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The House of Tudor
King Henry VIII
Played By: 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 Jonathan Rhys Meyers.
- Bad Boss: Not at first, but as time goes on, he not only becomes impossible to satisfy, but also has an unfortunate tendency to behead his ministers for annoying him.
- 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 Seasons 3 and 4. He spends the rest of the series walking with a cane.
- The Casanova: If he's not jousting or scheming, he has some maid or lady of court in bed.
- 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.
- Death Wail: A guilt-ridden one when his old friend Sir Thomas More is executed.
- Drunk with Power: As he gets older, he starts throwing more and more of his weight around. By the end of Season 2, he's basically become an absolute monarch, and he's clearly let it go to his head.
- Freudian Excuse: His reason for cracking down so hard on the north after the Pilgrimage of Grace Rebellion (and his hardline stance on rebellions in general) is implied to be because he remembers fearing for his and his mother's lives when they were being protected in the Tower of London from a rebellion against his father.
- 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.
- Gratuitous Rape: Averted. While Henry VIII has been portrayed as a rapist in other works, all of his sexual encounters in this series are consensual; he even explicitly asks one of Katherine of Aragon's ladies for her consent before disrobing her.
- Hair-Trigger Temper: From about Season 2 onward, literally anything can set him off.
- Heal Thyself: Believes his self-made "concoctions" are the best way to ward off disease.
- Heir Club for Men: Alas, his motivation.
- Hiding the Handicap: Leaves his own Christmas party with a smile on his face, despite his ulcer causing him incredible pain and a visible limp.
- 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.
- Hot-Blooded: Even in his youth, he's passionate and bold. In his old age, he goes from zestful to constantly pissed-off.
- 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.
- Icy Blue Eyes: Supposedly, this is Truth in Television, but there's no way to know for sure.
- Ironic Nickname: In Episode 4 of Season 1, the Pope grants Henry the style "Fidei Defensor" (Defender of the Faith) for his treatise attacking Martin Luther. It won't be long before Henry spends much more time attacking the Catholic Church than defending it....
- It's All About Me: He is freely and openly unfaithful with all of his wives, and yet is homicidal at the very idea of one of them being unfaithful to him. Not to mention his court is a revolving door for people who happen to be on his good side at any given time.
- In one episode, he asks Suffolk how he's doing. After his friend tells him about how his wife miscarried their child, Henry immediately makes the conversation about himself.
- Jerk with a Heart of Jerk: He shows a great deal of remorse for those of his ministers he's had executed, but only because he realizes how good they were at their jobs, not out of any sort of compassion.
- 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.
- Overprotective Dad: Of Edward; the last episode of the series hints that his beloved son will die young as a result.
- Panicky Expectant Father: Worries and prays his way through Jane Seymour's prolonged labour.
- Pet the Dog:
- Zigzagged. 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.
- Another one with Suffolk, played straight; Henry is sorry that his friend is estranged from his wife and asks what he can do to help.
- 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.
- After Jane Seymour's death and her household is dissolved, Lady Missledon tells him of her plans to return home to her mother since she knows her fiance will never marry her after he found out about her affair with the king, he offers to give him one of the abbeys if she agreed to marry her. She graciously refused.
- Requisite Royal Regalia: His square-cut ruby ring, and his many gold livery collars.
- 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 Protagonist: The whole series is more or less the story of Henry's descent into infamy, so this is a given.
- 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'.
- Your Cheating Heart: He is incapable of being faithful to any one of his wives for more than a few days.
Lady Mary Tudor
Played By: Blathnaid Mckeown (Season 1), Sarah Bolger (Seasons 2-4)
- Abusive Parents: Her father 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.
- Adaptation Dye-Job: Like the rest of the Tudors, Mary had red hair in real life.
- Affectionate Nickname: "Mi preciosa" and "mi cielo" from Katherine of Aragon.
- Big Sister Instinct: Despite what Anne did to her, she's a very kind and loving sister to Elizabeth, same with Edward.
- Blood Lust: They didn't call her "Bloody Mary" for nothing.
- Break the Cutie: She has a pretty tough life after her parents split up.
- Child Prodigy: Reported to have "exceptional talents," particularly in music, as a little girl. This is Truth in Television as the real-life Mary was able to perform on the harpsichord for a visiting French delegation at the age of four.
- Crush Blush: When Duke Philip of Bavaria shares his feelings for her with Anne of Cleves, soon leading to her First Kiss.
- Driven to Villainy: It's implied her parents' divorce has slowly been breaking her to where, by the final season, she is willing to "burn every heretic".
- Every Proper Lady Should Curtsy: Her curtsy often includes an elegant turn of the head to one side.
- Fainting: Her reaction to Henry reminding the assembly at court, in her presence, that some of them wished for her to be put to death.
- 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".
- God Is Good: Her reaction to the word of Anne Boleyn's impending execution.
- God Save Us from the Queen!: Foreshadowed by a speech she delivers to Chapuys, vowing to "make this unfortunate realm Catholic again" if she ever takes the throne.
- Gratuitous Foreign Language:
- Guilt Complex: Blames herself for not having been born a boy, as her parents may have stayed married and Henry may never have broken with Rome.
- Has a Type: Smiles with excitement upon being told of a potential Portuguese husband who is "tall, with very dark hair" and "piercing blue eyes." Later falls for the dark-haired and blue-eyed Duke Philip of Bavaria.
- The Hero: To Catholic northerners, plus anyone who supported Katherine of Aragon.Robert Aske: Lady, you must know how beloved you are to the people, as was your mother before you, God rest her soul.
- 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.
- The Ingenue: Henry refuses to believe how little she knows of the oft-licentious language of the English court. He sends Sir Francis Bryan to find out, with amusing results.
- Henry uses exactly this term to describe her in Season 3.My daughter knows nothing of the world. She is an innocent, an ingenue.
- Henry uses exactly this term to describe her in Season 3.
- In the Hood: Wears a hooded cloak to visit Robert Aske while he is imprisoned.
- 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.
- MayDecember Romance: Almost has this with her older cousin Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor. The plan is for them to marry when Mary turns 12; however, Charles decides he can't wait that long and marries Isabella of Portugal instead.
- Nice Hat: She has quite a collection of plumed hats.
- Old Maid: Fears she is becoming this after Katherine Howard gleefully points out how much younger she is than the still unmarried Mary.
- Omni Glot: Proficient in English, French, Spanish and Latin.
- Parent with New Paramour: Five times!
- Prayer Is a Last Resort: And often her first resort, in many cases, but especially when Prince Edward falls ill and the court fears for his life.
- Prayer of Malice: Promises to pray for Bishop Gardiner to succeed in a plan to stop Prince Edward's Protestant education, which "may touch people close to [Mary]."
- Promotion to Opening Titles: In Season 4, despite Sarah Bolger having played Mary for the previous two seasons.
- Prone to Tears: 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...
- Proper Lady: In social settings, she is unfailingly polite and gracious to everyone she meets — except Katherine Howard, who turns her into an Ice Queen.
- Protagonist Journey to Villain: The show basically chronicles her path on becoming the fanatical tyrant that history remembers her to be.
- 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.
- Significant Wardrobe Shift: While banned from court, she dresses mostly in black, leaving everything from the neck down covered. After she is permitted to return, her clothes become much finer, including an array of jewels and the Impossibly-Low Neckline that was the style at the time.
- Tears of Joy: After sharing her First Kiss with Duke Philip of Bavaria.Duke Philip: You're crying.Lady Mary: Only because I'm so happy.
- 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.
- Used to Be a Sweet Kid: Blathnaid Mckeown portrays the young Princess Mary as cheerful, playful, and loving except in her final scene in Season 1, where her solemn departure to Wales hints at the dark turn her character will take after being separated from her mother. Sarah Bolger has a few sweet moments as the grown-up Lady Mary, but in general is very much not the girl she used to be.
- Visionary Villain: Will settle for nothing less than the elimination of Protestantism in England.
- Was Too Hard On Her: Regrets her initial dislike of Anne of Cleves after realizing how much more she dislikes Katherine Howard.
Lady Elizabeth Tudor
Played By: Kate Duggan (Season 2), Claire McCauley (Season 3) and Laoise Murray) (Season 4)
- Child Marriage Veto: Refuses to marry. Anyone. Ever.
- 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.Mary: I shall retire to the country...and I shall take the Lady Elizabeth with me.Lady Bryan: [with a wry smile] And knowing that young lady, you shall have no peace at all.
- Foreshadowing :
- After Katherine 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.
- Significant Wardrobe Shift: Like Mary, her clothing becomes much more elaborate after she is welcomed back to court, and even more so after she is restored to the line of succession. Special mention goes to the frilled white collar she wears when she appears in Henry's vision of Anne Boleyn, which looks exactly like the one in the famous "Darnley portrait" of Elizabeth I.◊
- 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.
- Stepford Smiler: She spends a lot of time being extremely pleasant to everyone around her, especially her father, but her unemotional reaction to his impending death suggests her good behaviour is rooted in her need to keep herself safe by cultivating goodwill.
Played By: Eoin Murtagh, Jack Hathaway
- Adorably Precocious Child: Though clearly very rehearsed, he has an exceptional vocabulary for a child.
- Regal Ringlets: Has a head full of gorgeous blond curls.
- 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.
- Tragic Keepsake: Keeps a locket containing a picture of his mother, Jane Seymour, as well as her thimble.
Played By: Gabrielle Anwar
- Arranged Marriage: With the old and decrepit king of Portugal. She makes sure it doesn't last long.
- Belligerent Sexual Tension: With Charles Brandon, leading to a verbal Slap-Slap-Kiss on the ship to Portugal.
- 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.
- Defrosting Ice Queen: Quite cold and dismissive of Charles until he is assigned to escort her to Portugal. A glimpse of his shirtlessness makes her feel differently, leading to an Immodest Orgasm at sea.
- The Exile: She and Charles are banished from court after marrying without Henry's consent.
- Incurable Cough of Death: Dies of consumption, resulting in a very great deal of Blood from the Mouth.
- Lady Macbeth: Encourages Charles to use Wolsey's past kindness to get back into Henry's good graces.
- Tantrum Throwing: After she and Charles are banished from court, leading to another Slap-Slap-Kiss.
- You Said You Would Let Them Go: Believes Henry agreed to her demand to be allowed to choose her next husband after the death of her first, the elderly king of Portugal. He never did.
King Henry's Six Wives
Katherine of Aragon
Played By: Maria Doyle Kennedy
- 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).
- Adaptation Dye-Job: Like her husband, the real Katherine of Aragon was a redhead, but is portrayed as a brunette in this series.
- 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.
- Defiant to the End: Never stops referring to herself as Queen of England and the true and legitimate wife of the King.
- Earthy Barefoot Character: Walks barefoot in the rain into a humble chapel as a sign of humility.
- God Save Us from the Queen!: Averted. Henry fears the daughter of Isabella of Castile will go to war in order to defend her own daughter's claim, but she is determined never to hurt him on purpose.
- In real life, while England was at war with Scotland in 1513, Katherine rode north in full armour while heavily pregnant to rally the troops — perhaps giving Henry extra reason to fear this.
- Gratuitous Spanish: Slips some Spanish phrases into her regular speech, especially in sweet moments with Mary or tense moments with Anne Boleyn. Subverted as her Spanish is not gratuitous when sensitive information is being discussed.
- The High Queen: Incredibly popular with the people, pious, well-educated, loyal and faithful to the King, and beautiful on top of all of that. The only thing she doesn't have going for her is the lack of a son.
- 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.
- Nice to the Waiter: Unreservedly kind and warm to her servants, which is why they collapse into sobs upon her death.
- Phenotype Stereotype: In real life, she had fair skin, red hair, and blue eyes; in this series, she has black hair, which makes her look more recognizably Spanish. She does have blue eyes and fairly pale 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!
- Raised Catholic: As the daughter of the "Catholic Monarchs," she is deeply devout.
- 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.
- Taking the Veil: Averted; Henry's courtiers believe she can be persuaded to do this to make way for Anne Boleyn, but she refuses.
- Tranquil Fury: All over her face when she rather sarcastically toasts Henry on the birth of his illegitimate son.
- 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 married Henry's older brother, Arthur Tudor. However, he passed away after a few months, and Katherine later became Henry's wife.
Played By: Natalie Dormer
- Ain't Too Proud to Beg: Pleads for one more chance to give Henry a son after her second miscarriage, by which point their marriage has broken down completely.Your majesty, I beseech you!
- Alas, Poor Villain: Despite how unpopular Anne was amongst the people of England as well as abroad, her execution was not considered justified. Even the Duchess of Milan, Catherine of Aragon's own niece, brings it up when Henry's minsters ask her to marry Henry, saying Anne was innocently put to death.
- Am I Just a Toy to You?: Expresses concern that she will have to ask this of Henry if she follows her father's orders to seduce him.Even if he had me, who is to say he would keep me?
- Awesome Moment of Crowning: Henry crowns her himself using St Edward's Crown, normally reserved for the monarch regnant, while a slower and more epic version of the show's theme swells in the background.
- Bad Boss: Snaps at her servants for minor misdeeds, and even feels free to boss around Cromwell.
- 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.
- Did They or Didn't They?: The nature of her previous relationship with Sir Thomas Wyatt is never perfectly clear.
- Dramatic Sit-Down: After she learns Francis rejected the betrothal of his son to Elizabeth because he believes she's a bastard.
- Extreme Doormat: While she can face most obstacles, she never disobeys her father. He controls her by threatening her, even physically abusing her as he sees her as a way to power.
- Face Death with Dignity: From her arrest to her execution, save a few brief moments of distress, she remains remarkably dignified and calm in the face of death.
- Famous Last Words: Her execution speech moves the crowd to tears and prayer, and even makes the executioner beg her to "forgive [him] for what [he] must do."Good Christian people, I have come here to die, according to the law, and thus yield myself to the will of the King, my Lord. And if I ever in my life I did offend the King's grace, than surely with my death I do now atone. I pray and beseech you all to pray for the life of the King, my sovereign Lord and yours, who is one of the best princes of the Earth, who has always treated me so well. Wherefore I submit to death with a good will, humbly asking for pardon from all the world. If anyone should take up my case, I ask them only to judge it kindly.... Thus I take my leave of the world and of you. I heartily desire all of you to pray for me.
- Get Thee to a Nunnery: Dares hope that Henry might command this instead of executing her.
- Gratuitous French: When meeting the new French ambassador, whose English is perfect, in Season 1.
- Happy Flashback: While preparing for her execution, to a day spent playing with her father and siblings when she was a child.
- Hold My Glasses: Her maids remove her pearl necklace and earrings in the final seconds before her beheading.
- This is something of a Call-Back as she is wearing the exact same necklace and earrings during a particularly nasty argument with Henry four episodes prior.Henry: Don't you know that I can drag you down as quickly as I raised you?! 'Tis lucky you have your bed already, madam, because if you did not, I would not give it to you again!
- This is something of a Call-Back as she is wearing the exact same necklace and earrings during a particularly nasty argument with Henry four episodes prior.
- 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.
- Icy Blue Eyes: Unlike Henry, this is almost certainly not historically accurate.
- Inspirational Insult: Begins sharing her father's motivations after Cardinal Wolsey calls her a "silly little girl."
- Ironic Echo: Her death, long after Henry comments that he loves her neck.
- Also her death, shortly after threatening to have Cromwell "cropped at the neck" after he displeases her.
- 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(poor sense of judgement in that though), grows to love Henry, and adores her daughter Elizabeth.
- Lady-in-Waiting: To Katherine of Aragon.
- Laser-Guided Karma: Henry's affair with Jane is awfully familiar....
- Make-Out Kids: She and Henry are these before they are married.
- Making Love in All the Wrong Places: Consummates her relationship with Henry in the woods. She refuses to let him....finish though, much to his frustration.
- Motherly Side Plait: Right after she gives birth to Elizabeth and is cuddling her in bed.
- Ms. Fanservice: The most sexualized of Henry's wives.
- New Era Speech: Delivers one of these to her servants regarding the Reformation.
- No Pregger Sex: Her adherence to this rule causes Henry to find relief among her ladies.
- Not Like Other Girls: Causes a minor stir at court upon her arrival thanks to her French style of dressing and more openly flirtatious manner.
- Off With Her Head: How she meets her end. Henry's nice enough to bring in a professional from Calais to make it as quick as possible.
- Oh, Crap!: Has a moment like this when she finds out the French king denied her request to betroth Elizabeth to his son, realizing just how vulnerable her position is.
- Permission to Speak Freely: Zig-zagged; she doesn't think she needs this from Katherine and is quickly corrected.Katherine: He will tire of you, like all the others.
Anne: And what if he does not?
Katherine: I did not give you permission to speak! You are a servant!
- Playing Hard to Get: Will not accept gifts or premarital sex from Henry. She ends up accepting both.
- 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.
- Purple Is Powerful: Causes a stir at court when she wears "the color of royalty" while Henry is still married to Katherine.
- 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.
- Verbal Irony: Her motto as queen is "the most happy."
- Wicked Stepmother: She's most definitely this to Mary, ranging from getting her father to illegitimise the girl, to plotting to have her assassinated.
Played By: Anita Briem (Season 2), Annabelle Wallis (Seasons 3&4)
- Adaptational Attractiveness: The real-life Jane Seymour was said to have been rather plain.
- Death by Childbirth: Dies shortly after giving birth to Edward.
- Don't You Dare Pity Me!: Downplayed as she was never so vehement, but she does say something to this effect after learning from Lady Rochford that Henry has taken a mistress.
- Ermine Cape Effect: Almost always wears a tiara, even when she's just eating lunch.
- Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: The blonde Jane is by far the sweetest and gentlest of the queens.
- Lady-in-Waiting: To Anne Boleyn. "Lady In Waiting" is also the title of the episode in which she reports for duty.
- Leitmotif: She gets two for her scenes with Henry: this wistful tune in Season 2, and this bittersweet tune in Season 3.
- 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.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Her ghost accuses the elderly Henry of condemning Prince Edward to an early death by overprotecting him.
- Odd Name Out: The only wife of Henry not named Katherine or Anne.
- Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Icelandic-born Anita Briem struggled with Jane's received pronunciation.
- The Other Darrin: The only time the show lost an actor whose character could not simply be written around.
- Please Don't Leave Me: Henry's last words to her.Don't go. Please, don't go. Just because you have done everything that you promised, please don't leave me.
- Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: Refuses to accept a purse from Henry while he tries to court her, on the ground that she wishes to protect her honor. She's just Playing Hard to Get, though.
- Stiff Upper Lip: Her reaction to being informed that Henry has taken one of her ladies as a mistress; at this point, she knows she is about to give him a reason to be loyal to her.He must do as he will. It is we, Lady Rochford, who must always honor and obey.
- Textile Work Is Feminine: Shown working with an embroidery hoop, plus Prince Edward keeps her thimble to remember her. The real Jane Seymour was known to be an exceptional embroiderer.
- Together in Death: Henry's last wish is to be buried next to her, with their effigies "fashioned as if [they] are sweetly sleeping."
- Too Good for This Sinful Earth: Dies in childbirth, though not before giving birth to Henry's only living son, Prince Edward.
- Wacky Cravings: Develops a taste for quail eggs while pregnant with Edward.
- In real life, she craved quail itself, not the eggs.
Anne of Cleves
Anne of Cleves
Played By: Joss Stone
- Adaptational Attractiveness: Henry screams that "She looks like a horse!" Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, of course, but most viewers couldn't figure out why he would think that. Although, many historians have come to doubt that Anne was unnattractive and think Henry may have spread this rumor to cover his impotence and/or the fact that Anne was not immediately smitten with him, making this Truth in Television.
- Amicably Divorced: Considering his other break-ups, she got the best from her annulment: an estate of her own in England, and a welcoming 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."
- Did They or Didn't They?: Ends up taking Henry into her bed while he is married to Katherine Howard. They wake up fully clothed.
- Dramatic Sit-Down: After she is informed of the annulment of her marriage to Henry.
- Gratuitous German: Lapses into this when airing her grievances with Henry to Cromwell.
- Heroes Love Dogs: Delighted when Katherine Howard gifts her the puppies she received from Henry for Christmas.
- Insatiable Newlyweds: As averted as humanly possible, as she is evidently terrified and Henry can't bring himself to do anything.
- Mate or Die: Fears this is the choice before her after months of non-consummation.If I cannot please the King... will he kill me?
- Mysterious Veil: The first time we ever see Anne, she and her sister Amalia are each wearing one of these; their brother, the Duke of Cleves, does not want anyone from Henry's court to see their faces until a betrothal is secured.
- Nice Girl: Unfailingly kind to Henry after their annulment, as well as Katherine Howard.
- Parental Substitute: Since Elizabeth rarely comes to court until Henry marries Katherine Parr, Anne frequently invites her, as well as Mary, to her own estate.
- Returning the Wedding Ring: Asks Henry (kindly) to "break it into pieces, as a thing of no value."
- Sexless Marriage
- She Cleans Up Nicely: Henry's reaction to her arrival at court for Christmas.
Played By: Tamzin Merchant
- 0% Approval Rating: Despite Henry's affections, Katherine proves to be very unpopular due to her immaturity. She sees this first hand on progress when the people of England cheer for Mary, her enemy, and don't even notice Katherine's abscence. She punishes Mary for her lack of respect but even Elizabeth, who is polite to her, truthfully can't stand her either.
- Affectionate Nickname: Henry calls her his "rose without a thorn."
- Blackmail: Appoints Francis Dereham, one of her past lovers, as her private secretary to keep him quiet about their history, which backfires against both of them. Fear of this may be why she appoints her ex-roommate Joan Bulmer as one of her ladies-in-waiting.
- 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.
- Confessional: Averted. She is offered the opportunity to confess before her execution, but declines:I have spoken to God so rarely that I do not believe he would know who I was.
- This is Artistic License History as the real Katherine did make a confession.
- Diamonds in the Buff: The first time we see her in Season 4, she is wearing nothing but a diamond necklace, unless you count the rose petals strategically covering her midsection.
- Dissonant Serenity: After an initial Freak Out following her arrest, she settles into this instead.
- Distracted by the Luxury: Since Henry gifts her with new jewels and dresses nearly every day, it's hard to see how this couldn't happen to her.
- Driven to Villainy: Against Mary. Despite an initial attempt at friendship, Mary's disrespect drives Katherine to make some especially cutting remarks about her superior marital status.
- Dude, Where's My Respect?: It truly hits her how little the people of England think of her on a progress when she oversleeps and misses a speech, given by Mary instead. No one notices her absence and greets Mary with roaring celebration.
- Dumb Blonde: Speaks with a girlish, ditzy voice, lacks queenly dignity, and is a sharp contrast to the well-educated, intelligent queens before and after her.
- Dying Declaration of Love:I die a queen, but I would rather die the wife of Culpeper!
- False Rape Accusation: Tries to use one of these to escape adultery charges. It doesn't work.
- First Blood: A variation. Her execution takes place off-screen, but a few drops of blood from the previous execution of Lady Rochford fall from the headsman's axe onto Katherine's neck as he raises it for the final blow.
- More Artistic License History as Katherine was executed before Lady Rochford in real life.
- Food as Bribe: When trying to become friends with Mary.Katherine: Will you stay a while? My maids have made some cakes.
- Idealized Sex: With Henry. Though he should be grotesquely obese and infirm by the time he marries Katherine, she apparently enjoys his company a great deal.
- A notable exception is in episode 4.04, in which sex with Henry is more of an obligation as she would rather be with Culpeper.
- Leitmotif: This one, during her sexual scenes with either Henry or Culpeper.
- Making Love in All the Wrong Places: One of her encounters with Culpeper takes place in a stool closet.
- MayDecember Romance: The real Katherine was somewhere between 14 and 17 when she married 49-year-old Henry. In the show, she is 17 by the time she and Henry meet.
- Ms. Fanservice: She is seen naked at least once per episode.
- Parental Abandonment: As a result, grew up under the very lax supervision of the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk, who either turned a blind eye or was completely unaware of her dalliances with other men.
- 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.
- Pretty in Mink: She and her ladies are overjoyed to see the fur stole Henry sends her for Christmas.
- Sexy Soaked Shirt: The first episode of Season 4 ends with the first rainfall in two months soaking through her nightgown.
- 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.
- Wicked Stepmother: Mary sees her this way, despite her best efforts. She has better luck with Henry's other children, giving a necklace to Elizabeth and playing Peekaboo with Edward. Elizabeth truthfully does not enjoy her either, she's just better at hiding it than Mary.
- Your Cheating Heart: Her affair with Thomas Culpeper would be her downfall.
Played By: Joely Richardson
- An Offer You Can't Refuse: Initially recoils at the idea of marrying Henry, but fears the consequences of turning down his proposal.
- 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. She also writes a book of her own during the series, becoming the first English queen to write a book published in her own name.
- Freak Out: When she thinks she is about to be arrested for heresy.
- 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 rules as Queen Regent while Henry is fighting in France, and proves to be very good at it.Charles Brandon: I have heard nothing but praise in all quarters for the dedication and skill of Queen Katherine in matters of state. She has great clarity of mind, and a woman's touch which soothes and cures where a man would usually rush into anger and complaint.
- Illegal Religion: Some at court correctly suspect her of being a passionate Protestant. Bishop Gardiner seeks to charge her with heresy, but does not succeed.
- 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.
- Widow's Weeds: Wears these upon the death of her second husband, Lord Latimer.
- Younger Than They Look: Katherine Parr was around 32 when she married Henry, but was played by a woman close to 50.
Men of the Royal Court
The Duke of Suffolk
Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk
Played By: Henry Cavill
- Anti-Villain: Starts off this way at first, being a slightly less inhibited version of Henry who nevertheless has some honorable qualities.
- Anti-Hero: Starting with Season 2, he matures immensely, but also becomes darker and more cynical. By Season 4, he's more jaded than ever, but is also one of the few noble characters in Henry's court.
- Archenemy: The Boleyns and then Cromwell.
- Badass Beard: In Season 4. Generally speaking, he gets more facial hair as he gets more badass, but the Season 4 one is truly notable.
- Badass Bureaucrat: After he starts doing double-duty as a member of the Privy Council and as the point man for Henry's royal army.
- 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.
- The Charmer: In Season 1, he wins a hundred crown bet with Henry by charming the pants (literally) off the Duke of Buckingham's daughter. He does the same with Henry's sister Margaret, which Henry is much less amused by.
- 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.
- Grin of Audacity: The Duke of Buckingham catches his daughter in bed with Brandon, who keeps smiling throughout the confrontation, even as Buckingham is pressing the tip of his sword to Brandon's throat.
- Historical Beauty Update: This ◊ is a portrait of the real Charles Brandon. In the series, he is played by a clean-shaven Henry Cavill. In Season 4, he has long hair and a beard, and looks like a fitter approximation of the historical Brandon.
- 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.
- Interrupted Intimacy: With the Duke of Buckingham's daughter, by the Duke of Buckingham.
- Knight In Sour Armor: He suffers greatly for his loyalty to the king, especially in Season 3 where he's forced to double-cross the Pilgrimage of Grace. It bothers the hell out of him, but his loyalty is unshakable.
- Ladykiller in Love: Despite his skirt-chasing ways, he was genuinely in love with Margaret and put himself a great risk to marry her. And he's very broken up when she dies. It happens again with his second wife Catherine, a clear indicator that he's changing his ways.
- The Lancer: To Henry, after he comes back to court.
- 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.
- Only Friend: By the end of the series, it becomes clear that Brandon is the only real friend that Henry has left.
- Only Sane Man: As time goes on, he's then only sensible character amidst the increasingly unstable Henry and his scheming, ambitious courtiers.
- 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 Reason You Suck" Speech: In the final episode of Season 2, furious at Thomas Boleyn's greater concern being for the fact he gets to keep his title and his head rather than that his son has already been executed and his daughter will soon follow suit, Charles slams Boleyn against a wall and makes his contempt clear about Boleyn's seeming indifference to the fact he willingly sacrificed his children for his own ambition.Charles Brandon: Did you watch your son die?! What about your daughter, will you watch her suffer? Will you watch her die?! Tell me, Boleyn, was it all worth it?!
- The Reliable One: He's one of the few people that Henry can rely on with any degree of consistency. It helps him keep his head to the end of the series.
- 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.
- Suppressed Rage: When Anne wonders out loud why Henry assigns him to entertain the French ambassador instead of her father.
- Undying Loyalty: Deconstructed. His loyalty to Henry costs him a lot, including his marriage.
- Workout Fanservice: A very literal version; after hearing that exercise may ward off the sweating sickness, he immediately finds a woman to "exercise" with.
- Your Cheating Heart: He's an incorrigible philanderer. Henry Cavill says it himself: "he cannot keep his dick in his pants."
Sir Thomas More
Sir Thomas More
Played By: Jeremy Northam
- Affectionate Nickname: "Harry" to King Henry. It's a sure sign that their friendship has ended when Henry screams at More to stop calling him that.
- 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. It also drives him to dangerous degrees of fanaticism, causing him to abandon his humanist ideals to lead book-burnings and heretic-burnings.
- The Last DJ: More is more concerned with his ideals than with politics, so he is no match for the intrigue of the Royal Court. He only takes the job of Chancellor as a favor to his friend the king, and as soon as things get too dicey for him, he resigns.
- Loophole Abuse: He's able to save his head by exploiting the fact that it's technically not treasonous to express no opinion on the Oath of Supremacy, even if he refuses to swear to it. Unfortunately for him, he does reveal his true feelings about the Oath in confidence to Richard Riche, who betrays him to the authorities.
- Obstructive Zealot: More's idealism is partially responsible for the excessive prolongation of the King's "Great Matter". Additionally, More's willingness to burn heretics at the stake backfires, and he actually helps the Reformation gain momentum.
- Odd Friendship: With the corrupt and conniving Cardinal Wolsey.
- Off with His Head!: His ultimate fate, as in history.
- Oh, Crap!: At his trial, More maintains that he has never spoken maliciously of the Act of Supremacy that makes Henry supreme head of the church in England. When Sir Richard Rich is called to testify, More suddenly remembers a seemingly casual conversation the two head the day before, in which he compared the Act to a piece of legislation that claims God is not God. He makes this expression when he realizes how he was entrapped—but then, knowing his fate is already sealed, he goes on to openly attack the Act and defend the supremacy of the Vatican.
- Pacifist: More absolutely detests the idea of war, and makes a point of talking King Henry out of his poorly-conceived plans for war with France.
- 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.
- Wide-Eyed Idealist: His devout Catholicism and his devotion to Humanism oftentimes have a difficult relationship with reality.
Cardinal Thomas Wolsey
Played By: Sam Neill
- Ain't Too Proud to Beg: Katherine of Aragon mocks him for literally begging her on his knees to join a convent.
- Ambition Is Evil: Nothing is beneath him if it gets him closer to becoming Pope.
- 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.
- Just Following Orders: His excuse when Katherine of Aragon blames him for Mary being sent to Wales.
- Last Disrespects: While he is committing suicide, the court enjoys a play about him being dragged down to hell.
- 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.
- No Delays for the Wicked: Despite being on France's payroll and skimming the treasury for his own pocket, Wolsey is better at managing the king's affairs than the entire Privy Council combined.
- 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.
- Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: Attempts to use the favor he thought he had with Anne Boleyn to avoid imprisonment in the Tower. When that doesn't work, he writes to Katherine of Aragon. When THAT doesn't work...
- 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
Played By: 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.
- And There Was Much Rejoicing: By the time he's being executed, Cromwell is so unpopular that the event is met with cheers and applause. Up until the executioner botches it, that is.
- Anti-Villain: He's conniving and overly ambitious, but his loyalty to the King is genuine, and his pursuit of the Reformation, while extreme, is well-intentioned.
- Break the Haughty: Cromwell's downfall is so sudden and drastic that it completely breaks him. He spends his last moments begging the king for mercy, and he's a teary mess on the executioner's block.
- 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.
- Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Because of his tenuous position, Cromwell constantly has to switch his loyalties around to make sure he stays on the king's good side. His only consistent loyalty is to the Reformation, and that ends up being his fatal weakness.
- Even Evil Has Loved Ones: He's quite affectionate to his son Gregory and is clearly overjoyed when Gregory tells him he's a grandfather.
- The Good Chancellor: He's arguably even better at his job than Wolsey was, and without all of the attendant corruption.
- Freak Out: When Brandon has him arrested and the king charges him with treason.
- The Friend No One Likes: Everyone in King Henry's court despises Cromwell for his past as a mercenary, his scheming nature, and his secret Lutheranism. Not that it matters: not only is Cromwell very, very good at his job, but he's good friends with the Boleyn family, who are the royal favorites...for a while, anyway.
- Good Cop/Bad Cop: During the efforts to find evidence against Anne Boleyn, Cromwell is definitely the bad cop to Richard Rich's good, overseeing the brutal torture of Mark Smeaton and being extremely forceful in interrogating Anne's ladies in waiting.
- 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.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: His zeal for the Reformation catapults him into the King's good graces, but it also pisses off a lot of the commoners and alienates most of the Royal Court. By the time he realizes the King isn't so gung-ho about Protestantism after all, he has no friends to protect him, and all it takes is the insinuation of treason to get his head chopped off.
- Hypercompetent Sidekick: Even the people who hate him recognize that he is a brilliant minister to King Henry. Henry also realises it not long after having Cromwell executed and finding his new ministers aren't as skilled at the task of managing his affairs.
- Mercy Kill: One of the guards at his execution takes pity on Cromwell after the drunken executioner (who got drunk thanks to Cromwell's enemies as a final spiteful gesture) keeps botching the job; the guard shoves the executioner aside, takes the axe and puts Cromwell out of his misery.
- Pet the Dog: Gently explains the significance of the reforms to a page boy at court.
- He also tells Thomas Wyatt he has no intention of acting on reports his spies gave him of a priest in Tewksbury offering prayers for Catherine of Aragon rather than Anne Boleyn; the priest in question is near 80 and they have bigger things to deal with than a slip of the tongue by a forgetful old man.
- Shame If Something Happened: A variation on this trope in that it's meant as a warning, rather than the usual threat, but he does warn Thomas Wyatt to tread carefully at court, lest his unsavoury past come back to haunt you.Thomas Cromwell: I like you, Mr. Wyatt. I enjoy your company...but you have a reputation. You gamble and you whore. You sail close to the wind: God forbid it should ever blow you onto the rocks.
- 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."
Sir William Compton
Sir William Compton
Played By: Kristen Holden-Ried
- The Beard: Marries the Duke of Buckingham's daughter.
- Bury Your Gays: One of the first named characters in the series to be killed off.
- Cruel and Unusual Death: One of the first named characters in the show to succumb to the outbreak of sweating sickness. Soon after he is diagnosed, we are treated to a glimpse of medieval medicine.
- Fake Guest Star: Never appears in the opening credits, despite having more of a storyline than Knivert.
- Manly Gay: By all appearances, he is just another of Henry's jousting, hard-drinking, courtiers.
- Secret Relationship: With court composer Thomas Tallis.
- Those Two Guys: With Anthony Knivert.
Sir Anthony Knivert
Sir Anthony Knivert
Played By: Callum Blue
- Advertised Extra: Appears in the opening credits, despite having less of a storyline than Compton.
- Butt-Monkey: He has the unfortunate fate of giving Henry his first jousting injury. Fortunately, Henry takes it in stride. Unfortunately, he demands a rematch, in which he almost kills Knivert (accidentally).
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: disappears with neither trace nor explanation after Season 1.
- Fictional Counterpart: Of Sir Thomas Knyvett, a friend of the real-life Henry, who died at sea.
- Squick: Makes a disgusted face when Henry recites the ingredients of his anti-sweating sickness infusion, and again when he tastes it.
- Those Two Guys: With William Compton.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: Brandon makes it to the end of the series, and Compton dies from the plague, but Knivert just disappears.
The Duke of Norfolk
Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk
Played By: 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
The Earl of Wiltshire
Thomas Boleyn, Earl of Wiltshire and Ormonde
Played By: Nick Dunning
- Ambition Is Evil: The depths to which he'll go to advance his family's standing can be truly staggering.
- Cool Pet: One of his earliest scenes shows him holding a falcon, the Boleyn family crest, on his arm.
- Democracy Is BadKings had no need for Parliament in the old days!
- Dramatically Missing the Point:
- Thrilled when Anne's sweating sickness abates — not because his daughter has survived an illness that has killed thousands, but because she can now return to the business of seducing the King. Anne's expression here suggests she now knows how little her father cares for her as a person.
- In his final episode, he is informed of Anne's impending execution. His response? To ask whether he can keep his earldom. Even Charles Brandon, who had no love for Anne, is outraged.
- Every Man Has His Price: Repeatedly resorts to bribery to get what he wants.
- Good Adultery, Bad Adultery: Believes Henry is justified in sleeping with other women while Anne is pregnant, unless the other woman might threaten the Boleyn family's political interests.
- 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.Charles Brandon: I understand Thomas Boleyn died recently.Eustace Chapuys: Yes...and the only mourners were the ghosts of his children.
- Manipulative Bastard: Appreciates his daughters entirely for their ability to get into the King's bed, and only once thinks to ask whether Anne enjoys being made to do this.
- Men Act, Women Are: Believes Anne's rise is entirely due to the machinations of men, especially himself. She disagrees.Boleyn: Anne, I did not bring you up to have opinions, or to express them, or to quarrel with those closest to the Crown.
Anne: But I am closest to the Crown. I am the King's wife.
Boleyn: And you should remember how you got there!
Anne: I know how I got there. And it was not all you. It was not all you, or Norfolk, or George, or any other man you want to name! It was also me. He fell in love with me. He respected me... and my opinions.
- Tampering with Food and Drink: Pays a cook to poison a pot of soup to be eaten by some bishops who have been getting in his family's way.
- Used To Be A Good Man: A flashback to her childhood Anne has before her execution of her and her brother playing with their father as children would imply he was a nicer man when they were young.
George Boleyn, Viscount Rochford
Played By: Padraic Delaney
- BrotherSister Team: With Anne, although she laments that the ambition he shares with their father makes him less likely to keep her secrets than he used to be.
- 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.
- Like Father, Like Son: Shares his father's motivation to advance the family.
- Pet the Dog: His only redeeming quality is the concern he has for his sister, Anne Boleyn.
- Removing the Rival: Does this on Anne's behalf when Henry begins sleeping with one of her ladies, by warning her that he will falsely accuse her of a jewel theft if she doesn't leave court.
Archbishop Thomas Cranmer
Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury
Played By: Hans Mathieson
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer: He keeps his wife in a box. In all fairness it's how she arrived in England to begin with, and he keeps her in hiding because, as an archbishop, he's not supposed to be married; despite Henry breaking from the Roman Catholic Church, Anglican priests weren't allowed to get married until 1547.
- Cloudcuckoolander: He seems a bit...silly to be such a high ranking cleric.
- 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.
- It's All About Me: He displays this attitude with his wife, and to a lesser extent to Anne Boleyn, who he allows to take the fall to save his own skin.
The Earl of Hertford
Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford
Played By: 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.
- Enemy Mine: With the Duke of Suffolk. They end up collaborating with each other more and more, and neither backstabs the other.
- Evil Chancellor: Played with. Evil without a doubt, but an effective administrator regardless.
- Nouveau Riche: Surrey thinks he's this.
- Pet the Dog: Lets Anne of Cleves down quite gently about Henry's wish to divorce her and assures her she will be well looked after in England.
- Torture Technician: He appears to have taken the unofficial role of torture specialist during Season 4.
Sir Francis Bryan
Sir Francis Bryan
Played By: 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.")
- The Casanova: He has a well-earned reputation for "boarding other mens' boats"
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Disappears after the end of Season 3.
- Cultured Badass: You wouldn't expect someone who's basically a glorified hitman to dress better than most of the Royal Court.
- Dark Is Evil: He seems to always dress in black.
- Eyepatch of Power: Despite his fine clothes and courtly manners, you know he can kick some ass once he shows up with a covered eye.
- Faux Affably Evil: He can go from chatting amiably to threatening to crack open a teenage girl's skull without skipping a beat.
- Karma Houdini: He kicks a lot of dogs during Season 3, and then just disappears. This is an accurate reflection of history, as the real Sir Francis stayed in the king's esteem until he died.
- 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.
Played By: Torrance Coombs
- Beauty Is Bad: He's one of the prettiest men in Henry's employ, but is the worst among them by far.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: He romances the queen by being a comfort in her difficult relationship with Henry. But not only is he incapable of genuine compassion, but he turns on her as soon as their affair is discovered.
- 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.
- Pet the Dog: About his sole redeeming aspect is his willingness to tend to and treat Henry's infected leg ulcer, and his skill in doing so. It's implied this is what causes Henry to have Culpepper's execution changed to a beheading from having him hanged, drawn and quartered.
- The Sociopath: He treats rape and murder like Henry treats his hunting expeditions.
- Stalker with a Crush: How he pursues Queen Katherine. It actually works.
- Your Cheating Heart: Precipitates this with Katherine Howard.
Sir Richard Rich
Sir Richard Rich
Played By: Rod Hallett
- Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: He always knows which way the wind is blowing.
- Dirty Coward: He rats out Thomas More about a conversation they had in confidence, and then refuses to defend Cromwell from false charges of treason when its clear he's on his own.
- 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.
- Yes-Man: To whomever he needs to be to stay on the good side.
Bishop Stephen Gardiner
Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester
Played By: 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.
- Evil Old Folks: One of the older main characters, and also effin' terrifying.
- 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.
- Faux Affably Evil: He seems nice enough, as long as you're not a Lutheran.
- 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.
- The Fundamentalist: He's the most fanatical Catholic the series has to offer, outshining both More and Cromwell in the religious zeal department.
- 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.
- Knight Templar: His persecution of heretics goes so far that he's even got the Queen in his crosshairs.
- Sinister Minister: He's not corrupt like Wolsey was, but his time as Bishop of Winchester is almost entirely occupied with burning people at the stake.
- Straw Hypocrite: As revealed by Lady Hertford in the series finale.
- Torture Technician: He's scarily good at it too.
The Earl of Surrey
Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey
Played By: 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.
- Blood Knight: He relishes combat a little too much.
- Fatal Flaw: Pride. He most likely would have avoided being executed if he didn't think he was just so much better than everyone else around him, including the King himself.
- General Failure: Surrey's actually a fine soldier, but he's way too hot-headed to be put in command of troops. Losing 600 men in one fell swoop should be enough evidence of that.
- 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.
- Jerkass: A walking talking superiority complex, not only an elitist snob, but eventually a pretender to the throne.
- 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.
- Oop North: He sounds the part, which is strange, considering he's supposedly from Norfolk and reigns over Surrey.
- The Resenter: Of everyone at court without noble blood. There aren't many scenes in which he doesn't find an excuse to bring this up.
- 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?
- Slumming It: After being knighted into the Order of the Garter, he celebrates by going into a lower-class tavern in full regalia. To be fair, he seems to enjoy himself a lot more than at the ceremony.
- Small Name, Big Ego: His noble lineage is admittedly quite impressive, but he himself has no real accomplishments to speak of.
- Smug Snake: It's ironic that he holds people like Cromwell in contempt; Cromwell, despite his origins, practically ran the kingdom on his own, while Howard has nothing going for him except who his daddy is.
- 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.
Ladies of the Royal Court
Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford
Played By: Joanne King
- Awful Wedded Life: Possibly the worst. Her Arranged Marriage to George Boleyn begins with her nearly becoming a Runaway Bride within sight of the altar; ends with her falsely accusing him of BrotherSister Incest; and in between includes his invocation of Marital Rape License, her realization that he's been keeping company with men, and their complete mutual hatred.
- Coitus Ensues: Has a random, inexplicable tryst with Thomas Culpeper.
- Expository Hairstyle Change: Her hair is pale blond when she is introduced. Like her character, it becomes progressively darker.
- Out of anger at George Boleyn, she testifies that he and Anne have had incestuous relations.
- Claims she wanted nothing to do with Katherine Howard and Thomas Culpeper's affair.
- Heteronormative Crusader: That George has been cheating on her with men is much more offensive to her than that he has been cheating on her at all.It's disgusting! It's a sin! It's a sin against God! It's a sin against nature! All those who practise it are condemned by the Gospels to live forever in purgatory!
- Hidden Agenda Villain: It's never clear why she facilitates the affair between Katherine Howard and Thomas Culpeper.
- Insult Backfire: She is the first to use the phrase "sweet little fool" to describe Katherine Howard. Thomas Culpeper reappropriates the phrase as a term of endearment.
- Lady-in-Waiting: To Jane Seymour and Katherine Howard.
- Off with Her Head!: Zig-zagged. She nearly misses being executed on account of going mad in the Tower of London, but Henry orders the execution of an insane person for treason to be legalized.
- Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: There are scenes in which the Dublin-born Joanne King's natural Irish accent reveals itself.
- The Peeping Tom: She's supposed to watch for passersby during Katherine Howard's meetings with Thomas Culpeper, but she spends most of her time watching them.
- Psycho Smirk: She gives one to Thomas Cromwell while indicating she's willing to provide him false testimony to condemn George and Anne Boleyn.
- Recruited from the Gutter: After being "utterly abandoned" after George's execution, Jane Seymour asks her to serve as her principal lady-in-waiting.
- Sanity Slippage: Goes mad soon after her arrest for her involvement in Katherine Howard's infidelity.
- Took a Level in Jerkass: Introduced in Season 2 as a woobie. She remains so throughout Season 3, although she becomes something of a gossipy hen. She spends Season 4 as a Manipulative Bitch and exits the series as an Asshole Victim.
The Countess of Hertford
Anne Seymour, Countess of Hertford
Played By: Emma Hamilton
- Awful Wedded Life: While she and Edward are on the same page when it comes their political interests, they have strong contempt for one another in every other respect.
- Don't Make Me Destroy You:
- Threatens the wife and children of a musician who has been arrested for heresy if the musician implicates her and Edward.
- Bishop Gardiner, who is determined to do away with reformists like the Hertfords, tells the Countess he is investigating her for associating with heretics. She calmly informs him that she knows of his embezzlements from the Crown, and he will tear up his warrant unless he wants her to tell the King.
- Hates Being Nicknamed:I will be called a "she-wolf" by no man.
- Lady Macbeth: Encourages Edward to "arrange for some misfortune to befall" the Earl of Surrey after he publicly insults them.
- Making Love in All the Wrong Places: Behind a tapestry with Sir Francis Bryan, with Edward mere yards away.
- Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe: Believes the son she bears in Season 4 is actually Thomas Seymour's son. Edward does not catch on, even though she names the boy Thomas.
- Mercy Kill: Provides her friend, The Heretic Anne Askew, with a sack of gunpowder to place around her neck during her burning at the stake, which will make her death much quicker. It works.
- Nice Hat: Her fabulous pearl-lined atifet (a heart-shaped bonnet).
- Questionable Consent: In between flirting with Thomas Seymour and eventually inviting him into her bed, there is a moment where she appears uncomfortable with his advances and tries to slap him. It is unclear if she is genuinely afraid or if this is a Slap-Slap-Kiss moment.
- Really Gets Around: With Sir Francis and Thomas Seymour.
- Slut-Shaming: Against Katherine Howard, whom she calls "a frivolous and stupid girl."You met her! You saw the look in her eyes. She was never innocent.
- Sympathetic Adulterer: Asserts her right to cheat on Edward on the ground that he shows her no affection, despite her having given him many children.
- The Tease: Edward encourages her to return Surrey's flirtations, as Surrey is in the King's favor. This backfires after she turns down Surrey's offer to become his mistress.
- Truth in Television: The real-life Anne Seymour was known to be highly intelligent, proud, cold, manipulative, snobbish, and ambitious.
The Duchess of Suffolk
Catherine Brandon, Duchess of Suffolk
Played By: Rebekah Wainwright
- Artistic License History: In the show, her maiden name is "Brooke"; in real life, it was "Willoughby."
- The Bus Came Back: The final episode.
- The Conscience: To her husband.
- Dysfunctional Family: Her marriage to Charles breaks down over the course of the series, to the point that they are completely estranged by Season 4.
- Irony: What drives her away isn't her husband's cheating, but his Undying Loyalty to Henry.
- Put on a Bus: She leaves Charles between Seasons 3 and 4.
Elizabeth "Bessie" Blount
Played By: Ruta Gedmintas
- Artistic License History:
- In the show, Bessie's husband is given an earldom and estates as a reward for her pregnancy with the king's child. In real life, she married for the first time three years after the birth of her son.
- In the show, Henry Fitzroy dies as a toddler from the sweating sickness. In real life, he died at age 17, likely from consumption.
- In the show, Bessie leaves court for good after her son's death. In real life, she briefly returned to court as a lady in waiting to Anne of Cleves, but left due to health problems.
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: She disappears from the series entirely after the death of her son.
- Clean, Pretty Childbirth: Her and the newborn Henry Fitzroy.
- Everyone Loves Blondes: One of several of Katherine of Aragon's blond ladies to catch Henry's eye.
- Get Thee to a Nunnery: Says her jealous husband has been threatening to do this. She fears he will renew this threat after her pregnancy is revealed, but he does not.
- Lady-in-Waiting: To Katherine of Aragon.
- Love Confession: Asks Cardinal Wolsey to tell Henry of her love for him. Wolsey ignores her.
- Missing Mom: Henry Fitzroy is removed from her care after receiving his titles, leading to an adorable, tear-filled goodbye between the two.
- The Mistress: To Henry.
- My Secret Pregnancy: Wolsey arranges for Bessie to be "removed to a private place" as soon as she becomes unable to hide her pregnancy.
- Regretful Traitor: Visibly feels guilty about her pregnancy, especially after Katherine pours out her heart to her about her inability to bear the king a living son.
- Screaming Birth
- Widow's Weeds: Upon learning of her son's death.
Played By: Perdita Weeks
- Defiled Forever: While royal mistresses were certainly not uncommon in the French or English courts, Mary's reputation is particularly scandalous as she managed to sleep with two kings.
- Embarrassing Nickname:Anne Boleyn: My sister is called the Great Prostitute by everyone!King Francis I: I call her my English mare, because I ride her so often.
- In real life, Francis also called her his "hackney" and "una grandissima ribalda, infame sopra tutte" (a very great whore, the most infamous of all).
- The Exile: Banished from court after revealing her secret marriage and pregnancy. In real life, Henry was the one who exiled Mary for her secret marriage and Anne simply sided with him. Anne and Mary never saw each other again, save for a small gift of money and a gold cup when Mary pleaded a desperate financial situation.
- Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: Mary is the first of the two Boleyn sisters to catch Henry's eye, but Anne manages to keep it, at least for a while.
- Later reversed. Mary secretly gets married to a man of little standing who adores her, while Anne... well, you know. In this case, being the foolish sibling paid off far more than being the responsible one as Mary was able to survive the fall of her family due to her disownment while her brother and sister were both executed.
- In the Hood: Wears a hooded cloak for her first visit to Henry's bedchamber.
- Marry for Love: To William Stafford, a man of little standing and income.
- The Mistress: To King Francis and Henry.
- Parental Marriage Veto: Thomas Boleyn is most displeased that not only did Mary wed without his consent, she wed someone whom he would have been very unlikely to accept. Also, a sibling marriage veto as Mary required Anne's permission as well.
Played By: Andrea Lowe
- Framing the Guilty Party: To get her out of Anne's service, George Boleyn threatens to accuse her of a jewel theft. She takes the hint.
- Lady-in-Waiting: To Anne Boleyn.
- The Mistress: To Henry.
- Shaking Her Hair Loose: Henry expertly removes some pins from her hair before pressing her down on the bed.
- Toplessness from the Back: She is on her stomach during her first sex scene with Henry.
- Very Loosely Based on a True Story: There is no record of anyone named Eleanor Luke ever existing. Her character is based on a rumor of a "very handsome lady" catching Henry's eye while Anne was pregnant.
Margaret "Madge" Shelton
Played By: Laura Jane Laughlin
- Annoying Laugh: Anne is very annoyed to hear Madge and a couple of her other ladies laughing over Sir Thomas Wyatt's poetry.
- Artistic License History: In the show, Madge is one of the ladies to give evidence against Anne. In real life, she was not.
- Bearer of Bad News: She very nervously tells Anne of Henry's life-threatening injury in a joust.
- Good Adultery, Bad Adultery: Thomas Boleyn convinces Anne that Henry should be permitted to cheat on account of Anne's No Pregger Sex rule, as long as he cheats with someone who does not pose a political threat to her. As Anne's somewhat dimwitted cousin, Madge fits the bill nicely.
- Lady-in-Waiting: To Anne Boleyn.
- The Mistress: To Henry.
- Only Known by Their Nickname: Henry finds it very funny that everyone calls her Madge instead of Margaret.
- Very Loosely Based on a True Story: In real life, according to letters by Eustace Chapuys, Henry had a six-month affair with "Mistress Shelton." This may have been Madge or her sister, Mary Shelton, although some historians believe they were the same person.
- Will They or Won't They?: Many expect her and Henry's groom, Henry Norris, to become engaged.
Played By: Charlotte Salt
- Comforting The Widower: Jane asks Ursula to "be a comfort to His Majesty" if she dies in childbirth. Despite her evident guilt, she does have one more night of sex with Henry before leaving court.
- Diamonds in the Buff: Shown naked except for a necklace given to her by Sir Francis Bryan.
- Hospital Hottie: Spends some time nursing Henry's leg injury.
- Lady-in-Waiting: To Jane Seymour.
- The Mistress: To Sir Francis and Henry.
- The Muse: Sir Francis recites a poem about her after, presumably, they sleep together.
- Public Exposure: Poses nude for a painting commissioned to Hans Holbein by Henry.
- Really Gets Around: With Sir Francis and Henry.
- Sex for Services: The necklace Sir Francis gives her seems to assist her decision to sleep with him.
- Unwanted Spouse: Has absolutely no trouble sleeping with other men despite being engaged to Sir Robert Tavistock.
- The Vamp: Has a sensuous nature that is evident from her very first appearance.
Played By: Catherine Steadman
- Artistic License History: In the show, Joan divulges the details of Katherine's sexual history while being interrogated. In real life, although she was called to testify, two other ladies were the main sources of this information.
- Beleaguered Childhood Friend: Begs Katherine to make her one of her ladies, lest she "persist in [her] wretchedness" otherwise.
- Cannot Keep a Secret: Fills in Lady Rochford on everything that took place in the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk's household, despite promising Katherine that she would not tell anyone.
- Ho Yay: There is a hint that she and Katherine used to engage in some girl-on-girl touching.
- Lady-in-Waiting: To Katherine Howard.
Played By: Anthony Brophy
- Agony of the Feet: He suffers increasingly from gout during Season 4.
- As Long as It Sounds Foreign: Anthony Brophy plays Chapuys with a Spanish accent. Chapuys grew up in the Duchy of Savoy, which covered an area that now includes parts of France, Italy and Switzerland.
- "Ass" in Ambassador: In Season 2, he briefly plots the assassination of Anne Boleyn.
- Big Brother Mentor: To Mary.
- Bus Crash: Dies shortly after leaving the English court and returning to Spain.
- In real life, he relocated to what is now Belgium, living there long enough to set up a college and a grammar school and to act as an adviser to Charles V.
- Cry into Chest: Allows Mary to do this after her argument with Katherine Howard.
- 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.
- Friendship Trinket: Before leaving England for good, he gives Mary a ring that had been given to him by Charles V, who had received it from Mary's mother, Katherine of Aragon. Mary strokes the ring fondly when she receives the news that Chapuys has died.
- Gossipy Hens: Often visits Mary to fill her in on the latest rumors at court.
- The Matchmaker: Proposes Dom Luis of Portugal as a husband for Mary.
- Parental Substitute: To Mary.
- Sick Episode: In the Season 4 episode "You Have My Permission," Chapuys allows Suffolk to speak with him about a military treaty while he is bedridden with gout.
- Time-Passage Beard: Clean-shaven at the beginning of the series, fully bearded by the end.
- Voiceover Letter: Writes one to Charles V in the opening scene of Season 4.
- History remembers Chapuys as a prolific and talented letter-writer, whose correspondence offers detailed if unreliable insight into the machinations of the English court.
King Francis I
Francis I of France
Played By: Emmanuel Lecomte
- "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.
- Everyone Has Standards: He refuses a betrothal of Elizabeth to his youngest son as she is considered a bastard by the pope.
- Good Shepherd: Dresses as one on a visit to Pope Paul III, much to his delight.
- He Who Must Not Be Seen: For the last two seasons, he communicates with Henry entirely through letters and intermediaries.
- Your Cheating Heart: His wife is accustomed to his philandering.
Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor
Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor
Played By: Sebastian Armesto
- Adaptational Attractiveness: Actor Sebastian Armesto has a fairly prominent chin, but not nearly to Charles V's Habsburgian proportions.
- 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.
- MayDecember Romance: Betrothed to Mary when he is 25 and she is six. He later jilts her for Isabella of Portugal.
Pope Paul III
Pope Paul III
Played By: 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.
- 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?"
- This Means War!: Since nothing else worked to get Henry to drop his efforts to break with Rome, the Pope decides invading England is the only option. He asks the visibly uncomfortable king of France to lead the charge.
Charles de Marillac
Charles de Marillac
Played By: 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.
- The Matchmaker: Proposes the Duke of Orléans as a husband for Mary.