Previously on Wolf Hall: More was put to death for refusing to acknowledge Henry as head of the church, Anne failed to produce a son, and Cromwell found himself drawn to Jane Seymour.
The intro tells us that the Holy Roman Emperor and his ambassador, Chapuys, refuse to acknowledge Henry’s new title or his new queen, Anne.
We pick up a minute before we left off last week, with Henry and his entourage arriving at Wolf Hall, the Seymour home. Everyone sits down to dinner, with Henry at the head of the table, of course. I’ve only just realized that the actor playing Edward Seymour, the eldest of the Seymour brothers, is the same guy who played Jimmy on Downton Abbey. Small acting world. Everyone suddenly notices that Henry’s dropped off to sleep. None of the men are willing to go wake him up, so Jane finally does it by gently laying a hand on his arm. He wakes with a start and says he was just resting his eyes. Has anybody actually ever said that, for real? Jane returns to her place and dinner continues.
Later, Cromwell looks out his bedroom window and spots Jane out in the garden. He reaches for his hat, probably intending to go join her, but then Henry wanders into the picture and has a word with her. Yeah, that’s one hell of a c*ck block.
Like the Boleyns, the Seymour family has a confab and asks Cromwell to join them. Jane tells him that Henry has asked her to ‘look kindly on him’. Cromwell looks kind of depressed. She told him she would, because what else are you going to say? Edward tells her to scream if Henry takes any liberties. She asks what she should do if nobody comes and Cromwell tells her to start praying out loud, to appeal to Henry’s piety and sense of honour. She promises to go look at her prayerbook.
Cromwell finds her standing near a window later on, and looks on from a distance. Still sad.
He and Rafe go to Kimbolton to see Katherine of Aragon. She’s in a pretty bad way, but still greets him from a fur-draped throne-like chair. Cromwell bows politely to her and she asks him how she looks, figuring that’s why Henry sent him—to see if she’s actually dying. She remembers Henry having once given her a bouquet of roses made of silk, all of which she’s given away to those who have done her some service over the years. Oh, how things have changed. She asks to have Mary visit her. Cromwell tells her that Chapuys has offered to take Mary out of the country. Katherine won’t hear of it and tells Cromwell that Mary has no intention of trying to take the throne or anything, so there’s no need for Henry to be worried. Cromwell mentions that Anne hopes for a child soon. Katherine asks if that’s a specific hope or a general one. Cromwell doesn’t respond and she expresses some surprise that Anne has not confided in him.
Cromwell goes to Jane Rochford and asks if Anne’s pregnant. She is. She, too, is surprised that Anne hasn’t mentioned it to him. She tells him that Henry would write Anne love letters all summer and send them via Harry Norris.
Anne’s little dog is dead, having either fallen or been thrown from a window. Anne stands at the window in question, wondering who would do such a thing. Cromwell suggests that the dog may have just fallen accidentally. Anne’s fool, now named Mary, because Anne’s a bitch, chimes in, mocking that notion. Anne tells her to put a sock in it so she can scold Cromwell for not going to France to negotiate a match for Elizabeth. Now, a match between Mary and the dauphin is being discussed. Anne accuses him of lying about having been ill and says the French now laugh behind her back. Cromwell breaks the news that the French never intended a match. Anne sadly says that it’s as if Katherine were still queen and she didn’t exist. She orders Cromwell to visit Mary and compromise her, to scupper the match. Cromwell flat-out refuses. He doesn’t operate that way. Anne says she knows he’s talking to the Seymours and tells him that’s a bad risk. He advises she stop scheming and keep herself quiet until her child is born. Jane is a distraction, he says. She snaps that Henry will never abandon her. There’s a new England now, and it can’t subsist without her. She warns him to make terms with her before she gives birth.
Cromwell sits down to a drink with Chapuys, who asks if he plans to shut down all the abbeys and monasteries. Cromwell says he’s heard terrible stories about many of these places. Chapuys warns him that the Emperor may cut off England’s grain supply, in the hope that the English will rise up against Henry. Chapuys sits down and holds his head. Cromwell asks him what’s wrong and hears that Katherine has only a day or two to live. He wants to go see her, to give her comfort, but Henry won’t let him go.
Cromwell makes the case to Henry to let Chapuys go, but Anne’s in on the conversation and speaks against it. Henry says that until Chapuys bows before Anne, there will be no diplomacy with him. These people really do suck.
Katherine dies, without Chapuys at her side. Anne, when she gets the news, drops to her knees and thanks God.
Anne and Henry, being assholes, dress up in black and yellow immediately following the death (they actually did this, claiming that yellow was the colour of court mourning in Spain. It still shocked and disgusted people). Henry parades little Elizabeth around the court proudly and says she’s looking forward to meeting her brother. She’s a cute little kid, with very red hair, so nice job, casting people. She’s handed off to a nurse and CMR approaches and asks if Henry wants Katherine’s body to be brought to St Paul’s. Henry orders it to remain at Peterborough, because it’ll cost less. Yeesh. Henry then hands Katherine’s last letter to Cromwell to dispose of. He subtly opens it as CMR tells him that Henry wants Katherine’s plate and furs, but Rich has had to explain that, since Katherine wasn’t actually married to Henry, he has no claim on her property. See how that works, Henry? You can’t have it all. Cromwell eyes Jane Seymour, then Anne, and both he and Anne see Henry checking Jane out. He turns his attention to Katherine’s letter. In it, she beseeches Henry to be a good father to Mary. She also tells Henry that she still loves him, which is pretty sad.
At night, Anne is wakened to the sight of her bedhangings ablaze.
Later, with the flames out, Henry bleats that if he’d been there he could have beaten the flames out with a blanket. Anne reassures him she’s just fine and asks him to give her some peace to drink a posset or something. Cromwell’s checking out the damage. He picks up a ewer and, while he’s looking at it, Anne tells him, in French, there was a prophecy that a queen of England would burn. She adds that this was due to an unattended candle. Or so one assumes.
Henry: Too bad, these were nice curtains.
Outside Anne’s room, Cromwell tells Lady Rochford that water must always be kept at hand and a woman assigned to check that all the lights have been extinguished. She pouts that this is a household matter, and therefore not under his jurisdiction. Well, someone has to think of these things. She hints that the candle was left lit by someone visiting the queen after hours. Jessica Raine is really delightfully awful and creepy in this role. Cromwell tells her to come to him when she wants to unburden her conscience, and he’ll give her a reward. Why offer, Cromwell, she seems ok with giving the info up for free.
Henry is praying ahead of a tournament later that day. Cromwell asks him to take it easy on his son, Gregory. Henry will do no such thing, since ‘once you’re thundering down on a man you can’t check.’ Bullshit and you know it, Henry. He does reassure Cromwell that Gregory will make a good showing. Cromwell doesn’t care, he just doesn’t want his son to be ‘flattened.’
Cromwell goes down to the tournament area to see Gregory, who’s having his armor put on. Like most workaholic dads, he’s missing his son’s sports day. But Richard will be there, so that’s almost the same, right? He awkwardly adds that Henry says Gregory is a credit to his house. Just before he leaves, he gives Gregory some jousting pointers he learned from an old Portuguese guy he met years ago.
Cromwell and Rafe are at work in his office when Richard bursts in and announces, in horror, that Henry’s dead. ‘Ah,’ Cromwell responds, which cracks me up. It’s just such a chill answer to such momentous news. Like what you would say if your waiter came to your table and told you that the kitchen was, unfortunately out of the chicken you ordered, but the beef’s really good.
Cromwell, Richard, and Rafe make their way to the royal tent while Richard explains that Henry was on his way into the ring when his horse just went down. The poor animal is still down, in pain on the ground, being tended by two men. Rafe asks Cromwell if they should flee now, before the ports are blocked. Cromwell instead sends for Master Treasurer Fitzwilliam and continues on into the tent, which is an absolutely chaotic scene. He elbows his way to Henry’s side and asks Norfolk where Anne is. Back in the palace, having been told of this mishap. Cromwell wonders who’ll be regent now, and of course Norfolk immediately volunteers for the post. Fitzwilliam arrives and Cromwell sends him to safeguard Princess Mary, so she doesn’t end up in Boleyn hands. ‘A woman cannot rule, a woman cannot rule!’ Norfolk says over and over. Cromwell ignores him and puts a hand to Henry’s face, feeling for breath. He then punches him twice in the chest and announces that Henry’s breathing. Slowly, Henry comes around. He sits up and everyone cheers. Talk about dodging a bullet there. Or not, because now a number of people think this was the start of Henry’s extreme slide into violence and paranoia. It’s not an uncommon outcome of certain types of head injuries, and he clearly suffered a serious one, to have been out for so long.
Afterwards, Cromwell and Fitzwilliam sit on the stairs of the palace and Cromwell remarks that his only friend is the King of England, which is pretty precarious. Fitzwilliam says he has his supporters, should he need them, against the Boleyns.
Cromwell: But Anne and I are totally besties! Why would I need support against her? Who are these supporters now?
Fitzwilliam names Nicholas Carew and suggests Cromwell have him over for dinner. He then asks what would have happened if Henry hadn’t come around. Cromwell says that Anne would probably have wanted to rule herself, but she’d have to fight it out with her uncle. Personally, Cromwell would have put his money on Anne to win that fight. Fitzwilliam says that would have ended up with Cromwell dead, an outcome that’s still possible, if Anne gives Henry a son.
Later, Anne is brought before Henry, supported by her brother and father, and asks him, on behalf of the country, never to joust again. Henry calls her forward, gets right in her face, and spits, ‘why not just geld me while you’re at it? That would suit you, wouldn’t it, madam?’ Anne, shocked, withdraws swiftly. Jane Seymour lingers behind and gives Henry a, ‘chill, why don’t you?’ sort of look.
Anne miscarries again. Jane Rochford reports to Henry that the child had the appearance of a male at 15 weeks gestation. He asks what the hell that means, ‘appearance of’ and she says she was just reporting what the experts said. He yells at her to get lost. She withdraws. Henry tells Cromwell and Cranmer that God will not grant him male children, which is disastrous, because he needs a boy to bring stability to his country. He muses that he was dishonestly led into this marriage, perhaps through spells and witchcraft. Cranmer looks horrified, but there’s not much he can say against that. Henry goes on to say that, if this is true, the marriage would be null.
Henry sends Jane a purse of gold and a letter. Edward Seymour later reports to Cromwell that she sent the money back, along with the letter, but not before kissing the seal, which he thinks was a rather ingenious move. Now Henry’s going around talking about how virtuous and chaste Jane is. Edward observes that the game has changed and that Henry may want to remarry, now Anne has failed yet again. Cromwell says he’ll stay on Anne’s side as long as Henry does.
On his way through the palace, Cromwell runs into Stephen Gardiner, who says he poked into his background and learned that Cromwell killed a man, back in the day. Cromwell basically tells him to bring it on and Gardiner drops the bombshell that the dead man’s family was after him, but Cromwell’s father bought them off. Even Cromwell didn’t know that. Maybe he cared after all, in some twisted way.
Chapuys comes upon Cromwell, relaxing by the fire at night. Cromwell invites him to sit and pours them both some wine, remembering how Wolsey used to make up stories about Cromwell’s past (that he was an orphan, etc) because Wolsey thought it was wise to deceive others about your past. Now, Cromwell’s wondering if it’s possible to deceive yourself, to have convinced yourself that you were one thing, when you were never that at all. He swiftly turns to Katherine’s funeral, which Chapuys did not attend, out of protest at her not being buried as a queen. Chapuys is disgusted that ‘the concubine’ wore yellow afterwards and says this death won’t change her position in the way she thinks. He mentions Jane Seymour and Cromwell dismisses her, instead commenting that he thought Chapuys would steer Henry towards a French match. Chapuys thought that was a non-starter, but Cromwell hints that it might be possible. He advises he anticipate Henry’s desires, if Chapuys wants to succeed with him. But if Henry changes his mind (and he does!) it leaves you exposed. Chapuys, in turn, warns Cromwell to beware Anne, reminding him of how she brought down Wolsey. Cromwell suggests Chapuys attend mass at court.
Chapuys does, and as he and Cromwell go to leave afterwards, Anne comes steaming their way, followed by her ladies. Chapuys tries to escape, but he’s hemmed in by the Boleyn father and brother. Chapuys swallows hard and finally inclines his head to Anne. She and the ladies curtsey to him and continue on their way. Cromwell smiles, pleased that his plan worked.
Afterwards, Chapuys scolds him for trapping him in this way and promises it’ll get back to the emperor. Cromwell calmly explains it needed to be done. Now he’s acknowledged Anne, he can finally have dealings with Henry.
Cromwell and Audley look on while Chapuys talks to Henry. Something about what’s happening draws Cromwell closer, and he approaches the pair just as Henry starts to lose his temper and yell at Chapuys for trying to turn his acknowledgement of Anne into a political bargaining tool. I don’t think Henry really understands what an ambassador’s job is. Everything is an opening to bargain with them. Henry continues to throw a tantrum, yelling about how the emperor treats him like an infant and makes treaties with other monarchs and interferes with Henry’s family business. He grabs Chapuys and is about to punch him in the face, but then thinks better of it, demands a public apology, and stomps out. Chapuys attempts to calm himself and tells Cromwell he has no idea what he’s supposed to apologise for. Audley promises they’ll do the apologizing once Henry’s cooled down.
Speak of the devil: screaming for Cromwell, Henry stalks back in and tells Cromwell he’s overreached himself and acts like he’s the king and Henry’s the blacksmith’s boy. Cromwell takes this stony-faced, and then crosses his arms at the wrist, holds them in front of his face, says ‘God preserve your majesty’ and excuses himself.
Afterwards, he has a cup of wine, to settle his nerves (his hands are shaking) and flashes back to his boyhood. He burned his hand on a hot tool and his father told him to put his hand in a trough of water and cross his wrists, because it confuses the pain. Does it? I’ll have to try that the next time I stupidly grab a hot pan.
Back in the present, George Boleyn comes in to be a dick and remind Cromwell that he’s not a gentleman and shouldn’t meddle in the affairs of those set above him. Apparently George has forgotten that Cromwell is a member of the Privy Council, so it’s actually his job to interfere with affairs of state. George is an asshole. Cromwell remembers him partaking of the masque mocking Wolsey, after the Cardinal’s death. George arrogantly tells Cromwell to remember whom he serves. Oh, he will. ‘I shall profit from this lesson, I assure you, sir,’ Cromwell says darkly. George seems a bit thrown by that and weakly answers, ‘see you do.’
The council gathers and Audley urges Henry, gently, to look kindly on the emperor’s overtures, for the good of his country. ‘Well, if it’s for the good of the country, I’ll begin negotiations with Chapuys,’ Henry allows. He will not, however, hear of any marriage negotiations for Mary, at least until she starts behaving like a good, obedient, simple-minded daughter. Norfolk chimes in that, if his own daughter behaved like Mary, he’d beat her head until it was soft as a baked apple. ‘Thank you for that, my Lord Norfolk,’ says Audley. Heh. Cromwell reminds them all that we’re talking about a teenage girl whose life has been completely upended, who’s been treated absolutely horribly by her own father and her stepmother, and who just lost her mother, so maybe a little sympathy wouldn’t go amiss. In the meantime, give the poor girl some time to get over all her losses and come around. Boleyn senior takes the opportunity to refresh everyone’s memory of Henry yelling at Cromwell the day before. What’s the problem with these Boleyns? Why are they so douchy? Henry declares there will be no foreign match for Mary and goes to leave, asking Cromwell to walk with him.
They stroll through the gardens, the air between them heavy with awkwardness. Henry chatters about plans to improve their ordinances, but he’s not an expert at these sorts of things and wonders if Cromwell might be able to help him out. Cromwell won’t even look at him. Henry stops and looks him full in the face, telling Cromwell he’s Henry’s right hand. Cromwell agrees to help him out, when they have time. This summer, he believes, Henry will be too busy. Henry agrees and then quietly tells Cromwell he needs to be freed from Anne. He brings up the potential pre-contract with Percy, as well as Henry’s affair with Mary Boleyn. Maybe one of those two things could be useful. He tells Cromwell to see to it. Cromwell nods.
Back inside, Henry watches Jane through a window and comments on her tiny hands. He leaves and his bros start laughing about the compliments Henry’s constantly paying Jane. One of them warns the others that Cromwell’s spies are about. They all look over at Rafe, chatting with a pair of gentlemen nearby.
Rafe reports back to Cromwell that the bros stupidly talk about sleeping with Anne to get her pregnant and ensure she conceives a son. It’s all a joke, of course. Cromwell says he probably won’t need to use this. Probably. But he thanks Rafe all the same. And thus it begins.
After Rafe leaves, Cromwell imagines the Cardinal is there, telling Cromwell that the king needs a new wife, and he’d better get the job done, because the Cardinal failed in that and look where he is now.