pregnant. She seems calm and happy, saying, “I was always desired, but now I’m valued”. But as she undoubtedly knows, her fate truly depends on the gender of her unborn child.

Wolf Hall airs Sundays at 10pm on THIRTEEN in April and May 2017.

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