We've Just Been Given A First Look At The BBC's New Wolf Hall Series
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We’ve Just Been Given A First Look At The BBC’s New Wolf Hall Series

The latest historical drama to have on your radar

While it may have first hit screens in 2015 – and bookstores in 2009 – Wolf Hall continues to be one of the BBC’s best-loved historical dramas on the platform. Boasting a stellar cast, stunning period costumes and high-stakes drama courtesy of author Hilary Mantel, the show was something of a short-lived wonder – until now. Wolf Hall: The Mirror and the Light is set to bring back much of the main cast of the original show, nine years later, and bring the BBC show to its long-awaited finale. And if you’re not sure if you can picture it, you don’t have to; the BBC has just dropped a fresh batch of first look images to get you in the spirit.

Wolf Hall: The Mirror and the Light

The BBC Releases First Look Images For Wolf Hall: The Mirror and the Light

Excited for Wolf Hall: The Mirror and the Light? Us too. Luckily for us, it doesn’t look like there’s too much longer to wait, as the team behind the show has just released first look images featuring our favourite problematic court in action. You can see all the stills below:

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Mark Rylance as Thomas Cromwell in the BBC's Wolf Hall

Mark Rylance as Thomas Cromwell

Damian Lewis as King Henry VIII in the BBC's Wolf Hall

Damian Lewis as King Henry VIII

Women in period Tudor costumes

Kate Phillips as Jane Seymour

Lilit Lesser as Princess Mary in Wolf Hall

Lilit Lesser as Princess Mary

Man dressed as Cardinal in candle-lit room

Jonathan Pryce as Cardinal Wolsey

Harriet Walter as Lady Margaret Pole

Harriet Walter as Lady Margaret Pole

Harry Melling as Thomas Wriothesley in Wolf Hall

Harry Melling as Thomas Wriothesley

Thomas Brodie-Sangster as Rafe Sadler in Wolf Hall

Thomas Brodie-Sangster as Rafe Sadler

Timothy Spall as the Duke of Norfolk and Alex Jennings as Stephen Gardiner in Wolf Hall

Timothy Spall as the Duke of Norfolk and Alex Jennings as Stephen Gardiner

Charlie Rowe as Gregory Cromwell

Charlie Rowe as Gregory Cromwell

Recap: The BBC’s 2015 Series Wolf Hall

Before Wolf Hall: The Mirror and the Light, there was simply Wolf Hall. Back in 2015, the BBC released a six-part series adapted from the first two novels of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall series, titled Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies. The fictionalised biography documented the rapid rise of Thomas Cromwell in the English court of King Henry VIII, with the first three episodes following the first book and the last three episodes following the second.

For those who have become (understandably) unfamiliar with the plot of series one of Wolf Hall in the nine years since its release, don’t fret – we’ve detailed a quick recap below.

*spoilers ahead*

Wolf Hall opens with the downfall of Cardinal Wolsey, the powerful Lord Chancellor to King Henry VIII. Wolsey has failed in his mission to secure an annulment of the King’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon, and this perceived failure has made him an enemy of both the Queen and the King’s mistress, Anne Boleyn.

Enter Thomas Cromwell, Wolsey’s former secretary, who sets out to restore the Cardinal to the King’s good graces. Cromwell is a shrewd political operator, secretly meeting with Protestant reformers while publicly maintaining a facade of loyalty to the Catholic Church. However, Cromwell’s efforts to help Wolsey are complicated by Thomas More, a staunch Catholic ally of the King. More sees Cromwell as a heretic and the two men become embroiled in a bitter rivalry.

As Wolsey is stripped of his position and exiled, Cromwell takes up his cause at court. He navigates the treacherous politics, aligning his interests with the King’s desire to annul his marriage and marry Anne Boleyn. Cromwell proves himself invaluable to the king, helping to orchestrate the break from the Catholic Church and the dissolution of the monasteries

Eventually, however, the King becomes infatuated with his next love interest: Jane Seymour. The series culminates in Anne Boleyn’s downfall and execution, with Cromwell, now the master of Henry’s court, playing a key role in her undoing.

What Is Wolf Hall: The Mirror and the Light About?

Wolf Hall: The Mirror and the Light picks up right where the first series left off, as the BBC summarises:

‘May, 1536. Anne Boleyn, Henry’s second wife, is dead. As the axe drops, Thomas Cromwell emerges from the bloodbath to continue his climb to power and wealth, while his formidable master, Henry, settles to short-lived happiness with his third queen, Jane Seymour.

‘Cromwell, a man with only his wits to rely on, has no great family to back him, and no private army. Navigating the moral complexities that accompany the exercise of power in this brutal and bloody time, Cromwell is caught between his desire to do what is right and his instinct to survive. But in the wake of Henry VIII having executed his queen, no one is safe.

‘Despite rebellion at home, traitors plotting abroad and the threat of invasion testing Henry’s regime to breaking point, Cromwell’s robust imagination sees a new country in the mirror of the future. All of England lies at his feet, ripe for innovation and religious reform. But as fortune’s wheel turns, Cromwell’s enemies are gathering in the shadows.

‘The inevitable question remains: how long can anyone survive under Henry’s cruel and capricious gaze?’

Timothy Spall as the Duke of Norfolk and Alex Jennings as Stephen Gardiner in Wolf Hall

Timothy Spall as the Duke of Norfolk and Alex Jennings as Stephen Gardiner in Wolf Hall: The Mirror and the Light (c) BBC/Nick Briggs

Why Was There Such A Big Gap Between The First & Second Series?

Fans of Wolf Hall have eagerly been awaiting the return of the series for several years now, but the BBC refrained from making another series on its own without material from author Hilary Mantel. The Mirror and the Light was only published in 2020, and was Mantel’s first novel in eight years (Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies were released in 2009 and 2012 respectively). The novel was released to critical acclaim, paving the way for another TV instalment.

This instalment was announced back in November 2023, with the BBC and MASTERPIECE PBS giving the greenlight on a new series and bringing back several of the original cast members from the first series.

Is Wolf Hall Based On A True Story?

Being a historical drama, much of what takes place in Wolf Hall and Wolf Hall: The Mirror and the Light is based on real events and features real people. Based on the Wolf Hall novels by Hilary Mantel, the show is set between 1500 and 1540 and follows the rise and fall of English statesman Thomas Cromwell in the court of King Henry VIII.

Main plot points, such as the separation of the Church, the marriage of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn and (spoiler alert) the eventual execution of Thomas Cromwell, are all historical and real – but Mantel has admitted that ‘facts are not truth’ in historical fiction, and that her books (and, by association, the BBC adaptation) are prone to dramatization for entertainment’s sake.

Harriet Walter as Lady Margaret Pole

Timothy Spall as the Duke of Norfolk and Alex Jennings as Stephen Gardiner in Wolf Hall: The Mirror and the Light (c) BBC/Nick Briggs in Wolf Hall (c) BBC/Nick Briggs

Who’s In It?

Fans of the original Wolf Hall series will be happy to know that several members of the original cast will be returning for the second instalment, including Mark Rylance, Damian Lewis, Jonathan Pryce, Kate Phillips and Lilit Lesser.

An impressive roster of new names will also be joining the project, including Timothy Spall, Harry Melling and Succession alum Harriet Walter. You can see the full cast list below:

  • Mark Rylance as Thomas Cromwell
  • Damian Lewis as Henry VIII
  • Lilit Lesser as Princess Mary
  • Jonathan Pryce as Cardinal Wolsey
  • Thomas Brodie-Sangster as Rafe Sadler
  • Timothy Spall as Duke of Norfolk
  • Harriet Walter as Lady Margaret Pole
  • Karim Kadjar as Eustache Chapuys
  • Charlie Rowe as Gregory Cromwell
  • Lydia Leonard as Jane Rochford
  • Harry Melling as Thomas Wriothesley
  • Kate Phillips as Jane Seymour

Is There A Trailer?

Not yet, but watch this space for updates.

Release Date

An official release date is yet to be announced, but the six-part series is set to air on BBC One and BBC iPlayer in the UK.

WATCH

While you wait, you can catch up on series one of Wolf Hall – watch it on BBC iPlayer in the UK and on the PBS MASTERPIECE Prime Video Channel in the US. bbc.co.uk

Images courtesy of the BBC (c) Nick Briggs