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King Henry VIII has fallen passionately in love with Anne Boleyn and on June 22, 1527, the king bluntly informed his wife, Queen Katherine, that they must separate. The king has sent off to Rome asking the pope for an annulment. Thus begins the cause celebre that becomes known as “the king’s great matter.” Polarizing opinions among the elite has led to a vicious struggle for power and three distinct factions emerge: Cardinal Wolsey (Catholic Church), the Boleyns and the queen. Someone will even be desperate enough to murder…
Buckingham’s Surveyor: The Surveyor managed Buckingham’s lands but had been fired by Buckingham because of complaints against him from tenants. He offered testimony against Buckingham at the trial that led to Buckingham’s beheading for treason.
Elizabeth Holland: Mistress of Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk and maid-of-honor to his niece, Anne Boleyn. She is the daughter of the Duke’s secretary, and worked for eight years as a laundress in the household of Norfolk’s wife, Elizabeth Howard, Duchess of Norfolk.
Eustace Chapuys, Spanish Ambassador: A graduate of the University of Turin, a doctor in Canonical right and an ex-Ecclesiastic judge of Geneva, Ambassador Chapuys was sent to England to assume the post from Ambassador Mendoza. His arrival coincided with the new theological debate over the King’s Great Matter. Chapuys is one of Queen Katherine’s closest allies.
George Boleyn, Viscount of Rochford: Son of Courtier Sir Thomas Boleyn and his wife, Lady Elizabeth Howard (sister of Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk) and brother to Mary and Anne Boleyn. He is married to Jane, Lady Rochford. Like his father, it is understood that George will have a career as a courtier, politician and diplomat. He is well educated, speaks fluent French, some Italian and Latin. He has a gift for writing poetry, and is a talented linguist and translator. In matters of religion Anne and George are very much a team. His commitment to religious reform has earned him many enemies who hold true to the Catholic faith. He is often criticized for being too proud, and has a reputation as a womanizer.
Hans Holbein, the Younger: Son of Hans Holbein the Elder, one of the greatest portrait artists of the time. Born in Germany, he traveled to England for the first time in 1526. Noted for his ability to catch the personality of his subject, Holbein becomes the Court’s portrait artist.
Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey: Lord of the court, son of Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk, and son-in-law of the recently beheaded Duke of Buckingham. Together with Thomas Wyatt, known as the “Fathers of the English Sonnet.” He is descended from kings on both sides of his family tree and was reared at Windsor Castle with Henry VIII‘s illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy. He and Fitzroy remain close friends. He became Earl of Surrey in 1524 when his grandfather died and his father became Duke of Norfolk.
Henry Norris, Groom of the Stool: came to Court during his youth, and became a close friend of King Henry VIII. He has been granted many offices by the King and in 1526 took over the post of Groom of the Stool. In this position, he is not only the King’s confidant, but also perhaps the closest friend the King has. He is also in charge of the gentlemen of the King’s Privy Chamber. Discreet and levelheaded, he does his best to strike a balance between opposing interests.
Lady Elizabeth Howard, Duchess of Norfolk: The eldest daughter of Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham and the wife of Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk. She is of royal lineage as she is a direct descendant of Edward III of England. Elizabeth first came to court in the train of Katherine of Aragon in 1509, and soon became her devoted friend for life. Her marriage is an unhappy one. Her husband has openly taken Beth Holland, a prior servant in the Howard home, as a mistress.
Lady Jane Boleyn, Viscountess Rochford: daughter of Henry Parker, 10th Baron Morley. Her family is wealthy, well-connected, and politically active. She was sent to Court in her early teens, where she joined the household of Queen Katherine. She is married to George Boleyn and sister-in-law of Anne and Mary.
Lady Mary Boleyn: Elder sister of Anne and George, and former mistress of Henry VIII. It is not known when this relationship started, or ended. However, it was certainly over by 1526 when the King’s eyes turned to another, Mary’s sister Anne. Though she is generally viewed as the prettier of the sister’s, she has none of the intellect and wit attributed to George and Anne.
Margaret Tudor, Queen of Scotland: Older sister to Princess Mary and King Henry. She was married to James IV, King of Scots. In 1513, James invaded England to honor his commitment of alliance with France, only to meet death at the Battle of Flodden. Margaret was named as regent for the infant king, James V, for as long as she remained a widow. She married Archibald Douglas, 6th Earl of Angus, in secret, and when the marriage was discovered, she lost custody of her two young sons. Margaret fled to England. After spending a year as her brother’s guest, she discovers that her husband is living with a former lover, on her money. She hints at divorce. Henry, a man of conservative and orthodox belief, was opposed to divorce and lectures her at length on morality.
Maria de Salinas: Referred to by Queen Katherine as “My Other Self,” Salinas traveled with Katherine from Spain, and continues to be a close and loyal friend.
Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester: Formerly Cardinal Wolsey’s secretary now assigned to King Henry VIII. He studied at Cambridge, where he greatly distinguished himself in the classics, especially in Greek. He afterwards devoted himself to the canon and civil law, in which subjects he attained so great a proficiency that no one could dispute his pre-eminence. He received the degree of doctor of civil law in 1520 and of canon law in the following year.
Sir Thomas Boleyn, Earl of Wiltshire and Ormande: Diplomat and politician. Married to the second daughter of the Duke of Norfolk, he is brother-in-law to Thomas Howard, and father to Anne Boleyn. He was an excellent jouster, and has a knack for languages. He acted as Henry VIII’s ambassador to France from 1519 to 1520. His position was instrumental in securing a lady-in-waiting position for each of his daughters, Mary and Anne.
Thomas Wyatt: Studied at Cambridge, and credited with the introduction of the sonnet to the English language. He has acted as the King’s royal ambassador on several occasions. He has just returned from Rome where he was sent to attempt to get the Pope to grant the king an annulment, and a dispensation to marry Anne. It is rumored that he had an affair with Anne Boleyn prior to her introduction to the king.