When the BBC miniseries “Wolf Hall” debuts on Masterpiece tonight, the American public will once again be enthralled by a superb British costume drama. Think “Downton Abbey” and “House of Cards” with a King Henry VIII twist.
Based on award-winning novels by Hilary Mantel, the series chronicles the political and religious intrigues surrounding King Henry VIII’s effort to divorce his first wife, Katherine of Aragon, and marry Anne Boleyn.
This is well-worn, if fertile, ground for historical drama. What makes “Wolf Hall” fresh and distinctive, however, is its choice of protagonist —Thomas Cromwell, who rises from humble origins to become Henry’s chief minister.
Before you watch the show, you need to know about three historical figures hotly debated among scholars, because all three were embroiled in one of the fiercest church/state battles of all time: Henry VIII, Sir Thomas More and Cromwell.
The pope’s refusal to grant Henry’s request for an annulment of his marriage puts him on a collision course with Rome. More, lord chancellor to the king and a devout Catholic, decides that he must resign when it becomes clear that Henry intends to pass a bill naming him as supreme head of the church in England, breaking his allegiance to the pope.
Click HERE to read Wolfe’s entire article in the Washington Post.