Wolf Hall – Episode 3 Review

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (book cover)

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (book cover)

The first part of this week’s Wolf Hall episode was very strange. It started with Cromwell telling Katherine of Aragon that she has to move to the Moors. Katherine complains that Henry left without saying goodbye and about trying to make himself head of the church. The strange part was that Princess Mary was with her and she also looked older than I’ve read and expected her to be. As most know, Mary was not allowed to see her mother, and royal children didn’t stay with their mothers anyway. It was a glaring error right at the start that, despite being fiction, was hard to overlook.

Katherine of Aragon and Princess Mary

Katherine of Aragon and Princess Mary

In this series, Anne Boleyn makes a very good point. She says “people should say whatever will keep them alive”. Back then, there seemed to be two kinds of people. People devoted to their religion and people who will say whatever pleases people. She also laughs at the Seymour family, so casually talking to Cromwell about it, and the irony won’t be lost on the audience when she says that “no one will want to marry her (Jane) now”.

Henry VIII’s great matter has advanced greatly since the last episode. More is torturing and killing more heretics and there is talk of Henry being head of the church. However, I do think Wolf Hall’s portrayal of Thomas More is unjust. Yes, he did have blood on his hands, but most did back then. It just seems like Mantel has put her modern views onto a 16th century person. She has made Cromwell an angel and More the devil. Most of More’s good qualities (family man, feminist) have been put onto Cromwell’s character, just leaving the bad parts of More. Cromwell might have been a family man, we don’t know one way or the other, but we do know More was.

Another part I didn’t like was our first proper look at George and Jane Boleyn. George says he ‘wishes Jane had a pre-contract… but no chance of that’, as he doesn’t want to be married to her. This is just after Cromwell finds out about the possible pre-contract between Anne and Henry Percy, but I think it was unnecessary to show the couple like that. Recent research and biographies on George and Jane have shown that they probably had a happy marriage. He was the Queen’s brother after all, surely if they had an unhappy one and fought so often there would be gossip? The court was never really private. Jane was also close to the Boleyns, but alas this is not shown in this series either.

George Boleyn threatening his wife, Jane

George Boleyn threatening his wife, Jane

We finally see Anne Boleyn’s coronation and her pregnancy. We also see her resting all her hopes on the baby, saying she is happy because of it and she is valued because of it. Anne in this is a lot more likeable than I thought she would be. We finally see Anne and Cromwell getting along and, despite some cringeworthy parts, she does have a charm about her.

All in all, this series was a lot faster paced than the last two. This is probably because we’re seeing more of Anne and Henry. Unfortunately, the glaring inaccuracies are starting to show and are hard to ignore as someone who knows the story. I couldn’t forget what I already knew and kept reminding myself that it is fiction, yet the Jane and George portrayal was unforgivable and would, like others, make some believe it. Points for faster pacing but lost one for Jane and George (fiction but was added unnecessarily and didn’t seem to fit or be important either). But, again, as fiction, the series is getting more exciting.

Rating: 4/5

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