Previously on Wolf Hall: Henry broke from the Catholic church so he could finally be with Anne. Cromwell continued his incredible climb, and More began his inevitable fall.
Anne, as we know, has borne a daughter. Henry, trying to hide his disappointment, decides she’ll be named Elizabeth, after both his and Anne’s mothers. He cancels the celebratory jousts, though. Cranmer notes that Henry didn’t ask how Anne was doing and someone else comments that it hardly matters.
Cromwell goes to see Anne, who’s relaxing with her ladies and infant daughter. The baby begins to cry and a nurse comes and takes her away. Anne looks a little sad. Cromwell thinks she was hungry. Anne starts to talk business: she thinks Princess Mary should serve the new baby princess as a servant, since she’s now a bastard and all. Cromwell’s face: harsh, lady. Anne wants him to go to France to find a French prince for her daughter to marry. He tries to suggest Gardiner go on this doubtless humiliating errand instead and she accuses him of favouring an alliance with the emperor, since he’s so chummy with his man, Chapuys. Cromwell excuses himself without answering.
In an outer chamber, he watches Jane Seymour playing with a dog. He’s joined by Lady Rochford, who tells him the Seymours would happily give their daughter to Cromwell. He claims not to be interested. Lady Rochford offers to be a spy for him in Anne’s rooms and suggests Anne hasn’t given up all her ‘nimble young men’. He warns her to watch her tongue. Lady Rochford eyes Mark Smeaton and says he’s always in and out of every room, acting as a go-between for all the gallants. She thinks he’s a jumped up nobody taking advantage of the disordered times. Cromwell points out that one could say the same about him. ‘And I’m sure you do,’ he adds.
Rafe tells Cromwell that Anne’s getting kind of paranoid. Cromwell says she’s right to be, since all the old families are waiting for her to fail. He asks after the Holy Maid, who’s now so popular she’s actually getting fan mail from Mary Magdalene herself. He gets a list of her visitors from Rafe and tells him to bring her in for questioning.
Cromwell, Cranmer, Richard Rich (yes, there actually was a real guy named Richie Rich) and Audley sit her down at Cromwell’s place and start asking her what the devil looked like (a bird, apparently). She claims the devil once spat in her face for refusing to be tempted by him, and when she wiped it off the spit blackened the napkin. She kept it, of course. One of her followers has it and shows it to people in exchange for ‘offerings’. They remind her of her prophecy that Henry wouldn’t reign a month after marrying Anne, which was clearly wrong. The Maid says Henry is no real king. They take that and run with it, asking if it would therefore be right to raise a rebellion against him. She’s smart enough not to say anything to that. They bring up her relationship to the Courtenay family, one of the Plantagenet lines with claims to the throne. The Poles is the other one. She tells them God is sending a plague to England that will kill Henry, Anne, and everyone in that room. Except the Maid, of course.
After the questioning, Cromwell tells the men that the Maid cries at night because she knows she’s a fraud. He thinks she’ll break soon. He suggests they start bringing in her followers. Rich asks if that includes More, but Cromwell says he’s clean. They remind Cromwell that he’s talking about bringing in some of the most powerful families in the country. He knows. He doesn’t care.
One of the followers—I’m going to guess Reginald Pole, by his priestly garments—is brought in and Cromwell immediately recommends he plead age and feeble mindedness to the king when begging for forgiveness. At a later interview, one of the Pole or Courtenay women claims the Maid is true and has received a letter from Mary Magdalene.
Cromwell: Seriously? That was written by the Maid’s boss and gilded by some monk.
She refuses to back down, so Cromwell tells her to shut it and reminds her that the Maid predicted the death of the king, which is very bad.
Back with Reginald, Cromwell accuses him of writing against the king, informing him that Pole’s printers on the Continent are in Cromwell’s pocket.
Now Cromwell’s speaking with Pole’s mother, the Countess of Salisbury and asks what her sons discussed when they met on two occasions with Lady Mary (formerly Princess Mary). She smugly refuses to tell him, but he says he doesn’t really need her to, because he had about half a dozen spies in the room at the time. That wipes the smile off her face pretty quickly. They spoke about a lot of things they shouldn’t have.
Cromwell tells Reginald that they’re at war here, and he’s in the enemy camp.
Cromwell tells everyone to start groveling to the king now.
Henry can’t believe that these people would betray him and thinks their wives are to blame for all this. Cromwell suggests Henry forgive the Courtenays and put them in his debt. The Poles won’t get off so easily, though.
Cromwell wanders through the market square, where the Maid, having presumably confessed to being a fraud, is chained up on public show. She stares sullenly back at him. More stops by as well and asks what kind of punishments will be doled out. Imprisonments, confiscation of lands and titles, the usual. Cromwell’s more interested in unraveling the plans of these people than punishing them. More insists that he had nothing to do with any of this. Cromwell remembers More comparing Henry to a tame lion: you can pet him and pull his ears, but never forget about the claws. He tells More that they’re putting a bill forward recognizing Anne as Henry’s lawful wife and their children as his rightful heirs. They plan to seal this act with an oath, which More will have to sign, in order to put his loyalty beyond doubt. More neither agrees nor refuses, but he does accuse Cromwell of trying to entrap him.
Anne and Henry read over the bill and Anne freaks out that her death is mentioned, because it means that Henry could then put another queen in her place, and if she has a son then that son will inherit ahead of Elizabeth. Um, yeah? So would a son of yours, Anne. I don’t see why this is so surprising to her. She’s also pissed off that it doesn’t specifically say that Mary is now a bastard. Cromwell patiently explains that laws are written sparingly, so they don’t appear to be personal. But Anne’s all about making this personal, because she’s a petty little bitch. Henry talks her down, telling her to vent her spleen on Stephen Gardiner for turning on him. And More. Anne orders Cromwell to add More to the list of the guilty, just to scare him. Henry doesn’t look too happy about this, but he doesn’t speak up against his wife either.
As Cromwell goes to leave, Anne follows him out and tells him she won’t die. She’ll give Henry a son and live forever. Or something like that.
Cromwell goes to Norfolk, accompanied by Audley, to try and persuade him to beg Henry to let More off the hook. Audley tells Norfolk the Commons won’t like More being named with the guilty. If powerful enough people vouch for him, then Henry will have an honourable way to get out of being such a wimp. Norfolk sniffs over Henry’s weakness. CMR wanders in and gets yelled at for disturbing the meeting and tells Norfolk that More’s son-in-law is there to plead for him. Cromwell asks if they should go bother Suffolk but Norfolk sighs for them not to, because the man’s son and heir just died, which means he’ll have to get another one off his creepily young new wife. Norfolk thinks this child bride situation is funny while the others just look disturbed. He agrees to join them in their plea.
They gather Cranmer and go kneel before the king to plea for More. Henry agrees to take his name off the guilty list. But he’s not getting out of taking the oath. Henry strides out, calling Cromwell after him. In the privy chamber, he tells Cromwell that Anne’s pregnant again. He’s sure that this time it’ll be the son they want so badly and embraces Cromwell happily.
Cromwell, Cranmer, Audley, and Rich take the oath to More, who reads it and says he can’t sign. He at least won’t speak against it or try to dissuade others from taking it. Cromwell sadly says that won’t be enough. Audley points out all the people who have taken it without qualms but that’s not enough for More. Cranmer reminds him he took an oath to obey Henry. More points out that Cranmer took an oath to obey Rome when he was made a bishop, and look how that’s turned out. Cromwell says he’s respected More since he was a boy and that he’d rather see his own son die than to have More refuse to sign the oath and give comfort to England’s enemies. More urges him not to wish such a thing, because Gregory’s a good boy. Audley tells More that he won’t be allowed to go home, which More knows. Cromwell tries again, saying all he has to do is say some words. Words, words, words. More still refuses and is taken to prison. Audley thinks More should at least have given his reasons for not signing, but Cromwell says they all know his reasons: he’s Rome’s man. He’s sure More is now going to write an account of this day, making them all bullies and himself the righteous man.
Jane walks with Lady Rochford, who has no patience for this girl. They spot some blood on the floor, follow the grisly trail, and find Anne an in inner chamber clutching her belly and looking panicked.
More is in the Tower, in some comfort, with his books and papers. Rich, Audley, and Cromwell go to see him and urge him once again to sign the oath. He will not. He thinks it will put his soul in peril to sign. Cromwell accuses him of wanting to be a martyr. More says he just wants to go home. He does no harm, says no evil, thinks no evil. Cromwell calls him a hypocrite, claiming to do no harm when he’s had people beaten, racked, and abused. He yells at More to be grateful they’ve spared him the methods he used on others. Audley informs More he’s to be indicted and tried. He and Rich leave. Cromwell remembers bringing More bread one night, when he was at Lambeth. He asked More what he was reading and More said ‘words.’ What a little snot. He goes to leave and More calls after him that he heard Tyndale was caught. Cromwell is let out of the cell.
He goes to see Henry and Anne and Anne says that More’s real hangup is accepting her as queen. Yes, Anne, it’s all about you. She tells Henry she’ll have no peace until Fisher and More are dead. He pets her, attempting to calm her down, and reminds her that these are his friends. She says that his ‘friend’ is giving comfort to the enemy and commands Cromwell to make More talk. More informs her that ‘we don’t do that’ and she gets up and leaves in a snit. Henry excuses her behavior as grief. No, Henry, she’s a brat. He blames Katherine for wishing ill on him. They talk a little about the miscarriage, which is clearly heavy on Henry’s mind, and then Cromwell brings the conversation back to More. He knows More is loyal to Rome, but their legal case against him is slender and this isn’t going to be an easy case. Henry says he doesn’t keep Cromwell around for the easy tasks.
Cromwell sits for a portrait with Holbein. The artist notes the woman in the tapestry on the wall and says he knows who she is to Cromwell. He heard all about her in Antwerp and asks why Cromwell doesn’t go back and claim her. Because she’s married, apparently. Good reason. And the affair was years ago and Cromwell’s a different man now. Holbein thinks there’s another woman in Cromwell’s heart now. As he says this, Johane comes in and announces that Alice More has come to see him.
Cromwell goes to see Dame Alice in his study. He sits beside her and she asks Cromwell to take her to see the king. He informs her he can’t do that, though he wishes he could. He asks her why her husband is so stubborn and she admits she doesn’t understand him and never has. He’s only close to their daughter. But Alice has spent a life with him, and there’s some tenderness there. She tearfully asks Cromwell to ask her husband if it’s right for him to abandon his family in this way.
Back to the Tower, to tell More he’s having his pens, papers, and books taken away. More sighs as he puts his pen down. Cromwell unfolds a list of people (presumably those who have taken the oath) and says that all More has to do is sign this. Even his daughter, Meg, has signed it. If he signs it, all this will go away and More can go home. Cromwell will even send his own barge to take him there. But More seems resigned to his fate. He tells Cromwell that, when they meet in heaven, all their differences will be forgotten, but for now, there are a lot of differences. All More has is the ground he stands upon, and he will not yield it. Cromwell takes his list back and urges More to throw himself on the king’s mercy when he’s brought before the court. More doesn’t even seem interested in that, saying he doesn’t mind what happens to his body. He does fear the pain, but it will be momentary. As he goes to leave, Cromwell turns and tells More he would have left him to live out his life, if he were king.
Outside the cell, Cromwell finds Richard Rich and tells him to take away More’s books and things. And Rich is to do it personally.
More is brought to trial, walking slowly and painfully, as if he’s been whipped. Cromwell, Audley, and Norfolk discuss things as the court assembles. More is pleading that his silence on the matter of the oath is the same as agreement. Norfolk thinks that’s BS. Cromwell says that More hasn’t been entirely sound.
The trial begins. Rich, the solicitor general, leads the prosecution, claiming More denied the king’s title as head of the church. More does not come across well, attacking Rich personally until he’s reprimanded by Audley. More is found guilty but permitted to speak one last time. He gets to his feet and says he’s followed his conscience and the judges must follow theirs. He tells them that their authority is baseless, causing an uproar in the court. Norfolk points and calls him a traitor. Cromwell watches from off to the side, his face inscrutable.
Later, he works in his study. Rafe comes in, lays down some papers, and hands over the prayerbook More had with him when he went to execution. Rafe reassures Cromwell he had no choice. Cromwell says nothing.
Back up to many years ago. Young Cromwell brings some food to a teenaged More, who’s reading an enormous book open on a stand.
More recently, More is taken to the block as Cromwell watches from the crowd.
Young Cromwell watches some boys play football while young More plays a flute in his upper-story room at Lambeth. Cromwell waves to him and More stops when he sees him, then slams the window shut. What a little shit.
Adult More lays his head on the block as the watching crowd, as one, bows its head.
Johane comes to Cromwell’s room and finds him in the grip of a major fever. He mistakes her for Liz. ‘Let me love her, Liz,’ he begs her. She sends for the doctor. The entire household gathers, clearly expecting Cromwell to breathe his last any moment. He tells the doctor this is a fever he got in Italy. The doctor nods, like, ‘sure, sure. Italy. Whatever.’ Cromwell tells them to send for Gregory, if he’s dying, because there’s something he needs to tell him. But Gregory’s already there.
Cromwell’s fevered brain remembers little Grace going off to bed, wearing her feathered wings, on the last night of her life. And he remembers Liz doing some kind of weaving in bed. He asks her to slow down so he can see how she does it, but she tells him she can’t, because if she slows down and thinks about it she won’t be able to do it.
Rafe holds Cromwell’s hand as he gasps and shakes.
And then, finally, the fever breaks. Cromwell gets up and goes to his office and tells Rafe to start writing an itinerary for Henry’s summer progress. He begins reeling off stops, including one five-day layover at Wolf Hall, the Seymour home.
That’s a beautiful looking house. Henry and his retinue arrive and are greeted by the Seymours, who are super pleased by this honour. They probably won’t be so grateful once they get the bill for a nearly week-long royal visit, but I guess in their case it pretty much paid off in the end. Jane, stuck at the back of the family group, catches Cromwell’s eye and smiles.