King Henry VIII is aging rapidly. The recent siege of Boulogne has taken its toll, his ulcerous leg is constantly in pain and he now requires glasses to read.
Political events continue to be tumultuous and exhausting. After the Earl of Surrey loses 600 men in an unprovoked battle in France, news arrives that the King of France is preparing for war and that England’s recent ally Emperor Charles V has seized English ships and properties.
The rising influence of Bishop Gardiner is signaled by the appointment of a Catholic—Risley—to the important position of Lord Chancellor. Sensing their rise in authority, Gardiner and his allies are determined to expose Queen Catherine as a heretic.