Henry V is dead, and against the backdrop of Wars in France the English nobles are beginning to quarrel. News of defeat at Orleans reaches the Duke of Gloucester, the Lord Protector, and other nobles in England. Henry VI, still an infant, is proclaimed King.
Seventeen years later the rivalries at Court have intensified; Gloucester and the Bishop of Winchester argue openly in front of the King. Rouen falls to the French but Plantagenet, recently restored as the Duke of York, Exeter and Talbot pledge to recapture the city from the Dauphin. Battle commences and the French, led by Joan of Arc, defeat the English. Valiant Talbot and his son John are killed.
Warwick and Somerset arrive after the battle to join forces with the survivors and retake Rouen. Somerset woos Margaret of Anjou as a potential bride for Henry VI. Plantagenet takes Joan of Arc prisoner and she is burnt at the stake.
Gloucester protests but still Margaret is introduced as Henry’s queen. She begins to complain that the Duchess of Gloucester, Eleanor, behaves like an empress at court and their rivalry escalates. Eleanor is observed performing black magic and is banished, warning her husband Gloucester that he is in great danger.
Accused of high treason by Somerset, Suffolk and Winchester, Gloucester protests his innocence, but is murdered at the Tower whilst Somerset and Margaret make love in the Palace.
Henry banishes Somerset and Suffolk after Gloucester is found dead. Plantagenet is incensed when Margaret is able to bully Henry into reversing the sentence and makes his claim for the throne. The Houses of York and Lancaster are now in open opposition.
Duke of Gloucester is played by Hugh Bonneville, Henry VI by Tom Sturridge, Plantagenet by Adrian Dunbar, Exeter by Anton Lesser, Talbot by Philip Glenister, Joan of Arc by Laura Frances-Morgan, Warwick by Stanley Townsend, Somerset by Ben Miles, Margaret by Sophie Okonedo and Eleanor by Sally Hawkins.
Henry IV premieres Sunday, December 11, 2016, 9 p.m. on PBS (check local listings).