- [bell tolls] - [bird cackles] [tense music] FEMALE NARRATOR: She was our most infamous Queen.
The second wife of Henry VIII.
Tried on his orders for crimes of adultery and treason.
Anne Boleyn was led from her rooms at the Tower of London to her death by an executioner's sword.
[heavy door clangs open] [tense, dramatic music] This Tudor saga is one of the most familiar tales in English history.
But to really understand Anne's rise and fall, we need to know more about those who helped shape her.
Her tight-knit, cunning, and power-hungry family.
The Boleyns are one of the great stories in British history.
It is an extraordinary epic of hubris and pain, the good and the bad kind of ambition.
[dramatic swell] NARRATOR: Every member of the family had a part to play.
Thomas Boleyn, the ambitious patriarch... George, the fearless son... His sisters - Mary, the reluctant mistress... Anne, the calculating courtier... And their brutal uncle, Thomas Howard.
The Tudor public had always been used to stories of tragic falls, the stories of the falls of kings and princes.
But even they might not have imagined a fall as graphic as the fall of the Boleyn family.
NARRATOR: Based on rare original letters and documents, the Boleyns will tell this story from their own perspectives.
The court could produce no proof of my incestuous guilt, other than I had spent hours in the presence of my own sister.
ANNE: I will not say your sentence is unjust.
My savior has taught me how to die... and he will strengthen my resolve.
NARRATOR: The family played a dangerous game and paid the ultimate price.
But they left a remarkable legacy, changing the course of British history and taking their name from obscurity to the apex of power.
[dramatic music] [birds chirping] NARRATOR: In 1508, the first Tudor King, Henry VII, is on the throne.
Anne Boleyn and her siblings George and Mary are growing up in wealth and privilege.
Watched over by their mother Elizabeth.
Anne and George are thick as thieves.
They have the same temperament, they have the same personality, they are vibrant children, they're precocious.
They really do take after their father.
NARRATOR: Thomas Boleyn is a career man who has high hopes for his children.
Thomas Boleyn is highly educated.
He speaks French fluently.
He is also someone who reads and and understands Latin, and he's interested in intellectual matters.
[speaking French] Thomas Boleyn is a third generation gentleman.
His grandfather really came from nothing.
Very much, if you like, nouveau in that respect.
NARRATOR: Thomas Boleyn's grandfather Geoffrey had climbed the greasy pole of 15th-century society all the way from a lowly apprentice hatter to Lord Mayor of London.
His son William made a good marriage and acquired further wealth and lands.
But Thomas wanted more.
He wanted to become a powerful player at the King's court.
LAUREN MACKAY: Thomas Boleyn inherits this Boleyn legacy.
He is determined to improve as well upon his own generation and pass down to his children.
He's ambitious for his family.
What's the point of life if not to rise above your standing?
NARRATOR: But when he started his political career in the 1490s he had a problem.... clearly mapped out in one of the most influential books of the day.
[dramatic music] The go-to handbook if you were a young hopeful who wanted to become a courtier was Baldassare Castiglione's The Courtier, Il Cortegiano.
This is a book that had been printed and translated across Europe.
It's hugely popular.
And it sets out rules and expectations of what a courtier should be like.
THOMAS BOLEYN: The perfect courtier should be nobly born... For nobleness of birth is like a clear lamp that shows forth and brings into light, makes visible good and bad, and inflames and provokes virtue.
[bird caws] NARRATOR: Thomas understood that success at the Royal Court was much easier for those of noble birth.
Yet the Boleyn family at this time belonged to the lower rank of gentry.
And class was everything in Tudor society.
Numerous gentry families vied with the Boleyns for positions of influence, such as the Herberts, the Dudleys, and the Parrs.
But noble dynasties of Dukes and Earls were firmly above them in the pecking order.
The answer for Thomas Boleyn was to align his family with someone of noble birth who could vastly increase his chances of career success.
And that's why in around 1495, he made the smart strategic decision to marry Elizabeth Howard.
[dramatic music] SUSAN DORAN: So what did they bring each other in this marriage?
Well, for the Boleyns, it really did establish the gentry status.
What about the Howards after all?
They came from this prestigious, ancient lineage.
What were they getting out of it?
Well, the most important thing they were getting out of it was wealth.
The Boleyns were very wealthy.
So it was really a match that was very advantageous to both of them.
NARRATOR: But it was not a match Thomas' new wife had much say in.
Like all Tudor women, she was simply a pawn traded by the men around her.
Marriage was a contract, and to seal the deal, Elizabeth's wedding night had to be played out in public, surrounded by members of both families.
For us, looking back, there is a potentially quite grotesque element to the consummation ceremony.
These consummation ceremonies are alien to us because they are a public celebration around an inherently intimate act between two people.
[knocking on door] And these ceremonies can be very awkward.
MAN #1: Get on with it!
MAN #2: Come on, lad!
This was a connection which was going to benefit Thomas greatly.
The Howards are such a powerful and influential family.
They would provide those all-important connections.
NARRATOR: From that point, Thomas Boleyn knew his future would be entwined with that of his new brother-in-law, Thomas Howard.
GARETH RUSSELL; He is one of the highest ranking peers in England, he comes from a lot of money.
He is related to anybody who matters and quite a few who don't.
He has been described as one of the most unpleasant men in the 16th century, which is quite the horse race to win.
ELIZABETH NORTON: Thomas Boleyn of course knew that by marrying a Howard he could expect preferment at court, he could expect Elizabeth's brother maybe to speak up for him, to have a word in the King's ear, to maybe help get that role at court that he wanted.
[bird caws] NARRATOR: By the early 1500s, as the marriage progresses and three children are born, Thomas Boleyn is happy to ride on the Howard family's coat tails, waiting for an opportunity.
[birds chirping] And he gets one in around 1501 when he begins to appear on the fringes of Henry VII's court.
It's probably easiest to think about the court like a concentric, kind of spiral of circles of influence and at the middle of it is of course, the King, like the spider at the center of its net.
NARRATOR: Thomas Boleyn is now in competition with over a thousand fellow courtiers.
Those with titles and status are able to jump ahead.
The rest are involved in a scramble for the top, using every ounce of ingenuity and cunning to advance.
Thomas will need to get past powerful and dangerous men like the Earl of Oxford and Earl of Shrewsbury who surround the King.
There is a very, very strong sense that if you want to climb to that center, you have to climb over other bodies.
SUSAN DORAN: Almost certainly because of the influence of the Howards, Thomas Boleyn becomes an esquire of the body, one of the six esquires that attended on the King for personal service.
NARRATOR: Exactly what Thomas' new job entails is set out in an extraordinary document that dates from the time of Henry VII's father-in-law, Edward IV.
These records are the earliest attempt to set out how the royal court functions, and they describe hundreds of jobs - including Thomas'.
THOMAS BOLEYN: The duties of an Esquire of the Body involve many secrets.
We must watch over the King in his chamber, day or night, bring soup or porridge for his sustenance, dress and undress him and ensure no other man touches the King's person.
Don't let the King's soup get cold, that's most important!
It's not a fantastic position, it's merely a stepping stone.
The most important thing is, he's got his foot in the door.
Now all he needs to do is make it through.
NARRATOR: Once inside the court, with so many people jockeying for favor, making the right alliances is critical.
GREG WALKER: Thomas Boleyn is very dependent on the extraordinarily volatile personality of Thomas Howard.
Thomas Howard is still technically senior to Thomas Boleyn.
They're both climbing, they're both ambitious, they're both trying to build their own reputations.
Thomas Howard is building his as a soldier, he's a good military commander.
LAUREN MACKAY: He's not well liked at court.
All that matters to Thomas Howard is are you noble or not?
What's your blood, what's your lineage?
He's also about as diplomatic as a bag of bricks.
If Howard is doing well, Boleyn does well.
But the moment Howard gets into trouble his whole hierarchy of patronage is vulnerable as well.
So Thomas Boleyn at this period has to have a second option.
- [wind blows] - [bell tolls] NARRATOR: That second option is the King's Chaplain.
Thomas Wolsey, possibly is the son of a butcher, a man who really has unrivaled abilities.
He's far more intelligent than the other two Thomases.
[inaudible] Wolsey is already beginning what's going to be a meteoric rise to power and influence.
NARRATOR: Thomas Boleyn is keeping a close watch on Howard and Wolsey, but he's also making clever connections of his own.
SUSAN DORAN: He started to build up a relationship with Prince Henry who is going to become Henry VIII.
He sees in Thomas Boleyn a man who is charming, a man who is athletic.
They certainly shared a love of tournaments and also intellectual interests.
Henry thought this was a man that I can have around me, as a companion, that I might enjoy his company.
- [waves lapping] - [gulls squawking] NARRATOR: This burgeoning friendship happens at the perfect time.
In April 1509, King Henry VII dies, leaving the court in disarray.
[waves lapping] As 17-year-old Henry VIII takes the throne, many courtiers lose their positions.
But Thomas's friendship with the young King pays off.
He not only survives, but is promoted to become one of 26 Knights of the Bath.
NANDINI DAS: This is an age-old ceremony, it's already an old custom by this point.
When the big day comes for Boleyn and the others, they would have bathed and come into the White Hall of the Tower.
The King then comes in, dips his fingers into the water, makes the sign of the cross on them and presents them with the oath of allegiance that they have taken.
THOMAS BOLEYN: I shall honor God above all things; I shall love and protect your Majesty, my Sovereign Lord.
I shall defend the rights of maidens, widows, and orphans.
I shall never abuse or neglect the honor of this order, as any other member before or after me.
Thomas Boleyn is made a Knight of the Bath in these coronation festivities, which is very nice, but it's not anywhere near as nice as Thomas Howard getting inducted into the most noble Order of the Garter, which is the highest chivalric order in England at the time.
He is the Premier League Knight, and Thomas is down there in the Championship waiting for promotion.
NARRATOR: But neither Thomas Boleyn nor Thomas Howard can match the meteoric rise of the third Thomas, Thomas Wolsey, who has won himself a seat in one of the highest circles of Court: the Royal Council.
What Henry needs, of course, is people who will get things done for him.
Kings need fixers in this period, because they don't have a massive bureaucracy to go and do their bidding.
They just need a few people who are bloody good at their job.
And Wolsey was that kind of person.
NARRATOR: The young Henry VIII is hungry for glory, and he hopes that Wolsey is the man to help him achieve it.
His new Queen Katherine of Aragon has already secured him a valuable alliance with the Spanish Empire.
But true glory means triumph in war and for that Henry needs an enemy.
What they usually want in an aggressive policy, the obvious thing to do is invade France.
So Wolsey is prepared to back him and to make that war possible, so he becomes this rather paradoxical figure of the war-like priest.
NARRATOR: To win a war with France, the English need to forge an alliance with another European court.
The best option is the powerful Holy Roman Empire, ruled by the famously difficult Emperor Maximilian I. Wolsey needs an envoy with charm and charisma to take part in the negotiations.
And there is someone waiting in the wings to grab his chance.
LAUREN MACKAY: He's about 35 at the time.
He has no diplomatic experience.
He is clearly gifted in French and I think that's what makes him very important but I get the sense that Wolsey is taking a chance on this young man.
NARRATOR: Thomas Boleyn's task is to win Margaret of Austria's support for the war with France, in the hope that she can persuade her father, Emperor Maximilian.
What they didn't really count on was the fact that Maximilian was going to stall his way through negotiations for months on end.
[birds chirping] NARRATOR: It takes almost a year but eventually, Margaret is persuaded to convince her father to support Henry.
Since my last dispatch, we received news that our agreement was soon to be finalized!
Lady Margaret sent a commission to her father and estimated it would take 20 days to conclude.
She asked me if I would care to lay a wager on it.
I said it would take only ten.
She promised me her Spanish courser for her part of the wager.
And my horse should be hers if she won.
We shook hands on it.
And today I am the victor.
Our mission is complete.
My lady can keep her horse.
I have another request of her.
NARRATOR: With his mission finally over, Thomas makes a move designed to benefit not the King, but his own family.
He recognizes that this court is far more magnificent than anything that he had experienced in England.
And so he asks Margaret whether his daughter can come to her court as a fille d'honneur, as a maid of honor.
And Margaret, rather surprisingly, agreed.
[birds chirping] For Anne Boleyn, a 12-year-old girl being sent to serve Margaret of Austria, it's a huge honor.
But she must have been nervous.
She's still a young girl in a foreign court.
We know that she doesn't fully speak French at this point.
She's far from fluent.
And we know this because we have a letter that Anne wrote to her father from Margaret's court.
"Sir, I understand by your letter that you desire that I shall be a worthy woman in this Court and you inform me that Her Majesty, Lady Margaret will take the trouble to converse with me.
Which rejoices me greatly to think of talking with a person so wise and worthy."
OWEN EMMERSON: This is a very touching letter.
It has very distinctive crease lines in it.
I think this was a letter that was read many times over.
This must have been a very dear letter to her father, Thomas, indeed.
Anne is very much wanting to impress her father.
[speaking in French] [speaking in French] I beg you to excuse me if my letter is badly written.
I promise you that my love is based on such great strength that it will never grow less.
And I will make an end to my letter after having humbly commended myself to your good grace.
Written by your humble and obedient daughter, Anna de Boullan.
[speaking French] The survival of that letter is quite astonishing.
Very few documents like it survived.
This is a really good opportunity for Anne to experience an incredibly cultured court that Margaret of Austria has engendered.
She welcomes incredibly progressive thinkers.
[speaking French] NARRATOR: With Anne impressing at Margaret's court, and Thomas' new success as a diplomat, the Boleyn family's prospects are looking bright.
But in the Tudor world of foreign policy and fragile alliances, you can take nothing for granted.
In 1514, Maximilian pulls his support for Henry and instead strikes a deal with the French King.
Thomas's hard work seems to have been for nothing - and Henry doesn't get the 'glorious war' he wanted.
But Wolsey has a plan to turn this failure to Henry's advantage.
GLENN RICHARDSON: The argument seems to have been, well, if you can't make magnificent war as you want to do, then why not make peace magnificently, make it almost as spectacular as warfare.
How do you make peace in the 16th century?
Well, you try to find a way to create a dynastic alliance, and usually it's through marriage.
So Thomas Boleyn and Wolsey are suggesting to King Henry VIII Mary Tudor, his younger sister, and this old king of France, of a way to make sure that the peace is going to last.
NARRATOR: This new alliance gives Henry VIII a foothold in France - even though it means offering up his 18-year-old sister Mary to the 52-year-old King Louis.
And Thomas recognizes that the marriage could benefit his family, too.
He wants his daughters, Mary and Anne, to get the best education, but he also wants them to forge networks, political networks, political alliances.
Thomas is something of an opportunist.
He knows which way the wind is blowing, and Anne is best placed in France.
[birds chirping] NARRATOR: Thomas secures his thirteen-year-old daughter a position at the French court as an attendant to the new Queen Mary.
The court in France set the tone in terms of courtly culture, how a Monarch and his retinue behave.
This display of magnificence essentially.
And no one does it better than those courts in France as far as the English are concerned.
Thomas is riding pretty high, you know.
His daughter will be able to build up a place for herself at the French court, learn the wonderful skills of being a woman of the court.
It's like being a geisha girl without the sex.
- [birds chirping] - [ethereal music] NARRATOR: As Anne settles into her new life in France, back in England the man who suggested the French alliance is riding high.
GLENN RICHARDSON: Thomas Wolsey by 1514, he's Archbishop of York.
By 1515, he's made a cardinal at Henry VIII's insistence.
So he's a very high ranking person, the highest ranking person in Henry's administration effectively after the King and he wants everybody to know that.
NANDINI DAS: People think he's an overreacher.
He is the classic example of someone who's risen too fast and too far.
Which is why quite often there's murmurs and name calling of Wolsey as the butcher's dog.
Um, he's the greasy cur, some of them whisper, um, who has followed his master and now wants the bone all to himself.
Basically, what Wolsey is doing is rubbing their face in it.
And the courtiers don't like it.
NARRATOR: Particularly Thomas Boleyn's hot-headed brother-in-law.
The first reported moment of decided tension between Thomas Howard and Wolsey is when Thomas Howard allegedly pulls a knife on him.
According to Polydore Vergil, Thomas Howard took a dagger and tried to stab Wolsey in the middle of a heated argument.
We're not sure if this is true or not - Vergil is the only source for it.
If true, this is an extraordinary event.
[chuckles] You know, Thomas Wolsey being stabbed by an aristocrat does not happen every day.
Many of them might have liked to try to stab him.
Few of them got the chance.
It demonstrates that there's no love lost between them.
GARETH RUSSELL: Whatever happened between Thomas Howard and Thomas Wolsey at this time marks a tumble for Howard's career.
He seems arrogant.
He seems aggressive.
And he's increasingly being outshone by the more talented and the more level-headed Wolsey.
NARRATOR: Thomas Boleyn needs to be extremely careful about who he's seen to support.
LAUREN MACKAY: Thomas Boleyn, he's aware that Howard and Thomas Wolsey are almost sworn enemies and Thomas Boleyn quite cleverly distanced himself from his Howard brother-in-law.
He aligns himself with Wolsey.
Wolsey is his road to power and to patronage and to favor.
NARRATOR: Being a diplomat, away for long periods in Europe, might sound impressive - but not if your aim is to get closer to the King.
LAUREN MACKAY: Thomas Boleyn is angling for a position at court, he's angling for a position within the King's household and he sets his sight on the treasurership.
NARRATOR: The position he covets is to become Treasurer of the Household.
It would be a major promotion, putting him in charge of the Court's purse strings, and bringing him one step closer to the center of power.
It would give him a secure place in the royal household, but perhaps much more important, it would give him a place on the Royal Council.
And that's the place where political decisions are made.
[squawking] Unfortunately, Thomas Boleyn discovers that Wolsey has blocked the appointment, that somebody else is going to get the Office instead of him.
And I think he feels humiliated.
This is unfair.
And he writes a letter to Wolsey that expresses this disappointment.
THOMAS BOLEYN: For some time I have hoped to serve the King at court, rather than from overseas.
I did entreat him to appoint me as Treasurer of his Household.
And he did faithfully promise me the position when it became vacant.
I hear now the King will appoint someone else.
If you would show me favor in this matter, I assure you will not regret it.
LAUREN MACKAY: In this letter to Cardinal Wolsey, suddenly, we see an insecurity in Thomas Boleyn that we've never really had before.
He trusts that Wolsey has his back.
Wolsey's really one of the few people now at court that can speak for Thomas Boleyn.
So, he feels betrayed.
[indistinct chatter] NARRATOR: But just as it looks as though Thomas may never reach the King's inner circle, fate intervenes.
An Irish relative on his mother's side has died, and Thomas is one of several claimants to his title, the Earl of Ormond.
All he has to do now is win the prize.
SUSAN DORAN: At the moment he's merely a Knight.
It's much higher up the social hierarchy to become an Earl.
OWEN EMMERSON: The Earldom of course really would make Thomas stand out in a way that none of his previous Boleyn ancestors had been able to do.
It really would help him up that ladder to greatness.
NARRATOR: But before he can grab this chance, a cousin lays claim to the title.
LAUREN MACKAY: Thomas Boleyn does not like to be thwarted in this matter.
He brings Henry VIII into the dispute.
Unfortunately for Thomas Boleyn, Henry VIII cannot afford to alienate his Irish nobles.
And so the Earldom goes to neither Thomas Boleyn nor the Butler cousin.
But Thomas Boleyn covets that title.
He sees it as rightfully his and he's not going to let it go.
[dramatic music] [birds chirping] NARRATOR: Meanwhile, the court in France where Thomas' daughter Anne is still living has been thrown into chaos.
The old French King has died.
Henry's sister Mary has been displaced.
Francis I and his wife Queen Claude are now on the throne, bringing with them their own retinue of courtiers.
Thomas Boleyn is thinking, oh gosh!
What's going to happen for my daughter?
Anne was going to be lady-in-waiting at the French Court.
She was going to secure important political networks for me.
So he's thinking, I need to request for Anne to stay.
NARRATOR: Thomas Boleyn manages to persuade the new Queen to keep Anne on as one of her attendants.
[speaking French] It's a pivotal intervention .
This is where she stays for the formative years of her life.
During seven years at the French court, Anne Boleyn learned about the customs of the country, the language obviously.
She became French in her attitude.
She became French in her manners.
One source we have is Lancelot de Carle who wrote a poem about Anne, and he was present at the French embassy.
He says that she actively studied the women around her at court so that she herself could appear as French and very soon nobody would know that she was English.
De CARLE: She grew in wisdom knew how to banish sad thoughts Enlarging her talents and many exquisite graces She was beautiful And had the most attractive eyes Which she knew well how to use.
She knows how to handle men.
She is seen as a woman who has made a big impression.
We can imagine that obviously for her to stay seven years in service of the Queen that Francis I himself must have liked this girl.
Francis I... he's dashing.
He loves pretty women, he loves having mistresses, and he loves, loves being the center of attention.
Does that remind you of someone else?
Henry VIII maybe?
[laughs] NARRATOR: Henry and Francis decide to meet to form a new alliance.
and underscore the peace between their nations.
And Thomas Boleyn is given the daunting task of brokering the meeting.
He's stuck in a position of trying to bring those two powerful and dashing young princes together.
Having a daughter who is in the good books of everyone is exactly what Thomas Boleyn wanted.
So when Thomas is there, he's obviously using his daughter in a way.
When I say 'using', it's not in a bad way, it's just, "Yes, I'm Anne's father.
Nice to meet you."
"Anne is remarkable!"
"Yes, I know!"
[birds chirping] GREG WALKER: You can't be a king in the early 16th century without having an ego the size of the planet.
And now you have two young men, rival monarchs, who are brothers in arms - although they really hate each other - and there's a kind of constant friction.
I mean, these are not intellectual giants in terms of their kind of maturity.
So you, there's a bit of nudging and shuffling going on between them.
And there's a famous story of Henry showing an ambassador his calf and saying, "Francis I hasn't got a leg like that, has he?"
NARRATOR: It's not just Europe's peace hanging in the balance, it's Thomas' reputation at the English court.
In a letter to Wolsey, Thomas reports the petty rivalry between the two Kings that he is struggling to mediate.
THOMAS BOLEYN: The friendship between my master and the French King Francis has taken a rivalrous turn.
They agreed to grow their beards, in competition, for their planned meeting.
Then I was told recently that Henry has put off his beard!
Not an easy task to relate this to the French King.
I told him, as I supposed, it must have been Queen Katherine's doing, for whenever His Majesty has worn his beard long, she has scolded him to put it off.
The French King was well appeased by this and did say to me, "Our love is not in our beards but in our hearts."
[lively music] NARRATOR: Thomas' clever intervention saves the two Kings from a serious disagreement.
And on the 7th of June 1520, Henry and Francis rendezvous at a spectacular 17-day festival, the Field of Cloth of Gold.
It was the big event of the year, of the decade in both England and in France.
Instead of going to war, Henry VIII and Francis decided to show off how peaceful they could be.
GREG WALKER: Somewhat, I suspect, to Thomas Boleyn's chagrin, he was withdrawn before the final details were organized for this great meeting.
And he wasn't the French ambassador when the Field of Cloth of Gold took place.
And Henry wrote rather pointedly to Francis saying, Thomas Boleyn has been great so far, but I'm now going to send you someone who can convey from my very heart my feelings towards you.
So, poor old Thomas tromps back home and gets ready to go as an English guest rather than the resident French ambassador.
ELIZABETH NORTON: It's a sign that he hadn't quite made it.
He may have married into the aristocracy, but he's still not an aristocrat.
He's not the man that brings the King over and presents him to Francis.
He's there but he's there as one of the King's attendants and nothing more.
NARRATOR: Despite Thomas' personal disappointment, the meeting is hailed as an international triumph.
But in Tudor politics, nothing is as it seems.
Even as Henry and Francis celebrate peace, Thomas Wolsey is secretly negotiating a more powerful alliance with the new leader of the Holy Roman Empire, Charles V. Knowing relations with France are soon to sour, Thomas removes Anne from her position at the French Court and brings her home.
There must have been some concern on Thomas' part for Anne's safety and for her future because the tide is turning away from a French alliance.
And it's something of a warning shot for Francis.
He notices Anne's absence and discerns from this that something is not right.
ESTELLE PARANQUE: And he thinks, wait... Why would you remove the ladies in waiting to Queen Claude if we are at peace, if we are good friends?
What are you plotting against me?
GLENN RICHARDSON: It puts Wolsey in a very difficult position.
It's virtually inconceivable that it wouldn't be seen as a sort of diplomatic incident.
To put Francis off the scent, Wolsey actually suggests that Anne is being recalled for a marriage proposal.
And there is a grain of truth in Wolsey's response because a match is being proposed for Anne - not by her father, but by her uncle.
- [gulls squawking] - [waves lapping] NARRATOR: Thomas Howard has been sent to Ireland to quell unrest among the Irish nobility.
One of those nobles is Thomas Boleyn's cousin, Piers Butler, who has laid claim to the title Earl of Ormond.
[bird caws] In a flurry of letters to Wolsey and the King, Howard lays bare a scheme to take advantage of the situation.
THOMAS HOWARD: Piers Butler desires to claim the most profitable Earldom of Ormond.
The title is also claimed by my kinsman Thomas Boleyn.
To that end I have devised a marriage plan between my niece Anne Boleyn and Butler's son James.
This union will give Butler the earldom and his help in bringing Ireland under our control.
This arrangement will require my presence, naturally.
And, uh, I do so long to return to England.
GARETH RUSSELL: Thomas Howard shows that when he is in a difficult position, family loyalty to the Boleyns counts for absolutely nothing to him.
[door clangs open] LAUREN MACKAY: Thomas Boleyn has coveted the prestigious Irish Earldom of Ormond and it irks him to no end that of all people his brother-in-law Thomas Howard who has nothing to do with the situation tries to actually broker a match between Anne Boleyn and a Butler cousin.
[inaudible] This is my business... [inaudible] ELIZABETH NORTON: She was quite horrified when she was told about the match.
Ireland in that time was generally seen by the English as a wild, fairly inhospitable place, and the idea that the courtier Anne Boleyn would go and live there must have been horrifying for her.
This puts Thomas Boleyn in a very difficult position because Thomas Howard seems to get Cardinal Wolsey's support for the plan.
Anne Boleyn is her father's legal property, she can't be married without her father's permission.
So Thomas is under pressure to give his blessing to a marriage that will effectively disinherit him.
NARRATOR: Around this time, Wolsey finally offers Thomas Boleyn the job he so desperately wants.
And perhaps the timing is no coincidence.
OWEN EMMERSON: We know that Thomas is promoted to the Treasurership at this point.
I think what actually is happening here is he is being placated with this coveted position.
THOMAS BOLEYN: I am made Treasurer of the Household, second in charge of running this honorable court.
The Treasurer must set an example to all others, of good governance and modest expenditure.
He is granted to take supper daily in the King's hall or anywhere else he pleases.
This was an absolutely vital stepping stone in his career.
It paved the way for much more lucrative and important positions at court.
NARRATOR: Thomas Boleyn, who began as a wealthy Norfolk gentleman beyond the fringes of the Tudor Court, has finally gained a seat on the Royal Council.
Slowly but surely, he is advancing towards the King's inner circle.
For Thomas Boleyn to achieve this in 1522 is such a mark of where he had come but it also is important for his family.
George Boleyn was finally given a court position which means he has day-to-day access to Henry VIII.
[dramatic music] NARRATOR: Not only is George doing well but Thomas's elder daughter Mary is now married to a senior courtier William Carey.
But the ace in Thomas' hand is Anne.
NARRATOR: With the prospect of an Irish marriage still hanging over her, Anne takes center stage with her sister Mary at a lavish court pageant hosted by Thomas Wolsey known as the Chateau Vert.
This pageant is going to change the fortunes of the Boleyn family, for better - and also for worse.
NARRATOR: All the young women on show take the parts of feminine virtues.
Mary is 'Kindness'; Anne, 'Perseverance'.
GLENN RICHARDSON: It's the kind of pageant to which the Tudor court is by then well accustomed.
With women - married, single - all playing their part to big up the King.
Wolsey is the host, he wants it to go well.
He's a man who enjoys spectacle, entertainment, who knows that you've got to put on a show.
[applause] ELIZABETH NORTON: It was a lavish entertainment.
It involved a mock castle being built in the hall.
Ladies defended this castle from a group of knights who attempted to attack it.
GREG WALKER: Essentially this battle between the men outside the castle and the women inside the castle is about courtship, it's about wooing.
Women fall into two categories.
They have to resist men and be virtuous and chaste, but ultimately they have to give in when they find the right man who's usually the King.
[crowd shouting] ESTELLE PARANQUE: Because of those seven years in France, Anne Boleyn is seen as being a bit different and exotic.
ELIZABETH NORTON: She's stylish, fashionable, graceful, and she really causes a stir.
She's like no one else at Henry VIII's Court.
ELIZABETH NORTON: This is really the first time that we know with absolute certainty that Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn are in the same room together.
NARRATOR: But Anne isn't interested in the King.
Her sights are set on a young nobleman, Henry Percy.
ELIZABETH NORTON: Although there was still talk of her marrying her Irish cousin and one day becoming Countess of Ormond, Henry Percy was heir to one of the oldest Earldoms in the country.
Hugely wealthy, very, very high status, and a match that was far outside anything that Anne Boleyn could hope for.
It's clear that she encouraged Henry Percy.
Thomas Boleyn would certainly approve.
It's a far better prospect for his daughter than the Ormond marriage, partly because of course Thomas Boleyn has designs on the Earldom himself.
But Henry Percy, it was a stellar match.
NARRATOR: The King, of course, has the pick of the women at court.
And he has his eye on one in particular: the wife of one of his inner circle.
GREG WALKER: People tend to look at the Chateau Vert as the first time Henry would have seen Anne who's playing Perseverance, but what's more interesting is who plays Kindness, and that's Mary Boleyn.
And so when Henry is besieging the castle, it's Mary he's besieging.
LEANDA de LISLE: Now why is she Kindness?
It's not a role she would have chosen herself.
It would have been chosen for her.
Wolsey had already been called 'the king's bawd'.
That is, his pimp.
A man who finds the most wholesome women and those of the best complexion for Henry.
Henry had usually a single mistress alongside the Queen at any one point.
Mary Boleyn was definitely the royal mistress, and it's not in her power to resist the King.
- [bird caws] - [wind blows] NARRATOR: Unlike Mary, a decade in Europe has taught Anne how to fend for herself.
Now in her early twenties, she knows her own mind.
SUSAN DORAN: Anne does not want to marry James Butler.
Her sights are on a romantic marriage, marriage to Henry Percy whom she sees, loves, and he seems to feel exactly the same about her.
ELIZABETH NORTON: Henry VIII heard about the relationship and was shocked by it because of course, it was not a suitable marriage for Henry Percy at all.
He instructs Cardinal Wolsey to bring the relationship to an end.
She doesn't necessarily know of the King's involvement, but she knows that Cardinal Wolsey has played a major role in dashing her hopes.
The Cardinal called my Lord Percy into his presence, and reviled him for tangling himself with a foolish girl at court.
Wolsey has since set about dissolving our match, saying it is disagreeable and determining another woman as a more appropriate marriage prospect.
If it ever lies in my power, I will work as much displeasure for Wolsey as he has shown me.
NARRATOR: And as Anne laments the frustration of her ambitions, her sister Mary must endure emotional turmoil of her own.
LEANDA de LISLE: Around the same time, Mary's husband starts getting all these rather generous royal grants.
As if to make up for the fact the King is sleeping with his wife.
I think for Mary, it must have all been incredibly difficult and painful.
Oh Lord, let me not have a proud look.
Turn away all voluptuousness from me.
Take me from lusts of the body.
Let not the desire of cleanliness take hold upon me.
ELIZABETH NORTON: Thomas Boleyn's feelings are likely mixed about Mary Boleyn's relationship with Henry VIII.
On the one hand, it's shameful in that his daughter, a married woman, is sleeping with another man, a married man at that.
But her lover is the King and generally the benefits outweigh the disadvantage.
GREG WALKER: I do think getting your daughters into the King's bed is probably a good idea if you want political influence.
NARRATOR: Mary Boleyn's affair might be what yields the biggest reward yet for her father Thomas.
Henry makes him Viscount Rochford.
His rise through the Tudor court has been remarkable.
But in his daughter Anne he has raised a woman whose ambitions will soon outstrip even her father's.
NARRATOR: To order The Boleyns - A Scandalous Family on DVD, visit ShopPBS or call 1-800-PLAY-PBS.
This program is also available on Amazon Prime Video.