Wolf Hall (TV series)

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Wolf Hall
GenreHistorical drama
Based onWolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies
by Hilary Mantel
Written byPeter Straughan
Directed byPeter Kosminsky
ComposersOriginal music by
Debbie Wiseman
Tudor music by
Claire van Kampen
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original languageEnglish
No. of series2
No. of episodes6
Executive producerColin Callender
ProducerMark Pybus
CinematographyGavin Finney
Running time60–65 minutes
Production companyCompany Pictures
Original release
Release21 January (2015-01-21) –
25 February 2015 (2015-02-25)

Wolf Hall is a British television serial first broadcast on BBC Two in January 2015. The six-part series is an adaptation of two of Hilary Mantel's novels, Wolf Hall[1] and Bring Up the Bodies,[2] a fictionalised biography documenting the rapid rise to power of Thomas Cromwell in the court of Henry VIII through to the death of Sir Thomas More, followed by Cromwell's success in freeing the king of his marriage to Anne Boleyn. Wolf Hall was first broadcast in April 2015 in the United States on PBS and in Australia on BBC First. It was reported in 2022 that a second series, covering the final novel in the trilogy, was in pre-production, with Mark Rylance and director Peter Kosminsky returning.[3][4]

The series was a critical success and received eight nominations at the 67th Primetime Emmy Awards and three nominations at the 73rd Golden Globe Awards, winning for Best Miniseries or Television Film.


The series centres on the character of Thomas Cromwell, a lawyer who has risen from humble beginnings. The action in Series 1 opens at a point in Cromwell's career where his master, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, is about to fall from power because of his failure to secure a marriage annulment for King Henry VIII of England.[5] It proceeds through Cromwell's own rise to political power, and ends with the execution of Anne Boleyn.[6] Series 2 picks up after Anne's execution, following Cromwell's continued rise and Henry's marriage to his third queen, Jane Seymour.



Updated from Televisual as of 4th Dec 2023[7]



On 23 August 2012, BBC Two announced several new commissions, one of which was Wolf Hall.[14] According to The Guardian £7 million was to be spent on the adaptation.[15] BBC Two controller Janice Hadlow said it was "very fortunate to have the rights" to the two novels and called Wolf Hall "a great contemporary novel".[16][17]

Peter Kosminsky, the director of the series, said: "This is a first for me. But it is an intensely political piece. It is about the politics of despotism, and how you function around an absolute ruler. I have a sense that Hilary Mantel wanted that immediacy. ... When I saw Peter Straughan's script, only a first draft, I couldn't believe what I was reading. It was the best draft I had ever seen. He had managed to distil 1,000 pages of the novels into six hours, using prose so sensitively. He's a theatre writer by trade."

The drama series features 102 characters and Kosminsky began casting the other parts in October 2013. Although originally set to film in Belgium,[18] most of the filming took place on location at some of the finest British medieval and Tudor houses and buildings: Berkeley Castle, Gloucester Cathedral and Horton Court in Gloucestershire, Penshurst Place in Kent, Broughton Castle and Chastleton House in Oxfordshire, Barrington Court, Cothay Manor and Montacute House in Somerset, St Donat's Castle in the Vale of Glamorgan, and Great Chalfield Manor and Lacock Abbey in Wiltshire.[19][20] The series was filmed from May to July 2014. The series, which was made in association with Masterpiece Entertainment and Playground Entertainment,[21] consists of six episodes and was broadcast on BBC Two in the UK from 21 January 2015.

The Guardian speculated that the BBC's hiring of Kosminsky with Straughan showed they wanted "a darker and grittier take on British history" than more fanciful programmes such as The Tudors or The White Queen.[15] Mantel called Straughan's scripts a "miracle of elegant compression and I believe with such a strong team the original material can only be enhanced".[15]

Kosminsky determined to undertake much of the interior filming by candlelight, this led some of the actors to collide with the scenery and to be concerned by the risk of fires.[22] Wolf Hall was filmed in two locations in Kent: Dover Castle doubled for the Tower of London, and the Long Gallery, Tapestry Room, and Queen Elizabeth Room at Penshurst Place were used as specific rooms in Whitehall (York Place), which was Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII's residence. The Long Gallery doubled as Anne Boleyn's chamber.[23] Some scenes were filmed at Stanway House in Gloucestershire.[24]

The series' executive producer, Colin Callender, stated in February 2015 that he hoped that the BBC would commission an extension of the series based on the final novel in Mantel's trilogy, The Mirror and the Light, which was published in 2020.[25] Callender said that lead performers Mark Rylance and Damian Lewis were "eager" to return.[25]

A second series of Wolf Hall was confirmed on 27 May 2019,[26] officially announced as Wolf Hall: The Mirror and the Light, and began filming on 24 November 2023 with Mark Rylance, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Damian Lewis, Jonathan Pryce, Kate Phillips and Lilit Lesser all reprising their roles from the previous series.

Series episodes[edit]

No. in
TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air date
(BBC Two)
U.S. air date[27]UK viewers
1"Three Card Trick"Peter KosminskyPeter Straughan21 January 2015 (2015-01-21)5 April 20155.99[28]
In 1529, as Cardinal Wolsey receives news of his dismissal as Lord Chancellor, his lawyer Thomas Cromwell reminisces about how he and Wolsey met and the events leading up to the Cardinal's downfall.
2"Entirely Beloved"Peter KosminskyPeter Straughan28 January 2015 (2015-01-28)12 April 20154.46[28]
As 1529 draws to a close, Cardinal Wolsey moves to York while Thomas Cromwell attempts to gain support for him from King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn and, in the process, gradually wins favour for himself.
3"Anna Regina"Peter KosminskyPeter Straughan4 February 2015 (2015-02-04)19 April 20154.13[28]
In 1531, King Henry VIII has proposed a bill which will make him the head of the Church in England and allow him to marry Anne Boleyn. However, his plans are met with a series of complications.
4"The Devil's Spit"Peter KosminskyPeter Straughan11 February 2015 (2015-02-11)26 April 20154.29[28]
In 1533, Anne Boleyn has given birth to a daughter, much to King Henry VIII's disdain. As Anne's paranoia over her inability to produce a son grows, Thomas Cromwell tries to convince Sir Thomas More to show approval for the royal marriage.
5"Crows"Peter KosminskyPeter Straughan18 February 2015 (2015-02-18)3 May 20153.72[28]
In 1535, King Henry VIII's becoming head of the Church in England has antagonised the Holy Roman Emperor. Meanwhile, Anne Boleyn's failure to produce a male heir leads Henry toward Jane Seymour.
6"Master of Phantoms"Peter KosminskyPeter Straughan25 February 2015 (2015-02-25)10 May 20153.74[28]
The Exeter Conspiracy is in the works. In 1536, King Henry VIII's request that Thomas Cromwell find a way to rid him of Anne Boleyn—a sentiment supported by others who wish for Jane Seymour to take her place—leads to a series of allegations and revelations.


Critics have been "almost unanimous" in their praise of the series, with particular reference to the attention to period detail, the faithful adaptation of the source novels, Kosminsky's direction, and the performances of the leading cast members, particularly Rylance as Cromwell and Foy as Boleyn.[29] Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gave the show a 98% rating based on 53 reviews with an average rating of 8.4/10. The website's critical consensus states, "Beautifully filmed and brilliantly acted, Wolf Hall masterfully brings Hilary Mantel's award-winning novels to life."[30] Sam Wollaston in The Guardian called it "sumptuous, intelligent, event television."[31] Will Dean in The Independent felt that it did not compare favourably with the stage adaptation of the book, yet he predicted that it would "secure a devoted following."[32] James Walton in The Daily Telegraph gave the first episode five stars out of five, commenting: "it’s hard to see how this one could have been done much better."[33] Mick Adam Noya from the television review show Channel Crossing called Wolf Hall "the best show of 2015".[34]

A few dissenting voices found some flaws. The Daily Telegraph alleged that there was a substantial drop in ratings between the first and second episodes, despite all the following episodes holding high and consistent ratings.[35] Simon Schama stated concerns about how the series depicted historical figures.[36] Emily Nussbaum of The New Yorker cited "small weaknesses", but wrote "the show’s deliberately paced six hours turn out to be riveting, precisely because they are committed, without apology or, often, much explanation, to the esotericism of their subject matter."[37] Sophie Gilbert of The Atlantic wrote, "Magnificent...a tour de force."[38]

The lighting design, which used historically accurate natural light sources (such as candlelight for evening scenes) prompted criticism from viewers who felt parts of the series appeared too dark.[39]

International broadcast[edit]

  • Australia: BBC First premiered the series on 11 April 2015[40] and it was watched by 46,000 viewers.[41]
  • United States: PBS broadcast the series on Masterpiece from 5 April 2015 to 10 May 2015.[42] The series was subsequently licensed to Amazon Prime.[43]
  • Germany / France: Arte broadcast the series on 21 and 28 January 2016.[44][45]


For the 5th Critics' Choice Television Awards, the series received four nominations: Best Limited Series, Mark Rylance for Best Actor, Jonathan Pryce for Best Supporting Actor, and Claire Foy for Best Supporting Actress.[46]

Award Category Recipients Outcome
BAFTA TV Awards Best Drama Series Wolf Hall Won
Best Actor Mark Rylance Won
Best Actress Claire Foy Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Anton Lesser Nominated
BAFTA TV Craft Awards Best Editing – Fiction David Blackmore Nominated
Best Costume Design Joanna Eatwell Nominated
Best Photography and Lighting – Fiction Gavin Finney Nominated
Best Sound – Fiction and Entertainment Rodney Berling, Simon Clark, Peter Gates, James Hayday, and Rob Hughes Won
British Society of Cinematographers Awards Best Cinematography in a Television Drama Gavin Finney (for "Entirely Beloved") Won
Critics' Choice Television Awards Best Limited Series Wolf Hall Nominated
Best Actor in a Movie/Miniseries Mark Rylance Nominated
Best Supporting Actor in a Movie/Miniseries Jonathan Pryce Nominated
Best Supporting Actress in a Movie/Miniseries Claire Foy Nominated
Golden Globe Awards Best Miniseries or Television Film Wolf Hall Won
Best Actor Mark Rylance Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Damian Lewis Nominated
2015 Peabody Awards Entertainment[47] Wolf Hall Won
Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Limited Series Wolf Hall Nominated
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie Mark Rylance Nominated
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie Damian Lewis Nominated
Outstanding Directing for a Limited Series, Movie, or Dramatic Special Peter Kosminsky Nominated
Outstanding Writing for a Limited Series, Movie, or Dramatic Special Peter Straughan Nominated
Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards Outstanding Casting for a Limited Series, Movie, or Special Nina Gold and Robert Sterne Nominated
Outstanding Costumes for a Period/Fantasy Series, Limited Series or Movie Joanna Eatwell, Ken Lang, and Clare Vyse Nominated
Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Limited Series or Movie David Blackmore Nominated
Royal Television Society Programme Awards Drama Serial Wolf Hall Nominated
Actor: Female Claire Foy Nominated
Royal Television Society Craft & Design Awards Editing - Drama David Blackmore Nominated
Photography - Drama Gavin Finney Nominated
Sound - Drama Sound Team Nominated
Judges' Award Production Team Won
Satellite Awards Best Miniseries or Television Film Wolf Hall Nominated
Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film Mark Rylance Won
Damian Lewis Nominated
Best Actress – Miniseries or Television Film Claire Foy Nominated
Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Miniseries or Television Movie Mark Rylance Nominated
TCA Awards Outstanding Achievement in Movies, Miniseries, and Specials Wolf Hall Nominated


  1. ^ Mantel, Hilary (2009). Wolf Hall (1st ed.). New York City: Henry Holt and Company. ISBN 978-0805080681.
  2. ^ Mantel, Hilary (2012). Bring Up the Bodies (1st ed.). New York City: Henry Holt and Company. ISBN 978-0805090031.
  3. ^ "Mark Rylance confirms sequel to Wolf Hall adaptation". RTE. Press Association. 19 March 2022.
  4. ^ "'Wolf Hall: The Mirror And the Light': Masterpiece & BBC To Begin Production On Hilary Mantel Adaptation Starring Mark Rylance, Damian Lewis". Deadline.
  5. ^ Serena Davies (21 January 2015). "Wolf Hall, first look review: 'masterful'". The Telegraph. Retrieved 27 December 2022.
  6. ^ John Sutherland (25 February 2015). "Wolf Hall recap: episode six – a head on the block". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 December 2022.
  7. ^ Televisual: Cast Named for Wolf Hall
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  9. ^ Cast & Credits Archived 9 October 2016 at the Wayback Machine, Wolf Hall, PBS.
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  13. ^ "Emma Hiddleston Resume". Hamilton Hodell. Archived from the original on 23 August 2016. Retrieved 15 July 2014.
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  16. ^ "Wolf Hall adaptation planned for BBC Two". BBC News. 24 August 2012. Retrieved 13 October 2013.
  17. ^ "Wolf Hall is to be a BBC drama". The Daily Telegraph. 23 August 2012. Archived from the original on 12 January 2022. Retrieved 13 October 2013.
  18. ^ Conlan, Tara (18 January 2015). "Wolf Hall sticks to England after director rejects plan to film in Belgium". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 January 2015.
  19. ^ Frith-Salem, Benjamin (20 January 2015). "Wolf Halls: take a look inside the properties where the new BBC series is filmed". BBC History Magazine. Retrieved 29 January 2015.
  20. ^ "The stately homes of Wolf Hall". BBC News.
  21. ^ Daniels, Nia (10 January 2014). "Wolf Hall now to film in the UK". The Knowledge Online. Retrieved 31 January 2014.
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  24. ^ "Stanway House – At home with Lord Wemyss". Cotswold Homes. 27 January 2016. Retrieved 15 June 2019.
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  26. ^ Bley Griffiths, Eleanor (27 May 2019). "BBC officially confirms Wolf Hall series 2 as Hilary Mantel announces final book in trilogy". Radio Times. Retrieved 4 May 2020.
  27. ^ Lisa de Moraes, 'Wolf Hall' Premiere Crowd Hits 4.4 Million, Deadline Hollywood (30 April 2015).
  28. ^ a b c d e f Weekly Top 10 Programmes – Broadcasters' Audience Research Board
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  30. ^ "Wolf Hall: Series 1". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 15 September 2018.
  31. ^ Wollaston, Sam (22 January 2015). "Wolf Hall review – 'event television: sumptuous, intelligent and serious'". The Guardian. Retrieved 14 February 2015.
  32. ^ Dean, Will (21 January 2015). "Wolf Hall review: An imperious Mark Rylance revels in darkness in Hilary Mantel adaptation". The Independent. Retrieved 14 February 2015.
  33. ^ Walton, James (22 January 2015). "Wolf Hall: episode one, review: 'subtle & surprising' – Telegraph". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 12 January 2022. Retrieved 14 February 2015.
  34. ^ Channel Crossing: Wolf Hall Review (Best TV of 2015)
  35. ^ Anita Singh,Wolf Hall a turn-off as a million viewers switch over, The Daily Telegraph, 29 January 2015
  36. ^ Schama, Simon (13 February 2015). "What historians think of historical novels". Financial Times. Retrieved 20 August 2015. (subscription required)
  37. ^ Nussbaum, Emily (27 April 2017). "Queens Boulevard". The New Yorker. Retrieved 22 April 2020.
  38. ^ Gilbert, Sophie (4 April 2015). "With 'Wolf Hall,' PBS Finds a Drama Worthy of the Word 'Masterpiece'". The Atlantic. Retrieved 25 May 2022.
  39. ^ Furness, Hannah (22 January 2015). "Wolf Hall viewers complain candlelit scenes left them in the dark". The Telegraph. Archived from the original on 12 January 2022. Retrieved 30 April 2019.
  40. ^ "APRIL on FOXTEL: Game Of Thrones, Mad Men, Wentworth, Deadline Gallipoli and 200+ other new shows". The Green Room. Foxtel. 30 March 2015. Retrieved 31 March 2015.
  41. ^ "Ratings: Saturday 11th April 2015". Mediaspy. Archived from the original on 25 July 2015. Retrieved 25 July 2015.
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  43. ^ Petski, Denise (30 June 2015). "Amazon Nabs Exclusive Licensing Rights To 'Wolf Hall', 'Grantchester' & More". Deadline. Retrieved 24 June 2021.
  44. ^ "Wölfe (1/6)". ARTE Programm. 21 January 2016.
  45. ^ "Wolf Hall (1/6)". Programmes ARTE. 21 January 2016.
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  47. ^ "The Peabody 30 – Complete Winner's List". 3 May 2016. Retrieved 28 February 2020.

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