The BBC mini-series Wolf Hall, which has just opened in the United States, has been denounced
as narrow and anti-Catholic.
The mini-series chronicles the political and religious intrigues surrounding King Henry
VIII’s effort to divorce his first wife, Katherine of Aragon, and marry Anne Boleyn.
A review in the Catholic News Service attacked the six-part series as “a work of fiction that
adopts a narrow, revisionist and anti-Catholic point of view toward the religious turmoil of the
Tudor period. . . ”.
“With its sumptuous staging and star performances, fans could easily mistake this polished portrayal of English history for a factual account,” reviewer Joseph McAleer wrote.
According to the Daily Mail, Wolf Hall was BBC2’s most popular drama since 2002. It attracted
an average of 4.4 million viewers during its six-week run earlier this year.
It was launched on the online TV streaming service Lightbox in New Zealand on April 1.
Mr McAleer wrote that the show encourages the audience to “root for the self-made commoner
Thomas Cromwell” when in fact he was a “monster” who engineered a reign of terror and murdered
anyone who stood in his way.
In contrast, the drama’s depiction of St Thomas More, a Catholic martyr, is “not a pretty
sight”, wrote Mr McAleer in his review.
“The future saint is barely recognisable: sleazy, mean-spirited and just plain rude,” he wrote.
“This evidence-flouting caricature is lightyears away from the man of principle who chose martyrdom over compromise, proclaiming himself, on the scaffold, to be ‘the king’s good servant, but God’s first’.”
The mini-series is based on novels by Hilary Mantel, who once told London’s Daily Telegraph that “the Catholic Church is not an institution for respectable people”.
One of her stated goals in writing Wolf Hall was to take on Robert Bolt’s 1954 stage play, A
Man for All Seasons about St Thomas More.
Writing in the Financial Times about Wolf Hall, respected Jewish historian Simon Schama stated: “When I was doing research for A History of Britain, the documents shouted to high heaven that
Thomas Cromwell was, in fact, a detestably self-serving, bullying monster who perfected state terror in England, cooked the evidence, and extracted confessions by torture.”