The prospect of Wolf Hall could be a little daunting, with dozens of characters (often the Duke of something or one of the Thomases, or both) milling around and betraying each other. Just keeping track of who’s who and what’s going on could be enough for you to regret dozing off in school.
But never fear – you can put down the A-level textbook, step away from Wikipedia and throw aside that Horrible Histories video as we’ve gone through and picked out the main historical figures you should be looking out for in the series (not everyone, mind you – there are millions of them). So step back into the past, and meet the court of Henry VIII…
Thomas Cromwell (Mark Rylance)
The Putney blacksmith’s son has become a successful lawyer and aide to Cardinal Wolsey, but when his patron is ousted, he carefully navigates his way back into favour and becomes the King’s right-hand man. But is the relationship between the two men as strong as it seems?
Henry VIII (Damian Lewis)
Desperate for a male heir, Henry charges first Cardinal Wolsey, and then Thomas Cromwell, with securing his divorce from Katherine of Aragon, allowing him to marry Anne Boleyn. Capricious and unpredictable, Henry’s subjects fear as much as love him – and even Cromwell isn’t safe in his inner circle as Henry turns his attentions away from Anne.
Anne Boleyn (Claire Foy)
Anne strikes an uneasy alliance with Cromwell, procuring a position for him at Court. But when she, too, fails to produce a son, will their pact hold?
Jane Rochford (Jessica Raine)
Trapped in an unhappy marriage to George Boleyn, brother of Anne, Jane is pressganged into becoming a lady-in-waiting, and nurtures her bitterness – but her intimacy with the Queen grants her certain opportunities.
Jane Seymour (Kate Phillips)
King Henry’s future wife (and mother to Edward VI) was generally known as a quiet young thing of no importance – but as Henry loses interest in Anne, her future begins to look a little different…
`George Boleyn (Edward Holcroft)
Anne’s brother is unhappily married to Jane Rochford (see above) and is a bitter enemy to Cromwell – but the blacksmith’s son will have his revenge for all George’s actions.
Francis Weston (Jacob Fortune-Lloyd)
A Gentleman of the Privy Chamber and friend of the King, Weston had close access to the royal household – but his close relationship with Anne could be his undoing, especially when his extensive debts come to light…
Harry Norris (Luke Roberts)
A close friend of the King’s since childhood, Norris is Groom of the Stool and a supporter of Anne Boleyn’s – though he has no love for Cromwell.
William Brereton (Alastair McKenzie)
Another of the King’s inner circle, the sometimes violent Brereton is a friend to Henry and Anne – but an adversary to Cromwell.
Mark Smeaton (Max Fowler)
A musician formerly in the household of Cardinal Wolsey, Smeaton now works for Anne Boleyn – and his flippancy over the Cardinal’s downfall and overfamiliarity with Anne makes him an easy enemy in Cromwell.
Frances Bryan (Felix Scott)
Bryan is Chief Gentleman of the Privy chamber and a close friend of the King’s as well as a relation to both Anne Boleyn and Jane Seymour. But the slippery Bryan has survived at Henry’s right hand for a reason, and not even his half cousin Anne can count on his loyalty when the chips are down.
Duke of Norfolk (Bernard Hill)
Anne Boleyn’s uncle and Britain’s premiere nobleman, Norfolk is hungry for power – and has no love for Cromwell. But he’s willing to deal with him if the right situation arises…
Richard Cromwell (Joss Porter)
A nephew to Cromwell and a skilled soldier, who took his uncle’s name when taken into Cromwell’s household as a son. Now one of Cromwell’s trusted lieutenants alongside Rafe, and some much-needed muscle for the family.
Rafe Sadler (Thomas Brodie-Sangster)
A ward to Cromwell and now his secretary, Sadler is determined to prove himself to his adopted father.
Gregory Cromwell (Tom Holland)
Cromwell’s eldest son and friend to Rafe, currently studying at the best schools to follow in his father’s footsteps and live up to his expectations – no matter the danger.
Master Treasurer Fitzwilliam (James Larkin)
A wily ally to Cromwell and fellow member of the Privy Council, Fitzwilliam has his eye on the future – and his own interests.
Thomas Cranmer (Will Keen)
Originally Anne Boleyn’s chaplain and now the Archbishop of Canterbury, Cranmer works with his friend Thomas Cromwell to secure the King’s divorce, encouraging Anne to become a Protestant so Henry would follow. But he’ll find his loyalties tested as Anne falls out of favour…
Lord Chancellor Thomas Audley (Tim Steed)
Audley takes over from Thomas More as Lord Chancellor, later heading up More’s trial for treason and working with Cromwell on a number of matters.
Duke of Suffolk (Richard Dillane)
Married to the King’s sister, The Duke of Suffolk (aka Charles Brandon) is a close friend to the King, who supports his break from the Catholic church.
Sir William Kingston (Paul Clayton)
Sir William is the Constable of the Tower of London, and throughout his career has been in charge of many high-profile prisoners – though never a Queen before…
Thomas Wriothesley (Joel MacCormack)
Wriothesley, known as “Call-me-Risley” to Cromwell and his family, was originally a spy for Cromwell’s enemy Stephen Gardiner – but now is loyal to the blacksmith’s son.
Richard Rich (Bryan Dick)
Rich is solicitor general and is known by Thomas More from when he was a boy – unfortunately for More, this experience left no love lost between the two men and Rich assists Cromwell in charging More with treason, as well as other schemes.