Rollover Information
About the Series Schedule The Archive Learning Resources The American Collection Home Search Shop
Henry VIII
Production Notes Who's Who Story Synopses Links + Bibliography The Forum Masterpiece Theatre Henry VIII
Who's Who [imagemap with 5 links]

Who's Who

Henry VIII (1491-1547)
Ray Winstone

Henry VIII the husband will always overshadow Henry VIII the king. His quest to produce a male heir led him to marry six legendary wives. He first married Katherine of Aragon, widow of his brother, Arthur, in 1509. They divorced in 1533, after it became clear she would not bear him a son. Henry next married the pregnant Anne Boleyn, who bore him a daughter, Elizabeth, before she was executed for infidelity in May 1536. That same month, he married Jane Seymour, who died giving birth to Henry's lone male heir, Edward. Early in 1540, Henry arranged a political marriage with Anne of Cleves that was never consummated and ended in divorce. In July 1540, he married the Katherine Howard, who was executed for adultery in March 1542. Katherine Parr became his wife in 1543, serving him until his death in 1547.

As a young man, Henry VIII preferred hunting and dancing to governing. Matters of state were left in the hands of Thomas Wolsey, Archbishop of York, who virtually ruled England until his failure to secure the papal annulment of Henry's marriage to Katherine of Aragon. Wolsey appealed repeatedly to Pope Clement VII, but he was beholden to Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor and nephew of Katherine. Rather than submit to the Pope's will, Henry VIII broke with Rome and formed the Church of England, the greatest legacy of his reign. Henry VIII's break with Rome, coupled with an increase in governmental bureaucracy, led to a royal supremacy in Britain that would last until the execution of Charles I and the establishment of the Commonwealth one hundred years after Henry's death.

Ray Winstone started boxing at the age of 12 at the famous Repton Amateur Boxing Club. Over ten years, he won more than 80 medals and trophies. When he turned to acting, he received critical acclaim for his performances in Gary Oldman's Nil By Mouth (1997), for which he received a British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) nomination, and in Tim Roth's The War Zone (1999), for which he earned a nomination for a European Film Award. He most recently costarred with Michael Caine in Last Orders (2001). Among his other films are Ripley's Game (2002), There's Only One Jimmy Grimble (2000), Five Seconds to Spare (1999), Ladybird, Ladybird (1994) and Quadrophenia (1979). In his 20-year career, he is accomplished on the stage and on television.

back to top

Katherine of Aragon (1485-1536)
Assumpta Serna

The youngest surviving child of Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain, Katherine of Aragon was betrothed to Arthur, the son of Henry VII of England, when she was three. At age 16, she and Arthur were married in Old St. Paul's Cathedral, London. Less than six months later, Arthur was dead. King Henry VII was interested in keeping Katherine's dowry, so she was betrothed to his second son, Henry VIII. When Henry was old enough to wed, Henry VII was no longer keen on a Spanish alliance, and forced his son to repudiate the betrothal. When the old king died in 1509, Henry VIII married Katherine and they ascended to the throne in a joint coronation ceremony on June 24, 1509. Katherine had several failed pregnancies before giving birth to Mary in 1516. Henry was frustrated by his lack of a male heir, but remained a devoted husband -- at first. By 1526, he had fallen in love with one of her ladies: Anne Boleyn. The King petitioned Clement VII for an annulment, which the pontiff refused to grant. Henry VIII rejected the power of the Pope and ordered Thomas Cranmer, the archbishop of Canterbury, to grant the annulment. Katherine was forced to renounce the title of Queen and became known as the Princess Dowager of Wales, a title she refused to acknowledge through to the end of her life. Katherine died in 1536 and was buried at Peterborough Abbey.

Actress Assumpta Serna's career has spanned over 65 films and numerous plays and television appearances. She has earned more than 20 best actress awards in countries around the world. She has acted in six different languages in over 20 countries. She is a board member of the European Film Academy and a member of the American Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts and Sciences and the Spanish Academy of Cinema. She was recently elected President of AISGE, the organization in Spain that deals with the task of managing and protecting the intellectual property rights of 4600 actor members. Serna made her film debut in Sweet Hours (1981). In the early 1990s, she played Teresa on the BBC series Sharpe. She also appeared in Pedro Almodovar's Matador and Pedro Olea's The Fencing Master, the 1993 Foreign Film Oscar entry from Spain. Her Hollywood movie credits include Nostradamus (1994), Wild Orchid (1990), and The Craft (1996).

back to top

Anne Boleyn (1501-1536)
Helena Bonham Carter

Unwilling to see the crown pass to Mary, his daughter with Katherine of Aragon, Henry VIII decided to remarry. The royal breakup set off a political crisis that ended in the creation of the Church of England, which granted Henry a sought-after annulment of his first marriage. He then married the beautiful Anne Boleyn. When she gave birth to a daughter (the future Elizabeth I), however, Henry interpreted it as a bad omen, made all the worse when Anne later miscarried a son. Boleyn's doom was sealed when a court faction fabricated evidence of adultery against her. Shortly before her execution, the Queen's marriage to the King was dissolved. Boleyn was executed privately on May 19, 1536, and buried in an unmarked grave in the Chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula adjoining the Tower Green. During renovations of the chapel under the reign of Queen Victoria, her remains were identified. Her final resting place is now marked in the marble floor.

Actress Helena Bonham Carter was born into a family of aristocrats, politicians and film professionals: her great-grandfather was Lord Asquith, liberal Prime Minister; her grandmother was Violet Bonham Carter, a renowned politician, orator and member of the House of Lords, and her grand-uncle was legendary English director Anthony Asquith. Carter was rejected admission to King's College, Cambridge University on the grounds that school officials feared she would leave mid-term to pursue her acting career. Soon after, she proved them right, landing the lead role at in Trevor Nunn's Lady Jane (1986). Bonham Carter made her name in high-profile period pieces such as Franco Zeffirelli's Hamlet (1990), The Wings Of The Dove (1997), and the E. M. Forster adaptations A Room With a View (1985), Where Angels Fear to Tread (1991) and Howards End (1992). Recently she stepped out of the past for roles in Fight Club (1999) with Edward Norton and Brad Pitt, Novocaine with Steve Martin, and Planet Of The Apes (2001) and Big Fish (2002), both directed by her boyfriend Tim Burton, with whom she has a son.

back to top

Jane Seymour (1509-1537)
Emilia Fox

Jane Seymour came to the English court to serve Queen Katherine, but was pressed into service for Anne Boleyn when she rose in the King's favor and became his second wife. In 1536, when his disinterest in Boleyn grew, Seymour emerged as her replacement. Within 24 hours of Boleyn's execution, Seymour and Henry VIII were formally betrothed. On May 30, they were married. Henry would later claim that he loved Seymour above all others. Less than two months after their marriage, the Duke of Richmond, Henry Fitzroy, the King's bastard son by his mistress Elizabeth Blount, died at the age of 17, making it ever more important for Jane to bear a son. Early in 1537 Jane became pregnant. In October, Prince Edward was born. Two weeks later, Seymour died of an infection. Henry, who had already begun preparing his own tomb at St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle, made room there for his third wife, the only one of his wives to be buried beside him.

While still at Oxford University, actress Emilia Fox appeared in the BBC's Pride and Prejudice as Mr. Darcy's haughty sister. She went on to work with Jonathan Kent in Coriolanus and Richard II and most recently with Roman Polanski on the film The Pianist. She has also starred in Masterpiece Theatre's Shooting the Past as Spig, David Copperfield as Clara Copperfield, and Rebecca as Mrs. de Winter, a role her own mother, actress Joanna David, played in a 1979 version. Fox can be seen in the feature film Elizabeth Rex with Michael Gambon and Bob Hoskins.

back to top

Anne of Cleves (1515-1557)
Pia Girard

After Jane Seymour's death, Henry VIII remained single for over two years. Thomas Cromwell, however, had begun making inquiries about a foreign bride. The split from Rome had left England isolated and vulnerable; a new bride could secure an alliance. Henry sent painters abroad to create images of the various candidates in foreign courts. In 1539 Hans Holbein was sent to the court of the Duke of Cleves to paint his two sisters: Amelia and Anne, who Henry decided to wed. By the time the marriage took place on January 6, 1540, Henry was already looking for ways to get out. He did not find his new bride the least bit attractive. With tension rising between the Duke of Cleves and the Empire, the marriage had lost his political motivations as well. In July 1540 Anne testified that the match had not been consummated and that her previous engagement to the son of the Duke of Lorraine had not been properly broken. The marriage was over. Afterward Anne accepted the honorary title of 'King's Sister' and property that included Hever Castle, formerly the home of Anne Boleyn. She died in 1557 and is buried in Westminster Abbey.

Pia Girad studies acting in London. This is her first television role.

back to top

Katherine Howard (1521-1542)
Emily Blunt

Daughter of Lord Edmund Howard, a younger brother of Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk, and first cousin to Anne Boleyn, Katherine Howard was well acquainted with nobility. She served as a lady-in-waiting to Anne of Cleves in Henry VIII's court, where she caught the King's attention. Encouraged by her uncle, the Duke of Norfolk, who hoped to increase his own influence over the monarch and discredit his enemy, Thomas Cromwell, Katherine responded to the King's attentions. Sixteen days after he was free of Anne, Henry took his fifth wife, Katherine Howard, on July 28, 1540. Henry lavished gifts on his young wife, thirty years his junior, calling her his 'rose without a thorn' and the 'very jewel of womanhood.' Less than a year into the marriage, however, rumors of Katherine's infidelity began to circulate. In November 1541, Archbishop Cranmer informed Henry of Katherine's affairs with various young men. Henry did not believe the accusations, but further investigations proved only more damning. Katherine was executed on the Tower Green on February 13, 1542 and laid to rest near her cousin Anne Boleyn in the Chapel of St. Peter of Vincula at the Tower of London.

Actress Emily Blunt appeared as Isolda in the Masterpiece Theatre production of Warrior Queen (2003) and as Lucy Markham in Foyle's War (2002).

back to top

Katherine Parr (1512-1548)
Clare Holman

Katherine Parr, the last of Henry's wives, was the daughter of Thomas Parr of Kendal, a modest country squire who had served both Henry VIII and his father, Henry VII. Parr was first married to Sir Edward de Burgh, but was widowed shortly after. Her second husband was Sir John Nevill, a wealthy landowner in Yorkshire, who died in 1542. By that time, Parr was becoming known for her education and her caring nature. She had her third husband lined up -- Thomas Seymour, brother to the late Queen Jane and uncle to Prince Edward -- when Henry VIII set his sights on her. They married in 1543, 18 months after Katherine Howard's execution. Henry's health was in decline and Parr served less as wife than as nursemaid. When Henry died January 28, 1547, Prince Edward succeeded him as Edward VI. His older uncle, Edward Seymour, Lord Somerset, became Protector since the young king was not yet 10 years old. Free to wed again, Parr finally married Edward's brother Thomas and was soon pregnant with a daughter named Mary, born on August 30, 1548. Parr did not recover from the childbirth and died on September 5. She was buried at St. Mary's Church at Sudeley Castle.

Actress Clare Holman has worked on stage and screen, but is best known to American audiences for her work in Masterpiece Theatre's Prime Suspect 6 (2003) and David Copperfield (2000). She also starred in the Inspector Morse series on Mystery! with John Thaw. Holman was nominated for a 1997 Laurence Olivier Theatre Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her performance in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

back to top

Cardinal Thomas Wolsey (1475-1530)
David Suchet

The son of a butcher, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey became one of the most influential men in Europe. His efficient working methods led Henry VII to appoint him as chaplain in 1507. After Henry VII's death, he rose in the ranks of Henry VIII's advisors to become both Cardinal and Chancellor in 1515, his power second only to that of the king. When Henry decided to divorce Katherine of Aragon, the royal breakup set off a political crisis. Pope Clement VII objected, and Wolsey tried to change his mind -- to no avail. Henry responded by creating a new church with himself as head. Wolsey's diplomatic failure, combined with Anne Boleyn's suspicion of his loyalty, landed him in the Tower of London, where he died before he could be executed. His fate would set the pattern for a succession of court officials, wives, gentry and commoners who were removed when they disappointed Henry.

In addition to his signature roles as Poirot on Mystery! and in the Masterpiece Theatre productions The Way We Live Now (2003) and The Secret Agent (1992), actor David Suchet has appeared in the feature films Live From Baghdad (2002), Pinocchio (2002), Wing Commander (1999), RKO 281 (1999) and A Perfect Murder (1998). His stage performances include a turn as George (opposite Diana Rigg) in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, which earned him a 1996 London Critics Circle Theatre Award (Drama Theatre) for Best Actor. In 1999, he made his Broadway debut as Salieri in Peter Hall's Amadeus, earning a Tony nomination for his performance.

back to top

Duke of Buckingham (1477-1521)
Charles Dance

The Duke of Buckingham was a wealthy aristocrat of noble blood who served as a trusted advisor to Henry VIII. Unfortunately, he was not the most trusted; that privilege was reserved for Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, a low-born clergyman. At Wolsey's prompting, the King became both jealous and suspicious of Buckingham, who stood to inherit the crown if Henry died without an heir. For his part, the Duke became a leader of disaffected nobles excluded from high offices who had grown to resent Wolsey. While Buckingham warned the King against the Cardinal's monopolizing influence, the Cardinal convinced the King that Buckingham was after the crown. Wolsey had the last laugh, bringing Buckingham up on treason charges for which he was executed at Tower Hill on May 17, 1521. Shortly after his death, the King divorced Katherine of Aragon and married Anne Boleyn.

Charles Dance is an accomplished British actor who has appeared in such feature films as Swimming Pool (2003), Hilary and Jackie (1998), and Gosford Park (2001). He will be familiar to Masterpiece Theatre viewers as Maxim de Winter in Rebecca. He also starred as Sire Henry Carlisle in Mystery!'s Murder Rooms: The Dark Origins of Sherlock Holmes. He wrote, produced, and directed the feature film Ladies in Lavender (2004) starring Judi Dench and Maggie Smith.

back to top

Thomas Cromwell (1485-1540)
Daniel Webb

Thomas Cromwell was a key political advisor to Henry VIII. He came to prominence at Cardinal's Wolsey's expense, following Henry's divorce from Katherine of Aragon. Cromwell suggested to Henry VIII that the king make himself head of the English Church, and saw the Act of Supremacy of 1534 through Parliament. His encouragement of the King's disastrous marriage to Anne of Cleves brought about his downfall. Like so many of the King's former advisors, Cromwell was charged with treason and executed at the Tower of London.

Daniel Webb most recently appeared as Inspector Lestrade in Masterpiece Theatre's The Hound of the Baskervilles.

back to top

Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556)
Michael Maloney

When Henry VIII's petition to Pope Clement VII for an annulment of his marriage to Katherine of Aragon was refused, the King ordered Thomas Cranmer, the Archbishop of Canterbury, to grant the annulment. By rejecting the Pope's authority and invoking his own, Henry had created a new church, with himself as head.

Actor Michael Maloney has appeared in the Masterpiece Theatre productions The Forsyte Saga II (2003), Me & Mrs Jones (2002), The Jury (2002), Painted Lady (1998), and The Last Place on Earth (1985).

back to top

Duke of Norfolk (1473-1554)
Mark Strong

One of Henry VIII's key generals, the Duke of Norfolk led England to victory against the French and Scots. With the Duke of Buckingham, Norfolk spearheaded the aristocratic assault on royal advisors like Cardinal Thomas Wolsey. He was the uncle of both Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard, and helped both find a place in Henry's court. The fall of Katherine Howard led to a decline in Norfolk's fortunes and he was eventually charged with treason and condemned to die. Henry VIII's own death, on the very day of Norfolk's scheduled execution, saved him.

Actor Mark Strong appeared as Detective Chief Supt. Larry Hall in Masterpiece Theatre's Prime Suspect 6. He has also been seen in The Jury (2003) and Anna Karenina (2001).

back to top

Robert Aske (1443-1537)
Sean Bean

Robert Aske was a high-ranking soldier, lawyer, and landowner from Yorkshire who led 'the Pilgrimage of Grace,' a Roman Catholic uprising against the Protestant Reformation of the English Church following Henry VIII's divorce of Katherine of Aragon and marriage to Anne Boleyn. In 1536 Thomas Cromwell established commissions to assess and collect taxes, dissolve the lesser monasteries, and investigate the clergy. The Pilgrimage of Grace aimed to restore the monasteries and nunneries that the crown had evacuated and plundered. Using the banner of the five wounds of Christ as their symbol, the pilgrims spread their rebellion across five northern counties and found sympathizers all over England. In October 1536, Aske traveled to London and met with Henry VIII, who promised him reparations. As Aske began his journey, fighting broke out again. Henry's men seized Aske and brought him to the Tower of London. He was condemned for high treason and hanged in York in July 1537.

Sean Bean worked as a welder before he decided to become an actor. He attended Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London and appeared in a number of West End stage productions including the Royal Shakespeare Company's Fair Maid of the West (1986) and Romeo and Juliet (1987). While Bean is known to television viewers as soldier Richard Sharpe, he won worldwide recognition as Boromir in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. He recently appeared as Odysseus in Ridley Scott's Troy (2004) and is filming a thriller, Flightplan, with Jodie Foster and Peter Sarsgaard in Los Angeles.

Production Notes | Who's Who | Story Synopses
Links + Bibliography | The Forum

Home | About The Series | The American Collection | The Archive
Schedule & Season | Feature Library | eNewsletter | Book Club
Learning Resources | Forum | Search | Shop | Feedback

WGBH Logo PBS logo


Masterpiece is sponsored by: