Previously on Wolf Hall: Wolsey died en route to prison, setting Cromwell on a revenge path against the Boleyns and everyone else involved in his downfall.
It’s now 1531, and Henry’s asking Parliament to declare him Supreme Head of the Church of England, so he can declare his own marriage to Katherine null and void. That’s not going over too well with loyal Catholics, like More, who enjoys spending his afternoons reading aloud from the Bible (or a prayerbook) while some poor bastard gets tortured.
While all that’s going on, Cromwell checks out a tapestry of some female saint being burned and stabbed, which seems like literal overkill. He’s called into an audience with Katherine. Her daughter, Mary, looking pale and sickly, stands beside her mother’s chair. Cromwell suggests she sit down, because it looks like a breeze would knock her right over and she’d be grateful for the reprieve, but Katherine insists she remain standing, despite the discomfort she’s experiencing due to a ‘woman’s problem.’ Katherine accuses Cromwell of being behind the new bill declaring Henry head of the church, and Mary chimes in that the Pope is the head of the church. She then starts to clearly experience so much pain that Cromwell grabs a chair and tells her to sit, kindly ascribing her discomfort to the heat, though he clearly knows it’s more than that. He politely tells Katherine that the king is defining a position set by ancient precedents. Katherine points out that those ‘ancient’ precedents are about three months old, so no dice there. He reminds her that Henry can’t be led, but she thinks he can be enticed, which is slightly different. She sadly notes that Henry left the palace without saying goodbye, which he’s never done before. Cromwell excuses Henry’s poor behavior by saying he means to hunt for a few days. ‘With the woman,’ Mary says. ‘The person.’ This poor girl. It’s rough hitting adolescence while your parents’ marriage is collapsing spectacularly and scandalously, and knowing that you’re partly the cause of it. After all, if she’d been a boy like she was supposed to be, none of this would have happened. More tells Katherine that Henry wants her to go to another palace: More Place, which was once owned by Wolsey. Katherine’s not surprised by this, but she says she is surprised that Henry sent a man like Cromwell to tell her.
In bed with Johane, Cromwell offers his lover a present, anything she wants. She only wants to talk about this bill, which worries her. She asks if he’s afraid of giving Henry so much power. She tells him about a woman named Elizabeth Barton, known as the Holy Maid, who’s been making prophecies. She’s been saying that Henry won’t reign for a year if he marries Anne. How is she still alive? Because predicting the death of the king was treason. It was, in fact, one of the charges later brought against Anne. Also, a comet has appeared in the sky that allegedly hasn’t been seen since the reign of King John, so it’s not exactly a good omen. Cromwell shrugs that, if the apocalypse begins, they’ll look into reversing their policy. Heh. She brings up a barrister named James Bainham, who’s been arrested recently. Cromwell knows him. He was handing out the gospel in English. She wonders what’ll happen if the man starts naming names under torture.
Parliament, which was much smaller and much more aristocratic back in the day, votes for the bill, as Henry watches from a throne at the front of the room. He sits up and gives some of the guys voting ‘nay’ a hard look, and about 2/3 of them suddenly go, ‘oh, is this the nay side? Stupid me! Let me just cross the room again. Please don’t behead me and throw my whole family out on the street!’ The ayes have it. Gardiner congratulates Henry and then guesses that dividing the house in this way was Cromwell’s idea. Cromwell readily cops to it, saying that this way Henry could see who was with him and who against. Henry says he knows Gardiner isn’t in support of the bill, but that’s ok, because he doesn’t want all yes men. As Henry leaves, Gardiner tells Cromwell he’ll have a harder time getting this through the Lords because More and the old aristocracy are all papists. Cromwell says they’ll just have to see, and then asks Archbishop Wareham, who’s standing with him, what the deal is with this Holy Maid living in his diocese. He basically accuses Wareham of controlling her, but he insists she’s just really gifted. She can tell you which relatives are in heaven or hell and what sins weigh upon a man. Wareham wonders what she would make of Cromwell.
Richard returns from Antwerp with a message from Tyndale, I believe. He plans to return once Henry agrees to have the Bible translated into English, though he doesn’t really believe More will give him safe passage. Tyndale does not, however, support Henry’s divorce, which frustrates Cromwell, because he doesn’t understand why Tyndale won’t bend a point of principle in order to make a friend of the King of England. Seriously, Tyndale, think of the big picture here.
Cromwell goes to visit Anne, who’s practicing archery while her family and assorted sycophants watch. Cromwell eyes some of the men and recognizes them as participants in the masque that was staged after Wolsey died, making fun of him and portraying him as the cardinal of hell. Anne throws a temper tantrum and insists her bow sucks, so one of the guys hops to it, asking for another bow, as Mary Boleyn joins Cromwell and tells him she was just as much a brat in the nursery. Cromwell asks where Henry is, because he has some paperwork for him. He won’t be by until sundown. He asks if Henry won’t be, you know, occupied then, and Mary says that Anne’s selling herself by the inch, demanding cash advances for every bit of leg above the knee. He sighs that she’s got long legs, and by the time Henry gets to the ultimate prize the nation will be bankrupt. Mary laughs. Cromwell says he hears a rumour Anne was pregnant and Mary reassures him she’s not, because Anne still hasn’t given it up. He tells Mary he wants an official post, perhaps in the Jewel House. She promises to pass the word along.
A little later, Anne and Cromwell stroll together and she complains about a sermon that was given at Greenwich the week before, focusing on Jezebel. That was pretty ballsy of the preacher. She’s not happy about it, naturally. More brings up James Bainham and asks her to speak to Henry on the man’s behalf. She promises he’ll be released, as long as he recants. Cromwell asks what’ll happen if he doesn’t recant. ‘Then he’s a fool,’ she replies. ‘People should say whatever it takes to keep them alive. You would, wouldn’t you?’ She notices a small package wrapped in blue silk and asks what it is. It’s a gift for Jane Seymour. She laughs and tells him the Seymours are currently embroiled in a scandal: Jane’s father was caught with his son, Edward’s, wife and apparently has been seeing to her for quite some time. The wife’s now in a nunnery and Jane’s gone to Wiltshire. Anne thinks she should go into a nunnery too, since nobody will want to marry her now. She asks Cromwell if he likes Jane and he says it’s just an innocent present.
At Austin Friars, he receives a visit from More, who reports that Bainham has recanted and been set free. Cromwell thanks him for the message and then mentions that he heard Bainham was put to the rack. More says he would have done a lot more than that to save the man’s soul. He reminds Cromwell of how under siege Christianity is just now, and Cromwell laughs that neither he nor Henry are infidels. More thinks Cromwell would serve anyone as long as the price was right. He goes on to say that he knows about Cromwell’s contact with Tyndale. And yes, that is, apparently, a threat.
Cromwell finds Johane sewing in Liz’s favourite old spot. He joins her and she tells him that her mother knows about them. Oof, that must be awkward. I guess so, because she says they need to stop now. Cromwell seems a little sad. She tells him she’d marry him in a heartbeat if she could, but that’s just not in the cards right now. She gets up to leave, and he calls her back, but accidentally calls her Liz. Oops! Rafe appears to tell him that Francis Bryan is there to fetch Cromwell. Apparently something bad has happened.
The family Boleyn has gathered for a power meeting, because Anne’s ex, Percy’s, wife is petitioning Parliament for divorce on the grounds of non-consummation. And the reason Percy isn’t sleeping with his wife is because he’s insisting he’s already married to someone else: Anne! Naturally, Anne’s in a rage. So is Norfolk. Her sister-in-law, Lady Rochford (played by Jessica Raine, formerly Jenny from Call the Midwife) thinks Anne should be sent to the countryside, because now Henry’s calling for an inquiry before the entire council. Her husband, who hated her, snaps at her to shut up. Anne denies everything: there was no contract and no consummation. Cromwell asks how Henry reacted and Mary answers that Henry walked out of the room and just left Anne there. Not good. Norfolk shouts that they need to figure something out soon, before the family’s fortune is unmade. George Boleyn, Anne’s brother, reminds everyone that Percy was persuaded to relinquish Anne once. She points out that Wolsey fixed things back then, and unfortunately he’s dead now. Oh, now you need him? Everyone stares at Cromwell, who looks calmly back at then, then takes a knee, picks up a piece of broken glass, and tells them that, if the pope can’t stop Anne becoming queen, he’s pretty sure Harry Percy can’t either. Norfolk tells Cromwell to see to this.
Cromwell finds Percy in a tavern/whorehouse in what appears to be a pretty bad part of town. He shooes everyone else out of the room and sits down, ready to give this kid a whuppin’. Percy, drunk, says that he was totally pledged to Anne and he won’t be persuaded to say otherwise. Cromwell sits across from him and lays it out: Percy’s in serious debt all across Europe, and Cromwell’s cozy with all his creditors. One word from him and all his debts will be called in. Furthermore, he secures his earldom from the king, who can happily take it away, along with all of Percy’s land and nice houses and things. Percy thinks the king will respect his ancient lineage.
[cryout-pullquote align=”left” textalign=”left” width=”33%”]’How can I explain this to you? I don’t speak fluent idiot.'[/cryout-pullquote]Cromwell: How can I explain this to you? I don’t speak fluent idiot. Let me try to pull up some very small words. The world is run from mercantile centres and countinghouses, and my banker friends and I will happily screw you so hard Edward Norton’s character from American History X will cringe. And once you’re penniless and living in a hovel, I guess you’ll bring home a rabbit for your wife, Anne Boleyn, to skin and cook up.
He finishes up by telling Percy that Anne absolutely hates him and wants nothing more than to see the back of him. He warns him not to say anymore about the matter, or he’ll hunt him down, drag him out, and let the Duke of Norfolk bite his balls off. Percy sulks like the child he is.
Cromwell joins Anne at an upper story window, where she’s looking out at More, resigning to Henry in the garden below. Cromwell briefly fantasizes about stroking her neck and cupping her breast before he’s called back to reality by her commenting that she and her uncle worked to remove More for ages, and now here he is, resigning over the bill. She asks who should replace him and Cromwell suggests a man named Audley. He’s a good man, and he understands Cromwell. She comments that, with Audley as Chancellor and Cranmer as Archbishop of Canterbury, Cromwell will have friends in very high places indeed. For Cromwell she suggests Keeper of the Jewel House. She watches More hand over the chain of office and seems disappointed by how simple that is. With a smile, she suggests they go down. ‘To rub it in his face,’ she does not add, because she doesn’t have to. She and Cromwell understand each other.
They go out and bow to the king, who walks off with Anne, leaving More and Cromwell. Cromwell asks what More will do now. He’ll write and pray. Cromwell recommends he do more of the latter. Ouch. ‘Is that a threat?’ More asks. ‘My turn, don’t you think?’ Cromwell flings back.
Later, Cromwell helps a drunk Henry to bed while Henry talks about an upcoming trip to Calais, where he’ll meet with the French king to discuss King Francis’s support of Henry’s annulment. Henry remembers the last time he and Francis met: Wolsey arranged everything. And it was one hell of a show. Henry continues outlining the plans: They’ll have mass at Canterbury, so the people can see their king. They pause before a tapestry, and Cromwell eyes a woman at the centre of it, saying she reminds him of a woman he knew long ago, in Antwerp. Henry tells him that he shakes when he’s around Anne, and that he tries to sleep with other women just to take the edge off, but he can’t get it up with them. He thinks this is proof of the rightness of his pursuit. Cromwell looks a little disturbed by this overshare. Before he goes to bed, Henry tells Cromwell he’s to be the new Keeper of the Jewel House. ‘Everything that you are, everything that you have will come from me,’ Henry says, portentously.
Henry and Anne parade through the streets of Canterbury, trailed by Cromwell and the rest of their retinue. Before they reach the Cathedral, they’re waylaid by the Holy Maid, who warns Henry he must put the heretics around him in a great fire. Henry says he keeps no heretics around him. She accuses Anne of being a heretic and says that, if he marries her, he won’t reign seven months. ‘Can’t you at least round it up?’ Henry asks. Heh. Anne says the woman is mad and should be whipped, and Norfolk threatens to literally kick the woman’s ass, which does not go over well with the crowd. The royal party is hustled into the Cathedral.
Cromwell, meanwhile, goes after the Maid and tells her he worked for Wolsey and wondered if she would search him out, since she can apparently commune with the souls of the dead. One of the monks accompanying her says Cromwell will have to make a generous donation. I’ll bet he will. She says she needs to speak to her spiritual director and asks Cromwell to ask her again, later.
In Calais, a very grand party is put on, but even as he dances, Henry can’t stop staring at Anne, who’s off to the side, laughing and chatting with King Francis. Cromwell watches this dynamic for a while, then goes to Norfolk and tells him to get his niece away before Henry’s head explodes. Norfolk does so, quite roughly, and he and Anne hate-dance for a bit.
Later, Cromwell and Edward Seymour play chess in an outer chamber while Anne and Henry loudly argue and throw things at each other in an inner. Cromwell asks Edward how old his sister is. Edward apparently doesn’t give a shit about his sister, because he shrugs that she’s maybe 20 or so, and that she’s weirdly wandering around Wolf Hall saying ‘these are Thomas Cromwell’s sleeves.’ Yeah, that’s kind of strange. Cromwell asks if she’s intended for anyone, and Edward finally twigs to what’s going on and asks Cromwell why he’s suddenly so interested. Before he can answer, Mary comes rushing out of the inner chamber and reports that Anne is calling for a Bible, apparently to swear on. She leaves to fetch it and Edward realizes Cromwell’s just kicked his ass at chess.
After the ruckus has died down, Cromwell strolls through the garden and meets Mary, who tells him that Anne and Henry are finally doing the deed. She wanted the Bible to swear Henry before witnesses. He’s made a binding promise and sworn to marry her again in England and crown her queen. Mary suggests she and Cromwell go celebrate a bit, if you know what I mean, but Cromwell doesn’t exactly leap at the suggestion. He hears someone coming up behind him and, quick as a flash, pulls a knife on William Stafford, whom Mary had earlier arranged an assignation with. When he was late, she moved on to Cromwell, because this girl is super horny. Cromwell bids her goodnight.
At Whitehall Palace, Anne and Henry are married. Cromwell watches, alongside a nobleman who tells Cromwell he knows he’s been writing letters up to Chester. He warns Cromwell to stay out of his family’s affairs, or he’ll have hell to pay. As the royal party and the guests begin to leave, Cromwell warns the guy that threatening him is a really bad idea.
In a church somewhere, Bainham—I believe it’s the man who was such a firebrand in the first episode, talking about getting the Pope on their side—stands up in the middle of the priest’s Latin mass and begins reading from the Tyndale bible. He is arrested.
Cromwell goes to see him in the Tower and Bainham says he just couldn’t keep it all in anymore. When he’s examined, he’s going to stick to his beliefs. Cromwell tells him that some of his own men will be coming to get him out of the Tower, but the guy refuses to go quietly, so that’s a nonstarter.
Cromwell goes to see More, who’s listening to his daughter read aloud to him in Greek. That’s a bit of a sad throwback to Cromwell’s late daughter, who wanted to learn Greek. More jokingly tells her to go, because he won’t have her in ‘this devil’s company.’ She stays. Cromwell mentions that More is refusing to go to Anne’s coronation because he can’t afford a new coat. Wow, that’s a lame excuse if ever I heard one. He brings up the Holy Maid, who paid a visit to the More home, but was turned away. The Maid also visited Lady Exeter, at the lady’s invitation. More dismisses Lady E as a fool. He thinks the Maid is a liar who’s just doing this for attention. He’s written to her, saying as much. Cromwell asks to see a copy of that letter and Meg is dispatched to fetch it. Once they’re alone, Cromwell urges him to speak to Bainham and persuade him to return to Rome, so he won’t be burned.
Anne processes into Westminster Abbey (I suppose) for her coronation. Henry watches from behind a screen off to the side. She’s already got a belly on her, so apparently Henry was able to get the job done at some point.
[cryout-pullquote align=”right” textalign=”left” width=”33%”]Lady Rochford smirks that the people love Katherine because she’s actual royalty. They’ll never love Anne like that.[/cryout-pullquote]After the coronation, Cromwell goes to Anne’s apartments. Lady Rochford tries to turn him away, saying that Anne is in a state of undress, but Anne calls for him to come on in. She’s relaxing in bed, dressed in her shift, one hand over her belly. Cromwell reports that Henry sends a kiss and a message that she’s never looked more beautiful. She criticizes his outfit and smiles over how much the people cheered for her. All this talk of the people loving Katherine, but clearly they like Anne just fine. Lady Rochford, who was a serious piece of work, smirks that the people love Katherine because she’s actual royalty, the daughter of two anointed sovereigns. They’ll never love Anne like that. Damn, lady. Jane Seymour tells her to shut up. Anne says that the Holy Maid is now saying that Princess Mary will be queen someday. She continues that Katherine is plotting with all the old Plantagenets, who are her enemies and want her dead. But once her son is born, they’ll all be powerless.
Outside the room, Jane catches Cromwell and thanks him for his gift. She shows him the sleeves she made from the blue silk and he finally understands the ‘Thomas Cromwell’s sleeves’ comment. It’s still weird that she’s wandering around her home muttering that. It’s not like I walk around my flat saying ‘H&M’s socks’, because that would be strange and nonsensical. He asks how things are at Wolf Hall and she says she just wants to be away from there. He advises her to stay in the service of the queen. Jane doesn’t seem hugely keen, but it’s better than home.
Cromwell returns home that night and finds the tapestry he admired at the palace earlier up on the wall, Johane explains that it came for him that day, a gift from the king. Wow, that’s a hell of a gift.
Bainham writes in prison and holds his hand over a candle momentarily, to practice being burned alive. Fun. He doesn’t last long.
Anne prays in the chapel at Whitehall ahead of setting off to begin her confinement. CMR asks Cromwell if they’re preparing the official announcements to say she’s given birth to a ‘prince’ or a child? Cromwell doesn’t seem sure. Henry kisses Anne’s hand. She looks pretty terrified, as well she might. Childbirth was dangerous enough at the time; she’s got the added pressure of absolutely having to deliver a boy. Rafe comments to Cromwell that all their fortunes are now wrapped up in her ability to deliver a son, and that it’s a long way from a child in the womb and one in the crib. It sure is.
Cromwell goes to see her just before her confinement begins and notes that she looks happy. She says she is, because of her child. She says she was always desired, but now she’s valued, and that’s a whole different ballgame.
Bainham is burned, weeping and praying. Guess More failed there.
Cromwell watches as Anne is rowed away down the river, presumably to Greenwich, where Elizabeth was born. Cromwell watches her go.