Chronicles the period of Henry VIII's reign in which his effectiveness as king is tested by international conflicts as well as political intrigue in his own court. Cardinal Wolsey plays a major part in the series, acting as Henry's trusted advisor.
In Episode 1, Wolsey persuades his king to keep the peace with France and the two kings meet at Calais to agree a pact of friendship. while the pressure of fathering a male heir compels him to question his marriage to his Queen, Katherine of Aragon,. He also has a string of affairs and, in Episode 2, fathers an illegitimate son with his mistress, Elizabeth "Bessie" Blount, who is also one of Queen Katherine's ladies-in waiting (the son, Henry FitzRoy, later dies). Anne Boleyn catches Henry's eye - she has been attending the French court - and she is encouraged by her father and uncle to seduce the King. Her shrewd refusal to his open invitation to become his mistress pushes him to use Cardinal Wolsey to take action against the Queen, the King instructing his trusted advisor to get papal dispensation for his divorce on the grounds that his wife did indeed consummate her marriage to his brother, Arthur. In Episode 6, Wolsey's increasingly desperate efforts to persuade the Catholic Church to grant a royal divorce, primarily as a result of Emperor Charles V's influence over the Pope as Katherine's nephew, starts to weaken his position.
In Episode 7, the mysterious Sweating sickness arrives in England, killing both the high-born and low-born, and Henry, who is terrified of catching the plague, secludes himself with his homeopathy medicines in the deep countryside away from court. Anne Boleyn contracts the illness but recovers. A Papal Envoy finally lands on English shores to decide on the annulment and, at the end of a specially convened session at which both Henry and Katherine are initially present, eventually decides in favour of Katherine. Cardinal Wolsey is stripped of his office, in Episode 9, and banished to York, where he pleads with the King to restore him to office. Sir Thomas More, Henry's devotedly loyal friend, is chosen as his successor. In the final episode (Episode 10), Cardinal Wolsey makes one last desperate attempt to save himself by allying himself with his old enemy, Queen Katherine, but their plot is discovered and Wolsey kills himself during his internment in the Tower of London after saying a brief prayer apologizing for his sins, but asking no forgiveness for them.
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Famous quotes containing the word season:
“Life contracts and death is expected,
As in a season of autumn.
The soldier falls.”
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