Henry VIII

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Cardinal Wolsey, a close advisor to King Henry VIII, has arranged that the Duke of Buckingham is arrested on charges of treason. Henry's wife, Queen Katherine, pleads on Buckingham's behalf with no success; Buckingham is tried and executed. Katherine condemns Wolsey, who is despised for the taxes he levels on the populace in the King Henry's name. Later, at a party hosted by Wolsey, Henry meets and is smitten with Anne Bullen, a lady-in-waiting to Queen Katherine.

Henry seeks counsel from Wolsey. Henry's argument is that Katherine is the widow of his brother, which makes the marriage one step removed from incest—never mind that Henry and Katherine have been wed for almost twenty years. Wolsey, already hated by Henry's courtiers for his role in Buckingham's death, is now further despised because Henry wishes a divorce. Wolsey agrees to have the Pope send a representative to render a decision on the matter. Katherine, on the other hand, wants nothing to do with such proceedings, viewing her marriage as sacred, valid, and incapable of being dissolved. Nevertheless, hearings will be held.

Wolsey, however, endures a series of mishaps that expose him unflatteringly to King Henry. Most damning in Henry's eyes is Wolsey's meddling in his divorce proceedings: Wolsey, recognizing that Henry intends to marry Anne once Katherine is out of the way, has instructed the Pope to stay any decision on the matter. Wolsey is disgraced, and Henry proceeds to divorce Katherine and marry Anne in secret regardless of the Pope's opinion. Wolsey dies soon after, and Katherine (who is in poor health at this point) soon follows him to the grave.

Meanwhile, the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Cranmer, is the subject of a plot by Gardiner, Wolsey's secretary. Though Gardiner is brought to trial in much the same manner as Buckingham previously, he is under the King's protection. Henry exonerates the Archbishop, and has him christen his new daughter by Anne Bullen, Elizabeth. At the christening, Cranmer foretells a noble reign for Elizabeth and glory for England in her time.

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