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Actor Bio

Henry was never intended for the throne of England. However, the death of his older brother Arthur at the age of 15 and his taking of his dead brother's bride, propelled the young prince into the limelight and laid the foundations for one of the most spectacular reigns in English history. The young Henry VIII was an artist, musician, theologian and sportsman — the perfect Renaissance prince — but the failure of his first wife Katherine of Aragon to produce a male heir brought out his darker side. Henry could be cruel and capricious, using arbitrary execution as an instrument of Royal policy. In his bid to produce an heir, he would dismantle the established church in England, loot its posessions, and set himself up as an absolute monarch. By the time of his death, his desire to maintain his own magnificent dynasty had seen him marry six times, deplete the nation's coffers, and cut a swath through the English nobility. Yet a new age had been born in the fires of change and through the years had transformed a Renaissance prince into a sickly, overweight tyrant, his rule marked a sea-change in the fortunes of England.

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Actor Bio

Charles Brandon was the third son of Sir William Brandon who, as Henry VII's standard bearer, had been killed by Richard III in person at the Battle of Bosworth Field. He was brought up at the court of Henry VII and became a favourite of Henry VIII. He held several posts in the royal household and distinguished himself in the French campaign of 1513. In 1515 he privately married Mary Tudor, Louis XII's (king of France) widow and Henry VIII's sister, to avoid the political difficulties surrounding the marriage — Henry was keen to acquire the gold plate and jewels which Louis had promised Mary before his death and he made it clear he would only sanction Suffolk's marriage to her if he did indeed get them. Wolsey brokered a deal, however and the couple were able to have a public wedding some months later. Suffolk supported Henry's divorce from Katherine of Aragon, in direct opposition to Wolsey, and after the latter's disgrace, his influence increased rapidly to the point where he acted as High Steward at the coronation of Anne Boleyn. He died in 1545, a year after commanding an English army invading France. Through his daughter by Mary, Frances, he was grandfather to Lady Jane Grey who would reign for nine days in 1553.

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Actor Bio

Thomas Cromwell was not of noble descent, but, having studied law and been employed by Cardinal Wolsey, he became a member of the English Parliament in 1523. Just nine years later, having gained the King's confidence, he was Henry VIII's chief minister. Under his leadership of Parliament the English Reformation proceeded apace and acts were passed which freed Henry from the control of Rome, establishing him as head of the English church and enabling him to divorce his first wife, Katherine of Aragon. Cromwell also presided over the dissolution of the monasteries, and in 1540 he was created Earl of Essex. He had supported Henry in disposing of Anne Boleyn and replacing her with Jane Seymour, his son's wife's sister. However, after her death, his advice to Henry to marry Anne of Cleves, a disastrous alliance, gave his political enemies (most notably Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk) the ammunition they needed to remove him from office. He was arrested, imprisoned and executed privately at the Tower of London in 1540 after which his head was boiled and set upon a spike on London Bridge.

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Actor Bio

Jane's motto may have been "Bound to obey and serve," but Henry's third wife wasn't afraid to speak her mind. She frequently challenged him on issues—from his relationship with estranged daughter Mary to his punishment of the rebels in the North—but always kept her head. Perhaps it was because she delivered the male heir King Henry desperately sought. But their domestic bliss was short lived—Queen Jane died from complications soon after the birth of Prince Edward.

Actor Bio

Sir Francis Bryan was a man of many talents and few morals. A powerful member of the King's inner circle, the one-eyed poet/diplomat/soldier's fortunes rose as others fell from grace. He was instrumental in the downfall of his cousin Anne Boleyn, onetime ally Thomas Cromwell and bitter rival Cardinal Wolsey. He was also something of a royal recruiter, lining up women for the King's many affairs.

Actor Bio

A charismatic lawyer and gifted speaker, Robert Aske led the Pilgrimage of Grace, an uprising of approximately 10,000 rebels in Northern England angered by King Henry's economic, political and social policies. With promises of negotiations and a pardon for the insurgents, the King lured the rebel leader to the palace. Once there, Aske and many of his conspirators were arrested, tried for treason and put to death as a warning to others.

Actor Bio

There was no love at first sight for Henry and his fourth wife Anne of Cleves, a German who barely spoke English but loved to drink and gamble. The King found her unattractive, claimed he was unable to consummate the marriage and asked for an annulment. In return, Anne was given land, a yearly income and a position of power at Court. She lived happily ever after as a beloved former Queen of England.

Actor Bio

A fierce critic of King Henry 8 and a sworn enemy of the Protestants, Von Waldburg was a natural choice to lead Pope Paul III's Inquisition against the English Reformation. Strongly religious and passionately anti-Protestant, the Cardinal was also an avid art collector and patron of the arts.