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The Royal Court
King Henry VIII (Jonathan Rhys Meyers)
- Abusive Parents: He dotes on Mary and Elizabeth...until his marriages to their mothers dissolve, at which point he strips them of their legitimacy, banishes them from his court, and occasionally toys with the idea of having them killed. His extreme protectiveness is also a form of abuse to Edward, as Jane Seymour points out in her season 4 cameo. Granted, this time Henry really tried to do what he thought was best for him.
- Ass in Ambassador: The man is a walking diplomatic incident, constantly either insulting foreign dignitaries to their faces or capriciously deciding to renegotiate treaties at the drop of a hat.
- Adaptation Dye-Job: Henry's hair is black/dark brown in this show. In real life, he was a Fiery Redhead.
- Adaptational Attractiveness: Later in the series. In Real Life, thanks to Henry's jousting accident, he weighed over 400 pounds by his 50s. In fact, it is presumed this gave him diabetes and led to his death. In Season 4, though it is evident he is ill, he is still played by the muscular Johnathan Rhys Meyers.
- Boisterous Bruiser: He loved to joust.
- The Bluebeard: Had two wives put to death.
- Career-Ending Injury: A crippling leg injury, and an ulcerated leg wound, prevent him from being as physically active in Season 3 and 4. He spends the rest of the series walking with a cane.
- Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: On both a micro scale (the best way to tell that you're about to be executed is to have Henry come to you and reassure you of your position in his court) and a macro one (he constantly breaks his treaties with France and the Holy Roman Empire).
- Control Freak: Oh, my, yes. As Cromwell realizes (too late) in Season 3, this is the true reason why he began the Reformation: he has no particular theological disagreements with the Catholic Church, he simply won't countenance the idea that someone, somewhere in England might ultimately be under the authority of someone who isn't him.
- General Failure: He's every soldier's nightmare general. His army barely held together at Boulogne because of his erratic leadership.
- Glory Seeker: In the first episode, he's shown willing to impoverish his country going to war with France simply so he can one-up Henry V.
- Heir Club for Men: Alas, his motivation.
- Historical Beauty Update: Not at first, since Henry actually was considered very attractive in his youth. Trouble is, he stays that way even through the period when Henry became obese.
- Hypocrite: He is outraged at the idea that one of his wives might have been unfaithful to him. Meanwhile, he usually can't stay faithful to them for more than one episode after the wedding.
- Kill 'em All: If you rebel against him, you will pay dearly for it...
- Ladykiller in Love: Subverted. The closest he comes is with Jane Seymour, if only because she both gave him a son and died when their marriage was at its apex. It didn't stop him from having affairs. The series implies, especially in the series finale, that Anne Boleyn was his great passion (particularly in that he doesn't want her ghost to leave him). But to say that he truly loved any of his wives is really... dubious.
- Never My Fault:
- His failed marriages are always someone else's fault, usually the unlucky wife's.
- He convinces himself that the apparent deformity of Anne Boleyn's last child is ironclad proof of her (nonexistent) adultery, since obviously the kid must be someone else's.
- After the deaths of Wolsey and Cromwell (and the discovery that they were pretty much his only competent advisors), he lays all the blame for their departures on the rest of his Privy Council. While it's true they had a hand in Wolsey and Cromwell's downfalls, it's also true that they would not have occurred if Henry hadn't decided to get rid of them for his own reasons.
- No Sense of Personal Space: When Henry wants to intimidate someone and doesn't go for the Large Ham No Indoor Voice route which is also his custom, he'll usually talk really, uncomfortably close to them. He probably does it deliberately.
- Pet the Dog:
- Zizagged. His last meeting with Suffolk might seem like a Kick the Dog, because he's basically dragging a dying man out of bed to go see him, but it's still a nice moment between him and his Only Friend. He even offers to use his "powers as king" to cure him of his fever. Sadly, it doesn't work.
- He's also occasionally affectionate to his daughters and wives, but he gradually discards most of them.
- Again in the finale he professed his love for all his children, gives them each a place in the succession, and sets his final wife up with a pension and permission to marry whom ever she wants.
- Royally Screwed Up: Throughout the later part of the series, there have been moments that shown Henry is not all there. He shows paranoia against his advisors, becomes more and more tyranical as the series goes on, and his moods can change on a dime.
- The jousting accident in Season 2 caused him to be unconscious for hours (as it did to the real Henry), In real life, being unconscious for more than five minutes is a sign of possible brain damage.
- Serial Romeo: A very dark example
- Villain with Good Publicity: Within England, certainly. No matter what bastardly things he does, his people are always willing and even eager to blame his advisors (Wolsey, Cromwell, Cranmer, and Anne Boleyn being favorite patsies). Meanwhile, it's a different story outside England - France in particular calls him 'a monster' and 'the English Nero'.
Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk (Henry Cavill)
- Archenemy: The Boleyns and then Cromwell.
- Beta Couple: He and his wife Catherine, to Henry and his assorted wives and mistresses.
- The Casanova: His first scene is romancing the Duke of Buckingham's daughter, and he's probably second to only King Henry in the number of dalliances he's shown having.
- Character Development: From a womanizing rake to a reliable courtier to a jaded old man.
- Foil: To Henry, in so many ways. Henry starts off as a promising, dynamic monarch, but quickly becomes Drunk with Power and becomes a tyrant. Charles starts off a wastrel who ignores the duties of his office, but undergoes Character Development and becomes the king's most loyal, capable, and reasonable servant, and a powerful magnate. They start off being very similar personalities, but end up being very different.
- Four-Star Badass: He commands Henry's army in York and in France. During the latter, he personally assisted his soldiers in running off some French scouts.
- Historical Beauty Update: This ◊ is a portrait of the real Charles Brandon. In the series, he is played by a clean-shaven Henry Cavill.
- Historical Hero Upgrade and Historical Villain Upgrade: The real Brandon was a pretty unremarkable figure, and as far as history goes, he was basically a Lighter and Softer Henry VIII his whole life. The copious Character Development he undergoes is fictionalized wholecloth, he directly profited from the appropriation of monastic lands, and his wife was one of the most prominent women in early English Protestantism. That said, his marriage with Mary Tudor (Margaret on the show) was happy and produced several children — Lady Jane Grey was his granddaughter. Lastly, he played no part in suppressing the Pilgrimage of Grace; that was Norfolk, who was written out after Season 1 and his part and Brandon's were combined.
- A Match Made in Stockholm: In Season 4, he falls in love with a Frenchwoman who was his prisoner during the Boulogne campaign.
- My Greatest Failure: Putting down the Pilgrimage of Grace. He considers it a grievous moral failure on his part after he sees thousands of people killed, and Thomas Darcy brutally executed, all because Cromwell threatened him with censure. He's much more subdued afterward, his marriage is destroyed, and his friendship with the King is not as close as it was before. When he returns to Pontefract Castle, he's visibly affected, and starts glimpsing Darcy's spirit wandering the halls.
- My Master, Right or Wrong: He angsts about what this entails. In Season 3, his oath to Henry drives him to commit actions against his better nature.
- My Sister Is Off-Limits!: Marrying Margaret did not please the king.
- Noble Top Enforcer: None of Henry's other advisers would be satisfied with executing only the leaders of a rebellion, while sparing the thousands of ordinary rebels.
- Not So Different: Infidelity is a constant problem with both him and Henry. Charles makes a conscious effort to be faithful to his second wife, until Catherine makes it clear the two of them will never reconcile. Henry does who he wants, when he wants, and doesn't give a damn what any of his wives think.
- Older Than They Look: Cavill's Brandon looks perpetually boyish, whereas the historical Brandon was actually seven years older than Henry VIII. During the Boulogne arc in season 4, Brandon looks forty at most when he would have been nearing sixty.
- Only Sane Man: Between his Mood-Swinger best-friend, the King, and a bunch of power-hungry diplomats and noblemen, he seems to be one of the few if not the one in court who manages to keep most of his sanity (and his head) throughout the series.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Eventually. Case in point, contrast his leadership of the English army at Boulogne, with Henry's. Also, at Surrey's tribunal following his military blunders in France, Charles is the only one who actually addresses the charges at hand. Thomas Seymour and Bishop Gardiner are more interested in slandering Surrey with false charges of corruption. Later, when the two are speaking privately, Charles assures him that his punishment is not damning, and that if he keeps his nose clean, he might one day regain his glory on the battlefield.
- The Rival: He eventually becomes a second center of power on the Privy Council. When his rivalry with the Boleyns becomes public, his retainers and Thomas Boleyn's retainers start fights on the streets of London. When Thomas Cromwell tries to assume leadership of the Privy Council while the grieving Henry is incommunicado, Charles leads the other lords in walking out and shutting down the government, forcing Henry to return and neutering Cromwell's influence.
- Undying Loyalty: Deconstructed. His loyalty to Henry costs him a lot, including his marriage.
Sir Thomas More, Lord Chancellor (Jeremy Northam)
- Burn the Witch!: The show gives rather more attention to his vehement hatred of Protestantism than is typically portrayed.
- Doomed Moral Victor: Downplayed, compared to More's portrayals elsewhere. The show seems to rest somewhere between "he was a principled man put to death for doing what he believed in," and "he could have avoided his fate if he wasn't such a hardass."
- The Fundamentalist: This series is much more ambivalent about More's commitment to the Roman Church than most portrayals, putting more spotlight on his willingness to overlook clerical abuses of power, his opposition to the notion of individualism and personal conscience in religion, and his persecution of Protestants.
- The Good Chancellor: Literally, in this case. Despite his somewhat frequent butting heads with King Henry, he's an excellent and loyal chancellor. King Henry misses him sorely when he is gone, and deeply regrets his execution.
- Honor Before Reason: More is fully aware that continuing to choose his morals over his king is going to get him killed. That doesn't sway him at all.
- Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Deconstructed. His unbending devotion to his moral principles is admirable, but also destroys his friendship with the king and puts him on the fast track to execution.
- Off with His Head!: His ultimate fate, as in history.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: He's one of the most level-headed members of Henry's court. Right up to the moment he starts burning Protestants alive.
Cardinal Thomas Wolsey (Sam Neill)
- Anti-Villain: He's a corrupt bastard, no doubt about it. But damned if he didn't make for a great Lord Chancellor.
- Butt-Monkey: Everyone except Henry hates his guts and plots against him, and Henry slowly becomes convinced that he is deliberately blocking his divorce from Catherine (even though the exact opposite is, in fact, true).
- Driven to Suicide: Disgraced, stripped of his position, and about to be executed for high treason, he can't do much except beg God for forgiveness and do the deed himself.
- Face Death with Dignity: His final prayer.
- Hair-Trigger Temper: Although not as bad as most other examples.
- Hypercompetent Sidekick: As Henry soon discovers to his chagrin after dismissing him from his post.
- Even Evil Has Loved Ones: His mistress, Joan Larke, as well as his children.
- Manipulative Bastard: Zig-Zagged. He controls the politics of Henry's court quite adeptly, but he fails so completely at manipulating the Church to secure Henry's divorce that Henry thinks he's doing it on purpose.
- Redemption Equals Death: Only at the eve of his execution does he finally repent for all of the bad things he's done in his life.
- Sinister Minister: He is a truly corrupt man, even by the standards of this series, and the fact that he's a priest only enhances his evil.
- Sycophantic Servant: He turns into this whenever he fails Henry. At one point, he literally gets down on his knees and begs for forgiveness.
Thomas Cromwell, Earl of Essex (James Frain)
- 0% Approval Rating: With the exception of Richard Rich, who stays silent, everyone on the Privy Council denounces him immediately once he loses the king's favor.
- Anti-Villain: He's coniving and overly ambitious, but his loyalty to the King is genuine, and his pursuit of the Reformation, while extreme, is well-intentioned.
- Can't Get Away with Nuthin': The one time he lets his personal feelings override his Yes-Man tendencies (when he pushes Henry to marry Anne of Cleves in order to cement an alliance with the Protestant League), it ends up getting him executed.
- Even Evil Has Loved Ones: He's quite affectionate to his son Gregory.
- The Good Chancellor: He's arguably even better at his job as Lord Chancellor than More was, and that's really saying something.
- Freak Out!: When Brandon has him arrested and the king charges him with treason.
- Hidden Depths: Was once a soldier-for-hire and is still a good archer. He's also not a particularly nasty man at heart, which is more than can be said about most of Henry's court.
- Hypercompetent Sidekick: Even the people who hate him recognize that he is a brilliant minister to King Henry.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: He has a rather ruthless ends-justify-means philosophy when it comes to imposing his view of the kingdom's best interests.
- Yes-Man: Best exemplified in a scene in which Henry presses him to explain his religious views."I believe what Your Majesty believes."
Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford (Max Brown)
- Cool Uncle: The only moments of genuine warmth he shows are with his nephew, Prince Edward. But still, he's a pretty evil guy.
- Evil Chancellor: Played with. Evil without a doubt, but an effective administrator regardless.
- Nouveau Riche: Surrey thinks he's this.
- Strange Bedfellows: With the Duke of Suffolk. They end up collaborating with each other more and more, and neither backstabs the other.
Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury (Hans Mathieson)
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer: He keeps his wife in a box.
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Disappears without a trace after Season 2. Following history, he was pivotal in Katherine Howard's fall, and thus should have been an important character in Season 4.
Thomas Boleyn, Earl of Wiltshire (Nick Dunning)
- It's All About Me: The guy is willing to do just about anything for power, like whoring his two daughters out to the King.
- Karma Houdini: Subverted if you know your history, as he would die just two years after the events of his final episode, having been made bankrupt and lost everything he and his daughters had fought for throughout the series.
- Kick the Dog: In his final episode he is informed of Anne Boleyn's impending execution. His response? To ask whether he can keep his earldom.
George Boleyn (Padraic Delaney)
- Bury Your Gays: or possibly bisexuals. What's particularly ironic is how he was executed after being falsely accused of a heterosexual act.
- Depraved Bisexual / Depraved Homosexual: one or the other. It's never made clear whether he genuinely is attracted to women in addition to men or whether he simply marries because it is the expected norm, but either way, he's one sick bastard.
- Historical Villain Upgrade: there's no historical basis for him being portrayed as a rapist, but he is none the less.
- Pet the Dog: his only redeeming quality is the concern he has for his sister, Anne Boleyn.
Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk (Henry Czerny)
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Disappears after Season 1. The Duke of Suffolk ends up doing a lot of things in Season 3 which the historical Norfolk did.
- Composite Character: A mix of Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk and his son Thomas Howard 3rd Duke of Norfolk.
- Dragon Ascendant: Starts Season 1 as The Dragon to the Duke of Buckingham (who plots to overthrow Henry), but ends it as co-president of the King's Privy Council.
- Manipulative Bastard
Sir Francis Bryan (Alan van Sprang)
- Blasphemous Boast: At one point, he declares himself to be "the Black Pope." (The real Bryan's reputation was such that he was actually nicknamed "the Vicar of Hell.")
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Disappears after the end of Season 3.
- Dark Is Evil: He seems to always dress in black.
- Kick the Dog: His treatment of Princess Mary and his sabotage of Cromwell's execution.
- Nice Hat: It looks kind of like a Stetson.
- Overt Operative: While on assignment to abduct or assassinate Cardinal Pole.
- Remember the New Guy: The real Bryan was actually a major player in Henry's court throughout his reign, but the character never appeared in the first two seasons. When he finally shows up in Season 3 as Henry's closest aide, everyone just acts like he was always there.
- Those Two Guys: He and Thomas Seymour travel across Europe trying to kill Cardinal Pole.
- You Can't Thwart Stage One: No, Sir Francis, you will never manage to kill Reginald Pole.
Thomas Culpepper (Torrance Coombs)
- Dirty Coward: When confronted by Edward Seymour, he instantly confesses everything (but blames his actions on the Queen).
- Establishing Character Moment: Leading the gang-rape of a peasant, then murdering her outraged husband.
- Karmic Death: Subverted. He gets executed, but he receives a much more humane death than the far less deserving Dereham.
Sir Richard Rich (Rod Hallett)
- Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: He always knows which way the wind is blowing.
- The Dragon: To Cromwell in Seasons 2 and 3 and to Bishop Gardiner in Season 4.
- Karma Houdini: In both the show and real life (he went on to hold high positions of authority during the reigns of both Mary and Elizabeth).
- Politically Incorrect Villain: Reveals himself to be a raging misogynist while torturing Anne Askew.
- The Stool Pigeon: Snitches on Thomas More to curry favor with Cromwell.
Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester (Simon Ward)
- Arc Villain: For the second half of Season 4.
- Burn the Witch!: Much like Thomas More before him.
- Church Police: Takes it upon himself to lead an informal inquisition against Lutherans and other "heretics" in Season 4.
- Fake Guest Star: He appears in most episodes in Season 3 and every episode in Season 4, but never makes it into the opening credits.
- Full-Circle Revolution: Under his leadership, the Reformation in England grinds to a halt and the reformers that enjoyed widespread patronage under the Boleyns and Cromwell found themselves targeted for investigation, torture, and execution.
- Karma Houdini: Not only does he not get his comeuppance on the show, but history buffs know that he eventually became Lord Chancellor to Queen Mary.
- Straw Hypocrite: As revealed by Lady Hertford in the series finale.
Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey (David O'Hara)
- Age Lift: The real Earl of Surrey was in his late twenties during the events of Season 4. David O'Hara was 44 at the time of filming.
- Anti-Villain: He's entirely right about Hertford, Gardiner, and Richard Rich being schemers, and his friendship with Suffolk shows he's not a bad guy. But after he tried to kidnap Prince Edward, there was only one way it could end.
- Big Bad Wannabe: Much like the Duke of Buckingham in Season 1.
- Hypocrite: He's extremely dismissive of the "new men" populating Henry's court, but his only friend at court is Suffolk, who was made Duke without an ancient or celebrated lineage. Charles looks uncomfortable every time Surrey rants about the importance of lineage, and tries to gently remind him of the worthwhile service people like the Seymours have rendered the King, Blue Blood or not.
- Never My Fault: He makes a mess of the situation in Calais as soon as the King returns to England, and then blames the Privy Council for not sending him good enough soldiers.
- Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: His daddy is the Duke of Norfolk and his niece is (at least temporarily) Queen of England, so he can do what he likes...right?
- Villain with Good Publicity: Despite being a raging elitist, his trial reveals that he is acclaimed as a hero by the people.
- Warrior Poet: Literally. And admittedly, his poetry is actually pretty good.
Sir Anthony Knivert (Callum Blue)
King Henry's Six Wives
- Adaptation Dye-Job: Like her husband, the real Katherine of Aragon was a redhead, but is portrayed as a brunette in this series.
- 100% Adoration Rating: Almost universally beloved across Europe. Even Reformists like Thomas Cromwell who played a big part in her banishment from court at least pitied and respected the Queen. And it says a lot that even the French Royal Court- sworn enemies of Katherine's family- recognized her as the true and legitimate Queen of England. Truth in Television, too; Catherine of Aragon was incredibly beloved by the common people, even decades later (which proved a significant advantage when her daughter needed to fight for her throne).
- Brainy Brunette: As a Spanish princess and the long-standing Queen of England, Katherine is highly educated, aware and even involved in diplomacy, and intelligent in matters both secular and religious.
- Mama Bear: Very protective and loving of her only surviving child, the Princess Mary. Katherine tries to prevent Henry from betrothing young Mary to potential husbands who might prove wrong, and continues to fight for her daughter's rights even as her own are stripped away.
- Phenotype Stereotype: In real life she had fair skin, red hair, and blue eyes. In this series she has black hair because she's ya know, Spanish. She does have blue eyes though and pale-ish skin which is an improvement over most depictions of her. Ironically, her actress is Irish - who are usually thought of as fair-skinned and red-haired, as indeed Kennedy is in real life!
- Spell My Name with an "S": As in real life, the very first letter of her name is interchangeable between C and K. The show opted to use the latter.
- Unwanted Spouse: One of the most famous in history. After years of marriage without a living male heir and with growing philosophical differences, Henry grew tired of Katherine and went so far as to break with the Catholic Church so that he could divorce her. Historically speaking, she originally meant to marry Henry's older brother, Arthur Tudor. However, because he passed away some time later, Katherine later became Henry's wife instead.
- Becoming the Mask: Is sent in to seduce Henry for her family's ambitions, but falls genuinely in love with him—which makes her story all the more heartbreaking.
- Betty and Veronica: is involved in two love triangles of this sort, and is the Veronica both times. In the first instance this works out well for her. The second time around...Not so much.
- Brainy Brunette: Although her intelligence is aimed at more ambitious goals than Katherine's, Anne is another educated and clever queen.
- Clingy Jealous Girl: Once married to the king, Anne is not nearly as patient or willing to turn a blind eye to the his affairs as Katherine was. It's especially notable when she complains (rather, rambles about it, and to a side character who barely had any idea how to respond) about the king's disappearances in a very teenager way ("Can you believe that?!"), as well as imagining him with an harem of his own. However, this is Henry we're talking about, so it's not like her jealousy is not justified.
- Dark Mistress: Before she married Henry.
- Face Death with Dignity: Gives an eloquent and dignified speech before her execution, asking for "anyone who takes up my case to do so kindly".
- Hot-Blooded: Anne's fiery passion attracts Henry early on, but eventually is used against her when Henry wants to be free of their marriage.
- Hypocrite: Became Queen by becoming one of the King's Mistresses and encouraging him to get rid of his first wife, is absolutely irate at the possibility that Jane Seymour could be doing the same. It would seem that Anne only has a problem with infidelity when she's the wronged party.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Anne can be manipulative, selfish, and ambitious (and influences Henry to increase these traits in himself), but she is also loyal to her family, grows to love Henry, and adores her daughter Elizabeth.
- Ms. Fanservice: The most sexualized of Henry's wives.
- Off With Her Head
- Properly Paranoid: After her marriage she gets increasingly paranoid about the king's new affairs, her enemies at court, Catherine and Lady Mary's possible attempts to plot against her (the look on her face when she hears that Mary will be the one attending to her infant daughter Elizabeth has "uh oh" written all over it) and even the king himself once his powers become absolute. Then again, she does have plenty of enemies trying to put her down, and she's not wrong when saying that the king can do whatever he pleases and then take it back, including putting her daughter on the line of succession and then taking her out again.
- Small Name, Big Ego: Once she starts actually throwing her weight around at court, it becomes glaringly obvious that she has little intrinsic political worth. Henry's advisers, for example, bristle whenever she voices her objection to the king's policies, and when she can't bear Henry a son, Henry tires of her and has her executed.
- The Vamp: Has a decidedly more sensual, powerful air that makes her stand out.
Jane Seymour (Anita Briem; Annabelle Wallis)
- Death by Childbirth: Dies shortly after giving birth to Edward.
- Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: The blonde Jane is by far the sweetest and gentlest of the queens.
- The Lost Lenore: Henry mourns her after her death and cries that he misses her. How much he loved her is debated, but he does show some grief.
- Nice Girl: Sweet, kind, and gentle, Jane is the polar opposite of her predecessor, the witty and ambitious Anne Boleyn.
- Odd Name Out: The only wife of Henry not named Katherine or Anne.
- The Other Darrin: The only time the show lost an actor whose character could not simply be written around.
- Too Good for This Sinful Earth: Dies in childbirth, though not before giving birth to Henry's only living son, Prince Edward.
Anne of Cleves (Joss Stone)
- Amicably Divorced: Considering his other break-ups, she got the best from her annulment: an estate of her own in England, and a welcomed place in court. So amicably, in fact, that Henry actually grows attracted to her and sleeps with her! Cromwell must be rolling in his grave...
- Better as Friends: She and Henry realize quickly that they are this. And because she's clever enough to accept this and not fight the divorce, they actually do remain friends. The real Henry VIII referred to his ex-queen as "his beloved sister."
Katherine Howard (Tamzin Merchant)
- Brainless Beauty: Cares little about anything other than pleasing herself, and her thoughtlessness has fatal consequences.
- Bring My Brown Pants: She wets herself while watching Lady Rochford's execution.
- Dissonant Serenity: After an initial Freak Out! following her arrest, she settles into this instead.
- Dumb Blonde: Speaks with a girlish, ditzy voice, lacks queenly dignity, and is a sharp contrast to the well-educated, intelligent queens before her.
- May–December Romance: The real Katherine was somewhere between 14 and 17 when she married 49-year-old Henry.
- Parenting the Husband: Gender inverted. Katherine is even younger than Henry's eldest daughter. This shows as he witnesses her giddy exuberance with all the energy of a teenager's father, and spoils her rotten.
- Too Dumb to Live: When your husband once executed a pretty wife on false adultery charges, it's probably not a good idea to have a real affair right under his nose.
- Your Cheating Heart: Her affair with Thomas Culpepper would be her downfall.
Katherine Parr (Joely Richardson)
- Bookworm: Was personally invested in the education of Elizabeth and Edward, and was a proponent of allowing citizens to read and interpret the Bible for themselves.
- Guile Hero: Manages to talk her way out of a heresy charge and execution. Truth in Television, too.
- Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Much like his other blonde wives, she's not scheming or nefarious and contains a recurring golden theme in her wardrobe.
- The High Queen: She actually rules as Queen Regent while Henry is fighting in France.
- Last Girl Wins: And by "wins" we mean "survives."
- Parental Substitute: She proves to be a very good maternal figure for her step-children, Elizabeth and Edward.
- Spell My Name with an "S": As in real life, the very first letter of her name is interchangeable between C and K. The show opted to use the latter.
- Statuesque Stunner: At 5'10, she's the tallest of Henry's wives.
- Younger Than They Look: Katherine Parr was around 32 when she married Henry, but was played by a woman close to 50.
The House of Tudor
- Abusive Parents: her fathers forbids her from seeing her mother, doesn't allow her to attend her funeral, and then sends thugs to threaten and coerce her into signing a document declaring herself a bastard, as well as betraying her dead mother and her faith.
- Big Sister Instinct: Despite what Anne did to her, she's a very kind and loving sister to Elizabeth, same with Edward.
- Break the Cutie: She has a pretty tough life after her parents split up.
- First Mother Wins: Mary is very close to her mother so much she stayed loyal to her even after her death. When her father divorced her for Anne Boleyn, she vowed that she would "recognize no queen but [her] mother". She also referred to Anne in a derogatory sense calling her "harlot" or "the King's mistress".
- Corrupt the Cutie
- Deadpan Snarker: turns into a particularly bitter example by season 4.
- Driven to Villainy: It's implied her parent's divorce has slowly been breaking her to where, by the final season, she is willing to "burn every heretic". They didn't call her "Bloody Mary" for nothing.
- Fragile Flower: Mary is a very sensitive person and is usually seen crying or sounds sad in most of her scenes. Then again, given the shit she's gone through...
- Historical Hero Upgrade: While the show doesn't shy away from her violent hatred of Protestants in season 4, we are ultimately still made to sympathise with Lady Mary and her undeniably horrible circumstances.
- Horrible Judge of Character: In Season 4, she becomes alienated from Katherine Parr, while becoming friendly with Bishop Gardiner and Sir Richard Rich. Katherine Parr is a strong Protestant and therefore (to Mary's eyes) an Affably Evil heretic at best.
- Jumping Off the Slippery Slope/Knight Templar: Toward the end of Season 4, she lets her hatred of the "heretics" consume her, vowing to restore England to the "true faith" no matter how many people she has to burn to do it.
- May–December Romance: She almost had this with her older cousin, Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. Due to her young age when they met, they were unable to be married. This is subverted when he married a Portuguese princess instead of Mary.
- Protagonist Journey to Villain: The show basically chronicles her path on becoming the fanatical tyrant that history remembers her.
- Raised Catholic: So much so, her faith becomes the only thing she has left of her old life. She remains loyal to the Catholic faith even under threat of death.
- Took a Level in Jerkass: Her misfortunes slowly take her from a gracious and loving Princess who just wants to defend her poor dead mother and faith, to the first glimpses of the bloodthirsty tyrant who would become Bloody Mary.
Princess/Lady Elizabeth (Kate Duggan, Claire McCauley and Laoise Murray)
- Cute Bookworm: Elizabeth has mostly been seen in this series with her reading or showing off her knowledge.
- Daddy's Girl: Despite her father being a total dick to her at times, Elizabeth shows she does love her father very much and admires his approval.
- Mary: The King has waited a long time for a son.
Elizabeth: But he still loves us.
Mary: A boy is more important, Elizabeth.
Elizabeth: I don't think so.
- However, by the end of the series she seems to have turned against him, since when he sends her away from Whitehall along with Katherine Parr and Mary, she doesn't shed any tears for him but strides off without looking back.
- Fiery Redhead: Implied by Lady Bryan to Mary that Elizabeth is this.
- Foreshadowing :
- After Catherine Howard's death, Elizabeth tells her sister she vows never to marry. There's a reason why she's nicknamed the "Virgin Queen".
- Anne's smile at the end could be a minor hint to Elizabeth's future. In the end, she did give Henry the son he wanted, in Elizabeth.
- Future Badass: There have been some hints to this in the show. Although a minor character, anyone who knows English history knows she becomes the most successful monarch out of Henry's children. There's a reason Anne's ghost gives a coy grin to Henry as she leaves.
- Hot-Blooded: Surprisingly subverted slightly. She's had a couple hints of this, but is usually seen with a level head. Then again, this is before she became Queen.
- Omni Glot: Elizabeth was known for being fluent in French, Italian, Latin, and Greek. In Season 3, Elizabeth shows off her knowledge of other languages to her father and in Season 5 is tutoring Edward.
- Running Away to Cry: When Henry says goodbye to his children, Elizabeth walks away while Catherine and Mary cry, presumably to cry alone.
- So Proud of You: In the final episode, Anne states how proud of Elizabeth she is. Henry also admits he is very proud of Elizabeth and admires her cleverness. However, the fact that she is Anne Boleyn's daughter puts a strain on his relationship with her.Henry: Why are you here?
Anne: To see my daughter. She was the only pure thing in my life and in my life I neglected her because she was only a girl and I wanted so much to give you a son. But now I'm so proud of her. Fiercely proud. She is so clever...you must be proud of her too, Henry.
Henry: I am very proud of her. And I know how clever she is. And I wish I could love her more. But from time to time, she reminds me of you, and what you did to me.
- Someone to Remember Him By: As in real life, his mother doesn't last long after his birth.
- Too Good for This Sinful Earth: The series finale foreshadows that despite Henry pinning all his hopes for the Tudor dynasty on him, he will die young like his mother.
Princess Margaret (Gabrielle Anwar)
- Composite Character: Henry VIII had two sisters, Margaret and Mary. The show keeps the name that would lead to less confusion with his daughter Mary.
- Continuity Snarl: Henry's only having one sister in the show, who dies childless, makes Henry calling the King of Scotland his nephew in season 3 rather inexplicable. In real life, of course, this is because he was the son of Margaret, whose own story was removed (the show's Margaret has the rough biography of the sister named Mary). It's also fortunate the show didn't extend to Elizabeth's reign, as it would have had quite the pickle in explaining why Mary, Queen of Scots was advocated as a claimant to the English throne.
Eustace Chapuys (Anthony Brophy)
- Agony of the Feet: He suffers increasingly from gout during season 4, until he's finally forced to go back home, where he dies shortly afterward.
- Ass in Ambassador: In Season 2, he briefly plots the assassination of Anne Boleyn.
- Determinator: Nothing will stop him trying to help Katherine of Aragon, and later Mary.
- Fake Guest Star: One of only three characters/actors who appears in all four seasons, yet he never made it to the opening credits.
- Parental Substitute: To Mary.
King Francis I (Emmanuel Leconte)
- Ass in Ambassador: He spends the entire Field of the Cloth of Gold conference denigrating the English to their king's face.
- Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: As with Henry and Charles, any treaty he signs isn't worth the paper it's written on.
- He Who Must Not Be Seen: For the last two seasons, he communicates with Henry entirely through letters and intermediaries.
Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor (Sebastian Armesto)
- Big Brother Instinct: He interferes in Henry's divorce from Katherine of Aragon because he doesn't want to see his favorite aunt jilted.
- The Chessmaster: Repeatedly manages to outfox Henry, particularly in Seasons 1 and 4.
- Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: As with Henry and Francis, his word is never to be trusted.
- He Who Must Not Be Seen: He only appears in person once, and thereafter communicates solely through Chapuys and other emissaries.
Pope Paul III (Peter O'Toole )
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Apparently, they couldn't get Peter O'Toole back for Season 3, so the Pope never quite shows up and relays all his orders to his minions via a Suspiciously Similar Substitute, Cardinal von Waldburg.
- Cool Old Guy: He's charismatic, witty, and far more responsive to King Henry's concerns than his predecessor.
- Deadpan Snarker: Peter O'Toole is brilliant at this.
- Not Even Bothering with the Accent: To be fair, they were most likely going for a Translation Convention from Latin, rather than English spoken with an Italian accent.
- The Pope: Come on, it's right in the name.
- Sinister Minister: Downplayed, but definitely there, as when he not-so-subtly encourages the assassination attempts against Anne Boleyn.
- The Spymaster: He founds the Jesuits to act as his operatives abroad.
- Tempting Fate: He allows Henry's appointment of Thomas Cranmer as Archbishop of Canterbury because, as he puts it, "What harm could a nobody do to our Holy Church?"
Charles de Marillac (Lothaire Bluteau)
- Advertised Extra: He gets billing in the opening titles of season 4, despite only appearing in five out of ten episodes and only appearing for a scene or two in each. (This is probably because the show was an Irish/Canadian co-production, and Lothaire Bluteau is a fairly big star in Canada.)
- Ass in Ambassador: Played with. He is scrupulously polite and servile to Henry, but the claws come out whenever he and Chapuys are alone together.
- The Generic Guy: Doesn't really get enough screentime to develop a personality of his own.